Monthly Archives: November 2015

Steve Jobs is a ….

[Insert a rhyming word with a silent starting letter]

Film Review

The strobe lighting at the end was typical of Steve Jobs himself – selfishly creating show because he could, without thought for how it affected others. There were no warnings for epilepsy and other sufferers and it wasn’t pleasant, nor was it necessary or desirable.

Because we never see Steve Jobs do a launch, we never see the side of him that drew an audience. So when he claims to be like a conductor, playing the orchestra, we can’t believe him because we’ve never seen him do so. That arrogant put down quote is untrue – the other Steve and Andy wrote the score. Those colleagues weren’t workbenchers, they were creating the notes Jobs took credit for. Not that we should knock our benchworkers either. But most orchestras are about replication to a high standard, including the conductor. My greatest admiration goes to composers and those who can ad lib. No Jobs, you’re not an artist. Artists are the creators and it’s quite possible, as the film points out, to be a nice one.

I felt like giving the other Steve (Wozinak) and Andy Hertzfeld a hug and punching Jobs on their behalf. I am sorry that the actors playing these people (Seth Rogen and Michael Stulhbarg) rarely get much a mention or a photograph in film brochures, but they are very important to the film.

You’ll see that this film made me angry, and that was before I learned from Sight and Sound that director Danny Boyle glibly added $5m to the budget by choosing to shoot in California, but only paid 3000 extras with a banana and apple each for a day’s work. That’s the kind of injustice of Jobs himself.

Yet I did, in part, enjoy the film.

Kate Winslet made the film bearable by her role as Joanna Hoffman, who I sympathised with very much. She can tell Steve off without losing her temper or being as unkind back. It is she who points out the abysmal father he’s being, though she never criticises his behaviour to the child’s mother, who is financially struggling throughout the 14 years of this story. When Joanna said she loved Jobs, I wondered why – and also why she had worked with him for 19 years if these three launches were anything like typical of his behaviour.

I didn’t like the film’s three launch structure, I’m not sure it’s totally right to call them acts. My understanding of the three act structure is that 1 and 3 are short: one sets up the action – why does the story start start now? Act 2 is the main story, and 3 is the denouement to the wrap. Some stories have more than three acts; perhaps this is one of them.

I’m all for breaking convention but stories naturally start with something happening, a break in the usual life of someone… and this, when you catch your breath and think about it, doesn’t really. Steve Jobs doesn’t go far developmentally or in terms of space – it’s all corridors and stages. I disagree with Sight and Sound that Jobs’ improvement and a more positive end note makes the film weaker – I believe passionately that grit and misery aren’t more real or deep, and that we choose our perspective and reasons. And characters are supposed to develop in stories – it’s the point of them, as in life! But because we never see between the acts we don’t see the catalysts and are not therefore able to follow the trajectory of the characters.

Aaron Sorkin, the writer, is quoted in a current film magazine saying that character and plot get in the way – it’s all about dialogue for him. And this film is all dialogue. I was glad about that in a way – some films go to the other extreme and I have often heard the maxim to make film primarily visual and the dialogue is to be used sparingly. But this is too much talking, and despite what he says in the Total Film interview, Sorkin – you haven’t included only what’s needed for the story, because there isn’t that much of one and you said in another place that those things are subordinate for you.

This movie would just as well be a play and has little that’s purely cinematic about it. It’s intense and relentless and it didn’t believe that these conversations would happen minutes before major launches. Just as Jobs is handling one person, there’s a knock and another one wants to start a fight. And all with a timer bomb tick tick to the launch….

Even when Jobs is less nasty and tries to bond with his daughter at last, he’s selfish: He’s been a stickler for time, and now he makes others wait to indulge the thing that currently captures him, inappropriately insisting to see her essays at that moment, despite being late for his biggest launch yet. But I don’t want 100s of songs in my pocket, I like the music industry how it was… has Jobs though about the effect on record shops and companies any more than he has thought of how his inventions involved poor working conditions for those in the factories in other countries that made them? Or that CGI is an uglier form of filmmaking and could lose actors and set makers their jobs, Jobs. I hate his efficient animal with a bicycle speech, which…

I pause to gather myself. I am not sure if reviewing this film is good for my inner workings.

A world where we care about efficiency, where we see the wondrous beings we can be (this Jobs is not a good example) as lacking in that harsh, shallow, number driven way… it recalls the man who observed a coal shoveller and decided the shoveller could be trained to change his technique and shovel more in the same time for the same wage. No thought to the bore of the job, the harm to the worker, or that he ought to deserve more pay and breaks…. such a man is Jobs, a man who I doesn’t see as genius, who has thought about what is possible but not if it’s desirable nor cared what others feel, nor about ethics and implications, nor about harm from electromagnetic frequency that his bicycles in every home and songs in our pocket is causing. There’s a hint Jobs wasn’t money driven but someone hopping about for high sales projections and overpricing his actually ugly box with no operating system sounds pretty commercial to me.

Kate Winslet again has found an interesting role to play, but Jobs is not a man I wish to know more of and nor would I have chosen to spend time with him (real or this version) otherwise.

I close with wondering if the most common still from the film is meant to resemble Ed Harris as Christophe, the creator in/of The Truman Show, in his bubble, controlling a world from a distance, thinking of his own brilliance and boundaries, not of any one else?

Note who’s name’s missing. He, like Jobs, got too much attention in this film, which is at least a six player game. I am feeling over exposed to him and I have yet to like the characters he plays.

However, I read Jobs’ 2005 Stanford speech and felt – there was a fourth act, a coda needed. A man who tells us to find what we love, to live what we love, to see death (which he’d faced) as a gift, and to join the dots retrospectively, now seeing that being thrown out of Apple was a gift… that is a man who has learned wisdom, even if it wasn’t yet kind. Jobs also had a romance – but we never meet his wife. Sorkin’s Steve misses out the things that would be of interest and complete his story.

I have also just found the script and may post again after reading it.

Reviews of The Dressmaker and Carol are coming.

 

 

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Suffragette

I have at last seen this, as promised when I began my Edith Cavell commemorations.

I still don’t understand the film’s Monday release date, but then, James Bond was also released on a Monday. So perhaps it wasn’t to link with an historical event, as I thought.

Do see my earlier post (Edith I) with a picture of a Norfolk suffragette act. I take issue that this film is so London based, but women were busy all round the country.

On the posters for Suffragette, there’s Meryl Streep with Carey Mulligan and Helena BC. The list of actresses sometimes includes Ann-Marie Duff, one of my favourites. It does not mention Natalie Press, who is the key…. shall I spoil this? If you don’t know who EWD is, and you want to see the film, look away now (or at the start of the next paragraph).

Emmeline Pankhurst, Ms Streep’s character, is kept mysterious and does a short speech, recalling Streep’s earlier British historical role – the Iron Lady. Here she’s another, doing a kind of reverse of Maggie leadership, but who also harms in the name of her vision. Yet Emmeline’s work is often more sympathised with and its wake left good for society after her death in 1928 – the year of full voting rights for women in Britain.

This film is set earlier than those events, and its denouement involves Natalie Press’s character’s famous deed of 1913. It is unclear as to how many other characters are real – such as Helena’s good doctor Edith Ellyn whose husband (a minor role) was the only man who showed any kindness – though shutting your wife in a cupboard for her own protection may be a controversial expression of it.

The lack of good men was an issue, for the men are too evil: The laundry boss yells cruel orders and a more intimate kind of abuse. The main character, who is fictional, has a weedy but traditional husband who I expected to come on side and support her as Maud’s own draw to the suffragette cause grows.

What was most powerful about Suffragette was the closing list of years  that women’s voting rights were granted. New Zealand led the way in the late 1800s. Sadly, many of us weren’t shocked at the recence of Saudi Arabia – and that its promise is still unfulfilled; what made me gulp was that countries in Europe we may consider enlightened – such as Sweden – took till the 1970s. Many women had to wait til World War II was over to slip into a ballot box.

And yet the system is still one that doesn’t give fair voting rights, despite being legally allowed to cast a vote.

More film reviews soon – Steve Jobs, The Dressmaker and Carol

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The Children Act – my verdict

Her Honour Lady Justice Elspeth will present her findings on the case in the novel by Ian McEwan

 

No need to rise (thanks for being willing).

 

The son of a Jehovah’s witness couple is deemed a minor by the law and therefore his and his parent’s wishes can be overruled by the court, where the court feels that the welfare of the statutory child is at stake, as per section 1 (a) of The Children Act (1989).

 

Adam is three months off being 18 and has leukaemia. He is advised by Edith Cavell Hospital that he needs an urgent blood transfusion to save his life. Indeed, this court has been called at short notice today because the consultant haematologist states that after tomorrow, Adam’s chances of living are small.

 

A blood transfusion is against the beliefs of the family, including Adam, and is therefore being refused. Adam is well aware that he will likely die, and so his are family and community.

 

We have heard about the deeply held beliefs of the Henry family.

We have heard the consultant’s view of the likely suffering and unpleasant death that will befall Adam if he continues without the transfusion.

 

We have heard the precedents of previous judges who allow for statutory minors to make their own decisions, and we have deliberated whether Adam passes this non statutory test of being capable – ie that of being “Gillick competent”; whether it is better for the court and hospital to intervene, and what is the meaning of ‘welfare’. No-one has framed welfare as a developmental or spiritual path. This is a significant oversight in my view.

 

We have noted that Adam’s church circle is narrow. We have considered whether Adam has been able to make his own commitment and decision; and if he is aware of the kind of death he will suffer. Lady Justice Maye has suggested to intervene would be saving the boy from himself and his religion, though she states that the court must have no view on religions or the afterlife. However, it surely does and that has affected the ruling.

 

It appears that no-one in the court shares a view with the Henrys about God and death; Mr Carter the consultant states his Anglicanism, yet he saw Jehovah Witnesses – a related and derivative faith – as a cult.

 

As judge, I am presented with but two options: either I force Adam to have the transfusion, and he will live; or I let him have his apparent wishes, and he dies horribly.

 

But we have not considered other options, nor taken apart the beliefs on both sides.

 

Mr Carter is used to being consulted with, but not in consulting others. It is his dearly held belief, bolstered by a world he is entrenched in, as are truly many of us in the legal world, living in gated nearby communities, socialising with our own, reinforcing the ideas we have long held and rarely having them challenged. As we rise to the top of our profession, we are in a position to distil these beliefs into others, and have less to influence us from above.

So my first point is that a Jehovah’s Witness is no more in a bubble world than many of us, including those who seek a ruling against the Jehovah’s Witnesses here today.

 

Secondly, those who would have me find against the Henry family are of a rational bent, if not an atheistic one. Mr Berner QC, representative of the hospital, may I ask if you have any form of faith or spirituality? Mr Carter, is your Anglicanism one based on prevalent modern science and rationalism, or do you believe in an intervening God who can heal though means other than hospitals? Do you believe in any other kind of medicine save allopathic – that is, your own medicine? I thought as much.

 

You see, we have an issue, that most people involved in this case do not see the world as Adam’s family do. It is assumed that I too would be on the rational side, as Lady Justice Maye was, whose decision I am reconsidering.

 

Although we say that courts do not comment on faith, they do, for we quote Lord Justice Purchas who claims that religions are allowed as long as they are “legally and socially acceptable” and more colourfully and emotively, Lord Justice Scarman precludes those that are “immoral and socially obnoxious”. Could those quotes not be used to crush dissent? For faith is a powerful impetus for civil disobedience, believing in a higher power and cause than earthly authorities, which of course means secular law. For those invested in status quo and their own hegemony, religions are an anathema at best and a threat at worst. Although of course, religions can be used for hegemony and status quo keeping and we must consider if the beliefs in this case are a case in point.

 

Mr Carter, may I ask, what is at stake for you? What do you gain from carrying out a transfusion – money or a commission for example? We are aware that procedures carry a fee for medical staff, and could the drugs involved also be influenced by the profit seeking companies that made them?

 

Mr Carter, how and why does the death of Adam affect you? Is it something you would be upset by – surely not as much as the parents here, and his other loved ones? Do you really care about the affect it would have on your staff?

Is death a failure for you – personally, professionally, on your statistics?

In your view, is death the worst that can happen?

 

And Mr and Mrs Henry – is death the worst for you? Of course not, you believe you go to paradise, reunited with loved ones and God. But how do you feel about the actual loss?

 

I have another thought on a crucial matter that has been erstwhile omitted: the transfusion is deemed necessary because of the drugs being administered for Adam’s anaemia. So these drugs have such a serious side effect that they require an intrusive, risky and to some, taboo procedure to correct it? And we have heard from the family’s counsel that transfusions are not always successful or safe, something that Mr Carter nor Mr Berner has taken seriously.

 

Whilst we heard about the beliefs of the family, no-one articulated that actually several ancient mandates, including the Bible’s Levitical injunctions, are actually often shown to be wisdom that the modern world might be wise to listen to. Aren’t Jews without many of the illnesses that befall their all meats and all animal parts eating counterparts? Perhaps we don’t think enough about life stuff and its sacredness; and only in a world where blood is no more than the oil of the body could we think of swapping it and other parts with those of others?

And I note how those who refuse or query are seen as outdated, cranky, if not dangerous.

 

Her Ladyship is observing all this.

 

So my first conclusion is – why has no alternative healing been considered, such as faith healing, or non allopathic methods, such as herbal and energy based medicines?

I understand that these can be miraculously effective, even from a scientific view.

What else has the allopathic world got in its medicine chest?

 

Also, I rule that an urgent enquiry and temporary ban be put into place on these anti anaemia drugs which are clearly so harmful. I must say that I am shamed that no other person on this case has flagged up or shown alarm on this matter.

 

My next main area is that of the minor’s choice. We arbitrarily place a legal coming of age, now quite late considering history and culture. Adam would be a man already in many other times and places. We have a set standard threshold that is measurable – that quantitative, rational, empirical based mindset again – and not one that is based upon a person’s maturity and insight. We know that Adam has both of those.

 

We claim to care for the welfare of children, but yet there is a great conundrum:

To force bodily acts and fluids on another is assault; to do so, even consensually under the age of 16 is automatically seen as rape by the law.

 

And yet – up to the age of 18, law can support medicine in doing so, against the wishes of the person concerned and their next of kin.

 

What kind of parent are we, the establishment, on behalf of our nation’s young people?

 

We are giving alarming ‘facts’ – I must empathise the inverted commas around the word – about the urgency of the procedure, the death that will befall Adam without it, the likelihood of success. But have we really had those statements scrutinised? Are we allowing the pressure from the hospital to let us overlook the paucity of strong evidence, the manipulation of the arguments against the Henrys’ view, or attempted to uncover underlying motives and views of those against the family’s wishes?

 

I am of the mind that state nor institution has the power over the body and fate of another, and that this should never be supported in law. The transfusion would be a medical rape with much in common with a sexual one, both physically and psychologically damaging.

 

We must urgently consider what else might help Adam.

 

I also state that death, for many believers, is not the end or the ultimate worst. The ancient Mayans called death “an act of creation”, part of life’s cycle. We assume in science that a long life is our rightful life, and any other is a cheat, a failure, a tragedy; death is a nuisance and an error to bat away for as long as possible. This is an immature view of death, forgetting the spiritual and personal development’s role in life, for those who die and those who witness and grieve.

 

I must here return to a line of enquiry that Lady Justice Maye took, which is if the Henry’s beliefs are helpful or harmful; are they freely held or enforced? Is this truly standing up for one’s beliefs and going home to God, or a more sinister and unnecessary martyring?

Is this God speaking, or your church’s elders? I note that the suggestions about alternative healing have been mine, not the Kingdom Hall’s. They have not spoken of faith or natural healing; it is assumed that death is the outcome of obedience to God’s mandate against blood transfusion. I have not heard anyone suggest that God might save Adam without the transfusion. The Almighty seems to concur with the more science based consultants here. Might that be a fault in the defence’s counsel, or does it belie something significant about the religion – and this branch of it as relating to the Henry family?

 

I do find something concerning and significant here, and as much as my own beliefs may be largely inappropriate to the case (and yet still drive my ruling), I would like to share that I am well aware, both personally and with the knowledge of the faiths of others, that the kind of God being presented is not one that many believers would recognise. To critique the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or even this particular branch and its leaders, is not the remit of this court; but I do note that powerful leaders seem to pressure the Henrys into this view, and I wonder how loving and wise a leaders they can be if they impose an obedience that could be fatal and yet offer no succour save the next world – not much succour for Adam’s parents – and no alternative to the transfusion; not even the laying on of hands or anointing of oil common in other Christian circles.

 

The Henrys are asked to put Adam’s life into someone’s hands – God’s or Mr Carter’s; God may work through the transfusion and the elders may be at work through the supposed will of God. I trust my ruling is aware of both and finds a third way.

 

Thus I summarise my ruling:

 

I require that alternative healing for Adam be urgently sought – tonight – if the Henrys choose it; and that no procedure can be forced on animal or human without their and their next of kin’s consent. I will convene a party to propose changes to the laws.

I would like Mr Carter to be invited to be involved in the alternative healing. I make clear that a rejection of transfusion is not a rejection of him or a sleight on his work.

 

I recommend a greater working between allopathic and so called alternative medicine, particularly regarding non intrusive and less profit driven forms of medicine, including energy and faith healing. This may be an area for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to consider.

 

I also recommend a query into the statutory age limit – for were this case three months later, we would not be here today.

 

As said, I declare the need for the urgent recalling and investigation into the drugs and procedures, and further research into transfusion, not just is efficacy but its safety, and the research into alternatives.

 

It is very much my hope that Adam will live, and that he might enjoy a wider view and circle than he has thus far – and that so might all of us, for a small, self serving view is all too common. I admire the courage of all the Henrys and their steadfastness, but I might suggest that their God is less exacting than their pastors.

 

Case dismissed. You may rise this time.

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