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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cases that Changed Our Lives again

My earlier piece on Cases that Changed Our Lives has now been published on Lexisweb here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The United Kingdom Supreme Quango?

Another blog for Halsbury's Law Exchange, published here.

Earlier this year, I was critical of the introduction of the United Kingdom Supreme Court (UKSC). My objections included that the stated reason of greater independence was false, since (a) there was no reason to doubt the independence of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, and (b) a body the creation of an ordinary statute always carries the risk or the impression that it can be altered or done away with altogether by another ordinary statute, at the whim of the incumbent government.

Now it seems as though those fears may have come to pass. The UKSC blog reports that the court has been lumped in with a number of quangos whose futures are "still to be decided" as the government struggles to deal with the parlous state of the nation's finances.

Perhaps the inclusion of the court on the list is merely an oversight, but it is not a trifling matter. It would be truly astonishing if anyone in government was contemplating trying to do away with the court altogether and replacing it with a cheaper version, and presumably this is not on the agenda. But it would only be moderately less astonishing if the size of the court was to be reduced or subject to some visible cost cutting measure out of budgetary concerns.

As part of an independent judicial system the funding for the courts has to be seen to be outside the day to day control of the executive; the running of the court is a matter for the court itself. It is ironic that the separation of powers was the primary, indeed about the only, stated reason for its creation in the first place, yet we now find the court listed along with committees under the purview of the Ministry of Justice.

The previous government, with its half-baked reform of the House of Lords, botched attempt at abolition of the office of Lord Chancellor and needless setting up of the UKSC in the first place, did not leave a proud record of stewardship of the constitution. Now some of the unfortunate results are becoming evident: no traditional Lord Chancellor would have permitted the executive to imperil judicial independence by describing the highest (or any other) court as a quango or treating it as being of a piece with the Department of Administrative Affairs of Jim Hacker’s day. The House of Lords of old would certainly have sounded disapproval. And the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords was anything but a financial extravagance.

Update: the UK Human Rights blog has responded to this post here.

The Wild Bunch (1969) Directed by Sam Peckinpah

Sometimes I need a pick me up. Something to re-energize and not only get the creative juices flowing but the mind dreaming and thinking. I can get this from various sources: good conversation, music, books, movies, football but ultimately friendship. Loyalty and doing something special for someone you care about has it's own benefits. I'm always reminded of the closeness of good friendships when I watch The Wild Bunch. The Wild Bunch is often remembered for it's bloody violence and Peckinpah's slow motion action sequences. There is so much more here, the real message in this picture is about redemption and doing the right thing.

The Wild Bunch are a group of outlaws looking for one last heist so they can get out of the robbing game. They're getting old and looking to settle down, in a changing Western landscape that is leaving them behind. Peckinpah's casting for The Wild Bunch is not only acknowledgment of the old west, but also a tip to old Hollywood, The Wild Bunch a calling card as much as any picture for the change happening in American film during the late 60's. So we have old actors like William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O'Brien and Ben Johnson leading the action of a Peckinpah's picture, giving one last hurrah before the new acting gods take over. Thrown in is Peckinpah's own on screen alter ego Warren Oates, requisite for the wild of the title.

Holden is the emotional core of the picture. Troubled by the betrayal of an old friend who now hunts him down, Holden's Pike Bishop is not only the groups' planner and leader, but he's their moral compass. His beaten body is a metaphor for the weary struggle the group face in constantly being on the run. The Wild Bunch disagree constantly, and macho stand offs are constant between themselves. But Peckinpah shows us the crude humor and closeness of The Wild Bunch, which lends complete credibility to the massacre at the end. These friends will ultimately die for each other. The stand off in Mexico at the end is about loyalty to a friend and doing it for the hell of it, because there is nothing better to do than going out in a blaze of glory. It's this sense of morality mixed with rebelliousness that ultimately makes The Wild Bunch such a moving picture.

Peckinpah's film looks exquisite, especially the Mexican scenes. He imbues his film with documentary like scenes just showing how it is. The Wild Bunch has had influence, you can catch it in the films of Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, The Coen Brothers, John Woo and others. They still miss the emotional qualities Peckinpah brings to his cinema, often just aping the technical aspects.  Better was still to come from Sam Peckinpah with the melancholy grace of Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid. But The Wild Bunch was his initial roar, his first film that showed his vision complete. It's acknowledged for sure, but The Wild Bunch is still inspiring and still a masterpiece.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Windtalkers (2002) Directed by John Woo

War, what is it good for? Apparently a host of war movies. Hollywood still churns these things out at an alarming rate. Saving Private Ryan, The Hurt Locker, Inglorious Basterds, Black Hawk Down, Valkyrie.  It seems strange in this day and age that intelligent film makers still make the kind of war movie that offers no real political context but are pictures about individual heroics in any given situation.

It's possible that John Woo's Windtalkers is trying to convey a message of racial tolerance with it's story of two Navajo Marines using their native language as unbreakable codes to further the US army's battle against the Japanese in the Second World War. Of course the Navajo are treated with suspicion and racist insults by the good old US Marines they fight alongside. Clint Eastwood covered the political implication of this implicit racism with more subtlety in the disappointing Flags Of Our Fathers

Macho spirit is still alive and well in Windtalkers,  and it seems just showing that you can become a killing machine, weather Navajo or not is enough to get those pesky racists on your side. So much for a thoughtful discussion on racism in the armed forces. Windtalkers really is quite awful. This film pretty much ended Woo's patchy association with Hollywood and you can tell that the film has been compromised. Woo's usual high standard of action sequences are missing here, replaced by a journeyman approach to visual combat.

The only redeeming feature here is another great Nicholas Cage performance as a character who's on the edge and probably insane. He plays these so well, Cage is always watchable in this form. Unfortunately the rest of the picture lets him down in the most pathetic, cliched manner. Like the machine gun fire that's often relentless in Windtalkers, avoid this picture for the sake of your own well being.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Détective (1985) Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

There seems to be a theme with the last few movies featured on My Lawyer Will Call Your Lawyer. Yes another cops and robbers picture. Here is yet another film about detection and solving cases.  Or, if we take into account the amount of scenes in Détective where very young ladies lay around just wearing skimpy underpants, perhaps exposure is the most apt description.

Godard's Détective is possibly the last real conventional picture he made. I mean conventional in the sense that it has a relatively clear narrative and a plot. The plot is basic : two detectives try to find clues to an unsolved murder and stumble upon a boxing manager's attempt to pay off the mob and money he owes to an old lover and her husband. The many books that clutter the scenes inform a lot of the characters. This has a similar playfulness to Godard's early pictures and some great funny lines. That makes the film sound more straightforward than it really is. At some point, you do wonder what the hell is going on.

As with a lot of later Godard the actor credits and screen titles appear a good half an hour into the picture. Johnny Hallyday is great as the boxer's manager and Nathalie Baye delivers as the love interest who can't decide which man she really wants. The ridiculous shoot out at the end feels like a way of wrapping things up as Godard seems to grow bored of the whole thing.Visually the film offers very little, as if Godard is tired and just wants to let the talking heads deliver their lines.

This being Godard, on the plus side Détective still offers a weirder take on the noir genre. The negative is a feeling that Godard has fallen out of love with this type of film making, although Détective never feels like a piece of hack work. Godard dedicates the film to John Cassavetes, Edgar G. Ulmer and Clint Eastwood. This is some concession from Godard of what he was trying to achieve with Détective. By no means a great film, but still an interesting one.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Assisted Suicide

Short piece for Halsbury's Law Exchange, published here

Over the weekend the press reported the death of Michelle Broad, wife of former England cricketer Chris Broad and step-mother to the present England cricketer Stuart Broad. Mrs Broad, a successful businesswoman in her own right, suffered from motor neurone disease, and tragically decided to take her own life. She explained in notes left to her family that she ‘didn’t want to become a burden’.

The story recalled that of two of the most famous cases in English law of the past decade, concerning the terminally ill Diane Pretty and Debbie Purdy, both of whom suffered conditions similar to that of Mrs Broad. Each brought proceedings because they wished to die in circumstances of their own choosing.

Needless to say, the issue of whether someone who wishes to arrange suicide should have those wishes respected gives rise to the strongest reactions and the most difficult of moral issues; and it is one thing to believe that those wishes ought to be respected, but quite another to draft a legal framework to give effect to it.

The present legal framework has been the subject of intense debate and scrutiny due to the Pretty and Purdy cases ([2002] 1 All ER 1 and [2009] 4 All ER 1147 respectively). In an article for a forthcoming LexisNexis publication, Cases that Changed Our Lives, Lynne Townley, a barrister with considerable expertise in the area reviews both cases and observes among other things:

  • The offence of committing or attempting to commit suicide was abolished by s 1 of the Suicide Act 1961;
  • Nevertheless, under s 2(1) it remains an offence to assist or encourage the suicide of another (and see the amendment provided by s 2A, introduced in January 2010);
  • However, a fundamental principle of English law is that the prosecutorial authorities have a discretion whether or not to bring a prosecution in any individual case, even when it seems clear that an offence has been committed, and it has exercised that discretion not to prosecute under s 2(1).
The Crown Prosecution Service has issued guidelines as to when a prosecution is likely to be brought.

  • Factors in favour of a prosecution include where the victim is under 18, or lacks the capacity to reach an informed decision, and where the suspect is not wholly motivated by compassion.
  • Factors tending against prosecution include where the victim has reached a voluntary, clear, settled and informed decision, and the suspect was motivated wholly by compassion.
Inevitably, however, as Ms Townley goes on to show, whatever the law says will never foreclose the moral debate.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bullitt (1968) Directed by Peter Yates

Flu  and bronchitis have been keeping me indoors the last few days. Uninspiring food choices, meds and more meds, toilet tissue, runny nose blah blah blah. Coughing fits are regular, need something to focus on. Watching movies is easy. There's an unwatched pile on the shelf, get to it.

Steve McQueen is nowadays regarded as the epitome of male cool in 60's American cinema. An icon as macho film superstar who paved the way for so many to follow.  Bullitt is one of the reasons for this view, especially since scenes from the picture were used in a car add a few years ago. A whole new audience got to identify with the snappy dresser of Bullitt and the sublime Lalo Schifrin soundtrack. The myth grows. This cool perception of McQueen does undermine how good a screen presence he was.

The plot of Bullitt is  weak, it's a movie with little substance. Characterization is zero here. The less said about Jacqueline Bisset in this picture the better. The famous car chase nowadays seems overlong and just endless shots of cars going over the hilly streets of San Francisco. But despite all this, Bullitt is a classic film and a perfect example of that presence of McQueen's I mentioned earlier.

McQueen displays pure technique in this film, he's the only thing you need to watch here. Every frame he appears in is measured and assured. McQueen more than most actors new that in cinema the relationship with the camera was everything.  Steve doesn't have many lines in Bullitt. He has a series of intense facial expressions that reveal all you need to know about his character. McQueen personifies economy and control. His performance in Bullitt is pure aesthetics.

Bullitt probably changed the cop film for good. It's stylized for sure, and Clint was surely watching this for Dirty Harry. Machismo, testosterone, intelligence and honesty. That's McQueen on screen in his best films. The  black pants, blue polo neck and brown sand shoes that McQueen sports in Bullitt are a high point of male on-screen fashion. Or maybe it seems this way just because McQueen is wearing those clothes. Bullitt is essence of McQueen. Study it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cases that changed our lives

Another piece on Cases that Changed Our Lives, which is now available for purchase here. The chapter intros are reproduced here. UPDATE: This piece is now published here.

Cases that Changed Our Lives is a new collection of essays from LexisNexis on great cases in the common law, written by a team of leading authors, practitioners and judges. The book was conceived as part of LexisNexis’ commitment to the rule of law, a central component of which is the ongoing and open study of landmark cases which, by the system of precedent, govern all our lives. It is being launched at the IBA Conference in Vancouver in October 2010.

Compiling and editing the book was a challenge, if an intellectually stimulating and rewarding one. The main problem was in deciding what cases to include – which quickly became the rather more tricky question of which cases to leave out. As a starting point we coined a list of “law student classics”: the likes of Factortame, Wednesbury, Donaghue v Stevenson, M’Naghten, Dudley & Stephens, which any lawyer will instantly recognise, to the extent that the full names and citations are hardly necessary. Then followed what one might call the “second XI”, cases almost as well known: Tulk v Moxhay, High Trees, Caparo v Dickman, Mareva and Gillick.

Even that classification would hardly be uncontroversial. There can never be a definitive answer as to whether a great criminal case such as M’Naghten – which framed the rules for insanity in the context of criminal law for over a century and a half – is more “important” than great civil cases, such as Mareva - which established one of the most fundamental weapons in the commercial litigator’s armoury. As it happens we have included both of those, but one can see the sort of dilemma with which we were faced.

To assist in making the choice we looked for two things: first, cases with great moral dilemmas at their centre. R v Dudley and Stephens, the classic case of stranded sailors resorting to cannibalism at the expense of the cabin boy, is perhaps the best example. Secondly, we wanted to find cases with an interesting human angle. Almost everyone has heard of the M’Naghten rules, but perhaps not so many know of the intriguing conspiracy theory underlying the case – why M’Naghten shot who he did, who he thought the victim actually was, and whether he was being paid to do it.

We were also pleased to include a case less well remembered – the trial of Dr Sacheverell – which can properly be described as one of the great state trials in English history. Another round of the Whig v Tory battles which form a central part of the fabric of English constitutional history, the case brought down a government and gave rise to the Riot Act of common parlance.

As well as the classic cases we wanted to include a few cases of more recent vintage. There have been many of late that have kept headline writers in work – indeed, the tabloid press itself was the very reason for Naomi Campbell’s privacy litigation. Not all high profile cases involve new law, obviously enough, so the first task was selecting those that did. As a further refinement we again looked for cases with a strong moral dispute at their core. Of these the cases on the right to life – the duty of the state to protect those in its care, and the opposing right to end one’s life in a manner of one’s choosing – were the most obvious. Thus we have included the case of the death in custody of the convicted murderer Colin Middleton and, as the sharpest contrast, the attempts by the tragically ill Diane Pretty and Debbie Purdy to ensure they could end their lives as they wished.

As a separate section we look at the responses of the state to international terror in the twenty-first century. Predictably the great challenge to the state is how to reconcile traditional notions of liberty, the presumption of innocence, open justice and the right to know the case against oneself with the threat of another attack of the scale of the September 11 atrocities in the United States. Whether the old maxim of it being better to allow ten guilty men to walk free than one innocent man to be imprisoned can really bear scrutiny if those ten men (or even one of them) then commits murder of several hundred, or even thousands, of innocent people is one of the great challenges to the law in the present day.

In the same vein is the extraordinary saga which became the Corner House litigation. Legally the case changed little: it was decided under the old regime of bribery law, and involved the exercise of an undoubted discretion by the prosecutorial authorities. Underlying the legal issues, however, was the extremely disturbing reality that an apparently closely allied state had made a naked threat to the lives of British citizens, for no more than thirty pieces of silver. The startling nature of that threat enraged the Divisional Court, but aside from a heavy sigh or two from some of the more outspoken judges, it elicited an almost diffident brushing aside by the House of Lords, who simply said the prosecutors had had no choice.

Looking beyond English shores we have four cases showing the common law in action in the United States and Australia. With respect to the United States we chose a key constitutional case – that of Marbury v Madison – which established a vital aspect of the system of government, the ability of the Supreme Court to strike down unconstitutional legislation. In reaching that case the Court followed a line of reasoning originating in England, where a failed attempt to establish the same principle was made in the very first case of the book, Dr Bonham’s Case. So much for the idea that the Seventeenth Century cases established nothing due to it all being blood and iron in those days. We then picked out a case that certainly changed lives – much for the worse. Plessy v Ferguson was one of the disgraceful “separate but equal” decisions that kept open old Civil War wounds until the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and arguably has left lingering damage still felt in the present day. The Australian cases provide an interesting counterpoint: a similar power to find legislation unconstitutional was established in a series of decisions in the late twentieth century, although not without some controversy, and the landmark case of Mabo was seen as a great step towards minority rights in contradistinction to the oppressive boot of Plessy in the United States.

Having chosen the cases, they seemed to fall quite naturally into different groupings: public law, land law, criminal law, civil law, family law, the right to life and terrorism in the twenty-first century.

No doubt we have now said enough to show that it was inevitable that whatever list we came up with would contain omissions that other readers would instantly seize upon. And equally someone will probably object that there were more logical groupings for the chapters. We expect – and welcome the fact – that they will do so. Our response to such anticipated criticism is threefold. First, no-one is ever going to agree on the final list, not for a book of manageable proportions anyway. Secondly, there is always volume II! (and possibly III, IV and V, and potentially L and beyond ...). Finally, if by making the “wrong” choices we have at least managed to provoke debate about the relative importance of famous cases and therefore the workings of the law, then we will have achieved what we set out to do.

Here then are the 24 cases which made the cut:

I. Public law

Changing Perspectives on the Constitution and the Courts: Dr Bonham’s Case -- Andrew Goddard QC and Marie-Thérèse Groarke

What breathes life into the US Constitution? Marbury v Madison -- Kenneth Thompson II

Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corpn -- Jennifer James

The Factortame Litigation -- Dr Jo Hunt

An implied constitutional freedom of speech in Australia: Theophanous v The Herald and Weekly Times Limited – The Hon Dr Kevin Lindgren QC

A right to resist? The Trial of Dr Sacheverell -- Dr Craig Rose

“The evil that men do lives after them”: Plessy v Ferguson -- Henry Horbaczewski

Native title in Australia: Mabo and Another v The State of Queensland and Another -- The Hon Dr Kevin Lindgren QC

II. Land law

Tulk v Moxhay -- Richard de Lacy QC

A promise is a promise: Central London Property Trust Ltd v High Trees House Ltd -- Robert Pearce QC

III. Criminal law

Legal insanity: the enduring legacy of Daniel M’Naghten’s Case -- Jeremy Dein QC and Jo Sidhu

Death on the High Seas: The Cabin Boy, the Cannibals and the Criminal Law: R v Dudley and Stephens -- David Perry QC

Red light spells danger: R v Morgan -- Gerard Forlin QC

IV. Civil law

The Snail in the bottle: Donoghue (or McAlister) v Stevenson -- Paul Reed QC and Philippa Harris

Legal celebrity or jurisprudential substance? Caparo Industries plc v Dickman and other -- John Randall QC

As if by a side-wind … The Mareva/Freezing Order Jurisdiction in England: Mareva Compania Naviera SA v International Bulkcarriers SA; The Mareva -- Paul Lowenstein QC

From catwalk to courtroom: public figure, private life: Naomi Campbell v MGN Limited -- Heather Rogers QC

V. The right to life

“How … the deceased came by his death …”: R (on the application of Middleton) v West Somerset Coroner – Dr Karen Widdicombe

R (on the application of Purdy) v Director of Public Prosecutions How the Law Lords Made Way for a Compassionate Clarification of the Law on Assisting Suicide -- Lynne Townley

VI. The state and terrorism in the twenty-first century

A and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department: The Courts and counter-terrorism – asserting the rule of law? -- Alexander Horne

The day we sold the rule of law: R (on the application of Corner House Research and another) v Director of Serious Fraud Office (BAE Systems plc, interested party) -- John Cooper QC

VII. Family law

Is it that simple? Stack v Dowden and buying a house together. – His Honour Judge Stephen Wildblood QC

An ordinary tale of farming folk? White v White and its legacy -- Janet Bazley QC and Stephen Jarmain

Gillick and the dwindling right of parental authority -- Janet Bazley QC and Stephen Jarmain

Blade Runner (1982) Directed by Ridley Scott

Blade Runner takes me back to a time when I was making my first record. We were recording in Brixton where Depeche Mode had made their first album. The producer of the record was this Irish guy who absolutely loved Blade Runner and insisted I see it. He played in one of these sub-U2 bands of the time who got quite popular. The record when it eventually came out did pretty OK and it was my start on a long road in music that I'm still traveling. I associate the film with quitting college, unemployment, playing gigs at the Marquee club, New Order (the band), Philip K. Dick and  William Burroughs, Thatcher, record deals and Italy winning the world cup and other things that were happening in my life as a 17 year old. So Blade Runner has had a personal significance to me ever since I  first saw it. It's easily amongst my favorite films.

There have been various versions of the film released (the original version had a Harrison Ford voice over in homage to Philip Marlowe), but this is the final cut of the movie and probably the most satisfying. It's interesting that the film is set in  2019, only 9 years away from now, yet we are still so far away from this world. We are not as advanced technically  as Blade Runner suggests, so obviously in 1982 the filmmakers thought it still possible that advances in space travel would happen,  yet damage to the environment (LA is permanently rainy and gray in Blade Runner) would send us back to the literal dark ages. Could still happen within 9 years.

Yes, this is a weird downer sci -fi, but the film is deeper than that suggests and still stands up because of it's emotional quality. It's could also be a Los Angeles noir and sits comfortably next to pictures like  L.A. Confidential, Chinatown and The Long Goodbye.  The hunted replicants (very advanced genetically engineered life-like robots) display a bigger desire for life than many of the cynical humans in this film. Fords' performance is perfect as Deckard the Blade runner of the title who's job it is to hunt down and retire the replicants. Deckard is as weary and vulnerable as anyone here. There is a suggestion in this new version of the film that Deckard is a replicant himself, related to a dream of a unicorn and a found origami unicorn. Interpret this as you will.  Sean Young, Edward James Olmos and the Vangelis score. All magic.

Scott smartly keeps this world grounded in familiarity, we recognize a lot of these surroundings. The sets and effects, pre-CGI still stand up and the movie looks better than ever. But the moving denouement, Rutger Hauer's replicant Roy on the rooftop in the rain with the white dove waiting to die. He teaches Deckard a lesson in humility and in the preciousness of life that we all take for granted. It's a mighty moment in film, and I'll carry it with me forever.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Antichrist (2009) Directed by Lars von Trier

Yesterday was a bad day. Flu has been hitting hard and the re-emergence of a personal nemesis was an extra irritant.  Antichrist had been lying on the shelf for a few months and I was wanting to watch something to fit my mood. I was looking for Horror, but of course this being von Trier nothing could ever be so generic. By the end of Antichrist  I realized I'd been watching a very depressed von Trier's most personal film full of conflicting ideas and not really what i expected.

Each new von Trier film seems to be greeted with equal shouts of genius or derision depending on your point of view and more often than not the results often lie somewhere in the middle. Through all the self mythologizing and the ego is an OK film maker. With Antichrist von Trier tries to deal with grief and relationships and obsession. The premise of a couple trying to mourn the death of their young child and going somewhere to heal their wounds only to discover horror is dealt with far better in Nicolas Roeg's 70's masterpiece Don't Look Now. The two films are very similar in fact and this film must have been an influence on von Trier basic premise for Antichrist. Unfortunately Antichrist falls apart half way through. It can't decide if it's a psychological drama or a horror picture and it feels like von Trier looses interest.

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe turn in beyond the call of duty performances. They go bare here in many ways. It seems what ever von Trier asks his actors to do they will do. There is trust. It's sad then that once von Trier has set up the picture to be a serious examination of post traumatic stress and depression that he cops out and unconvincingly turns to horror to make what point?  If anything you get a real sense of conservatism going on, as if von Trier is holding back from showing true horror. Yes, pointless genital mutilation is shown, some nonsense about witchcraft and you're wondering where did the picture go.  Little hints abound that the events on screen could all be a dream, it could all be happening in Dafoe's subconscious.

One always wonders if every von Trier movie is gently taking the piss. Of course the female character of Antichrist believes that women are evil. She is a mother who's child has been lost and Nature (mother?) is portrayed as a cold and scary environment. Is von Trier mocking accusations of misogyny leveled at him previously? Who knows, but it shows a previously unseen humor in von Trier.  Antichrist is interesting but flawed.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rollerball (1975) Directed by Norman Jewison

Last week saw a couple of events which highlighted how cynical we have become towards Government. The 9th anniversary of 9/11 and the publication of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's autobiography. In his book Blair defends his reasons for committing Britain to the War In Iraq, yet a lot of the British public still think him a war criminal. Of course, the reason for the invasion, a supposed defense against WMD was never substantiated. Likewise, it seems an increasing amount of people are questioning the official version of events on 9/11. The invasion of Iraq has given people enough reason to doubt what they are being told and it has led to a general disenchantment of politics and old political systems. There is an air of conspiracy in these times we live in. We no longer seem to trust authority. 

Rollerball, set in a not too distant future, pictures a cold society that is run and controlled by corporate companies. Imagine if you will Fox News Corporation governing our lives (not too hard to imagine). The corporations in Rollerball supply all the news, control all the information and tell us how to live and think.  Jonathan E (James Caan) is a hero to the people as he is the star athlete of the ultra-violent Corporation controlled sport Rollerball, a cross between American Football, Rally Cross and Basketball.  The Corporation have asked Jonathan E to retire from the sport as they see him as becoming too powerful and of setting too an individualistic example. Jonathan E refuses to retire from the sport leading to direct confrontation with The Corporation.

Rollerball is such a strange picture. Nothing really happens between the scenes where the sport dominates. It has a European art house cinema feel, cold and calculating. Colors are washed out till the games start, then they are super bright. Some amazing set design and exterior landscapes dominate the picture. It's all so subdued, dead pan and dry, there is no urgency, which helps the film and gives extra impact to the sport scenes. Chill factor is enhanced by the classical score of Bach's Toccata.  The game itself disturbs with it's violence. We are reminded of Roman times and the gladiators of Circus Maximus.

Rollerball belongs with those other great conspiracy thrillers of the 70's All The President's Men and the Parallax View.  These pictures share very similar  moods and shared political attitudes. "Don't trust what the State is telling you" they scream. Reading more into this film than you should, you could take Rollerball as a warning for what could happen in the future. Or we could already be living that future.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lord Bingham of Cornhill

An obituary written for Halsbury's Law Exchange

Lord Bingham of Cornhill, called by the press “one of the outstanding English judges of the 20th century” and “the greatest judge of our era”, has died aged 76.

He was the first judge in history to hold all three posts of Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice and senior Law Lord.

His career in the law was marked with distinction throughout. After finishing top in his Bar exams in 1959 he was called by Gray’s Inn. He took silk in 1972, aged just 38, and was appointed a Recorder of the Crown Court in 1975. In 1977 he headed the inquiry into alleged breaches of UN sanctions against Rhodesia.

In 1980 he became a judge of the Queen’s Bench Division, and was elevated to the Court of Appeal in 1986. Whilst on the Court of Appeal he was appointed to head a second major public inquiry, into the collapse of the failed bank BCCI.

He became Master of the Rolls in 1992 and Lord Chief Justice in 1996, before being appointed senior Law Lord in 2000. Neither of the second two changes of role was entirely without controversy: he had lacked any significant criminal experience before becoming Lord Chief Justice (a post many at the time thought should have gone to Lord Justice Rose), and he was the first person to be appointed senior Law Lord, a post which previously had always been held simply by the longest serving Law Lord. Lord Bingham, however, always dismissed any suggestion that the latter appointment had been to put their Lordships’ house in order.

As senior Law Lord he criticised the form of modern judgments for their “length, complexity and sometimes prolixity”, arguing that

whatever the diversity of opinion the judges should recognise a duty, not always observed, to try to ensure that there is a clear majority ratio.

He was not, however, able to effect any substantive reform in that respect: throughout his tenure and to the present day the House of Lords, and now the Supreme Court, has not as a consistent practice handed down judgments with one clear majority ratio, despite the lack of any apparent barrier to doing so.

Lord Bingham became known as a liberal judge, through his support for the introduction of the Human Rights Act 1998, and his subsequent judgments in a number of high profile cases concerning the legality of the anti-terrorist measures introduced by the government following the September 11 attacks on the United States (see eg A and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2005] 3 All ER 169). He also supported the establishment of the international criminal court, a not uncontroversial move which some found akin to putting the cart before the horse, given that a universally agreed international criminal legal code was lacking. When asked if he was a liberal, however, his dry response was that one would not wish to be known as illiberal. He also described the value of liberty as being of “immense importance.”

Following his retirement in 2008 he was more openly controversial, declaring that the Attorney-General’s advice to the Prime Minister on the legality of the invasion of Iraq had been wrong (he used the measured term “flawed”) because (i) the evidence that Iraq had failed to comply with UN sanctions was insufficient; and (ii) it was for the entire Security Council to make the decision (on which see however Stephen Hockman QC’s HLE blog here). He also published a book entitled The Rule of Law, which was well received. In one highly positive review the Guardian called him “one of our greatest crusading judges”.

Lord Bingham died on 11 September 2010.

Goldfinger (1964) Directed by Guy Hamilton

Nick :
Astrid is on tour for the next few weeks, so It's just me here.

I have not had a TV now for over 3 years. It felt and still feels quite liberating. Of course some of the time in front of the TV has been replaced by time on the computer. And then there is watching films.  Having been ill over most of the summer I watched a lot of films not reviewed on this blog. I watched  some of my favorite and assorted trashy gems : the Die Hard series, Independence Day,  Shane, Jurassic Park, Bridge on The River Kwai, Citizen Kane, Escape To Victory, Johnny Guitar and lots more. At some point I got a craving for the Stallone movie Cliffhanger, but that has passed. But Bond. Where was James Bond, 007.

When I was around 12 years old, they had the British premiere on TV of Dr. No, the first James Bond picture. This was a big thing for everyone, in those days there were no multiple TV channels to choose from (only 3), so a famous movie premiere  was a big deal. I remember Ursula Andress walking onto the beach out of the sea (a startling image for a 12 year old) and of course the nonchalant presence of Sean Connery as Bond. Connery has been the only actor to combine the wit, sophistication and cold-hearted presence required to capture the British steeliness of Ian Fleming's secret agent. Which brings us to Goldfinger.

The third in the series is the most iconic. The silver Aston Martin first appeared here, the golden corpse, John Barry's excellent Shirley Bassey sung theme song,  the wittiest Bond one liners, a heightened sexual (sexist?) innuendo, the lead heroine is called Pussy Galore! One of the best Bond hard man villains in Oddjob and some of Bond's neatest gadgets. Hamilton brings a flow to the Bond series that keeps the picture pacy. He also injects a bit of 60's style, which in this case has aged well. At the heart is Connery, possibly disdainful at playing Bond, sporting some of Bond's greatest on screen wardrobe, a cool presence. This film has been hugely influential as regards the action movie genre, but fun is at it's heart and it still entertains. After Connery, the series became less interesting where humor and outlandish set design took over from intensity. I'll always remember my Bond this way.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sewing without a plan ... and 3 ghostly garments

The Sewing Lawyer has always been mightily impressed by the entrants to the various "SWAP" contests.  That anyone completes these grueling marathons is a wonder, especially if their marriages or significant relationships remain intact.  What is this thing - a sewing "plan" anyway?  How could anyone actually settle ahead of time on pattern and fabric combos to make 11 (or whatever other double-digit number the SWAPpers aim to make) garments that would work together as a complete wardrobe?  How do they keep motivated, or even interested?  How can they stand the deadlines?

It's beyond the Sewing Lawyer.  She has occasionally read the rules and has always immediately dismissed the idea of participating.  She prefers to (mentally) endlessly reformulate a stream of projects which may or may not employ fabric, patterns and other bits from her stash, thumb aimlessly through her stack of Burda magazines and bulging pattern files, examine each and every bolt in the local fabric store to see what's new and what's deeply discounted, while waiting for inspiration to strike.  There is rarely any kind of deadline other than hoping vaguely to be able to make something-or-other before the season (or fashion) for it has completely passed.  The only advantage to be gained from not seizing the day and putting scissors to cloth is that the potential sewing disaster or fashion faux-pas is avoided, or at least put off for another day.

In the meantime, the Sewing Lawyer bumbles along making things that strike her fancy from time to time, and (mostly) turning out garments she's prepared to wear out in public, which sometimes even coordinate.

Ya, I'm exaggerating but right now it sure does feel this disorganized!  Since the last post, I've got three ghostly garments which have been slapped together to test patterns and fit to show you.  It is probably not a great idea to have this many ideas on the actual go.  One of the patterns has even been translated (well, cut out) into actual fabric!  But more on that later.

First up, I've improved the Material Things "Fearless Jacket" muslin immensely and I'm warming to the idea of actually using it to make out of my luscious lamb leather.  I took the muslin completely apart, adjusted the tissue in the places I had already identified, and recut the pieces.  I was at about size 0 (if there had been such a thing) on the MT tissue.  After sewing it together again I realized that it was still too big!  If I was at 0 before, I guess this is size -2.  In the Big 4, I would usually choose a 10 as my base size.  The new tucks are out of the side front and centre/side back seams.  The other change that needs to be made is to raise the armscye to improve mobility - the muslin looks ok while I have my arms at my side but when I raise them it's not a good look.

My second muslin is supremely uninteresting, but it's the one that's getting made first.  This is from a 1990s Burda envelope pattern which I have made before and wore to death.  I still really love the picture on the envelope.

I made a muslin only to check how much too low these armscyes are - I'm raising them by 2.5cm (1") so the answer is - a lot!

My final ghostly garment is a muslin of Vogue 1183, the second Kay Unger dress released this summer.  I could tell from the measurements printed on the pattern that this dress was going to be a snugger fit than V1182, my cocktail dress.  Before cutting out the muslin, I separated the skirt front into two so there will be princess seams instead of darts.  The back already has a corresponding seam and the bodice is princess-seamed all over the place, so this change seems natural and adds more opportunities to adjust fit.  For the muslin I cut a size 10 in the bodice and midriff, transitioning to a 12+ at the hips.

It is too snug.

Besides that, there is something strange happening at the join between the bodice and midriff at the front.  It almost feels like I need an FBA (!).  I notice that several reviewers of this dress on PR had a problem with the overlap gaping - they did need an FBA.  Mine isn't gaping so much as the leading edges of the front are pulling up on the midriff piece.

Here's another picture (in which the left neck edge is not folded under).   I'm going to mull this over some more but if you have a suggestion for how to fix this, please put it in the comments!

But the strangest thing is that the skirt front is too long on me just below the midriff, around the level of my actual waist. I've pinned out a wedge/tuck that is about 2cm deep at CF and tapers to nothing at the side seams.  You can see it better in the side view to the right.

I really like the way the midriff piece curves downward in the back.

The back fits pretty well except for the too-tightness of it.

It's also too short for my taste.  The muslin hits about 1cm above where I'd like the finished edge to land, and it includes the hem allowances!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Idea overload

I'm in major future-potential-project muslin mode so I have nothing to show.

First, I'm trying to fix my Material Things jacket muslin.  I took it apart and trimmed the pattern an obscene amount before putting it back together, but it is still too big!  I figure I'll be down to a size 0 in the MT size chart before long, which is just ridiculous.  I am going to make a muslin of the Burda leather jacket too, as I'm still not sure if the MT pattern is what I want to make.

I muslined another jacket, an unlined sort-of-safari jacket Burda envelope pattern from the 1990s.  I made this pattern way back when but no longer have the garment, and I wanted to check the armscyes (yes, they were too low on the body for my current taste in fit).  I've got some crepey woven wool earmarked for it, and lining to do Hong Kong finished seams.

I want to make a dress to wear with the jacket. I was going to reprise a sheath dress made from a much-tweaked Pattern Master Boutique pattern but then got the bright idea to try the other Kay Unger dress (Vogue 1183) instead.  It's a real fabric miser and I have only 1.2 metres of the softest, finest Zegna wool...

Oh yeah, I also had to go back to work.  Less time for sewing.  Phooey.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Getting away with murder

Something shortly to appear on Halsbury's Law Exchange

More than 40 years ago the then Labour MP Leslie Hale spoke in the House of Commons of “the constitution of the nation, the liberties of the people and a system of justice that, with all its faults, is the envy of the world.”

Today that sort of patriotic endorsement of English law is not so easily found amongst the great and the good. Instead there seems to be a perpetual fear that others might do things better than us, and so must be aped wherever possible.

Latest in this line of followers rather than leaders is the DPP, Kier Starmer. According to this morning’s Telegraph, he has joined with Ken Clarke, the Justice Secretary, in support of a Law Commission report arguing that we should redefine the most important of all criminal acts – murder.

Mr Starmer et al think that the offence might be better rewritten along American lines, so that rather than murder and manslaughter, we would have the first and second degree classifications of murder familiar to all viewers of American cops and robbers’ television programmes.

No doubt the Law Commission’s study was of the appropriate standard of erudition and its recommendations entirely earnest and well-meaning. But there is – or should be – a prior question asked by every prospective law reformer of every prospective law reform, namely is the reform actually necessary?

To sweep aside a definition of murder that is many generations old and replace it with something different is not a step to be taken lightly. It is a dimly narrow view of the law that sees criminal justice as nothing more than a set of rules to be tinkered with as and how the government of the day chooses.

Murder is not simply another offence in another statute or another set of common law rules. It is a concept with the highest resonance giving rise to the highest passion amongst the general public, even if it is inevitably imperfectly understood by them. Changing the definition to that of another culture isn’t something akin to tidying up the degree of knowledge required for liability as a constructive trustee or revising directors’ duties.

Politicians like to leave their mark on society, but that in itself is the worst possible motivation for a change in the law.

There is a second prior question – whether the proposed change is of sufficient importance that it should go to the top of the list of what public funds and other resources ought to be expended upon. It seems improbable that the proposed murder reform would pass that test; the present system allows for considerable flexibility in the form of sentencing and it is therefore far from clear that there is a pressing need for reform in that respect.

It wouldn’t have been a surprise to find the previous government cheerfully junking an age-old legal concept and replacing it with another of its personal fancy, especially not in the field of crime. In 1948, 700 pages in Halsbury’s Statutes were taken up with the criminal law. By 1998 that figure had risen to 2,700. Then the government gathered a proper head of steam, hitting 4,700 pages by 2008 and at the end of their tenure in 2010 nearly managing to hike it to 6,000.

That sort of increase is totally inconsistent with the rule of law, which requires the law to be stable and knowable in advance. It would take a fairly dedicated criminal practitioner to keep on top of all those new provisions and all relevant cases which have considered them. Worse still, the quality of some of the legislative reforms was, to say the least, less than satisfactory. The highest court in the land had this to say about one example:

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions. In this case the good intentions were to introduce mandatory rehabilitation for very short term prisoners by coupling time spent in custody with a release period under licence. This was known as “custody plus”. Hell is a fair description of the problem of statutory interpretation caused by transitional provisions introduced when custody plus had to be put on hold because the resources needed to implement the scheme did not exist. The problem arises when sentences of less than 12 months and more than 12 months are imposed consecutively."

R (on the application of Noone) v The Governor of HMP Drake Hall and another [2010] UKSC 30 at para [1] per Lord Phillips.

One would have thought that after that deluge the present government might have seen fit to take a breath. Or maybe they surveyed the wreckage and decided that maybe there wasn’t so much to be proud of anymore, and that others really did do things better elsewhere.

Less Than Zero (1987) Directed by Marek Kanievska

As I get older I've found myself on a mission to take my own path and be less influenced by the thoughts of others. I don't mean this in a 'taking advice' sense, but more in what people recommend me. In this respect, I'm stubborn and choosy. The word has always been that Less Than Zero the movie is a travesty, that this take on Brett Easton Ellis' debut novel is worth avoiding at whatever cost.  Even Ellis has in the past disowned the picture and has stated that the film has very little do with his novel. So, 23 years later, against better judgment, and with the constant nagging that I'm a fan of Ellis' work so how bad could the movie be,  I visit this film for the first time. People, trust your instincts!

It's hard to write about this movie in anyway, I felt  so uninspired after watching it. Kanievska creates no atmosphere on screen, this is a flat picture, like champagne that's lost the fizz. Kanievska is let down badly by his musical director Rick Rubin. Through a selection of woeful tracks Rubin somehow means to tell us that coke snorting yuppies from LA listened to poodle- rock at their swanky parties. Movie soundtracks hit a new low with this.  I'm pretty sure (although it's been years since I read it), the book is much more New Wave centered in it's musical tastes (hence the title), which certainly would accompany the look of the films characters. Production design, script, acting (Robert Downey Jr !!??),  all suffer from a similar air of carelessness.

Serious liberties (in every respect actually) have been taken with the book and especially the character of Clay (played by a lost Andrew McCarthy). This is a very hetero view of vapid Hollywood youth. Kanievska makes the mistake of trying to make us sympathize with these characters which is impossible. It's the lack of morality that these upwardly mobile LA creatures display that creates our interest in Ellis' book. We don't want to see their virtues.

Ellis' books have all been adapted poorly for the big screen, but Less Than Zero is the worst of these. I read recently that Ellis had changed his opinion on the film and quite liked it nowadays. Hey, Brett!  Trust your original instinct. No revisionism needed here.

It's LA youth again. Because we watched this film so close to Rebel Without A Cause I feel it is an update on the situation. So my difficulty with relating to the pain of rich late-teenage rebels continues.

The 1980s appears like a cold and vacuous time in LA. Young people are cynical, lonely and wear awful clothes and bad hair. I know that Bret Easton Ellis can describe emptiness and disconnection in an engaging and dangerous way, but Less Than Zero the film fails to be anything more than a vacuumed-out space wasting my time. It doesn't even make me angry enough to be something.

Clay, the good son who has left his hometown for an ivy league college, returns to find his girlfriend and best friend are having an affair. And of course, they are doing a lot of drugs. Clay is an incredibly one sided stone-faced boy according to the movie. He's 20 going on 50 and I don't understand what he would be doing with a couple of drug vacuums in the first place. No one would write a main character in their novel like this, without any faults or contradicting characteristics.

The most offensive claim made by the film is that sex between men is something a character will find himself practicing when he is in serious trouble with drugs – not when he likes it. Homosexuality is a side product of drug use according to this film. At least in Rebel Without A Cause (made some 30 years before) erotic tension between Dean and his young boy friend was there to be felt and interpreted without in-your-face judgment.

Phone Hacking

Another "Law in the Headlines" post for Halsbury's Law Exchange, published here.

The issue of alleged phone tapping of various public figures has once again been occupying much space in the press. The former royal editor of the News of the World, Clive Goodman, and a co-conspirator, Glenn Mulcaire, were jailed in January 2007 for four months and six months respectively, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to intercept communications without lawful authority. The newspaper’s editor at the time, Andy Coulson, accepted responsibility and resigned. Mr Coulson is now Director of Communications for the Conservative Party.

The Guardian newspaper made further allegations in 2009 of phone tapping, leading to investigations by the Press Complaints Commission and the House of Commons Culture and Media Committee.

Obviously there is vehement disagreement on what (if anything) was done, when it was done and by whom it was done. Equally obviously it is not the place on this forum to speculate on the truth of any of the allegations. It is however possible to state the underlying legal points quite shortly.

The primary legal issue is whether or not a criminal offence has been committed. The relevant offence would be pursuant to s 1(1) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which provides:

1 Unlawful interception

(1) It shall be an offence for a person intentionally and without lawful authority to intercept, at
any place in the United Kingdom, any communication in the course of its transmission by means
(a) a public postal service; or
(b) a public telecommunication system.
(2) It shall be an offence for a person—
(a) intentionally and without lawful authority, and
(b) otherwise than in circumstances in which his conduct is excluded by subsection (6)
from criminal liability under this subsection,
to intercept, at any place in the United Kingdom, any communication in the course of its
transmission by means of a private telecommunication system.

The penalty for infringement is a prison sentence of up to two years for conviction on an indictment, or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum if it is a summary conviction (s 1(7)).

Section 1(3) also provides that any interception of a communication without lawful authority is actionable at the suit or instance of the sender or recipient, or intended recipient.

These are not light consequences, as the previous sentences (which involved earlier legislation as well) demonstrate.

There is a further potential issue. Rumours are being made that apparently some people whose communications were intercepted have had their silence bought. Much depends on the precise circumstances (and again, it cannot be emphasised too strongly that nothing is offered here on the truth of any allegations or rumours) but any such deal where a criminal offence might be involved runs the risk of a charge of perverting the course of justice, an offence with a very wide scope both as to its commission and penalty.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Swearing off Material Things patterns now ...

Just remind me if I seem to be falling off this particular wagon.  I don't like the way they, or at least the two I own, (don't) fit me.  

Earlier this year, I tried out the "Fearless T Shirt" pattern.  Yuck.  

I spent much of yesterday trying to kill two birds with one stone - namely actually sewing on my new machine (which turns out to be an interesting back-to-basics learning experience) and making a muslin of the "Fearless Jacket & Vest" pattern.  I'm planning to make a leather jacket.  

Now there are only 3 reviews of this pattern on PR.  Two give it a glowing "love it" type thumbs up while the third does mention that it was too big so she had to give the vest she made away.  Well, my experience is more like that reviewer's.  Ms. Podolak might say that it's my fault for not reading ALL of the information on the back of the pattern envelope, which does include the finished garment measurements (OK you can now all mock the the Sewing Lawyer for not reading the fine print).  It turns out full disclosure is made of the fact that size 6 (my bust size) has 12 cm of ease at the bust (that's a whopping 4.75"!!) and size 8 (my hip size) has 15 cm of ease at the hip (holy cow; 6").   

But the "fashion drawing" on the envelope is so very misleading.  If that drawn jacket showed 15cm of ease it would have been standing visibly away from the skinny hips of that "model", as indeed my too-real muslin is doing on me.  

If this were a waiver clause in a contract, I'd say the ease measurements should have been in RED and large bold type; perhaps saying something like:



All of that said, I like the lines of this jacket, and to its credit it does have a ton of seams to take in.  I experimentally pinned out (a lot) of extra fabric last night and will work with it a bit longer before starting a muslin of the pattern shown in leather in September's issue of Burda Magazine, which is really pretty!  It's shown on a real human being ... and it's Burda whose sizing is quite predictable (but I think I'd move the sleeve zips to the back seam).

Oh yeah, the armscye on the fearless "fitted" jacket is too deep on me as well, and it was drafted for Ms. Gorilla Arms.  I'll be taking about 2.5cm (1") of length out through the upper chest and sleeve cap and at least the same out of the length of the sleeve.  

Thursday, September 2, 2010

CPAC to Discuss Request by Greece for Cultural Property MoU

The United States often helps other countries whose cultural heritage is in jeopardy through bilateral agreements. These agreements come about through the Cultural Property Implemenation Act (CPIA). This federal statute gives force to the 1970 UNESCO Convention that protects cultural heritage by allowing the United States to set up import barriers to block looted and stolen cultural property from passing through our borders. It gives Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement the ability to seize illicit antiquities when smugglers try to bring them to America.

The CPIA sets up an advisory committee called the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) to help the White House decide whether to enter into one of these bilateral agreements that creates import restrictions.

On October 12, 2010, CPAC will meet at the State Department in Washington, DC to consider adopting an agreement with Greece to protect its archaeological heritage from looters and smugglers. Greece is where the first building blocks of western democracy were laid, so it is important that its rich history is protected.

You can lend your voice America's commitment to Greece's archaeological treasures by submitting written comments to CPAC by  September 22, 2010.

To send comments to CPAC go to www.regulations.gov and a web page will appear. In the box titled "Enter Keyword or ID" type in "DOS–2010–0339-0001" and then click on "Search." Under the "Document Type" heading, click on the box that says "Notices." Then look toward the bottom of the page to see a link that says "Submit A Comment." Click it and start writing.

Useful comments submitted to CPAC are ones that describe how
a) how US import restrictions of objects looted from archaeological sites would help to deter the destructrion of these sites, or

b) how US import restrictions on looted and smuggled archaeological objects can promote the exchange of scientifically excavated cultural materials between the United States and Greece for scientific, cultural and educational purposes.

The information described here can be found in greater detail on the Archaeological Institute of America's special web site located at www.archaeological.org/cpac. It is worth a visit to learn more.

Help protect cultural heritage by contacting CPAC and telling its members how you support adopting a bilateral agreement with Greece.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Rebel Without A Cause (1955) directed by Nicholas Ray


A poster on a wall, a key ring, a clock, a place mat and dozens of biographies. James Dean in 2010 is big business, the business of lost teenage dreams and dead iconic film stars. The iconic quiff, the red bomber jacket, 501's, tick tock. Rebel Without A Cause is the movie that cemented Dean in the eyes of America's youth at the dawn of Rock n Roll. Ray's picture is a zeitgeist moment in cinema, capturing the nonchalance of teenage resistance to post war grayness, a scream that says: "there's gotta be more to life than this".  

But Rebel Without A Cause isn't very good, it's youthful angst filled with cliched youth talk that sounds embarrassing now. The success of this film and why it works is in the 'moment' and that moment passed quickly, all that's left is a dated monument to American teenage's earliest grumbling. So, it's a document more than a statement. Ray, a director I admire a lot piles on the red, this picture's look still dazzles, but where Ray often deals in a kind of psychedelic Noir, his Rebel is just too straight. Is this so the middle aged audience of the time could relate to the picture? The youth of this picture are so rich and middle class, they really are just rebelling against the boredom, poor things. The most interesting sub-text to the film is the heavy homosexual current between Dean's Jim Stark and the lost Plato (a seriously good looking Sal Mineo). It's amazing that Natalie Wood's Judy is an afterthought to the homoerotic bonding on display. 

Despite all its faults, Rebel Without A Cause is still worth a look. It's still Nicholas Ray behind the camera. The movie settles down half way through,  the characters slowly develop even if the plot is beyond simplistic. Dean's films can never live up to the legend, expectations will be crushed. He just didn't have enough time to show us if he was good or not. Still there's glimpses, here he's part Brando (when wild) and part Clift (when being sensitive). Dean is a teeny-bopper version of the method, not too deep, but cute when he's angry. And the point is, he wears a red bomber jacket like no one before or since.

Earlier on the day that I watched Rebel Without A Cause, I stood with my mother at the poetry section of a bookstore and discussed the teenage appeal to over-the-top dramatics. My point being that around the age of 17 or so, we feel sadness and happiness, love and hate so vividly that it constitutes a special state of mind/body. At that age teenagers are drawn to and touched by explosive drama, big operatic expressions of emotions – not because they display such behavior themselves but because they feel it.
That's the feeling I am left with thinking back on my own experience.

The same evening I curl up on our ocean gray couch and Rebel Without A Cause reminds me that before the birth of youth culture (with its immediate products such as rock'n'roll), there was the internal need to rebel against something (manifested in parents and in the surrounding order of the society). The dramatic overpowering teenage feeling preceded what is now known as the most glorified time of life – everybody wants to be young!

Rebel Without A Cause is a little bit simplistic and naive. All these young people are taking themselves so seriously but why are they suffering so? There are no nuances or lighter shades to emotions and actions here: when one boyfriend dies in a 'chickenrun' it takes Judy (Natalie Wood) only some minutes to warm up to the winner, Jim, who survived (James Dean). Yes, it is true, some of us do not come out alive from the dramatics of our teenage years. And some of us continue to rebel without a clear cause.

I note with strange delight that Rebel Without A Cause offers the parents or the lack of parenting as the main reason for these youths to be lost and in pain. 1955 gave the world rock music, but it was also the time when introspection through psychoanalysis was exploding into the Western mainstream.

Panama heading for target of 12 Double Taxation Agreements

Panama will negotiate with Singapore next week the 12th double taxation agreement (DTA) required to exit the gray list of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

On Aug 18 negotiations were completed for a double taxation avoidance agreement with South Korea.

A double taxation agreement with Mexico has been ratified by the Panama legislature. Other treaties have been signed with Barbados, and negotiations have been closed with France, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Netherlands, Qatar, Luxembourg and Portugal.

http://www.asamblea.gob.pa/actualidad/proyectos/2010/2010_P_156.pdf Mexico-Panama Agreement for Double Taxation Avoidance and Tax Evasion Prevention

In the last 6 months, bills have been entered into the Panama legislature to ratify Bilateral Investment Treaties for the protection of investments with Italy, Belgium, Qatar, and Luxembourg granting national treatment to investments from those countries.
http://www.asamblea.gob.pa/actualidad/proyectos/2010/2010_P_153.pdf Qatar
http://www.asamblea.gob.pa/actualidad/proyectos/2010/2010_P_146.pdf Italy
http://www.asamblea.gob.pa/actualidad/proyectos/2010/2010_P_148.pdf Belgium-Luxembourg
http://www.asamblea.gob.pa/actualidad/proyectos/2010/2010_P_147.pdf Finland

A bill to ratify a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with Russia has been submitted. This Agreement provides that:
Bank secrecy can not be used as a basis for denying legal assistance.
3. The Parties may not refuse a request for legal assistance only because it is considered that the crime also involves tax matters.
http://www.asamblea.gob.pa/actualidad/proyectos/2010/2010_P_150.pdf Russia MLAT Bill

New (to me) sewing stuff

The Sewing Lawyer had a sudden, severe, sewing-related mania (clearly, it is contagious) this week which resulted in a drive to a not-too-distant town to purchase a rather large thing (luckily not for a gigantic sum); which hopefully will be more than another piece of furniture.  Without further ado, here it is.  Can you guess what's inside?

If you guessed a working treadle sewing machine, you are correct.  The contents, please.

Well, it's a Singer 127 (or 128; not sure, the manual - original - is for both).  She's in lovely condition - purchased in 1935, probably in Timmins, Ontario, by Émerilda, the grandmother of the seller.  The manual is in French which was Émerilda's mother tongue (though it's clear from the notes and clippings found in the drawers that she was fluently bilingual).

It seems from the drawer contents that Émerilda was still using this machine in the early 1970s, which is kind of remarkable given that my grandmother, who may have been Émerilda's contemporary, had an electric Singer (a Featherweight) much earlier than that.  I wonder if Émerilda got a new machine in the 1970s, or if  she used this one all of her sewing life?

 At left is the beautiful scroll-work and at right, the shuttle - all clean; no rust.  The leather belt is in place and she really goes!  So quiet!

On to the ephemera and tools that were stuffed into the drawers.  Alongside the usual suspects (bags of old metal zippers, spare buttons in pill bottles and bits of trim) were some intriguing items.

Don't you love these promotional rulers?  The lower one is a campaign item from a 1971 mayoral race in Timmins.  What a thoughtful guy to supply sewing notions as give-aways!

The next (left) is a mystery.  The round part is an expanding metal bracelet-like thing.  It stretches to fit over my wrist, but mine are on the small end of wrists so I'm not certain it's meant to be worn in this way.  Attached to it is this odd device (right).  The end piece is a very thin bit of metal which rotates (with some help).  The inscription is PAT 405/14 which tells me nothing in particular.  Does anyone reading have any idea what this is?
Perhaps the strangest item was this souvenir sewing kit (left) which proudly proclaims "Temagami, Canada".  (Temagami is a northern Ontario cottage/summer camp paradise.)  The clown's hat is a (plastic) thimble and thread is concealed inside his head.  Weird!  OTOH I wish we still lived in an era of sewing-related tourist drek.

To the right is a very handy hosiery mending kit.  Another promotional item.

The needle book at top is almost complete and very pristine.  The other side sports a photo of 4 biplanes flying over a very busy harbour.

The mending tape may be nothing to write home about but I like that it's in the original packaging.

The little taped booklet at the bottom of this photo is clearly Singer propaganda aimed at the younger set.  Inside it warbles "Let Us Send You a Singer Machine For Free Trial!" - beware of those dealers who sell (horrors) second-hand!  Inside the rear cover is a picture of a machine "For the Little Girl"; a Singer 20 (chain stitch machine) which "is at once a fascinating amusement and a means for instruction in an essential household art".

Last but not least is this intriguing clipping (click to enlarge to readable size).  It looks like a free-motion quilting item, but specially designed for making buttonholes.  "Twice as neat results in half the time, too!"  For "only" $1.00 or three for $2.50.  But wait a minute - maybe it was an expensive item after all.  Based on some other newspaper items bundled into the drawers, 89¢ would have purchased "strongly-made Blue Red-back Denim overalls" sized to fit children from 8-16 years from Simpson's, one of Canada's original department store chains.

I'm delighted with my purchase; the seller was happy it was going to a sewing home.