Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Global Warming Report Agrees With Climate Change Denier

Another month another report on climate change, this time by the Berkely Earth group. More famous for anti-war protests in the sixties, Berkley is also the home to a university apparently.

The Berkley Earth Surface Temperature Report (BEST) discovered that the earth is indeed warming and that this is not a quirk of poor quality or badly placed weather stations, nor of the encroachment of cities into the vicinity of the experts thermometers.

Interestingly this tallies with the results of climate change denier Anthony Watts, who launched his project four years ago. His tireless volunteers toured the country identifying badly cited weather stations. This pioneering study then allowed the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to recalibrate the surface temperature record of the USA, chopping out all the dodgy weather stations. Their result was that this led to a slight increase in the recorded warming.

You'd expect Mr Watts to be delighted that a major research group has confirmed his findings, but rather inexplicably his opinion of BEST is that it "the study’s methodology was flawed because it examined data over a 60-year period instead of the 30-year-one that was the basis for his research and some other peer-reviewed studies. He also noted that the report had not yet been peer-reviewed and cited spelling errors as proof of sloppiness." Spelling mistakes by scientists? Unhaerd off!

The report also coincided with a second leak of hacked emails from East Anglia's Climate Research Unit. The point of the leak appeared to be to show that climate scientists hid data that didn't agree with their pre-judged opinion of the science.

This is a view endorsed by Mr Watts, a gentleman who would clearly never do such a thing himself.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Top 5 Films About Trade Unions

The result from UNITE has come in and so it looks like we're all strike for the biggest strike since the seventies. So to mark the occasion I've decided to look at how cinema has dealt with trade unions. Once again there will be no films from the last fifteen years as I haven't watched any films in the last fifteen years.

Films are funded by benevolent Capitalists to provide entertainment for us proles, and so perhaps it's not surprising that some of the greatest roles in the movies have been trade unionists, such as Martin Sheen as Carl Fox in Wall Street, Raúl Juliá as Chico Mendes in The Burning Season and.....errr.....well a few in Ken Loach films obviously and ..... erm.

Okay, lets try again.

Films are funded by evil Capitalists in order to extract as much money as possible from gullible proles, and so it's not surprising that most of the portrayals of trade unionists are negative.

So here we go with the best of the worst.

5. Carry On at Your Convenience (1971)

Trade unions were alluded to regularly in the Carry On franchise, such as in Carry On Cleo when the eunuchs are reported to be striking over of loss of assets.(Groan)

This film finds the team appropriately located in a toilet factory where the local union boss is a buffoon who calls strikes so he can watch football matches, and whose gullible members nearly bankrupt the firm by following him out. Given the someone plebian nature of the Carry On audience this was a bit of an own goal and the film was a flop.

It's not exactly awash with jokes, unless you count the first screen appearance of the mighty Morris Marina car, a vehicle whose history is so inextricably linked with union intransigence that if this was Product Placement it was a grave mistake.

4. On the Waterfront (1954)

It could have been a contender.

A film about why it's good to be a police informer by a Director who snitched on his colleagues to the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

The Longshoremen trade unionists in the film are shown to be a violent, corrupt and, thanks to some dubious casting, posh.

3. I'm All Right Jack (1959)

Newly demobbed soldier Stanley Windrush (Ian Carmichael) takes a job in his uncle's factory where, being upper class, he shows how lazy the other workers are by doing twice as much work as anyone else.

This prompts trade union leader Fred Kite (Peter Sellars) to call an all out strike. When Kite evicts Windrush from his house for being a scab Kite's wife leaves too, leaving this working class hero unable to feed or cloth himself.

So a real hatchet job on the workers then, redeemed only by being a very funny and not entirely unrealistic portrayal of industrial relations at the time.

2. The Life of Brian (1979)

In the great pantheon of Trade Union leaders there must surely be a place for Reg (John Cleese).

Committed to Jewish freedom, he is broad minded enough to acknowledge the achievements of the Roman oppressors. Tragically unable to join the suicide mission to kidnap Pilate's wife due to a bad back, he fearlessly leads the Judean People's Front in their war with the People's Front of Judea whilst campaigning for his friend Stan's right to have a baby. A dedicate democrat he refuses to be drawn into action before due process has been followed, even though this costs the life of comrade Brian.

A real hero.

1. The Man in the White Suit (1951)

No, not Martin Bell, but Alec Guiness as the man who invents an everlasting fabric and so brings the wrath of both trade unions and management down on his head.

Eco-warriors have long suspected that the Holy Grails of sustainable technology; renewable energy, cars that run on water, politicians with integrity,  etc, have all been suppressed by those with an interest in the status quo and this is the film that fuels that paranoia.

The deliciously black King Hearts and Coronets prevents this becoming my favorite Ealing Comedy, but it's pretty damn good. Guiness is now mainly remembered as the older version of Ewan MacGregor in Star Wars - a film he hated - but his Ealing days were his best.

They really don't make them like they used to.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Top 5 Unlikely Jobs for a Movie Hero

The anti-hero has a long cinema history, but surprising thing is how conventional most of them are. Gangsters, with their family values, their business-before-morality ethos and casual attitude to violence represent the modern Western world view far better than most conventional heroes whilst Rambo, whilst something of an outsider in his first film appearance, soon turned into such a caricature of America military intervention, even helping the Taliban on his third appearance, that he was beyond satire.

Robert de Niro playing a plumber in Brazil is more the sort of thing I'm thinking of, although he wasn't the hero so can't count. Neither does it count if the hero's job has no relevance to the plot, so serial killer accountants, yuppies and the rest can't be included.

So having fixed the rules to ensure the films I like are in it, here is my Top Five.

5. James Mason as an IRA man: Odd Man Out (1947)

The IRA had turned up in films since, such as in John Ford's The Quiet Man and David Lean's Ryan's Daughter.

But whilst the Innisfree IRA cell appears to do little but drink Guinness (not an unrealistic portrayal I believe) and the Kirrary lot do appear to be actually fighting for Irish independence, James Mason's character is neither a harmless drunk nor an effective freedom fighter. Instead he is wounded whilst engaged in nothing more heroic or patriotic than a fairly petty robbery.

This then starts a journey through a strange demi-monde that is clearly a loosely disguised Belfast. Director Carol Read is today better remembered for The Third Man, but Odd Man Out is arguably as good, although its main competition would be a James Cagney gangster film. Perhaps Cagney does baddies better than Mason, but it's still a cracking performance.

4. Boris Karloff as a Monster: Frankenstein (1931)

Those who know the literary Frankenstein know the Monster as a bright chap with a lot to say for himself, but movie versions have always been more physical and less cerebral and Karloff's Monster is definitely in this tradition.

I suppose I'm pushing it to claim being a monster is actually a job, but if it was Karloff's Monster could probably expect his P45 in the post as he soon turns out to be the most human character in the film.

3. Jean Reno as a Hit Man: Léon (1994)

Having disallowed gangsters for being evil Capitalists, and so not antiheroes at all, I'm going to make an exception for hit men, especially Léon as he doesn't even appear to be making any money out of the job.

Leaving aside questions about his relationship with an under age Natalie Portman - and the pot plant - Léon appears to be a regular guy from out of town who has found a rung at the bottom of the social ladder doing jobs the local won't, in this case killing people.

He lives in poor housing, the police pick on him and he has no friends. So if you pretend he's a migrant worker and not a hired murderer what you have is social commentary. Plus a lot of dead bodies.

2. Gregory Peck as a Lawyer: To Kill A Mocking Bird (1962)

Hollywood likes courtroom drama, but it's rather indifferent about lawyers.

We're not really too bothered about whether or not Sam Bowden gets the chop in Cape Fear, whilst Erin Brockovich got a film made about her because she wasn't a real lawyer. Otherwise the hero is usually in the dock or the jury.

Atticus Finch though is different. Noble, moral, courageous, and a paragon of old style values he chooses to work within the system to reform it. As a result his client is fitted up for a crime he didn't commit and gets killed, which perhaps tells us something about trying to oppose institutionally racist organisations from the inside.

1. Jimmy Stewart as a Banker: It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

Yes a banker.

True, it was a long time ago, before the wide boys in braces arrived on Wall Street, but it was only fifteen years after the Great Crash.

It's hard to imagine a remake now. Not only is there no-one of the calibre of Jimmy Stewart to play the lead, but I doubt anyone could imagine a banker being saved from committing suicide by a Guardian Angle showing what life would have been like without him.

I mean, what would he show? The out of work cocaine dealers and Porsche salesmen? The lower property prices? The pensioners enjoying their annuities? It just wouldn't work.

Perhaps the remake then could feature the Guardian Angel as the antihero? A sort of Guardian Demon who goes around persuading well adjusted and happy stock brokers to leap off bridges?


Mr Spielberg? I have an idea for you.......