How thought provoking do you want your films?

The other night Dee and I sat down to watch a DVD. It was the film Eye In The Sky, and we’d bought it on the strength of Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman being in it: it’s generally difficult to go wrong with either of them. We didn’t even read the synopsis on the back.

**** SPOILER ALERT! *** I’m going to talk about the film in a little detail now, so if you don’t want to know what happens, best stop reading now!  

The basic premise of the film is that the UK and US governments have been following known terrorists for some time and finally have them in their sights in a house in Nairobi, Kenya, and a Kenyan army force is on standby to try to capture them.  There is an armed drone in the skies above, and it is relaying images back to teams in the UK and US. 

The suspects then move to another part of Nairobi which is effectively a no go area for the authorities. Further surveillance reveals two men putting on explosive vests and preparing to move out into the population.  It is only possible to follow one target with the drone, so if the bombers move out there’s a choice to be made of who to follow. The drone targets the premises they’re in, and a calculation of likely collateral damage gives acceptable figures.  

Then, a young girl appears and sets up shop selling bread her mother has made, right outside part of the target building. The collateral damage calculation shows she is likely to die.  

And here’s the crux of the film, one which they draw out very well, looking for approval from various government departments, the military and all interested parties.  The question is: do you take the opportunity to kill known high level terrorists you’ve been chasing for 6 years along with two imminent suicide bombers who are likely to kill 10s if not 100s of people, but it also means an innocent young girl will almost certainly die? Or do you hold back, and save her life at the expense of unknown numbers of others.  

The film presents good arguments for both decisions, as there is merit in both. There are also arguments to be made against both. Things like – if they let the bombers walk, when they detonate their vests they will be blamed, but if the US and UK kill an innocent girl then they are likely to stir up anti-Western feeling. And where does the law sit on this, with two nations launching a lethal attack on the home soil of a third, friendly, country?

I wouldn’t necessarily rush to watch the film again, but it certainly provided a lot of food for thought.  What would you do? What choices would you make?


Week 8 – TBT 2017 – I Wish

Yet another fabulous bassline which mangles my hands when I try to play it! This is a really bouncy, happy song, which I hadn’t heard until a couple of years ago. Stevie Wonder has never really been on my radar in terms of musicians I should listen to, even though I play Master Blaster for the band I’m with now, but this song appeared in a list of Top 50 basslines in a music magazine and it’s grown on me over the years.

I Wish – Stevie Wonder

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do. And the bassist in the video makes it look so easy! 

Harland and Wolff’s Finest

Do any of you know what this is a picture of?  If you look very closely, etched into the ground on the left and the right is the outline of two ships, and in both there are circles marked where their four funnels were.  The ship on the right is less well known: it was christened the Olympic. Its sister ship on the left was Titanic.

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to have some spare time during a visit to Belfast, so I visited the Titanic Museum on the banks of the Lagan. It’s built at the head of the two slipways for these giant vessels, and was a really interesting tour.  Unfortunately my time was limited so I wasn’t able to read as much or linger as long as I’d have liked, but standing there looking out at those two outlines was quite something.  It was another of those moments when your hair stands on end, when there’s a palpable something in the air.  

The museum itself sheds light on the history of Belfast, on the importance of the linen trade and then shipbuilding.  There’s a short ride which gives some insight into life in the shipyards, and the cramped conditions the riveters had to work in.  The sheer scale of the endeavour is really brought home to you – those ships were massive. Seeing what the cabins would have looked like for the different classes of passengers, and taking a virtual tour up through the numerous decks was a real eye opener.  

I’d have liked to spend more time on the portion which talked about the discovery of the wreckage, and to have watched more of the eerie footage which has been shot there.  I have read that James Cameron, when pitching his idea for the film starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslett, had outlined his plans to have footage from the actual vessel as part of the opening scene, in part because he’d always wanted to go down to see the wreck for himself. I don’t know how true that is, but it’s some story if it is factual.

I mentioned the funnels earlier.  One thing I found out on the tour was that only three of them were “real”: the fourth was used for ventilation and to provide a more aesthetic look.  Is that a visual “alternative fact” perhaps?  It was hard to believe that under full steam the ship used 600 tons of coal a day.  I can’t really picture what that looks like, but I guess it gives some idea as to how big and heavy Titanic must have been when fully laden.  

Next time I’m in Belfast, I hope to have the opportunity to visit the site again.  There was so much more to see, and so much more to feel.  

Week 7 – TBT 2017 – Stockholm Syndrome

As you know I’m a bass player, I’ll bet that some of you are a little surprised at this choice. Surely I’d have gone for something like Hysteria by Muse, with its awesome, hand mangling bass line? This track is relatively simple, though as I don’t use a pick it’s quite tough to play at full speed all the way through. All the fancy stuff is being done by the guitar, but it’s underpinned and supported by the bass and drums. It’s a classic bit of understated bass playing, though I love the guitar riff too. 

Headphone on – or wind the volume up if you can – and rejoice in how good a three piece band can be. 

Stockholm Syndrome – Muse

Dave the Psychic

I saw this video for the third or fourth time in the past 6 months recently, and it occurred to me that you might like to see it. On the face of it, this guy is able to tell a lot about a person just by holding their hands or talking to them, but then…

Magic – or is it?

This contains a lot of really good examples of the impact of not locking down your privacy settings on social media. If you’re happy for all and sundry to find out the sort of things this guy does, then carry on. But if you’re a bit uncomfortable, a bit worried about what someone could find out about you, then it’s time to review your settings.

It’s a good idea to do this reasonably regularly anyway, as hidden within your Terms and Conditions for most sites there will almost certainly be agreement for the suppliers to change permissions as and when they see fit. Normally that happens during an update or upgrade, but it’s a good idea to be vigilant.  

Week 6 – TBT 2017 – Ballroom Blitz

What can I say? My first favourite band was The Sweet, probably cos I heard this or Teenage Rampage on Top Of The Pops many, many, many years ago! The song has reappeared and been done by various groups, most notably Crucial Taunt in Wayne’s World. It’s long been an ambition of mine to play this, but I’ve not yet had the opportunity. Glam rock at its best! 

Ballroom Blitz – The Sweet

Week 5 – TBT 2017 – I Disappear

I’m not really a big fan of metal or heavy rock, which is odd given that the band I played in for so many years was probably best described as the latter! I find that the endless guitar solos and heavy riffs get a bit grating after a while BUT once in a while a track comes along that just blows you away. This is one of them. It’s from Metallica – a band I kind of like, kind of don’t – and which has a great riff with a cool contrast between that and the vocals. The video is pretty good too, as you’d expect for a song that was used for one of the Mission: Impossible movies. 

I hope you enjoy this – make sure you turn the volume up first!

I Disappear – Metallica