Listening – at Christmas and always

December 22nd, 2014 by Roger Darlington

“A few years after I left my secondary school in Manchester, I was invited to help out with the school’s Christmas Fair and I decided to have a go at being Father Christmas. I had recently grown my first full beard and thought that I would enter into the role by rubbing flour into my growth. Though I say it myself, I looked rather splendid and certainly I attracted lots of custom.

I was enjoying myself enormously, bringing a sense of magic to so many young children, but I was mystified by one young boy who paid for a second visit and then astonishingly for a third. The presents on offer were really pretty pitiful, so I asked him why he was coming to see me so often. He answered simply: “I just love talking to you”.

It was then that I realised that, in many households, parents do not encourage their children to talk and really listen to them. This was a lesson that I have taken with me throughout my life. So, at home, at work, socially, always encourage family, friends, colleagues to talk about themselves and their feelings – and really listen.”

This is the first of what is now a collection of 66 motivational stories which I have put together here.

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A review of “Night At The Museum 3″

December 20th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

If you have children to amuse this Christmas or you are still a child at heart (like me), you should go to see what is officially named “Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb” [my review here] – thoroughly entertaining.

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The 50 Paddington statues in London

December 20th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

To coincide with the release of the “Paddington” film [my review here], there are currently 50 Paddington bear statues scattered around central London. I’ve loved spotting some of them as I travel between meetings in the capital.

You can see photos of all of them here.

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Farewell to “The Newsroom” by Aaron Sorkin

December 19th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

I’ve just watched a recording of the sixth and final episode of the third and final series of the American televison show “The Newsroom” which in Britain was aired by the Sky Atlantic channel. I have seen all 25 episodes and really enjoyed the show. The final episode neatly pulled together many of the story strands and left us feeling good.

This political drama series was created and principally written by Aaron Sorkin who is noted for his clever (and rapid-fire) dialogue. I have seen and admired almost all his previous work including “The West Wing” (the best ever TV series) and “Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip” and the films “A Few Good Men”, “The American President”, “Charlie Wilson’s War”, “The Social Network” (especially good), and “Moneyball”.

For “The Newsroom”. you can access the official web site here and the Wikipedia page here. So, is it all over? Sorkin says so, but fans of “The Newsroom” have speculated about five spin-off series.

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A short guide to the American political system

December 19th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

I have now completed a series of five lectures at London’s City Lit for a course on “American Political Institutions” delivered very ably by Malcom Malcolmson.

This has enabled me to make major revisions and additions to the page on my web site entitled “A Short Guide To The American Political System” which is one of the most visited sections of my site.

You can check it out here.

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U.S. presidential election (1): the first candidate declares

December 19th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

Former Florida governor Republican Jeb Bush has become the first person to declare that he will seek his party’s candidature in the US Presidential election in November 2016.

His rivals for the nomination will include:

  • Chris Christie – current governor of New Jersey
  • Rand Paul – a senator from Kentucky
  • Ted Cruz – a senator from Texas
  • Mitt Romney – former presidential candidate

Over in the Democratic Party, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is widely expected to seek and obtain her party’s nomination. However, other possible runners include:

  • Elizabeth Warren – a senator from Massachusetts
  • Bernie Sanders – a senator from Vermont

If the presidential contest came down to a Bush versus a Clinton, this would represent a long-term occupancy of the White House by just two families as I discussed here.

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A review of the new movie “St Vincent”

December 18th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

Sometimes I have little choice over the film I see. This happens when I have a few hours between meetings in town and I have to find a movie that is on at a nearby cinema in the current time slot and that I haven’t already seen.

This is how I came to view Bill Murray in “St Vincent”. He is good but the story is rather lame. You can read my review here.

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Cuba comes in from the cold – at last

December 18th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

As a friend of and visitor to both the United States and Cuba, I am really pleased that, after 54 years, we have the news of a planned normalisation of relations between the two countries.

When I had a holiday in Cuba almost seven years ago [my account of the trip here], Fidel Castro had just stepped down from power and I was hoping for major reforms in Cuba and much improved relations with the US. It has taken a long time – but now we are making real progress.

I prepared for our trip to Cuba by reading the Fidel Castro biography “My Life” [my review here] and, during the holiday, I read the Martin Cruz Smith novel “Havana Bay” [my review here].

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What now for Russia? Three possible scenarios to resolve the current crisis. None of them is attractive, some are dangerous.

December 17th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

Commenting on the sharp rise in interest rates in Russia, Anastasia Nesvetailova, Professor of International Political Economy at City University London, says:

“In the middle of last night, the Russian Central Bank made a desperate attempt to shore up support for the rouble, a move that is unlikely to save the currency or the economy beyond the very short term.

When a crisis of this nature erupts, countries tend to seek external help. Putin’s Russia has very few friends.

Against this bleak background, there are three possible scenarios to resolve the current crisis. None of them is attractive, some are dangerous.

Scenario One: Russia is saved by China and becomes a satellite of China. This merger starts a global realignment of powers and geopolitics.

Scenario Two: Putin is ejected from power by domestic clan wars or popular uprising; Russia returns to the Western fold.

Scenario Three: The Kremlin attempts to resolve the economic crisis by entering into another war conflict.
The views of critical voices in Russia suggest that scenario two is already under way. Many believe that Putin is isolated and effectively only an arbiter, caught between powerful interest groups. Lately, many of his loyal friends and allies were either removed from power or in some cases, put under house arrest.

Some analysts believe there is a power struggle between a powerful siloviki clan (KGB/Defence Ministry) and the first generation of Putin’s own state oligarchs who now are affected by the sanctions. The financial sanctions on Putin have had the untended effect of strengthening the position of the Russian Defence Ministry and the neo-conservative clan.”

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Ever heard of the manic pixie dream girl?

December 16th, 2014 by Roger Darlington

No, neither had I until i was talking to a young woman who has done film studies.

It’s a standard character type in certain movies – see here.

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