Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Edinburgh International Film Festival 18 - 29 June

This year I went to see seven films in the festival.

19 June Greyhawk

A lovely film, starting off rather bleak and seemingly getting bleaker as it progressed, but with an ending which while not uplifting was at least moderately happy. The film concerns a ex-soldier blinded in Afghanistan, whose guide dog Quince is stolen by a group of teenagers on the Greyhawk estate. The film follows his efforts to track down his dog.

In the Q&A session after the film, the director Guy Pitt and principal actor Alec Newman explained that they wanted the blind character to be pretty unsympathetic. Too often blind people are portrayed as people to be pitied, and they wanted to move beyond that by deliberately making him hard to pity. His relationship with a woman on the estate who helps him shows just how prickly and downright unpleasant he can be, and why not? He's a wounded ex-serviceman, and they're not necessarily going to be full of loving kindness. Plus, someone has stolen his guide dog FFS.

I can't see this film getting a general release, but I'm glad I saw it.

20 June Cold In July

This one, on the other hand, is already on general release, and if there is any justice deserves to be a huge hit. based on the novel by Joe R Lansdale, it has a plot full of twists and turns, where the film keeps going off in new directions you didn't expect. It starts out with a picture-framer (Michael C Hall) shooting a burglar dead. The dead man's father (Sam Shepard), just out of prison, starts stalking the framer's family. If I started to describe the many ways in which that basic plot is subverted, I would spoil the film for you: and you really should go and see it. The plot twists get a whole new shot in the arm when private eye Jim Bob Luke (Don Johnson) shows up. Johnson was at the post-screening Q&A, and it appears that he will be playing Jim Bob Luke in other Lansdale adaptations for television fairly soon. Something to look forward to, at least if they show them in Britain.

The film was brilliant from start to finish, with a terrific cast and a great script (off which the cast happily improvised some great moments). Don't miss it. I certainly intend to see it again, though as we're shortly off to Spain that may need to wait for the DVD release.

23 June My Accomplice

This was the kind of quirky film that the British do really well. Hilary said it reminded her of Gregory's Girl, and it certainly shares some characteristics with the Bill Forsyth masterpiece. A central relationship which doesn't go to plan, a great sense of place (it's set in Brighton)(and Wivelsfield, if it exists....). Oh, and there is a bloke dressed as a seagull who turns up every now and then, rather like GG's penguin. As IMDB puts it, the film has "a small cast of everyday eccentrics that usually don't make it into films: Bulgarians, adults with learning disabilities, very tall women and elective mutes". We liked it a lot.

24 June A Practical Guide To A Spectacular Suicide

This one was fun, and very Scottish. It follows Tom (Graeme McGeagh)a teenager who has tried many times to commit suicide and has been sent for compulsory psychotherapy after a drowning attempt. We see a lot of his sessions with his therapist Dr Watson (Patrick O'Brien), which are hilarious. We also see his developing relationship with a fellow-patient Eve, played by the gorgeous Annabel Logan. We never find out what Eve's mental problem is, but Annabel told us at the Q&A (which was attended by all the main actors as well as various directors, writers, producers....) that she had decided for herself what Eve's back story would be. She didn't tell us though. Someone at the Q&A compared the film with Harold and Maude, which seems reasonable (a similar kind of black humour dealing with suicide). Amazingly, NOBODY in the whole bunch of principals who were present had ever seen Harold and Maude. (What do they teach them in these schools?.....)

28 June A Dangerous Game

This one was directed by an Englishman (Anthony Baxter), though much of its subject matter concerns Scotland. It forms a sequel to You've Been Trumped, which looked at the golf course which billionaire Donald Trump built over a protected wildlife site in Aberdeenshire. He was allowed to do this because the local MSP just happens to be Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond, who arranged for Trump's vanity project to gain exemption from planning controls. (I am not alone on thinking that once we have our independence, there will be a reckoning to be had with Mr Salmond over this business.) We follow the continuing story of Trump's Balmedie development, but we also see other golf courses for the super-rich which threaten natural or human heritage, in particular one planned for Dubrovnik (a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and we follow the progress of the protests against them.

A couple of small things. Michael Forbes, the leader of the Balmedie campaign, was voted Glenfiddich Scot of the Year 2012 (beating Olympic champions Chris Hoy and Andy Murray as well as Billy Connolly). In response, all Trump's hotels boycotted Glenfiddich! And did you know that golf courses around the world consume water sufficient for the needs of 80% of the planet's population?

Special praise due to Karine Polwart for her contributions to the film and its soundtrack.


Anthony Baxter has got distribution lined up for the film, but needs money to produce all the digital film packs needed to get it into cinemas. He is raising this via crowdfunding.

Oh, and Trump has abandoned his plan to build a second course at Balmedie. Yay!

29 June Atlas

No IMDB or Wikipedia entry for this one, which was billed as a documentary celebrating the lives of prostitutes as tragic heroines of a universe with its own laws, neither moralising nor glamorising them.

This was the only film I really hated in the festival. In fact I left about halfway through, and I NEVER walk out of films. Nor was I the first to do so this time. The film was uniformly dark - I mean literally dark, being shot at night with little of no additional lighting. The endless shots of women injecting heroin or smoking crack began to get annoying early on, especially with the pretentious voice-overs in various (subtitled) languages. The five-minute shot of a woman masturbating in a bored way didn't hold my interest. But it was the footage of a newly-slaughtered goat being out into a bowl that decided me that I'd had enough. I've seen a goat being slaughtered like that in Yemen, and it doesn't especially disturb me, but it's not what I had in mind when I booked to see a documentary of the sex industry.

Here are two reviews of the film, which seems only to have surfaced for the Edinburgh festival. The first is a gushing and pretentious analysis, by someone I suspect is connected with the festival. The second is by a reviewer who saw a preview, and whose opinion matches mine pretty much exactly.

29 June We'll Never Have Paris

And so we arrive at the final film of the festival, a romantic comedy written and directed by Simon Helberg of the Big Bang Theory, who also stars in it. He described the film as partly autobiographical: the opening credits say "Based on a true story....unfortunately." Basically the film is about the attempts of Quinn (played by Helberg) to propose marriage to the girl he has loved since primary school, and the various things that get in the way.

For quite a bit of the film I kept finding myself thinking that it was like a feature-length episode of Seinfeld, or perhaps even more one of Friends. Quinn comes over as incredibly whiny and self-obsessed (imagine a far, far worse version of Ross in ), and I kept wanting to punch him: probably not Helberg's intention. Even by the end I found him very hard to like, though there were plenty of laughs along the way, and some brilliant scenes. I didn't like it as much as the first five films I saw in the festival, but coming a few hours after the dire Atlas it was as welcome as Some Like It Hot. Good fun really, and I dare say it will turn up in mainstream cinemas later on.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bonni Benstock Intall caught out again using a faked picture to promote her agenda of racial hatred

Bonni Benstock-Intall the Holocaust denier who wants to see the Nazis back running Germany and supports European fascists who joke about "bringing back the ovens" posts about "Goddamned Jews and Christians". She shows how much she hates American journalists if they wear different clothes from her (just like the guys in Afghanistan or Israel who stone women for being improperly dressed). (I'd never realised the First Amendment protected the right of the police to harass journalists for doing their job: thanks, Bonni, for putting me right.)

So far, so everyday for Bonni. But it gets much better. She posts a photoshopped picture of a New York school which she pretends is a picture of one of the Birmingham schools named in the fake "Trojan Horse" affair. The story she illustrates with it is of a teacher at the school reporting the father of one of her students to the police for making anti-white racist remarks. Funny, you'd think Bonni and her sheep would approve of such behaviour, but it doesn't fit with her agenda of promoting racial hatred by any means necessary, so the story is given the headline "Ethnic Cleansing in Britain?"

Back to that picture. Google Image search is a wonderful thing, and I encourage my students to use it. Here's the thing. Here is the picture as published by Bonni on her hate site Bare Naked Islam.



Notice to the left of the blackboard a picture of Anjem Choudary, a British Muslim loudmouth ignored by everyone except right-wing extremists (especially in the USA). Notice also on the board the slogan Islam4UK 2020. In case you missed them, one of Bonni's sheep helpfully draws her readers' attention to them

"Nice picture of Anjem Choudary on the wall left of the chalk board. The picture is of him is from 2012 in front of the Courts in London. On the chalk board is the reference to Islam4UK, which was prescribed a terrorist group in 2010, two years prior. Is there any question about what they are teaching those children, likely in a public school? Frightening."

OK, back at Google Image search: if you feed in Bonni's picture, the first hit that comes up is this: a piece by Robert Nickelberg from 2011 about a Muslim school in Brooklyn, New York. Take a look at the second picture in his set of nine.



Apart from not containing the photoshopped-in Islam4UK slogan (in a different handwriting and done with a different width of chalk from everything else on the board) and picture of Choudary, it's the same picture. Oh, and if anyone wants to suggest that in some miraculous way a picture of a Birmingham school has been photoshopped and inserted into an article from three years ago about New York, look at the right-hand side blackboard and answer me this. What would students in a supposedly insular and anti-Western school in Birmingham be totting up for Brooklyn/Bronx/Manhattan/Queens/Staten Island?

The comments under that lying post are full of calls for Muslims to be killed, for all Britain's Muslim children to be "got rid of", and a delightful (and hilariously inaccurate) diatribe from "Dubi" about the evils of cousin marriage, which apparently accounts for why our schools are bad. Let's not worry about the fact that the vast majority of cultures on Earth, regardless of religion, practise cousin marriage. Let's ignore the fact that it's legal throughout Europe, and in 37 US states. Leave aside the fact that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were first cousins. Forget that Albert Einstein married his first cousin. Pakistanis do it, and they're racially inferior, so this must be why.

Boom bang-a-bang

Well, my temporary teaching contract is up for another year so I'm formally between jibs until I get my next one (which i am assured will happen, though for various tedious reasons I won't know until mid-August how many hours I'll be teaching, or what subjects. I'm still finishing stuff off (and getting paid to do so): mainly resulting all the students, but tomorrow I have some compulsory compliance training to finish off, while today was a Staff Development Day. It wasn't bad: we had a lousy keynote speaker telling us about innovation and creativity, and with my superpower of "breaks IT systems" I took down my personal timetable for the day big time. On the plus side, this meant that as well as most of the sessions I had planned to attend (including a good one on teaching autistic students) I did a workshop on samba drumming which I hadn't originally planned for. And those of us who wanted to reconvened at the end of the day and did our drumming in public (outside where the College was putting on a barbecue). We had some ladies from a Latin dance class dancing along to us, which was great fun.

We all had to visit the exhibitions which had been set up in the Sports Hall, and one of these was one on making science interesting, or some such phrase. The guy om the stand was setting off small ethanol/air explosions in plastic bottles, every now and then venturing outside to touch off a mighty hydrogen/air one that rattled the windows. Now my first degree was in chemistry, and I reckon I took two things away from it as lessons for life. (1) No washing-up task is impossible (2) Fire risks need to be taken seriously, and fires need to be dealt with. So I was a little shocked (OK, I was a hell of a lot shocked) that the guy doing the explosion demos didn't have a fire extinguisher immediately to hand. What brought it to my attention was when I saw his assistant beating out flames by hand when he set the tablecloth alight. Now there was no general risk to the public: the sports hall had extinguishers immediately outside the doors, and evacuation would gave been very easy. Little consolation to the demonstrating guy if he'd set himself alight though: and not the best signal to send to an audience you're trying to enthuse with the joys of combustion. If I were doing that kind of demo I would have a CO2 extinguisher within grabbing range, would use it mercilessly if anything caught light, and would (in a normal class) make sure the students knew how to work it (in case of burning lecturer, point horn at screams and pull trigger).

Thinking back to my student days, and to my aborted career as a chemistry teacher, reminded me of another thing. A few months ago I was watching Jim al-Khalili on television recreating some famous chemical experiments, including Davy's isolation of sodium by electrolysing molten salt. A famous procedure, often done in schools. Now my own teachers never tried it, but it was one of the ones on my agenda when I was in teacher training, so I gave it a go. It didn't work, which I spun to the kids as showing what a difficult thing it was and how brilliant an experimenter Davy was. (Both pieces of spin being wholly true.) The guy who was mentoring me, a Mr Donaldson (I forget his first name), told me afterwards (having let me screw up presumably because it amused him) that "to get it to work you have to stick some potassium chloride in with the salt". At the time I just thought "Thanks for the heads-up there", but the more I thought about it the crosser I got. Here was a guy basically faking an experiment so he could show off to the kids. Never mind the idea that "not everything works first time, every time", just shove any old rubbish in and pretend you've done something you haven't. I think my disillusion with the teaching profession, or at least with school science teaching, began right there.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Dumb as a sackful of hammers

Further to my post about Mr Lawrence Robert Estavan, aka livingengine, aka the admin of the Facebook hate page Loonwatch Is A Propaganda Hate Site, I found a nice little Muslim-hating comment he'd posted under his real name under a piece on Islamic science on the Illume magazine site. Here's the exchange:



























It's sweet that he imagines a look at his FB page shows me having my head handed to me, when as I pointed out in my earlier post (and to Lawrence in my reply) the one-sided conversation that remains just makes him look like someone talking to voices in his head. Take a look: the link is the same one I posted at the start of this piece. Seeing as how I was actually on his page when he was deleting my comments and could watch them going one by one, I have my doubts about their deletion being accidental, but maybe it was: my comments on earlier pieces from months ago have vanished too (Google "Rob" but not "Robnoxious" - that's somebody else - on his Facebook page and you can see traces of the comments in the search results, but they've all vanished to leave just the nutter shouting.)

Anyway, bless him, the lad managed to find me here (possibly by Googling his name or that of his hate site) and posted pretty much the same comment:

He got his head handed to him. check it out. https://www.facebook.com/LoonwatchIsAPropagandaHateSite

As well as showing that he doesn't realise you can do proper hyperlinks in blog comments, the comment is funny for two reasons. Firstly, it's anonymous, which rather makes my point about his cowardice. And secondly, it's under the wrong post: he put it under the one about the fundraiser for the GSA. I can't decide whether this is another example of his moving things around to make it harder for folk to see him lying about what he has written, or whether he's just careless. Of course, if he'd put it in the right place he could have spared himself the effort, as the link he doesn't quite manage to post is already in my article to show how funny his page now looks.

Of course, the funniest thing of all is his delusion that I "got my head handed to me" in a series of exchanges where I answered every point he made and he answered none of mine other than by changing the subject. I wish I had screen shots of them. Ah well.

Loons are FUNNY!

Compared with these cowards, Oreo guy really IS a hero

Parents Against Gun Violence have a great graphic which is going around:



























My first thought when I saw that was that the first picture should have been one of Rachel Corrie, perhaps this one:

















And the second picture should have been labelled "COWARDICE means being afraid to drive around in an armoured vehicle without a teenaged boy as a human shield", and should have shown this:

Friday, June 06, 2014

This neo-Nazi supporter is even funnier than Bonni and lacks her intellectual rigour

I've just had the amusing experience of becoming involved in a number of "discussions" with a total fruitcake on Facebook. And when I say "total fruitcake", this chap makes Bonni the Nazi look like a model of reasonable debate. We were discussing various things: Pamela Geller's crazed McCarthyite list of organisations she thinks should be banned, his support for a neo-Nazi march in Sweden, and his strange contention that the Indian Rebellion of 1857 was an example of Muslims throwing a "homicidal conniption fit". (This despite the fact that the rebellion was led by a Hindu and most of those rebelling were Hindus.)

Now with Bonni one can have an argument. She may be a nasty piece of work but she fights her corner (or let her sheep fight it for her) by responding to the points raised. She may respond with lies, or insults, but she gives some kind of response. Eventually, if a commenter breaks an unwritten rule like saying something positive about President Obama, they get banned, but she isn't generally evasive. The anonymous coward who is responsible for Loonwatch Is a Propaganda Hate Site first of all responds with bluster, then denies what he's just posted, demands proof of the most easily confirmed facts (such as, Hamas is a legal organisation in Britain), denies and denies again the things he's posted just a few comments earlier, shifts entire discussions to a different comment thread altogether when he seems to be losing the argument in the hope that it will go unnoticed, sneakily deletes some comments he doesn't like (even Bonni only does that if she thinks they're actually illegal) and finally bans me and goes around deleting all my comments retrospectively (though he leaves his responses up, which merely makes it look as though he argues with himself, which would surprise nobody).

Actually I note that he's still posting responses to my now non-existent comments. LOL. As nobody else appears ever to comment on his page, it looks REALLY funny as it's so obvious.

Here's the anonymous coward's profile picture. Says it all really.













He appears to use the name "livingengine" on some other sites such as Youtube, but is equally anonymous and troll-like there too. I finally got a name from Twitter, where he calls himself Lawrence Estavan, claims to be american (which sounds right) and uses this avatar.













He's not the Lawrence Estavan who is the author of several books on American theatre history, nor the author of Roman Law In Plautus (did that amaze you?) He has a Facebook page as Lawrence Robert Estavan, and as soon as you visit you see a massive Stop Islamization Of America banner, so it's no surprise that he has drunk deeply of the Pamela Geller Kool-Aid. (Or as I put in in one of those deleted comments, he bought the Kool-Aid factory and is having it relocated to a settlement in Occupied Palestine.)

So hi, Lawrence. Sorry you're too much of a coward to own up to who you are on your nasty little hate site. Never mind, though: you're hilarious with or without a name.

Post quam tamen velut Phoenix, e cineribus splendidior resurrexit

Further to my post of the fire at the Glasgow School of Art, it seems as though the firefighters worked a fairly major miracle and managed to save not only 90% of the structure but 70% of the contents. Unsurprisingly, they have been honoured by Scotland's design community.

There is both the will and the promise of money to restore the building to its former glory, whatever it takes. And tonight there is a big fundraiser in Glasgow, especially to support the students, many of whom lost all their degree work and portfolios in the fire. (To put that in perspective, that's all the evidence that you did anything during your degree except drink and sleep.)

Friday, May 23, 2014

A sad day

I'm not sure to what extent this story has made the international news, except perhaps in architectural circles, but there has been a major fire today at the Glasgow School of Art. Nobody seems to have hurt, but it sounds as though there will have been major damage to one of Glasgow's, and sctland;s, and indeed Europe's, iconic buildings.

The Glasgow School of Art was one of the great masterpieces of the famous Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Its exterior was instantly recognisable:


































but it was the interior decoration and the detailing which provided the real wow factor:





























Well, today - the last day before students' portfolios were due to be submitted, so a day when the place was full of final year students' original artworks - a projector exploded in the basement and set fire to expansion foam being used to create an installation. And before anyone could do much about it other than evacuate the building, we had this:



And this.

It seems that the fire service reckon they may have saved much of the content of the building as well as the structure, but clearly there will be extensive smoke damage, and all those fixture and fittings will have been vulnerable. Plus of course the students' degree show will now have been totally buggered.

All in all, a very sad day for Glasgow, for Scotland, and for art.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Professor of Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University explains why Judaism owes its survival to Islam

In the Jewish Chronicle.

Not a truth the faux-Jewish "Zionists" like Pamela Geller and Bonni Benstock-Intall the Holocaust denier are willing to deal with, but then that's reality for you.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Remember the dead: Fight like hell for the living



Today is the tenth anniversary of one of Scotland's worst ever industrial accidents. As I posted three years ago, the evisceration of the Health & Safety Executive begun by Tony Blair (always pandering to corporate chums who might slip him a few quid, never giving a shit about mere working plebs) was one of the causes of the disaster. Do I think that today he will have spared a single thought for the nine workers who might perhaps have lived if he'd been less keen on fuelling his bank balance and more interested in doing his job? I don't know: what do you think?

The old post of mine reminds me that this year I failed to mark Workers' Memorial Day on this blog back on 28th April. (That's another day on which Blair will have given no thought to workers, of course.)

Here is an article which was linked on the STUC site this year, and which I found quite distressing. Read it, and then remember why we need to keep on pushing for safer working conditions for all our workers.