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Let reason be your anchor…

I firmly believe the average person in the British Muslim community is outraged by the sort of atrocity we saw in Manchester last night, in which at least 22 people died and 60 were injured, in the same way any Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist or atheist person with a shred of human decency would be; because none of these philosophies condone the senseless killing of innocent people.

But I expect the headline-hungry media will use this new attack, targeted at kids enjoying a night out, to stoke the fires of hate and suspicion which seem to be smouldering beneath the surface of the world’s psyche at the moment, encouraging division and distrust in communities who do so much to promote multicultural harmony and tolerance.

I fully accept there are a small minority of radical and violent members within any community and I am not naive enough to think for a minute there aren’t also a minority of supposed genuine Muslims who, while not applauding the actions of whoever was responsible for last night’s terrible crime, may not be as progressive in their beliefs as some.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the ones perpetuating the violence are doing so by citing archaic and outdated tenets of a faith which has in recent times, made significant steps in its efforts to more successfully integrate with Western society.
In the same way as there are far right Christian groups who espouse ideas about ethnic and sexual cleansing, take the word of the Bible unbendingly literally, forbid the teaching of evolution, ban abortion and birth control and are generally anything but inclusive and tolerant.
Nobody with any sense would say these “Christians” are living by the general principals of their alleged religion, they’re just cherry-picking outmoded views and debunked superstitious nonsense for their own twisted motives.

I personally don’t hold with the views of any organised religion which go much further than; “Be nice, it doesn’t cost anything. Don’t be a dick and, if you do, expect to get treated like a dick in return”, but we need to recognise when the ones who are doing the killing and spreading the hate are doing so for misguided motives of their own and do not speak for the vast majority of those they CLAIM to represent.

Stop The Hate, it’s up to us.

 

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Trump (reblogged from Linda G Hill)…

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Anyone who has been following me for a while probably has a pretty fair idea about my opinion of Donald “Fuckface von Clownstick” Trump and although I have no real wish to grant him the oxygen of publicity in any but the most scathing and derisive way, some other bloggers take a more mature approach. (Which we’ll get to in a minute; the photo is one of mine)

As a British citizen, I am fortunate enough to be sufficiently removed from the unhinged wig womble, that his imminent elevation to the most powerful powerful man on Earth (think about that for a moment; The most powerful man ON EARTH) will not immediately or directly impact on my life. But as we all know (after all, you’re probably reading this thousands of miles away from where I sit typing) the modern world is an increasingly small place and, no matter where we live, global events are now just that; Global.
We should all worry that a man who is so obviously driven by self-interest and an amoral thirst for personal power is so close to being the representative of one of the most influential nations on the planet and that makes it all of our responsibilities to call upon those who have the ability to prevent that from happening, to do so for the good of us all.

One heartfelt and straightforward reiteration of this, my not very humble opinion, was just posted by one of the most popular, generous and genuine people that I’ve met since I started blogging on WordPress and I’m pleased to reblog her post here.

Ladies and gentlemen, Linda G Hill…

Linda G. Hill

I feel nauseous just typing the name. But I’ve stayed quiet long enough. I find I have no choice but to speak out. Why, you ask? I realize the chances of changing the mind of anyone who is determined to put him in office is slim to none. But there are people out there whose voices might be heard. My ultimate plea is to those who can make a difference. Also, I feel by not saying anything, my silence in a way condones the possibility that my children and grandchildren will live in a far less free world than I have enjoyed.

I am Canadian. Let’s get that out of the way right now. I have no say in who becomes President of the United States. That is up to the conscience of the society south of my home’s border. But the fact is, the fateful decision to elect this…

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Just Jot It January: Day twelve – The next day…

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Before I start the 12th post of JJIJ, I’d like to thank everyone who commented on yesterday’s David Bowie tribute, it’s good to know just how many of you were touched by his life and work.

Having said that, I just want to follow up that post with some reflections on how Bowie’s death was received in the UK.

Even after having spent the day reading (and writing) the tributes to him all over Facebook and on various blogs, it was still with a sense of unreality that I sat down to watch the news last night, because there was no warning, no way to ease ourselves into the idea that we were about to lose an icon of modem music.

Of course, with hindsight we are all now aware that the signs were there, hidden in plain sight on his latest album, Blackstar, with its themes of death, illness and one last transformation; from corporeal megastar to ephemeral legend in one small step, the ultimate space cadet left the planet for the final time.

When we know that we are soon to lose someone who means so much to us, we prepare ourselves, consciously or not, so that when we attend the funeral, watch a memorial service or read an obituary, we have already reached the point which enables us to put aside our sadness and celebrate the life of the one who is no longer with us.
But when the news comes as a shock, when we are caught unawares by such a loss, the reaction is often one of raw grief and irrational anger, that we have been deprived of the chance to properly say goodbye.

So it is a measure of how much a part of our psyche he’d become that, within hours of the news of his passing, after the posthumous message of Blackstar became clear, fans, journalists and fellow musicians alike were praising Bowie’s ability to surprise us, even at the end.

Indeed, it seems that the only person outside his immediate circle of family and friends who knew of his battle with cancer was Belgian theatre director Ivo van Hove, who was working with Bowie on the Lazarus stage show, for which he provided the soundtrack. Van Hove was apparently told of the singer’s illness when they started work on the project and was asked to keep it confidential.

Despite the sadness of yesterday’s announcement however, the overwhelming tone of the news coverage was one of celebration that we’d all been fortunate enough to share the planet with a man who made music and culture so unpredictable and fascinating.

Celebrity fan, Simon Pegg, summed it up perfectly with this tweet…

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…while Channel 4 News ran this piece, fronted by Paul Mason, (usually their economics editor, but clearly a huge Bowie fan) which caught the mood of the nation nicely…

…and followed it with a live feed from the former David Jones’ birthplace, Brixton in South London, where thousands of fans gathered to leave tributes at the Bowie mural there, and to remember him in the best way possible; by singing the songs that gave pleasure to so many, exactly the way he would have wanted.

Even anchorman Jon Snow, (himself a fan) signing off at the end of a show almost entirely devoted to the singer’s life and legacy, couldn’t hide his feelings, his voice cracking with emotion as he read a message from Bowie’s long-time friend and collaborator, Brian Eno.

So we said goodbye to a man who transcended fashion, musical fads and the very idea of what makes a rock star, making him a hero to millions of fans over five decades, all of whom, I’m sure, will pass on their love of an artist who never stopped evolving and ch-ch-ch-ch-changing.

It seems only right that I should finish this post with the album that brought David Bowie to the attention of yet another generation of new fans, when he returned to recording in 2013 with The Next Day.

It’ll be a long time before a man like him falls to Earth again.

#JusJoJan

Pingback to Linda G Hill.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2016 in Just Jot It January, Music, News, TV, Video

 

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Reblog: The War Within – A World of Pain.

image Intro by dalecooper57.

Sometimes there is no way to articulate how we feel about something until the enormity of what has happened is allowed to sink in sufficiently for us to mentally process it.

I suppose, as a species, this sort of internal emotional analysis is what prevents us from reacting to the red mist that inevitably descends when we hear about the kind of appalling atrocity that was perpetrated on the people of Paris on Friday.

Otherwise “we” would have gone to all-out war with “those Muslims” a long time ago, right?

Because “we” are clearly in agreement (if you believe social media is a fair barometer of public opinion) and “we” just aren’t going to take it anymore.

It’s time that “we” stood up to these **insert racial stereotype here**, coming over here with their foreign ways, deserting their own crappy, war-torn countries, forcing their children to walk hundreds of miles across inhospitable and dangerous territory, just so they can infiltrate the society they made such an effort to travel the aforementioned hundreds of miles to get to in the first place, then commit heinous acts of terrorism in an effort to force their new home to conform to the strict theological regime imposed on them in the country they have spent so much time, money, blood, sweat and tears escaping.

“We” can be bloody stupid sometimes, there’s no doubt about it.

The horror of the Paris attacks was piped into our collective consciousness, via TV news and social media, at such an immediate and constant rate for the last two days, it was only today that I truly managed to take in the full scale of events that unfolded in one of the most open and friendly cities I have visited.

Parisians live their lives on the city streets, its parks and boulevards providing an alternative to the English habit of closing ourselves off in our little patches of garden and this sense of urban community was what the terrorists exploited.
Who would anticipate that a man in black with an AK47 is going to walk up to a busy pavement café and start killing people?

After all, this isn’t Lebanon is it?

However, just to show that terror, inhumanity and murder have no borders or logic, 43 people were killed and hundreds more injured in what appears to be a coordinated attack in Lebanon’s largely-Muslim capital, Beirut, on Friday too.

Strangely, what “we” think of this appears to have gone almost entirely unrecorded on social networks, whilst a growing element of what I’m beginning to think of as “Facebook fundamentalists” seem less interested in grieving the loss of yet more victims of religious intolerance, ignorance and hatred and more focused on how these tragedies can be perverted to their own agendas, including the promotion of bewigged goon, Fuckface von Clownstick and his continued campaign to become king of his own walled-in world of gun-crazy misanthropes.

Meanwhile, the usual small tales of huge heroism and stoic resistance began to emerge from the carnage of Paris.
Here is a clip of Jon Snow’s interview with Parisian doctor, Louise Hefez, telling how she tended to victims of the café shooting that she and her friends miraculously survived.

All we can hope is that there are a lot more people out there who can see past the jingoistic polemic of right-wing hate groups and self-interested politicians than the “we” who apparently represent us on the feeds of our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

One man who can be relied on to hit exactly the right tone at moments like this is Adam Pain, who posted the most beautiful piece this morning and it is with his permission that I am reposting it here.
Please read his post at the link below, it has more heart and thoughtfulness than any coldly factual news report could ever hope to achieve and will hopefully make you hug your loved ones that little bit closer tonight.

http://aworldofpain.co.uk/the-war-within/

#standwithparis

 

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On the turning away…

I doubt this is the first post you’ve read today on this subject and I’m sure it won’t be the last, so maybe that means I shouldn’t even bother.

You might even see what it’s about and scroll on past. After all, I’m sure you all have busy lives and you only have so much time to spend on the internet.

“Compassion fatigue”, I think that’s the phrase somebody once coined to describe the phenomenon.
In a world so filled with tragedy and injustice, we, as a society, merely the more fortunate spectators of other people’s distress, become hardened and inured to their suffering, somehow managing to push them to the back of our minds, just another unpleasant statistic.

But the situation in which Europe finds itself today is not something we can turn our faces away from, the sheer weight of human destitution and degradation that plays out on our television screens daily cannot be ignored or shrugged off as “not our problem”, not when we are all supposed to be part of the same global community.

The refugee crisis that now faces our world is second only to the evacuation of civilians during the holocaust of the second world war, when millions of people were tortured, murdered and persecuted under the Nazi and Soviet regimes.
During that time, public opinion was so strong that a huge mobilisation of aid began, culminating in the formation of the Kindertransport, a series of humanitarian rescue missions which brought up to 10,000 children across war-torn Europe to the safety of the UK.
These innocent victims, many of them Jews who had escaped extermination by Hitler’s death squads, had already suffered terribly at the hands of the advancing forces which had invaded their homelands and the majority of them would never see their families again, their parents murdered in places with names that will forever live in international infamy;  Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka.

The children, most of whom arrived by train at London’s Liverpool Street station, were welcomed by a charitable nation, now itself at war with Germany, were clothed, fed, educated and cared for, staying with volunteer foster families or at hostels which were set up in hotels, farms and schools around Britain.
Not only were these refugees given respite from the suffering they had endured in their native countries, but after the war they were allowed to remain here permanently and were given British citizenship, or relocated to Canada, Israel, America and Australia where they were finally able to make new lives for themselves, albeit as orphans from the most destructive conflict in human history.

Fast forward seventy years and look at how far we’ve come since those days:
We no longer live in the blitz-ravaged and impoverished post-war nation we inhabited back then; despite the minor inconvenience of enforced “austerity” brought about by the worldwide financial meltdown of a few years ago, we are still a prosperous country which benefits from all the material trappings of western civilisation; our lives, for the most part, are comparatively easy and trouble-free, our needs catered for by a welfare state that so many brave men and women died to protect from those who would enslave us.
And yet the spirit of global charity and accepted duty of care that we once showed to others less fortunate than ourselves seems to have declined exponentially in relation to our increase in wealth and prosperity.

At least that would appear to be the case if some of the right-wing press and hate-filled posts on social media are to be believed.

The number of vitriolic newspaper headlines, status updates and rabble-rousing political speeches denouncing displaced migrants and refugees as “lazy spongers”, “scroungers”, “benefit cheats” and, paradoxically, undeserving recipients of “British jobs” grows every day, despite the compelling evidence that a great many of those requesting asylum are fleeing persecution, incarceration, torture or even death in their own countries.

The weasel words of politicians and journalists, who claim the country is “full” and therefore unable to accept a few thousand extra members into our already rich, multi-cultural society, most of whom are simply looking for a safe place to work hard and raise families, make me almost ashamed to be British sometimes.

Many of those children who were rescued by the Kindertransport in Europe’s darkest days not only went on to become valuable and hard working members of society, some actually volunteered for the armed forces and died fighting for the country that had taken them in during their hour of need.
Any of those that survived, looking at their adopted country now, must despair at the neglect and misanthropy shown by some that share the land they swore to defend.

It seems that only in the last few days has the enormity of the crisis sunk in to the national consciousness, and then only at the price of adding one more innocent life to the toll of those needlessly sacrificed, this time on a beach usually thronged by holidaying tourists.
Aylan Kurdi, a three year old boy who travelled to Turkey with his family to escape ISIS and the brutal situation in Syria, drowned in his father’s arms, along with his five year old brother and their mother, when their small boat capsized on the final leg of a journey that should have saved them from a life most of us cannot imagine.

Only the heartbreaking photo of an aid worker carrying Aylan’s lifeless body away from the spot where he was found, washed up on the shore of a foreign land he knew nothing about, now seems to have galvanised our unforgivably slow-moving government (finally bowing to an increasing public outcry) into taking action.

Too little, too late.

It has once more fallen to private citizens and charity organisations to take on the responsibilities that we would usually expect to be shouldered by the state; many UK families and local authorities unilaterally offering places for refugees to stay and settling up collections of basic essentials, to be distributed amongst those still trapped in the transit camps, both in the middle east and Europe.

{The problem isn’t only in Europe, see a report on another disturbing story HERE}

The next step should be doing something about the estimated 11 MILLION empty properties, enough to put a huge dent in not only the current refugee crisis but also the domestic homelessness problem that has plagued many countries on the continent for years.

In the seventy years since the end of a war that decimated whole countries in Europe, I don’t believe that the charitable spirit of the British people which demanded the humanitarian rescue of holocaust victims has deteriorated to the point of not caring about displaced and persecuted refugees, but the continuous drip-drip-drip of negativity in the press and the rise of bigoted hate groups, especially on social media, has had the knock-on effect of making us question the legitimacy of genuine claims for asylum, no matter how horrific evidence to the contrary may be.

It’s a sad day indeed when it takes the hopeless grief of a broken father, burying his entire family in the full glare of the news media, to make us remember that we need to remain human and compassionate, despite the inescapable fact that, if not for an accident of birth, that could have been you or I, paying the ultimate price for the sake of freedom.

I will leave the last word to Pink Floyd and the song from which I borrowed the title of this post: “On The Turning Away”.

[Should you wish to assist in the aid effort, please consider donating to The Red Cross or to the independent charity Calaid, set up to help refugees still caught up in the transit camps in Calais.]

 

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800 years and still trying to get it right…

The Greeks get a lot of credit (that’s the ancient ones, not the current crop, who couldn’t get credit off a loan shark moonlighting from Wonga.com) by which I mean that they are frequently praised for their radical ideas and enlightened attitudes, not to mention the fact they invented all sorts of cutting edge technology and pioneered everything from philosophy and medicine to sport and open sexuality.
But if there’s one thing that they really are the godfathers of, it’s democracy.

The first historical reference to proto-democracy is widely thought to be from sixth century Athens (508 BC is the generally accepted date of adopting the system) and their society seems to have been run with at least a token attempt to involve ordinary people in the decision-making process.

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Cleisthenes – “Democracy, yep, my idea.”

Which isn’t to say that other societies didn’t have the same idea.
Star of the original superhero epic, Gilgamesh, (who I have written about before) didn’t wield the same autocratic powers that many of his contemporaries bestowed upon themselves, instead preferring a more consultative form of rule, nearly 1500 years before the Greeks tried it.

Then there were the Indian republics (or “ganas”) which were active at almost the same time Cleisthenes was having his big idea in Greece. They were governed by a monarch, but in concordance with a council of free men who could speak out on issues that affected the common people.

And then of course, there were the Romans.
Their common citizens (the “plebs”, as they were collectively known) were allowed to weigh in on topics that concerned them, at least until Octavius got all full of himself and made himself emperor in 27 BC. After that, things took a bit of a dive, democracy-wise.

But it’s not just the ancients who should be getting all the plaudits for attempting to make the world a fairer place to live in.
As far back as the 9th century, the Isle of Man set up the Tynwald, which still has the honour of being considered the longest sitting continuous parliament in the world.
Not far behind are the Icelandic Allthing, set up in the tenth century, along with the fabulously named Thing of all Swedes in, you guessed it, Sweden, which ran from the early 11th century onwards.

Which brings me to us, the English.
I know, I know, we’re quite keen on taking credit for being at the leading edge of world events (winning wars, beginning industrial revolutions, enslaving millions to an empire, inventing cricket etc..) even when it’s not always strictly accurate, historically speaking. But I think we have a pretty reasonable claim for bringing fair play and democracy to the modern world.

Twice, in fact.

2015 is the eight hundredth anniversary of the “grand charter” drawn up by King John, the document that was meant to remove absolute power from the monarchy and give the common man a say in the running of the country, The Magna Carta.
All of which would have been very laudable, if it wasn’t for the fact that His Majesty was, not to put too fine a point on it, a complete bastard.
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King John – “Who are you calling a bastard, you peasant?”

I’m sure John’s historians would have us believe that the idea of a people’s charter was brought about by a beneficent monarch who wanted his subjects to take some control over their lives, largely for their own good, but sadly this wasn’t even close to being the case.

Because to say that John was a good king, with his subjects’ best interests at heart, would not only be hugely inaccurate, it would also be missing the opportunity to use words like “sadist” and “greedy megalomaniac”.
Here was a man who thought nothing of having his nephew murdered; of sexually preying on the wives and daughters of his closest allies in the nobility; of starving to death the family of a formerly close companion and, last but by no means least, using prohibitively high taxes to keep his baronial landowners in check.
These same barons, fed up with paying out massive levies to the king, finally forced him, in 1215, to draw up the Magna Carta, revoking his right to rule with absolute power.

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The Magna Carta, yesterday.

But as we know, absolute power corrupts absolutely and, barely two months later, John went to Pope Innocent III, who used a papal bull to reverse the charter, claiming it was “illegal, unjust, harmful to royal rights and shameful to the English people”.

What the “English people” thought of this move went unrecorded, although I suspect there was a fair amount of plebian grumbling about backhanders to the Vatican at the time.

The good news (for everyone but the king) was that within a year, John was dead, either from dysentery or, if you choose to believe the contemporaneous rumours, from poisoning by an unhappy nobleman. Yet it took another decade for his successor, his son Henry III, to reinstate the charter that his father had abortively introduced.

Indeed, on John’s death in 1216, a monk called Matthew Paris – in those days, monks often doubled as sort of early journalists – said of the king;
“Foul as it is, Hell itself is made fouler by the presence of John”
So it’s fair to say he was not a popular man, by any standards.

But on the other hand, he did give us the blueprint for a society that makes us (theoretically) all equal under the law, including royalty.

So when somebody tells you that we should thank Good King John for providing us with equality and enlightenment, take it with a pinch of salt and remember that many rulers had attempted to give the same thing to their subjects, often with greater tolerance and integrity, many hundreds of years previously.

 
7 Comments

Posted by on June 16, 2015 in Blogging, Humour, News, Social comment, Video

 

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Colour me childish…

Rhonda reminded me at the weekend that I have a birthday coming up soon, (that she had to remind me this, shows my enthusiasm for arbitrarily celebrating another 31,536,000 seconds as a passenger on a spinning ball of rock, but that’s beside the point) an “event” that will mark the beginning of my fiftieth year of continuous breathing.

That’s 1,576,800,000 seconds, should you be interested.

I’m sure most people will tell you that they don’t feel their age, after all, nobody likes to think they’re getting old, whatever their own personal definition of being “old” is and I’m certainly no different.
In fact I’m pretty convinced that I’m still about 25, and that’s only in my overall outlook, the me that lives in my head can’t be much older than fifteen, judging by the nonsense that passes for my internal monologue most of the time and that has always seemed perfectly natural.
I bet if you really think about the way you communicate with yourself in the privacy of your cranium, you’ll realise you too are largely at the mercy of your inner child.

This is of course something we should all celebrate and be eternally grateful for, because if it wasn’t for the ability to see the world through the eyes of a child occasionally, where would the wonder go?
We need that childish naïvete and innocence sometimes, just to enable us to live in the world and not go mad.
We need to be able to just forget we’re “grown-up” for a while and indulge the big kid in all of us.
This doesn’t mean that having a childlike view of things makes us immature, juvenile or stupid, it just means we can enjoy exercising our intellectual faculties on a different, maybe more instinctive level.

And one of the best ways to channel our inner kid is watching a completely unrealistic, fantastical and unfeasible science fiction movie or TV show.
Because the genre title alone, Science Fiction gives you a get-out from the get-go, letting you suspend your disbelief and cynicism and allowing you a guilt free two hours of wishing you could fly an X-wing like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, or beat the crap out of zombies like Alice in Resident Evil.

So imagine my amazement this morning, when I read that one of the recent greats of British geek TV and cinema, the creator of Spaced and Shaun of the Dead, Simon Pegg, has said in an interview that he thinks our fascination with all things sci-fi has dumbed down our culture and society and made us all “infantile”.

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Simon Pegg – Don’t make me laugh, I’m trying to look intellectual.

This from the bloke who not only gave us two grown men miming slo-mo gunfights on television and a film about a couple of geeks meeting an alien on the way to a sci-fi convention, but who is also in the process of writing the next Star Trek movie, which I’m sure will once again feature him giving toe-curling comic relief in his role as Scotty, not to mention the hopefully excellent Monty Python spin-off, Absolutely Everything, which, would you believe it, prominently features comedy aliens.

Here’s the trailer.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but that doesn’t look like the sort of film that’s going to be shown in art house cinemas anytime soon, (In his interview, Pegg singles out such classics as The Godfather, Taxi Driver and The French Connection as being films that we could intellectually engage with. The Godfather? Art house? Really?) nor do I think that many of the movies that were likely to have influenced him in his youth were all that arty or cerebral.
I may be wrong, he might have spent his formative years watching nothing but Fellini and Bergman films while he stroked his wispy adolescent beard.
But I doubt it.

Simon Pegg’s argument seems to be that when you come out of a modern blockbuster, having watched two hours of robots kicking the shit out of each other in the Pacific, teams of superheroes fighting aliens, or presumably even Sandra Bullock dying of boredom whilst floating in space, you haven’t had much of a mental workout.
Although I don’t believe I recall the scene in which Don Corleone challenges a rival mobster to a sudoku tournament to settle a turf war, or Popeye Doyle quoting Nietzsche at a suspect as he beats a confession out of them.

Let’s face it, most films boil down to some kind of morality tale: Good vs Evil.
Star Wars is just a western in space, Guardians of the Galaxy could just as easily be the Dirty Dozen and Pegg’s own Hot Fuzz, well, that could be any number of buddy movies, all the way back to Butch and Sundance.

So I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s fighting his way through some kind of early-onset, inverted mid-life crisis that makes fun people dull.
Then again, there’s just as much chance that he’s taking the piss, in order to promote his latest not-very-grown-up film.

Either way, I don’t intend to grow up anytime soon, no matter how many times I go past the same flaming ball of gas.

I shall leave you with two full movies to enjoy, one by Ingmar Bergman and the other by John Carpenter.
See which one entertains you the most…

And remember, stay childish everyone. ;~}

[Simon Pegg’s picture stolen from Google]

 
2 Comments

Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Arts, Films, News, TV, Video

 

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