On DVD, watched both the Richard Donner and Richard Lester cuts of Superman II. Donner directed the first movie, went wildly over-budget on the second, was sacked and replaced by Lester. Lester also cut out the Marlon Brando scenes, which would have been expensive.
The versions aren't as different as the fans sometimes imply. Donner omits the big terrorist fight, and adds more drippy romance. However, it's fun to see Brando hamming it up, and the Donner version makes more sense regarding Superman getting his powers back. So I can't really favour one version over the other.
Nice movie on the whole though. I like the way Kent/Superman goes completely to pieces after the diner fight, never having felt pain before. Kneel before Zod!
Saw Death and the King's Horseman at the National Theatre. 1975 Nigerian play by a Nobel-winning playwright. In colonial Nigeria, tradition dicates a chief with the rank of King's Horseman must commit suicide to accompany the dead king into the underworld. But the British authorities have other ideas.
Very elaborate production. Large cast with about 20 people on stage, lots of dancing, drumming and singing, smoke and fire and shadow effects, ethnic statues: even the lampshades are played by sinuous dancers. Works very well, good fun and entertaining to watch.
To a degree though I think they're trying to dress up a rather lugubrious script. At times the talky bits do drag a little, and the extended metaphors are a bit hard to follow: maybe the translation, or just my ignorance of Yoruba culture. Also I thought the ending was predictable, but my companion didn't work it out.
One of the interesting aspects was the way the all black cast played the English roles in whiteface. The main characters play it fairly straight, the minor ones with gleeful exaggeration. Some of those performances alone are worth the ticket.
Notable: good seats for just £10 thanks to the Travelex sponsorship (It's a nice modern auditorium with good views everwhere: no getting stuck behind a Victorian pillar way up in the gods). It's an extraordinarily good deal: cheaper than a central London movie ticket, and not a little 3-hander cast either. If you're in London on a budget, it's well worth keeping an eye on the National Theatre website for these.
Politically, the Tories seem to have finally hit their stride: either Osborne's sorted his act out, or having Kenneth Clarke on board has helped. But the media, the internet and office conversation all seem to echoing their talking points now: sea of red ink, futile attempt to soak the rich and raid their pensions.
It seems to me that the big political problem with the 50% tax band for earnings over £150,000, is that the two groups who earn that much and can't easily dodge it are: newspaper editors and newspaper columnists. They're salaries, so they can't easily funnel it into stock options. And they can't really leave the country as no other nation really wants to pay them £150,000 to spout angry ill-informed gibberish.
Going beyond the talking points, if I remember Peston's "Who Runs Britain" book correctly, the rich currently have very generous pension provisions, given after the last round of we'll-all-leave-the-country threats. So they don't particularly worry me.
Now going beyond the talking points into the more interesting stuff, the Stephanomics link points out:
The Treasury now thinks that the structural deficit will be 9.8% of GDP this year - out of an overall deficit of 12.4% of GDP. Almost all of that has appeared in the last two years: the Treasury claims the structural deficit was a mere 2.7% of GDP as recently as 2007-8What this means is: they think that the basically the whole post-Big-Bang City boom is just gone. It was all a shell game: that tax revenue ain't coming back. If true, then for the City this isn't a recession, it's just the shape of things to come.
Regarding the borrowing, it's not that surprising. Beforehand Peston was saying it was an important issue, and that the value would be somewhere between £160bn and £200bn. Actual number was £175bn, basically the middle of the expected range.
As the Stephanomics and Guardian links worked out, the other interesting thing is that the budget contains significant spending cuts in real terms in the long term. Politically Labour seem to have won that battle: it was buried deep enough in the detail it wasn't part of the initial media reporting, and now the news cycle has moved on, it'll not reach the general public. So if the Conservatives win the next election, they're now committed to Swingeing Tory Cuts even if they borrow and spend to Labour plans. New Labour may be writhing belly-up on the ground, but it can still administer a fearsome bite.
Overall then, given the current situation it doesn't seem like that bad a budget. Would have been better not to start from here: with no Olympics, no vast IT spending on NHS and ID cards; it seems Gordon Brown bought into the Good Policy explanation for the Great Moderation and thought the boom was permanent.
Could have been more radical: ending Trident, cancelling Olympics, levy inheritance taxes at similar rates to income taxes: but those would be radical measures and they're not really bold enough. Given that those are outside Alastair Darling's powers, as an individual he doesn't seem to have done too bad a job of it.
If you were to take the most overdone and most caricatured cocktail-party scenes from Atlas Shrugged, if you were to put the content of Rand's "whiners" on the screen, mixed in with at least halfway competent production values, you would get something resembling The End of Poverty.
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