Arts & Culture

Alastair Stewart | Why Inception is the greatest movie ever made

“The best anyone can hope for is an acknowledgement of a film’s status even if they have a distaste for it. Is there a secret to achieving even that? Movies are in the eye of the beholder, but ‘great’ pieces, whether small or large budget productions, enjoy the Shakespeare effect: if the themes explore human nature and exist on an emotive level as much as an intellectual one, they’ll grab the crown.” (Read More)

Home

How do the Spanish feel about the UK general election?

“Whatever the result, Nicola’s Sturgeon’s Scottish Nationalist Party pose a significant threat to Spain’s delicate regional politics. If the SNP claim most of Scotland’s Westminster seats, the democratic deficit of a Tory government, coupled with a hard Brexit, will likely fuel calls for a second independence referendum. ” (Read More)

Home

Review | ‘The Broken Journey: A Life of Scotland 1976-99’ by Kenneth Roy

That’s extremely important given today’s politics. So much of Scotland’s past is used as a resource to fuel arguments, on both sides, of the constitutional debate that it’s rare to find a rhizomatic reading of history concerned with how well the system worked. How the Scottish justice, health, education systems operated with and through the Scotland Office; its ministers and its instruments and scope of its power in Scotland make for a fascinating read and serves an accessible index of political parties and policies still asking for your vote today. (Read More)

'The Grand Tour' / Amazon Prime Video
Arts & Culture

Review | ‘The Grand Tour’

“The problem here is that the mystery of Top Gear has evaporated. Part of the magical charm of Clarkson, Hammond and May was that no one knew how close they were. By resigning to be with a disgraced comrade, the audience got exposed to either a gratuitously mercantile vein or genuine affection that runs counter to the on-screen tension that was so funny.” (Read More)

Arts & Culture

Donald Trump and Theresa May’s ‘special relationship’ has been turned into NSFW street art

“Young people have never even more isolated, and some are lashing out. Street art represents an immutable reaction against a political class that doesn’t want to listen, a voting system that is flawed and a society that feels angrier than ever in a generation. It is no coincidence that these montages are so often graphic in their depiction and so publicly displayed.”
(Read More)

Home

Trump’s obvious historical strategy

“The result is genuine fear rooted in a powerful unknown president. And it is fear which is the most useful tool in the arsenal of any leader who wishes to make a lasting change. Machiavelli argued that sometimes it is “a very wise thing to simulate madness.” In this, Trump is unrivalled at stoking bewilderment and panic with no resource able to extrapolate his next move.”
(Read More)

Home

May is right to hold a general election

“May has eight weeks to win an election, but even less time to put together a manifesto package that is comprehensive and unequivocal on Brexit. There have been no signs to date that the UK Government has an overarching negotiating position or even an agreed understanding of what needs to be agreed upon with the EU.” (Read More)

Arts & Culture

Review | ‘Logan’

“The result is an astonishing swansong and something of an unexpected triumph for a genre most thought was in decline. Yet this is where the film succeeds: it knows that at their best, superhero films have to be a timeless tale and less contingent on effects and dated context. It’s an obvious lesson, but given the immortal quality of the comic source material, it’s remarkable that most filmmakers eclipse this point in favour of utilising the latest technologies to produce something that will, eventually, age beyond relevance. ” (Read More)

Home

Why Tam Dalyell is the passing of the Old Guard

“Dalyell’s final title is fascinating in that not only was he was an eyewitness to events, but a participant over the last five decades. It’s a genuine a breath of fresh air because he writes with a decency to candidly admit the highs and lows of his contribution, successes and failures and all. Every sentence brims with a sense of history that contains the wisdom of a participant who isn’t trying to rewrite his role to suit the turnout.” (Read More)

Photograph: 'First Minister Nicola Sturgeon' / Ninian Reid
Home

Why Scotland is good for Brexit

“Even if one acknowledges that Scotland voted ‘No’ to independence in 2014, and even if it’s conceded therefore that Scotland is a collection of constituencies and not an individual nation in UK general elections, it is impossible to deny that the reality of Brexit will affect every devolved sphere of Scottish society.” (Read More)

Arts & Culture

Review | ‘Sikunder Burnes’ by Craig Murray

“Does he vent, passive aggressively, about a subject not dissimilar to himself? No, but even in the expose which made his name, ‘Murder in Samarkand’, there was never frothing bile save for an honest representation of the facts. To the contrary, Murray’s prose is self-aware enough to do justice beyond hagiography and he never lets any slight against him prejudice his assessment, both critical and admiring, of his subject.” (Read More)

Home

Should the over-60s be banned from referenda?

“The moral, practical and political appetite to restrict universal suffrage makes a change unlikely, even though society already curtails rights based on age. Declining ability and the diminishment of mental faculties in elderly people have prompted regular calls for mandatory driving tests for the over 70s. Qualification for jury service stops at 65 and previous eligibility for conscription during the Second World War was capped at 51. Should these restrictions, in light of the referendum, be expanded to include voting rights and if so, how?” (Read More)

Home

Political rhetoric isn’t at an all time low, it’s changed forever

“There are innate, widely shared moral standards in our society about what is acceptable and unacceptable in public life. Much of it is common sense, otherwise, it’s the product of family, institutions and generational veneration of esteemed figures. The bitter consequence of creating good citizens over critical thinkers is it’s creating a dissonance and disbelief that pure deception could be taking place in broad daylight. ‘Not here’, they say. ‘Surely not, must be an explanation for it’. Yet we’ve crossed the Rubicon with rapid speed.” (Read More)

Home

Reflections on not drinking (as much)

“The second is the ostentatious stinker who tries to proselytise in manner and tone without actually having the gumption to go the full hog, tables upended and bottles out the window martyr to the cause. This, of course, overlooks that most people are doing precisely what this gentle soul objects to and will be offended anyway by their vain social haughtiness.” (Read More)

Home

Bugs: remembering an ahead-of-its-time tech TV thriller

“Bugs was made in the run-up to the year 2000, and there is a real sense of overwhelming dread that comes across in each episode; quite right, given most people then lived in the expectation that the Y2K bug would cripple every computer in the land at the stroke of midnight. What’s interesting, when watching Bugs again, is that the world still lives with the same sort of misunderstanding about technology; its limits, its capabilities and the laws which govern both. The shadow of the bomb in one generation is now the shadow of the keystroke; that one law or one wiretap too far will plunge the world into darkness.” (Read More)

Politics & Society

Brexit, the sideshow

“He is not alone. The Iron Lady (Mark II) marching to EU capitals in designer stilettos and across the world stage has become something of a minor novelty; but not because she’s avant-garde. May regularly comes across as a flustered grandmother at a bake sale who’s forgotten something and it’s the sad truth that even the loathsome politics of personality has morphed into the politics of pantomime. Life now imitates art and today’s politics and politicians could well have come from the pastiche ‘The Thick of It’ over the nuance of ‘Yes, Minister’.” (Read More)

'Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.' by Gage Skidmore
Home

The Donald is the presidential rule, not the exception

There’s much to disagree on. Money can’t buy class, and Trump’s signature over the top lavishness is clearly compensating for something. Even with the indisputable fact that he is an accomplished businessman, if you watch every video on Trump you see soon enough that there is a painfully apparent chip in his psychological make-up. (Read More)

Photograph: 'St. Andrews Square, Edinburgh' / Chris Fleming
Home

Review | Dishoom / Edinburgh

“Ultimately, Dishoom’s true triumph is to showcase the skill of the staff and menu with pomp but no condescension. This is a place sure of itself but not cocky; offering specialised dining while clearly hoping for the first-time visitors to relish in their formula. Ignorance is bliss here, and an introduction to another world, or, as they would have you believe, another time. ” (Read More)

Photograph: 'Walk of Fame' / Davide D'Amico
Arts & Culture

Why there will be no more en masse mourning of celebrities in the future

‘Today, in our interconnected, globalised and culturally internationalist world, it’s a macabre, but easy temptation, to look around and imagine which artists will generate the same shockwaves when they die. Who will, for the twenty-somethings of today, be the ‘legends’ that receive posthumous awards and extensive media coverage lavishing praise or skewering with retrospectives?’ (Read More)

Photograph: 'The Alhambra, Spain' / Max Besser Jirkal
History & Philosophy

The Alhambra, populism and the dangers of an ignorant population

‘Western civilisation is more connected than ever, yet the ability of populations to discern fact from fiction and to decide which is an outright lie has declined. In the case of Trump, what is curious, is the presumption that politicians and leaders will lie seems to have reached a satirical impasse. There’s the cliche that politicians or someone in public life will lie but surely they can’t lie that much. There is an implicit presumption and trust that they could never go that far and it has allowed, with the absence of historical knowledge, deception, and hyperbole to become commonplace.’ (Read More)

Home

The absence of British values is why Leave won

“The language of the Leave campaign and the reason they triumphed is that they accurately, albeit accidentally, highlighted how a rise in EU values showed up just how undefined British values were in the 21st century. The monumental challenge of coming up with a set of values in a campaign window is why Leave never said what British identity was, only that European identity was not the solution. A cop-out, if ever there was one, albeit a successful one.” (Read More)

Photograph: 'European Communities Act 1972' / Legislation.go.uk
Home

A snapshot of Brexit legalese

‘What is clear, however, is that like a patient who has voted to get better, it’s lunacy, improper and downright unprofessional to deny the consultation of, prognosis by and treatment from professional doctors who have decades of experience. Why would the Government want to deny the expertise, opinion and voice of 650 full-time MPs elected to represent the very people whose will they now want to implement?’ (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Arts & Culture

Looking back at the BBC’s Star Trek ban

The BBC, which controlled the distribution rights to air the series in the UK, was the most accessible means by which most fans could enjoy the show until Sky One began broadcasting the complete series in 1990. Even so, for many years afterwards cable TV was a costly luxury and the banned episodes remained unseen for a majority of fans. (Read More)

'Gibraltar' / Dennis Keller
Home

Why Spain and the UK should be natural allies

‘Nevertheless, the Spanish and the British have more in common than their foreign policies might suggest. Both countries, perhaps more than any other two, are littered with monuments to their past imperial glories which can legitimately be said to have shaped the modern word over the last 600 years.’ (Read More)

The standout role in 'The Crown'? John Lithgow as Winston Churchill / Netflix
Arts & Culture

Review | The Crown

The Crown, then, is really Morgan’s natural sequel to his work to-date. Spanning from 1947, it is punctuated by the death of King George VI (Jared Harris) in 1952, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) and concludes with the retirement of Winston Churchill (John Lithgow) in 1955. (Read More)

'Jeremy Corbyn'/ CC
Home

Jeremy Corbyn could be good for Britain

It’s said that history doesn’t remember the runner-up. What is striking about Jeremy Corbyn’s second run at the Labour leadership is just how much the British press do not want to acknowledge that he has done for the Labour Party what Alex Salmond did for the SNP and Nigel Farage did for UKIP. (Read More)

'Churchill' by Matt Brown
Arts & Culture

Listen | ‘Churchill’s Secret’ Review

‘Churchill’s Secret’ meshes fact and fiction to retell the true story of Winston Churchill’s debilitating stroke kept hidden from the nation and parliament in 1953. Michael Gambon excels as the war leader, but a damp script fails to make this the compelling watch it should be. (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Arts & Culture

Listen | ‘Blunt Talk’ Review

Is this the show Patrick Stewart and Seth Macfarlane have been leading up to? The first episode is possessed of some moments of comedy gold, but the show seems torn between focussing on Stewart’s Walter Blunt and turning it into a bland ensemble American comedy. (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Arts & Culture

Listen | ‘Spotlight’ Review

Alastair reviews 2015’s ‘Spotlight’. The film follows The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team, the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative journalist unit in the United States, and its investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests. It is based on a series of stories by the “Spotlight” team that earned The Globe the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. (Read More)

Photograph: 'The TARDIS' / Phil Long
Arts & Culture

Review | Doctor Who – ‘The Husbands of River Song’

What is beyond doubt is that Moffat’s reign as Doctor Who showrunner has been as multifaceted as his leading lady and just as complicated. As both leave, it’s fitting that they leave together with a good story. River Song’s departure is Moffat’s goodbye; poignant and sad but leaving you with food for thought and wanting more. (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Arts & Culture

Why a Batfleck film will be awesome

Psychologists might dub Zack Snyder’s decision to have a long-dead Robin in Dawn of Justice as a metaphoric snub to those that have determined Affleck is the junior of the Matt and Ben story. Affleck, with creative control, could very find a natural home with Batman in the same way Damon found success with the Bourne series. No other live-action iteration of Wayne/Batman has ever looked like so much like the character from the comics. Certainly no other has actor has so successfully carried the handsome playboy-look in similitude with a Batman costume that makes you believe he really could take down ‘two-dozen hostiles’ ferociously, skilfully and brutally. (Read More)