Film Review: One Night In Miami (AmazonPrime) (2020)

On 25th February 1964* Cassius Clay met three friends in a hotel room. He’d just become World Champion and was immediately recognised as an all time ‘Great’. Sam Cooke was a superstar singer and black businessman. Jim Brown was a superstar NFL player at the peak of his playing career transitioning to being a film star. And finally, Malcolm X, a black intellectual and Muslim.

Three men at the peak of their careers and Malcolm X told them they were ‘puppets’ of white supremacy. He taunted their dependency on white ‘controllers’. For example Cooke was a millionaire and had to get his (white) agent to book a hotel in Florida: As a black man they’d have rejected him.

The film is a reconstruction of their conversation. Malcolm X attacked the mindset of the other three. He relentlessly challenged their assumptions. The entire basis of their lives. Malcolm X knew he’d be assassinated, probably by the government, for his radical opinions. And he was on 21st February 1965.

The film consists of four men talking in a hotel room. No CGI, no supermen, no cars turning over, no sex scenes: Nothing but a conversation about race which blights every black person regardless of success or wealth. A stunning film if you engage otherwise boring.

* Within a year Sam Cooke and Malcolm X were dead. They were both murdered.

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Joe and the Three Legged Chicken

Joe was driving and noticed a chicken keeping pace with him. Just then the chicken accelerated using all three legs. Joe followed the chicken down the lane into a barnyard. ‘Did you see a chicken running really fast?’ he asked the farmer

‘Yep.’

‘Did it have three legs?’

‘Yep. I breed them that way.’

Joe said, ‘You do? How come?’

‘Well. There’s three of us in the family and we all love drumstick. We just got tired of fighting over it. So I’ve been breeding three-legged chickens.’

‘Well how do they taste?’

‘I don’t know. I haven’t been able to catch one yet.’

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Winston Churchill’s Political Apprenticeship

As a Cabinet Minister he had three outstanding qualities: he worked hard, he carried his proposals through Cabinet and Parliament, and he carried his department with him.1

Winston Churchill was Britain’s greatest prime minister. He was a mature politician when he became prime minister in 1940. His greatness flows from the vast experience which shaped him as a man. He had huge early success the first phase of which ended in the catastrophic failures of Gallipoli for which he paid a severe price. Nonetheless he was brought back into cabinet by a prime minister who understood the importance of not being petty. His final major role ended in 1929 and he entered the political wilderness only emerging in 1940.

Churchill was a Victorian aristocrat born in 1874. He was thirty-one when appointed Under Secretary of State for the Colonies. Churchill entered the cabinet in1908, aged thirty-four, and remained there until 1915 holding four cabinet positions including Home Secretary, 1910-11. As Home Secretary he made the definitive statement of what prison is:

I did my utmost consistent with public policy to introduce some sort of variety and indulgence into the life of their inmates, to give to educated minds books to feed on, to give to all periodical entertainments of some sort to look forward to and to look back upon, and to mitigate as far as is reasonable the hard lot which, if they have deserved, they must none the less endure.2

In 1915 he left the cabinet after the catastrophic Gallipoli campaign in which he was heavily implicated. Aged 41, he rejoined the army serving as a Lt. Colonel leading soldiers in trench-warfare. Churchill’s tremendous personal and political courage was part of his hinterland colouring and informed his political judgement. As an outstanding politician, he returned to cabinet as Minister for Munitions, 1917. He held two more cabinet posts until 1922 when he lost his seat.

Churchill returned to the cabinet in 1924 as Chancellor of the Exchequer, where he remained until 1929. He was 55 years old and had been a senior politician more-or-less continuously for twenty-four years, holding nine ministerial posts. He’d been a senior officer in the First World War and had a unique biography. In 1929 he was at the peak of his powers. He was in the wilderness for a further eleven years before becoming prime minister.

In 1929 it looked as Churchill’s political career was finished. As the 1930s progressed it was increasingly likely that he’d be a What if politician, a major figure stranded on the outside of the political scene. Churchill was literally a warrior and had huge resilience which carried him through the 1930s even though it was far from certain that his time would ever come.

Addendum: The ministerial experiences of prime minsters after Churchill

Clement Attlee (1 – deputy to Churchill during the war); Anthony Eden (4); Harold MacMillan (7); Alec Douglass-Home (4); Harold Wilson (1); Edward Heath (5); James Callaghan (4); Margaret Thatcher (1); John Mayor (5); Tony Blair (0); Gordon Brown (1); David Cameron (0); Theresa May (1); Boris Johnson (1) Since 1979 those becoming prime minister have had significantly less ministerial experience than most of those previously apart from John Major.

Notes

1 Winston Churchill in politics, 1900–1939 – Wikipedia

2 Churchill on Prison – Double Aspect Compare this with Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary, who 104 years later effectively banned access to books for prisoners. This was later found to be illegal. Justice Minister Chris Grayling defends prisoner book rules – BBC News

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Ethnic Food

The Full English Breakfast
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Film Review: The Apartment ~ Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine (1960)

Billy Wilder, the director, cast a satirical eye over the sleaze and corruption of office work in New York. In the hands of another director it could have been very dark. The fundamental misogyny of American life at that time and the systemic power plays by senior managers is laid bare.

C C Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is a junior staff member but he’s unmarried and has an apartment. Lascivious senior managers focus on this and put relentless pressure on him to let them use his apartment for liaisons with their ‘girl-friends’. The apartment isn’t rented it’s loaned out as collateral against ‘a good word’ and subsequent promotion opportunities. Needless to relate Baxter is very cooperative.

Meanwhile Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) operates the office lift. Senior managers slap her bottom and talk to her in a disparaging way, which she clearly doesn’t like. Baxter falls in love with her as does the CEO. The rest is spoiler territory…..

The Apartment is a wonderful film. Satire is incredibly hard to achieve and with the lightest of light touches Wilder has produced a ‘comedy’ and a cutting-edge commentary. Sixty years old but well worth digging out. I bought mine on ebay for less than £3

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Getting a job in an Estate Agency*

When applying for a job as an estate agent, the interviewer worried that my CV was a bit small. I said actually it’s really cosy and I was immediately hired.

* Estate agent = real estate in US

Alex Kealy Edinburgh Festival 2019

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Michael Gove and the Politics of School Uniform

We will support schools to introduce traditional blazer-and-tie uniforms, prefects and house systems.1 Michael Gove, parliamentary debate, 2010

Background

Michael Gove, alumni of Robert Gordon College, Aberdeen, parades traditional values, which he claims to epitomise. He’s a Conservative cabinet minister. Unfortunately he was also a drug fiend who luckily avoided prison. Gove isn’t in favour of traditional ‘blazer-and-tie uniforms.’ He’s an opportunistic politician promoting an insidious agenda. School Uniform institutionalises conformity, which shapes social and political attitudes. At school Sixth Form level, uniforms aren’t ubiquitous but are used as a means of social control in various guises. The six schools discussed are a sample, giving a flavour of responses to the government’s hidden policy.

Discussion

Secondary schools enforce dress codes with varying levels of ferocity.2 Sixth Formers are an elite but many schools attempt to impose uniforms of one kind or another on them.

Gove’s old school, Robert Gordon College, promotes a middle-management look for their Sixth Formers:

Male students must wear a suit, a smart shirt and tie, and formal shoes. Female students must wear a two-piece suit with trousers or skirt, a top such that shoulders are covered at all times and smart shoes. Alternatively, students may wear a dress with a jacket.3

King Edward School, Handsworth, agrees with this strategy.4

Cardiff High’s ‘schizophrenia’ sub-divides the bodies of Sixth Form students into Top Half and Bottom Half.5

Top Half means there are,

.endorsed garments in order to both identify them as members of our school and also to promote a sense of identity and belonging amongst our upper school students.

Bottom Half meanwhile means,

Students are permitted wear any suitable “bottom half” garments eg trousers/jeans/skirt

Coopers Coburn, Upminster, infantilise their Sixth Former students with, “a strict policy on school uniform,” and, “During hot weather, students may be permitted by the school not to wear their blazer.”6 (my emphasis)

Another elite school, Simon Langton, Canterbury wriggles intelligently,

In the Sixth Form uniform is not required, however guidelines are published to ensure a good standard of dress in school and appropriate dress for special occasions.7 (my emphasis)

Trinity School, Carlisle, another high achieving Sixth Form, has no uniform.8

School uniform has become a political issue. Gove has turbo-charged school uniforms by signalling that schools having them are ‘better’ than those which don’t. Uniforms promote conformity and conservatism, which is part of the attraction for Gove. Britain is a socially inflexible country, which school uniforms fits into, with a hidden curriculum of social obedience.

Notes

1 Schools White Paper: 24 Nov 2010: House of Commons debates – TheyWorkForYou Gove admitted using cocaine in 2019 see Michael Gove admits he was lucky to avoid jail over cocaine use – BBC News

2 Outraged parents reported as many as 100 students at the Royal Wootton Bassett Academy in Wiltshire were given detention on their first day back, for failing to meet the school’s new uniform procedure. School uniform rules: these are the strict policies schools have the power to enforce (inews.co.uk) October 2020

3 SCHOOL UNIFORM (gordons.school)

4 Uniform | King Edward VI Handsworth School

5 Cardiff High School – Sixth Form Dress Code[Gwisg Ysgol 6ed Dosbarth]

6 Year-12-Uniform_latest_2020.pdf (cooperscoborn.org.uk)

7 Sixth Form (thelangton.org.uk) canterbury

8 SIXTH FORM – Trinity School

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Nazi SS Doctors and the CIA: post 1945

They [CIA doctors] did, however, benefit from the guidance of Camp King’s staff doctor, Walter Schreiber, the former surgeon general of the Nazi army, who had overseen research at concentration camps in which prisoners were frozen, injected with hallucinogens, and cut open to chart the progress of gangrene. When he was given a contract to work in the US under Operation Paperclip (it didn’t work out, and after a scandal he ended up in Argentina), Schreiber was replaced at Camp King by another war criminal, Kurt Blome, the Nazis’ director of research into biological warfare, who had tested nerve gases and viruses on concentration camp inmates.”

Book Review: Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control
by Stephen KinzerHenry Holt, 384 pp., £11.99, November 2020

Mike Jay · Lace the air with LSD: Brain Warfare · LRB 4 February 2021

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President Kennedy’s Favourite Nazi

The Allies had an amoral attitude towards Nazi scientists. They were an intellectual elite and were helped to leave Germany thereby by-passing the Nuremburg Trials. Many would have been convicted and, some, would have been sentenced to death. They had soft skills, which normal SS thugs didn’t have, and so interrogators could more readily accept their implausible ‘explanations’. They also had skills that were in demand. Wernher von Braun, the rocket scientist, is the most egregious example.

Von Braun surrounded by admiring Nazi officers. He carefully didn’t wear his uniform
von Braun with President Kennedy as NASA’s principal scientist
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Misplaced kindness

My friend only eats ‘ethical meat’. Animals who’ve lived a happy life. That’s all wrong. Ethical meat eaters should eat unhappy animals.

Ismo Leikola, Edinburgh Festival 2015 (slightly altered)

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