Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bad Science

Ben Goldacre writes an excellent piece on homeopathy, its frauds, its dangers and its successes. Along with the antics of the goblin charlatan, "Dr." Gillian McKeith, Goldacre has been writing about homeopathy for as long as I have been reading him, and has apparently made some enemies in the process. I look forward to the documentary he mentions in the article.

It's frustrated and sometimes patronising, but it's a careful and precise description of one of the many collapses of sense that afflict us, and that are pursued all too happily by our media. I often appreciate harmless absurdity, and Goldacre is impressive in that he is willing to give the practice its dues in terms of the remarkable human healing capabilities it prompts and reveals. However, it is not harmless, and it is not honest, it endangers patients and it undermines society's confidence in it's own strengths.

Monday, November 5, 2007

God Save the Queen

Guy Fawke's night and Elizabeth: The Golden Age have me in a whirl of anti-Catholic fervour. They're always trying to assassinate our monarchs and I for one am sick of it.

Not really, of course. The fireworks are irritating me a bit, but not to the point of religious intolerance, and while there was plenty of outrageous papist villainy in the movie, that really just inflamed my hatred of the Spaniards, not Catholics in general. I was quite fond of Mary Stuart, for example.

The film is great; it could have been a bit more consistently paced, but the themes hold it together, and where the plot occasionally fails to engage, you can always look at Cate Blanchett's dress, or the architecture. It's visually brilliant, and completely unabashed in it dramatic composition of each scene. Lots of absurdly high shots of vast palace hallways, and painstakingly delicate positioning of the cast, so that some scenes almost resemble tableaux. Particular long-held shots of Elizabeth are clearly intended to recall the austere, splendid portraits that we are so familiar with - and the execution of Mary scene really reminded me of a painting I once saw, but I can't seem to find it on the net, so I may have just imagined a resemblance to an imaginary painting.

I've always liked Elizabeth, she reminds me of an English Athena: wise and beautiful, chaste and ferocious. Golden Age matched this view, where by the end, after overcoming the earthly temptations of Clive Owen, she came across as positively Godlike. Standing alone on the shores in exquisite armour, she seems bring about the storm that destroys the armada with her own divine, elemental will - possibly with the aid of her Merlin-esque confidant, Dr. John Dee. Phillip II of Spain, meanwhile, is a bowlegged impish fiend, his darkness put out by the light of the English Queen.

One other small aspect I enjoyed was Walter Raleigh's description of his ambitious vision for his colony in the new land of Virginia: "a Shining City." This is borrowed from John Winthrop who sixty years later used the biblical image of "the City on a Hill" to describe his hopes for his fledgling Massachusetts, and from Ronald Reagan who revived and personalised the phrase four hundred years later to envisage his own America - "the Shining City on a Hill." So there you have it, this film is about Ronald Reagan, saving us from the forces of totalitarian fundamentalism.

A Scene From Elizabeth: The Golden Age