A review of the 2016 movie “The Accountant”

August 19th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

This is an action thriller with an unusual central character – a kind of cross between Raymond Babbitt from “Rain Man”, since he has acute autism with phenomenal mathematical skills, and the eponymous hit man in the “John Wick” series, since he has the kind of martial and shooting skills of a small army.

Christian Wolff (played in a necessarily downbeat fashion by Ben Affleck) is the accountant, but he is much more of a wolf than an Christian. Indeed he is a morally complex figure indeed, assisting crime syndicates to clean up their ill-gotten gains while running a host of front companies himself to enable the funding of a meritorious endeavour and, along the way, killing as callously as efficiently and yet sparing a couple of his potential victims.

A slow burner with some initially complex plotting but sufficiently different certainly to merit viewing.

Posted in Cultural issues | Comments (0)


“House Of Cards” or “Games Of Thrones” Trump-style

August 18th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

Who has now left Trump’s White House team?

  • Steve Bannon, chief strategist – 18 August
  • Anthony Scaramucci, communications director – 31 July
  • Reince Priebus, chief of staff – 28 July
  • Sean Spicer, press secretary – 21 July
  • Mike Dubke, communications director – 30 May
  • James Comey, FBI director – 9 May
  • Michael Flynn, national security adviser – 14 February

Who needs fictional television? There’s more blood on the walls of the White House. It would be comical if it was not so serious. But we’re still awaiting one most important departure.

Posted in American current affairs | Comments (0)


A review of the new film “Atomic Blonde”

August 18th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

This espionage thriller is adapted from a graphic novel called “The Coldest City” and is the directorial debut of David Leitch, formerly a stunt coordinator and second unit director in work such as “John Wick” (and it certainly shows).

The eponymous MI6 agent is Lorraine Broughton, played with panache by the tall, once South African once model who rather stole the show in “Mad Max: Fury Road”. Set in Berlin as the wall is about to fall in 1989, like the recent “Baby Driver” we have a loud soundtrack of contemporary music.

If all this suggests more style than substance, that would be a fair inference. The convoluted plot – set out in a series of flashbacks – revolves, as so often in spy movies (think “Mission: Impossible”), in the hunt for a list of agents but, again as so frequently is the case, the object of the search is really irrelevant (what cinema critics call a MacGuffin).

But, if the substance of the movie is thin, the style is terrific with flashy camerawork and tons of gritty action, involving not just guns and cars but any domestic object that comes to hand, just as long as it can be smashed into someone’s face. A ten-minute fight scene on a set of stairs is set to become something of a classic.

This is not a film that would stand up to any serious feminist critique, but it’s an all-too-rare guilty pleasure to see a confident and capable woman kicking male ass.

There has been too little of it since “The Long Kiss Goodnight” (1996), although this summer we’ve had the delights of “The Ghost In The Shell” and “Wonder Women”. If the Blonde were to become a franchise like Bond or Bourne, I for one would not complain.

Posted in Cultural issues | Comments (0)


“The How Of Happiness” – my review of the book

August 17th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

I have recently finished reading a book called “The How Of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky.

The main section of the work is a description of 12 happiness-enhancing activities and, over the past three days, I’ve blogged about these techniques.

If you’d like to see a recap of all the activities and my review of the book as a whole, you’ll find that here.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Comments (0)


“The How Of Happiness” – activities 9, 10, 11, 12

August 16th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

I have recently finished reading a book called “The How Of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky. The main section of the work is a description of 12 happiness-enhancing activities. Activities 9-12 are as follows:

  • Savouring life’s joys: Paying close attention, taking delight and replaying life’s momentary pleasures and wonders – through thinking, writing, drawing or sharing with another.
  • Committing to your goals: Picking one, two or three significant goals that are meaningful to you and devoting time and effort to pursuing them.
  • Praticising religion and spirituality: Becoming more involved in your church, temple or mosque, or reading and pondering spiritually-themed books.
  • Taking care of your body: Engaging in physical activity, meditating, and smiling and laughing.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Comments (0)


“The How Of Happiness” – activities 5, 6, 7, 8

August 15th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

I have recently finished reading a book called “The How Of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky. The main section of the work is a description of 12 happiness-enhancing activities. Activities 5-8 are as follows:

  • Nurturing relationships: Picking a relationship in need of strengthening and investing time and energy in healing, cultivating, affirming and enjoying it.
  • Developing strategies for coping: Practising ways to endure or surmount a recent stress, hardship or trauma.
  • Learning to forgive: Keeping a journal or writing a letter in which you work on letting go of anger and resentment towards one or more individuals who have hurt or wronged you.
  • Doing more activities that truly engage you: Increasing the number of experiences at home and at work in which you ‘lose’ yourself, which are challenging and absorbing (i.e. ‘flow’ experiences).

Posted in Miscellaneous | Comments (0)


“The How Of Happiness” – activities 1, 2, 3, 4

August 14th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

I have recently finished reading a book called “The How Of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky. The main section of the work is a description of 12 happiness-enhancing activities. Activities 1-4 are as follows:

  • Expressing gratitude: Counting your blessings for what you have (either to a close other or privately, through contemplation or diary-writing) or conveying your gratitude and appreciation to one or more individuals whom you’ve never properly thanked.
  • Cultivating optimism: Keeping a journal in which you imagine and write about the best possible future for yourself or practise looking at the bright side of every situation.
  • Avoiding overthinking and social comparison: Using strategies (such as distraction) to cut down on how often you dwell on your problems and compare yourself to others.
  • Practising acts of kindness: Doing good things for others, whether friends or strangers, either directly ot anonymously, either spontaneously or planned.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Comments (0)


The modern resurgence of China

August 13th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

At this time of year, my professional commitments are light, so I sign up for a number of short courses at the City Lit further education college in central London. My sixth such course of this summer was delivered by a lecturer called John Berryman and it was titled “China: sphere of influence”.

The course involves two lectures, but I will have to miss the second one because I have a speaking engagement in Belfast.

This lecture put China’s modern resurgence into the context of recent history. The period from the 1840s to the 1940s – which included the opium wars and territorial losses of 1839-1842 & 1856-1860 – are seen by the Chinese as “the century of humiliation” and China’s economic and military growth under the Communists is seen as a return to the country’s rightful place in world politics as a major and important power.

China is the most populous country in the world with almost 1.4 billion people. It is also the third largest nation – after Russia and Canada – and, like all large powers, its grand strategy is shaped by its geographical circumstances.

China asserts strong hold on the province of Xinjiang conquered in the 18th century and the territory of Tibet annexed in 1951, so that it has secure borders on all sides. Now China is building a Blue Water navy to assert its power in the East China Sea and the South China Sea and it is investing throughtout Asia, Africa and South America to create strategic assets like ports and acquire strategic minerals, metals and sources of energy.

Posted in World current affairs | Comments (0)


A review of the film “Love In The Time Of Cholera”

August 12th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

The novel by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez was first published in Spanish in 1985 and this English-language movie adaptation was released in 2007. As the title makes clear, this is a love story, but what makes it different is the time (roughly 1880-1930), the place (unnamed in the novel but identified in the film as the Colombian city of Cartagena) and the postponed consummation (only after half a century do the lovers finally fulfil their dreams).

The main characters are the alluring Fermina Daza (played by Giovanna Mezzogiorno) and the lovelorn Florentino Ariza (Javier Bardem) although Fermina’s husband Doctor Juvenal Urbino (Benjamin Bratt) has a key role. I have no idea how faithful the film is to the book, but I enjoyed this cinematic adaptation – somewhat languid in the telling but beautifully shot and well-acted – and it has given me a desire to visit the historic, walled city of Cartagena where much of it was shot.

Posted in Cultural issues | Comments (0)


How did your part of the country vote in the Brexit referendum?

August 11th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

More than one year after the UK voted in a referendum narrowly to leave the European Union, we have still barely started the complex negotiations that are involved. Meanwhile debate continues to rage over the decision and whether it can be reversed.

You know how you voted (I voted remain), but do you know how your part of the country voted? The BBC has a search facility – plus a helpful Q&A – here.

The answer for my borough is as follows:

Brent

Leave 40.3% 48,881 votes
Remain 59.7% 72,523 votes
Turnout: 65.0%
From results listed in order of support for Remain, Brent is: 52 out of 399

So my decision was reflective of the majority of my locality. What about you?

Posted in British current affairs | Comments (0)