A review of the film “You Were Never Really Here”

April 5th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

Scottish writer and director Lynne Ramsay has created a really dark look at American society in this grim tale of the search for a missing teenage girl who is being held as a sex slave.

Out to retrieve her is Joe, a Gulf War veteran suffering post-traumatic stress, whose weapon of choice is a hammer (it is a violent movie but one rarely sees the violence overtly). Joaquin Phoenix is mesmerising as the laconic loner on a mission in a film with minimal dialogue but lots of atmosphere. 

The title of the protagonist and his vigilante role reminded me of a film called “Joe”, released as long ago as 1970, but the nightmarish vision of this 2017 work is in a category of its own.

Posted in Cultural issues | Comments (2)

So two more Government Ministers resign – making how many under May’s premiership?

April 4th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

It has been really hard to keep up with Ministerial resignations since Theresa May became Prime Minister. There were two more yesterday in protest at her decision to talk to Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn to see if they can agree a way out of the Brexit fiasco.

If you thought that, under May’s ‘leadership’, there have been more resignations from government than is usual, you would be right. Even under her short tenure, there have been more than 30, from the Foreign Secretary (Boris Johnson) down.

At the end of this page on the BBC website, there is a fascinating graph showing the number of resignations at each stage of the premiership of the last six occupants of 10 Downing Street. And I’m sure that, in the case of Theresa May, the resignations are not yet over and will soon culminate in her own departure.

Posted in British current affairs | Comments (0)

Two thoughts about Brexit

April 3rd, 2019 by Roger Darlington

I know that I should be blogging more regularly about the horror story that is Brexit, but: a) it’s hard to say anything that hasn’t already been said and b) as soon as you think you’ve caught up with developments, something else happens.

As I follow the twists and turns of the debate and I reflect on all that is happening, I am reminded of two of my favourite quotes.

The first is something I learned when I spent four years working in two governments departments as a Political Adviser in the early 1970s: “It isn’t over till it’s over … and then it isn’t over”.

I keep thinking that May’s deal is dead and then there is talk of another vote. I keep thinking that a no-deal Brexit has been ruled out and then it’s back on the agenda. I keep thinking that we’re going to leave the EU and then we ask for another extension.

The truth is that, whatever happens, this Brexit issue is going to run and run for weeks, months, years, decades.

The second quote that I recall is one that is portably apocryphal but I like it. When the then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai was asked his views on the French Revolution, he was reported to have responded that “It’s too soon to say”.

As we seek to make judgements on whether decisions around Brexit were right or wrong and when some kind of leave or remain option is actually implemented, for many years – indeed decades – afterwards, we will be assessing whether a particular setback or success was or was not the result of Brexit.

There will never be a final and definitive judgement.

So, even if you’re fed up with the whole Brexit debate, you’re going to have to stick with it – for life. Sorry …

Posted in British current affairs | Comments (0)

Who is going to be the Democratic candidate in 2020?

April 1st, 2019 by Roger Darlington

It is far to early to predict this. After all, the first primary is not until January – nine months or so away. And, so far, many of the declared candidates have spent a lot of time apologising for comments made or policies supported in their past.

For the moment, though, former Vice President Joe Biden – who has not actually declared yet – holds a double-digit lead over the rest of the 2020 Democratic field in a new poll which was released last week.

In the Quinnipiac University poll, Biden heads the pack with the support of 29% of registered Democrats and voters who lean to the left, while Senator Bernie Sanders holds a second-place ranking with the backing of 19% of those surveyed.

Former member of the House of Representatives Beto O’Rouke, who announced his bid for the presidency this month, sits in third place in the poll with 12% (although so far his policies are very ill-defined) , while Senator Kamala Harris  is in fourth place with the support of 8% of respondents.

Meanwhile, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg – unknown outside the USA –  has surged in the polls since the announcement of his exploratory committee and was tied for fifth place with Senator Elizabeth Warren, each earning the support of 4% of voters.

So why is it that currently the three B’s, [Joe] Biden, Bernie [Sanders] and Beto [O’Rourke] are doing so well? It could just be better name recognition in a crowded field of some two dozen possible candidates in advance of any primaries or hustings. Watch this space …

Posted in American current affairs | Comments (0)

How fast is your broadband?

March 29th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

This week, I chaired a meeting of the Consumer forum for Communications at the headquarters of the communications regulator Ofcom. One of the presentations was from Ofcom staff on the subject of superfast broadband (SFBB).

Superfast broadband is defined as a service offering a download speed of at least 30 megabits per second (Mbit/s). We were advised that such a service is now available to 94% of UK premises, but only 47% of premises with access to SFBB have actually signed up to the service.

If you look more closely at that 94% coverage figure, we see that (astonishly) 19% have no broadband connection at all, 16% have a connection up to 10 Mbits/s, 20% have a connection between 10 and 30 Mbit/s, and 45% have a connection above 30 Mbit/s.

So, where are you in this picture? Up until last weekend, my broadband connection was around 24 Mbit/s but, since Tuesday, it has been 100 Mbit/s. I moved home and switched from TalkTalk to Virgin Media. So, now I really am in the fast lane of the infornation superhighway (as it used to be called).

Ofcom is keen to encourage broadband users to consider increasing the speed that they have and has been running a Boost Your Broadband campaign which provides a lot of useful information.

Posted in Internet | Comments (0)

I’m on the move …

March 24th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

Tomorrow I shall be moving home. This will be my first move in 35 years and will involve massive downsizing, so I have been decluttering substantially over many weeks. Currently I am surrounded by dozens of boxes trying to work out what will go where in the new place.

The move will involve a change in the supplier of my electricity, fixed line, broadband, and television. Oh, and my e-mail address will change as well. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, it might create some (hopefully brief) difficulties with my communications – in which case, you will know why and please bear with me.

Posted in My life & thoughts | Comments (2)

86 year old Michael Heseltine’s speech at the People’s Rally against Brexit and for a second referendum

March 24th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

Posted in British current affairs | Comments (0)

A review of the new film “Everybody Knows”

March 22nd, 2019 by Roger Darlington

This Spanish-language film is a French-Spanish-Italian co-production written and directed by the Iranian Asghar Farhadi (who has twice won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film). It has a wondeful cast, headed by Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, a couple in real life who here play former lovers.

Although the setting and casting are new for Farhadi, in this suspense drama involving the kidnapping of a young girl, he deploys his trademark style and uses this incident as a device to expose all sorts of tensions in the family and the community. As the narrative twists keep coming, some of the plotting may be contrived, but the film is never less than compelling watching.

Posted in Cultural issues | Comments (0)

The challenge of combatting child abuse images online

March 21st, 2019 by Roger Darlington

For six years [see my reported here], I was the first independent Chair of the Internet Watch Foundation which acts to remove child abuse images which appear on the Internet. So I was more than usually interested to hear a short presentation by the current IWF Chair Andrew Puddephatt at this week’s Westminster eForum on online regulation.

In spite of two decades of excellent work by the IWF, there is no reduction in the volume of child abuse images available on the Net. In its last report, IWF actually recorded an increase. In 2017, it processed 132,636 reports (a 26% increase on 2016).

Puddephatt estimated that in the UK around 100,000 men regularly access such abhorrent images. He emphasised that we were talking about men: very few woman view such material and most of the problems of harmful and offensive content and behaviour online originate with men.

He posed the question: what is causing such human bad behaviour? He insisted that, so long as there is demand for such images, there will be supply and argued that we have to talk about disbanding demand as well as supply,

Posted in Internet | Comments (0)

How to be happy – today and always

March 20th, 2019 by Roger Darlington

Today it is the the annual celebration of International Happiness Day. So, how can we be happy (or at least happier). I offer two resources: one professional, the other personal.

On my web site, I’ve reviewed several excellent books on happiness. One is “The How Of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky and at the core of this book are 12 specific happiness-enhancing activities. You can check out her advice in my review of the book here.

Some time ago, I attempted myself to pull together a set of suggestions – some more light-hearted than others – on “How To Be Happy” and this is a popular page on my web site. You can read my ideas here.

Have a happy day and a happy life.

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