Thursday, 7 June 2018

My top 10 films of all time

10. Crimes and Misdemeanours - Woody Allen (USA, 1989)



This was made during Allen's so-called 'serious' period, when he made homages to the likes of Bergman and Fellini. It interlaces dramatic and comedic scenes.

Allen references so-called 'existentialist' themes here and the title knowingly alludes to Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. A character kills a lover who threatens to make their affair public and reveal his financial fraud, so he kills her off. He is wracked by guilt throughout the entire film, but he recovers and resumes his daily life. Most books and films which deal with guilt usually end with redemption, but this is not the case here.

Allen's theme is that the world is - you guessed it ! - meaningless and random and, as such, amoral. Societies aren't always just and fair and this film - a relatively big release - doesn't always reward ethics or merit.

I love Woody Allen's films and this my favourite film of his, as it contains the best examples of both his drama and his comedy.

9. Aguirre, the Wrath of God - Werner Herzog (Germany, 1971)



This film is 'awesome' in the true sense of the word. Herzog is German himself and harks back to 19th century ideas like the 'sublime.' The film captures images of impotent men thrust into the vastness and chaos of nature, which brings to minds paintings by Caspar David Friedrich.

Herzog also plays around with other Romantic ideas, such as the primacy of the individual. Aguirre asserts his authority and becomes a mad autocrat. However, Herzog does have a sense of humour and does satirise these self-important notions.

The characters strive to reach 'El Dorado,' a mystical ideal that doesn't really exist. In this sense, this film is like 2001: A Space Odyssey or Heart of Darkness set in Renaissance times. Aguirre is possessed by grand ambitions that are impossible to realise. He wants to conquer the Amazon forests and become a king. The film documents this quixotic quest and documents the character's descent into madness, but there is also a touch of humour and the absurd about it.

Herzog delved into the Amazon forests with basic film equipment and a film crew. Some of the shots that he captures are awesome - grand long shots of horizons and rapids. He also spent several weeks in the Amazons with actor Klaus Kinsky, a literal madman who resembled the eponymous character.

8. The Second Heimat - Edgar Reitz (Germany, 1992)




This might not qualify as a film. It may be described as a series, or a film shown in parts.

Heimat is a series of films that covers a German village from 1919 until 1984. This series revisits a character from that series. It follows him going to university in Munich and the series spans 1960 until 1970. Reitz mentioned that the film is meant to cover a 'second home' that we find as adults.

The first series is more universal and covers important historical events whereas this second series is more specific. It follows avant-garde movements in art, mainly experimental classical music as well as filmmakers and actors. It captures a sense of excitement, as these artists try new and different forms. Edgar Reitz - along with Herzog - was part of the German New Wave and pronounced that 'papa's cinema is dead'. All the musicians featured in this film were professional musicians. Many of their projects are grand and do not often come to fruition. The main character, Herman, builds his own state of the art electronic studio.

The film also features radical politics. Seminars are often seized by students, who refuse to conform to their 'paternalism'. The German left was more militant than the rest of Europe, as they were reacting against the Nazi heritage of their parents. Reitz looking back is not too sympathetic to these movements, who appear indulgent.

Like the first season, the film alternates between colour and black and white. Scenes shot in day time are in b/w whereas night time is shot in colour. The latter scenes were shot in the most state-of-the-art film equipment. Despite being a chronicle of the avant-garde, it is classically shot.

This film for me captures the excitement of trying new things in art, rapid social changes and the excitement of starting university.

7. Crumb - Terry Zwigoff (USA, 1994)



This film really captures the life of a single individual. Zwigoff knew Crumb very well, so he really opens up here.

Crumb was a cartoonist and produced his most influential during the 1960s. However, his satire is less interesting and he is more interesting when he draws his private life. He rarely censors himself and graphically chronicles sexual fantasies and hang-ups. The brilliant thing about the film is that it follows the same prerogative - it is an equally honest attempt at revealing the private life of an individual. Several of his fetishes are featured here in some detail.

Crumb came from a broken home. His father was overbearing, authoritarian and beat up his three son on a regular basis. Zwigoff features Robert's brothers Charles and Maxon, who are even stranger. They are both very maladjusted - Charles lives at home with his mother whilst Maxon begs in the streets - and the film is as much a documentary about the entire Crumb family as it is about Robert.

There is plenty to dislike about Crumb, as his comics objectify women and also feature racism. Several talking heads are featured who discuss his work and they take divergent views. Some feminist critics disparage his misogyny and claim that it is irresponsible to release deviant sexual fantasises into the public domain. His defenders claim that he is projecting uncomfortable attitudes that exist and that he is dealing with urges and impulses that we often try to suppress.

This is a very moving film about a broken family, mental illness and art as therapy.

6. It's a Wonderful Life - Frank Capra (USA, 1946)



This is quite possibly the most famous film on this list - indeed, many people watch this on Christmas day. Capra often took the side of the underdog and the little man and how he overcomes adversity. In this film, George Bailey is frequently hounded by a banker called Potter. After the banker steals his money, Bailey wishes that he had never been born and his guardian angel appears to console him.

The supernatural element usually holds people attention the most, but I really like the politics of the film. Bailey's family company 'Building and Loan' mirrors the kind of social institutions that existed at the time. They help people buy mortgages and protect people from destitution. Potter tries with all his might to close the company down and he is often satirised. Bailey symbolises the citizen who wants to protect the community whereas Potter symbolises the predatory entrepreneur. Indeed, after the Great Depression bankers were forbidden from mixing with insurance companies. As such, many people have called this a piece of propaganda for the New Deal. They would not have been able to make this film in the McCarthyite 1950s.

Capra's hero is loyal to his community. At a time of booming opportunities - social mobility hit a record high in the USA at this point - George chooses to stay at Building and Loan and to marry his wife. It is a true utopia, as the institution is miraculously saved by contributions from the entire community.

This film makes you believe in shared human values, such as generosity and fairness. And, yes, it always makes me cry.

5. A Matter of Life and Death - Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (UK, 1946)



A Matter of Life and Death is about a pilot who crashes his plane. As he does so, he speaks to an American woman over a wireless. He mysteriously avoids death, as there is a glitch in heaven! There is a trial in heaven to determine whether or not he should he return to heaven or remain in Earth. Several famous people from heaven are shunted in to defend him in his trial. He later marries the woman woman.

The films captures the politics of the time. UK had just voted for a Labour government and voted Churchill out. The film captures the community spirit of the day and the need to create a better society. At the same, it makes it apparent that Britain is the birth place of liberalism. In a trial scene in heaven, Britain faces the USA and asserts that it truly is the place that grands individuals the most rights.

It is also a film that makes interesting comments about the afterlife and it mentions both Plato and Aristotle. It is suggested that the afterlife is a repository of ideas rather than souls. Indeed, several thinkers harbour and they debate their ideas. Christian ideas about the immaterial soul are rarely mentioned.

Heaven is shot in monochrome black and white whereas earth is shot in bright technicolour. The set pieces in heaven are grand whilst the scenes in earth often employ spectacular optical illusions that even look impressive today.

This film captures the optimism of the time, both its theme and content are ingeniously creative and it has some playful ideas about the afterlife. A true gem from the golden era of British cinema.

4. A Man Escaped - Robert Bresson (France, 1956)



Bresson wanted to distance himself from theatre. To do this, he hired non-professional actors. He described them as 'models' and sought to reduce as much drama from their performances. His shots often focus on particular objects via close-ups and he often shoots door knobs via slanted angles. As such, this process as being described as 'ascetic.'

Despite this, there is a lot of dramatic propulsion in the film. There is a voice-over that describes the character's interior monologues. The non-dramatic expressions and the camera angles often invoke interior feelings. As such, Bresson has been described as a literary filmmaker.

The film follows a political prisoner in WWII France. He often overcomes several improbable obstacles. As such, there is a sense of the supernatural about it, as escape is very improbable. Despite the lack of drama, it does make for very cathartic viewing, especially its use of Mozart's Requiem. A truly captivating and overpowering film.

3. Andrei Rublev - Andrei Tarkovsky (Russia, 1966)



Although Tarkovsky was not an especially political person, his film came to be seen as a political statement. His eponymous character is an artist and, as such, this is a form of creative expression that the Soviets sought to control and suppress. He is also an individual who sought to express himself - once more, the Soviets sought to create a homogeneous society. Finally, the film has a strong religious message and the Soviet Union was an atheistic society that sought to proscribe all forms of religion. As such, they edited the film when it was released and the full version was only restored very recently.

The film is set in medieval Russia. It has some scenes which are shot in an astonishing way - scenes of Mongol invasions, of pagan rituals and the construction of a bell. It also has a historical breadth to it that recalls War and Peace. However, that novel sought to recreate an entire nation and the spirit of the Napoleonic wars whereas this film recreates the lifetime of an individual.

Bells were very central in medieval Russia. Entire communities were centred around it and they alerted them about plagues or important events. The film ends with the construction of a bell. A young boy constructs it, despite not knowing how to do it. As such, there is a sense of the miraculous about it. Andrei Rublev breaks his vow of silence and vows to continue painting which, once more, has a sense of the miraculous. The film bursts into colour and reveals some of Rublev's paintings. Like Bresson, Tarkovsky was a religious person who used the medium of film to express this. Like A Man Escaped, the film depicts a miraculous event that transcends the laws of nature.

2. Blue Velvet - David Lynch (USA, 1986)



Lynch's film reveals a dark subculture lurking beneath the veneer of a calm suburban neighbourhood. A young man finds a severed ear and starts to do some independent research. Soon he uncovers psychosis and murder.

Previous directors like Hitchcock similarly filmed suspense films where something sinister happened. However, Hitchcock would suggest it via subtle clues. Lynch, however, graphically reveals it in all its monstrosity. We see rape and murder in graphic detail.

Lynch recreates 1950s via billboards and recreates the ambience of American suburbia. You become reacquainted with clichés - the peeping tom, American teen film, crime, etc. - but then subverts them with something bizarre. (Severed ear, bizarre drug inhalation, etc.) This makes it all the more seductive. Lynch also recreates 1950s cinema through typical close-up shots that reveal, say a femme fatal or male gaze, but it often subverts them via bizarre dream logic.

When I start watching this film, I start to think that it's naive and childish, but by the end I am always taken by it. This is my favourite Lynch movie.

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey - Stanley Kubrick (USA, 1968)



This is my favourite film for a number of reasons. It is a film that I can analyse and think about endlessly. You could make the case that it is the most well-made film ever - its attention to detail, scientific accuracy, its expensive set-pieces, its grand shots. I also find it to be emotionally overpowering - my heart races every time.

The film is about how extraterrestrial entities help humans transcend the rest of the animal kingdom. They help them do this by developing technological weapons. Finally, they help them transcend humanity by becoming superhuman and becoming a non-material idea.

The film is about ideas which underlie matter - as such, the film is about Platonic ideals (I wrote an essay about this). Also, the extraterrestrials help them regress to a more advanced state that precedes birth. They also help them to leave their caves and encounter enlightened knowledge.

Then there is the ending, which takes you to another place completely. Also, optimal use of R/J Strauss and Ligeti!

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Charles

Winamop just published another little story of mine called 'Charles.' Part two of a book called Fifteen Characters: Loners and Altruists.

http://winamop.com/sik1800.htm

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Ahoy Facebook #9

.... continued.

This is a fascinating document for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it is filmed in an interesting way. Although it is a huge rock concert, the editing is very interesting and subtle. You can tell that the filmmakers graduated from a Soviet film school. This is statist filmmaking, not made for profit.
Secondly, this concert took place on September 1991, a month after communist hardliners mounted a coup de etat that was quashed by Boris Yeltsin. It took place four months before the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The audience is largely young and westernised - almost one million people reportedly attended this concert. The communist police officers violently hit out at them with bayonets. Helicopters hover around the audience. We can tangibly see the left-overs of 'totalitarianism' here - the need to control all aspects of human thought and emotion.
This took place in 1991, around the time that Francis Fukuyama asserted that 'the end of history' was upon us. Politics are fascinating because several ideologies which vie to win the battle of ideas and to control the way we live. According to Fukuyama, liberal democracy had won the battle of ideas and history had culminated. We see this in this clip, as western values and globalisation had arrived at Russia. Several rock fans wave USA flags, though interestingly some people wave red flags, though this might be ironic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=551_hC414UY


I've been procrastinating for the past few hours - and I've been creating memes. Most of these are obscure/niche/esoteric - apart from the first one, which is very universal.






What happened? :)



Instead of writing political rants and philosophical speculations, I thought that I'd get into the habit of posting music every Friday. I've had people tell me that I have great musical taste, but I've also had people tell me that my taste is either pretentious, unlistenable dreck or old man's music (I take the last comment as a compliment, as surely that means that you are wiser than your years). If you are more likely to fall into the first category of people, then you are more likely to be pleased about this.
This piece of music is by Steve Reich, possibly my favourite exponent of 'minimalism.' This is my favourite piece by him - I love the jagged lines and the way in which the counterpoint works (separate musical voices being played at the same time). I also like how the simple lines gradually progress and resolve.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbC5zhFX7Kw

Ahoy Facebook #8

Latest rants/tidbits/etc.

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Something about my personal life (I had the obvious realisation over the past year that writing about your private life in public is actually a stupid idea): The internet stopped working in the house where I live and I lost my phone. The results have been great and I have realised my idea/future goal: not to have internet where I live. I still use the internet in the library, so I can still send emails/apply to jobs/use Facebook/dick around/watch You Tube and so forth (which is always jolly good fun).
Results: 1) Increased productivity, 2) I can focus on my reading without getting distracted, 3) I can focus on my writing projects without getting distracted, 4) I can focus on job applications without getting distracted and 5) I can think/brood/what-have-you for extended periods without going on the internet.

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In the early twentieth century, being a reformer was the worst possible sin for hardcore/revolutionary leftists. Indeed, hardcore communists/socialists hated the guts of social democrats, even though their intention was to gradually reform capitalism and transition towards pure socialism.
In the late 70s, guys like Tariq Ali wanted to overthrow capitalism completely and 'build socialism' (whatever that means). The social democratic parties had been seen as being too complacent, too subservient to institutions like the IMF, too ad-hoc to capitalism and too negligent of the demands of trade unions.
So it's kind of amusing when people like Tariq Ali now say 'we want a return social democracy.' It's the auto-pilot thing that these people say. It's the new chic radicalism. They still want competition, free trade etc., but they want it to be more regulated and fair. Forty years ago, this kind of thing was anathema to them and the word 'reformist' was pretty much an insult.

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MY TOP TEN FILMS OF ALL TIME
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968, USA)
2. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986, USA)
3. Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966, Russia)
4. A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson, 1956, France)
5. It's a Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1946, UK)
6. It's a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946, USA)
7. Crumb (Terry Zwigoff, 1994, USA)
8. The Second Heimat (Edgar Reitz, 1992, Germany)
9. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 1971, Germany)
10. Crimes and Misdemeanours (Woody Allen, 1989, USA)
I did this same list about six years ago, but I have since made some changes. I'm not too sure about the order I chose, but it will have to do. I have since omitted The Producers by Mel Brooks, The Big Lebowski by the Coen Brothers, The Passion of Joan of Arc by C. T. Dreyer and Taxi Driver by Martin Scorcese. They have been replaced with It's a Matter of Life and Death, It's a Wonderful Life, Crumb and Crimes and Misdemeanours. There's nothing nicer for me than having a novel, film or piece of music that I love with all my heart. : )
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Oh dear, this is saddening, albeit inevitable. I haven't heard The Fall very much over the last three years or so, but I loved their music in my late teens/early 20s. They were my favourite band. : ( I'll listen to Hex Enduction Hour now, I think.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-42193911
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I registered a company for £20. It's called Esoteric Printing Press. : )
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This is so cool. Michael Heseltine started a 'mobile surgery' when he first became an MP in 1966. He would drive a caravan across his constituency and anyone who had a query/local problem could catch his attention and have a chat. It'd be amazing if I just happened to be walking down my street and saw my local MP driving his 'mobile surgery' around.

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MY TOP TEN NOVELS OF ALL TIME
1. The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner (1929, USA)
2. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1866, Russia)
3. Nausea - Jean-Paul Sartre (1938, France)
4. Pedro Páramo - Juan Rulfo (1955, Mexico)
5. The Trial - Franz Kafka (1925, Czech Republic)
6. Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy (1985, USA)
7. A Brief Life - Juan Carlos Onetti (1950, Uruguay)
8. The Obscene Bird of Night - José Donoso (1968, Chile)
9. Light in August - William Faulkner (1932, USA)
10. The Unlimited Dream Company - J. G. Ballard (1979, UK)
I did this list about 7/8 years ago, but I have made some changes. It isn't all that different, mainly because I primarily read non-fiction these days. I couldn't wait for my course in 'Comparative Literature' to end for three years because I was dying to read other things (mainly philosophy, politics and history). I then had the light bulb idea to do a masters degree for two years, which meant that I had to wade through desiccated and jargony texts. I still love novels/literature, though.
This list reveals my preference for continental, Latin American, 20th century, Southern Gothic, existentialist (yeek!), surreal/magic realist and modernist (and 'post-modernist' - yeek!) literature. I love the stories of Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar and Edgar Allan Poe, but they are not eligible. Cortázar also wrote novels, but I don't like them because I generally can't stand novels about bohemians who drink black coffee, smoke cigarettes and talk shite. I also really like 'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster, but that's a collection of novellas.
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I wrote this...

https://trouge.com/review-happy-end-rich-gripping-film/
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Two films that I would make if 1) I had the money, 2) knew anything about film production and 3) knew the right people.
1) I would make a documentary about chess grandmaster Magnus Carlsen. The purpose of this film would be two-fold. Firstly, I would follow Carlsen all the time and I would conduct extensive Herzogian interviews. I would try to be psychologically probing. I would try to figure out how he is capable of storing so much knowledge, how it affects his day-to-day life, how he feels about losing, what he thinks about when he introspects and how his thought processes work. Long and extensive interviews would comprise large sections of the film.
Secondly, I would like to film a lot of his chess matches. Chess has been used as a metaphor in cinema before - i.e. in Bergman's The Seventh Seal - but I would like to see convincing cinematic recreations of chess games. I don't think this has been done before, but I do actually think that chess could be cinematic. It is a mental game in which its participants try to out-fox each other. I think that it could be done effectively and without any music - choose effective close-ups of pivotal moves and revealing close-ups of facial expressions.
2) I would like to adapt Plato's 'Meno.' I would simply use Plato's text as the screenplay. Ancient Greece has not been recreated in cinema as much as Rome, but I do think that it could be dramatised. I would simply choose the most appropriate camera angles to bring Socrates and his acolytes to life. I would also like to recreate the Athenian milieu in an effective way - recreate the architecture, the costumes etc. Although it is a philosophical dialogue, I still think that there is some dramatic tension in this text. They try to define virtue and get nowhere, but I'd love it if cinema could recreate the way in which Socrates coaxes answers out of people.
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THIRTEEN REASONS WHY I WOULD BE A TERRIBLE POLITICIAN
1) I would be up in the moon all the time, so I wouldn’t be aware of things. My advisors and fellow politicians would be furious with me because I wouldn’t be up do date with vital things.
2) I would speak in an abstruse, impenetrable way that no-one would understand.
3) I wouldn’t be able to engage with normal people/voters.
4) I have high stress levels. The constant scrutiny/media pressure would LITERALLY drive me insane.
5) I have zero common sense. My decision making skills would be extremely poor.
6) My awkward/weird personality/body posture would mean that I would be satirised/ridiculed ALL THE TIME.
7) I am way too individualistic to go into politics. I can’t compromise and I am a terrible team player. Preparing group presentations at university was excruciating for me – I always had to do them on my own. I hate having to prepare ideas with other people – I always prefer formulating ideas + working on them on my own terms.
8) My low emotional intelligence would mean that I would be a terrible diplomat and I would unknowingly hurt other people’s feelings/do faux pas.
9) The tabloids would probably speculate that I am gay because I’m single.
10) I would get bored at local surgeries – having to hear about other people’s problems and having to feign interest.
11) I’m terrible at administrative detail – I get bored having to focus on this kind of thing, so I invariably make errors.
12) If I started giving speech at the house of commons, the other MPs would get impatient because I’d be so long-winded. ‘Get to the point!’ they’d shout.
13) I would be terrible at peddling bullshit/spin. I would die inside + I am far too straight-talking anyway.
There you have it, I’ll never go into politics!
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I would like to conduct the following experiment.
I would like to send ten libertarians to Somalia and ten communists to North Korea. Before sending them to their respective trips, I would like them to answer the following question 'In a 1000 words, how do you define communist or libertarian principles and why do you believe in them?'
After a month, I would ask the libertarians the following question: 'Do you still think that you can run a society without a state and without anyone paying any taxes after your experiences in Somalia? Please answer the question in a 1000 words.'
After a month, I would ask the communists 'Do you still think that you can run an efficient economy without any private property and through seizing the means of production? Do you still think that this will never result in totalitarianism, authoritarianism and gulags? Answer this question in a 1000 words.'
I think that nine out of the ten libertarians would say - 'this is actually a very authoritarian, Muslim country that doesn't have anything to do with libertarianism at all. There are no independent-minded individuals and there is no entrepreneurism. These questions are stupid!'
I think that nine out of ten communists would say something obscure and vague like 'This isn't real communism. We live in pre-historic times and we can only reach real communism when capitalism no longer exists. Human nature can be changed when capital is abolished completely.'
I still think that one of those ten libertarians and one of those ten communists would see the error of their ways. They would learn to think in more lateral ways and to stop poisoning their brains with ideological bullshit.
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If you thought that bawdy and irreverent songs were only a recent pop phenomenon - well, you can find examples from the medieval era!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPDCsi1mbhE
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It is a truism that knowledge gets more and more specialised. The thing is, though, is that that does not suit me especially well. I don't really like the idea of specialising in a tiny aspect of knowledge when what I would like to do would be to make connections between ideas from several disciplines.
This is really why I would like to have lived in Ancient Greece. Obviously, I would like to have been a privileged member of the aristocracy, not a pleb or a slave. The thing is, though is that thinkers like Plato and Aristotle would write one big broad book about the nature of reality, one big broad book about art, one big broad book about political philosophy, one big broad book about religion, etc.
Knowledge in the medieval ages was also a lot more general. The problem with that, though, is that it would have been tantamount to been a scholar in the Soviet Union. There were strict dictates on what you could and couldn't say. If you didn't lionise God, you would probably be burnt at the stake.
Knowledge in Greece was also more liberal, which could be attributed to its polytheism. With Christian monotheism, if you offend God, you are therefore a heretic. With pagan polytheism, if you offend one God, then it doesn't really matter because there are several gods that you could potentially also offend.
Also, certain attitudes were challenged on occasion. Although slavery was prevalent and women were not citizens, there were stoic and cynic thinkers who challenged such assumptions.
But if I were to write really big broad books on such subjects, I'd probably be dismissed as a quack scholar. Which is a shame.
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Worthwhile interview with Mario Vargas Llosa about the virtues of liberalism, though there are bits that I don't like very much. Thatcher might have liberalised the economy, but she destroyed British manufacturing and actively presided over 12% unemployment. One of the good things about liberalism is that it values tolerance, social harmony and peace, but the 1980s were very divided, antagonistic and unequal times and, hence, quite illiberal. The Labour Party in the 1970s wasn't entirely economically 'nationalist' - it was mostly the left-wing that was nationalist - and members of the Labour right were willing to embrace globalisation without subjecting the country to mass unemployment and without wilfully destroying British manufacturing.
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https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/02/27/inenglish/1519736544_699462.html?id_externo_rsoc=TW_CC

I like my grandparents' generation very much. They fought in a world war and defeated fascism. They secured our freedoms. They built the welfare state, ensuring greater protection for workers. They achieved full employment, the NHS and built thousands of homes for the post-war generation. They also legalised homosexuality, abortion, the pill and abolished capital punishment.
However, I do not like their children, the 'baby boomers.' They threw a petulant tantrum by growing their hair long, smoking pot, dancing in the mud, waving idiotic/illiterate placards and platitudinously speaking about 'revolution.' They disapproved of their elders, even though their statist reforms had created the unprecedented wealth, comfort and security that they grew up in.
Although they spoke about 'revolution,' they actually wanted to be free. Liberty is wonderful, but liberty to what end? Surely, in my view, liberty is a good thing if you use it to achieve something tangible. Writing a symphony, a novel, reading widely, writing a history book, working on a cure to cancer etc. are worthwhile use of your liberty. However, I don't think that leading a decadent lifestyle whereby you get drunk and smoke weed all the time is a worthwhile use of liberty. There is a quote from a Frank Zappa song that seems to encapsulate this for me: 'Free is when you don't have to pay for nothing or do nothing - we want to be free.'
And this generation, despite throwing a tantrum at their elders and despite speaking idly about 'revolution,' turned into yuppies. What is their legacy? They deregulated the financial sector, left behind creaking public services, low wages, voted for Brexit and little to no housing. And a re-emergence of populism.
This is why I can't stand it when baby boomers complain about millennials. They should really take a look in the mirror.
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I don't understand people like Lenin and Steve Bannon (who are very similar). If you ostensibly care about the oppressed and the marginalised, why would you seek to destroy a system and make life equally miserable for everyone (including those marginalised people)?
The USSR led to mass economic ruin, poverty and famines. Their rationing prioritised members of the communist party. If you didn't work, you wouldn't receive anything and you would die. They clamped down on all free expression, free press and free thought. The social democratic Mensheviks wanted to help the poor and disenfranchised without doing any of these things.
Bannon and Trump want to impose high tariffs and a trade war. They want to enforce tax cuts on the rich, which would jeopardise the working-class base that have been left behind by globalisation and which Trump ostensibly claims to defend.
The ideals of Kant/the Enlightenment seem perfectly sensible to me: a federation of free states, universal, liberal and republican. This eventually materialised in a country like Switzerland and later the EU, which produced the longest period of peace in European history.
After WWII, European countries also made a concerted effort 1) not to return to the rampant unemployment/poor housing of the 20s/30s, which led to fascism and 2) not to return to war. They addressed this by creating welfare states, making cuts to defence and creating institutions like the UN and the IMF. There was some redistribution of wealth and collaboration between unions, government and business.
The 1990s were a great decade because public discourse was freer, tolerant and more liberal. Third world countries were coming out of poverty. Dictatorships ended in Latin America and Africa and the USSR came to an end. Indeed, I was born in Chile the year that the Pinochet dictatorship ended. There were horrible conflicts/genocides in Kosovo and Rwanda, and there was lot of inequality of outcomes, but on the whole that decade was a lot more optimistic, tolerant and liberal. Growing up in that decade, it was very easy to take all of that for granted.
The 00s were a grim decade, with the neo-cons enforcing their imperialism on everyone. Their world-view became scarily mainstream, as several mainstream parties/publications thought that invading sovereign nation states and exporting/imposing western values to middle eastern countries was a good idea.
The 10s are also a very grim decade. The 'far left' and 'far right' have become illiberal, intolerant and they are attached to something confusing called 'identity politics.' Even moderate left-of-centre figures and liberals have been barred from speaking on campuses because they happened to say something mildly inflammatory. (I find this weird, as I've always found contrarian/controversial speakers exciting.) Also, there's been the rise of divisive figures like Donald Trump and Brexit.
So, basically, the point of this meandering and repetitive post is that I don't understand why we wilfully choose to create illiberal climates. I don't understand people like Lenin and Bannon. They seek to 'crush' the status quo, which ends up making the quality of life worse for the people that they claim to represent.

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I write a column on Facebook every Friday. Instead of writing a political rant or some meandering philosophical speculation, I thought that I'd post some music. This is the score for the film Barton Fink, which is quite likely my favourite film by the Coen Brothers. Although I like people like Bernard Hermann a lot, I'm not too keen on film music, but I really like this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJoOpWPce_0
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This week I had an interesting and vivid dream. I dreamed that I rushed to the top of a tall building to rescue all of my belongings, because the building was about to be bulldozed. I was running towards my imaginary apartment until I reached the top. I saw the bulldozer which was destroying several buildings surrounding the one that I was in and I was petrified. It moved closer to my building and the wrecking ball broke the glass in front of me and it was carrying Jesse Pinkman, the drug addict/dealer from Breaking Bad. (This is probably because I’ve been binge-watching episodes of Breaking Bad which, along with The Simpsons, is probably the best TV program that I’ve ever seen.) I told him that they shouldn’t bulldoze the buildings yet because I was retrieving all of my belongings from my apartment. Pinkman agreed to tell the bulldozer driver to stop for the time being.
DREAM INTERPRETATION: It’s important to conserve the things you love, not to destroy them. I’m not a conservative politically, but I’m quite conservative by temperament. There’s a quote that I love from the Powell/Pressburger film A Matter of Life and Death where the character played by David Niven says: ‘Politics: Labour by experience, conservative by nature.’ Politically, I’d say that I like to reconcile ideals of social justice/fairness with democratic principles, individual liberties and a market economy. Also, all individuals should have equal rights and equal opportunities, but they are otherwise free to choose what to do with their lives. But I also do think that wanting a revolution just to destroy everything is kind of childish and asinine. Also, a cursory glance at history will tell you that most revolutions go tits up.
But I’m quite conservative by temperament. I like to stick to the same routine every day and I hate it when it is disturbed, which is why I don’t like travelling very much. I think that people who dress in ostentatious ways, sport long bushy beards, pierce their faces, use trendy glasses, expose their hairy chests and tattoo their entire bodies look like ridiculous ponces. I’ve never felt the slightest desire to do drugs, which strikes me like a colossal waste of time. I also don’t like girls who dye their hair, wear socks on their heads and tattoo their arms. I hate clubs because the music is loud and obnoxious and people behave like idiots.
Another message that this dream might be communicating to me is that I simply love owning things. Hence, any society that doesn’t grant its citizens some property rights is immoral. I’ve always preferred things to people, even though the artefacts that I love have been created by other humans. Indeed, when I was a small kid I would rather stay indoors and read comics/magazines instead of playing with kids outside. I’ve collected the following artefacts since the age of 4/5 (in chronological order): superhero comics, superhero toys, football balls, football shirts, football magazines, Chilean comics, rock CDs, music magazines, classical/jazz/experimental music CDs, literary novels, DVDs, political magazines, film magazines, classical/jazz records and history/politics/philosophy/art criticism/non-fiction books.
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This is my 'to-read pile.' I will get around to reading all of these eventually, but it will take some time. I always try to to read my - largely arbitrary - reading lists in order, but I sometimes can't help but dive into something else. This might seem like it's ostentatious in the extreme, but then I always enjoy looking at other people's books, so you might enjoy this, too. I just plan on reading two or three Shakespeare plays, not the complete works.
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When you eagerly go on You Tube to search for videos of Robert Carr (British Conservative politician from the 50s-70s), you get no results and you are bitterly disappointed, then this might be a sign that your life is rather sad. : )
This is a fascinating document for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it is filmed in an interesting way. Although it is a huge rock concert, the editing is very interesting and subtle. You can tell that the filmmakers graduated from a Soviet film school. This is statist filmmaking, not made for profit.
Secondly, this concert took place on September 1991, a month after communist hardliners mounted a coup de etat that was quashed by Boris Yeltsin. It took place four months before the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The audience is largely young and westernised - almost one million people reportedly attended this concert. The communist police officers violently hit out at them with bayonets. Helicopters hover around the audience. We can tangibly see the left-overs of 'totalitarianism' here - the need to control all aspects of human thought and emotion.
This took place in 1991, around the time that Francis Fukuyama asserted that 'the end of history' was upon us. Politics are fascinating because several ideologies which vie to win the battle of ideas and to control the way we live. According to Fukuyama, liberal democracy had won the battle of ideas and history had culminated. We see this in this clip, as western values and globalisation had arrived at Russia. Several rock fans wave USA flags, though interestingly some people wave red flags, though this might be ironic.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=551_hC414UY













I've been procrastinating for the past few hours - and I've been creating memes. Most of these are obscure/niche/esoteric - apart from the first one, which is very universal.

What happened? :)
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Instead of writing political rants and philosophical speculations, I thought that I'd get into the habit of posting music every Friday. I've had people tell me that I have great musical taste, but I've also had people tell me that my taste is either pretentious, unlistenable dreck or old man's music (I take the last comment as a compliment, as surely that means that you are wiser than your years). If you are more likely to fall into the first category of people, then you are more likely to be pleased about this.
This piece of music is by Steve Reich, possibly my favourite exponent of 'minimalism.' This is my favourite piece by him - I love the jagged lines and the way in which the counterpoint works (separate musical voices being played at the same time). I also like how the simple lines gradually progress and resolve.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbC5zhFX7Kw