Friday, 26 June 2009

The Pride and Glory, Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing, Summer Wishes and Winter Dreams

The other DVD, the final of the 240 odd rented over the past two and a half years and was called the Pride and the Glory. This proved to another film of the well covered police going wrong in the N Y PD although this time the battle was fought within the system with the son of a much respected former cop under pressure to protect the career minded brother in law whose wife has cancer and turns a long blind eye to members of his team who move from taking protection and bribe money to dealing in drugs, committing murder and tipping off the drug dealers which leads to four police being slaughtered The film tries to make a grey entertainment out people who and are bad, weak and sometimes evil. The film is overlong and difficult to follow and is not rescued by some good acting especially and the most rotten of gang played by Colin Farrell of Ballykissangel fame. The experience was depressing.

It is just as well that I had still the memory of a wonderful film starring Joanne Woodward called Summer Wishes Winter Dreams. Joanne is a middle aged housewife with two children who have left home and has a sense of impending doom, a sense of failure and that her life is over. She has lunch once a week with her mother, an event which has become a duty and when her mother dies from a heart attack while watching together a film by Ingmar Bergman she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She inherits part of the family farm which she does not want to sell having a bitter argument with her sister and brother in law who want to make sue of the capital it could provide. Her husband understand the turmoil and emotional state she in and persuades her to accompany him on a trip to London when she gets into further difficult. He tries to express his love but the gulf between them has become wide. It is only when she accompanies him to Belgium to visit the reminders of the Second World War and the scene where he killed three German soldiers.

He explains that after this experience he vowed not to waste a moment of his life. I know that feeling so well although it remains a challenge to maintaining such an outlook year upon year and decade upon decade. She understands his experience and reaction and puts into perspective her own experience. She decides to sell the farm and also to accept that her gay son who is living in Paris and happy is unable to see them, although he maintain regular communication with their daughter. It is not surprising to learn that Joanne was nominated for a best actress Oscar for this 1973 performance or that she was given the Bafta.

Another unknown film to me which also included a brilliant performance from a female actress is Love Pain and the Whole Damn Thing. This was also a 1970‘s film (1973) and featured Maggie Smith taking a tour of Spain on her own and encountering a shy young Asthmatic also a loner who is sent on a biking holiday by his father. The film brilliant explores the developing relationship between the two and after a moment of passion the young man takes the initiative and hires a small touring caravan where after an small accident they find themselves taken up with by the local Duke of a Castle who takes a shine to Maggie which focuses the young man on what he wants from the relationship. At this point Maggie reveals she has an incurable illness and the film ends as the two go off to make the most of whatever time they can have together. When I saw that the young man is played by Timothy Bottoms it will be appreciated that the film is scripted as a comedy, but is redeemed by the performance of Maggie Smith.

Thursday, 25 June 2009


In the evening I watched a DVD of Wall-E the 2008 computer animated science fiction film about a robot left on earth to help clear up the junk left behind as humans have set off in a giant space cruisers in the hope that the earth becomes habitable again one day.

The entire population become satisfied with their life on the cruisers not realising that the plan of to clean up earth had filed and that they are destined to spend their future on board and do so for generation after generation for 700 years until the 22nd millennium is approaching. Wall E as the last robot is able to regenerate himself with spare parts he collects through his work as well as creating an Aladdin’s cave of reminders of past human life including a solar powered TV playing video’s of musicals. From which he learns about the relationships between human being and hankers for not being alone.

Periodically a space cruiser lands back on or near earth and sends out a probe to test for sign s that human life can be sustained and in this instance the probe is essentially a feminine creation and when Wall E rescues her from a dust storm into the truck he uses as shelter and store and shows her the plant he has found. She Stores this to take back but the impact deactivated her which distresses Wall-E, When the probe ship returns to collect her Wall clings to the vessel which returns to the Flagship liner. Wall E gets upset when he thinks she is being hurt rather than repaired and he also rescue the plant when it is take by the robot computer which directs everything had reminds of Hal in 1001 who is programme to act in a way eventually destructive to the humans in preventing them from returning to earth. His defence is however well intentioned because they having become obese from and endless and continuous life of being moves around automatically without walking and an artificial food diet which had weakened their bone structure. Fortunately their captain has grit, of the character kind not that which has overrun earth and together with Wall E and Eve, Eva the Robot is defeated and the plant is used to stimulate everyone into abandoning their life style and beginning the process of adapting to earth with a breathable atmosphere in which they can grow plants and farm.

It is therefore a film designed add tot he education of young people about the need for a healthy life style and to protect the natural resources of the planet. However I think it is a difficult film for young people to understand and enjoy. It a sound effects masterpiece as well as visual studio creation.

Friday, 5 June 2009

the Baader Meinhof Complex

Although the Badder Meinhoff Complex is a film it makes an important contribution into understanding the mind set of the international terrorist in the days before the arrival of the self sacrificing fanatic of the past decade. Ulrike Meinhoff and Andreas Badder were two principals in the Red Army Faction or the Red Brigade who carried out some 30 Terrorist atrocities, mainly in Germany but also Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium as well as Hijacking a plane in Majorca. It was odd seeing the initials R.A.F which in the UK continues to mean so much for those of us who experienced the Battle of Britain, albeit as children.

In its broadest terms the group was anti Fascist and pro socialist revolutionary activity from supporting the North Vietnamese, Chez Guevara and against all forms of “imperialism” taking the sides of the Arabs and Muslims against the Israeli State, receiving their training and weapons support in Jordan. The hierarchy opposed attacks which killed “workers” although most of the 34 deaths were “secondary” targets, chauffeurs and body guards. The lesser known Revolutionary Cells conducted 296 bomb attacks over the same period.

I am opposed to the use of violence as a way of settling differences and the worst kind is often that based on ideology, religion and racism because it is indiscriminate and merciless. Having said there are degrees of justification for violence by states when in the interests of the majority of people and by the people when they are enslaved by others. I like to believe that there are only exceptional circumstances when I would attempt to use violence against another human being and then only to protect the lives of others, rather than myself. However it is always difficult to predict how one will behave in a situation of which one has no or little experience.

In 1961 I was picked up and thrown into the air three times by the police when sitting peacefully with other on a landing stage close a Polaris Submarine supply ship moored in Holy Loch. This was the situation where I had resigned my position as a field officer of the Direct Action Committee and where the Principal Organisers had been arrested and I stepped in first to quell the changing mood of demonstrators against the actions of the police and when the service men were ordered to force their way through the demonstrators, and the following a message from Pat Arrowsmith to end the sit downs and for everyone to form into a march to the Police station in the nearest town Dunoon to protest at the arrests.

It is a standard tactic of authorities to find ways to remove the leadership of demonstration and protects movement or undermine their credibility and this then enables the demonstrations to be broken up, often by creating the very violence which then authorities then argue was the justification for them to use force to end. This was the approach adopted by the police, no doubt also communicated in advance or with some understanding of their political masters in central and local government. It is more difficult to do in a democracy than in a dictatorship but is nevertheless a standard tactic. As I shall explain it can also be used by those behind demonstrations to radicalise participants and this can include secret organisations within a country and as will be mentioned by other countries with different or their own agendas. That I had advised the authorities in advance of the action being within the spirit of Satyagraha, the Gandhian approach to non violent action and resistance, and took the action to stop a situation becoming negative with the demonstrators turning to violence was a major factor in which I was approved to hold a top local government office within local government a decade later.

Had I not be there that day the outcome could have been very different. Had someone intent on creating violence been present the situation could have changed dramatically and would have had longer term consequence. This is what happened before the decade ended when violence became a creature of the anti Vietnam war demonstrations. In the early sixties it was evident that while the Communist countries and their supporters world wide were supporting and funding the anti nuclear movements in Western democracies, they made a distinction between the worker’s and the capitalist bomb.

The event when I was given the insight to this was a conference of the Socialist Labour League then under the control of Gerry Healey. Pat Arrowsmith the field organiser for the Director Action Committee Against Nuclear war was invited to address the gathering held in central London. I was invited to manage a bookstall provide by Houseman’s the book and stationery provider which helped to fund Peace News, a weekly paper promoting non violent action and this provided the opportunity to first listen to what Pat had to say and then stay to hear the address by Gerry Healey which followed. He first explained why it was important to support the efforts undermine the British defence deterrent and that held by other capitalist states. However it was important for socialist countries to retain and develop their weapons without which the capitalist would seek to destroy communism. He then went on to explain the political tactic of enterism in which one entered industries and work places, fermented unrest and strikes which in turn would force employers to retaliate and help radicalise the workers. Their next object was to enter the machine tool industry and through this they would be able to exert greater influence on industry and manufacturing in general.

It was some two decades later that we experience a version of this approach by the Militant Tendency and their influence and to some extent control over NALGO the main managerial, administrative and Clerical workers Union in Local government, who along with the National Union of Public Employees represented the majority of staff in Social Services Departments.

Andreas Baader was a young man who appears to have enjoyed the excitement of being a violent criminal as he also gained from stealing and driving fast cars. A school drop he was the only one of the original leadership who did not go to university and appears to have had no intellectual basis for his subsequent terrorists activities. He appears to have been a psychopath.

The brains of the group was his lover, Gudrun Ensslin. and daughter of a German religious Pastor who it is claimed was a descendent of Hegel. She, like Andreas, were born in 1940 and her father was a conventional conservative who had written poetry approved by the Nazi Party. In 1958 she studied for a year in the United States and became at first socially minded and then drawn to the left wing causes of the 1960‘s, particularly the possession and potential use of nuclear weapons and the operation of American bases in Germany. She had a child by a lover.

A specific event tipped her into becoming a terrorist against the German state and its institution, During the visit of the Shah of Persia the Police and undercover security forces initiated violence in order to break up demonstrations by those opposed to the visit. Excessive forces was used and one demonstrator was shot by an undercover policeman in the back of the head. Although charged with manslaughter, the man was acquitted and Gudrun started to denounce West Germany as a Fascist State. In this there was considerable truth as under the American and British control former Nazis were given positions of political and administrative power at every level of government , in he police and armed services. However it was revealed after the fall of East Germany and unification with West Germany that the man was an East German agent who worked for the Stasi, the East Germany secret service.

Gudrun then met and became the lover of Andreas Baader and together with two others detonated two bombs in a departmental store in 1968. The were arrested within a few days, subsequently convicted and given three years in prison but released on bail under Appeal. When this was turned down they attempted to flee but Andreas was apprehended and taken back to prison. It is not unusual for some conventionally brought up upper and middle class young girls to be attracted to DH Lawrence types, which can include the violent criminal psychopath. I observed direct experience of this during the period of my involvement in the peace movement 1959 1961 and during my period at Ruskin College and the Department of Extra Mural Studies at Oxford University. I have written about this period separately and in the future from different perspectives and contexts. Sexual liberation is often the precipitating factor.

Gudrun became determined to break her lover out of prison and the opportunity came when he was allowed to study at a research institute outside the prison and without handcuffs.

According to the film Urika Meinhof arranged to interview him at the institute and once inside arranged for Gudrun and another girl to enter and release Andreas together with masked and unknown individual who had a gun with bullets. The intention was for Urike to remain and express surprise and shock at what happened, However the masked individual used the gun severely wounding the Librarian. Ulrike fled with the rest and became the most wanted individuals in West Germany and became known as the Baader, Meinhoff gang. Her father was an established art historian and ran the Oldenburg Museum who died early on in the war when she was six and her mother also died when she was a teenager. She nevertheless went to university and studied philosophy and sociology and pedagogy and German studies becoming involved in reform movements in the later 1950’s and then was significantly influenced by a Spanish Marxist who later translated some of her writings. She then married the founder of the Marxist left monthly journal Konkret, having become a secret member of the banned German Communist party and in a situation where the journal was financed by the East German Government. She became the writer for the group as well as participating in its activities, bearing twin children who became part of a tussle with her husband when she left the country and went underground and they divorced. She made one attempt to kidnap the children so they could educated in Palestine but this failed and they were returned to the care of their father.

After establishing links with Palestinian and Middle east revolutionaries and terrorists, the group attended a Fatah training camp in Jordan but were asked to leave in part because of their attitude to sex and nudity but also according to the film because they wanted to be trained to rob banks while Fatah was concerned with operations in desert conditions. They however retained links and the group obtained weapons and other assistance.

It was after their return to Germany they engaged in banks robberies and bombings of buildings with several leading to deaths. The three were arrested separately in 1972 and their trial took several year to commence and also lasted a long time with refusals to appear, with exclusions because of their behaviour from the court and various activities of other members of the group who became known as the second generation of the R.A.F. They went on hunger strike over being kept in isolation and because their confinement conditions. Concessions were made and they were able to communicate with each other in terms of the trial.

The film follows the activities of the second generation of the RAF activists. The members along with other revolutionary groups in Germany and in various countries of Europe were trained on the West Bank and Gaza with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and they operated cell structures applying the revolutionary ideas of Che Guevara to city and urban areas. They attacked US Military Facilities, German Police Stations and buildings belonging to the Axel Springer media empire.

It was while the Principals were in prison that the second generation commenced to kidnap in order to try and secure the release of those inside. In 1975 a candidate for a mayor was kidnapped and the authorities did agree to release those not accused of murder in exchange. Then later that year the German Embassy in Stockholm was raised and hostage taken, two of whom were killed but this time the demands were not met. A Federal prosecutor was gunned down. The Head of the Dresdner Bank was murdered in a failed kidnap attempt. The President of German Employers Association was kidnapped in another raid and subsequently executed after over a month as a prisoner. Then supporters of the Palestinian cause kidnapped a German holiday jet from Majorca to Frankfurt demanding the release of the Principals who had now been convicted and sentenced. The three Principals were said to have committed suicide following a pact after the hostages were released from the plane. There are those who believe that the three were executed by the state to prevent further attempts to free them and according to the Wikipedia there are legitimate questions about the deaths. This would not be surprising

The R.A.F continued its terrorist activities into the 1990’s despite the collapse of the soviet union but these are not covered in the film, The group stated that it was disbanded on 20th April 199 and since then the German government has accepted requests for pardons by some of those still in prison.

The Wikipedia article is excellent because it attempts to set the socio political scene in which the Red Brigade and other similar groups flourished in Germany in particular. Those involved were born during or immediately after World War 2 and the defeat of Nazism and the exposure of its genocide against the Jews, the disabled, other ethnic minorities such as gypsies and Nazi dissenters. They lived in a divided country with the Communists police state in one half and a right wing government full of former Nazi’s on the other. Berlin was full of spies and double agents for half the countries in the world.

Britain had initiated mass protests with the Suez debacle in 1956 and hen with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Direction Action Committee against Nuclear War in the early 1960’s. There was the student revolts in Paris and France and in the USA and hen the anti Vietnam War protests. There were hundreds of thousands of idealistic young people who rejected the mass army and weaponry development of both sides in the cold and not so cold war and saw both camps engaged in imperialist activities to harm of the poor and the worker classes across the globe. There was a belief that things would only change through world wide revolution and a violent one. There was a philosophic school in Germany with Habernas, Marcuse and Negt with Marxian philosophers and political theorists. They made the mistake of forgetting that in general people are not prepared to volunteer their lives in mortal combat unless they are starving, the bread riots before the French Revolution or the effects of invasion and war losses as with the success of Communism in Germany and Fascism in post First World War Germany. People do not revolt for secular ideologies as they will do not in defence of their religion.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The Contract and more

It is difficult to sit at the desk and work when the sky is perfect blue and temperatures warm to hot and very hot throughout the day and evening. My mind is back to days in Southern France and Northern Spain and Greece, Greece, The isle of Greece beckon along with Italy.

I ventured out in the afternoon to the post box and then down and along Ocean Road and across to Azda when I could not resist an offer on a whole pineapple for £1, some strawberries also at £1 a carton, coleslaw, a lemon and Milano salami at £1.07 100grams compared with the packed at £1.37. The best deal was with shell on prawns where there are 500g frozen packs for £2.14 compared with £1.24 for 200g and which works out at under 87 pence for the same quantity. I will divided into two 250g portions for £1.12.

On the return journey with the weight of the food I was tempted by the taxi bus from Market Square. However there was over half an hours wait so I made my way to the station lift which I hate using because it is fully enclosed, small and temperamental but it cuts out the first steep part of the hill now that the Azda escalators are no longer available. I was soon joined by four others who all had mobility problems and the delay suggested it was not working and then I heard an announcement that a cleaner was required to go to the South Shields lift. There were some Youths overlooking from the platform above as I made my way back to King Street to trek home but as I had not seen anything from the below I resisted the temptation to go up an challenge them. I walked slowly and eventually made it home but the walk back was not enjoyable.

Earlier I had another bonus when booking to take the car to Isle of Wight. The standards fare is £92, but there was on offer a reduced short stay fare of £65 for three nights which I had nearly booked before deciding to investigate changing the car. The delay was fortunate because of a new special offer which reduced the price to £45. I will travel over at 11.30 and return on the 10am as there is some distance and a visit before the overnight stop.

I made a mistake in believing that the World 20 20 competition started on Monday when what is happening is a number of warm up games. Sky TV are showing all four games with a choice of two from Lords and Nottingham. I enjoyed the last moments of Ireland against Holland. The scores tied and therefore what happens is called the golden Over in which both teams try and score the most runs without losing more than three wickets.

In the evening I watched an entertaining adventure as long as critical judgement was suspended. The Contract stars Morgan Freeman as a hardened contract killer who is now free lancing after years of service on behalf of the USA government. The plot requires considerable stretches of credulity. Morgan employs four ex army colleagues on his latest assignment which is to assassinate a reclusive figure who is for or against stem cell research, it does not matter which. For some reason the assassination involved killing the son in a fake accident and then killing his father when he attends the funeral of his son. This is the first stupid plot component

Unfortunately for everyone concerned Morgan has a car accident beforehand and goes to hospital which leads the authorities to finding that out who he is and being taken into custody by the local police who are asked to hand him over to National agents, one of whom appears to be a high level female part of Homeland security with her own agenda and comes across as just as ruthless as Morgan willing to sacrifice innocent civilians and go to any lengths to protect the fact that the government may be involved in the operation as she has contact within of the team and at one point orders the execution of Freeman. Still with me, For someone as skilled and successful as Morgan it is beyond belief that his cover story could so easily be penetrated and that under US law he could be taken into custody without having committed any offence

The four members of the hit team stage an elaborate fake roadside break down in order to free Morgan from the police but the rescue attempt goes wrong and the vehicles plunges down in to a river where Morgan survives although handcuffed after killing his captor. It is never clear why a team of five is needed for the kill plot and why the transfer of Morgan from the police to homeland security is undertaken so badly. Then story become ridiculous

A former policeman turned school sports coach is trying to cope with the loss of his wife three years before from cancer and an unhappy teenage son who blames him for promising that his mother would recover. The son is brought to father by the local cops after being caught smoking pot and in order to try and re-establish meaningful contact father takes his son on a camping trip and they are crossing a bridge at the start of their trip when they spot Morgan and the policeman in the water. So far this is credible but then Morgan gives the father good advice to let him go and for the father and son to continue on their way. The father played by John Cusak decides to take the man prisoner and walk to the highway to get a phone signal and call for help.

On reaching the highway the son is asked to go to ahead and contact a state vehicle seen on the road but before he does witness the killer’s support team gun the vehicle driver down. This is odd because the driver is heard to say that he has phoned through seeing the wrecked police car in the river. What is the point of the killing other than to warn the lad not to proceed to confirm that the group are ruthless killers.

The trio head then head off into the wilderness where fortunately the son has experience through a previous field trip and further long the river bank they encounter a young couple at the river side. The girl is the practical one who has hated the idea of the camping trip and the boyfriend is a panicky wet. Eventually he is persuaded to accompany the trio rather than continue in the direction of the Killers team.

The five survive torrential rain, getting down a cliff side and crossing a ravine on a dodgy bridge which they then destroy. Unbeknown to them the killer’s team have got hold of an official police helicopter. The police in these films are always stupid. The reason why the Killer’s team tried to rescue Morgan and out themselves in danger is because only he has access to the bank at which their fees will be paid. This makes them as stupid as the police for entering into the contract without ensuring payments especially in the event of their deaths. Such men never appear to have parents, brothers, sisters, wives, girl friends or children who need to be taken care of. This is an important component because they have to die without anyone in the audience caring about what happens to them and their families.

Given this it is not clear why they then agree to kill Morgan on the orders of the homeland security woman. The team then kill the boyfriend and the remaining four take refuge in a cabin where they are tracked down by surviving members the killer’s team and fortunately by the police after the father manages to overcome and force the helicopter to crash land. In the fracas Morgan takes the son hostage and somehow manages to get him into a motel and bound and gagged while he goes off to complete his assignment. The ultimate completer finisher which I understand only too well. The police however believe the target is the President who is addressing a rally nearby but only the father appreciate who the target is after watching a TV news bulletin about the funeral. He goes to find Morgan and his son and his intrusion enables Morgan to realise he has become the target. The kill is aborted and the son is found but is this not the end of the tale. Morgan, proves that he is really a nice guy as he catches up with the Homeland security woman who warns her to leave the son alone. Father and son attend a social barbecue back at home at which the widowed fiancĂ©e is also invited with the prospect of a relationship as the girl has the son’s approval. And would clearly make a great substitute mum. They listen to news where the death is announced of the original assassination target. Wow three cheers for the state assassin. The big bad world continues as before

I bet British politicians wish they were in now in a Hollywood film. They are going to get their comeuppance soon, especially the Labour Party ones.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009


In the evening, for the third time of asking I finished the three hour Martin Scorsese film Casino. I found the subject boring and the approach of Scorsese distinctly amoral in what appears to be is lifelong devotion and adoration of the homicidal gangster. So here are the bare bones of the story. The film is set in Los Vegas when the Casino’s were owned by gangsters with managers placed to front the enterprises and a team of people to ensure as much money was taken and then filtered to the mobs outside the required booking keeping and taxation requirements of the law. Everyone involved was on the take one way or the other and as were the large number of professional gambler, tricksters and fraudsters who attempted to take the money leaving only the American people and overseas visitors, the mugsters, to spend, spend, and more than they can afford to lose.

There are three outstanding actors in the film. Sharon Stone plays a drug and drinking tart who sleeps with anyone who will keep her in the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed. Robert De Niro is sent by the New York Mob to be the unofficial boss of a Casino where he puts his years of skilled gambling to use in spotting those who attempt to beat the system, albeit a crooked one. His misfortune is to want Sharon Stone to be his wife and mother of his children, Unsurprisingly give her attractive body and calculated sexual skills De Nero wants her to love him and as an inducement trusts her with the keys and rights to a security bank box contained two million dollars and a similar value of jewels. He realises she is just a greedy drug and drunk who ties up their one only child when the baby sitter does not turn up and she wants to go out whoring with his best friend of thirty five years he tries to throw her out but she manages to get hold of the money which she then blows on low life scum and ends up dead from an over dose at the hands of one of them.

This brings us to scum of scum played by Joe Pesci, A ruthless gangster who enjoys torturing and killing anyone who comes in is way or required by his gang bosses. He is sent out to Vegas to watch the back of De Niro who is turning in such great profits that Pesci is able to mount his own local operation and still hand over more that the mobsters had received before the De Nero stewardship.

Then all goes wrong and the FBI begin to move in and mobsters get scared. One early victim is Pesci and his brother who are savagely beaten before beating buried alive in the desert. De Nero survives a car bomb because of ant bomb protection beneath the drivers seat. Wonder why the troops out in Iraq and Afghanistan did not get the same protection until recently! De Neo goes off somewhere and returns to his former gambling prowess to rebuild his life and wealth. Meanwhile the international corporations move to Vegas and demolish the told style Casino‘s and create new family holiday centres to ensure that the USA public and international visitors spend an even greater proportion of their new wealth in the 90’s and early millennium before it all came crashing down. Meanwhile the Party Politicians continue to try and fix their game.