JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

There has been much debate and discussion this week over the implementation of the minimum pricing of alcohol by the Scottish Government in a bid to curb the very serious and growing abuse of alcohol in Scotland.
Certainly I recognise that Scotland has a very serious problem with alcohol and that it is inbred within our culture but targeting the lower end of the class spectrum is only one part of the problem. While the raising pf prices on cheap alcohol is a step forward in combating said problem I am curious as to who will benefit from this the most; the public or the retailers?
Alcohol is a very big problem in Scotland and as already mentioned it is almost inbred. Several factors contribute to this and amongst them are the lack of other activities at affordable prices-something I feel the government should also look into- which combined with exceptionally long, dark and miserable winters only fuel the problem.
The unpredictability of the so-called summer months doesn’t help either and the occasion of a rare sunny day usually results in celebration by having a drink outside. Alcohol seems to be part of every social occasion and has been for as long as I can remember.
This is why I don’t understand why the problem only tackles the lower classes with less money at their disposal to buy alcohol. Let’s be clear, I think that trying to tackle the alcohol issue is a necessary thing and possibly long overdue but it will not affect those who can afford it nor the middle classes and in my view there is as much of a problem there with alcohol as there is out in the more deprived areas.
They just hide it better because they can afford to. Also they are unlikely to purchase anything of such inferior branding as it would reveal them as déclassé therefore this does not solve their problem.
In the last two weeks alone I have been in the company of educated, literate and successful people and on three separate occasions I have witnessed at least one person in my own company become aggressive, argumentative and unreasonable as they became more strident in their behaviour and each and every time it has been fuelled by alcohol and their inability to control either their intake or objectionable stances.
Often the next day they have no recollection of their behaviour- or else they just shrug it off with a ‘Well I was drunk’ statement as if that excuses everything- and it is all forgotten about until the next time. And there will be a next time because the one sure thing about alcohol is that people repeat themselves; again and again and again and again…and every time a little bit louder than the time before.
I cannot think of one solitary person I prefer when they are drunk and I include myself in this1
Therefore whilst I see that minimum pricing of alcohol will be some help in the future-which is a crucial part of this initiative- it doesn’t tackle the current one and it certainly doesn’t cover the whole spectrum. It is a start however and a necessary one but I would be happier if someone other than retailers were to benefit.
On the subject of retailers I surely cannot be the only one who has noticed a very sharp, substantial and almost underhand increase in supermarket prices in the last six months. It began when I noticed an increase of ten or twenty pence on everyday-not luxury- items and then the last time I was buying butter I realised the same block I paid 79 pence for six months ago was now £1.40. That is one hell of an increase on an everyday item with no explanation and certainly no warning and it is not an isolated case; everything has gone up substantially. This is before Brexit has even happened and I am wondering whether those who voted Leave actually realised the consequences to their weakly budget when they made their choice. Again it is those on the lower end of the spectrum who will be most affected and again those who are financially comfortable or well off are able to absorb the extra costs.
It is hard to understand how low paid families are expected to cope with such huge price hikes especially considering their income hasn’t increased to accommodate it.
Hopefully this shambolic Government will implode before Brexit actually happens and judging by the infighting and backstabbing that feels like it could happen very soon. Wishful thinking I know.
At least Peaky Blinders is back though and the opening episode on Wednesday night was a master class on how to make a comeback. The conclusion left me completely dumbfounded and I hope that Michael Gray was merely wounded in the hail of bullets as along with Tommy Shelby and his Mother Polly he is the most compelling and promising character as to where the story can actually go. Then again as it is a show which likes to take risks then it is maybe wise to fear the worst. I only have to wait until next Wednesday to find out!

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JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

Sex, sex, sex and more sex seems to be everywhere at the moment.
Or more correctly sexual harassment is.
Hot on the tails of the Harvey Weinstein furore in Hollywood, which I predicted was only the tip of the iceberg, comes news that Westminster- that supposed bastion of upstanding morality and totally non-corrupt individuals or so they would have us believe- is riddled with sexual harassment also; not that this comes as any surprise to anyone with more than a time-share on a brain cell.
To simply add fire to already troubled waters Kevin Spacey has used accusations of predatory behaviour on a minor to eventually come out as gay-again no surprise- to deflect from his despicable behaviour thus forever equating paedophilia and homosexuality as inseparable in the minds of misinformed and ignorant bigots who have never had much trouble in lumping the two together. Believe me that is a lot more people than I can ever be comfortable with especially as being gay is a totally separate thing from paedophilia and one in no way relates to the other; the former is a natural state of being whilst the latter is a perverted deviance that has proven statistics of being more prevalent in heterosexuals but is disgusting in any form as it is a form of manipulation of trust and ultimately abuse.
Whatever Spacey thought he was doing in trying to deflect from his misdemeanours he was seriously misguided and has opened up a can of worms that will be hard to put a lid on no matter how powerful he is in Hollywood. It was an infuriating statement that has probably done more harm to the gay community and set their cause back a good twenty or thirty years; especially in an America which is already in the grip of the most bigoted and hateful backlash for decades.
He did however apologise for his behaviour but that was immediately superseded by claims of drunkenness and not being able to remember the event due to his intoxication, as if that in some way excuses him and strips him of any responsibility
Netflix were quick to cancel his series House of Cards- based on a corrupt and power-hungry President- but that was inevitable but in my opinion it should have been cancelled the minute Trump was elected as there was no way the fiction of drama could match the fiction of reality; a fictionally corrupt President is no match for a real life bigoted, sexually predatory and racist one.
Trump this week however has limited himself to trying to step up his already ‘extreme’ vetting immigration programme following the tragic terror attack in New York which saw eight people killed.
The fact that this attack was committed by a non-white person has escalated his fury in a way the Las Vegas attack-which left 58 dead and 546 injured- didn’t. Supposedly because the Las Vegas attack wasn’t viewed as terrorism as it was committed by a white man, a ‘loner’ as the press referred to him. Also interesting to note that despite the gravity of the Vegas attack there was not one new policy implemented, no gun law restriction introduced, in fact there were no changes whatsoever made to prevent such an atrocity ever happening again.
Closer to home and back to the Westminster which is in disarray and a state of panic-yet again- over sexual harassment claims which I suspect is an issue that is going to run and run. Certainly Michael Fallon resigning as Minister of Defence for allegedly inappropriate behaviour towards a younger woman feels yet again like the mere tip of a very large iceberg. The fact there are rumours that his replacement Gavin Williamson has simply appointed himself to his new role indicates-yet again-that Theresa May has lost control of the situation and is totally unfit for office herself. Then again it was losing a whole load of files naming the Westminster paedophile ring which helped get her elected in the first place so I wouldn’t bet that she will allow a triviality like mere sexual abuse to dislodge her now that she has got this far.
We really have no right to sneer at the state of American politics when British politics are in such a shocking state.
I can’t imagine that anyone is surprised at the sexual harassment claims that are coming to light and the ‘Me Too’ campaign which took flight on social media a few weeks back shows how ingrained this problem is in all walks of our society. I know many will claim that it is not just women that are affected by this but I do feel that they have suffered it longer and far more extensively than men ever have or ever will.
As an example the male actor who accused Kevin Spacey was taken very seriously and immediate action was taken in suspending Spacey’s network show. I wonder how seriously the allegations would be taken and how swiftly they would be acted upon if it had been a female making the accusations against a powerful Hollywood figure and how much her own reputation would be questioned and possibly tarnished in the aftermath.
Certainly until women are taken seriously and afforded equal respect this kind of sexual harassment and inequality is always going to exist and this makes me very sad. Very sad indeed!

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Call Me By Your Name

This stunningly tender and visually encapsulating coming of age gay love story, directed by Luca Guadagnino, captures perfectly the complexities, the aching intensity and confusion of passion. Set in Northern Italy in 1983-the Psychedelic Furs’ ‘Love My Way’ offers an aural time guideline here- somewhere in Northern Italy, the scene is set when Elio- Timothee Chalamet- an exceptionally precocious and intelligent seventeen year old is moving out of his bedroom to make way for his academic father’s yearly intern who arrives in the shape of the impossibly handsome Oliver- Armie Hammer- with neither realising that the next few weeks will be life changing for both of them.
In fact their initial meeting is low key with Elio casually offering to show Oliver around the town and its neighbouring country vistas. At first there seems little in the way of natural chemistry but gradually we feel Elio’s interest piqued although it is Oliver who makes the first move when he casually starts to massage Elio’s shoulder during a volleyball game. There follows a series of subtle moves and missed opportunities on both sides until one day on a bike ride they both confess-albeit without saying it in explicit terms- their true feelings for each other and things slowly but eventually explosively unravel until they are able to be honest with each other.
The thing that makes this film stand out from others in this genre is that there are no external pressures on their affair. Instead the problems that arise are down to the two protagonists reading and misreading signs with neither one wanting to be the one to make the first move for fear of offending the other.
The film is also visually stunning and many analogies of succulent fruit ripening and waiting to be devoured are constant throughout the film. Likewise the erotica of classical male statues- the study of which is Oliver’s main purpose for being in Italy-, where everything is in exaggerated by sensual curves, offer further visual sign-postings as to where things are all heading .
As for the scenery it captures perfectly hazy, lazy summer days where everything and nothing happens; when Oliver first arrives he asks Elio what people do there and Elio flippantly replies ‘Wait for the summer to end’. A soundtrack of period music alongside the contemporary Surfjam Stevens contributions also work in perfect sync giving the film a sense of looking back at a simpler time most likely through the mature Elio’s eyes today.
The standout performance in the film is Chalamet as Elio. He is a character you constantly feel for and somehow manages to transfer his emotions over to the audience clearly and consistently. In one particularly poignant scene after the lovers have spent their final couple of days together he is at a remote train station after Oliver has departed for America and phoning his mother to collect him you actually feel his heartache as he struggles to hold it all together. Another great scene comes between him and his father-Michael Stuhlbarg- where his father makes a speech which is so profound and deeply full of morality that it applies to anyone whatever their sexual orientation.
Call Me By Your Name is quite simply an emotional, visceral and visually stunning film that captures not only the complexities of love but also the simplicity of an earlier era. The absence of technology allows real human emotions to raise to the surface-no emojis or smiley faces to express emotions needed here, not when eyes, lips and words articulate so much more- and succeeds on every level.

BLOODLIGHT AND BAMI

Bloodlight and Bami

Grace Jones: icon, diva, untouchable goddess, fearsome adversary and real life, live genuine superstar. A bullet-proof façade or so you might think until you see this Sophie Fiennes documentary on the Grace Jones behind the armour; how much behind the armour is still unclear at the film’s conclusion but this is probably just how the irrepressible Ms. Jones wants it.
Essentially it is a film of two halves, one half the diva and public persona whilst the other focuses on her family life back in her original home of Jamaica.
Hence we witness the typical superstar strops as she bawls someone out over the telephone for not meeting her specific demands, ending with her throwing the phone across the luxurious hotel suite; the next minute however we are ensconced in a shanty town in a sunny and breezy Jamaica where she effortlessly slips into the local patois with childhood acquaintances, smoking a spliff emerging altogether as a much softer character, although the charisma remains firmly intact.
Likewise the glamour alternates between body-con Azzedine Aliah mixed with the structured futurism of Issey Miyake in her role as superstar. This contrasts with the more relaxed diaphanous loose dresses, baggy fatigues topped by the Philip Treacy sunhats and caps of her Jamaican self. Both are constructions however, both she wears impeccably and both are very much Grace Jones.
A new side for many viewing this film however is the reveal that her grandfather –Mas.P- was an extremely religious preacher and violent disciplinarian and that Grace and her siblings endured many beatings and punishments as children. Apparently it is the fearful presence that he used to command to instil terror in them that she distils in the icy, detached and cool demeanour of her stalking, skulking, marauding and intimidating stage presence.
The live shots which inter-cut with backstage shots and the Jamaican home life seem to originate from her 2009 Hurricane tour and one backstage conversation returns to her infamous altercation with Russell Harty, which propelled her to household name status, which she initially dismisses with a flippant ‘He’s dead but I didn’t kill him’ before offering her explanation of what actually happened on that 1980 show.
Of course it wouldn’t be a film about Grace Jones if we didn’t actually witness some true diva style tantrums; the aforementioned phone throwing sequence is typical but another sees her refuse to perform on a stage set miming to La Vie En Rose surrounded by female dancers as it makes her look like a Madame in a brothel. Another sees her try to restrain this side in Jamaica when long-time collaborator Robbie Shakespeare- one half of the legendary rhythm section Sly ‘n’ Robbie- fails to turn up for a recording session and she tries to reason then intimidate him into appearing much to the consternation of the engineer who keeps worriedly insisting ‘don’t piss him off’.
Ultimately this portrait attempts to unravel the mysteries behind the enigma and reveal another side to a very public demeanour and it does so successfully. To an extent. One can’t help feeling that despite the other side of Grace that emerges from the film is in deep contrast to the more recognised one it is still very much what she wants us to see and how she should be seen. It is still a fascinating ideology however and having her in control of how she is observed is just quintessential Grace Jones and frankly we really wouldn’t want it any other way!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

Confirming my assertions last week that we are living in a world in seemingly permanent freefall this week has brought light to producer Harvey Weinstein’s decades of abuse towards women.
Whilst it should come as no surprise to anyone that Hollywood moguls in positions of power would violate their positions of power and influence- this scenario is as old as Hollywood itself- but it is the extent of his abuse that is shocking. What is just as shocking is that it has been an ‘open secret’ in the industry for years and no-one has thought to speak out about it until last week when the floodgates opened.
This in itself exposes a darker underbelly to Hollywood life as it is not that industry insiders have only just discovered this vile information and decided to do something about it but that they have known it has existed for years and done absolutely nothing about it whatsoever. It was only the threat and eventual inevitability of it becoming public knowledge that necessitated some action; they haven’t just found out about it but we-the public- have and that is unacceptable and has a whole industry running scared as I doubt Weinstein is the only perpetrator.
Meanwhile Weinstein grew in power and influence gaining more control and support enabling him to wield such a reign of terror; here my thoughts turn to Marilyn Monroe on her marriage to Joe DiMaggio- an influential figure in the sporting world – expressing her relief that she no longer had to provide the obligatory blowjob in order to secure a part. If a star such as Monroe still felt obligated to prostitute herself –her career was up and running at this point- then imagine how intimidated and pressurised a younger and more unknown actress might feel.
Spiralling from the Weinstein fallout is another telling story in that Ben Affleck was quick to hold his hand up and apologise for some of his past predatory actions but denied having any knowledge of Weinstein’s behaviour. Untrue, countered actress Rose McGowan followed by a heated and abusive exchange which found her suspended from Twitter for inappropriate language.
Yes, this is the same Twitter which allowed the President of the United States to use heated and abusive language to virtually declare war on North Korea. Again it is the woman who was silenced and put in her place-for daring to answer back and challenge- whilst the male of the species run rampant doing whatever they please it would seem
Of course with America having a President who advocates sexual assault and abuse on women- and is actually on tape doing so- is seen to get away with such indecency but still manages to get elected then it is time to realise the problem lies much deeper than politics or the entertainment industry. It is a sad indictment, yet again, of the world we live in.
Over here in the (not so) United Kingdom our very own emboldened female Prime Minister- snigger away at the back please- is unfortunately the worst example of a woman who has made her way to the top on her abilities by messing up everything she touches by her sheer incompetence.
The Brexit fiasco- and it is a fiasco-is a total shambles and sixteen months on is no further forward in any shape or form: it seems to be a stop start game of truth or dare without anyone either telling the truth or being daring. May herself is unable to answer the simplest question on any issue; if asked what two and two was she would probably reply that it is a number but there are all manner of things to be considered and there is government department dealing with this and it is strong and stable on and on and etc., ad nauseam….
At least Boris Johnson has had a thankfully quiet week and it was good to see Nicola Sturgeon –now there is a woman who is on the ball and has used intelligence, integrity and insight to achieve what she has and even answers a question when asked- lay into him and actually say that he is a liability in the position of Foreign Minister. Admittedly, his own party should be saying this but it was refreshing to hear what so many of us think at last.
Out and about in the city tonight is another worthwhile Refugee Benefit at the Leith Depot. The last one was excellent and this one features Little Love and the Friendly Vibes, Cat Caldwell and Screamin’ Whisper; doors open at 7.30. I meanwhile will be participating in a David Bowie quiz at the Pond but may stop in after to buy a drink with my winnings

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

This past week has certainly confirmed the fact that the world is in a bit of a mess at the moment and shows no signs of pulling itself together anytime soon.
Things started off badly with disgusting scenes at polling stations in Spain as Catalonians made a bid for independence and met with brutal force from authorities who are generally there to protect people. The scenes were quite horrific to watch and even though the vote was in favour of independence it is regarded as an illegal referendum by the Spanish government. The EU has since upheld this view and the violent altercations that were seen around the world have been dismissed as the authorities using ‘reasonable’ force.
Really?
On what planet exactly does kicking a middle-aged woman down a flight of stairs and dragging her by her hair constitute ‘reasonable force’?
Meanwhile over in Trump Land –every day I hate Donald Trump a little more and every day I wonder how that is even possible but he never fails to deliver- the most ridiculous President in history told the people of Puerto Rico that they should feel blessed at being struck by a natural disaster as its death toll was not as great as one that the US had several years ago. I am not sure when a death count of human lives became a competition but it seems to endear this orange faced buffoon to enough people to keep him in office.
Once again how is this even possible?
Not that over here in the (not so) United Kingdom we have any real right to sneer and snigger as our own political system is also an international joke.
First up we have our own straw-haired buffoon in the unsightly shape of Boris Johnson; the Foreign Secretary who thinks that a war-shattered Libya could become a worthwhile tourist resort in the manner of Dubai as soon as the dead bodies are cleared away. I seriously cannot comprehend how this man holds onto his job and further dismay engulfs me every time I hear a member of his party refer to him as some sort of ‘rock star’ figure.
Again I ask myself, on what planet?
He was however superseded in the idiot stakes as Teresa May took the stage at the Conservative Party Comedy Farce in Manchester this week.
Struggling to talk through a coughing fit- as if her own body was rejecting the bile coming out of her mouth- a member of the audience then handed her a P45. We are supposed to believe somehow that this party is in charge of our national security when they can’t even control the security at their own conference. Then the set behind her began to disassemble itself until it was like the opening credits of a Fawlty Towers episode. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragically frightening.
This will surely go down as the worst Prime Minister’s speech ever and I doubt that even her smug arrogance can save her from the wolves in her party. With Boris waiting in the wings however I fear that things will get a lot worse long before they ever get better.
If you need something to take you away from all this mayhem then I suggest maybe going to see the new Bladerunner 2049 film out today.
Although it is not exactly a barrel of laughs it does have the bonus of having Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Harrison Ford and Ana de Armas to look at. Any fans of the original film will not be disappointed. Set, like the original, in a near future dystopia it is a master-class in film-making; the music and cinematography are simply stunning and the cast is top-notch.
A full review –with no plot spoilers- can be found here.
To make some sense of a crazy week in world affairs I am heading off to a Grace Jones themed club night at the Wee Red Bar in the Art College- the culmination of a two day symposium of the celebrated Ms. Jones- as at least her form of (un) reality and artifice is one I can actually relate to and stomach!
Maybe Grace can save us all. There but for the God of Grace go I!

BLADERUNNER 2049

Bladerunner 2049

The eagerly anticipated- or over-hyped depending on your view of the original- sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic Bladerunner like its predecessor is ambiguous in its intentions; leaving more questions unanswered than answered. This time Denis Villeneuve is at the helm although Scott’s spectral presence is in every nuanced frame and deliberately so as familiarity with the original is essential in understanding the continuing narrative of Bladerunner 2049.
Ryan Gosling’s Officer K aka Joe fills much the same terrain as Harrison Ford’s Deckard in the original; an LAPD sleuth who hunts down replicants and ultimately ‘retires’ them in a dystopian near future. Convincingly played in his usual doe-eyed inscrutable way Gosling is ably supported in his task by Robin Wright, Jared Leto and of course Ford himself who returns as Deckard giving a great performance. Also of note is Ana de Armas as K’s holographic lover who absorbs the persona in line with his current moods and desires; one minute caring and nurturing supporter the next a sultry vamp.
The characters would be nothing without the sets and cinematography though and both are visually stunning throughout. Capturing the essence of the original but not relying on either homage or impersonation; sun-drenched vast deserts, rain-soaked streets and neon skyways all compete for attention and mirror the unfolding drama.
It is the music however which is the film’s true star, swelling, soothing,building and malingering as suits the scene. It is the music which ultimately prevents the film from dragging- at 2 hours 45 minutes it could be termed overly long for some used to more action filled blockbusters.
As for the plot I am not going to reveal anything in the way of spoilers- every sequence of events in this film offers up unnecessary clues- but suffice to say it is as intriguing, complex, perplexing and intuitive as its predecessor.
Ultimately the film as a whole is a triumph. For once the hype was(almost) justified and fans of the original who have sat through various drafts-I am sure there was even a Tea Lady’s Cut at one point- will find their patience has been rewarded.