Friday, April 30, 2010
directed by Jean-Luc Godard
directed by Warren Beatty
directed by Billy Wilder
directed by Woody Allen
directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky
Directed by James William Guercio
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
Directed by Lindsay Anderson
Directed by Sam Peckinpah
Thursday, April 29, 2010
In a previous post on religion and the law, I said the following:
the obligation in a free society is that one is required to respect a person’s right to their beliefs, but not to respect the beliefs themselves. So it would be perfectly acceptable for employee A to hold her religious beliefs, but not for that to impose any cost on her employer or her fellow employees. Otherwise it is compelling them at least partly to accept those beliefs, which might of course be contrary to their own. Employee A should not therefore take on the job in the first place, or should negotiate the terms before she starts.
Now the Court of Appeal has used the same logic in another case where an employee wished to be excused certain duties on the basis that they conflicted with his religious views.
The Times reports:
Christianity deserves no protection in law above other faiths and to do so would be “irrational”, “divisive, capricious and arbitrary”, a senior judge said today, as he rejected a marriage guidance counsellor’s attempt to challenge his sacking for refusing to give sex therapy to gay couples.
In the latest clash between the judiciary and Christian believers, Lord Justice Laws said that laws could not be used to protect one religion above another.
He also delivered a robust dismissal to the former Archbishop of Canterbury who had warned that a series of recent court rulings against Christians could lead to “civil unrest.”
To give one religion legal protection over any other, “however long its tradition, however rich its culture, is deeply unprincipled”, the judge said. It would give legal force to a “subjective opinion” and would lead to a “theocracy”, which is of necessity autocratic.”
Robust retort to the former Archbishop it certainly was. Elsewhere the Telegraph reports the former Archbishop’s predictable reaction. Yet Laws LJ’s decision is both logically correct and, moreover, not an attack on anyone’s right to religious belief. The decision is quite straightforward. Everyone has the right to their beliefs. But they may not impose those beliefs on others. Which means that the employee in this case was perfectly entitled to hold the religious belief that he should refuse to offer services to homosexuals. But, that being the case, he should not have taken the job in the first place, or at least should not continue with it. That does not reflect on him as a Christian. It would be the same for any religious belief, or indeed any other sort of belief, however serious or trivial. One can object to the trade in oil due to the amount of blood and other injustice associated with its extraction, but in that case one shouldn’t take a job at a service station and refuse to operate the petrol pumps. Nor should anyone accept employment at a butcher’s shop or off licence and then demand state-enforced exemption in respect of handling pork or alcohol products, unless one agrees with the employer beforehand.
This does not involve other rights “trumping” the right to religion as is occasionally supposed. It is simply that one’s own personal beliefs provide no excuse for not obeying the law, which prohibits discrimination on certain grounds. It does not prevent one from holding those beliefs nor from campaigning for a change in the law or otherwise exercising one’s right to free speech to proselytise as much as one wishes.
If it were otherwise then there would be many potentially negative consequences beyond simply religious employees skipping a few duties here and there at work. Adherents of the doctrine of the Dutch Reform Church in the 1980s would be permitted to act in a particularly odious fashion. Indeed, in the UK itself B&Bs were once permitted to display signs excluding people of a certain ethnicity. Further back in time, of course, this country had a state religion that was extremely ruthless towards anyone not on message. In the present day many countries still do. I doubt many in the UK in the present day would wish to see people fined for non-attendance at church, never mind executed for apostasy or blasphemy.
So much for the general point. In fact in the instant case the above was reinforced by the very terms of the employment contract. The employer had an equal opportunities policy which required them to ensure “that no person… receives less favourable treatment on the basis of characteristics, such as… sexual orientation…” The employee can be taken to have been aware of this when signing his contract.
That is the short answer to the argument (which others have made) that homosexuality is being privileged over religion. But one could also make the point in reverse: suppose that the employee had been homosexual, and took the view that the Bible was a bigoted document in respect of homosexuals and that he disagreed with the church's teaching thereon. Would or should he have been able to ask not to advise Christians? Of course not.
One further point mentioned by the Times is the contention by the former Archbishop that only judges proven to have some sort of religious sensitivity should hear cases with a religious element. This argument can be disposed of shortly. It would be completely unprincipled to afford certain individuals separate (and presumably more sympathetic) legal procedures on the basis of their personal beliefs. It is unworkable anyway - why only religious cases? Almost any type of case could conceivably involve someone’s particular sensibilities and deeply held beliefs. The role of the courts is to decide cases according to law, and certainly not to attempt to evaluate religious doctrine. (Note that this should not be confused with the regular practice of the Court of Appeal to include at least one judge with particular expertise on the area of law a case raises, eg shipping law. In those cases the particular judge is chosen so as to ensure the tribunal understands the law, not because he or she might show extra sensitivity to shipowners or charterers or cargo owners. Nor should it be confused with the ecclesiastical courts which still exist and reflect the CofE's status as the established church; on which more possibly another time.)
It is not as though the approach advocated above should worry any religious believer; quite the opposite. The United States has a constitutional separation of church and state, as well as freedom of speech, and yet has a much higher level of religious attendance than the United Kingdom. By contrast certain theocratic states elsewhere in the world, as I have mentioned, protect only one religion, and not much in the way of other minority rights either. Perhaps the former Archbishop would be better off addressing the real persecution of Christians in other countries rather than the imagined persecution in this one.
Post script: This letter to the Times also makes a very strong rebuttal of Lord Carey's views.
I have a tendency to cry my eyes out at overly sentimental films. I even cried once during the 70's remake of King Kong. And don't mention The Bridges Of Madison County. Field Of Dreams is a classic weepie, it leaves a sickly sentimental taste and is all the better for it.
It also stars Kevin Costner. What can one say. That he is a movie star called Kevin should get your suspicions up. He's the all-American boy who made terrible movie choices after a bright start. Field Of Dreams was part of that early promise. Man hears voices on farm, destroys his crop, builds his own baseball field. Ghosts of great baseball players start showing up on the field. Bankruptcy looms, what can all this mean? And why did the voice tell Ray (Costner) "Build it and he will come". Who will come? These mysteries are all solved.
What makes Field Of Dreams interesting is it's mainstream sheen. This is all-American Pie. It's good old democracy and decency and a reminder of a time when American was good. Field Of Dreams has more than a nod to the good feeling of the films of Frank Capra (although it never approaches the darkness Capra was capable of).
Fine performances from James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster & Ray Liotta back Costner up. They lay it on thick at the end as it get's overly sentimental. This is as good as Hollywood gets with this stuff. But Field Of Dreams still has an original plot line, it creates a weird tension for such popular fare. And it sends out a positive yet simple message: hold onto your dreams, you never know when they may come and find you.
Just that day prior to watching Field of Dreams I had voiced major realizations in my life, for example that I have been afraid to dream. Or at least, if I have dreamed, those dreams have not been revealed to anyone. If someone asks to know my dreams, I give them my goals. Honestly, I have only now (this week) realized the difference.
Dreaming has been dangerous in my life, because of the lack of trust I harbor towards people and nature. But to dream of only things you know you can have or achieve is not dreaming.
This all said, I was amazed to be watching a movie about the miraculous effects of daring to dream.
The subject matter here is endlessly fascinating, but I am baffled by the lack of aesthetics. In a cinematic sense, there is nothing there. The imagination required for dreaming was not illuminating the photographer, set designers, costume designers, casting or even the director. Meat and potatoes.
Did they make this film for children or for some farming community? (I don't want to disrespect either parties, but a strong sense of undermining the target audience is present here – Hollywood at its least artistic)
Then there is baseball. Nick had to repeatedly remind me that this film is not about baseball. But I am just immediately bored when I realize that someone's dream involves a baseball bat. No, I am not American and I am not a man and I do not get sentimental about catching a ball. I begin to fall asleep.
I feel sad that a movie about dreaming is getting such a cynic's response from me. There's something wrong with me, I guess.
Still, I must mention Kevin Costner, because secretly I think he was sleepwalking through the film with me – the voice from the fields made him robotic. Don't get me wrong: I have secret dreams and I love movies about dreaming – just not this one.
It wasn't always so. Once upon a time I did knit. My husband and I spent a year in the UK, during which I was mostly without access to a sewing machine. And in the UK then, great knitting yarn, and fabulous knitting patterns were easier to find. The activity of knitting suited those long nights (Cambridge, where we were living, is WAY farther north than any city in Canada where I have ever lived so has WAY less daylight in the depths of winter) in front of our little electric "fire". I found fabulous vintage knitting patterns, including some gathered into book form and updated. I still have The 30s Family Knitting Book and The Man's Knitting Book - classic patterns from the '20s to the '50s (both edited by Jane Waller). Fabulous. I even made a couple of items out of each.
I was recently reminded in the nicest possible way of my past prowess as a knitter. Thirty-two years ago I made a little sweater and matching hat. The set was intended for a first baby about to be born to a relative. I went all out. The sweater was mainly ivory, with a Norwegian-type snowflake border that had repeating blue snowflakes (approximately 2.5" wide) with a little red border. Along the lines of this sweater, only change the colours, and it was a cardigan:
Well I finished the set before the baby was born and presented it to the parents-to-be, then waited for the blessed event to occur.
You can hardly imagine the mixed emotions which came along with the news that the expected baby was born, beautiful and healthy and ... there were two of them. Identical twin boys. I gritted my teeth and made a second sweater set, exactly like the first one except a different snowflake pattern.
Last year, one of the twins became a dad. They sent a link to some photos on Picasa. His little daughter looks adorable in the sweater I made for him 32 years ago. Such a nice surprise to find out they had kept it (and its twin) for the next generation.
Monday, 15 February, 2010
WRS Exploring 'the Lichtenstein solution' to banking secrecy
Sunday, April 25, 2010
The Superintendent of Banks of Panama has opened a period of 30 days for comments to the banking and trustee licenses applications filed by UNI B & T HOLDINGS, INC. for UNI BANK & TRUST, INC. The directors of UNI B & T HOLDINGS, INC. are:
MAYER MIRO YOHOROS
DAVID BTESH NAHMAD
MOISES AZRAK AZRAK
DANIEL LEVY AZIZIAN
superbancos @ superbancos.gob.pa
Friday, April 23, 2010
Un Flic is slow, stylish, vacuous, dangerous and a little bit dull. It makes me want to compare it to all the fantastic French movies I have seen and conclude that it is just not that great in the context.
Maybe this is genius and I'm the idiot here, but I am bored by straightforward bank robbery flicks.
There are no surprising twists here and Catherine Deneuve is hardly in the film. It's just oldish men in trench coats driving around in rain.
Alain Delon is cool and the best thing about the film. He has a phone in his cop car. The phone may actually be the star of the film. How did they do portable phones in the 1960s? The phone receiver is like a regular land line phone. And they are sexy.
Every time I'm in a hotel room with a land line phone I have to make long calls to the room next door (or where ever there is someone I know) and stare at myself in the mirror.
Melville is inspiring even when he is boring. There is scope for imagination here.
Melville and Alain Delon, the director/actor team from one my favorite ever pictures, Le Samourai. Un Flic (A Cop) doesn't disappoint, this is the final film by Melville and it's quite majestic.
You can contemplate that directors like Jarmusch dream of the opening shot of a car driving along the kerb of a rain and windswept ocean front. The two robberies in the film, one in a bank and one on a train, both long scenes without dialogue, must have impressed Tarantino with their lack of showiness, oh to teach him restraint. The look of this film must have been studied by Scorsese, it's so precise. Yes, Melville is a master of the gangster movie genre, mixing villains with existentialism.
Alain Delon plays the cop of the title cleaning the streets of Paris of crime. He's a rather clumsy cop, not perfect and almost bored by the job. Catherine Deneuve plays the femme fatal that Delon has an affair with. Richard Crenna plays her partner who heads the crime team making the robberies. There is little plot, as mentioned the dialogue is sparse, but Melville still turns up the tension and weaves heavy atmosphere with a series of magnificent shots and scenes. Deneuve has never looked so good on film. Delon matches her with an extra dose of weariness, though he's not quite the dish from Le Samourai.
Delon is cop at the piano in the bar, playing Michel Colombier's wonderful music. Deneuve dressed as a nurse administering murder through a needle. The transvestite informant has a special relationship with the cop. The suicide with a pistol to the head we think we see. The final long shot of the cop and his sidekick in a car, glum and destroyed by the routine of being policemen and how the case has turned out, is funny yet sad. There is so much to enjoy in this picture. An absorbing masterpiece, track down Un Flic, it's worth it.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
In the last year or so I've got back into reading comics. From the age of seven I started reading the famously banned Action comic which was the precursor to seminal Si-Fi comic 2000AD. By the age of fifteen I was collecting up to 7 titles a week, from English to USA Marvel. When I left the UK to live in Finland I stopped reading any comic titles. But, it's fair to say, I'm a bit of a comic nut.
Mike Mignola's Hellboy I've only read a little. Guillermo del Toro really is the right director for this franchise, certainly from the visual aspect, he's probably the best adapter of comic book worlds I've ever watched. But he really shouldn't write the screenplays to these films. The script to Hellboy II can be described as obvious, patronizing and so on. del Toro constantly alludes to the fact that the audience won't believe that comic book characters could discuss adult themes, so simplistic cliches are proffered from Hellboy and his chums on the topics of romance, fatherhood and domesticity.
The dry humor from the first Hellboy picture is still here, as often displayed by Ron Perlman as Hellboy himself, but this time round it's a little overcooked. The actions scenes are impressive initially but often outstay there welcome. del Toro makes the claim that little CGI is used in his movies, but this seems to be a CGI festival at times, it really is like watching PlayStation. It get's a little messy, and the action is not so clear at times.
Despite all these faults, there is a lot of good stuff going on. Yes, as mentioned, some of this film looks amazing, the underworld lairs that del Toro creates are stunning. He can bring fairytale worlds to life and does so here. All the performances are top notch and the characters are a little more relaxed this time round. The Johan Krauss figure is a great addition to the team of Hellboy, Liz & Abe. It also prominently features a Barry Manilow song.
As comic book to movie adaptations go, the Hellboy films are among the best. There is no real tension here or over-bearing angst like the recent Batman films. Maybe that's a good thing. Overall this is very entertaining, it's trash on a Sunday afternoon, and sometimes that's enough.
I have to admit I had been oddly entertained by Hellboy and therefore was curious about Hellboy II.
But oh, did it disappoint. They had (accidentally?) injected Lord of The Rings into a comic adaptation that supposedly takes place in New York of the 2000s. I cannot take anything lordoftherings -like anymore. I wasted nine hours on the trilogy during the last decade. Mixing the comic book Manhattan with Tolkien just won't do.
I cannot go into details about plot or anything much soon as this was simply repetition of what we saw in Hellboy already and then there was the adventure in the land of goblins... The film presents emotions with the kind of depth worryingly shallow even for an 11-year-old. But that is the point – I must be too old.
The very end of the film offers a treasure: Liz is expecting twins instead of just one baby.
What do we learn? Well, that it all leads to procreation. Still.
Monday, April 19, 2010
21 companies have shown interest so far. The deadline for formal offers from qualified companies is April 29, 2010, noon. The full terms are listed in the Panamacompra government procurement website.
21 companies interested in Banco Nacional procurement of computer systems
30 March 2010
IBS Journal - News Banco Nacional de Panama has published an RFP for a core banking system. This is not the first time the bank has done so. Just over a year ago was the last time it initiated a selection process for a replacement core, but that effort ended unsatisfactorily, with no system able to meet the exceptionally high standards demanded by the bank – so high that only one vendor, Indra, even made a bid (IBS, End of year review 2009).
Vendors may be forgiven for approaching this particular selection process with trepidation, but the feeling appears to be that the bank desperately needs to settle on a replacement this time. ‘We really believe that this time the bank will choose a core system, since its technology situation is in bad shape’, says one source involved in the process. ‘The core is so outdated that the bank can’t open new branches or offer new services.’ The bank has not responded to IBS’s approaches.
Labels: Core Banking Systems, Problem Projects
Carrotsandsmarties asked whether I have a helper to help me fit myself. Nope - I do the first pinning on my handy-dandy duct tape double, and then when it looks weird (as it invariably does) I put the muslin on for a double-check. This process confirms that the weirdness is truly my own. So I don't have to put it on and take it off a million times, as Carrotsandsmarties feared - just once or twice.
Vicki asked if taking length out of the CF is a normal adjustment for me or whether it's peculiar to this pattern. Well, it's not something I have to do all the time, but I have done it before. It seems more pronounced in a garment which has a V neck and no lapels, for some reason. I think it is a combination of somewhat forward and somewhat square shoulders, coupled with a forward neck, but I'm not really sure. All I know is that I've come to trust the evidence of improved fit from various tucks.
NancyK asked if I had seen the series of articles on alterations that Kenneth King has written recently in Threads. This series is very interesting but I have not attempted to follow his instructions. I did spend quite a long time poring over his diagrams and text, trying to understand exactly what he was doing. It was certainly not self-explanatory, at least to me. I concluded that this is the method that works for Kenneth King but it wasn't going to work for me. That said, his articles perhaps served as inspiration to me in my own quest for better fit, and helped me figure out how to "read the muslin" to decide where I need to add, subtract or redistribute fabric for better fit.
And Nancy, re the fit of my jacket, the pattern is REALLY long (2003-style)! It might not look so long on the envelope but then the model is probably six feet tall... I'm 6" shorter and it wasn't doing much for me, I confess.
The good news on the progress front today is that I've cut out the jacket, and have lots for a skirt, and enough besides for a short vest, if the fancy takes me.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
And it's a fabric miser. I might have had 70cm of this fabric. There is a bit left over.
Because the lace is sheer, I underlined the body pieces with a flesh-tone cotton lycra jersey. The sleeves are just the lace. The illusion is not bad. I hate worrying about whether my undies are showing, and the wind won't whistle through it either. So practical!
I finished the neck and sleeve edges with narrow FOE. This is so easy it is just ridiculous. I used a small zig-zag (1.5 x 2 mm). Applying a very small amount of tension to the FOE works best.
I traced size S, blending to T at the hip. I cut the neck down very slightly, and cut the sleeves shorter than the short sleeve line marked on the pattern (but longer than the cap sleeve line). I also cut the T shorter (used the size M hem line) because Jalie's Ts are always too long for me. I allowed myself 1.5cm at the side seams for fitting because Jalie's 7mm (1/4") gives no room for error at all. Because the fabric with underlining is a bit less stretchy than many knits, I needed the extra at the bust and hip.
Here is a close up of the lace fabric, with the hem turned up so you can also see the underlining.
I AM going to cut out my jacket now...
I hope I have enough fabric for a coordinating skirt...
Thursday, April 15, 2010
I wrote the following as a company blog on the Appeal Court's judgment:
“Sticks and stones may break my bones”, went a popular refrain of my primary school days, “but names will never harm me”.
Made of somewhat less robust material is the British Chiropractic Association, which took exception to an article by the scientist and author Dr Simon Singh in the Guardian newspaper. The article included the following:
“The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.”
Ignoring the journalistic context, this is the ordinary stuff of scientific controversy: the Association made certain claims for which Dr Singh disputed the evidence. The appropriate response for the Association would have been to adduce peer-reviewed evidence supporting its claims; and for those to be subject to further study. Over time either or both sides should then have modified their views depending on the weight of the evidence. There were any number of fora available to the Association to propound its viewpoint: indeed, the Guardian itself offered just such an opportunity.
But the Association did not take that course. Instead it chose to sue for libel. Moreover, it chose to sue not the obvious defendant of the Guardian, but Dr Singh personally.
It takes little imagination to work out why. The Guardian would be well placed to defend any such action. But Dr Singh is a private individual and, though reasonably well-off, hardly in the position of a national newspaper to afford the cost of High Court litigation. It is not unreasonable to assume that the Association hoped not only to silence Dr Singh, but also send a message to anyone else who dared cross them in the same fashion.
The Court of Appeal had this to say of that tawdry strategy:
It is now nearly two years since the publication of the offending article. It seems unlikely that anyone would dare repeat the opinions expressed by Dr Singh for fear of a writ. Accordingly this litigation has almost certainly had a chilling effect on public debate which might otherwise have assisted potential patients to make informed choices about the possible use of chiropractic. If so, quite apart from any public interest in issues of legal principle which arise in the present proceedings, the questions raised by Dr Singh, which have a direct resonance for patients, are unresolved. This would be a surprising consequence of laws designed to protect reputation ...
Fortunately it was not the ultimate consequence of the litigation. Dr Singh found the resources not only to defend the action in the High Court, but to appeal successfully against an adverse first instance finding that his article could not amount to “fair comment”.
The evidence proffered by the Association is revealing in itself. The Court of Appeal quotes the following:
The BCA ... relies (among other studies) on a 1989 observational study of 316 children, of which it is said:
"This …. measured the number of hours each child spent in crying .... There was no control group. However, the study constitutes evidence."
It is, however, elementary medical science that the only evidence worthy of the name comes from double blind, randomised control tests. The Association’s quoted “observational study” admits that it had no control group and thus did not meet that criteria. To suggest it constitutes evidence is a classic example of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. It is difficult to rebut the suspicion that the lack of scientific validity of this “observational study” might be the reason why the Association opted for a libel suit rather than the proper course of a public debate about the evidence for its claims.
The Court of Appeal offered the following pithy observation from an American judgment (Underwager v Salter 22 Fed. 3d 730 (1994)):
"[Plaintiffs] cannot, by simply filing suit and crying 'character assassination!', silence those who hold divergent views, no matter how adverse those views may be to plaintiffs' interests. Scientific controversies must be settled by the methods of science rather than by the methods of litigation. … More papers, more discussion, better data, and more satisfactory models – not larger awards of damages – mark the path towards superior understanding of the world around us."
With which it is impossible to disagree. The irony is that by adopting its bullying tactics and failing, the Association has ultimately done itself more damage – both financially and in terms of its reputation – than Dr Singh’s original article ever would have done if it had been simply ignored. It fully deserved to come unstuck on that one.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
A few of our coworkers at several bet processing centers have requested us to post our pledge in English as they wish to support us and join our fight. Their jobs are also at risk but they understand that, in reality, the majority of the jobs in danger are from Costa Rican citizens.
We urge the Congressmen and Government of Costa Rica to make a detailed review of the Regulation Law for Gambling and Casinos.
As employees of the SportsBooks we propose:
- Creating a law that would regulate the sportsbooks in a different way than land based Casinos.
- Reasonable fees or operating licenses rather than miscalculated taxes.
- Consider the Laws of other countries like Panama and Antigua as a base to make a new local rule.
Learn more, Participate, and comment on www.empleadosapuestascr.com
We need your support!
Costa Rica's President-Elect is a Good Bet for Online Gambling
Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010
Costa Rica is a country where gamblers of all denominations can feel right at home. Gambling is explicitly legal and proves to be a booming business within the country. The small nation is home to 30 large casinos and hundreds of other gambling establishments.
Costa Rican gambling law permits just about every form of gambling. Though the gambling industry seemed to be bounding on without limits, the government has started putting more energy into regulating it over the past few years.
Through gambling, the government has a great opportunity to raise revenue and through different regulations they can adjust their intake. Up until this point, the industry's only concern was whether or not the government will raise its taxes on gambling.
A new president, Laura Chinchilla, has been elected in Costa Rica, but has a few months before she will take office. President-Elect Chinchilla is the first woman to be elected president. Land-based casino operators are not happy with the President-Elect due to her open dislike of gambling facilities due to their unfortunate relationship with prostitution. Land-based casino can expect stricter rulings and regulations from this point on, through the new government.
Online gambling sites in Costa Rica, however, have nothing to worry about. President-Elect Chinchilla is highly supportive of the online gambling industry and all of the business that it brings to the nation.
Online Casinos in Costa Rica are obviously much cleaner than their land-based counterparts when it comes to prostitution due to the lack of a physical location. Many online gambling havens are based in Costa Rica and are accessed from all over the world. Brick and mortar casinos also cater to an international scene being that new laws require casinos to be attached to large hotels.
Marty Scorsese back on the mother fucking streets! Paul Schrader by his side! The Clash, Martha &The Vandellas, REM, Van Morrison on the soundtrack! Marty Scorsese/New York City! This time saving the scum on the streets! Wow! Ouch! Wow! Is this movie heaven? But Wait! (crescendo)...there is something missing.
This should be the natural follow up to Taxi Driver, hell it even has some of the same slow motion shots with steamy hydrants, the laconic detached voice-over, Scorsese referencing Scorsese. Bringing Out The Dead is based on Joe Connelly's non-fiction account of a paramedic working the graveyard shift in Hell's Kitchen in the early 1990s. Nicolas Cage plays the paramedic Frank Pierce who can't sleep, drinks too much and is losing his mind by the demands of his job, while he is haunted by the dead people he has been unable to save whilst on the job.
The good news is the Cage that turns up on Bringing Out the Dead is the good one. You know, the one from Wild At Heart, Leaving Las Vegas, Birdy, Peggy Sue Got Married, Raising Arizona and Face/Off. You often feel that Cage has made a lot of dross because when he does find a good script, he puts his all into it, so maybe he just saves the effort for the good ones and picks up the paycheck for the crap ones. Yes, he's good in this and the reason Bringing Out The Dead works is his commitment to the film. We believe Cage as Frank. He looks terrible, the thousand yard stare down pat, this is by no means an A-list star slumming it. Cage goes out there in an honest performance.
My main problem with Bringing Out The Dead is Scorsese himself. I'm not sure he quite believes in this film. He's covering old ground and is struggling to bring a new twist to it. He doesn't trust Schrader's excellent script. He should, there are many great lines here. The camera work is restless, Scorsese feels he can create the chaos of Hell's Kitchen just by fast-cuts and some loud rock n roll. Yes, again, the technical aspects of Bringing Out The Dead are superb. The energy at times is effortless. There is humor and it's the darkest black. Don't get me wrong, this may be the last great Scorsese picture. I think in 20 years people will reclaim this film. Nothing bar his Bob Dylan documentary comes close to this in recent times. So, what am I missing? Maybe the passage of time to put Bringing Out The Dead in it's proper context. I think I will enjoy this film more in a few years time.
Finally, this is a grim New York Scorsese shows us. Hope is really not in the air. People are tired and worn down by the city. It's this heavy heart Scorsese brings to the picture that maybe brings it down. It hurts him to show New York this way. There is no light here, just darkness and a weary sigh.
Nicholas Cage is Sailor in Wild At Heart and that's how I like to think of him. He's good at over-dramatic melancholy and directionless unpredictability. If I forget about Sailor, then Cage threatens to be code for boring. I have seen one of his ex-homes in LA, a princess castle of sorts.
Strange choice if you could have anything in the world.
In Bringing Out The Dead Cage is good in that melancholy-to-the-maximum way. It is a thankful role for him to be the messed-up ambulance man with noble intentions.
But this is a Scorsese film. My expectations are always high with him. The aesthetic is there. The editing and the way Manhattan is portrayed is stylish, hectic and theatrical. Yet, somehow I cannot help but feel that I am watching an extended episode of ER. The material lacks a layer of contemplation. We are dealing with death and the unfair jungle laws of a big city, but the film does not offer much space for reflection.
In the little making-of featurette Scorsese offers his motivation for doing this film: he grew up in this city of contradiction. The nice families were in their homes among the underprivileged who were always dying in the streets. Scorsese mentions empathy and the difficulty of knowing what to do with the feeling when these people are at the same time disgusting. The abject. I understand what drew Scorsese to the script, but wish he had been able to put more of this contradiction in his movie.
Bringing Out The Dead is a well made movie from the 1990s. But it suffers from the general apathy, lethargy and lazy approach to any statements, opinions or feelings. I'm starting to think that this was a disease of the era; end-of-the-century freeze. Even ghosts are a little ineffective in inducing fear or any kind of wonder here.
Taxation of savings income
The European Union is pursuing its ultimate goal of enabling interest on savings received in one Member State by individuals who are resident for tax purposes in another Member State to be made subject to effective taxation in accordance with the laws of the latter Member State.
Council Directive 2003/48/EC of 3 June 2003 on taxation of savings income in the form of interest payments.
Aim of the Directive
The aim of the Directive is to enable savings income, in the form of interest payments made in one Member State to "beneficial owners" * who are individual residents for tax purposes in another Member State, to be made subject to effective taxation in accordance with the laws of the latter Member State. The automatic exchange of information between Member States concerning interest payments * is the means chosen to achieve effective taxation of these "interest payments" in the Member State where the beneficial owner is resident for tax purposes. Member States must therefore take the necessary measures to ensure that the tasks necessary for the implementation of this Directive - cooperation and exchange of banking information - are carried out by paying agents established within their territory, irrespective of the place of establishment of the debtor of the debt claim producing the interest.
Scope of application
The scope of this Directive is limited to taxation of savings income in the form of interest payments on debt claims, to the exclusion of the issues relating to the taxation of pension and insurance benefits. At territorial level, the Directive applies to interest paid by a "paying agent" * established within the territory to which the Treaty applies.
The general system: exchange of information
- Information reporting by the paying agent
Where the beneficial owner is resident in a Member State other than that in which the paying agent is established, the Directive stipulates that the latter must report to the competent authority of its Member State of establishment a minimum amount of information, such as the identity and residence of the beneficial owner, the name and address of the paying agent, the account number of the beneficial owner or, where there is none, identification of the debt claim giving rise to the interest, and information concerning the interest payment.
Moreover, the minimum amount of information concerning interest payment to be reported by the paying agent must distinguish between the specific categories of interest listed in the Directive. However, Member States may restrict the minimum amount of information to the total amount of interest or income and to the total amount of the proceeds from sale, redemption or refund.
- Automatic exchange of information
Under the Directive, the competent authority of the Member State of the paying agent must communicate - at least once a year, within six months following the end of the tax year of the Member State of the paying agent - the information referred to above to the competent authority of the Member State of residence of the beneficial owner.
Transitional provisions: withholding tax (Belgium, Luxembourg and Austria)
During a transitional period, Belgium, Luxembourg and Austria are not required to exchange the information on savings income covered by this Directive if they apply a withholding tax to this income. These three Member States may apply the transitional system until the Swiss Confederation, the Principality of Andorra, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Principality of Monaco and the Republic of San Marino ensure effective and complete exchange of information upon request concerning payment of interest, and until the Council agrees unanimously that the United States of America is committed to exchange of information upon request as defined in the OECD Model Agreement. The Directive entitles these three Member States to receive information from the other Member States. During the period of transition, Belgium, Luxembourg or Austria may opt for the introduction of an automatic exchange of information, and in this case countries having exercised this option will no longer apply withholding tax and the corresponding tax revenue sharing. Belgium thus announced that it had decided to apply information exchange as per the ‘Savings’ Directive as from 1 January 2010.
As regards the withholding tax system, the Directive lays down that where the beneficial owner is resident in a Member State other than that in which the paying agent is established, Belgium, Luxembourg and Austria shall levy a withholding tax at a rate of 15% during the first three years of the transitional period, 20% for the subsequent three years and 35% thereafter.
As regards revenue sharing, the Directive lays down that Member States levying withholding tax shall retain 25% of their revenue and transfer 75% of the revenue to the Member State of residence of the beneficial owner of the interest.
As regards double taxation, the Directive lays down that the Member State of residence for tax purposes of the beneficial owner is to ensure the elimination of any double taxation that might result from the imposition of the withholding tax.
Lastly, the Directive does not preclude Member States from levying other types of withholding tax than that referred to above in accordance with their national laws or double-taxation conventions.
As part of the "tax package" aimed at combating harmful tax competition, the European Community (EC) decided to draw up a legislative instrument to overcome existing distortions in the effective taxation of savings income in the form of interest payments.
Savings income in the form of interest payments from debt claims constitutes taxable income for residents of all EU Member States. However, owing to the free movement of capital (Articles 56 to 60 of the Treaty) and the absence of any coordination of national systems for taxing savings income in the form of interest payments, and in particular the treatment of interest received by non-residents, residents of Member States are often able to avoid any form of taxation in their Member State of residence on interest they receive in another Member State. The resulting distortions in the movement of capital between Member States are incompatible with the internal market. Moreover, this situation encourages the evasion of tax on savings income and increases tax pressure on income from less mobile sources such as that derived from work, which adversely affects labour costs and therefore, indirectly, job creation.
This Directive builds on the consensus reached at the Feira European Council of 19 and 20 June 2000 and the subsequent Ecofin Council meetings of 26 and 27 November 2000, 13 December 2001 and 21 January 2003. The consensus lies in the setting up of an automatic exchange of information system between all Member States except for Belgium, Luxembourg and Austria, which will be given a transitional period during which, instead of providing information to the other Member States, they must apply a withholding tax to the savings income covered by this Directive.
|Key terms used in the act|
|Act||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
|Directive 2003/48/EC [adoption: consultation CNS/2001/0164]|
Initially on 1.1.2005, postponed to 1.7.2005
Date of transposition: 1.1.2004
Date of application: 1.7.2005
OJ L 157 of 26.6.2003
|Amending act(s)||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
OJ L 168 of 1.5.2004
OJ L 363 of 20.12.2006
Monday, April 12, 2010
(They managed to get my name wrong, but at least it is correct in the paper version)
Sir, Morgan Rees (letter, April 9) rightly points out that not all amateur rugby union players were middle class. As well as the 1905 Welsh team that defeated the All Blacks, he might have cited the New Zealanders themselves.
In 1987 they won the World Cup on a Saturday afternoon. On the Monday morning Craig Green waited outside his house, packed lunch in hand, for his mates to pick him up on the way to work on a building site, while Zinzan Brooke went back to work as a roofer in a working-class suburb of Auckland.
Rear Window is about two things. The first theme is seeing, watching and interpreting. Here the film can deliciously refer to events within its story and to the process of being the viewer of the movie. It would be too simplistic to call it voyerism and leave it at that.
The other layer of Rear Window is the comment it is making on the conventions of a heterosexual relationship. This is mostly discussed through the characters of Lisa (Grace Kelly) and Jeff (James Steward).
What Jeff is watching while he sits in his wheelchair at home are the variations and phases in lives of heterosexual men and women. Miss Torso is the admired and wanted feminine sexuality. Miss Lonely Heart is punished for not conforming. The murdering husband is the worst case scenario of a heterosexual marriage, whereas the couple sleeping on the balcony is a somewhat more optimistic description. The piano-playing drunk is an ambiguous character – possibly an example of choosing the life of a bachelor, or is it the loneliness of a gay man in the 1950s?
In any case, we are watching these people through the eyes of Jeff. He is a traveling photographer who takes great risks in his job (that's where he broke his leg) and views the prospect of marriage to Lisa as a scary and boring thought. While he is bound to his chair, Lisa appears every evening looking like a movie star, bringing him meals and wooing him to marry her. It really is almost like a cartoon character of 1950s feminine perfection appears in the depressing apartment. The contrast is intentional.
Initially, Jeff finds it difficult to relate to her world, which he clearly judges as superficial. To his visiting nurse he tells that Lisa is too perfect. Lisa says she is willing to conform to his world, even to travel with just one small suitcase to the end of the world. But it is once she begins to look at the neighboring windows through the eyes of Jeff and helping him with the investigation of a possible murder that Jeff seems to accept her.
The film ends in an ambiguous shot at Jeff's apartment after the murder case has been solved by him and Lisa. Now instead of one leg, both of Jeff's legs are cast and obviously he'll be staying in his wheelchair a while longer. Slowly the camera moves to showing Lisa, who lies on her side in Jeff's single bed reading Bazaar magazine. Trapped for good. Is that the message Hitch?
I bought this huge Alfred Hitchcock box-set at Christmas, some 15 films, all with bonus material. We've been intermittently dipping in and out of the box, for example, I was blown away by The Birds last weekend. So, this weekend, Rear Window. This is rated as the one of the high-points of Hitchcock's repertoire, and rightly so.
There is much to admire here. A great performance by one of my favorite actors James Stewart (Jeff), when is he ever bad? Grace Kelly playing Stewart's girlfriend Lisa, looking so wonderful in the Edith Head designs. The much under-valued Thelma Ritter keeps it real as Jeff's masseur. The incredible set on a studio back-lot of the back yard where Jeff views the daily lives of his neighbors is almost a star in its own right. The neighbors Jeff's obsessive gaze introduces us to are Miss Lonelyhearts, Songwriter, Miss Torso and the sinister Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr). The action mainly takes place in Jeff's living room, this being not only the main protagonists, but the audience's window to the world and characters of Rear Window.
The everyday lives put under a microscope reveal lots of blatant sexuality, loneliness, alcoholism, weary relationships and ultimately murder, subjects most of your average mid-50's studio pictures wouldn't go near. That Rear Window can do this from such a non-linear plot-driven premise, amazes me. Most of this is seen from Stewart's wheelchair-bound hero's perspective, voyeuristic in the extreme. Hitchcock even questions the immoral motives of Stewart's character spying on his neighbors. In reality, it's through nothing other than boredom.
Not much objectivity from me on Rear Window, but for me this picture is pure joy. It is a cinematic exercise in perspective and imagination. It's also Hitchcock, so behind all the theory and psychology this picture is suspenseful and entertaining. A master class.