The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Blu Ray)

Stretching a kids book that’s shorter than any one of the three volumes of Lord of the Rings into 3 movies was always going to be a task and a half and there is plenty of padding and undue silliness in The Desolation of Smaug but the very fact the trilogy isn’t hellbent on taking itself too seriously makes everything all right. The best manifestation of this is Bilbo, played ably by Martin Freeman. There is such an understated level of humour in Freeman’s performance, something so obviously absent from Elijah Wood’s Frodo in Lord of the Rings, that anything that’s maybe a little too ridiculous is seen as such with Bilbo’s sense of the ridiculous. Continue reading

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Open letter to the chap in the blue Corsa

Dear Chap,

I’m sorry I can’t address you in a more personal manner, you’ll understand that your request for me to stop my car and get out so you could give me smack made me a little reticent to stop my car and get out, in case you actually did give me a smack.

By smack I assumed you meant a physical assault to partner the verbal assault you gave me as you tailgated me along Old London Road.

I must say I’m always confused by motorists who do stupid things on our roads and then think the best way to atone for their stupidity is to threaten their victim.

Perhaps there was a reason that you behaved how you did- perhaps you watched me drive down Watson’s Walk, clearly indicate well in advance my intention to turn right at the mini roundabout at London Road, and then turn right just as I said I would. Perhaps it confused you that I went around the roundabout (hint: the clue is in the name, it’s a roundabout, you go round it) rather than cutting in front of it.

Either way, I’m confused how you decided, despite my clear intentions, which I followed through on, to cut in front of the roundabout I was happily going around, causing yourself to have to do an emergency stop to avoid driving in to me.

But of course I’m most confused by how you think any of this is my fault. Getting cross with me because you drive like a wanker doesn’t make sense does it?

Grow up, learn some patience, take a good long hard look at yourself and take responsibility for your actions.





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In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, I keep on reading that I should respect other peoples opinions as a matter of course because it’s the polite thing to do. This is mostly coming from Leave voters who seem unprepared for the criticism that they’ve received for the choice that they have made. It’s unfair, they say, you should treat both the result and my opinion with respect.
I completely disagree at a fundamental level with that train of thought. All opinions are not equal because they have not been equally arrived at.
Before I voted I read a lot of material from professional publications, academics, institutions like the London School of Economics, etc etc.
Are you telling me I should treat the opinion of someone like that bloke on the news the other night who voted out because he was fed up with Syrian and Iraqi refugees or that girl who voted leave because she assumed if she ever tried to get a job some immigrant would get it over her as equal to mine?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to put myself on a pedestal and say that my opinion is worth more, or that I’m clever, so I’m right. To a degree, the destination you arrive at is irrelevant, it’s the journey you made to get there.
All opinions are not the same. All opinions are also not worth the same. An opinion formed in ignorance with a lack of thought is a poor opinion. There are people I know who voted opposite to me who’s opinions I value and there are those who voted opposite to me that I do not value, in the same way that there are people who voted to remain that I am ideologically polar opposites with.
Voting comes with a responsibility and many seem to have not taken that responsibility seriously enough.

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Brexit: A new Dark Age?

The Idea of a New Dark Age

There is of course a lot of discussion about whether we had an actual Dark Age when the Roman Empire withdrew from these shores in the 5th century. Currently, it’s considered a bit of bad form to suggest that we went from a period of culture, art, science and engineering under the Romans to some sort of Monty Pythonesque early medieval idiocy of superstition and mud.

Dark age stupidity

While the concept of a Dark Age might not be popular, nobody has really contradicted the Enlightenment- a period marked by it’s more rational and scientific approach to the world that started in the 17th Century. It was seen as an age of reason against an age of religion/superstition.

I have had a nagging doubt for a little while now that we’ve been gently edging towards the exit of an extended period of science and rational development. A lot of my “evidence” has been vague- for example the NRA’s narrative that the way to stop nutjobs shooting everybody is to have more guns not less guns, doesn’t strike me as particularly rational- but I think a lot of what has happened during our referendum has really supported my idea that we’re entering a new Dark Age.

The evidence for a new Dark Age

I’ve seen the Leave campaign described as Warm Ale & Spitfires- focusing on an imaginary nostalgic image of our country that never really existed and certainly can’t exist in today’s world.

It was a campaign that won though, so perhaps it’s focus on rhetoric and “facts” that didn’t bear even the lightest scrutiny are an indication that we’re exiting a rational age. Let’s look at the evidence shall we?

people in this country have had enough of experts

Gove’s declaration on live TV that “people in this country have had enough of experts” was such an odd declaration that even the staunchly Tory Telegraph described it as a “sinister strain of anti-intellectualism“. He was right though, various independent fact checks of both campaigns have shown that the Leave campaign had next to no truth behind (m)any of their assertions, while the Remain campaign was mostly truthful. This appeared to not matter though, and since there haven’t been riots in the street when Farage reneged on the “We send £350m a week to the EU, lets fund our NHS instead” pledge before 7am on the morning after the referendum, I assume that many that voted Leave never actually believed it in the first place.

The mind truly boggles. How is it possible to be so ill-informed that you not only think that leaving the EU will somehow reduce refugees from Syria, but also to be so certain of your view, you’re willing to express it on national television?

And of course he’s not the only one. We’ve got people saying their sick of immigrants taking their jobs when they’ve not actually tried to even get a job:

And you also have frankly absurd pencil conspiracy which saw Brexiters worried about an MI5 plot to rub out their votes if they didn’t place their cross in pen.

In conclusion

I wrote extensively last week about what I called Vox Horibilis– the tendency of people to say terrible things based on a general acceptance of relativism, or the belief that there is no absolute truth so all opinions are equally valid. I’ve seen various think pieces this week about how we are in a post fact society now and what the implications of that are. The problem is really that we no longer seem to value learning. The very people who don’t value knowledge or learning are those that will suffer the most from their ill informed voting preferences. These individuals want to feel as though their opinion matters, as though they are the equals of those who studied the facts in detail, compared both campaigns and weighed the evidence. And in a funny way their opinion, however flawed and based on misconceptions, misunderstanding or ignorance, has proven to be more important- they won the referendum.

How long will it be before we have another “It wasn’t supposed to be like this” sobbing statement on Question Time, only for us to realise we can’t change this in 5 years time, this time we’re stuck with it.

At work someone who voted out said the result was the EU’s fault for not telling us who ran the EU. It took less than 5 seconds to Google “EU commissioners”, so I’m sorry, you voted out, you must take responsibility for what happens next.

Don’t blame the EU, don’t blame the lies told by the Leave Campaign . A decision of this magnitude required respect from everyone that voted and if individuals were too lazy or ignorant to properly research the situation, that is nobodies fault but theirs and they must not only live with the outcome, they must take responsibility for bringing it about.

Of course they won’t take responsibility as the age of reason is over, someone else will be to blame and that apportionment won’t even make sense.

Welcome to the new Dark Age.

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My worst Brexit fears

Not that I’m one to panic or anything but I’m getting increasingly worried a Brexit will play out like this…

It happened quickly. Quicker than the most pessimistic had estimated. Polling had closed at 10pm on the 23rd June and the results were in by 7am the following morning. Of course early indications from the exit polls had already primed the financial markets and when they opened the pound lost two thirds of it’s value against the euro and over half it’s value against the dollar. Suddenly everything we didn’t grow, make or build ourselves became incredibly expensive.

Billions were wiped off company shares, immediately rendering the retirement hopes of a generation redundant. The repatriation of money overseas continued unabated for longer than many thought it would, causing the Bank of England to raise interest rates an unprecedented 6 times in the first month in an attempt to stimulate inward investment.

Almost overnight the only homes in the country that weren’t owned by the banks were owned by the elderly who had precipitated the disaster because they didn’t want some foreigner coming over from Europe. The government had to legislate a “right to remain” on repossessed houses to stop societal collapse. Shortly afterwards, the banks almost collapsed themselves due to liquidity issues, forcing the Bank of England to step in to provide huge amounts of quantitative easing that made the amounts made available during the recession look like small change.

Two leadership contests rocked the Conservative Party in the first three weeks. Dave was ousted in favour of Boris, who himself fell almost as rapidly as the pound. Paymaster General Hancock came to power as a compromise candidate who, although pro stay, was considered weak enough to not matter.

The next two years were tumultuous. Public sector spending was slashed by £40bn, as much as the austerity cuts to date had been, as the progress to towards the end game continued. Unemployment rose by three quarters of a million people as multi nationals moved their headquarters to the continent and local government, bereft of anything else to cut, made almost all their staff redundant. The numbers were added to by the hundreds of thousands of ex-pats forceably repatriated by Spain and France. The majority were retired, and had lost their homes for little or no compensation- the Spanish and French government had compulsorily purchased their homes using their existing stockpile of sterling currency, at a discounted rate. Their pensions were almost worthless thanks to the stock market crash and many turned fugitive rather than be removed by force. Deportation camps were set up along the French coast to house the transient Brits.

Scotland demanded a second independence referendum as almost 60% of Scots had voted to stay. Some darkly joked that London should declare itself a city state and remain in Europe. Some few even began investigating the possibility of making this happen. Scotland, besieged by Brits clamouring to move, closed it borders with England.

Tens of thousands of qualified professionals applied to work in Canada, America and Australia, and the exodus of skilled individuals began in earnest, draining even more money from the governments taxation income.

Foodbanks, overwhelmed by a continuous stream of people for dwindling supplies, were often the scenes of violence and occasionally riots. The Food Riots of 2019 lead to a state of emergency being declared. Supermarkets were allowed to employ armed guards after an increasingly violent number of robberies.

By 2020, the dead were routinely being collected by the army and incinerated without a funeral. Packs of dogs roamed the streets as many family pets were turned out. Electricity was only available two or three times a week and almost everyone had turned over their gardens to growing vegetables.

No change was in sight…

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