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Monday, 30 May 2016

Trevor Pateman's new book, The Best I Can Do

Click on Image to Magnify

Just published and easy to order online at or or 

But if you want a signed copy delivered to a UK address, post paid, then send a cheque for £10.50 (payable to Theyby Ltd) to this address:

degree zero
unit 10
91 western road
Brighton BN1 2NW

Don't forget your own address!

Contains a chapter on Universal Suffrage which anyone appalled by the BREXIT suicide vote might now care to read

Friday, 27 May 2016

Will Hollywood ever respect east Asian actors?

That's the title of an Opinion piece in today's Guardian newspaper. The author, Carmen Fishwick, is probably not  responsible for the title but it's the title which makes me not want to read the article. It's just so Guardian.

First, because this is another example of The Guardian's Hollywood obsession, completely disproportionate to Hollywood's contemporary cultural interest. Second, because I immediately think of the my-grievance-is-bigger-than-your-grievance competition implied by the phrase "east Asian". So I start wracking my brain to think of ways in which north Asian, south Asian and west Asian actors are more respected in Hollywood than east Asian ones - and of course draw a complete blank - and, I trust, not because I am hopeless at the geography. So in the end I have to read the article.

It's dire. It's one of those plug-in advocacy pieces where you assert that X is under-represented in Y and produce some illustrative examples. In this case, east Asian actors are under-represented in Hollywood films and when they are represented they get lousy stereotyped parts - and, as we all know, Hollywood is normally scrupulous in avoiding lousy stereotyped parts for anyone. But as with all such pieces of advocacy, it's unclear what would count as an adequate change to this situation and why you want the change anyway. Women are surely under-represented among the prison torturers of any dictator you care to name - I will bet money on that - but you couldn't get an Opinion piece attacking that state of affairs into The Guardian. But everyone at The Guardian wants a slice of Hollywood.

As an aside to the issue about representation, the author complains that in Hollywood films, "We're rarely ever just normal people". But that, of course, is a different argument and a strange one. Why would you want or expect Hollywood to be particularly interested in normal people?

I went to my quite small collection of DVDs and pulled out a few which had an east Asian connection. Maybe my geography is defective and if so you can jump on me, but I pulled out six titles. In no particular order:

In the Mood for Love, director Wong Kar-Wai, two prizes at Cannes 2000
The Ballad of Narayama, dir Shohei Imamura, Palme d'Or Cannes 1983
The Last Emperor, dir Bernardo Bertolucci, 9 Academy Awards 2004
Memoirs of a Geisha, dir Rob Marshall, Three Oscars 2006
Lust Caution, dir Ang Lee, Golden Lion 2007 Venice etc
Hiroshima Mon Amour, dir Alain Resnais, Cannes selection 1959

I can say that I have enjoyed all these films and have kept the DVDs. They seem to have east Asian actors in quite a lot of leading roles and half of them have east Asian directors. I guess that one counts as a Hollywood movie and maybe more than one. But I am sure that someone could make a case that for this batch of Ys, some X or other is under-represented. For example, I don't recall any normal east Germans in any of them. And none of the directors are women. The absence of east Germans is with a high degree of certainty irrelevant to any political or cultural cause worth troubling about. In contrast, the absence of female directors is relevant to quite a lot of things.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Tax Havens: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office View

In it’s most recent and fascinating 2012 major review The Overseas Territories, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office tells us that

 “ there are many economic success stories. Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands have developed important niche positions in international financial markets”

and of the Cayman Islands it adds approvingly, 

“There is no national insurance, no income or payroll tax, no company or corporation tax, no inheritance tax, no capital gains or gift taxes and no VAT”. 

The FCO notes that “The UK Parliament has unlimited power to legislate for the Territories” and is clearly very pleased with the legislation which has enabled territories like the Cayman Islands to achieve security, success and sustainability - the three words picked for the sub-title of a fascinating 128 page publication which you can download

The Cayman Islaands and all the others repay the United Kingdom by putting the Queen Mother and the latest Royal Babies all over their postage stamps

If you enjoy Pub quizzes, you will know the names of the fourteen remaining British Overseas Territories, but just in case here is the list:

Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Teritory (BAT), British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn (with which are grouped Henderson, Ducie and Oneo), Saint Helena (with which are grouped Ascension and Tristan da Cunha), South Georgia and the South Shetland Islands (SGSSI), Sovereign Base Areas of Akotiri and Dhekalia on Cyprus, Turks and Caicos Islands, Virgin Islands.

Of these the following are either uninhabited or are home only to rotating military or scientific personnel: BAT, BIOT, Henderson, Ducie, Oneo, Ascension, SGSSI, For BAT and SGSSI, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office records the indigenous penguin population for which it is responsibe.

The Channel Islands and Isle of Man do not count as Overseas Territories; they are called Crown Dependencies and are licensed to rip us off under more feudal arrangements. Nonetheless, Parliament is still supreme in relation to them: there is nothing to stop us offering them the choice of incorporation in to the UK and its laws and tax regime or, alternatively, independence - in which case they could risk sanctions for hostile actions against the interests of the UK. Dream on ...