Monday, December 31, 2018

Destination Wedding

The critics were almost unanimous in preemptively reprimanding anyone who chuckles through this movie. For only a truly BAD person would warm to this misanthropic bilge...right?

So, hands up. It's a fair cop. That said, it is almost ludicrously over-written, to the extent that I wondered if I'd have enjoyed just reading through the screenplay more.

Perhaps I'd have actually enjoyed just watching Keanu reading every line...

Bird Box

Bird Box has been Netflix’s festive end-of-the-world offering with a star cast worthy of Christmas mass-casualty favourites of old like The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure and so on.

It’s been billed as the scariest movie ever.

There's a case to be made that it's at least the scariest since the last one about one of the five senses getting an awful lot of people unpleasantly killed...which wasn’t so scary after all.

Does this mean we have three more of these to go?

Don’t eat that tamal!

Did someone just fart?

You can’t touch this.

Hammer time...

Afterwards we discussed how progressive it might be to depict a woman in her mid-fifties having babies and then bringing them up with a b/f pretty much exactly half her age. 

V quipped that it's OK because he was wearing a blindfold most of the time!

John Malkovich was great. And he's even better as an over-the-hill Poirot - dodgy accent aside - in The ABC Murders.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Imperfections (1)

The ancients hit upon the two basic ways of handlng existence: acceptance or denial.

Lucretius suggested that the universe and every living thing within it was irretrievably accidental. We just had to accept this and get over it.

Quite possibly very sound advice, but it was the Platonic idea that the whole cosmos was instead a degradation of something perfect that stuck.

This became the primary notion of the Absolute in western thought. All our other absolutes (Marxism etc.) are either elaborations of it or, ironically, degradations of it. Christianity is little more than a system of ideas tacked onto it by St Augustine.

The way the Platonists saw things, time is a disarranged version of eternity that allows for the possibility of conditional existence and subjectivity. But before all that, there was but one, unified, self-sufficient, perfect thing.

So how did we get from this unified good to the manifold mess we actually experience? And is this existence predicated on finding a way back?

Plotinus thought ‘the One’ somehow experienced a superabundance of good - an excessus bontatis - which radiated out from it. In the contingent reality that resulted you need a sort of cosmic Geiger counter to determine how near to the source of this radiation you are. Pure evil marks its limit, the point at which the needle ceases to flicker.

This was a first valiant attempt to explain the essential contradiction of creation - that a perfectly unified, self-sufficient being would necessarily lack any reason for creating stuff, especially stuff that had the potential for being bad.

Augustine adopted the Platonist notion that eternity was our true ‘home’, but added that we are unable to get there by ourselves without God’s grace. We belong in the absolute, but have become lost in the wilderness of relativity, where things have both a beginning and an end. (Though conceivably not in that order.) 

When the Archbishop of Canterbury recently suggested that God was gender-neutral he was actually saying something that would have been bleeding obvious to any early medieval theologian, for they had inherited the idea from Plotinus that God was Being without any particular qualities, and Augustine was pretty clear that sexuality was a primary example of our descent or hypostasis from an existence beyond limitation.

Quoting Hegel, the now ex-Manchester United manager José Mourinho suggested at the start of this season that his failures would become un-manifest the moment his career was contemplated ‘in the whole’. Christian theodicy - the art of explaining away evil - has sometimes relied on a similar trick. It’s not really there, it only appears to exist from a partial perspective.

Another way of dealing with evil is to regard it as a kind of negation resulting from the potential for wilful disobedience that comes packaged with rationality. This is not without problems, such as the suggestion that we have a form of initiative which is independent from the absolute.

Anyway, the Mourinho version is the more interesting one as it leads, via several less-than-orthodox strands of Christian thinking, towards a more dynamic conception of existence, towards the dreaded D-word (Dialectic). 

Contaminated wells

European Islamophobes are wont to point out that Islam contains within itself the seeds of the most violent excesses committed by zealots.|

Well, duh, of course it does. As does almost every other significant cultural system in our own history. Christianity, socialism, secular humanism even...all of them contaminated wells.

Good intentions are nearly always an indication of naive dilution - as all of these ideas tend to lead with some degree of inevitability to the horrors of inverted justice given that they profess to provide answers to questions that cannot be answered. And they cross-pollinate vigorously (especially at their more zealous extremities).

Yet how much civilisation - how much good, in effect - arises from this obstinacy?

Perhaps Liberals have a particular blindness to this problem, because theirs is a system which (supposedly) stops short of absolutist pretensions.


This poor dog was left tied to a tree on the little green outside our house in the early hours of the morning today.

No shade, and until we showed up, no food or water either. 

As we were trying to get close with the sustenance a neighbour appeared and angrily queried whether we were the owners. (Do I look like a cold-hearted melonfarmer?) 

The poor dog remained there all day. Nobody dared to get too close because he seemed ready to attack no matter how kindly a disposition one assumed. 

As of 10pm tonight the poor pooch has been freed, thanks to a very patient and pretty heroic gentleman from Pastores, who'd learned of his predicament on social media. He wanted to take the dog with him, but his overall snarliness was not significantly reduced by being unfettered. 

He went for a wander, but has now returned to the tree, seemingly awaiting the return of his utterly heartless dueños. (I think I have managed to capture their faces with our security cameras.) 

Friday, December 21, 2018

All roads lead to ruin...

This government faces what has to be one of the least effective oppositions in the history of British parliamentary democracy.

Yet its present lead in the polls is surely deceptive, as the Tories have maneuvered themselves into a position where almost every path they can take from here leads not only to electoral defeat, but almost certainly to longer-term damage to the party's prospects.

Take the deal that Brussels has left on the table. It's unloved. And so will be any government that forces it through Parliament, however unlikely that eventuality currently appears.

Suppose there's another way to deliver Brexit; almost certainly a hard and painful way. This might please a handful of deranged toffs and thier unlikely new allies amongst the northern working classes, but the Conservative Party's reputation as a safe pair of hands for the nation's commercial interests will be shot for good. (And one can't rule out that they will end up taking much of the blame for paving the way for a Corbyn-led administration and all the resulting economic mayhem thereof.) 

Theresa May's minority government emanates out of a parliamentary muddle, set up by an indecisive general election. Yet the PM behaves as if she has been given a decisive mandate by another vote taken a year earlier - and which was only decisive because of the dumb way in which it was set up by her predecessor. 

The somewhat novel, politically-engaged constituency this gave her party are fickle friends to say the least. Not only do they tend to sit at the wrong end of the age scale, many are tending Tory for one reason alone. 

May will know that disappointing them in such a way that Brexit turns out not to mean Brexit (or is halted altogether) could be catastrophic for conservatism. 

None of the options look good, but she's hoping for the kind of fudge that keeps some of the committed Leave voters on board whilst placating the business interests where the party's  more secure base lies. 

Alienating swathes of both the so-called 'liberal elites' and 'the people' would surely spell curtains. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Parliamentary Purists

How many genuine purists - as opposed to opportunistic ones - sit in Parliament right now?

We shall see in January. 

My suspicion is that once they are up against the cliff edge the numbers will turn out to be low...low enough for May to get some sort of holding arrangement through. 

Confidence Vote

For two years it has been obvious that a pair of distinct parliamentary groups, the no-dealers and the no-Brexiters, have been waiting for May to come back to the Commons with whatever negotiated compromise her government has garnered, and to then reject it. 

Since that abortive election there’s also been the DUP, who were always going to make Ireland a tricky issue. Labour had no clear (or indeed coherent) policy and so could be relied upon to act opportunistically up to the last moment. 

All this would surely have been clear to the government for ages. 

The no-dealers and the no-Brexiters are polar opposites, yet depend on the threat of the other to have any hope of getting what they want. 

So what May did this week was quite smart. She gave the impression that the vote would go ahead yesterday until the very last minute then postponed it. 

This allows her to run down the clock, which effectively makes a second referendum before March close to impossible and thus puts the no-dealers in a real pickle, because when the parliamentary vote does finally happen in January the choice really will be between no deal and ‘her’ deal, and the PM will know that in the final analysis there is no majority in the House for a calamitous exit from the EU. 

They noted that they’d been placed in check and responded with their desperate no confidence vote today, but it was doomed, and so are they. 

Future historians will surely decide that the whole god-awful mess was David Cameron’s fault and that May did well enough in the aftermath of the 2016 vote to neutralise Boris, Jacob and co and to establish a path to an orderly Brexit which would protect the UK's commercial interests and restore some control over the borders. 

If she made any mistake along the way it was referring to this deal as a deal. It’s really just a holding position that we will need to assume in March 2019 until a final free trade agreement has been settled. I can’t see anything other than some close variation of the current agreement taking effect when we leave next year. 

The alternatives can only be contemplated by people who care but little for consequences. 

Talk of May being ‘injured’ or having lost her moral authority is plain nonsense. The likes of Rees-Mogg and Boris have been damaged for sure. But she won, just as the Brexit 52% did, and they didn’t feel particularly beaten up then.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Commons Vote Postponement

Talk of Theresa May's 'humiliation' today may well be premature. In fact I think she has been pretty canny, having timed her postponement perfectly. 
Rees-Mogg and the ERG wing of the Tory party might be scared of a Brexit betrayal, but they also know that the only way they might get what they really want - no deal - is if the threat of a second referendum remains. 
Similarly, the EU 27 are scared of no deal, but have no real incentive to budge on the terms if they think the threat of no deal might drive the UK to what they really want - Norway+ or even a complete cop out via a second which all the political consequences would be felt in the UK.