Three Teenage Beatles

A lucky friendship


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Film Review ~ All the money in the world (Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer)

As a signal to all #MeToo Hollywood doubters Christopher Plummer is nominated in the Oscars best supporting actor section. Presumably his nomination comes in the ‘Not Kevin Spacey’ category. The spectre of Kevin Spacey lurks in the background of this film. The double Oscar winner was airbrushed out by director Ridley Scott because Scott’s financiers decided to reshoot Spacey’s appearances. All I can say is that the airbrushed outcome is nicer than Stalin’s airbrushing of Trotsky: no ice-picks were used.

John Paul Getty’s (JPG) grandson Paul was kidnapped by cartoonish Italian gangsters who demanded $17M for Paul’s return. JPG is having none of it remarking that if he paid up then all of his family would instantly become targets. The Wikipedia entry offers this quote, The second reason for my refusal was much broader-based. I contend that acceding to the demands of criminals and terrorists merely guarantees the continuing increase and spread of lawlessness, violence and such outrages as terror-bombings, “skyjackings” and the slaughter of hostages that plague our present-day world.” This principled stand obviously gets lost in the lachrymose drama offered by Scott.

Months drag by and finally the police get the break-through they need. The rescue is a failure but Paul jr. now becomes a real bargaining chip with gangsters who apparently know what they are doing. As if to prove that money isn’t everything- in Hollywood, in Trump’s America??- we’re offered a melodramatic release and death.

Why you should watch this film: It doesn’t have Kevin Spacey and so you’re on the side of the moral gods.

Why you shouldn’t watch this film: It’s a melodrama.

For an alternative review


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Jewish doctors are born not made

There is a big controversy on the Jewish view of when life begins. In Jewish tradition, the foetus is not considered viable until it graduates from medical school.


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The 1970s

What an interesting time it was for me. Working as a jobbing plumber in Hackney, I really enjoyed the freedom of working with and for the hugely diverse population that were Hackney tenants. I made many good friends both in the council and many of the tenants that I came to know. I was about 28 when I got involved in Trade Union and in 1972 was elected as the steward, representing the plumbers in the north of the borough, (about fifteen men). In truth I had little idea of what to do but guidance was received from the PTU (Plumbers Trade Union).

One particular man, whom I won’t name, became very important in my life. He was an extremely knowledgeable builder, adept in almost all the building trades, but especially in roofing. He started working on quite large contracts outside of our day to day contracts at the council; as a result I would often work with him both in the week for Hackney as well as for privately at weekends. Yes the workload was at times intolerable, along with the stress of giving up on home life with the wife and kids. As a result, we both began cutting corners within the council work. I was known as the “bonus king” simply because I’d taken the opportunity to study every single task in the written objectives identified in the bonus scheme. I could argue in depth and forcefully over the minutest detail of disputes that arose between our members and the managements building surveyors who were tasked to manage the bonus scheme.

Soon, I was working more or less full time in the steward’s role with less time out on the tools. Clearly, the management in the shape of their surveyors hated losing to me in those confrontations, and despite changing the bonus scheme time and time again to address the fundamental flaws I pointed out, they failed to make it water tight.

I think it might have been as a result of my needling them, that in 1974 they offered me a position as one of the two foremen plumbers. That’s great I thought and although nervous at the prospect of becoming a white collar worker, I was not unhappy to leave my ‘blue collar’ status behind. As the foreman the work was by its nature more complicated and diverse.  Asked to remedy persistent problems that had previously, just been bodged or persistently botched, I’d look for a comprehensive solution.

My finest example of a comprehensive resolution was to remedy a leaking troublesome flat zinc roof that had rotted the supporting rafters. My old and trusted friend offered his knowledge and experience. With pencilled sketches of how to renew the rafters as well as tie them into supporting walls, I even insisted my new rafters must be covered with substantial ‘marine plywood’ before a top layer of roofing felt doubly waterproofed the building. I then produced drawings of my new proposed 18 gauge zinc replacement roof, with all the detailed baton roles, cleats and rainwater outlets that were to discharge the rain through the parapet walls to the guttering. The Council were deeply unhappy about the proposed cost that I estimated at about £1.400 to £2.000 pounds. I pointed out that they were being ‘penny wise and pound foolish’. They would have to spend at least that amount and more to plaster all the rooms below to make them habitable. It was agreed. I wonder if that roof is still watertight after 40 odd years.


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Book Review: Ayelet Gundar-Goshen ~ Waking Lions (Translated by Sondra Silverston)

Waking Lions is an Israeli novel which is very hard hitting. Israeli society isn’t normally thought of as racist but they too have an illegal immigrant ‘problem’. In this case it’s Africans and especially Eritreans who walk to Israel.

Neurosurgeon Eitan Green represents the best of Israeli society. Clever, moral, skilful, happily married with two children, very pleasant house and about to find that he too is flawed. Exhausted after a long shift, he goes for a drive in the desert outside Beersheba, kills an illegal immigrant, panics and turns it into a ‘hit and run’. His wife is a police officer who is investigating the hit and run. Her commander is uninterested showing zero interest in solving the hit and run, “… The police report entitled ‘Hit and run. Illegal immigrant. Case closed due to lack of suspects’….” [Liat said] “If it was a girl from the kibbutz…. would the investigation be pointless then?” The immigrant’s wife witnessed the accident using it to extort Eitan into creating an informal hospital. Eitan hates his situation but is trapped and becoming ensnared steals from his hospital, threatens a co-doctor, lies about absences, misses shifts and becomes despicable.

Sirkit, the wife of the dead immigrant, is corrupt, manipulative, ruthless and ultimately a murderer. There is no sentimental noble savage character here. Through a series of plausible events the criminal underworld of the illegal network of corrupt Israelis, Arabs, Bedouin and Eritreans engulfs Eitan. The denouement is shocking.

Why you should buy this book: It is wonderful story which never drops into sentimentality.

Why you shouldn’t buy this book: Absolutely no-one comes out of it unscathed

Buy it at Amazon


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A Chickadee and Friend

Adaptation at its finest

  • The chickadee is well known for its capacity to lower its body temperature during cold winter nights as well as its good spatial memory to relocate the caches where it stores food, and its boldness near humans (sometimes feeding from the hand).

  • Janet


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Competitive Advantage and Drugs in Sport

Sporting bodies uniformally prohibit non-medical drug use. Why? Drugs are prohibited because they enhance performance. Drugs, in brief, hold a unique place amongst all the other competitive advantages. Elite athletes have many advantages apart from drug use. Drug use however is felt to be in a different category to having specialist support teams, which include highly paid professional people. Legitimising drug use would level the playing field. Legitimisation deletes the concept ‘drug cheat’ and every athlete would know exactly where they stood. This is directly analogous to those competing against Mo Farah. They know that every ounce of ability he has has been refined to perfection by his training programmes. If they don’t have that support, and most don’t, their task is far more difficult. They are not on a ‘level playing field’ when competing against Farah.

Sports administrators regulate drug use. Medication is subject to Machiavellian debate in elite sport. Medication and compliant team doctors lead to gaming of the regulations*. The asthma drug salbutamol has become notorious due to its wide-spread use in elite endurance sports, specifically cycling and long distance running. Britain’s finest and most successful athletes, cyclist Chris Froome and track star Mo Farah, accessed salbutamol through Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE). Both athletes underwent medical assessments and were granted a TUE notwithstanding the fact that sulbutamol is a well-known performance enhancing drug. Froome and Farah were given a TUE because of ill-health associated with asthma. The TUE meant that they could compete to the best of their ability despite ill-health. Both of their TUEs have been subject to negative speculation.

Tremendous efforts are made to conceal sophisticated drug programmes and equal efforts are made to thwart drug ‘cheats’. Russia’s winter Olympic team has been banned from the 2018 Games because of systemic state sponsored drug cheating. This is significantly more important than the alleged mis-use of TUEs by Sky Team Cycling.

Does an anti-drugs policy cause more harm than good? Russian athletes, sports officials, medical staff and, probably, their government subverted Olympic drug testing. This egregious recent example makes Lance Armstrong’s extended drug use pale into insignificance. The Russians subverted the Olympic Games and Armstrong garnered seven Tour de France victories before being discovered. Retrospectively ‘clean’ losers are rewarded but on the podium were ‘defeated’. Jennifer Ennis-Hill’s World Games gold medal was awarded a few years after the 2011 championships. She didn’t have her moment of glory on the podium and the gold medal was probably less significant than if it had been awarded at the World Games themselves.

What if medication was permitted because it’s performance enhancing? Athletes wouldn’t need TUEs for ‘asthma’, nor compliant doctors and teams of PR people managing the story. Drugs would simply be another tool for professional teams to create the best outcome for their athletes. There wouldn’t be additional harm caused to athletes as many sports have risks which, on occasions, are lethal***. Sometimes training programmes are so extreme that they cause significant harm but athletes accept them as they’re driven by the rewards of elite sport****. Regulations against drugs introduce a polluting criminal atmosphere in sport which spills over into many other areas of activity.

Medication for athletes and drug use would be synonymous. Conferences could be held about dosages and efficacy and ‘medication’ for athletes would be professionalised instead of being a dark underworld of criminal behaviour. This would make the sporting world fairer. There wouldn’t be any drug cheats and it would be safer because drug use would simply be another tool in an athletes preparation.

*Sky cycling have been accused of mis-using asthma drugs Mo Farah, the British Olympic champion has also been scrutinised for use of asthma medication There is also the question of the amounts of a drug, which at one level might not be performance enhancing but with larger doses is. See





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