Sunday, 13 August 2017


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Numbers: Chapter 19 - A Ritual for Purification After Contact With Death

God has a weird aversion to dead bodies. Now none of us like dead bodies particularly of course, but God said that making contact with dead bodies made you unclean. This of course is just a silly superstition from an ignorant people. But they had a purification ritual to make everything okay again. Still, if God was so averse to dead bodies, why did he keep killing so many people?

So death is kind of a fact of life isn't it really. Nevertheless God was kind of freaked out by it. People dying? Yeuk!

So God gave some instructions on a magic new way to cleanse people in the event that they had somehow come into contact with a dead body, which was probably unavoidable in a tribe whose god kept smiting people every time they doubted him.

God told Moses and Aaron to have Eleazar to get a red heifer, one of those many animals that the tribe of Israel seemed to have about them despite having complained of being hungry only a chapter or two ago. This heifer was to be grazed and given a happy and contented life. No. Only joking. It was of course to be slaughtered and then burnt as a sacrifice. Of course.

Ordinarily if you touched a dead body you were unclean for 7 days. But now God had some voodoo to get around that. All they had to do was take some of the ashes of the heifer, mix them up with water and then sprinkle them on the unclean person on the 3rd and 7th day of their uncleanness. And that was it. They were magically transformed from being unclean to clean. They're like magicians those priests aren't they.

Of course if you failed to follow God's instructions you had to be kicked out.

Stephen Polls His Audience on Trump's Performance

Stephen Has the Leaked Game of Thrones Script

Saturday, 12 August 2017


The Definitive War Film

Film Review: The Nut Job 2

Film Review: Tom of Finland

Film Review: Atomic Blonde

Film Review: Annabelle: Creation

Film Review: A Ghost Story

Film Review: Step

Stephen Doesn't Want the Earth to Blow Up

Thursday, 10 August 2017



Don't Let Me Down (Official Video) by The Beatles on VEVO.


Castle On the Hill (Official Video) by Ed Sheeran on VEVO.

10 Hidden Jokes Everybody Missed in the Simpsons

Who Should be the Next James Bond?

North Korea, The U.S Just Isn't That Into You

Stephen Grades Trump's Improvised Fire and Fury Threats

How to be a Genius

Wednesday, 9 August 2017


Glen Campbell

I'm not generally a fan of country music, but the very best of that genre transcends it. Glen Campbell took already great songs and turned them into classics thanks to the sublime quality of his voice. He died yesterday at the age of 81, another victim of Alzheimers.

Campbell at his peak outsold even the Beatles in 1968. Over the course of his career, though he didn't often reach those sort of heights, he nevertheless sold 45 million records with his music that managed to crossover from country to pop music. Rhinestone Cowboy and Wichita Linesman were probably his most celebrated songs, quintessentially American pop songs about the American dream and its working class heroes.

Interlude: The Beatles: Hello, Goodbye

Hello, Goodbye (Official Video) by The Beatles on VEVO.

The youth of today doesn't seem to know about the Beatles. Someone on Quora the other day asked why 'old people' cannot accept that Michael Jackson is greater than them. He, said the youth, had never heard of the Beatles and had only heard of Paul McCartney when he made that record with Ri Ri.

Well, foolish youth, the Beatles are held in great esteem by 'old people' and by the way I was just a kid when they were together , a baby actually, because they changed the face of popular music. They started off as a kind of early boy band, but with great music. They became massively popular the world over. Then they transcended their beginnings by becoming superb songwriters and musicians. The Beatles did this because they learnt their craft by playing. A lot. They were a superb live band, although this was never appreciated because of the poor quality of the equipment in those days. And all of the screaming of girls.

But they also wrote simply superb songs that stand the test of time. Then they invented using the studio as a kind of musical instrument in its own right. Their albums were works of art, masterpieces. Albums like Sergeant Pepper, Rubber Soul, Revolver, the White Album and Abbey Road revolutionised music and paved the way for later bands and indeed their peers at the time like the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones to experiment too.

And this is all reflected in album sales. Michael Jackson was a great artist and made some excellent pop records, but his influence was nothing like as great as the Beatles. And they sold twice as many records as Jackson. They remain huge sellers even now. They even invented the pop video as shown above. It looks crude by modern standards, but remember it had never been done before.

Finally did you know that Michael Jackson bought the publishing rights to all of the Beatles songs to the fury of Paul McCartney who gave him the idea by doing the same to Buddy Holly's songs. Jackson then outbid him for the Beatles songs.

The Beatles were the greatest because they outsold everyone and revolutionised music. They were as influential in rock and roll terms as Mozart or Beethoven in classical music. I assume you've heard of them even though they haven't recorded with Rihanna.

Interlude: Arcade Fire: Everything Now

Everything Now (Official Video) by Arcade Fire on VEVO.

Why Halloween's Really British

Lawrence on GOP & Birtherism Regrets

Interesting Grand Tour Facts

Mike Pence Looks Thirsty For the Presidency in 2020

Trump's Working Vacation

Sunday, 6 August 2017


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Numbers: Chapter 18 - The Power and Wealth of the Priests and Levites

So in chapter 16 there was a small rebellion as some of the Israelites demanded to know who had made Moses and Aaron the bosses. God killed them all including their families just to show them. That's what all of this book is about. The story concerns the tribe being doubtful and disobedient and thus being punished. And guess what? They just so happen to have the power of the priests confirmed. How convenient.

After all of the slaughter of recent chapters then in which God showed who was boss and then delegated it down to Aaron and his priests and his priestly helpers the Levites, we now get a reiteration of what all of this means. It means that Aaron and those allegedly descended from him have sole rights to go into the Tabernacle.

God told Aaron that he and his sons and the Levites were in charge of the Tabernacle. The Levites were the chief servants of the Tabernacle but they were forbidden from making contact or even looking at its most sacred and holy objects. This must have made life tricky. But breaking this rule meant death.

But then God told them what they got in return for all of this: lots of free food and money. Much better. Yes all of those sacrifices were to be given to the priests to eat. So, not actually for God then. There were to be lots and lots of animal sacrifices as we have detailed in Leviticus. But essentially this was just free food for the priests. Funnily enough people who now claim that the Bible is the literal truth tend to ignore the need for animal sacrifices don't they. It's all very very pagan.

And the Levites got a wage too. The Israelites had to give the Levites 5 Shekels for every first born male and every first born animal. A nice little earner then. The only downside was that the priests and Levites were not allowed to own land. God would provide for them, which is to say that the whole tribe would provide for them with taxes on everything.

And on top of those 5 Shekels for all of the first borns there was a tithe or tax of 10% of everything produced by the people. This was to go to the Levites. They then had to hand over 10% of this income to the priests. Why priests needed an income like this is not revealed. Still, thanks to God they were going to be very very rich priests indeed. I bet you didn't see that coming.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off: The Inside Story

The Rise of the Machines

The Met Office's Model Muddle

Saturday, 5 August 2017


The Ten Worst Movies of the Year So Far Part 2

Top Ten Movies of the the Year So Far

Film Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Film Review: Williams

Film Review: Maudie

Film Review: The Ghoul

Film Review: The Emoji Movie

Film Review: England is Mine

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Tuesday, 1 August 2017



Hey Bulldog (Promo video) by The Beatles on VEVO.


Hey Jude (Official Video) by The Beatles on VEVO.

How to Make British Cocktails

Why You Shouldn't Trust Successful People's Advice

Down Goes the Mooch

How Donald Trump Bankrupted His Casinos and Left Contractors Unpaid

Anthony Scaramucci

Sunday, 30 July 2017


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Numbers: Chapter 17 - Flowering Rods of Authority

God has been doing a lot of smiting and taking out his vengeance against his chosen people lately. If he's this bad against his own people think how he would be against people who don't even believe in him. It's all about people not having faith in him and not accepting the power of the priests. Anyone spot an agenda there?

So after all of the killing of chapter 16 now God felt the need to prove his point in a rather less violent way. He told Moses to go to the head of each of the twelve tribes and have them give him a rod, a kind of walking type stick. On each rod was to be inscribed the name of the man to whom it belonged.

So Moses collected all of the rods and took them to the Tabernacle. He also took a rod from Aaron. The man whose staff blossomed as if alive would be God's chosen leader, second only to Moses of course.

The rods were put in the Tabernacle overnight and then the next day brought out. And of course whose rod had flowered and grown delicious almonds? Yes, Aaron's. Fancy that, eh!

Moses took the rods out to show to the people. Then God told Moses to put Aaron's rod in the Tabernacle as a sign of Aaron's authority. How very convenient.

But this just upset and freaked people out even more. They worried that they were going to die and that this nasty and vengeful God was going to keep punishing them. You have to say they probably had a point.

Your Guide to the Latest British Slang

The Beginning of the End of the Trump Presidency

Saturday, 29 July 2017


Paul Owen is Away

The Video Diary is on its annual holiday, but here are some outtakes for your entertainment in the meantime.

Film Review: The Top Ten Worst Movies of the Year So Far Part 1

Top Ten Films of the Year So Far Part 1

Film Review: Girls Trip

Film Review: Wish Upon

Film Review: The Wall

Film Review: 47 Metres Down

Film Review: Hounds of Love

Sunday, 23 July 2017


The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale: Numbers: Chapter 16 - Rebellion and the Wrath of God

God is a dictator. He brooks no dissent. You are not allowed to argue with him, doubt him or do anything but obey and revere him. Do anything wrong, transgress his rules, fail to pay taxes to his priests and he will smite you. In particular you had to do as you were told and to follow all of the rules and edicts laid down by priests. Or at least that's what the people who wrote all of this would have you believe. Bear that in mind as we go through Chapter 16 together.

So you'll recall that as the Israelites were going on their journey to the promised land there was some doubt about this great mission. Many wished they had never left their nice easy life back in Egypt and wondered if the Pharaoh would have them back in return for them building him a pyramid or two. Who doesn't need more pyramids after all?

But God had heard their bellyaching and they had been punished. Now they were going to have to stay in the desert for decades until the God of forgiveness and mercy showed them some. Talk about not setting a very good example.

And so now there was a rebellion. You could hardly blame them. Korah, Dathan and Abiram were the ringleaders and they gathered 250 other leading figures and confronted Moses and Aaron. Why were they the leaders? they asked. What made them so special?

Well Moses said that God would sort this out.  He told them to go to the Tabernacle the following day with some incense and God would decide if they were allowed to go inside and talk to him. You can hear the alarm bells ringing can't you.

The next day they went to the Tabernacle and God descended with his big cloud. God told Moses and Aaron to stand aside as he was about to do some serious smiting. Moses realised that he was going to kill the entire tribe. He pleaded with God not to punish everyone for the transgressions of a few mouthy rebels. God relented. Moses was very persuasive wasn't he.

So Moses went to the tents of the ringleaders and told everyone but their families to leave. He then told them what was about to happen and that they should see this as a sign from God. So then God just punished the ringleaders, Korah, Dathan and Abiram. The earth split open and dragged down the three of them plus their wives and families into something resembling hell, although it wasn't called hell then because it hadn't been invented yet.

This, not unnaturally, caused panic. Everyone started running around and generally freaking out. Their panic was heightened by God then punishing the 250 other men who had been part of the uprising against Moses.

Once all of this was done and the rebels had been burnt to a crisp, God told Moses to collect up the censers, the small trays they carried incense in and to bash them into plates. They were presumably still hot from all of the smiting and so quite pliable. These were to be put onto the altars as a constant reminder to do as you are told.

Even then though the people were angry and upset. They blamed Moses for the deaths of all of these men and also for the deaths of their children. They probably had a point there. Isn't visiting the sins of a father on to his children a bit immoral?

But God was having none of it. Now he started a plague. Fortunately Moses was once again the calming influence on the rash and nasty God. He told Aaron to perform a cleansing ritual with incense to placate God. The plague stopped but not before 14 thousand people had died.

That's the message. Do as you are told, don't question the authority of the priests or God will punish you. For ignorant bronze age people all of this was very scary. But now we know better. Don't we?

SNL: Sean Spicer

Russian Sanctions Bill Sets Showdown With Trump

Saturday, 22 July 2017


Paul Owen is Away

This blog is now taking its annual summer sabbatical. There will still be plenty of content here, mostly in the form of videos and music. The Bible: A Very Grim Fairytale continues every Sunday as usual as do the film reviews on Saturday but the Video Diary is taking a rest until September.

If something big happens, or if politics continues to astonish and confound us by refusing to take a break from intrigue and endless drama then of course it will be reflected here. Otherwise I'm taking a few weeks off. Have a nice summer, or whatever season you are in in your part of the world.

Film Review: Dunkirk

Film Review: Captain Underpants

Film Review: Scribe

Film Review: Monster Island

Film Review: City of Ghosts

Film Review: Victim

Trump Wants an Attorney General Who Can Time Travel

Donald Trump Had No Filter In His New York Times Interview

Friday, 21 July 2017



Brexit Means Talking Britain Up

Earlier this week the Prime Minister accused Chauncey of talking the country down. This was fair enough, although this is hardly new in the career of Chauncey. Indeed he has long regarded it as his principled duty to do so. But perhaps she should have said the same of some of the scribblers who have been writing about the Brexit negotiations this week.

Take the now infamous picture above. A lot has been said and written about it as though it is somehow symbolic. Yet all it really symbolises is the classic British inferiority complex. It was a photo opportunity. British officials and David Davis their boss saw no reason to take documents with them to a photo opportunity, indeed given the antics of photographers in Downing Street they were probably wise. The talks didn't really get underway until much later after David Davis had headed home. But this didn't stop anyone finding symbolism and claiming that this proved that Britain is woefully unprepared for the marathon talks ahead.

In fact, as is often the case, we are extremely well prepared and the Commission is wary of us. They are even worried, probably justifiably, that we are spying on them. The British have taken a high powered team to Brussels and are very well briefed. The Commission has made all of the early running on sounding unreasonable, unbending, intransigent and arrogant. We have been polite by comparison, with the possible exception of Boris.

It's still early days of course but there is much to be optimistic about. For a start the Brits are steadfastly refusing to bend on the issue of money and of setting out what we think we should pay. If it is a bill with which we are being presented it seems to be a stretch to ask the payer to set out what it should pay and its reasons for doing so. There is no legal basis to demand any cash at all from us. If Europe thinks otherwise it should justify its demands of us not expect us to make our case. The fact that we may in the past have agreed to pay for various projects and infrastructure - an argument made by the BBC last night - rather misses the point that we made such an agreement as part of the EU. Then we decided to leave instead. Thus any agreements are null and void unless good legal arguments can be made to prove otherwise. If Europe still refuses to budge on this by the end of the summer then perhaps we should walk out in a huff. It's not very British, but it might convey to them we will not be making any compromises on this.

Or on the ECJ. This continues to be something that the EU seems to be sticking to for now at least. Yet what they are demanding is once again wholly unreasonable. Britain is leaving the EU. The EU's argument, such as it is, is that EU citizens who came here to work, did so expecting to be protected by EU law and thus the ECJ should have the final say. This is patent nonsense. EU citizens have been offered the assurance that they will be allowed to stay here. As such they will be protected by British laws. If they really consider that the EU offers such overwhelmingly greater protections for them then they have the right to seek employment opportunities elsewhere. But Britain's legal system is a byword for fairness. There is no need whatever for EU citizens to be fearful should they decide to stay in a country they have made their homes, indeed it is unlikely that many have such fears. This is just EU grandstanding around a non issue.

And that is the greater symbolism of this week, much more than that picture of an empty table in front of British officials. The EU side had their props - they were after all on home turf - but it nicely symbolised their whole stance. It really shouldn't be hard to do a deal with Britain if they genuinely want to do a deal, after all most of what needs to be done is already in place if true goodwill exists. Britain already trades freely with Europe it's just we have exercised our democratic right to leave a club whose goals we do not share. If on the other hand they want to make the process seem as difficult and unwieldy as possible to dissuade any others from taking the same leap then what they are doing makes sense. Ultimately though that is a political choice that will, as usual, have little to do with the best interests of the peoples of Europe and a great deal more to do with the petty concerns of the EU elite and their dreams of ever closer union. They daren't make life too easy for the British for fear of encouraging others to follow our lead. The fact that they are at risk of behaving like the worst kind of autocrats, like China vis a vis Taiwan, is presumably lost on them.

But we will get our deal because standard EU divisions will in time reassert themselves and we will make a success of Brexit because we will be able to govern ourselves again and be more responsive democratic and flexible. Britain was always semi-detached from Europe. Now we are just making that official. In time our leaving will be seen as the right decision for all concerned and cooperation, even if it cannot be agreed initially, will slowly evolve as time goes on. In the meantime stand by for many more months of threats and bombast and depictions of doom and gloom. There will be many more stories about how the French and Germans are intent on destroying the City of London and poaching away our best companies, stories that ignore the fact that the French and Germans were trying to do this before we voted to leave too.

The Media Must Fight Back