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Thursday, 30 June 2016

Politics: what *should* it look like?

These days, it seems that pretty much everyone is tired of politics. Tired of the Devil's Fork to choose between, tired of things not happening - or the wrong things happening - tired of people spending too much time on things that should be simple, and tired of the ever-increasing length of ballot paper.

Here in Australia, we run under what's commonly referred to as a democratic system. Technically, however, it's actually a democratically-elected oligarchy (oligarchy meaning "rule by the few"; notably different to aristocracy, which is "rule by the rich"). This means that everyone gets together and votes for a select group of people to act on their behalf; rather than everybody voting and discussing and having authoritative power on every decision, because that's rather hard to do in a country of any reasonable size. And the prevailing modern Westernised opinion has been that all democracy is good; anything else (for example, monarchy, autocracy, socialism, communism, etc.) is regarded as generally bad. At this point, however, I'd like to put a good ol' spanner in the works. 

Recently, we've seen rather stunning evidence that national votes on important issues can lead to rather disastrous results (see: #brexit). Similar patterns - though not quite as large-scale - have been seen or predicted elsewhere, as well. It's the general idea - which isn't particularly new or strange - that while individual people can be quite smart and sensible, large groups can often display the opposite (unless the group is skewed, of course; talking here about a random selection across the population).

But then, what happens to this idea of representative democracy (which America seems to call republic, even though that's actually not quite the same)? Well, it rather falls a little short of where Western society seems to hold it up. But by the same token, we intrinsically distrust leadership by one person alone, whatever they're called - we too easily see the faults and failings in the individual. And yet, time and again, it has been the individual that has brought great change; sometimes for the better, and of course, sometimes for the worse. So the problem becomes: how do you choose the right person? Or, what does the right person even look like? Which qualities are most important? Courage? Vision? Innovation? Wisdom? Moral character? Experience? Trustworthiness? Or perhaps the old system is better: rather than trying to find these things in someone, choosing someone earlier in their years and training them in these things. 

Perhaps there is no 'best' way, though; like as not, each has as many flaws and failings as the next.
What do you think? What would you like politics, or government, to look like?

Sunday, 12 June 2016

The Second Act: Yeah, I See You.


Yesterday I went to see Now You See Me 2, alternatively titled The Second Act. I was quite a fan of the first one, so I went in with high hopes. I must admit, I was a little disappointed. But there were some good points - so I'll focus on these first.

I loved the continuation of the Lionel Shrike story, and bringing back in a focus on relationship, and giving a nice twist to Thaddeus Pike. I probably should have seen that one coming, given how it was twisted similarly to the reveal at the end of the first one. There was also a bit of fun in seeing more tricks again from The Horsemen, as well as ones from other players. It was also nice to see the scope expanded a little - but I got the feeling that it wasn't necessarily done intentionally. Here we get into the negative.

The film starts in the US, like the first, but then spends a lot of time in Macau (part of China), before finishing off in London. In some senses, this seems a little strange. They try to explain it away with lines like, "One of the oldest magic stores is in Macau," and "the Eye has a lot of history here," but it still feels like they're just there perhaps because it was cheaper to shoot, though that's not something I've researched. I also found Daniel Radcliffe's character a bit strange; or perhaps I'm still just not used to him doing other roles than Harry Potter. But I saw him as very over the top, and cheesy. The new Horseman that was brought in did an okay job - and they did do a good job of looking at how she worked, or didn't work, into the group - but it did feel a bit strange with her there so suddenly. (Though, admittedly, what else are they going to do?) The Eye also felt like rather a let down, though there is a suggestion that something could come up for a third movie - but that's if they can get enough support to make one. The twin idea was also a little strange, but they pulled it off okay.

The most annoying thing for me, though, was that I was able to see how they did a lot of the tricks straight up. As soon as I saw the rain, I thought that it was probably a rain machine. As soon as I saw the twin bumping into a 'hobo', I knew that that would actually be someone. As soon as they got to the 'hangar' and they were having lights shone in their eyes and the like when they were getting on the plane, I knew that it was just a more elaborate version of what had already been done to the Horsemen with the two different tunnels, and that they weren't really getting thrown off the plane. Maybe it was just me, maybe some other people noticed these as well.

So while I enjoyed some things about the movie, and had fun with it overall - I was a little disappointed by it. What did you think? I'd love to hear!