Colonial mentality news

Happy Independence Day, India!
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Bit disappointed that the focus of 70th anniversary in some BBC programmes is the partition rather than the end of British colonial rule in the Indian sub-continent.
Even if the canals, irrigation, railways and much else was good for the people, those assets were not mobilised to prevent massive famines; self-rule had to happen.

I saw the news coverage and it took one sentence for the story to become about the killings at partition.
It’s as if the story was – these people couldn’t cope without ‘the calming hand of we British’.
I don’t know enough about what happened, but a lot of people died in the famine of 1943, for which more should have been done; and I’m not clear about to what extent we British didn’t play up tensions between different religious groups in the years before.
So for me, the story should have been – ‘we British should have got out cos it was right and cos we got some things terribly wrong.’

One other thought – if people in the ‘south’ of the USA are tearing down statues representing an oppressive and unjust past, just what should we be doing with statues of people like Clive of India?

Track 5: “Ceremony”, Joy Division

Something of a surprise that a band attracting national attention was playing at High Hall, a hall of residence at the University of Birmingham – but a very welcome one.
A fan through listening to John Peel, I’d seen them supporting the Buzzcocks six months or so previous.
I’d gone in my usual blue Littlewoods shirt (never one for fashion), and starting swaying to the very first song – “Ceremony“.  You just got into the groove and started dancing.  I’d even hung around towards the back so I’d got space to move.
There was a bit of a commotion when the lead singer appeared to have collapsed but he came back on.
Not long after, Buzzcocks did a BBC Radio 1 live concert and my mate looked at each other slightly confused when Pete Shelley said “this one’s for Ian Curtis who died last night”.
It wasn’t until almost a week later that an NME poster made it clear to us that he was the Joy Division lead singer.  And it’s kinda how we were – you liked the music, and didn’t worry about the individuals artists; against strut. But once we knew who he was – horrible shock.
This was to be the celebrity death that had the most impact on me, and of course the story has become very well known with 2 movies (a lot of “Control” was filmed in Nottingham and Mapperley Hills) and lots of documentaries, and even one of a series of 4 posters celebrating the event – the actual poster for the night got the date wrong and black biro was used to fill in the errant number “2”.


The recording of the concert was to be the second half of a double album of collected songs, despite one of the mikes not recording the first part of the vocals of “Ceremony” at a proper level.  (I was there, but I can’t hear myself …)
Even so, it’s my favourite version, of my favourite Joy Division song.

Track 5: “Ceremony”, Joy Division, from Still album, live recording from May 2nd, 1980 at Birmingham University.

Previous track – “Making plans for Nigel”, XTC.

Dunkirk

A war movie, without the distracting love stories and over poignant speeches.
A war movie that doesn’t worry about what Churchill is saying.
A war movie that doesn’t show an enemy face until the final seconds.
A war movie that doesn’t show blood or gore.
A war movie that shows Spitfire Mark 1s in 70mm IMAX.
A war movie that shows what it was like to try to return home and try to help the evacuation.
On land, on sea and in the air.
Compelling action. Bullets zinging. Bombs exploding. Torpedoes hitting. Ships sinking. Planes duelling. combattants bracing.
A war movie, not a survival movie, even if the Director says so.

So go see Dunkirk.

The surprise – what limited dialogue there is can’t be heard very cleary – a mistake not made since “The Patriot”.  Understandable maybe if the background is explosions, but when reading a newspaper article on a train back in Blighty?
Some of the storylines are a bit misjudged (the trawler, one event on the little ship) and there’s no celebration of French efforts.

The myths of Dunkirk

dunkirk movie german map leafletaaxxxxhPromotional interviews for the movie Dunkirk keep stressing how Churchill thought the operation to bring British and allied forces out of the trapped pocket might ony save 30,000 when 338,000 were to be relieved says more about our willingness to buy such stories rather than what was actually said by British senior officers.
And the story of the little ships being brought over by their owners was also something that took off after it was penned by an American author – they were mainly sailed by Royal Navy personnel.
Worst about it all is how the role of French soldiers in enabling the evacuation is underplayed.
Then ideas that Hitler was being kind to the British – more a judgment of a British army returning home was never going to come back and there were other objectives to meet.
Nor did the Luftwaffe particularly fail – they were asked to do too much from bases too far away.
And of course there are records of British servicemen poor discipline.
As it happens, the British were planning an evacuation a few days previous and a major operation after Dunkirk brought another 190,000 personnel to Britain.
The Allies were out thought and outmanoeuvred in the Battle of France.
And debacles were to follow elsewhere, notably in Singapore.

But enough already.
Cos the point is that even once we cut through the myths and hear more of the reality, the Dunkirk evacuation was still an extraordinary effort, including the French.  Something to be proud of and to draw inspiration from.

Their finest

A celebration of cinema and when Britain and its empire stood alone against the Nazis.
A reminder of the sexist nature of the world of work.
An entertainment.

And how the screenwriters must have enjoyed writing a screenplay where the screenwriter is the hero in a war film.
(No doubt learning from journalists who make themselves the hero in a political story.)
One bigger quibble – the female lead makes strides for women and without any real reason, falls for the boss at work (having fallen previously for an artist who didn’t champion her) without any kind of narratve to suggest there had been real warmth.  Surely the screenwriters should have spotted that.

Negotiate internationally and survive

I don’t object to the re-publication of the “Protect and Survive” pamphlet as a reminder of what was once published but the curator behind it is wrong to say it shows how close we came to a nuclear war.
The pamphlet was about building up the idea that we could fight and survive a nuclear war.
The particular notion was of a tactical nuclear war – i.e. within Europe only (strategic was USA and USSR exchanging ICBM with multiple nuclear weapons).
Protest and Suvive 015567The pamphlet did backfire (a pamphlet called “Protest and Survive” was published; CND was renewed, a campaign against “tactical nuclear war – European Nuclear Disarmament – was started and based in Nottingham).
But there were still plenty of people in places like Top Valley saying they’d survive a bomb detonated over Nottingham city centre.
Lots of nonsense about this –
– so a BBC documentary that showed the impact of a single weapon was salutory;
– that a nuclear war could be constrained to Europe was inexplicable – just how were enemies supposed to know where bombs had been sent from? (The Russians would understand we were only taking out a bridge across the River Rhine? Disappointing to hear a Labour MP giving the notion of deficits in tactical nuclear weapons some credence in the last major Parliamentary debate.)
– we know that it wouldn’t take many explaosions to throw so much material in the atmosphere as to cause a nuclear winter – not seeing the sun again for many months; (Yeah, Top Valley might survive, but then starve.)
As a country, we got stranded choosing between unilateral and multilateral disarmament (hopeless) – so nice to see the UN giving multilateral nuclear disarmament another push today.

Square_legA reminder that an exercise, called “Square Leg“, run in the eigthies presumed 131 nuclear explosions in and over Britain, meaning – “Mortality was estimated at 29 million (53 percent of the population); serious injuries at 7 million (12 percent); short-term survivors at 19 million (35 percent).”
Map scanned from ‘Doomsday, Britain after Nuclear Attack’ by Stan Openshaw, Philip Steadman and Owen Greene Basil Blackwell, 1983 ISBN 0-631-13394-1

Trains and planes and satellite pictures

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Loads of scenes with trains and railway lines – much better then “T2:Trainspotting“.
So this film couldn’t miss.
Lion” is at its best when showing action and landscapes; dialogue – not so good – a soap opera style of misunderstanding, whilst some of the lines are swallowed.
Despite it being based on a true story, I was sceptical.  A child being lost in the ’80s and not found?  The film explains it all, including just how many children are lost in India.