The English riots will be over by the time you read this. Some looters will have been arrested and imprisoned; others will be enjoying their new TVs.
Riots and anarchy had to be stopped. Social order had to be restored. Whatever your politics, better to have rule by the Tories than Mad Max.
Prime Minister David Cameron returned early from his vacation to take control of the blaming. He pinned the problem squarely on “a sick society” full of irresponsible parents. His opposition blamed it, at least in part, on Cameron’s own “austerity measures” – cutbacks in police funding and on social programs like youth centers. Cameron’s response was to blame the police for not being “robust” enough.
But it’s more complicated than any of that.
You can’t explain theft that ran from petty to grand, equal numbers of black and white arrests and frightening levels of random violence by blaming it on bad parenting or coddling cops. You can’t explain it by blaming it on any single thing. Or any single group.
So, while politicians play the Blame Game – in which participants start out with an ideological rant, then collect data to support an entrenched position based on a previously held bias – why don’t we try a game of Clue.
Colonel Mustard, if you will please, tell us the way this works:
First pick a Looter:
1. An 11-year-old boy arrested for stealing a trash bin worth 50 pounds.
2. A black unemployed single mother caught on camera examining a purloined pair of sneakers.
3. An 11-year-old foster-home girl who smashed the windows of a clothing shop with rocks.
4. The mother of two who slept through the riots but accepted the gift of a pair of shorts from her roommate.
5. A 16 year old who believed he could bring home a 46” TV on his skateboard without his parents disapproving.
6. A 23-year-old engineering student who was walking back from his girlfriend’s house and took a six-pack of bottled water (worth 3.5 pounds) from a store that was being looted.
7. A 45-year-old banker who drove up housing prices by making bad loans, then sold derivatives made up mostly of the bad loans he’d created.
Next, pick a Thug:
1. The driver of the car that ran down three Muslim men trying to protect their business.
2. A guy who helped a mugging victim to his feet in order to give his partner better access to stealing items from the kid’s backpack.
3. The men who beat to death a pensioner who was trying to stop them from setting fire to trash bins.
4. A law student who joined a pack of rioters trying to set fire to a restaurant – with customers cowering inside.
5. A 46-year-old drunk, bearing a resemblance to the star of the British TV series Shameless who tried to gouge out a policeman’s eye.
6. Vigilantes from a rightwing political party who used the riots as an excuse to stir up racial hatred.
7. Rupert Murdoch – whom we could suspect of conjuring all this just to keep himself off British front pages.
Next pick a weapon:
1) bricks and rocks
2) police stop and search
3) gasoline and matches
4) jobs and training programs
5) a hard line against looters
6) a sensation-hungry press
7) a good tax attorney and accountant.
Next, pick a Villain:
1) Unwed mothers & Absentee fathers
2) “A sick society”
3) The police
4) Profiteering gangs
6) “austerity measures”
7) Rupert Murdoch (game note: you cannot pick him as both a Thug and a Villain)
Finally, match a crime to a punishment:
1. A 14 yr. old girl who stole some clothes.
2. Accepting a pair of shorts from a looter.
3. The theft of billions of pounds.
4. The murder of eight African children.
5. Bribery of police officers and extortion of government officials.
6. Destroying people’s livelihoods.
7. Stealing a six-pack of water bottles.
A. Pfizer Pharmaceutical pays $175,000 each to families of four of the eight dead children. No payment to the dozens that were disabled.
B. Punishment depends on whether its vandal youth burning businesses or UK corporations sending work to India and China.
C. 5 months prison.
D. Rupert Murdoch may not get to buy Skye TV. Or he still may.
E. Remanded to custody of her parents who were “too busy” to show up at her trial.
F. A bailout that enabled banks to make billions more.
G. Six months prison.
(Answers: 1E, 2C, 3F, 4A, 5D, 6B, 7G)
The first player to find a Clue must share it with the Prime Minister - who doesn’t appear to have one.
Bonus points if you can predict when this classic game is going to make a comeback in the U.S.
destruction of private property. The rich worship it; the poor barely know what it is.
The English riots have barely been reported on – let alone explored – by the U.S. press. Don’t think it’s not coming there. But with guns, not bricks.
Havoc in Parliament, Scotland Yard and the Murdoch Empire. As if they didn’t have enough to worry about, England now has American drivers on its roads. Call it collateral damage from World War Z – the movie I’m working on here.
I’ve been given a car to take me to and from our multiple English locations. Not a car and driver, as has been the case on previous UK movies, but in the new fiscal reality I’ve only been able to swing what our deal memos refer to as a “self-drive.”
A birdseye view of London would resemble a black widow spider’s web: no pattern, no shape, a tangle of threads that bend, then end on a drunken whim. I was told that the last American publicist who tried driving here showed up at work every day with a new dent in his car. More recently one of our American technicians, having done the torturous tour thru Central London to Elstree Studios only once, simply abandoned his car on the lot and has been getting rides to and from set with the electrical department ever since.
Driving in London is not a sport for the faint of heart.
I’ve driven in cities all over the world – even right hand drive (with stick shift!) in places like South Africa, Malta and New Zealand. No place scares me more than London. It’s not the slalom around buses and bicyclists, nor even (well, maybe a little) two-way streets the width of a bowling lane that allow parking on both sides.
My fear of driving in London is getting lost: never finding my way back to Nicola’s flat in Shepherds Bush and being forever stuck on a roundabout with no exit.The maze of roundabouts here must have been designed by Lewis Carroll.
Outside the city are the motorways: the M1, M4, M25…
Let’s take the M25 for example - which I had to take to Longcross Studios the first week of work. On day 2, I overshot one turn, somehow wound up back on the M25 and drove 20 minutes before I could find a place to turn around. The M25 goes in a circle around the city – like the highway loop around DC. But if you miss your exit in DC, you can get off at the next exit. There are no exits on the M25, just options that lead to other motorways – all of which seem to be spaced 10-15 miles apart.
Out of this chaos has come a deep and, dare I say, profound relationship.
I call her Lily. I don’t know her real name. She is, you may have guessed, the voice on my GPS. In confident, posh tones – like a sympathetic dominatrix – she tells me what to do and I do it. And like most women telling a guy what to do, she is always right but often obtuse.
“Sharp right at the roundabout, then take 3rd exit.”
One, two… wait, was that an exit? Damn I’ve taken the 4th exit, which leads me onto the M1 which will take me miles out of my way. Lily neither scolds nor corrects (as American GPS systems do: “recalculating”). She merely tells me, “continue straight” and 15 miles later has me turn around.
She is not a good judge of distance. “Right turn coming up,” as I’m already making the right turn. “In a quarter mile, turn left.” “Left turn coming up” and I’ve already passed it.
I’m a big fan of quiet time in a car. But Lily can go for long stretches without the need to talk to me. And when she does interrupt my driving daydreams, it’s always to tell me something important. “Right at the roundabout; take 3rd exit.”
One, two… yikes! Why didn’t you say I only had 30 feet to cross three lanes of traffic to exit left???
“Exit coming up.”
She won’t engage in argument and she doesn’t respond to my temper tantrums. Lily is doing more than teaching me how to get around London: she’s making me a better man. I’m learning how to listen, observe and use my intuition. I think she’s teaching me how to understand women.
“Straight on at the roundabout, then slight left.”
Lily, you sure know how to sweet-talk a guy.
Do you have dinner plans?
Anything and Everything that has Nothing to Do with the Movies
Sometimes, we go to a movie to get away from the world and sometimes we go to see what’s going on in the world. This blog will offer comments on the world, the movies and their occasional overlap.