The Era of Neo-liberalism is over. The Era of Neo-nationalism has just begun.


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My pal James McLaughlin and I went to a talk last week at the Lighthouse Bookshop.  Titled…

‘Global Trumpism One Year On: Flash in the Pan or Here to Stay?’

Interestingly virtually no Trump chat was had.  But that made no difference to its provocativeness.

The lecture was given by revered Eastman Professor of Political Economy, Mark Blyth, of the world famous Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University, USA and explored the thought that…

“The Era of Neo-liberalism is over. The Era of Neo-nationalism has just begun”

In a far reaching, mind boggling and just sheer brilliant exposition Blyth deep-dove into data that articulates the shape of various global economies in the wake of the 2008 banking crisis, what caused them (much of which we now now), how it could have been allowed and, terrifyingly, the fact that no lessons have been learned. Indeed the statistical scenario is worse now than it was then.

This took him onto the farce (and lie) that is austerity – as initiated by Gideon Osborne – to punish the public services, not for THEIR misdemeanours but to help pay back the money that the taxpayer was forced to use to bail out the inept UK banking sector.

Some very interesting observations:

  • In the wake of widespread neoliberalism (started in the Thatcher/Reagan era) Populism is on the rise.  Populism, which Did not know about, is a political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against a privileged elite.  It can take the form of extreme left or right wing views and it’s growing rapidly in ; Germany, France (although the centre held onto power), the USA (Trumpism), Austria, Iceland, Italy and the Czeck Republic – even in the UK we’ve veered from right wing Faragism to left wing Corbynism.
  • Brexit is the stupidest economic decision ever made by a major nation ever. Not only ware our banks making a killing clearing Euros but we don’t even have to be in the Euro to do so and this means we have the economic freedom that no Euro countries do to devalue or revalue our currency to cope with ebbs and flows in our economic fortunes.  AND, we have free market access to 60% of our trading partners.  AND we have a veto over what we do and don’t like in terms of EEC rules.
  • Far from the world’s economies capitulating in the wake of Trumpism they have grown to all time highs.
  • Instead of failing the banks in the late noughties most governments bailed them with the result that most national banks are now so highly leveraged as to be virtually broken
  • To deal with low inflation economies those with money are squeezing the main cost they can (labour) with the result that the haves have taken over the world and the have-nots can barely afford the clothes they stand in.
  • To survive, they have to borrow – and not just people, governments too (but their borrowing has been to bail out the banks).  Look at this…
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Ooyah fucker

  • And this…
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Ooyah fucker

  • The result is debts are too high, wages are too low to pay the debt off, inflation is  too low to eat the debt.  The Left’s Response is to blame Capital/Globalization.  The Right’s Response is to Blame Immigrants/Globalization
  • The outcome is the rise in Populism

 

100 (actually 105) days of not drinking alcohol.


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I love wine.  I love beer.  I love whisky.

But I drink too much of each.  Period.

So, in January this year I began my now almost customary Dry January (starting on 7th of the month because I was working on a theatre production until then and, of course, that involved drinking each night – not forgetting the after show).

Over the years I have more and more looked forward to, rather than dreaded, Dry January because it has become something of a physical reset button.  Maybe a mental one too.

Now, I don’t do ‘Mindfulness’ in fact I shit on mindfulness.

So, if that’s what floats your boat you won’t find any of that chat in the following paragraphs. (What I will say, though, is that 100 days without alcohol changes your perspective on stuff.  It energises you and if there were no twats in the world you would become very, very calm.  But there are.  Twats, that is. Lots.)

This ain’t no mindfulness lecture.

What do twats do?

Well, for one, they call me boring for not drinking.

My wife hasn’t drunk for six years and that doesn’t make her boring.  She lives with me for fuck’s sake.  It isn’t possible.

One of my friends said to me last week, “Mark, you know when we (twelve blokes) go to Primavera next month and if you decide you aren’t drinking, that’s cool.  Your choice.”

No, David Reid, (for it was he) you were cool for saying that, unsolicited.

Why, not drink for 100 days (105 so far actually)?

I honestly don’t really know why.  Well, maybe I do and I’m just not admitting it to myself.

Some of it has to do with the second sentence in this post, and the research that shows that it’s not young people who are over-indulging most these days – it’s 55 year olds like me that are.  That worries me.

More time, cheap booze, plenty disposable income = drinking too much.

Drinking too much = decreasing return on investment and increasing chance of cancer.

But, you know, as Joe Jackson says (sings), everything gives you cancer.  There’s no cure, there’s no answer.

So it can’t be that.

Let’s just say, I’m experimenting.

The experiment so far.

Hypothesis.  Drinking less than the garden pond of beer/wine/whisky a week that I did will have an impact on your body.

Observation. Yes.  It does.

I have lost at least two inches –  I’d say 3 – 4 actually – around my gut.  But this has been helped by my increased exercise (running) and my increasing adherence to a form of fasting diet. No food till noon.

My face is thin as a linguine strand, sadly atop a conchigilie, but, in time, this conchigilie is morphing into a macaroni.

(Shut this fucking pasta strand (no pun intended) down NOW.  Ed.)

My legs are fucked to bits though.  Knees, hamstrings completely kabooshed as I pound my fat carcass around the streets of South Queensferry.

But it’s getting easier.  Not to watch.  To do.  I wear lycra you see, and nothing is as inelegant as a still-a-bit-obese middle aged man in lycra – but it holds my muscles together and stops my breasts slapping my face.

I sleep better.  I can’t actually stay awake past about 10pm.

I work better.  If I had any.

I am calmer.  Am I fuck.

I remember shit.  Oh yes baby.  I remember everything.  Fucking EVERYTHING.

I am fun.  Debatable.  But I have been to many gigs (and enjoyed them), theatre shows, nights out, parties and not been a wanker.  In my opinion.

I piss like a horse.  I don’t know why, but I do.  Maybe I have pissed 2 inches off my gut.

My shit is exactly the same colour every day.  Tan.  Never black.  Consistent texture too.

I am less sarcastic.  So I am told.  But this post surely undermines that.

I am richer.  This has many caveats but, yes, I have saved some money.

How do I replace the bev?

The answer partly lies with Nanny State by Brew Dog, Piston Head Lager and Erdinger Alcohol Free Isotonic Drink, with a lemonade top because it is gash otherwise.

Thank you Nanny State and Piston Head.  Erdinger, you only get a pass.

The other answer is a new found love of coffee.

Will it continue?

I don’t know, do I?  I am an addictive personality.  I only have on and off switches.  So when you see me in my natural pre-this-post-state don’t throw it back in my face please.

Can you do it?  And what advice would I give?

Yes you can.  Don’t make too much of it.  Set a date a few weeks in advance so that you can blow out before you start.  Starting with a hangover is an EXCELLENT idea.

This blog is good.  Far more thoughtful than this car smash of an advice-piece.

Now, head off to the bar and get me a lime and soda.  Please.

 

 

 

 

A Quiet Place: Movie Review.


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This horror film works extremely powerfully on a number of levels.

It perfectly demonstrates Hitchcock’s thinking “There is a distinct difference between ‘suspense’ and surprise’, and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. – if filmmakers keep spectators unaware, they can create “fifteen seconds of surprise,” but if they inform them of the impending encounter, they can produce “fifteen minutes of suspense”

In A Quiet Place director (and co-star) John Krasinski (who directed three episodes of The Office – not exactly a training ground for this) has clearly listened to Hitchcock because everything about this superb movie is driven by suspense.  I counted ten times when I leaped from my seat, but I was on the edge of it from start to finish.

It’s lean, taut, beautifully shot, expertly sound-tracked and superbly sound-crafted (absolutely essential in a movie that’s about noise).

His acting, and that of his entire family (particularly the outstanding Emily Blunt – his real life wife), is razor sharp.

And the whole thing is done and dusted in a creditable 80 minutes flat.

Bish, bash, bosh.  Job done.

Scared the shit out of you.

Now, go home.

Really, this is film craft at its finest and goes straight into my top ten horrors of all time alongside…

  • The Shining
  • It Follows
  • Get Out
  • Alien
  • Jaws
  • Psycho
  • The Exorcist
  • Rec
  • Paranormal Activity

What brings these all together (with the exception of The Shining and possibly Rec) is the lack of REAL horror.

Less, in my book, is generally more.

What makes this movie so damned good is the relationship Krasinski builds between members of the family.  His willingness to dispose of lead characters with a minimum of fuss makes the whole much more believable and credible and the fact that the story treats its audience with respect.  It has a strong beginning, middle and end although we join the story some 89 days into its telling.

The visual clues are subtle.  The emotions real, small and detailed.

He makes few plot mistakes (although the ‘nail’ set up is a little contrived and ‘the spaceship’ has a pretty big ‘guess what’s coming’ flag attached to it).

The gore is minimal which is how I like it.

Now, look at that list above and you can see a golden age of horror emerging: A Quiet Place, Get Out, It Follows, Rec and, just missing the list, French horror, Raw, are all pretty recent.  They are all minimalist but they are all a) brilliantly directed and b) finely acted. The craft skills are evident in abundance in all five, but none of them need a lot of gore to engage their audience.

I hope Krasinski gets his just rewards for this.

Isle of Dogs. The New Wes Anderson: Movie Review


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Is it an ode to Millwall?  Is it a statement of undying adoration for our four legged friends?  Is it a literal description of his movie which features an archipelago where Japanese canine’s are despatched offshore?

Whatever it is Wes Anderson’s latest minutiae-packed art form is a thing that inspires awe.

You simply have to ADMIRE Wes Anderson’s work because no-one (not even Guillermo Del Toro) approaches his craft with such precision, such forensic detail and because this latest epic is created in stop frame animation he has the opportunity to go microscopic; boy does he take it.

I’ve never seen a stop frame animation so beautifully lit.  Nick Park is no slouch but he prefers grand gestures, huge laughs and bold statement.  Nothing like this detail.  This art.

That all makes it sound sterile, fussy perhaps, but it’s not.  Under the art lies a beating heart of humour and passion for our fine four legged friends that no-one else could get even CLOSE to emulating.

It’s a bit too long, I’ll grant you that.  And some think its Japanese-ist (I don’t buy that).  It’s not a pastiche of Japan, as some say, it’s an homage.

The thrilling ‘Taiko’ drumming that sets the wheels in motion relentlessly underscores a movie that takes Japaneseness to thrilling heights of respect, with some humour of course – it’s Wes.

The, rather slight, story, is about a vile Japanese city-dictator, and cat-lover, banishing all of Megasaki’s  scabrous dogs to a toxic island of waste.  Thereafter it follows the quest of a young boy trying to rescue his pet, Spots, from this hideous prison.

The voices are great, but best by a mile is Bryan Cranston’s as the lead stray, Chief.

You can read the detail elsewhere.  But a Wes Anderson movie is a Wes Anderson movie and for that reason it has to score highly.

It’s stunning, gorgeous, brilliant and nearly as good as Grand Budapest Hotel.  But not quite.

 

 

 

Annihilation: Netflix Movie Review.


 

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If you have access to Netflix you have a treat in store.

Annihilation is Alex Garland’s second movie as director/writer after the Oscar nominated Ex-Machina and joins his writing portfolio that includes The Beach, Sunshine and 28 Days Later – all Danny Boyle movies.

Starring Natalie Portman (usually pretty bland and fairly much so here) and the superb Jennifer Jason Leigh (who plays it down in this) it’s a full on girl power let’s take on the aliens movie without any aliens.

The story concerns five female scientists who are sent into a strange growing entity called ‘The Shimmer’ on the coast of the USA hat hat has already chewed up and spat out a bunch of marines and inexplicably threatens life on earth.  In its early days it needs dealt with and female scientists may hold the key.

Inside ‘The Shimmer’ we find a world where DNA is ‘refracted’ in such a way that flora and fauna swap DNA and the resultant organisms range from extremely beautiful to hideously malformed.  These along with a breakdown in the scientists’ own DNA and organ tissue (leading to madness) form the threats to their existence as the seek the source of ‘The Shimmer”.

In many ways the concept is pretty close to standard fare but it is treated intelligently. (Too intelligently, it seems, for the US test cinema audience who didn’t ‘get it’ and so it was released straight to Netflix.)  Portman’s back story adds interesting colour and fleshes the movie out without intruding.

Maybe they tested int in the heart of Trump country because it’s not that tricky.  Anyway, cinema’s loss, your gain.  It’s a cracking yearn, well acted, well scripted, clever and stunningly shot.  My wife, who doesn’t go for sci-fi ordinarily, loved it.

Garland is a great ideas man and is already a gifted director.  This is a sound addition to his canon of work and I highly recommend it.