Friday, February 23, 2018

Left Handed Guns

Having said it was really none of my business before posting at length about the subject, I find that I just can't leave the issue of gun control in the US alone.  Despite coming out fighting, the gun lobby finally seems to be on the back foot. A key development has bee several corporations withdrawing the discounts they had previously offered to National Rifle Association (NRA) members - hitting these kinds of organisations in the pocket is often the most effective way to hurt them.  Another way is ideologically.  As I noted last time I wrote about the issue, a lot of the gun lobby in the US is based around those so called militias, which are inevitable groups of extreme right-wing nut jobs who claim they are protecting the US from being taken over by the UN, black people or the King of England.  In fact, the majority of gun owners seem to be right wing crank cases, regardless of whether they are members of militias or lone psychopaths.  So, what the left needs to do, logically, is start forming its own heavily armed militias, dedicated to preserving the Constitution - specifically those bits in the First Amendment about free speech, free press and free assembly.

Indeed, everyone on the left should exercise their Second Amendment right to own a gun and declare that they are prepared to use them against any neo Nazis, crypto-fascists and other assorted right wing douche bags who try to infringe their liberties. Just imagine how the NRA and their friends would react to the left arming itself.  You can bet that, all of a sudden, they wouldn't be quite so keen on the idea of universal gun ownership being a Constitutional right.  You can guarantee that they would desperately be looking for loop holes in the Second Amendment that say that only the 'right' people should be able to legally own guns.  But at the end of the day, it is the NRA and their cronies who are telling us that the solution to gun crime is for more people to own guns in order to protect themselves from the 'bad guys with guns'.  So, logically, those afraid of being shot by some loon with a legally owned gun need to arm themselves.  Maybe the pro gun lobby will finally start modifying their stance if they find themselves facing an anti-gun lobby who are armed to the teeth.  Not to mention left wing militias organised to protect citizens against gun crime.  Heck, why not get a few all black militias dedicated to preserving civil rights in the southern states?  How could the NRA mob possibly object to that?

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Low Pressure

I keep saying that I don't want to get into the habit of writing about my health here, but, I have had some good news on that front this week.  My blood pressure has dropped to 158/92, which is still way too high, but compared to what it was a  month ago, this is a big step forward.  I can really feel the difference: the headaches have faded away and the pressure behind my eyes and feeling of tightness across my face have vanished.  Moreover, the side effects from the Metformin I have to take for the diabetes seem to have eased off - my digestive system is slowly but surely returning to normal.  Mind you, all the upset has resulted in me losing some weight - to the extent that I've had to replace my belts, as my trousers were in constant danger of falling down.  Not that I would recommend the 'shit yourself thin' diet to anyone: eating less and exercising more, which was doing before, is a far less painful, albeit slower, way to lose weight.

I'm still off work and likely to remain signed off for a couple more weeks at least, possibly longer.  As I've noted before, the situation puts me in a kind of limbo: not knowing how long I'll be off work, I'm loathe to start any kind of activity that might become a long term project, or plan anything more than a couple of days ahead.  That said, I have been able to finally put into practice a long held ambition to try and hibernate through the cold weeks of January and February - bed is definitely the warmest place to be at this time of year.  But I really do need to get down to doing something substantive with my time.  I've recovered sufficiently now that simply being away from the stress of work is no longer enough. My energy levels are beginning to return and I just feel that I need to do something other than the constant rounds of doctor's appointments, tests and exercise.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Constitutional Crackpots

You know, I really don't want to get into this whole gun control debate thing - it's strictly none of my business as it is a US problem and people just get so heated about it - but I keep seeing stuff posted on my social media feeds which really disturb me.  I keep seeing people I otherwise respect taking up extreme positions on the issue, trying to to treat it as some kind of matter of 'principle' that US citizens be able to own as many guns as they like, even when they themselves aren't actually pro gun.  Personally, I feel that the greater principle at stake here is innocent parties' right not to die at the hands of some other citizen exercising their inalienable right to own a firearm.  The 'inalienable' bit of the equation being the problem, of course.  All of the arguments concerning the 'principle' of gun ownership rest upon the Second Amendment of the US Constitution which, its advocates feel, puts the right to gun ownership on the same level as those individual freedoms, including free speech, freedom the press and freedom of assembly, guaranteed by the first amendment.  But the problem is that whilst the issues addressed by the first amendment are essentially universal and timeless, the second amendment was framed purely within a specific historical context: the aftermath of the War of Independence and the British government's attempts to repress the nascent revolution by restricting colonists' access to firearms and ability to organise militias.

Clearly, the situation has changed radically since the amendment was framed: the US has its own, long established, democratically elected government - neither the King of England nor anyone else is in a position to threaten this.  Which raises the question, who or what is the exercise of the second amendment now meant to protect US citizens from?  What threat do they need to protect themselves against?  Their own government, which they themselves elect?  The United Nations?  Let's be honest here, the only actual 'militias' you can find in the US now are bunches of right wing, often racist, crackpots who have to keep devising ever more bizarre conspiracy theories, like the UN as a nascent world government, to justify their firearm fetishes.  But hey - it's their constitutional right!  I guess than when you have to hide behind the US Constitution rather than engage with the real issues, it is a sure sign that you've lost the moral argument.  I've been disturbed by the way the perfectly justified concerns of the students who saw their friends and acquaintances gunned down by a nutter exercising his constitutional rights, have been so frequently airily dismissed by those defending the second amendment.  Constitutional or not, it is surely quite obvious that the US's gun laws are deeply flawed.

The fall back position of the pro gun lobby is that it isn't guns that kill people, it's people: gun ownership isn't the problem, just the people who own them.  Which, ironically, is surely the point their opponents are making?  The problem in the recent Florida school shooting wasn't, the gun lobby claim, the fact that firearms are freely available, but that the user had mental health problems, so you should be looking at his psychiatric problems rather than the fact that he legally owned guns.  Which, surely, is to put the cart before the horse - neither the perpetrator nor the authorities could necessarily help the fact that he was mentally ill, but in the majority of countries in the world, he wouldn't have been able to own firearms.  Again, the gun lobby always wails on about the impossibility of checking every potential gun owner for such things as mental health issues, but that simply reinforces the case for radically restricting gun ownership,

Anyway, like I said at the beginning, this isn't really my argument, although I think that the continued entirely avoidable deaths of so many people should be of concern to everyone.  As should the absolutism of those defending the status quo in the US.  I'll leave you with this thought, if the legal possession of guns is not itself a problem, a threat to law and order, then why is it that back in the days of the Old West (an era which the gun enthusiasts look back on with nostalgia), it wasn't uncommon for City Marshals to enforce ordinances requiring that all guns be left at the Marshal's office when arriving in town, to be collected on their owners' departure?  Reputedly, the likes of the Earp brothers used to enforce such rules and I'm pretty sure that they weren't bleeding heart liberals.  Just a thought.

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Ignorant Bigots

What is wrong with people?  Why is it that some people feel the necessity to take every possible opportunity to spout hate and bile, regardless of how inappropriate that might be?  To give an example, te other day I was watching a video on You Tube - it was pretty innocuous, the original opening titles for seventies sitcom Man About the House, in fact, which includes a lot of footage of seventies London.  I then made the mistake of glancing at the comments beneath the video.  Whilst the majority were relevant to the subject matter, discussing the show and its stars, one stood out glaringly: 'London in the days before it was full of foreigners and a multicultural shit hole'.  I mean, really?  Who would think that an appropriate thing to post anywhere, let alone under a video about an innocuous seventies sitcom?  I remember a time not so very long ago when being a racist was something to be ashamed of, something that bigots knew to keep to themselves.  But now it seems to be a badge of honour.

But, like all bigots, this idiot is ignorant, on several counts.  The most obvious being that the Man About the House titles do depict a multi-cultural London, most notably in the form a prominently feature bus conductor, who is clearly British Asian.  Which, obviously, brings us to the principle area of this guy's ignorance: the London of the seventies was clearly multi cultural, with people from a wide variety of ethnic origins living there, many brought there by the former British Empire.  Moreover, it had been a multicultural city since anyone can remember - as capital cities, particularly those which are also major ports and commerce hubs, usually are.  You'd think that by now this sort of thing would have stopped appalling me.  But, thankfully, it doesn't. I say 'thankfully' because this level of casual race hate should always shock us.  The day it doesn't is the day the racist bastards have won, by normalising this shit. 

Of course, there are those who say that this sort of thing is simply a result of the anonymity the web allows people - they are able to express opinions which they would never normally be able to publicly express, for fear of opprobrium.  Except that it isn't just online we come across these things: it seems like a growing trend, endorsed by some sections of the media, to see racism and hatred as somehow acceptable forms of public expression.  It would help, of course, if comments sections and forums online were more closely moderated and such comments removed, (and no, suppressing racism isn't the same thing as repressing free speech).  Just recently, my local paper ran an article about how the local Mosque was holding an open day - the sort of comments that appeared under the online version of the story were depressingly predictable with the usual references to terrorism, ISIS and grooming, not to mention ignorant.  Yet it took the newspaper an age to take down the most offensive and those left are still pretty offensive.  They really needto police these things better - or just disable the comments: I can't remember the last time I saw one, on any story, that wasn't idiotic, ill informed, prejudiced and full of hate. 

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Friday, February 16, 2018

The Key (1958)



Sometimes you see a film only in part - you might have missed the opening, or had to go to bed or go out before it finished (in the days before home recording was common) - but something about it lingers in your memory, so you determine to make sure you watch it in its entirety.  But the opportunity never seems to arise: it never turns up again in the TV schedules, it never seems to be available on video or DVD and you find that information about it is scant.  Such was my experience with the 1958 British war movie The Key.  Its unavailability seemed particularly mysterious in view of the fact that it was directed by Carol Reed, one of the acknowledged greats of UK film making in the post war era.  Yet it is always glossed over in biographies or discussions of the director's work.  I was reminded of The Key a couple of years ago when I read a long out of print novel by Jan De Hartog called The Captain, which had similar subject matter and setting.  It transpired that The Key had been based on another of De Hartog's novels: Stella.  Unfortunately, I couldn't locate a copy of Stella - it proved as elusive as its film adaptation.

Recently, however, The Key has resurfaced on digital TV, with 5Spike giving it several afternoon screenings over the past few weeks.  Consequently, I've finally been able to watch it in its entirety.  The first thing to note is that, seeing the whole film, it is easier to understand why it isn't held in the same esteem as other of Reed's movies or, indeed, other British war movies of the period.  I say 'war movie', but that is part of the problem: it isn't really a war film in the conventional sense.  Not only are its protagonists not the square jawed military types beloved of UK war movies of the era, but for long periods it is actually a romance of sorts, with elements of a classic 'love triangle' and a mysterious 'femme fatale' of sorts.  On top of all that, the story, at times, features strong supernatural overtones.  Consequently, it doesn't fit neatly into a single category and films which are uncategorizable are frequently see as 'difficult' by critics, film historians and sometimes audiences.   The film's structure also seems awkward, with an episodic feel, giving it an uneven pace.  Despite of this, I still found it an enjoyable and rewarding viewing experience - but then it covers a now near forgotten part of World War Two which has long fascinated me.  So I'm biased.

The film is set in 1941-42 and concerns the ocean going tug boats which were sent to tow in crippled freighters which had been separated from their convoys. These were incredibly dangerous operations - the tugs were essentially unarmed (if they were lucky they might have an ancient 'pom-pom' gun mounted on the bow) and had to run the gauntlet both of U-Boats and German aircraft to reach their targets.  The return journey, with a huge cargo vessel in tow, could be even more perilous.  The main protagonists are Canadian William Holden, who has been seconded to the tug operations covering the Western Approaches, his former colleague Trevor Howard, who he finds already captaining a tug there and Sophia Loren, playing a mysterious Swiss-Italian refugee Howard is living with.  It transpires that Howard has 'inherited' Loren along with the flat they live in from another, now deceased tug captain - one of a long line of captains lost in action she has lived with.  Each, it turns out, has given a key to the flat to a colleague, making them promise to look after Loren if they die.  Inevitably, Howard presses a key upon Holden.

Loren, for her part, believes that she has premonitions of the deaths of the men she is involved with, (which usually occurs after they have proposed marriage to her), and is consequently seen as a Jonah by many of the sailors working the tugs (particularly Howard's First Mate).   Inevitably, Howard is killed at sea (after Loren has accepted his proposal and gone to the harbour to see him off  - her presence considered an ill omen by the crew), and Holden reluctantly fulfils his promise. In an attempt to break the circle, he eventually convinces her that it is possible for them to have a future together - but then she has another premonition.  As even this brief synopsis indicates, the film has a very uneven rhythm, alternating between maritime action and domestic melodrama, sometimes jarringly.  But the film is extremely well made and certainly never dull.  It is a credit to Reed's direction that, despite the somewhat disjointed nature of the narrative, he keeps the whole thing moving and reasonably coherent.  The land based scenes effectively create the atmosphere of a small wartime city under siege from bombing and rationing, people constantly in transit and attempting to insulate themselves from the realities of war by numbing their senses any way they can.  The maritime action sequences are outstanding, with Reed's direction evoking the sheer loneliness of being at sea in a small vessel, with nothing else in sight.  The various encounters between Holden's ship and a U-Boat which becomes his nemesis are tautly directed, full of tension as the tug's armament and armour prove inadequate time and again.

The main leads all deliver effective performances, (particularly Howard, who won a British Academy Award for his), and they are well served by a terrific supporting cast, which includes Bernard Lee, Oscar Homolka, Bryan Forbes and Rupert Davies.

As mentioned before, it is notable that the main male protagonists aren't portrayed as the usual types of British war movie heroes.  The officers aren't middle class professionals turned professional military officers fighting for King and country on a patriotic principle.  They are instead professional seamen, effectively indentured in Royal Navy service and given RNVR ranks,  To them, their work is just a job, a more dangerous version of their peace time professions.  Survival rather than patriotism is their guiding principle, with most highly cynical as to the 'war effort'.  Indeed, there is even an undertow of pacifism which can occaisionally be discerned.  Which is hardly surprising, as the source novel's author, Jan De Hartog, himself began his journey to pacifist principles as a result of his war service at sea. (A fictionalised account of this forms the basis of his novel The Captain).

The only thing I would take issue with is the fact that the tugs seen are clearly military vessels (the same Admiralty tug played all of them, changing its displayed Pennant Number as appropriate), whereas the majority of tugs used in these rescue services were actually civilian vessels, pressed into military service with their crews.  In fact, many of them were foreign tugs, which had fled to Britain in the face of the German advance across Europe.  Many were Dutch (ocean going tug work being a speciality of the Dutch merchant navy) and the source novel's equivalent to the Holden character is Dutch.  The film's only reference to this situation is Oscar Homolka's character, the Dutch owner-Captain of the tug Holden operates, (each vessel had two crews, to ensure 24 hour availability).  But this is just me being pedantic.

So, was it worth the wait to finally see the whole of The Key?  I'd say, yes.  For me, at least, it fulfilled the the promise of that incomplete late night viewing all those years ago - an atmospheric and enjoyably slightly off-kilter chronicle of a forgotten part of the war.  Its supernatural overtones lend it an agreeable sense of the slightly weird which seems perfectly in keeping with the traditionally superstitious maritime community it depicts.  In the end, The Key is an unusual war movie which provides a refreshing change from the usual kind of square jawed heroics to be found in its UK contemporaries.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Road to Brexit

So, who's Bob Hope and who is Bing Crosby?  I can only assume this 'Road to Brexit' malarky is an attempt by the government to revive the popular series of films from the 1940s starring Hope and Crosby.  What better way to sell Brexit to the population than via an amusing musical comedy featuring a wise cracking comedian and a popular radio crooner having whacky adventurers on their way to some exotic location?  Except, of course, that Brexit seems a less appealing destination with every day that passes.  But to get back to the original question - I'm sure that Boris Johnson would like to see himself as Bob Hope (indeed, he's probably even more right wing than Hope), full of perfectly timed wisecracks and finely honed gags.  That said, Hope's usual cowardly screen persona would probably be at odds with Boris' (deluded) self image of an heroic Churchillian leader.  But if Boris is Bob Hope, would this make Theresa May Bing Crosby?  I've no idea whether she croons, but it would suit the adversarial nature of the original duo's relationship: perpetually bickering and trying to put one over on each other.

Then again, perhaps Chancellor Philip Hammond would be a better Bing.  (Certainly, from a physical point of view - he's obviously male, for one thing, and tall and thin for another, making him the perfect comedy duo foil to chubby Boris/Bob).  He and Boris are completely at odds as to the future shape of Brexit and, like Bob and Bing, they are vying to win over the attentions of the same woman: Dorothy Lamour in the latter's case, Theresa May in Boris and Phil's.  As for the plot, well, I suppose that it will involve the usual japes of having to evade the schemes of troublesome locals like Michel Barnier and Donald Tusk although, so far, the details are pretty vague.  I mean, the other day Boris was inviting us sceptics to embrace the government's (ie his) 'vision' of Brexit.  The problem was that he still failed to conjure up any kind of coherent vision of a successful UK outside of the EU.  Which doesn't bode well - I fear that this latest 'Road' movie will end up being more akin to the woeful 1962 attempt to revive the series, Road to Hong Kong, than to the series peak of Road to Rio.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sickening Side Effects

While I really don't want to end up doing weekly updates on the state of my health, I'm afraid that today, it is the issue which has dominated my life.  While one side effect from my medication seems to be waning (the cough caused by the Ramipril), the other has returned with a vengeance.  Since late yesterday evening, my stomach has been spectacularly upset as a result of the Metformin I'm taking for the diabetes.  I know that it is a common side effect and should wear off after a few weeks, but it really is debilitating when it strikes.  Which is usually without warning.  After losing the latter part of last week to my stomach troubles, everything seemed to be back to normal over the weekend.  Until yesterday.  I was up half the night and consequently spent half the day trying to catch up with my sleep. The situation was complicated by the fact that I was in the middle of urinating in a bottle for twenty four hours to provide a specimen for yet more tests.  (I did manage to deliver it to the pathology lab at the hospital this afternoon, so I can at least get back to normal in that department).

Anyway, even as I write this my stomach is still in turmoil.  Hopefully, I'll get some respite tomorrow.  I'm not sure I can take another day like today - it felt like a miracle that my stomach stayed settled enough for the trip to the hospital and back.  That said, despite the side effects, the Metformin is clearly working (it reduces the amount of glucose produced by the liver which, in turn, helps lower the blood sugar level), as most of my obvious diabetic symptoms (the unnatural thirst and the frequent need to urinate) have vanished.  Hopefully, coupled with the reduction in my sugar intake (I'm still on the sweeteners and haven't touched a soft drink, chocolate bar or doughnut since my diagnosis), it means that I'm already making some progress in turning this around.  I've got my first diabetes clinic next week, so we'll see.  In the meantime, I guess I'm just going to have to weather these gastric storms although, as I've said, they leave me feeling to lousy, (not helped by the dehydration and lack of appetite that accompany them), and unmotivated.   Like I said, with luck tomorrow will be better.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Foreign Sex Aid?

Apparently, it's an outrage - not only is all that taxpayers' money we spend on foreign aid being given away to foreigners, but a big chunk of it is going to pay for prostitutes.  Or so I gather from from the screaming headlines of the right wing press.  It's all down to UK aid workers getting their endsaway in far flung poverty stricken places.  It seems that Oxfam expect hand relief in return for famine relief.  Well, some of their former aid workers, at least.  All of which has resulted in the government getting on its moral high horse and threatening to not work with Oxfam if their people don't stop using foreign prostitutes.  If only the same moral strictures were applied to Tory MPs.  Let's face it, we all know that all those recent sex scandals were just the tip of the iceberg and there are undoubtedly any number of cabinet members making regular appearances in Soho sex dungeons.  But it all gets covered up by the same press which are currently villifying Oxfam.

To get back to the issue in hand, I find the timing of this 'scandal' just a little bit too convenient, coming, as it does, at exactly the same time that we have the despicable Jacob Rees-Mogg and his bonkers Brexit band of bastards calling for foreign aid to be cut.  Now, bearing in mind that the amount we actually spend on foreign aid is a drop in the ocean, (particularly when compared to the amount we spend to prop up private companies in the form of tax breaks and quantitative easing), and the fact that it goes to the most poverty stricken people on the globe, such calls reveal those making them to be truly mean spirited.  Obviously, undermining the credibility of those agencies actually dispensing the aid might seem, to these bastards, an easier way to turn the public against the whole business of foreign aid.  My theory is that the bastards are organising groups of prostitutes who they fly to various disaster areas in the world, where they know that Oxfam  are operating: their mission being to tempt as many aid workers as possible.  Actually, bearing in mind that most of the current allegations seem to involve Oxfam's work in Haiti, I'm surprised that the UK press hasn't added necrophilia to their charges by claiming that zombie prostitutes were involved.   

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Friday, February 09, 2018

Sedating Hate

I've never had any desire to visit South Africa, not even post-Apartheid.  I have a brother who has chosen to live there - he claims it was to achieve a better quality of life than he and his wife could in the UK.  That is, if your definition of 'quality' means having to live in a secure gated community and suffer droughts every year.  But, as I've often observed to friends, we do seem to get on better when we're living on different continents.  But, apart from that, there is one other thing to admire about South Africa, I've recently learned: their policy toward 'controversial' pseudo celebrities.  It seems that they silence their spewings forth of reactionary bile by tranquilising them.  I mean, what other explanation can there be for the despicable Katie Hopkins recent collapse there after receiving a massive dose of Ketamine, a horse tranquiliser.  Or is it a horse laxative?  I always get confused on that point.  Actually, the thought of gallons of steaming liquid shit puoring out of her arse instead of her mouth for once, is possibly even more satisfying than the idea of her being incapacitated for days by a powerful tranquiliser.

I know that she claimed that she was actually taking Ketamine because of some injury or other, but really, what kind of doctor would prescribe a veterinary tranquiliser as a pain killer?  No, it seems obvious to me that it was administered to her by the South African authorities in order to shut her up.  And who wouldn't want to silence the person who wrote newspaper articles describing refugees as 'vermin' and advocated machine gunning them rather than rescuing them from the Mediterranean?  'Free speech' as the likes of her like to invoke actually doesn't mean that you have the freedom to publicly invoke hatred.  You are entitled to hold such opinions, discuss them amongst your fascist mates in the pub, but you can't go around trying to disseminate them on an industrial scale,  There are actually laws about that in just about every democratic country in the world.  We can but hope that such a policy of tranquilising hate mongers might be adopted in the UK.  After all, surely using the 'liquid cosh' on the likes of Nigel Farage is preferable to enraged mobs beating them into submission?  Even if it wasn't made official policy, perhaps we could organise some kind of guerilla organisation, armed with blow pipes, ready to fire sedative-tipped darts at speakers at right-wing rallies?

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Thursday, February 08, 2018

Switch Hitting Soaps

What is it with certain newspapers and their writers' lesbian fantasies involving soap characters?  Only the other day I saw an online headline for a well known right wing tabloid speculating (enthusiastically) that Eastenders' Sharon Mitchell and Mel Owen were headed for a 'steamy lesbian affair'.  Quite apart from the fact that such a liaison doesn't bear thinking about (and, believe me, I've tried thinking about it but ended up horrified), where does this sort of journalistic crap come from?  I can only assume that it is fueled by the peculiar fantasies of some middle aged man (you can guarantee that the author is male) which involve middle aged blonde women getting it on. (Not that there's anything wrong with middle aged women, blonde or otherwise, but they don't figure in most middle aged men's fantasies, which instead involve women of an age group who would probably call them 'Grandad'). 

My biggest problem with this 'headline', though, is the fact that neither of the characters named in it are, or ever have been, lesbians.  Quite the opposite, actually, if you think back over the number of men they've both had.  Then again, I suppose it could be argued that, in Sharon's case, liaisons with both Mitchell brothers and, in Mel's case, marriages to Ian Beale and Steve Owen, would be enough to turn either of them.  But that's another problem I have with both the media and soap opera writers, is their idea that sexuality is completely fluid, with people turning gay (or straight) at the drop of a hat.  Or, in truth, in the name of plot convenience.  I mean, just look at Lofty in Holby City, who has suddenly turned gay - when he was in Casualty he was definitely straight.  But, in Holby, his arrival coincided with a need to provide Dom (who has always been gay) with a sympathetic new love interest.  What all of this suggests to me is that, despite all the smug pride they have at embracing 'diversity' by including gay characters in the first place, the makers of these soaps still don't really understand the fact that homosexuality isn't a 'lifestyle choice'.  It's not something people do on a whim. 

Things, it seems, haven't really changed since the days of Goldfinger in the mid sixties, when a Lesbian could be 'turned' after being given a god seeing to by someone as rampantly masculine as Sean Connery.  The media really doesn't help, with its constant stories of faux lesbian celebrities and the like.  Interestingly, their speculations always seem to involve female characters suddenly turning into lesbians (and having 'steamy affairs').  You don't ever see them speculating whether butch Phil MItchell in Eastenders is suddenly going to get the hots for arch enemy Max Branning and end their feud with a 'steamy' assignation in the Arches, now do you?  (Although that scenario really doesn't bear thinking about, either).

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Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Recovery Phase

OK, we got the politics out of the way yesterday, with my rant about the ludicrous and objectionable Jacob Rees Mogg, so I suppose today should be another update on the state of my health.  Actually, I don't want this to turn into one of those blog's chronicling someone's illness, (although there's not necessarily anything wrong with that), but it has been so long that I've been ill enough to take so much time off work that the experience is something of a novelty to me.  Indeed, I don't think that I've ever been signed off work by a doctor before.  Anyway, I'm currently signed off to the nineteenth, when I've my next doctor's appointment.  Regardless of any other developments, I was planning to take the rest of that week as leave any way, so it will be nearly March before I'm likely to be back at work.  If I bother going back, that is.  These past couple of weeks have brought home to me just how badly work related stress was affecting me - as the symptoms have faded, I've felt so much better, much more like myself.  Moreover, there's no doubt that the stress has been the root cause of the onset of type two diabetes and has contributed significantly to my dangerously raised blood pressure.

Clearly, I can't go back to subjecting myself to those levels of stress - it would quickly undo all of the progress of the past few weeks, health wise.  I have tried to put this to management, but they seem either unable or unwilling to grasp the threat to my health posed by current working practices.  As I've mentioned before, financially I'm in a position to walk away if needs be - I've accumulated sufficient savings to survive comfortably for the foreseeable future, so finding alternative employment isn't a prerequisite to leaving.  At the end of the day, this sick leave interregnum has brought home just how much I've come to detest my job: there's absolutely nothing about it that I've missed.  In the meantime, I've yet more tests to endure (these involve spending a day pissing into a bottle), a diabetes clinic and another set of pills for my blood pressure.  But hey, at least now I seem to be in the recovery phase: everyone is saying that I already look a lot better and there's no denying that I feel a lot better.  Nowhere near a hundred per cent, but a big improvement to the way I was feeling at the start of the year.  Hopefully, it will get a bit milder over the next  few days so that I can get outside more and do some more walking - it was so cold today that I seemed to end up spending most of the day in bed to keep warm.  I did, however, manage to catch up with some more schlock movies, so it wasn't time wasted.  I'm also hoping to start testing the waters over the coming weeks with regard to possible alternative employment, which, again, will be time well spent.

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Monday, February 05, 2018

Utterly Unspeakable

I was heartened to see that my old alma mater is still a hotbed of left wing activism.  I refer, of course, to the recent confrontation between the unspeakable Jacob Rees Mogg and some protestors at the University of the West of England at Bristol (please note lazy media, this not the same as the University of Bristol) - or, as I knew it, Bristol Polytechnic.  Obviously, they were just horrible hard left thugs dedicated to suppressing free speech - or so the narrative in the right wing press goes.  Except that the only thuggery going wasn't being perpetrated by the 'masked' protestors - it was someone who was apparently part of the Rees Mogg entourage who was throwing punches at bystanders.  As for suppressing free speech, well, nobody was actually physically stopping Rees Mogg from spewing put his usual stream of ill informed hate.  Being barracked while you speak is part of British political tradition - just tune in to Prime Minister's Question Time if you don't believe me. Moreover, if anyone has been trying to suppress free speech of late, surely it is Mr Rees Mogg?  What other purpose is there to his ludicrous claims that there is a 'Treasury conspiracy' to undermine Brexit, than to try and discredit the department's recently leaked case studies which assess that any form of Brexit will economically damage the UK and discourage any one else from expressing such views?

But the fact is that Rees Mogg is jast another super wealthy hypocrite, who picks and chooses which 'values' are most convenient for him to support.  He claims to be a practising Roman Catholic who votes in the Commons according to his Christian values.  Which is why he opposes abortion and same sex marriages.  He also supports so called benefit 'reforms' which further disadvantage the poorest and most vulnerable in society - which 'Christian' values are guiding him here?  If he was a true Christian surely he'd be giving away his own not inconsiderable fortune to help the poor - doesn't he remember what Jesus said about rich men, camels and needles?  Rees Mogg might like to come on as if he is some kind of country gent from the nineteenth century, but the truth is that he is a rapacious capitalist in the modern mode, making his money from hedge funds and the like.  Perhaps even worse than Rees Mogg himself are all the horrible little right wing whingers who have crawled out of the woodwork on social media, whining about the UWE incident and those 'horrible leftist thugs'.  Curiously enough, despite their apparent concerns for free speech and civil liberties, I've never heard a peep out of them whenever we have the extreme right demonstrating and threatening very real violence against people.  Funny that.  Or maybe not - they are all probably too busy actually participating in those fascist rallies to complain about them.

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Saturday, February 03, 2018

The Carey Treatment (1972)


A film for which I retain a fondness, The Carey Treatment is based upon an early, pseudonymous, Michael Crichton novel: A Case of Need.  It actually follows the novel - written while Crichton was still working as a doctor at the hospital in which it is set - reasonably closely. One of the main changes is the protagonist's name - in the book he's Dr John Berry, rather than the film's Dr Peter Carey.  He is also, as far as I can recall, nowhere near as two-fisted as James Coburn is in the movie.  Indeed, that's the main problem with the film: accepting that action hero Coburn, most frequently seen in Westerns up to that point, is a doctor.  But if you can get over that hurdle and suspend disbelief sufficiently to accept Coburn as a pathologist, then The Carey Treatment is an entertaining thriller.  Director Blake Edwards' slick direction makes the most of the relatively unusual hospital setting and Coburn is backed up by a solid supporting cast.

Back in 1972 the film's subject matter of illicit abortions being carried out by a doctor colleague of Coburn's, would have seemed daring, abortion still being illegal in the US at the time.  Inevitably, when a girl dies after such a procedure, the doctor is charged with murder, despite his protestations that she wasn't his patient. Coburn, naturally, launches his own investigation, bringing him into conflict with both the cops and the hospital's senior management, (the victim was the daughter of the hospital's Chief Doctor).   Coburn, not surprisingly, conducts his investigation in the manner of a hard boiled private eye rather than as a doctor. Along the way, allsorts of things are uncovered, including drug thefts from the hospital dispensary. 

The film was apparently heavily edited post-production, without Edwards' participation.  Something for which he tried to sue the producers.  Despite his displeasure with the finished product, The Carey Treatment is an enjoyable B-movie with A-movie production values and cast.  It's very much of its time and is just so early seventies, with its liberal, anti-establishment credentials on full display.  Indeed, it is somewhat disconcerting to see middle aged Coburn depicting a right on, 'stick-it-to-the-man' iconoclast.  But hey, that's one of the film's many pleasures.

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Thursday, February 01, 2018

A Kind of Limbo

My life right now is rather odd.  Being ill has left me in a kind of limbo.  As I'm currently being signed off work on a weekly basis, it is difficult to plan ahead - I just don't know whether I'll be back at work this time next week, or not.  My day-to-day life has dissolved into a series of doctor's appointments, hospital tests, tablets, pills and capsules.  All of this interspersed with daily bouts of exercise to try and help reduce my blood pressure and diabetes.  On top of all that, I'm having to reduce my sugar intake (I now take sweeteners instead of sugar with hot drinks, for instance).  I also understand that it is difficult for other people to grasp that I'm actually too ill to go into work right now, as externally I look perfectly normal.  There are no obvious symptoms: no rashes or spots, no limps or physical impediments.  But the fact is that my blood pressure is still so high that work-related stress would likely push it back up to the dangerous levels it was at a couple of weeks ago.  Maybe things will have changed by next assessment at the doctor's on Monday.  We'll see.

As I say, at the moment it is difficult to make plans.  I'm sure that most people think I'm just sitting at home catching up with old movies.  But my daily walks rather preclude this.  Even when I do try and make plans, other things, beyond my control, intervene.  Today, I had another set of blood tests at the hospital, so I decided to walk there and back this morning, thereby killing two birds with one stone: daily walk and tests, thereby leaving my afternoon clear to do other stuff.  But I awoke to find that the electricity was out and had to spend what felt like the entire morning trying to deal with Southern and Scottish Electricity.  First of all the power was going to be back on at 12:30, then 16:00 and finally 19:00!  Their main concern seemed to be whether or not I was able to make a cup of tea.  As I pointed out, I was more concerned with the fact that I had no heating, no lighting, no hot water, no internet access, an inoperable cordless phone and no way to recharge the dwindling battery on my mobile.  So, I didn't set off for the hospital until the afternoon.  When I got back home, still no power, so I resorted to sitting in my car, where I had enough light to read the paper and could charge my phone.  So, that accounted for my afternoon, all my planned activities ruined by SSEN's inability to maintain power supplies to domestic properties in the middle of a major urban area.  (The power was restored at around 17:30 in the end).  Hopefully, tomorrow, they can keep the power on.

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