tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
On an unrelated note: the current political situation in both the UK and the US, and the demands from Leavers and the Right in general that Remain supporters/ Democrats just shut up and accept the new status quo, I am reminded of this excellent song from the Dixie Chicks:

tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
The "Junge Union" in Nord-Rhein Westfalen - the youth wing of the CDU, so I suppose roughly equivalent to the Young Conservatives, have a new slogan:

If you love your mother, vote CDU.

I have to say, I can hear the sound of a barrel being scraped...
tree_and_leaf: Text icon: Anglican Socialist Weirdo (Anglican socialist weirdo)
I watched Made in Dagenham (2011), dir. Nigel Cole, last night. Cole also directed Calendar Girls, and it's another of those lightly-fictionalised Heart-Warming British True Stories, though it's a much more political story than Calendar Girls, about the Ford Machinist's Strike in 1968, which began as a dispute about the down-grading of the women sewing machinists, and broadened out into a wider campaign for equal pay for equal work and led to the Equal Pay Act (although, as the film doesn't actually point out, while the women got a pay rise so that they were being paid the equivalent of the men at their grade, the re-grading issue wasn't resolved). Its sympathies are feminist and solidly left-wing, although without overly sanctifying the union: on the one hand, the union leaders are largely resistant to the women's cause, because they think that men earn the bread-winner's wage and women are working for pin-money (as the narrative points out, this wasn't always the case), and at least one of them is a venal character who's mostly in it for the expenses. On the other hand, the union does give the women a voice, and the film makes some sharp observations about the undervaluing of women's work and women's intelligence, particularly in the row between the heroine, Rita (Sally Hawins, who is very good), and her husband(Daniel Mays), a nice man who occasionally falls into Nice Guy Syndrome, but isn't allowed to get away with it (and doesn't want to, when he's made to stop and think).

The main weakness of the film is not, I think, as one of the Grauniad's reviews suggested, that it's clichéd, though there is a little too much play with Sixties icons (there's a minor sub-plot involving a Biba dress, but on the whole the period detail seemed quite good - though I wasn't there, so I suppose I can't judge). It's the uneven tone - the narrative is split (roughly two-thirds one-thirds) between the progress of the strike and the experiences of the women and those associated with the Ford Plant and the union (or management) and Barbara Castle being Barbara Castle and Harold Wilson being a bit wet, only coming together at the end. The trouble is that the politicians are largely played broadly, and unconvincingly - Wilson mostly comes across as a bumbling idiot, and Miranda Richardson overplays Castle horribly, except for a few minutes where the character comes together. (She was nominated for a BAFTA. I have no idea why). In fact, the Westminster sub-plot seems to have wandered in from a different film, possibly a spin-off of Yes, Minister (except Sir Humphrey would have eaten the useless civil servants we see being repeatedly chivvied about by Castle for breakfast). The Dagenham strand, on the other hand, is mostly naturalistic, though with a good deal of humour, and with some genuinely affecting moments. Possibly the director was trying to make some kind of point about the "real world" of the working class and Westminster's remoteness from it, with Castle's intervention in the strike (in a dress from C and A we've earlier seen Rita in) breaching the gap and resolving the conflict, but if so, it doesn't quite come off, because the "Westminster" is so hard to believe in. Richard Schiff has a rather unexpected turn as a Ford executive-come-hard-man; he doesn't look anything like Toby Ziegler, but the voice is rather distractingly recognisable,* and I had trouble fighting off the feeling that he should have been on the other side.

Despite the weakness of the Westminster stuff, though, it's well worth seeing, because the Dagenham bits are excellent. It is worth noting, though, that the film's billing as a heart-warming and life-affirming comedy, while not untrue, is a bit misleading, because there are some dark moments. In particular, there's (spoilers: highlight to read)a sub-plot involving severe, untreated PTSD, and suicide (we briefly see the feet of the character who's hanged himself). And it's nice to see a film about the working class and left-wing politics that isn't either humourless, or poking fun at the proles, or, conversely, a tragedy of the decline and fall of British industry (I love Brassed Off, but it isn't exactly cheerful).

* Still, at least they got a real American.
tree_and_leaf: Text icon: Anglican Socialist Weirdo (Anglican socialist weirdo)
Title: Careers Advice, or, Marx was a Friend of Narnia.
Characters: Edmund, Eustace, Lucy.
Summary: Edmund and Eustace have a discussion about careers and politics. They still don’t see eye to eye.
Rating: PG
Words: 715.
Content: Gen. Politics (including ones Lewis would have disliked).

I should note that I’m not happy with this fic at all, but I’m stuck on the Barchester Towers thing (am currently wondering if it can be turned into a sketch for the college review), and I’d like to post some fic and break my duck...

I'll take a king who recognises his responsibility to his people over a foreign imperialist slave-holder any day, thank you very much. )
tree_and_leaf: Text icon: Anglican Socialist Weirdo (Anglican socialist weirdo)
If it should so be that you haven't had enough of the election yet, I reccommend the Steve Bell's Election series. Satire of... everyone, with fascinating insight into drawing and caricature.
tree_and_leaf: Purple tinted black and white photo of moody man, caption Church Paramilitant (image from "Ultraviolet") (Church Paramilitant)
This is one of the most sickening things I've seen in ages: the BNP have taken their efforts to pose as defenders of Britain's Christian heritage to a new level, by equating themselves with Christ. (Link goes to the ekklesia press-release reporting the matter; I'm not linking to fascist websites, but you can see the poster in a very poor-quality photo at an anti-fascist blog here.

Citing Jn 15:20 ("If they persecute me, they will persecute you also"), the post reads "What would Jesus do? Vote BNP" (to which the answer is, "He'd probably invite you to join the Poles for supper, but he certainly wouldn't vote for you, you illiterate thugs"). On one level, this is oddly reminiscent of the BNP's previous attempt at a European election poster, in which the party whose candidates complain about Polish (and other) migrant workers coming over here and taking our jobs,used the slogan "Battle for Britain", and a photograph of a Spitfire - from 303 squadron, which was made up entirely of Poles (link goes to the Torygraph). The unedifying spectacle of a bunch of Nazis using a white-washed Palestinian Jew (and, for that matter, a one-time asylum seeker) as their poster-boy fits right into their pattern of opportunism combined with not quite managing to think through why any of the things they claim to value as 'British' (fighting, er fascism, in WWII, Christianity) actually matter.

The Ekklesia press report quotes an email from Nick Griffin (leader of the BNP, and well-known fascist thug) making nauseating claims about his party being the only one interested in defending Britain's 'Christian heritage' against 'the threat of Islamification', and has the gall to complain that

What has become of the Christian church in this country? Instead of inclusively ‘embracing all’ which the church claims is its basis, certain groups within that body have banned people from their ranks simply because of their membership in the British National Party.

“Surely if God calls a man to his service, no church has the right to contradict HIS holy will! For many years, the churches in this country scrupulously avoided being politically biased. Nowadays however we see a small number of clerics and bishops openly preaching hatred towards the BNP.

“Church leaders actively shun the word of God on issues like sodomy, abortion and social justice.

There is so much wrong with this that I don't even know where to start, but one might note the confusion: on the one hand, Griffin appears to think that the church has to reflect God's all-inclusive love - but only as it applies to fascists, not gays or women. 'Call' includes 'call to repentence', and that goes for absolutely everyone, whoever they are, and no matter how 'decent', 'good' or 'nice' (which both liberals and conservatives are prone to forget, though the ideal of 'decency' is different in every case). I'm also not entirely sure how one can campaign on social justice issues without risking being politically biased (why worry? - the Old Testament in particular reminds us that God is decidedly biased towards the poor and the oppressed). Though I wish the Church of England was as welcoming of homosexuals as its alleged to be here.... Griffin goes on to note that Jesus was "seen as a revolutionary" and "hounded to death... by the corrupt hypocrites who ran the church. Has nothing changed in two thousand years?"

Excuse me while I'm sick, OK? Alas, it is true that the church has, over the years, had a good line in re-crucifying Christ, but those were rarely moments which Griffin would disapprove of. But there's something, yes, sickening, about the cynical aping of the language of Christianity and, indeed, of socialism, in order to try and woo disaffected white working class voters. And it must not be tolerated without contradiction. Christ healed foreigners and outcasts of all kinds; the Old Testament is insistently concerned with the need to show justice to foreigners, and yes, including foreign workers. And, above all, the God who gave himself so totally and defencelessly in Christ is about as far removed from the fascist glorification of the strong and the powerful as it is possible to get.

At the same time: it's easy to let totally justifiable outrage about this disgusting poster blind one to the fact that the BNP wouldn't have a chance if they weren't tapping into existing fear and anger in the white working class. It's not that racial minorities are over-privileged, but there needs to be some way of building communities that encourages solidarity and understanding across the board. This ought to be something the church is doing - and in some places it is, or trying to - but if it looks like middle-class educated people preaching at people they despise, it's doomed to fail. There has to be another way. But at the moment, I find it hard to get past my inner 'Son of thunder', which is having unhelpful thoughts about how much good a spot of fire from heaven would do if applied to BNP party head-quarters). It won't do just to hate (though I loathe that poster with every fibre of my being, and I think a spot of vandalism would be entirely justified, morally speaking). But it's too easy to congratulate oneself on being a good Christian, not one of them†, and that doesn't actually get us anywhere. Instead, we need to engage with the ideas - and talking to people, rather than at them, would be a good place to start.

† Though I bet Griffin doesn't actually believe any of it, any more than Hitler believed in Christianity - but he successfully persuaded a number of people that he really was defending it against the threat of Islam International Bolshevism.
tree_and_leaf: David Tennant in suit imitating Tony Blair, Boyish grin, last-of-the-timelord hand gesture, even shinier teeth (last of the timelords hand gesture)
The transformation of each of the 44 Presidents of the United States into their successor. Elections: like regeneration, in a way?


Jan. 24th, 2009 04:17 pm
tree_and_leaf: Portrait of Charles I; caption Cavalier Wrong But Wromantic (Wrong but wromantic)
My Political Views
I am a far-left moderate social libertarian
Left: 7.84, Libertarian: 1.52

Political Spectrum Quiz

The questions do seem rather oddly pegged to the US, though, and - naturally - a bit unnuanced. On the whole, the old 'Which party should you vote for' meme seemed more enlightening, even if it did think I should vote for the Greens...
tree_and_leaf: David Tennant in suit imitating Tony Blair, Boyish grin, last-of-the-timelord hand gesture, even shinier teeth (last of the timelords hand gesture)
Credit where it's due: Boris Johnson says something genuinely brave and maverick about immigration (as opposed to what most politicians of whatever party say when they say they're being maverick, i.e. "My dog whistle, let me show you it.")

Well done Boris. I'm impressed.
tree_and_leaf: Francis Urquhart facing viewer, edge of face trimmed off, caption "I couldn't possibly comment" (couldn't possibly comment)
From the (not very good) wikipedia article on House of Cards

Michael Samuels—Environment. The ablest of Urquhart's rivals, Samuels has his reputation tarnished when it is leaked that he was in favour of homosexual rights, nuclear disarmament CND, and communism in his Cambridge days (the Tory point of view frowns on these things).
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
I don't know how much this will mean to non-Scots, but the sight of our esteemed First Minister on Children in Need, imitating the famously gloomy and misanthropic Scots minister the Rev I.M. Jolly cheered me up no end.

Here's the original, played by the much missed Rikki Fulton (Hogmanay's never been the same without him):

... adding a new terror to religious broadcasting.

And here's Alec Salmond:

tree_and_leaf: Text icon: Anglican Socialist Weirdo (Anglican socialist weirdo)
Dawkins and Sherine back bus ads reading "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

.... yeah. Atheist says: stop thinking and take my word for it!

(Actually, that's a little unfair, because the ads are intended as a response to a series of evangelical ones threatening non-Christians with hell-fire. All the same, the fear of hell is not exactly integral to the faith of most of the religious people I know†, and I cannot say that a sudden loss of my faith would improve my enjoyment of life; quite the reverse.)

On a side note, buried in the article is the information that Dawkins supports a Tory humanist group. I didn't know he was a Tory, but for some reason I'm not entirely surprised. (ETA: see comment from [ profile] lizw below; this appears to be a misunderstanding.

† The only sense I can make of Hell is total alienation from God, and therefore all that is good, of becoming lost in myself and in hatred, which does indeed scare me quite a lot, but I suspect that's not the sort of thing Dawkins et al think I'm scared of.
tree_and_leaf: Francis Urquhart facing viewer, edge of face trimmed off, caption "I couldn't possibly comment" (couldn't possibly comment)
The picture of McCain shambling after Obama like a drooling zombie posted at Making Light is the oddest thing I've seen in ages. Is it really genuine? And if so, what the hell is going on in it?
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (I couldn't possibly comment)
It's going to be perfectly legal for my government to detain suspects for 42 days without trial.

Dear God. What is happening to the country?

This is not what a free country looks like.
tree_and_leaf: Screaming woman with stripe of electrical discharge, caption 'Argh!! No' (The Wire). (Aargh! No!)
Quick query for Germans on the flist: is it possible to hire a telly in Germany for the medium term (i.e. somewhat less than a year?) I'd almost decided it would be worth doing so, but after looking for some sort of German equivalent to Radio Rentals, I have only found people who will hire them for a day, which is not quite what I want. I suppose I could buy one, but I'd only have to sell the damned thing at the end of the year.

Hey ho. Maybe I should just try to live without the joys of detective shows etc (or buy more DVDs). It's odd - I never feel I want a telly at home, but there's something about being abroad that makes me want to watch the local tv.

ETA: On second thoughts, having seen the licence fee, maybe I'll not bother. And do you really need a radio licence if you've got an internet connection?
tree_and_leaf: David Tennant in suit imitating Tony Blair, Boyish grin, last-of-the-timelord hand gesture, even shinier teeth (last of the timelords hand gesture)
I feel that I'm being a hypocrite, since I would agree with some of the Blair decisions which have been suggested as cause for Our Dear Leader (rtd)'s stand up knock down fight free and frank exchange of views on delicate subjects with the Pope†, though by no means all of them - the war with Iraq being the most obvious instance. But my primary reaction has been (a) glee and (b) fangirling Benedict.

Maybe it's just the thought of Blair being called on his sanctimoniousness; the Guardian's insinuation that by converting now he has taken some sort of courageous decision to put faith before politics particularly annoyed me. Had he been going to do that, he'd have done it years ago.

† Do you think they've got the blood stains out of the Vatican carpets yet?
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (I couldn't possibly comment)
I'm rather shaking my head over the Affair of the Spoiled Ballots in the Scottish elections. Actually, I would have thought most people would be able to cope with two voting methods in the same poll - but I suppose much depends on how clear the instructions were. Personally, as a postal voter, I was too busy being confused by the question of where to stuff which envelope... Which, of course, brings up the other apparent source of spoiled papers: people folding them. I honestly can't see why that should constitute spoiling, but if it must be so: Dear Electoral Returning Officer, please make sure that the ballot fits the bloody envelope in the first place.

Suspect I have, in fact, spoiled my paper in that way, and that I am thus partly responsible for the count being held up in my constituency, but frankly, I blame the stationery....

On to something completely different: I've just been reading David Crystal's new book, "By Hook or By Crook: a Journey in Search of English". Thouroughly recommended, although it's hard to discribe: it's either stream-of-consciousness-linguistics, or a linguistic travel log, or, perhaps more accurately still, like listening to a well informed and aimiable philologist ramble on of an evening. One of the things he wrote about was the poet John Bradburne, who I'd never heard of (largely because he's virtually unpublished). After becoming a Catholic in the late sixties, he went off to Africa to live in a cave, tend lepers... and to write highly accomplished, rather old fashioned poetry, about... well, apparently about the first thing tha popped into his head (he even wrote his letters in couplets). Actually, the poet he reminds me most is Byron, with perhaps a dash of Wordsworth and a little Chesterbelloc. I can see why Crystal likes him, as he's obviously fascinated by words. I don't think the academy is likely to know what to make of him - but I'm fascinated, anyway. Minor, but I'm rather a fan of interesting minor poetry.

There's an internet edition of the poems here: , where in addition to reading the poems (alas, the site is not easy to browse), you can marvel at Bradburne's odd resemblance to Gary Oldman's Sirius Black. It must be all that living in caves....
tree_and_leaf: Photo of opening of Beowulf manuscript (Hwaet Beowulf)
This is rather splendid - a list of the quotations placed on one wall of the Scottish parliament. A nice mix of idealism and irony, indeed:


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