Rebellious Arm ‘gainst Arm: a Shakespearean Study in Power, Totalitarianism and “Authenticity”

One of the most interesting literary discoveries of the 20th century was that Shakespeare was a screenwrite. This might seem bizarre to say, anachronistic, but it cannot be denied the Bard’s stories are much easier to adapt into cinema than one might expect; indeed, it has often given them a new burst of life unimaginable from a Priestley or Williams script. Hamlet can be a dark-age prince or a modern suited university student; Mr Birling has never stepped out of his Edwardian dining room. The main reason is that he wrote with precious few directions, allowing for ever more imaginative staging without compromise on the themes. His topics and characters, meanwhile, have proven timeless and universal. There is a great deal of scope for innovative direction and new spins, not under-exploited, which allows producers to try harder to get to the real meaning of the plays, presenting them in the best way possible (Branagh and Tenant’s Hamlets, McKellen’s Richard III). However, this utility has sometimes been deleterious to their point and left them ruined (Romeo + Juliet). The reader need only compare two recent productions of Macbeth to see what I mean.Read More »

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Guns

Another school, another day, another disturbed student, another gun: the picture is an old one, and reflecting on how often it is thrust in America’s face can indeed instil a sense of rising horror. The school shooting is a spectre on the US national conscience, growing worse as surely as it divides the country. Against it, anger and the will to act are natural and healthy feelings; there is no need to disparage those who think something ought to be done.

Such an urge when it came — and it came quickly — was as intense as ever before. “Let me be crystal clear”, screamed podcast-episode-writer Lauren Shippen. “I 100% want to take away your guns. Fuck your second amendment. Until children stop getting slaughtered in school, absolutely fuck it. Take them all away”.

After less than three days, at time of retrieval she had 63,000 likes on Twitter. Against such an assault, sustained as it has been for years now, America’s venerable old constitution may not stand for much longer. I do not for a moment look down on their motives, whatever the issues I may have with their intelligence or righteousness. But before the Anointed emasculate the Second Amendment in their rush to put in place heavyweight, radical gun reform, or start to pontificate about “common sense” laws that will “get the right balance”, it’s worth running the problem and proposed solutions through a cold morning shower of facts.Read More »

Review: Karl Marx: a Life, by Francis Wheen

“Remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts and everything as you see me”, were the famous words probably not used by Oliver Cromwell, Britain’s only military dictator, when instructing the artist Sir Peter Lely about his portrait. It is the ideal biographers have grappled with often in vain and usually against their better judgement for as long as the genre has existed, and few subjects have been as comprehensively, repeatedly failed in this regard as the Grand Old Man of communism himself, Citizen Marx. Fortunately, with the emergence of Francis Wheen’s book, that icy purgatory came to a splendid end.Read More »

Living up to the Label: in Defence of the White Helmets

I have a big polemic in the works about the Syrian civil war, as anyone who pays attention to my Twitter will wish they didn’t know, in which I’m going to try to flatten every isolationist talking point and launch the most ferocious assault on the intellectual consensus of my friends that I can. It’s already the longest work I’ve ever attempted and looking dangerously out of control, but even if it fails I’m glad I worked up the courage to do it; writing the thing has proven instructive in many ways, especially about the short-cuts of human thought. Its instructions are plainly obvious as well as profound, and that means they bode ominously.Read More »

Book Review: Angels and Demons

Have you ever read a book that shoves you forcefully through a cunning intellectual labyrinth at breakneck speed, drops you cruel hints and draws some lesser dots in faint lines, leads you to believe, after much effort, you’ve cracked it and spotted the pattern, and then, as you navigate towards the centre, abruptly reveals you were duped and, in fact, it’s over a mile that way? Because that’s exactly what Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons does.Read More »

Book Review: To Your Scattered Bodies Go

Introduction

I maintain this blog largely because I enjoy writing, and because pursuing the hobby helps me consider things, form my views, vent, document, etc. Obviously one can apply such a technique to many different aspects of life, and indeed, the more I think about it, the more I realise I write about a lot of things, or at least want to (I am not always able). I thought I’d expand a little into criticism, literary and cinematicRead More »

Reflections on #G.E.2017

“Democracy means government by discussion, but it is only effective if you can stop people talking” — Clement Attlee

Oh Theresa, Theresa, Theresa . . . You had one job! Theresa May, ignoring the better judgement she had earlier in her premiership, decided to press ahead with what proved to be an abortive bleach-fest of an election, ran a campaign that would make Ramsay MacDonald wince, squandered any chance she had of crushing the Labour Party, lost her majority entirely, and just about managed to cling on by allying with a gang of uber-conservative religious leprechauns whose most useful policy suggestion is likely to be remedying the winter fuel shortage by burning Catholics.

She still has no mandate, the leader of the opposition is still a terrorist sympathiser1 and his party is still infested with literal communists of one variety or another; the only thing that’s really changed, thinking about it, is the country has now objectively become a global embarrassment, as if it wasn’t already. Juncker might as well invade Poland, for all we’re in a position to do about it. STRONG AND STABLE STRONG AND STABLE . . .

Seriously though, this is a time for introspection, consideration. This election rewrote traditional thought in a number of ways and undermined a lot of assumptions we all had. There are lessons to take away.Read More »

The Syrian Chemical Attacks: what do we Know? (pt.2)

5072 words . . .

At 6:30 A.M. on 4 April, local time, the town of Khan Shaykhun in the Idlib province of the Syrian Arab Republic was allegedly attacked using chemical weapons. “It was like a winter fog”, said Mariam Abu Khalil, a fourteen-year-old resident, who saw the effects on the occupants of a car. “When they got out, they inhaled the gas and died”. Read More »

The Sad End of the Huffington Poe Controversy

Sometimes I hate being vindicated. I didn’t want this to happen, you know, and, as I am, at least in aspiration, a sentinel of expression freer than anyone at the Huffington Post is comfortable with, it’s time for me to make good on a pledge and stand up.

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Antifa: what is it and what Has it Done?

There isn’t much use archiving videos, I’m afraid.

“Antifa” has been in the news a lot lately. It is a group or movement that has been around for a while, but made headlines recently in the United States since the end of the 2016 election. “Members” (you’ll see about the quotation marks in a minute) have come into the news for punching and otherwise assaulting various people, setting things on fire, denying commentators their platforms, marching around in uniformed formation complete with balaclavas, and most recently starting and then getting beat in various riots, notably at Berkeley. There’s one question that no one has really addressed, however: what exactly is Antifa?

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