The Curmudgeon


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Shills of God Grind Slow

With the chances of a West European return to mediaeval levels of poverty, ignorance and social stratification looking better by the day, the leaders of the Anglican Communion have called upon the faithful to repent the unfortunate misunderstandings of the Reformation, the legacy of which has been largely to keep Christians from "unity in love". In Standard English, this means that Christians have spent the last four hundred years failing to hate non-Christians properly because they have been too preoccupied with hating each other. The Reformation sprang from Luther's rebellion against the corruption of Rome, and resulted in much persecution of Christians by other Christians, which obviously had never happened before; and there is, of course, no talk of anything so merely moral as repenting the fourth-century devil's pact with the Roman Empire. Still, if the priests of Christendom are to take due advantage of the present turbulence and bring back the good old days of loving their enemies onto a bonfire, some agreement over such burning issues as whether and under what biological endowments they can marry one another might make for a promising start.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Healthy Profits

I'm sure we are all relieved to know that Jeremy C Hunt is unlikely to need the aid of a food bank in the near future, unless he starts managing his own little affairs the way he manages the NHS. Apparently Hunt's failed business ventures include exporting marmalade to Japan, a boondoggle currently undergoing resurrection thanks to the vole-brained Minister for International Werritty. He also tried building children's playgrounds, but presumably couldn't get them quite unsafe enough to satisfy his conscience.

Nevertheless, he is now in line for a fourteen-and-a-half-million-pound windfall from the sale of a company which he co-founded, though not, as many less scrupulous businesspersons might have done, from motives of mere profit. "A lot of people who start their own business do so because they think it’s a good way to make a lot of money, but when you start it becomes simply a matter of survival," Hunt's website sermonised. "It’s a daily struggle, which is why small business people tend to be very down to earth and practical", just like Spadsacker Hunt, who viewed the London Olympics as little more than a chance for an eminently down-to-earth knee-trembler with Rupert Murdoch.

Hunt has proclaimed that he will use his money to campaign for causes he believes in once he finally decides that, like his fellow striver Tristram Hunt, he has little more to gain from pretending to be a mere public servant.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Spreading Civilised Values

Britain's continuing noble efforts to improve human rights in Bahrain have culminated, expectably enough, in the first executions since the year the Bullingdon Club took office. Three men convicted of killing police officers have been shot by firing squad; there are the usual claims of torture and coercion, but authorities have found "no evidence of coercion in the case documents", which certainly ought to settle the matter as far as Her Majesty's Government is concerned. The government in Bahrain is owned by a minority faction and has recently been cracking down on the majority, which will unquestionably evoke what passes for human sympathy in Westminster. Even more importantly, ever since the Arab spring Britain has spent millions training the Bahraini police in the hope of getting democracy to flower in an appropriate and constructive manner; and it also wants to build a naval base there. Accordingly, the Imperial Haystack has reiterated Britain's opposition to capital punishment and "raised the issue" with the Bahraini government, who are doubtless as chastened as can be.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Putting Off Our Finest Hour

Historiographic indignation levels are set to rise as the Heathen Chinee attempt to rewrite the history of the Battle of Britain by relocating the war's beginning to when the fighting started. A British historian, whose book The Second World War begins with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, said that the Heathen Chinee were trying to "reverse the recent tide of historiography" by claiming that the Second World War began with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931. A Beijing historian commented that the revision was justified in terms of mere accuracy, but that the Communist Party is likely to be trying for a propaganda effect. This is, of course, all quite alien to the far more objective and sensible British method of history, where stout chaps do sterling deeds, where the odd famine or genocide is barely worth mentioning and is in any case compensated by some dashed fine railways, and where the role of the Heathen Chinee in the Second World War is even more minor and obscure than that of the USSR.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Those Who Share Our Values

A Hungarian TV camerawoman who was filmed giving assertive attention to her legitimate concerns has been found guilty of breaching the peace. She was working for a station associated with the Christian fascist party Jobbik, and demonstrated her respect for their values and beliefs by tripping up a swarming horde who was carrying a child, and by putting the boot into a fleeing juvenile cockroach. Although the maximum penalty is a large fine, her sentence is arguably even harsher: she has to refrain from kicking any more refugees for three whole years. In addition, her life has been derailed by the intolerant public reaction to the deeply regrettable fact that she was filmed, and she claims to be planning a move to Russia, where freedom of the boot is apparently still sacrosanct. Presumably it was only the continuing dictatorship of the muesli-munching metropolitan élite that prevented her coming to Britain.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Few Hedgehogs Short of a Motorway

With all that's going on and standing still in the country's transport system, beleaguered travellers will rejoice to see that the brilliant Chris Graybeing has been having a bit of a philosophical interlude. During the recent trouble on the trains, the brilliant Graybeing responded by trotting out the arcane distinction between honest British taxpayers and mere users of public transport, who apparently have similar tax arrangements to certain members of the Conservative Party. Only yesterday the brilliant Graybeing approved a road tunnel through one of the country's oldest and richest archaeological sites; and today the brilliant Graybeing has denied that cyclists use roads. Presumably this minority religious belief explains the brilliant Graybeing's recent clobbering of a heretically-placed cyclist with the door of his car. Despite his hit-and-run attitude to the various political briefs which successive prime ministers have inexplicably given him to play with, the brilliant Graybeing did apparently acknowledge the cyclist's existence although, as a genuine road user, he did not feel obliged to give his details to the fleshly outrage against Nature, morality and the Highway Code. Meanwhile, the Government has pledged to double cycling levels, but it seems likely that this commitment will go the same way as the green crap and the harmless little jokes about protecting the NHS and safeguarding our interests in the European single market. The Government is spending less than £1 per person on the issue, because the brilliant Graybeing can count up to less than one; but doubling would require him to count up to two, and possibly even higher.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Time to Grow Up and Be a Proper Bank

Wishy-washy metropolitan elites have been pestering the dead-eyed warden of HM Prison UK and her flunkey Nick Hurd, the Minister for Being the Son of a Former Minister, over the likely sell-off of the Green Investment Bank to an Australian asset-stripper. It remains as yet unclear whether the dead-eyed warden is in favour of the sale primarily because of instructions from Rupert Murdoch or because of her own refined personal preferences. Even Vince Cable, who was happy to stiff the taxpayer for a goodly sum when flogging off the Post Office, apparently has qualms about the theft and demolition of public assets now that he is out of government. The bank was set up under the Conservative government of 2010-15, in which Cable was the nominal business secretary; but among the first decisions of the Bullingdon Club government of 2015-16 was the cleansing of even the most token whiff of green crap. Besides, the architect of the Osbornomic miracle thought that the money might well come in handy for helping to pay down the deficit incurred by the first five years of the Osbornomic miracle, provided that nobody in the City needed a bit of a pick-me-up. In response to cross-party concerns about the sale, the Minister for Being the Son of a Former Minister said that the bank would be able to accomplish much bigger things when freed from the suffocating hand of the state. Indeed, one need only look at the Arctic, the Niger delta and the Gulf of Mexico to see just how big the results of unrestrained private enterprise can be.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Britishness Skittishness

So great has been the moral progress of our education system that the University of Winchester now has a Centre for English Identity and Politics, which apparently was set up in order to keep the drivelling New Labour flunkey John Denham from toddling about and getting himself into trouble. Denham has been blathering for years about Englishness, Britishness and the need to bribe the white working class away from their natural racist bigotry, and he is now blathering about some YouGov data which shows what most of us have known for a long time; viz. that after years of writhing theological debate on the meaning of Britishness, very few people have much idea what it means, and almost certainly care less. It also appears that people who feel more English are more likely to have voted to leave the EU, which shows that if you ask two stupid questions you are likely to get two stupid answers. Again, in order to need telling this by a YouGov survey one would really have to belong to the Gove-Denham brand of intellectual firebucket or to the Tristram Hunt faction of the Farage Falange, rather than to those metropolitan elites which constitute the reality-based portion of the human species.

Monday, January 09, 2017

White Tiger

Karyen Shakhnazarov 2012

At the height of the Great Patriotic War, a gutted Soviet tank is discovered with its driver burned up and fused to the steering wheel. In spite of injuries that would normally be fatal, the man is still alive, and over the next few weeks makes a seemingly miraculous recovery, although he cannot remember his own identity and is renamed Ivan Ivanovich Naidyonov (Ivan the Found) by his comrades. Quiet and unflappably calm, Naidyonov (Alexei Vertkov) retains all his tank-driver's skills and seems to have developed a psychic bond with the machinery; so when ominous rumours begin to circulate about a German Tiger tank with apparently supernatural capabilities, he is naturally assigned to destroy it, under the watchful eye of counter-intelligence officer Fedotov (Vitaliy Kishchenko).

Splendidly shot amid white-misted Russian forests, White Tiger is for most of its length more of a war film than a ghost story, before mutating into something more peculiar than either. Still, the supernatural element is nicely integrated thanks to the atmospheric visuals and some unpretentious but telling touches, as when Fedotov gets his first sight of the White Tiger and tries to take its picture. The battle scenes - two duels and a spectacularly disastrous mass assault - are in deadly earnest, the vulnerability of Naidyonov and his all-too-human crewmen never in doubt; and although Naidyonov develops a personal mythology of a T-34-riding "tank god" who speaks in thunder and lightning, no deus ex machina descends to destroy the White Tiger.

It is after the second duel, in which the monster is defeated but not finished off, that the film becomes truly unexpected. Having argued with his superior over whether something supernatural really is taking place, Fedotov is given a few days' leave and informed that the fall of Berlin is imminent. Rather than staging a final showdown amid the Reich's Götterdämmmerung, as almost any other film-maker would feel morally obliged to do, Shakhnazarov takes the tanks off-screen entirely. Instead we are shown, at some length, the ceremony around the signing of the surrender documents by Field Marshal Keitel (a superbly prissy Christian Redl), following which the defeated Nazi leaders are treated to a luxurious meal while they chat quietly among themselves and don't mention the war.

A lingering scene shows the results of their handiwork: a seemingly endless line of prisoners marches through the ruins of Berlin, witnessed by tank crews and stunned civilians, and also by Fedotov who drives grimly out of the city to find Naidyonov still ready for battle. The White Tiger has retreated for now, but in fifty or a hundred years, or perhaps seventy-two, it will be back.

The epilogue, set amid decadent splendour in an unknown place, shows only a man seated comfortably by a fire and talking to a close colleague or mentor. The film's main musical score is derived from Wagner's Tannhäuser, and the speaker is a demonic artist engaged, as he believes, in a deadly but redemptive struggle. A grim little masterpiece of restrained horror and cinematic chutzpah, this scene drives White Tiger across the borders of the interestingly odd, and a small but significant distance into the realm of demented genius.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

This is Not a Crisis, But We Have a Cunning Plan Anyway

There is no crisis in the NHS. The dead-eyed warden herself has decreed it; and she is the one who told us that filthy migrants were avoiding deportation because they had cats. If any other plausibility enhancement solution were needed, the dead-eyed warden is also the one who prefers appeasing the Farage Falange to letting mere expert opinion pollute the patriotic purity of her inactions.

Additionally, the minister for profitable prole-training has overruled the Red Cross on the definition of a humanitarian crisis, on the grounds that she saw much worse when she was toddling about the globe funnelling humanitarian aid to her corporate masters. She also asserted that the need for the Red Cross to help provide public health services in the world's sixth-richest country is nothing particularly unusual. Whether or not it is anything particularly disgraceful was not a question the minister chose to explore, because a Five-Year Plan is in hand to blame everything on local authorities, so obviously Everything's All Right.