Monthly Archives: October 2011

JR @ The Movies

Every film I’ve seen at the cinema in 2011, marked out of 10. Instant reviews available on request. You won’t all agree so tell me where I’m wrong. 😉

The Voyage of The Dawn Treader 6
127 Hours 9
The King’s Speech 10
Catfish 8
Black Swan 9
The Mechanic 7
Never Let Me Go 10
Paul 7
Drive Angry 7
Source Code 7
Sucker Punch 8
Your Highness 7
Submarine 10
TT3D: Closer To The Edge 8
Hanna 8
Thor 8
Senna 10
X Men: First Class 9
Le Quattro Volte 10
Attack The Block 9
Harry Potter 7b 8
Super 8 8
One Day 7
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy 8
Drive 9
Tyrannosaur 10
The Adventures of Tintin 9

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Don’t Just Think It – Do It

 

Crumbs! Protests are all the rage at the moment aren’t they? In Britain there seems to have been some campaign or other on the go pretty much permanently since the Coalition Government came in, while worldwide the Occupy movement recently erupted in hundreds of cities. I recall a time in the early nineties when protest seemed to have ground to a halt. There might be the occasional placard march and the odd isolated bit of direct action, but nothing you’d really notice. Then the environmentalists started to get creative: Swampy went underground and became a celebrity; Reclaim The Streets reclaimed direct action and turned it into a party. Suddenly going on a protest looked like it might be fun and, importantly, less hierarchical methods of organisation came to the fore. In the age of the mobile phone, protests could be large or small and highly dynamic. Before long, Fathers For Justice were raiding their kids’ dressing-up boxes, lorry drivers were blockading oil refineries and, ultimately, the Countryside Alliance organised Britain’s biggest ever Day Out In London. The concept of protest has become truly widespread.

 

Now I tend to view this as A Good Thing. I don’t necessarily agree with all the causes mentioned above but I do believe in their right to be expressed. Freedom of speech is a precious privilege that we’re lucky to have and public dissent is a vital form of democratic accountability. I also happen to think it’s good IN ITSELF. Good for the person making the protest, good for anyone who hears or witnesses it, good on its own. Good even if nothing ever changes. This probably sounds woolly but I genuinely believe there is value in expressing truth. Depending on your viewpoint you may say it builds character, or it’s good for the soul, or it stores up karma. You may even say it’s prophetic (yes, you heard; not pathetic).

 

This would certainly explain why I found the atmosphere at the Occupy London encampment next to St Paul’s Cathedral so wonderfully positive. A flexible collective of perhaps a few hundred, they’ve been there for nearly a week, hunkering down in small tents at night and spending the days in lengthy discussion of everything from macro-economics to portaloos. Some naysayers have decried the group for having a lack of coherent aims or demands but this is always going to be a movement more united in what it’s fighting against than in what it’s fighting for. And so it should be. The aim is to question the status quo, to ask whether the current system is really fair and sustainable. How people respond to that question will vary enormously and so will any changes they make as a result. Judging by the throngs of passers-by looking intently at some of the posters and messages displayed around the area, a lot of people are going to be doing a lot of thinking about their lives. A more focussed protest would have made it harder for this to occur.

 

So I say hurrah to the St Paul’s campers and their ilk in New York and numerous other locations. Hurrah to everyone who did their best to save the NHS from probable destruction. Hurrah to anyone prepared to stick their head above the parapet and stand against greed, hatred and dehumanising. It’s always worth it. Remember that.

Everything You Don’t Know Is Wrong – Part 2

So, last time I was basically saying that this internet thing means we all feel like we can address the world with whatever’s on our mind. Now the good thing about social media is that while we’re hollering into the ether, countless other megaphone-wielders are exercising their freedom of expression as well. So what we end up with is a kind of conversation, albeit frequently rather shouty and not always totally informed or reasoned. Being ill-informed, or mis-informed, is pretty much a global pastime thanks to the legacy of old media, where often a single news source is regarded as authoritative. Nowadays, most people are in a position to access numerous different viewpoints on any situation but does that mean we do? Does it ‘eck as like.

Everything you know is right. You bookmark it, you “like” it on Facebook, you follow it on Twitter, hey maybe you even create a special timeline for it. It’s your virtual world and your virtual news channel, full of your favourite things. A fun and comfortable world. Maybe. Unless, as enquiring minds have always done regardless of technology, you seek out a broader range of opinion. Get messy, prepare to be challenged, expect to be disappointed and get ready to examine your preconceptions. Because everything you don’t know is wrong, in a way. Subjectively. It’s weird and alien and unusual. There are viewpoints you didn’t know anybody held, because you’d never had cause to meet the people that hold them. There are things going on in the world, in your country, in your street, that you had no idea about because if they were publicised there’d be an outcry. Look, I’m not necessarily saying this is a great way to have fun. Whoever said ignorance is bliss at least knew enough to know that was true.

Neither, to be fair, am I setting myself up as some kind of beacon of impartiality. I’m aware that even as I look to take in a broad range of input, I get drawn to certain causes and certain interests. Just about everybody has a political and philosophical starting point and I’m no different. I’d just like to think that my default position of scepticism towards mainstream media motivates me to look for a bigger picture and to be aware of background agendas. So your job, as you read my witterings, is to remember that I, like everybody, am reacting to events and issues in a way that’s influenced by past experience, by attitude, by emotion, maybe even by prejudice. I’d love to know what you think of my biassed outpourings but, most of all, I’d like to encourage you to dig for truth wherever you can. It’s a worthwhile goal, albeit elusive.

Enough with the preamble. I think we’re now ready to get down to brass tacks (as they used to say in the days when they still had brass tacks). Which is just as well because there’s been a heck of a lot on my mind recently. Big stuff. It’s a busy world.

Back soon.