Word of the year: youthquake

December 15th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

“Youthquake”, defined as “a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people”, has been selected by Oxford Dictionaries as the 2017 word of the year.

I like young people. I used to be one once.

You can see a fuller explanation of the choice, and the shortlist of other candidates for word of the year, here.

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And the mega rich just become richer and richer

December 15th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

The richest 1% of the global population took 27% of the world’s wealth growth between 1980 and 2016, while the richest of the rich increased their wealth by even more. The top 0.1% gained 13% of the world’s wealth, and the top 0.001% – about 76,000 people – collected 4% of all the new wealth created since 1980.

Here in Britain, the richest 1% control 22% of the country’s wealth, up from 15% in 1984. The very richest in the UK have seen a huge increase in their wealth. The top 0.1% – around 50,000 people – have seen their share of the nation’s wealth double from 4.5% in 1984 to 9% in 2013.

These are just a few figures from the latest World Inequality Report published this week. You can access that report, with an executive summary in different languages, here.

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What images come to mind when you think of the Holocaust?

December 14th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

In this short article, my good friend Art Shostak writes:

“For more than 70 years, [the] narrative has been flawed by overreliance on the horror story of the Shoah, a painful focus on atrocious acts perpetrators committed against victims. At the same time, little or no attention has been paid to its inseparable counterpart, what I call the “help story” – an inspiring focus on admirable life-risking things victims tried to do for one another, kin and stranger alike.”

He explains:

“Accounts exist in survivor memoirs of high-risk efforts made by upstanders in the ghettos to staff forbidden schools, operate hidden mikvaot (Jewish ritual baths), and conduct clandestine  b’nai mitzvah ceremonies, etc.

In the Nazi camps, some of these individuals secretly relieved the workload of exhausted peers. They smuggled in food and medicine “organized” (stolen) from the stored goods of doomed arrivals sent directly to the gas.

Long-timers schooled newbies in survival secrets. They punished informers and thieves, shielded “illegal” religious services, and did much more, scores of examples of which are included in my 2017 book, Secret Altruism: Forbidden Care as Jewish Resistance in the Holocaust.”

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A review of the Japanese film “Blade Of The Immortal”

December 13th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

Apparently Japanese director Takashi Miikwe now has a hundred movies to his credit but I’ve only previously seen one of them: “13 Assassins”. Like “13 Assassins”, “Blade Of The Immortal” is a stylish bloodfest – if that’s not an oxymoron – set in the Edo period of Japanese history (1603-1868), but this film tells a much more personal story, namely the relationship between a tormented samurai called Manji (Takuya Kimura) and the girl to whom he becomes bodyguard Rin who reminds him of his dead sister Machi (both played by Hana Sugisaki).

The reason for Manji survivability – and also his despair – is that, as explained in a black and white prologue, he has been infected by bloodworms which heal his wounds so that he cannot die. The growing friendship between Manji and Rin reminded me of the film “Leon”, but the deathtoll in this tale is many times more, with the blade of the title slashing into bodies and cutting off limbs with great speed and fluidity.

This is not a film to everyone’s taste and at 140 minutes it is somewhat overlong, but for me it was the perfect cinematic escapism between two challenging meetings on a cold December day.

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Some good news from the United States for a change

December 13th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

Doug Jones has become the first Democrat to win any statewide office in the state of Alabama in decades after Republican candidate Roy Moore’s campaign for the Senate was marred by sexual assault claims.

More news here.

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Peter Bradshaw’s top ten films of 2017

December 12th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

I have previously done a blog posting on the top 20 films of 2017 as chosen by “Empire” magazine. Now I offer you the top 10 movies of the past year as chosen by the “Guardian” film critic Peter Bradshaw. I’ve seen five of the 10.

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20 of the best films of 2017

December 10th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

I’m a big movie fan and see quite a lot of films, but I find it hard to select a set of best works for a list. However, the latest issue of “Empire” magazine – to which I subscribe – has offered this list of the top 20 of 2017 (I’ve seen 13):

  1. “Get Out” – my review here
  2. “Blade Runner 2049” – my review here
  3. “La La Land” – my review here
  4. “Moonlight” – my review here
  5. “The Death Of Stalin” – my review here
  6. “Dunkirk” – my review here
  7. “God’s Own Country”
  8. “Logan” – my review here
  9. “The Handmaiden”
  10. “Call Me By Your Name”
  11. “The Big Sick” – my review here
  12. “Thor: Ragnarok” – my review here
  13. “Paddington 2” – my review here
  14. “War For Planet Of The Apes” – my review here
  15. “Manchester By The Sea” – my review here
  16. “Baby Driver” – my review here
  17. “Raw”
  18. “The Florida Project”
  19. “The Lost City Of Z”
  20. “Mother!”

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The centenary of the largest man-made non-nuclear explosion

December 6th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

The Halifax Explosion was a maritime disaster in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, on the morning of 6 December 1917.

SS Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship laden with high explosives, collided with the Norwegian vessel SS Imo in the Narrows, a strait connecting the upper Halifax Harbour to Bedford Basin. A fire on board the French ship ignited her cargo, causing a large explosion that devastated the Richmond district of Halifax.

Approximately 2,000 people were killed by the blast, debris, fires or collapsed buildings, and an estimated 9,000 others were injured. The blast was the largest man-made explosion before the development of nuclear weapons, releasing the equivalent energy of roughly 2.9 kilotons of TNT.

I know. You’ve never heard of it, have you? But check it out here.

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A remarkable story about an amazing young woman

December 5th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

I recently attended a conference held at the BT Centre and organised by the Good Things Foundation (on whose board I have sat for six years – I step down tomorrow). The event was all about the power of the Internet to change lives for the better.

The most inspirational address came from a young woman called Molly Watt. At first, she looked unremarkable, although she sounded unbelievably confident for one so young (she is 23). But then she told her story.

Molly explained that she was born severely deaf and introduced to IT at the age of just 18 months (only then did I notice her hearing aids). She went on to tell us that, at the age of 14, she was registered as blind (only then did I notice her guide dog at the corner of the stage). The cause of her deaf blindness is a condition called Usher Syndrome.

Today she has an app which enables her to download software from anywhere in the world to make necessary adjustments to her hearing aids and she makes good use of the iPhone, the iPad and the Apple watch.

Molly has created a company to advocate and advise on assistive technology and describes herself as an inclusive technology evangelist. Certainly she took the conference by storm and illustrated powerfully how the right technology and a positive personality can profoundly change the life of even an individual with severe disabilities.

You can check out her web site here.

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A review of the new film “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool”

December 3rd, 2017 by Roger Darlington

In the late 1970s, Academy Award-winning American actress Gloria Grahame – four times married and deeply troubled – struck up an unusual relationship with an actor from Liverpool called Peter Turner who was some three decades younger than her. This British film is based on Turner’s account of their life together and is ably directed by Scottish Paul McGuigan. The director eschews the classic jump flash-back in favour of a series of more subtle slides from one period to another. However, the American scenes are clearly staged in the studio in the interests of a small budget.

The role of GG (Glo to her beau) is terrific for Annette Bening who brings real star quality and a nuanced performance to the part. Jamie Bell – who has come a long way since “Billy Elliot” 17 years ago – does well in the company of such star power and, among the well-cast minor roles, we have the inestimable Julie Walters who guided Billy Elliot all those years ago.

There are some memorable scenes: Grahame and Turner dancing together when they first meet, a recital of “Romeo And Juliet” in an empty theatre (where the real Turner has a tiny role), a clever repeat of the same scene viewed from the different perspectives of the two principals, and of course the farewell departure. Also the attention to period detail is noticeable: that terrible flowered wallpaper, the dial telephone in the hallway, and Elton John’s “Song For Guy” (I remember it all).

Link: Wikipedia page on Gloria Grahame click here

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