Friday 27 October 2017

Cute Cat Friday 2017-10-27: Joni

Stretching out in the sunshine.

American Torture

The moral degradation of US politics goes back long before Trump arrived on the scene. This was reiterated by the blogger known as Mike the Mad Biologist:
Time was, in popular culture, torturers were viewed as evil, not as heroes ‘doing what needs to be done.’
Leaving aside “the score of efficacy”–though in isolation, torture is useless and requires a regime of mass torture, doesn’t work, and offers the temptation of manufacturing false evidenceonce you have normalized torture, there is nothing left that can not be normalized. Telling ridiculous lies, spouting racist rhetoric, or offering laughably unrealistic policies is nothing by comparison to the brutal and vile degradation of human beings.
The first sentence got me thinking.

It's not hard to find older movies in which torture is shown as unequivocally evil. In Return of the Jedi (1983), it's a simple and convenient shorthand.

To establish that Jabba the Hutt is nasty and scary, we have a brief shot of a dungeon in which droids are being tormented with red-hot irons. There's no need to stop and explain that Jabba is a Bad Guy Torturer, as opposed to a Good Guy Torturer. He orders torture, so by definition he's evil. We can move swiftly on and watch Luke fight the Rancor monster.

Newer films, by contrast, tend to be more ambivalent about torture -- if not openly endorsing it as Okay When A Good Guy Does It.

The examples I'm going to use are a couple of light-hearted comedies. They aren't extreme cinema, setting out to break taboos and push the portrayal of violence to its limits. They're films in which torture is present and important, but tangential to the main story. As such they may be a better representation of mainstream beliefs.

Consider The Princess Bride (1987), which as most of us know includes "fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles."

Friday 20 October 2017

Cute Cat Friday 2017-10-20: Joni

Joni demonstrates the advanced closed pike sleeping position.

This Is Who They Are

I thought I was numb to hearing about acts of cruelty by the UK immigration authorites. I was wrong.

Two cases this week gave me a sick, hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach.

  • Julie Bolitho's husband Vikram was deported from the UK, not because of any error on their part; not because they had fallen foul of the complex and arbitrary immigration rules; but because the Home Office had broken its own regulations and refused to back down from the error.
  • Leah Waterman is raising two young children, and caring for her husband Simon, who was severely disabled by a stroke. The Home Office has deported her, saying that Simon must act as sole carer to the children, even though he suffers from hours-long seizures and is unable to speak or write.

In a horrible way, these are the lucky ones. They have chosen to fight, can afford legal representation, and are articulate enough to get their stories into the media. Others must be simply going, silently; they have much to contribute to the UK, but are being thrown out for no good reason.

"What kind of man are you?"
--- Dave Brewster, The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)

Friday 13 October 2017

Cute Cat Friday 2017-10-13: Joni

Nights are drawing in and getting colder, and Joni is enjoying her evening lap time.

Herzog and Hope

The film director Werner Herzog explained his philosophy of life last week, on Mark Kermode's film review podcast. It resonated with me, and I believe it's worth transcribing in full.

(The relevant part of the podcast is here, starting at 1:56.)
Werner Herzog.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Friday 6 October 2017

Cute Cat Friday 2017-10-06: Joni

I am the watcher on the walls.

Joining the Choir Invisible

The British government has pledged that if any petition on its official website receives more than 100,000 signatures, it will merit a formal response from the government and a debate in Parliament.

Going to meet its maker?
Source: Wikimedia Commons

A petition requesting a second referendum on the terms of Brexit has reached that threshold. The Parliamentary debate has yet to be scheduled, but it has received a response from the recently created Department for Exiting the European Union. It is worth quoting in full, as a window into the government's rather flaky state of mind: