The Original Woody Allen

Woody Allen is generally known for his awkward romantic or psychological and whimsical comedies with various modern actors essentially playing Woody. However he started out as a surreal comedian, a man with ridiculous jokes. Let’s call him a fast talking, Jewish Peter Cook. The guy was genuinely funny before he went romantic-funny, whiny funny and cerebral funny, neither of which tickles the bone like surreal, ridiculous funny.

In honour of this, I’ve watched 3 of his original comedies, the ones which made his name before he ‘matured’. These comedies, Bananas, Everything You Want to Know About Sex and Sleeper are little short of hilarious, totally ridiculous send-ups of American foreign policy, sex and James Bond.

Bananas showed great foresight as the US organises the murder of a South American leader and replaces him with a lackey, something that occurred two years later in Chile. EYWKASex has at least three scenes of ridiculosity involving a jester, a good-looking Armenian sheep and a giant boob. Sleeper is a James Bond spoof and very apt.

Look Them Up!

Busan HLF4

The High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness Four (catchy eh?) begins today in Busan, Seoul. The likes of Tony Blair and Hillary Clinton will grace the stage in front of 2,000 delegates with soju hangovers. This barbecue feast will involve earnest nodding from some and much frustration from others. Its remit is to come up with plans to improve the aid system which has been remarkably successful in its failure to help Africa.

South Korea is of course an example of a state, like post-war Europe that came from desperate poverty to its present first-world position. Its not to say everything is fine in Korea. I’ve lived there and the wealth isn’t spread so generously and the education and health systems are starting to buckle. But it has come a long way from post-war 1953.

I’ve written papers on South Korea, Taiwan in comparison with the South East Asian states and then African states. The reason for Asia’s spectacular development aren’t unique but they are difficult to replicate. A clear difference with African states is the promotion of education and health, the fact that wealth from resources were kept in the country, a development regime based on the Japanese model (labour intensive –> high-end tech), planned investments and control over capital, a use of strategic aid, rampant theft of technology, a cohesive tight labour laws and a fairly benevolent dictator.

Writers like Park tend to overlook the let’s say ‘cheeky side’ of SK’s growth but in the end, its a far better model than the African development model. The reasons are strong governance and a West that cared for strategic reasons.

This Busan talking shop won’t help much. Trying to find common ground amongst actors national actors with only national interest at heart is impossible. The Millennium Development Goals The days of major investment from the West are gone as aid is less and less tied to the purchase of Western goods. China will continue to link aid to infrastructure projects and often rightly so. At least something is happening.

The Western call for a focus on health masks the fact there are issues of poverty and unemployment to be dealt with. Africa is going to be exposed to the new neo-lib, human rights based agenda, lambasted and criticised for its poor governance and low capacity. And the poor will get poorer in relative and absolute terms.

Brian Cox on a Friday Afternoon

I’ve always said if there was a need for an astronaut to go on a life-long mission to the next galaxy to seek life, I’d go even if there was no possibility of return. The images from Hubble has always been my background pics and I remember in Slovenia an outdoor gallery of images from space. Ahh the colours!

Even after my present travels, I wish I could have done it 50-100 years ago.  Sure it would be tougher but I don’t consider myself a tourist when I travel. Its about the culture and diversity.

Anyway happy weekend and enjoy the video. Ted.com is a very cool website.

Inequality and Larry Summers

Some nerve from Larry Summers as he talks for more action on inequality and believing we simply need to do better somehow..

Anyway so taking his figures, the super-rich have got amazingly rich (up 275% between 1979 and 2007), while the middle class have got richer but not much (up 40%). Thank God Summers has included figures after 2007 (I’m sure there is a reason why the cut-off is there) because the manufactured middle class have nose-dived since then. By manufactured I mean people have borrowed their way into the middle class rather than a genuine explosion of wealth. This is capitalism after all!

So when the middle class don’t notice their relative poverty despite holding the electoral power, nothing is going to be resolved. As the poor who are getting poorer are condemned into poverty and yet still vilified for their own wastefulness despite being in a system that clearly isn’t working for them, who is going to solve this? The rich? Not likely. The middle class? Not right now it seems. The poor? Nope, they will be condemned for looting and shot. So until the middle class wake up and demand more, forget it. As Zizek argues here (see last post especially), this hardly bodes well for the Occupy protests. The middle class don’t want real change which is understandable, they just want a better deal. They aren’t in it for revolution. In which case, resistance of this sort is pointless. Or as Zizek puts it this kind of resistance is surrender.

Gina Robins cooked kitten to death in microwave

Two points stand out from this story on the BBC. Firstly that microwaving a cat to death is to cause it unnecessary suffering. I say it might do more than that. Secondly, the guilty woman’s denial is really something to behold. According to her, not only did other cats force the kitten into the microwave but they also shut the door and then presumably turned it on. Who said cats are dumb eh?

A woman who microwaved a 10-week-old kitten to death has been found guilty of causing it unnecessary suffering.

The kitten’s owner Sarah Knutton told Torquay Magistrates’ Court she heard a sound then a “horrendous screech”.

Gina Robins, 31, of Salisbury Avenue, Torquay, had denied the charge, claiming the kitten had been shut in the microwave oven by other cats.

Levenson Investigation: Garry Flitcroft

I never knew Garry Flitcroft but I knew people around him. The Press is getting a general grilling right now as the investigation takes evidence from well-known people who’ve had their private lives exposed by the media. Garry Flitcroft, the ex-Man-City and Blackburn player was on the stand today talking about how his affair with a stripper was exposed in the Sunday press ending his marriage. While he accepted his failures, his argument was as a Blackburn player at the time, it was not in the public interest for his life to be exposed as such. He wasn’t high profile, wasn’t a marketing magnet.

I knew his ex-wife’s brother from my days in Sheffield. I worked with him as a temp while studying. I remember the time, I remember the pub and the conversation when he talked about this affair. I remember his quiet, subdued manner and the awkwardness he exhibited. I distinctly remember going to the bar with two drinks and changing the subject. But I still remember the sounds of his deep exhales after telling me. It still quietens me.

The Sunday exposure of his failures ended a marriage with two children. As a player he received constant taunts from the crowds and his father stopped going to the games after never previously missing them. He later committed suicide. When Flitcroft was asked if he believed there was a connection, he said he thought so.

Flitcroft was never a ‘name’ footballer. He would fit nicely on the Obscure Footballers Facebook page. Yet after the story was sold and the press camped outside his door, his kids weren’t able to go to school and his family’s misery was compounded and intensified.

And yet I don’t remember turning to Flitcroft as a beacon anyway. And despite knowing someone close to the story, I didn’t remember it until it came up again. I guess as a media event it just didn’t matter in the long run. I’m pretty sure it didn’t matter to anyone in the short term either. But its all a little late for that.

Rugby Balls

The media didn’t like Johnson. Johnson never liked the media and according to this piece, sections of the press didn’t like the way Ashton was fired. If I remember rightly though, the media never liked Ashton yet they prefer for him to be stabbed in the front where they can drool rather than the back which is the RFU-coward standard mode of operation.

But this isnt politics. The media dont win games like they do elections. The coaches and the players do as long as they beat the opposition which seems to be left out of this equation. Bottom line is are our players and coaches better than France in NZ, Ireland away and Wales away? The answer is clearly not in Ireland’s case and almost in France and Wales’ case.

So we’re not world beaters which the French almost were. Big deal, get used to it. Have you seen the squad recently? Rugby like a lot of modern sports is won by the small decisions, the faints and subtleties, the luck and the minor physical advantages. We weren’t quite good enough on the field often and occasionally at all.

On the field, there are 15 players to play against, equally keen to win this 80 minute war. There is only so much you can control after you factor in the weather and the referee. Johnson was let down by his players which is beyond his control to a degree but importantly he was let down by the shambolic facade of a ruling body, the RFU, a club that hasn’t moved on from the boys-only network.