The Death Knell Tolls…

23 04 2009

As the dust settles on one of the most unpopular budgets for a long time, the battered red briefcase waved by Chancellor Alistair Darling seems indicative of the Labour party itself. Battered and increasingly unpopular, the budget, along with the party, has proven to be far from the reassuring comfort that is needed during a time of economic plight. Instead we are told of, in the best case, simple hikes in the price of fuel and alcohol offset by a variety of incentives, and in the worst, a class war.

Now I’m not sure of the strength of the latter case, although it is easy to see where the critics are coming from with such a point. The increase in taxes to offset the substantial, and increasing debt is painful reading for most who happen to drive, drink, smoke and earn. The BBC’s simplistic calculator works out that I will be roughly £80 worse off next year, if all else remains constant.

Reading various responses to Darling’s budget has been interesting, those left-wing writers, whilst stopping short of praising the whole thing, do at least champion the case for taking money from the rich. Polly Toynbee in the Guardian writes that “Taxation is the only easy way to restore a very small measure of sanity to the unjust rewards of the rich” and such a view is supported by Jonathan Freeland, who tells goes on to tell us that “Darling’s wasn’t a swashbuckling performance, but under almost impossible circumstances it was surely the best that could be done“. The general concurrance is that Darling has reignited the embers of a dying class fire. There seems to be an acceptance now of the impending fate of this government. The measures have been put in place. The legacy has been left, and the pieces are there to be picked up by a Conservative government. This may not have been inspiring stuff, but politically and tactically it was marvellous. In years to come historians will look at this budget as the beginning of the left-wing fightback, begun before they had even been removed from office.

Naturally the right-wing are up in arms about the budget. The right-wing focus lies away from the class issues though. For those on the right side of the fence there is a simple problem. The numbers don’t add up. For Jeff Randell of the Telegraph, melodramatism conveys the point: “A ball-and-chain of spirit-sapping debt has been clamped to the nation’s future“, and this is taken further by Camilla Cavendish in The Times (incidentally the only newspaper for which you need capitalise “The”) who wrote “we got growth forecasts that were fantasy even by forecast standards“. And the point is a good one. The figures, from the guy who is meant to be in charge of this sort of stuff do not seem right, and do not fall into line with any forecasts by other equally (if not better) qualified people. 2032 is the early estimate of when things might return to a ‘normal’ level. That’s if we haven’t destroyed ourselves in a nuclear rage induced by poor stock markets.

For the Tories, there is little they can do. The acceptance seems well spread. Labour are burning out. They seem to be resigned to losing the next election and this budget has done nothing but add to this feeling. The Tories just have to maintain their course. They do not need to over-react, nor, it seems, do they need substantial policy. They just need to be there for the country when Labour has proven itself not to be. This will come within the next year and the General Election. Then there is the trouble of picking up what has been left. The long term game is being played here, by both parties. Labour’s game has just begun, but for the Tories, plan A (which generally has involved letting Labour burn themselves completely) quickly needs replacing, otherwise the “oh crap, what the hell do we do now” sketch will write itself all too easily when David Cameron steps through the doors of Number 10 as the country’s leader.


Delving Deeper…

17 03 2009

It was with interest that I read this article about the Wizard of Oz. Yes, that childhood tale of a young girl just trying to get home, aided magnificently by the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion. Oh, and the dog. It is always interesting to read into books rather than taking the face value for granted. Now I’m not sure that I completely agree with the theory being portrayed in the BBC’s article, but it is interesting to see an argument or theory put forward well. A considered, rationalised approach substantiated with specifics from history to contextualise the argument mean that the original proponent of the viewpoint, Henry Littlefield has a strong case. Especially when you consider that the film actually took away some of the political points through subtle changes (the Ruby slippers were actually Silver in the original book, an apparent reference to the use of silver to substantiate the American Gold Standard which was ailing at the time the book was written.

Despite this, the viewpoints put forward by readers at the bottom of the page are more in line with my thoughts. You can read whatever you want to read in things. The Wizard of Oz has, through the course of the 20th and 21st Centuries become extended metaphors for a range of things. I think that this may be a case of reading something into it that was not intended to be there in the first place. By this I mean modern observers are mapping ideas onto the film that fit with the society that they know at the moment. This isn’t unusual, it has been happening for ages, and I think that the example of the Wizard of Oz serves to indicate this further.

To link in with this idea of interpretation of films, I saw Watchmen on Sunday. I have to say I really liked it. The film looked good, the plot was substantial, considered and thought-provoking, and I would recommend going to see it, although you may wish to lose the preconceptions of a ‘super-hero’ movie that my sister apparently approached the film with. I have my own theories on the movie that I will share with you, so if you haven’t seen it, now would be a good time to stop reading.

I think that it can be argued that the film is an anti-religious one. Dr Manhatten (the big blue one) is used as an extended reference to god, with the idea being sown into our heads early on, when it is explained that he does not consider himself to be a god. Through the film we see what Manhatten is capable of, infinite knowledge, bringing death, being in many places simultaneously, being an entity for people to unite behind (the film uses Vietnam to highlight this idea). All are ideas which can be seen to be ‘god-like’. This theory is further substantied when, at the end of the film, Manhatten leaves Earth to set up life in another universe. He therefore can be seen to be both the bringer of life and death. So very god-like.

I say it is anti-religion though because by the end of the film, Manhatten has been made into the bad-guy. Through the series of events that leads to the destruction of a large part of New York, Manhatten becomes the common enemy that prevents the Russians and the Americans wiping the planet out in a nuclear war. By giving them something to hate, Manhatten saves the earth (even though strictly it wasn’t of his own design).[I’m thinking that the next Batman film will follow a similar line given the ending to the previous one]. So, in the course of the film, Manhatten is shown to be god-like in all but name, and is hounded down and almost forced to leave the planet, indeed, the universe to save mankind. It is true that he could fight back, and would almost certainly win, but it is his love of mankind which sees him disappear. To me this smacks of being anti-religion.

I think. As I’m writing this I am also considering the possibility that the film is pro-religion too, as here is this omnipotent being who has saved the world from itself and has united enemies. I suppose it is what you make of it then. Just like the Wizard of Oz.


17 12 2008

2008 has been an interesting year punctuated by various disappointments. Here I will look at the things which I have been disappointed with over the course of the past year.

Slated Film: –

Quantum of Solace. Whilst there may have been worse films, this is, I feel, one of the biggest let-downs. Whilst Daniel Criag was praised by critics for reinventing Bond in Casino Royale, Sean Bean’s quip in Goldeneye seems apt in regard to the latest offering: “No glib remark? No pithy comeback?”. The point is that whilst Craig has made Bond into some super-strength hero, he has lost what made Bond special. Bond is a womaniser, a chauvinist, loyal and intelligent; that’s why the public love him. Craig’s Bond is lacking in the very dislikable qualities which make Bond so likeable in the first place. Craig is very much more like Jason Bourne than James Bond. We want him to order a Vodka Martini, “shaken, not stirred”. We want him to sleep with the Bond girl, and we want him to save the day, with some quick witted remarks laced with innuendo thrown in for good measure. We don’t want him fighting his way through an hour and a half for the sake of drama, some plot is better than none at all. Oh, and we want an insane meglomaniac bad-guy too, not some wet-behind-the-ears foreigner as Dominic Greene was. I think we have learned now that a rolling plot through films hasn’t worked, and sticking to the tried and tested formula of a new plot for each film is still the way to go.

Slated Album:-

Perfect Symmetry – Keane. As a huge Keane fan, I will admit that I have been left a little disappointed by their new album. The mournful songs of ‘Under the Iron Sea’ and ‘Hopes and Fears’ have been replaced with bouncier tunes, and this isn’t a good thing in my opinion. The first single, “Spiralling” is a grower, and whilst my opinion of it has improved, I would still rather listen to “Bedshaped” or “The Frog Prince”. There are a few good songs on the album, but this doesn’t compensate for the album as a whole.

Slated Single:-

I could slate many many songs, anything by any TV manufactured band, anything by a gangster rapper, anything remixed into a dance tune. I won’t as that’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Instead my slated song is “Rockstar” by Nickleback. As someone who owns the two first Nickleback albums (the first bought on the merit of “How You Remind Me” alone), I have grown so hugely frustrated by a lot of their new releases. They seem to be everywhere at the moment. The trouble is that you can barely distinguish between songs, and Chad Kroeger’s voice is very grating. This song pips others in my opinion due to the fact it has become the noise of a sofa advert too. Which makes it even more annoying than it was already.

Slated Sporting Moment:-

As England failed to qualify for the European Championships last year, my sporting moment is closer to home. In May the Wolves finished 7th in the Championship, which itself was a disappointment given the finish of the previous season, but to lose out on goal difference was all the more galling. To lose out by a goal difference of 1 to “Hoofball” Watford was very difficult to stomach.

Slated News Story:-

The recession. As a recent graduate, finding a job in an economic climate that is going down the pan was hard work. Keeping the landlord off my back, and food in my stomach has proven to be hard work. The economic climate has affected the world, and I’m feeling the pinch.