Film Review: Hostiles (Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike)

Captain Blocker (Bale) is a hugely conflicted soldier in the Old West. His colonel orders him to return a native Indian chief to Montana. He’s taunted by a journalist about his reputation for brutal treatment. Blocker then uses the Nazi defence for defending the indefensible. He says, ‘I was just doing my job’. The job being slaughter and scalping.

En route to Montana Blocker witnesses the outcome of an attack on a homestead with Rosalie (Rosamund Pike) as the sole survivor. She plays out a searing scene at the burial of her family. This is the only outstanding scene in the entire film. Rosalie joins Blocker’s detail despite being given the opportunity to stay in an isolated army camp.

There’s an excruciating dinnertime conversation discussing the point-of-view of native Indians who’ve had their land stolen and live in terrible conditions. This is stifled. The one black American soldier is severely wounded giving Blocker a chance at bedside emoting. A criminal soldier being taken back ‘to face your dues’ deceives a naive officer into releasing him and is then murdered. This scene is after the criminal tells Blocker that he could easily be in his position. Blocker doesn’t disagree. Rosalie take responsibility for a native Indian child showing her diversity training. Finally the chief is buried, with dignity and respect, immediately prior to Blocker defending his right to that burial against land-grabbers. They, using rugged individualism tropes, denounce the governments right to tell them what to do. Blocker, in essence, massacres them shooting their leader in the back before finishing him off with a brutal knife attack. He lets his presidential authorisation fall to the ground as if he agrees with them.

The inevitable happy ending avoids too much realism.

An alternative review is here:

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People and computers: three jokes

Playing chess against a computer

A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing.

A lightbulb problem

Q: How many programmers does it take to change a light bulb?

A: None. It’s a hardware problem.

Steve Jobs: his tombstone epithet





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Why the Conservative Party Treasurer reads obituary columns

According to the Tory Party’s own accounts last year [2017] it received twice as much in donations from the dead, in the form of legacy payments, as from the living. It lost half of its membership between 2005 and 2013.

Gary Younge The age of electoralism is over. Thank Corbyn for that The Guardian Journal 13th October 2018

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Eat your heart out Sartre: Los Angeles is existentialism made concrete

Los Angeles is where you confront the objective fact that you mean nothing… You don’t matter… In Los Angeles you can be standing next to another human being but you may as well be standing next to a geological formation. Whatever that thing is, it doesn’t care about you. And you don’t care about it. Get over it. You’re alone in the world. Do something interesting.


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A plumbing lesson at Sir Philip Magnus School in 1960

I attended this school from the age of eleven until sixteen (1955–1960). It was a very good school with its students split into two streams: a) for academics and b) for building trades). I was in the ‘b’ stream. My final two years at school served as the first two years of a seven year plumbing apprenticeship. Other courses offered to students were carpentry, bricklaying or graphic design. Although I liked the ten week introductory bricklaying course I knew that I’d be out in all weathers on building sites. As a result I chose plumbing, which was a better bet.

All the course workshops were housed in two large port-a-cabins a short distance from the main school. They were of equal size being about thirty feet long by twenty feet wide. The plumbing shop had a display of past students work displayed on the walls. It was well equipped with a blacksmiths gas forge, a sand casting bed and a number of molten solder pots that ran the length of the shop. It also had four huge blue black workbenches  down the middle of the shop.

On the benches we learned to dress sheet lead into a myriad of roof parts. This included top hats for where soil pipes protruded through roof slates; bossed corners where we were shown how to turn a flat lead sheet into a functioning lead water tank. It was a truly amazing experience taught to us by an equally amazing teacher: Tom Freeman.

One Wednesday the class, seven boys, were given a length of four inch diameter lead pipe and we were told to bend the pipe in the middle by ninety degrees. This involved the meticulous dressing of the pipe in the middle section by the use of the bending stick. This gradually moved the molecules of lead from the front of the pipe to the back. After bend the pipe slightly long handled dummies were used to restore a roughly round shape to the pipe. Finally, and triumphantly, the four inch wood bobbins were pulled through on a rope with a slightly smaller lead weight pounding the lead bobbin through.

Another activity saw us using a lead pot full of molten lead (this would definitely NOT be legal nowadays!). We were shown how to tamp down the sand and use oblong pieces of wood like a panel. The wood was pushed firmly into the sand bed. With great care the board was lifted and we saw a perfect imprint. Next  the large four inch angle iron with each end blanked off, at the head of the sand box was taken off and placed on top of the forge coals. The gas was turned on and lit and soon that angle iron was glowing red hot. With metal tongs we boys were told to take the iron back to the head of the sand box and return it to the cradle. Mr Freeman filled the angle iron with molten lead. When he was sure the angle iron was full loaded, he lifted the handle on the cradle that held the angle iron and the lead flowed over the sand. A few minutes later he took the casting and dropped it in the sink. Cold water was poured on the casting and soon we were admiring a sheet of lead with a fancy design in the middle and the date 1960 underneath. This we were told is how plumbers made the face of box gutter at the top of rain water pipes that can still be seen on some mansions today.

Next the oxygen and acetylene bottles were brought out and the special lead-burning gun was attached to the hoses. Three more sheets of plain lead we then assembled round the face piece and held in place with large metal G- clamps. Mr Freeman showed us how he carefully tack welded the four pieces of lead sheet together at the top and bottom of the lead box. After removing the G-clamps we were each told to take the lead burning gun in hand and slowly burn up two or three inches of the seam. Some of us burnt holes right through the seams, but we succeeded in the end making a rain box. Then with a two foot piece of three inch lead pipe we were asked to weld it onto the lead sheet we’d just made. Finally we welded our pipe sheet to the bottom of the box.

I thought this was a great lesson in working with lead. I can’t imagine, any school boys today being allowed to handle such dangerous materials. The Health and Safety at work Act was enacted fourteen years later.


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Some banks who wrecked the world economy

Britain: 2009

In Britain, the most egregious case was RBS, a now majority state-owned bank that announced in February 2009 that it intended to honour £1 billion in bonus contracts.1


The Barclays chief executive, who was paid £18 million last year, was accused of arrogance 18 months ago when he brazenly told MPs that the “period of remorse” for the banking industry should come to an end.2

America: 2009

[In America] none had gone to jail. And those at the top of the tree on Wall Street were bouncing back apparently without shame or second thought. The bonus season in 2009 was better than ever, netting $145 billion for the executives at the top investment banks, asset managers and hedge funds, as compared with $117 billion in 2008. Goldman made $13.4 billion in profit for its shareholders and paid its own staff $16.2 billion in compensation and bonuses. Astonishingly, even Citigroup, which had a loss of $1.6 billion in 2009 and survived the year only due to government action, paid out $5 billion in bonuses.3


Stock generally constitutes 50% or less of total bonus payments, suggesting Goldman’s total pool – cash included – is likely to have been around $4bn-$5bn for last year.4

1 Tooze, Adam. Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World (p. 296). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.


3 Tooze p310



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Skywalking in Canada

Not on my ‘bucket’ list

Richard M

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