Month: March 2016

Credit Where Credit Is Due

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Like most people, I hate it when cinema-goers talk through the movie, or when they use phones or generally ignore the film they’ve just paid to see, while spoiling it for everyone around them who, incidentally, have also just paid to see it. I reckon it’s fair to say that so far you agree with me, whoever you are. But there is one more thing that really annoys me about cinema-goers – something that has been exacerbated in recent years by studios and by audiences themselves. Let me explain.

FIlms used to have full credits at the beginning, with music over the top, before the story even started. When a film finished in the olden days it was with a triumphant “The End” and that was that. When a film finished in the 80s or 90s most people wiped away their tears, regained their composure, or turned to their friends and said how much they liked or disliked the film. Then, they would all file out of the cinema and carry on with their lives. Fine. But while they were doing that something else was happening on the screen, wasn’t it? The film’s runtime hadn’t yet elapsed. There were credits scrolling, telling the audience who cared who did what in the making of this movie. It annoys me so much when people ignore these credits. It seems disrespectful somehow.

Recently, films have added things into the credits as extras: little out-take sequences that play beside the list of talented men and women who made the film you just watched. This isn’t because the studio thinks the moviegoer deserves more film, but to keep people in their seats as the credits roll. Superhero movies in particular have a trick of sticking a secret scene at the very end (or sometimes mid-point) of the credits, a kind of reward for those who waited. Whether the people who wait take the time to read the credits is something to think about, but the idea is – if you stay for the credits – you get extra stuff.

However, these extras – and that’s what they are, remember: extra – have become something that cinema-goers expect nowadays. Someone on Twitter earlier complained that he’d sat through the entire credits for Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice and felt it was a “bit of a letdown” to not have a post-credit scene after he spent a good five minutes of his time waiting for one. I’d argue that, when you go to the cinema, the least you can do is hang about and appreciate the people who made the movie happen. The people listed in those credits sweated for months or even years to make the best piece of entertainment possible, pushing the boundaries of what’s achievable in film FOR YOU.

And further to that, I’d argue that the lower down the list you get, the more important it is to show appreciation to the people listed there. Everyone loves the actors, the director, the producers sometimes. People have their favourite cinematographers or special effects teams. But what about the assistants to all those people, the ones who made the tea and brought the costumes around and made sure the props were sorted and painted the sets and provided the catering so nobody went hungry, or transported those actors, directors, sets and props from place to place – sometimes across oceans! – to make the film look and feel the best it possibly could, all FOR YOU? Don’t those people deserve our time? Just five minutes of our time? Five minutes sat in a dark room, just giving their names on a list the time of day. Phil Tippett aside, of course. “Those raptors were all up in the kitchen Phil! In the kitchen!!”

Maybe I’m overreacting (I am) but I think it’s important to at least acknowledge the talent in front of and BEHIND the camera. Not just Zack Snyder, but his assistants. Not just Gal Gadot but the people who did her hair and made her costumes. Not just Batman and Superman but the team who made Batman’s car and the woman who drove Superman to the set for a year or more. Don’t these people deserve our time? The oil in the machine; the small cogs, don’t they deserve just five minutes of your time?

So next time you go to the cinema, or watch a show on TV, or even see a play please take the time to read the names of the people who made it happen. You don’t have to thank them all, or be overwhelmed with gratitude, but five minutes is all they’ve ever asked of you. They’ve even taken to bribing you with more of the thing you so ungratefully goggled at for the last two hours, just so you’d sit there and see their name. Their mothers are proud of them; when their mothers get the DVDs they SKIP the movie entirely and show their friends the credits! They pause the black screen and squint at the white text and cry “Look, there she is!” and they are so proud!

So watch the movie, laugh and cry and be transported back in time, into space, across the globe or to worlds until-then unimaginable to you. You paid for it, you deserve it. But give those credits a look too, eh? Because those people – those wonderful people – MADE that movie FOR YOU. The least you can do is stay in your seat.

“It’d Be A Shame To Share It”

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You’ve probably seen the photograph above doing the rounds… You may even have believed the mild-mannered left-leaning person who shared it when they told you that the Tories were doing all they could to remove it from the internet. You may have felt like you were furthering a cause by sharing it on, making those bloody Tories’ job just a little bit harder. I mean, that photo deserves to be seen, right?!

Wrong. It’s all bullshit. It’s a simple photoshopped job, using an old Volkswagen advert (below) as a base. It simply isn’t true. Sure, you might be saying “Savile DID have links to the Tories, so the point stands…” and yes, he did, you’re right. But isn’t there enough for us to attack the Tories for? Instead of sharing a proven-fake image inaccurately linking the party to a predatory paedophile why not share reports about the alleged Paedophile ring active within Westminster? Plenty of old Tories’ names thrown about in that, along with names from other parties too. If it’s a paedo-link you’re after, go for gold!

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Or maybe this: George Osborne delivered one of the most barefaced, cruel budgets ever last week. A budget in which he may have just hidden £650m of cuts to the NHS. The blowback from the announcement that sick and disabled claimants would lose up to £30 a week, (which would then essentially be given to the richest in the form of another tax break) resulted in the shocking and unexpected resignation of Iain Duncan Smith, Work and Pensions Secretary and the man often cited as the most cruel and vindictive opponent of fairness and equality in the party. IDS somehow managed to resign, claim the moral high ground and get himself seen as “the Tory with a soul”, all by abandoning his own department’s policy! I know. It’s disgusting, isn’t it? Attacking the disabled, using them to make yourself look good. A dirty trick, I’m sure you’d all agree.

Why, then, am I seeing so many “thoughtful and caring” lefties sharing the image below all over social media? We’re meant to look at it and think “what a prick that Tory is, having a snooze while the lives of the downtrodden are trodden down further still!” Even the BBC have shared this image in the past.

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Five minutes on Google would tell you that this is Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke, who happens to be registered hard of hearing. In this photo he’s leaning in to listen to the amplifier imbedded in the bench, so he can hear what’s going on. As I’ve commented, attack his voting record by all means, but maybe do so less hypocritically. These people are LITERALLY attacking a disabled man to make their point look better. It’s a good enough point, guys. You don’t have to resort to misrepresentation and all out lies to get it across!

The double standards and sheer underhanded trickery of these kinds of tactics give both “wings” a bad rep. A jaded old idealist like me has come to expect this use of crooked dark arts from the Right, but the Left are no better I’m ashamed to witness. I’m embarrassed to have to continually tweet or message people I know and respect – decent people who do a lot of good for those less fortunate than themselves – asking them to look a little deeper into the emotive images they are sharing; asking them to stop spreading lies because we don’t need to: there’s enough blood on Tory hands as it is. Use facts. Use figures. Provide links to supporting information. There’s plenty out there to back up the assertion that the Conservative party are waging class war.

But the sharing of doctored images, deliberate misquotation and bare-faced lies is doing your fight for “the left” no good at all. It serves only to show that you’re prepared to sink as low as your opponent, that you can’t be arsed to find out what real damage they’re doing, that you’d rather take the Tabloid Headline approach rather than the moral high ground. Stop it, for fuck sake. The Tories are GIFTING you bad press to share. Leave the lies alone. It’s like planting a body under Fred and Rose West’s patio to get him caught – unnecessary and no better than them, when it comes down to it.

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Talking of lies: I mentioned a few paragraphs up that Iain Duncan Smith resigned over the cuts to be made to disability benefit – cuts his own department would have to sign off on – and therefore claimed the title of “the Tory with a soul” among some. I think we’re giving him too much credit. I put it to you that the true reason for his resignation has nothing at all to do with welfare cuts and everything to do with dodging a bigger bullet.

I put it to you that Iain Duncan Smith resigned over something on moral grounds just days before the publication of “potentially embarrassing DWP memos“. Memos his office has been fighting in the courts to suppress. For four years the Department for Work and Pensions has fought Freedom Of Information requests for memos pertaining to the introduction of Universal Credit, a thorn in the DWP’s side for a long time. These memos, it appears, would have shown the rollout of the controversial replacement welfare payment system to be an unmitigated failure, missing sign-up targets by so much they might as well have not bothered at all. A fuck up of this size would inevitably require a symbolic head to roll, wouldn’t it? And the man responsible for the scheme would be IDS. He’d have to have gone. Now though? All this is swept under the rug in favour of stories about ‘just how bloody moral and decent and principled a man he really is’.

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Of course, I don’t know for a fact that this is the true reason for his resignation – I can’t say for certain he was jumping before he was pushed – I’m just putting it out there. What I do know is that a resignation of this magnitude can only damage a party. It shows a distinct lack of faith in haunted ventriloquist’s dummy and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s economic credibility. It also puts Cameron in an awkward situation, now that his Conservative Ministers are openly briefing against each other on social media – what a shambles of a government we’re seeing. I only hope we’re seeing it in its death throes. I predict we may see Cameron step down as PM as soon as the EU referendum is out of the way. What has he got to lose?

I’ll wrap this up because I’m going off-point: Dishonest, misleading and untrue information does nobody any good. You will be called out on it, that’s a fact. Someone, somewhere (often me) will be sitting, waiting to fact-check your latest attack. I hate to play devil’s advocate, but the Left are as bad, if not worse, than the Right for using opportunistic images and a reliance on public ignorance to further their cause. It’s unnecessary, it’s ugly and it makes them look like pricks. And, be honest, you know as well as I do that nobody from Facebook, from the Tory party or from whatever big, scary organisation you care to mention is “trying to remove [anything] from the internet”, don’t you? Also, those “Likes and Amens” do nothing but make you look daft and leave you open to marketing scams. Don’t be so bloody gullible!

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So if you’re attacking the Tories online please use any of the myriad valid and truthful reasons to do so. But do so often, and do so with passion. Call them out on their crooked deals, their unfair cuts and their backdoor privatisations. Then, with your help and mine, maybe Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour can win in 2020 (or before? Hope so!).

UPDATE: New Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb has announced that the cuts to disability benefits (PIP), that his predecessor supposedly resigned over, will now NOT go ahead. This means that, when MPs come to vote on the budget this week, they’ll be voting for a Budget with a £4bn hole in it; an unprecedented occurrence that surely makes the position of the man who wrote it up untenable. I predict we’ll see George Osborne resigning soon. Watch this space.

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind?

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I’m going to write a lot more about homelessness in the UK – particularly in Cardiff – in the weeks to come, but I want to take time to properly research the issue before spewing my words all over your screen. So for now you’ll have to make do with a brief retelling of the incident that made me want to look deeper into this worsening situation.

Last night, on my way home from work, I walked past two Police Community Support Officers who were stood over a sleeping homeless man, just off Queen Street (Cardiff’s main shopping street). I was on the phone to my wife at the time and while we chatted about what we were having for supper I watched one of the PCSOs wake the man, help him up and begin talking to him. I couldn’t hear what was being said, but kept watching. The homeless guy shrugged, rubbed his head, twisted and turned looking uncomfortable. The second PCSO made an “off you go” gesture and the homeless man picked up his thin cardboard “bed” and his filthy sleeping bag and wandered off.

“I think I’ve just seen two cops telling a homeless guy to move,” I said to my wife on the phone. I was maybe two yards away from them now. The first PSCO turned, looked at me like I was a piece of shit and said “have you got a problem, buddy?” I told him I was on the phone… “Nothing wrong then?” he said. I told my wife “I’ll call you back”.

I explained that it was sad to see the police waking someone who is obviously in need and making them move. I asked why it was necessary; the guy wasn’t harming anyone! “He was begging!” one of the PCSOs said. “He was sleeping.” I replied. “He’s in breach of the Vagrancy Act,” I was told. I don’t know the law on this well enough to have engaged sufficiently. So I just spoke my mind. “If he’s committing a crime, why don’t you have him arrested?” I said, “at least he’d have a warm night!” I was told that the police “don’t arrest rough sleepers, we just move them on”… I was told the PCSOs had just come from a community-run soup-kitchen where those who want to eat, can. I was told this guy could’ve gone there! I explained that this wasn’t the issue I had.

“If you give him money, you never know! He may end up dead. It’s the worst thing we see among rough sleepers,” I was told. I replied that I hadn’t given him any money, at least not that night. In the past, I said, I had done. I’d bought him coffee, I’d given him a burger. He’s always there, he’s never a nuisance and I can’t see how a sleeping man can be bothering anyone at all. “…Sometimes there’s gangs of them! They sell drugs, they use drugs, they leave needles around…” the first PCSO said, “it frightens people!” I was bored of telling him that that wasn’t the issue in this particular instance.

“So what do you think he’ll do now?” I asked.
“Probably just around the corner, to beg again” he replied.
“So why don’t you follow him and stop him, if it’s such a crime?”
“Because we don’t want to be accused of harassment. My job is to move rough sleepers on. If we hadn’t moved him on and the manager of [a nearby restaurant] or wherever phone my boss and tell him he’s seen us ignoring the problem then I will lose my job… We’ve had complaints from a nearby business. He can’t sleep here.”

I explained, calmly, that the police have been caught doing FAR worse than turning a blind eye to a sleeping homeless man and kept their jobs. So his argument that he was “just following orders” was bullshit. I didn’t use that word. I really fucking wanted to.

“What’s likely to happen now,” I said “is that he’ll go somewhere darker, more remote, less crowded, less safe; Somewhere where the police don’t patrol – where you’ll leave him alone, where he can sleep without being disturbed. Somewhere without streetlights and traffic and CCTV; Somewhere he can bed down without being made to feel a criminal for being homeless. Somewhere where should something happen to him – if he’s attacked or gets sick – he’s less likely to be found straight away.”

The second PCSO, the one who barely spoke, spoke: “Well, he knows where to go…” I was lost for words. I wasn’t entirely sure what he even meant. I assume he meant “go to the soup kitchen” or “go to a hostel” or something. Easy as that, is it? The first said, sarcastically, “Do you have a spare room you could offer him?” They were getting bored of me, I could tell.

“Look,” I said, “I’m going to the pub to meet friends, then I’m going home to my wife. You’ve both got a job to do – I won’t keep you any longer – then you’re going home too, have some supper, go to bed. That poor guy is going to spend the rest of the night hiding from the police, thanks to you making him feel like he’s a criminal. Thanks for your time, guys.” and I walked a little way down the street. I turned to see the PCSOs approaching another homeless man. It seems out of sight is out of mind for most.

I thought about that homeless guy all night; wondered where he ended up. I’ll bring him a coffee and a sandwich later, if I see him – it’s the least I can do. But to those Police Community Support Officers he was just another vagrant making the place look untidy.