Sam Smith cannot sing

Am I allowed to say that I don’t think Sam Smith can sing at all, without being accused of homophobia. How he won the best music oscar last night is beyond me: his ”Writings on the wall’ is by far the worst bond theme for decades, if not ever. I find it whiney and nauseating, and not at all in keeping with the Bond ouvre. Frankly, Smith shouldn’t have got passed X-Factor, or whichever crappy talent show he won. The dude cannot sing, but whines into a microphone. Compared to the great bond themes – Tina Turner’s Goldeneye, Carly Simon’s Nobody Does it Better, Paul McCartney’s Live And let Die etc – Smith’s song is abysmal. This has nothing to do with his personality or sexuality, but his (lack of) talent as a singer. I’m glad a bond film at last won an oscar, just baffled that it was due to Smith’s nauseating theme.

Update: I just read that Adele won an oscar for her theme for Skyfall last year so this wasn’t the first, but you get my point.

The tories invent a new downturn to justify yet more cuts

Staying with politics but in a different aspect, I think I’ll just direct you here today, to an article alleging (or rather, pointing out) that George Osbourne seems to have all of a sudden magicked up an new economic downturn in order to justify more cuts. Not long ago, the tories were assuring us that the misery would be over soon, but now they’re on about cutting the welfare state even further: ”Suddenly the promise has gone from ‘happy days in a couple of years’ time’ to ‘more cuts, more austerity, more pain’. And it’ll be the poor who have to pay for it, of course.” How much more evidence do you want that these oh-so-necessary cuts are entirely ideologically motivated? The world economy is at last on the mend, but that doesn’t suit the tory narrative. People are starving, but they still want to cut tax for their rich friends, so the tories conjure up an excuse lest we all realise the criminality of what they are doing. It’s sickening; we’re being treated like fools.

Plants in the out campaign?

I was watching a podcast last night by a guy with ties to David icke. Lyn likes him, so I thought I’d give him a try. Truth be told, apart from a few spurious attacks on the BBC and some bollocks about vaccinations, I found myself agreeing with eighty to ninety percent of what the guy was saying. However, one patently ridiculous comment, made towards the end of the show, stuck in my mind: he was talking about the referendum, and the people now leading the Out campaign. He pointed out that they were all vile, despicable creatures, people you wouldn’t ordinarily touch with a barge pole. People like Iain Duncan-Smith, a man who, the guy said, wouldn’t have been out of place in nazi Germany. But the guy, an outer himself, then made one of the strangest most far-fetched insinuations I had ever heard: rather than making him reassess his own position as one might expect (”if so many of these neocon shits want us to vote out, perhaps I’m wrong”) he tried to make out that these horrible people had been planted on the out campaign, and it was all a big conspiracy to make sure we stay in the EU. The odd thing is, I don’t think he was joking.

Such an idea is, of course, absurd enough to simply be dismissed out of hand. Yet it points to something deeper: a deep mistrust, felt by many people in this country, of those in power. They seem to think that, whatever we do and however we vote, existing power structures would be preserved. The guy was highly political, highly knowledgable, but this absurd insinuation revealed a deep, heartfelt cynicism and disenfranchisement. No wonder he wanted to leave the EU – he saw it as just another layer of power for a ruling elite who will do anything to cling on to their dominant position. And, you know what? My desire to keep europe united aside, I think there he may have a point.

A festival of isolationism

I read earlier that the outists are trying to organise some kind of concert or music festival in aid of their cause. It’s obvious they are trying to re-frame or re-present their message as something positive and social; they think that by holding such a rally, they can come across as something popular and inclusive. But frankly, this festival, if it happens, will be more akin to Nuremberg than Live Aid. No doubt they want to invoke the massive social events of recent times like the diamond jubilee or the olympics, allowing Farage et al to preach their isolationist, intellectually void bullshit to a massive, cheering audience of unthinking halfwits. It would be a sickening sight. I only hope no popular musician is stupid enough to sign up to play; or that, if it happens a similar ‘in’ festival can be organised in reply.

Film festival meeting

This morning sees me really quite excited. Last night was the first meeting of the group organising the Greenwich and Woolwich film festival. Such small festivals, run by volunteers, are becoming quite popular; getting involved in one was too good an opportunity for me to miss. Last night was only an initial ice-breaker to gauge interest and get the ball rolling, but it was well attended and generated a good discussion. I made a few contributions and suggestions. Not much was set in stone last night, but I am now eager to get involved: I’m thinking about doing something based on my MA subject. I now can’t wait for the next meeting.

I also want to note that, even though the meeting was in a local pub, I didn’t drink a drop of alcohol; I now feel rather proud of myself.

Institutionalisation

Lyn wrote this yesterday and I think it’s definitely worth linking to. It’s about her time living in a Scope home in the eighties, and the institutionalisation she witnessed in the residents there. She writes of how they were used to the routine of ”basket weaving, art, woodwork and so on.” and how it was intended ”To keep the. residents busy [and] to make them more alive but the opposite was true.” She then describes how she tried to break them out of that state and to shake things up, but was resisted. ”They had been Institutionalized by the rules and the routine and this is now the norm. Trying to change that comfortable state leads to fear. If you tell people that have been living in a way that is wrong, you are demeaning their lives. So if you are that one person in the room that is saying, then it’s you that is the problem.”

I think I know what Lyn is getting at. She and I disagree on the EU; she is saying people have been institutionalised by it, and so will stick with what they know. It’s a very good point: change is always resisted, and the advocates of change fought against. People will want to stick with what they know, so Lyn fears people will vote to stay in the EU simply because of that instinct. But I would, in reply, like to point out that this is not about resistance to change: things must change, or else stagnate and rot. Indeed, I see this issue as about changing the way we see ourselves: we should no longer think of ourselves in terms of belonging to a certain nation state, but as citizens of the world, working together and respecting one another. I see organisations like the EU, and indeed the UN, as a step towards that goal. Thus this is not about sticking with what one knows because it is comforting, but just the opposite: it’s about shaking off the old nation-state paradigm and seeing ourselves as part of something bigger and better. Lyn’s allusion applies equally to the state – that is the institution we must break free of. Lyn tells us how the residents of her old home did not talk to one another, but communication would be even harder if we withdraw from the community and shut ourselves away in our room.

Why Spectre emphatically did not suck

I just rewatched Spectre having bought the DVD yesterday, and, first things first, I’d like to totally refute the criticisms made in the video I referenced in this entry. Spectre emphatically does not suck. While perhaps not as good as Skyfall, I now think the supposed ‘flaws’ cited in that review do not hold water. For starters, I saw no grounds to say that it was too slapstick or too Austin Powers. What I just watched was a serious (insofar as bond films can be serious) film addressing a serious, increasingly relevant issue. A film about a global organisation that wants to spy on everyone is highly salient, even speaking to concerns about globalisation and the EU. To tie those concerns into an organisation created by Fleming, rooting it into the Bond franchise’s history was a masterstroke. To bring blofeld and spectre back, updated to reflect contemporary fears but still using the iconography of the ‘classic’ 007 films such as the white cat, is not only great filmmaking but also says something about why this franchise is so special. It can both constantly reinvent itself and play with it’s own history. To criticise it for referencing it’s past, to say that to echo older bond films is somehow lazy or that characters like Blofeld or oddjob are now out of bounds because they have been pastiched in things like Austin Powers, is not only to completely miss the point but also to misunderstand the bond franchise and film as an art.

Another criticism that video made was that it was wrong to connect Bond and Blofeld as family; that that made the story too personal to Bond. His missions should be about the safety of the country, not him as a person; he is an anonymous government assassin, not a figure like Jason Bourne or Luke Skywalker (”James, I am your brother”). Thus that criticism holds a bit more water with me, but after a second viewing I now think they got away with it. Skyfall touched on Bond’s boyhood and family life, and this film leads directly on from that. In Skyfall, bond says Judy Dench’s M knows his full history, and in Spectre it is she who sets him on his path. Granted, perhaps that makes this film more about Bond, and perhaps it is a bit too coincidental that the leader of this evil organisation just happens to be Bond’s adopted brother, but I don’t think that makes this a bad film, and it certainly does not warrant disregarding for it. Even if it was more about Bond than other bond films, I thoroughly enjoyed the film I watched this afternoon, and found it a great addition to the franchise. Far from being holed, the plot works well, both speaking to the history of the franchise and continuing it’s relevance. As when I watched it in the cinema, it just left me dying for more.

The Night Manager

I just caught up with The Night Manager on the bbc Iplayer, and would now thoroughly recommend you do the same. An adaptation of a John Le Carre novel, it concerns Jonathan Pine – polite, calm, charming, confident but self-deprecating, a little mysterious, very English – an ex army man who, at the piece’s opening, is working nights at a Cairo hotel. One night, a beautiful woman comes in, and asks Pine to keep a document safe for her. From there, a web of intrigue unfolds, involving the arms trade, the Arab spring, and a branch of the british secret service apparently based in a grotty flat in Victoria. It is a well written, well directed piece: perhaps not quite Bond, but it certainly has bondish overtones, especially in it’s hotel-heavy mise-en-scene. It drew me in: I began to care for the lead character quite early; I felt the anguish he feels at the tragic mistake he makes in this opening episode, and the ending left me dying to see what happens next.

Why I’ll be voting ‘in’

I have always thought that there must be more to human existence than the state. To keep ourselves divided into petty little nation states is to waste our potential. Think what we can achieve if humanity United, combined it’s resources and worked together. Of course, I am well aware of the problems involved in establishing a world government: some say it would be too big to be democratic, while others argue that it would eradicate human variety. Both are problematic although not impossible to overcome: after all, different cultures can exist perfectly well within one country. The Welsh have not lost their welshness despite six hundred years of union with England. Thus I think those who voice such objections do so for other reasons, veiling their arguments with liberal sounding ideals when in fact their arguments are born of xenophobia and nationalism. They want to maintain essentially arbitrary borders and preserve the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mindset, not realising that, far from creating a universal, bland culture, the mixing of peoples is the only way a culture evolves.

That’s why I plan to vote to stay in the EU in the referendum, the date of which I am told will be announced later today. The European Union might not be perfect, and I certainly have problems with CaMoron’s so called renegotiation (he wants to remake the EU in his own neoliberal image, bastardizing it from it’s original ideals), but there are ideals at stake here which are far more important than the present moment. This is about going beyond nation states; it’s about working with our neighbours rather than building walls. It’s about not shutting ourselves from the world. Surely we cannot be so shortsighted, so moronic, that we decide to shut ourselves off for our closest neighbour. Europe is not perfect – it needs reform, but we need to e a participant in that reform, not a shortsighted irrelevent little island to it’s north.