An Unwise Foray Into Popular Culture 56

I went with Nadira to see Anna Karenina last night. Sadly Tom Stoppard’s stab at boiling down this great and complex novel to a standard length feature film was brilliant but doomed; it just can’t be done. Enormous emotional depth and complexity was reduced at times to soap opera; while the virtues of Tom Stoppard’s script – and there were many – were consistently undercut by the appalling ego of the Director. Joe Wright seemed to think that directorial tricks were more important than the story, yet his grossly mannered trompe d’oeil had no relevance other than to look smart and detract from Tolstoy.

Yes there were occasions, like the horse race, when you were marvelling at the technical cleverness of setting it up in a theatre; but actually it is a pivotal point in the story when you are meant to be thinking of something more important than Joe Wright’s cleverness. It is pretty plain that Mr Wright has never imagined that anything could be more important.

The absence of naturalism made life very difficult for the actors to inhabit real characters, but I found Jude Law a revelation as Karenin, conveying a sense of helpless emotional autism that made him more sympathetic than I had found the character in the book. By contrast Keira Knightley was hopelessly miscast as Anna. She acted with all the command of emotional subtlety of Bob the Builder. Her degree of unhappiness, morphine addiction or suicidal distraction at any one time was signaled to us by how much frizzy hair was standing on end.

Anyway, save your money. The nachos were better value than the film.

I came home in time to watch the final four sets of Andy Murray winning the US Open. I cannot pretend I was not deeply engaged, indeed on occasions jumping up and running round the kitchen in excitement. The tennis was simply superb. The levels of fitness involved in playing a five hour game at that level are unimaginable. Murray and Djokovic are both players of artistry and guile.

Of course I was super delighted at the success not just of a Scot, but a member of my own Clan. I eventually got to bed thinking how much more I had enjoyed my evening with Andy Murray than with Keira Knightley. Now that’s not a sentence you hear every day…

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56 thoughts on “An Unwise Foray Into Popular Culture

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  • craig Post author

    Lemon Puffs. The enormous economic impact and potential of whisky is consistently understimated. But aside from that, I shall be long dead before the oil runs out, and Scotland’s easily accessible renewal energy resources per head of population are tremendous. I think we can take our chances.

  • Julian

    I don’t feel qualified to post on Scottish Independence. But I have studied peak oil and the two critical insights are that as oil becomes scarce, the economies that depend on cheap versatile fuel (and the petrochemicals it produces, including fertiliser from natural gas) will be in severe and prolonged chaos, and that as the energy return on energy invested (EROEI) also declines – that is, it takes more energy (not just money) to get the oil out, this will have a compounding effect.

    This is one of the reasons why I don’t see an end to recession any time soon. FYI the two best UK books on peak oil are 1) David Strahan’s The Last Oil Shock and 2) Jeremy Leggett’s Half Gone, in that order of priority.

    The SNP’s attempts to transition Scotland to renewable energy are extremely laudable, however I fear that they will fall short of what is needed.

  • Julian

    Craig, you are pretty much alive 🙂 and seeing the effects of oil demand exceeding supply because depletion is happening now. You and I both get to watch the show and it won’t be pretty:

    Today’s oil prices in dollars (source: bloomberg)

    Nymex Crude Future 97.02 -0.15 -0.15% 04:12
    Dated Brent Spot 116.06 1.45 1.26% 04:22
    WTI Cushing Spot 97.17 0.63 0.65% 09/11

    They remain at the $100 mark, even during the worst global economic event for centuries. That should tell you something. Oil doesn’t need to “run out” for the effects of depletion to be felt. It is clear that the peak of *conventional oil* has been passed. Buckle up! It’s going to be a rough ride.

    atb Julian

  • johnf

    I don’t think Tom Stoppard has ever done emotion. He’s a clever ideas man. Both scriptwriter and director sound as though they’re badly chosen. The producer is the one responsible.

  • Disgusted Dorothy

    There has to be something wrong with a film of Anna Kerenina when you find yourself shouting “jump!” and not reaching for copious bundles of tissues.

  • CE


    Any chance of a thread on the imminent publication of the Hillsborough Report?

    Some sickening stories of police corruption and government collusion starting to emerge, including survivors being blood tested for alcohol without their permission.

  • craig Post author


    Am probably going to leave it till tomorrow so I can digest it all first. I don’t want to fall into the Sky News trap.

  • CE

    Indeed Craig, there is a huge amount of information to digest. Was just hoping it was on your radar, I shall await your post with interest, but hopefully with the report published we finally see some justice for the 96.

  • CE

    I’ve had an interest in Hillsborough for years due to a close friend being in attendance, but I’m still shocked at some of the reports findings;

    “The panel found no evidence among the vast number of disclosed documents and many hours of video material to verify the serious allegations of exceptional levels of drunkenness, ticketlessness or violence among Liverpool fans. There was no evidence that fans had conspired to arrive late at the stadium and force entry and no evidence that they stole from the dead and dying.”

    Sickening smears on the dead. Heads must roll.

  • TK


    “She acted with all the command of emotional subtlety of Bob the Builder”
    Once a diplomat, always a..

  • CE

    It gets worse;

    • Police carried out criminal record checks on the deceased in an attempt to “impugn their reputations”

    • Senior officers privately discussed the “animalistic behaviour” of “drunken marauding fans”

    • Evidence that a number of the dead survived “for a significant period” beyond the 3.15pm cut-off point imposed at the original inquest

    • 116 of the 164 South Yorkshire Police statements were doctored to remove unfavourable comments, some of them from 500 word statement to a couple of sentences.

    • South Yorkshire Ambulance Service was misleading when it claimed criticism of its conduct made by doctors who were present was factually inaccurate

    • There was “no evidence of substance” to support the police account that alcohol and fan aggression played a part in the disaster

    • Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher expressed concern in Cabinet that the first inquiry into the disaster contained “devastating criticism of the police”

    • The weight placed on blood alcohol levels among the dead was “inappropriate”

    The report concludes that police and ambulance service statements were doctored in an attempt to avoid responsibility for the failings of crowd control that were the primary cause of the disaster in April 1989.

  • M. Marshall

    Scots complaining about football? Ha! Try being Welsh.

    I’d love to have been Scottish last night 🙁

  • Zoologist

    @ Julian

    “Today’s oil prices in dollars (source: bloomberg)

    Nymex Crude Future 97.02 -0.15 -0.15% 04:12
    Dated Brent Spot 116.06 1.45 1.26% 04:22
    WTI Cushing Spot 97.17 0.63 0.65% 09/11”

    But the quoted oil price today has nothing to do with supply and demand and everything to do with market fixing by commodities traders. Every barrel of oil is traded on average 27 times before ever being used.
    The US dollar is a fiat currency backed by guns and oil. Recycling petro-dollars keeps the US economy afloat – until one or other oil producing nation breaks the cartel and starts supplying oil for EUR ( like Saddam) or gold (like Muammer and maybe also Iran).
    The oil market is a controlled cartel not a free market. The link between supply and demand has been broken since the 1970’s.

  • Julian

    @zoologist thanks for your comment

    How many times it is traded doesn’t make depletion any the less real. As for your point 2, I never said it wasn’t. However, I thought the definition of a fiat currency was that it was backed by nothing: if the USD is backed by oil then surely it isn’t a fiat currency?

    I disagree with your last point: every single barrel of oil gets used, doesn’t it? (excluding strategic stockpiles) it is demand that is keeping prices high in the main. The trading is the icing on the cake, but not the main course. I would suggesst that the sheer societal necessity of oil for every country is keeping the prices high in the face of what should have been demand destruction.

  • Julian


    and furthermore, two of the prices I quoted were spot prices. Now I am not an oil or commodities trader,so I might be wrong but I think the spot price is the price you buy a barrel of oil at if you want to use it. The futures price is something you can trade.

    This is what Investopedia says:
    Definition of ‘Spot Price’
    The current price at which a particular security can be bought or sold at a specified time and place. A security’s spot price is regarded as the explicit value of the security at any given time in the marketplace. In contrast, a securities futures price is the expected value of the security, in relation to its current spot price and time frame in question.

    my emphasis

  • Zoologist

    @ Julian
    Yes, the USD is a fiat currency. It is strictly worth only the paper it is written on (zilch!). But is accepted globally as currency for international trade because it can always be used to purchase oil which has intrinsic value. That would change if the OPEC nations allowed oil to be traded in other currencies – the dollar would collapse. The dollar is also supported by other “historic” universal currencies – drugs and weapons.

    Based on global demand at present (recession) – the Baltic Dry index is an excellent indicator – the oil price should be very low. The actual price is artificially high because the USA needs to keep the value of the dollar high. Markets are directly influenced by large trades in futures to achieve whatever price is desired.
    Fear of war in the middle east is another factor. Big tankers full of oil are floating off the shores of Gt Yarmouth in “reserve”.
    In short I am saying the markets are rigged – oil, gold, silver, just like the LIbor. All the fiat currencies are in a race to the bottom to inflate away the debt. Quantitative easing pours newly created money straight into the markets pushing up commodities and stock prices. Oil is overpriced. Gold, silver and Libor are underpriced.
    The price of oil is not high due to high demand at the moment.

    On the supply side – Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Iran – all oil rich but not producing to capacity due to western funded conflict. Not due to depleted stocks.

    Also, there have been massive oil discoveries in the last couple of years. Nigeria, Somalia, Balkans etc etc, not to mention Russia, who keep finding oils using their crazy “abiotic” science sources.

    Oh, and there is more oil in North America than in all of the middle east but the yanks are keeping that particular fact to themselves as much as possible.

  • Zoologist

    Confessions of an “ex” Peak Oil Believer

    By F William Engdahl, September 14, 2007

    The good news is that panic scenarios about the world running out of oil anytime soon are wrong. The bad news is that the price of oil is going to continue to rise. Peak Oil is not our problem. Politics is. Big Oil wants to sustain high oil prices. Dick Cheney and friends are all too willing to assist.


  • Zoologist

    @ Julian 

    I just watched this latest Max Keiser video which spells out perfectly what I was trying to say about markets above.

    Leah McGrath Goodman is the author of “The Asylum: The Renegades Who Hijacked The World’s Oil Market

    [KR339] Keiser Report: Blackhole of Bamboozlement
    We discuss the Paul Bunyan banks, which are too big to be true and all flow, no assets. They also discuss the Bermuda Triangle of Fraud and the London disease. In the second half of the show, Max Keiser talks to investigative journalist and author, Leah McGrath Goodman about her being banned from the UK for reporting on the Jersey sex and murder scandal. They discuss the $5 billion per square mile in laundered money that means Jersey rises, while Switzerland sinks.


    Well worth half an hour.

  • Julian

    Hi Zoologist,

    Peak oil is not a belief system, it is a scientific theory, which I think is more than proved. I see no reason to further discuss things with someone who appears to credit the “abiotic oil” fallacy.

    See here:

    Nor is there a realistic possibility of vast amounts of *recoverable* oil shales and suchlike (which is what you alluded to in your “Oh, and there is more oil in North America than in all of the middle east”).

    The latter part of this article explains why shale oil and fracking aren’t going to solve the problem:

    I get much of my information about oil and energy from The Oil Drum I recommend it to all readers here, although it is often highly technical because it tries to be accurate and scientific.

    But I’d like to propose a Thought Experiment:

    1) The high price of oil is due to demand exceeding suppy = depletion


    2) The high price of oil is due to a cartel of speculators

    So what’s to stop the importers (USA, EU, Japan etc) using their economic/political/military(?) clout to short sell oil futures massively and drive the price down – this would benefit their messed-up economies greatly.

    This isn’t happening. So, that suggests 1) is the correct answer to me.

  • Zoologist

    Hi Julian.

    “Peak oil is not a belief system .. ”

    Agreed. That was the title of Engdahl’s essay, not my words.

    ” .. which I think is more than proved.”

    Again, agreed. Oil reserves are most likely finite so will therefore run out some day. I would probably disagree with you about the timing though. Not this century – or probably the next.

    I am old enough to remember the 70s when oil was about to run out – at the same time as the coming ice age was about to kick in.
    Sorry if I am sceptical about “main stream science”. It is my experience that a decade or two can change everything. Scientists get their grants from politicians too. Their views change with the prevailing politics.

    “I see no reason to further discuss things with someone who appears to credit the “abiotic oil” fallacy.”

    Nope. I credit the fact that opinion is different in Russia. I hold no religious beliefs about biotic / abiotic origination of oil – or any other topic.
    Ad hominem, much?

    “Nor is there a realistic possibility of vast amounts of *recoverable* oil shales and suchlike (which is what you alluded to ..”

    Nope, I didn’t so allude. Nor did I mean “shale oil and fracking”.
    I meant oil reserves like what they have in Saudi.

    You misunderstand my point entirely.

    “So what’s to stop the importers (USA, EU, Japan etc) using their economic/political/military(?) clout to short sell oil futures massively and drive the price down – this would benefit their messed-up economies greatly.”

    You have this the wrong way round. The USA needs the oil price to be HIGH. The oil price is kept artificially high to keept the dollar artificially HIGH.

    Gold and silver are kept artificially LOW so that the overvalued dollar remains hidden.

    “1) The high price of oil is due to demand exceeding suppy = depletion”

    Nope. Both supply and demand are suppressed.
    If the oil remains in the ground it is not, by definition, being depleted.
    The price is high EVEN THOUGH there is no demand. The supply is being choked by political means by Western intervention. The price is fixed in London, just like the Libor, Gold and Silver.

    There is no price discovery therefore there is no “free market”.
    Prices are FIXED and then traded up or down to suit using high frequency trading software.

    ” 2) The high price of oil is due to a cartel of speculators. ”

    Yes – the answer is 2.
    OPEC is a cartel controlled by the USA.
    The “speculators” are the zombie banks in London and New York.
    The “West” imposes its will via troops from Washington.

  • Zoologist

    Julian –
    Do you think the ‘mercans are 100% likely to tell the absolute truth about their continental oil reserves?

    You can ignore me if you like – I also think atmospheric carbon dioxide is plant food and the globe is warming anyway.

    I am horrified by the ongoing destruction of our planet by damaging pollutants though: radio-activity, heavy metals, plastics etc etc.
    But obviously there is no global taxation model in place yet to make their control profitable.

  • Jemand

    @Julian – thank you for bringing up peak oil. Over ten years ago I spoke about it while almost everyone either hadn’t a clue of just laughed it off. We lost a good man in the form of Matt Simmons, an untiring advocate and educator in this well established theory (which is so basic it beggars belief how it is disputed).

    But what few people are talking about today is the massive environmental destruction that is a response to the collapse of local oil production – eg Indonesia and palm oil plantations.

    And.. What about peaking of other resources? Exotic minerals, uranium and even arable land. When will economists start to acknowledge that indefinite growth is an illusion?

  • Zoologist

    I predict the oil price is about to go higher ..

    Debt crisis: as it happened – September 13, 2012

    Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has announced a third round of quantitative easing in a bid to help America’s weakening economy, as the IMF warns that Greece will need a third bail-out.

    Immediately the gold price has shot up ..

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