1964 — Michael Apted started making the most profound documentary series in the history of cinema


Dan Winters/NY Times

Apted, now 78, is ready to wrap it up.

To spend time with a child is to dwell under the terms of an uneasy truce between the possibility of the present and the inevitability of the future. Our deepest hope for the children we love is that they will enjoy the liberties of an open-ended destiny, that their desires will be given the free play they deserve, that the circumstances of their birth and upbringing will be felt as opportunities rather than encumbrances; our greatest fear is that they will feel thwarted by forces beyond their control…

❝ These are the tensions that have animated and shaped the “Up” programs on their way to becoming the longest-running documentary film series of all time…The first film was conceived as a special one-off episode of a program called “World in Action.” The mid-1950s saw an end to the BBC’s monopoly on terrestrial broadcasting, and “World in Action” became the flagship current-affairs program of a Manchester-based commercial upstart called Granada Television.

RTFA. I’ll not try to knock-off a precis of this documentary. It has stepped back into the lives of the children every seven years for about five edited minutes each time. It is the record of a changing society.

China figured out carrots work as well as sticks


Click to enlarge

Since the start of President Trump’s trade war, China has retaliated against US tariffs by raising tariffs on US goods. Less well known is that China has also been lowering rates for everyone else, putting US companies at an even greater disadvantage when trying to sell to China’s 1.4 billion consumers. Companies in the United States and elsewhere used to be on a level playing field, facing an average Chinese tariff of 8.0 percent. Now, there is a 14 percentage point difference between the average Chinese tariff US exporters face versus all other exporters. Some US goods are facing even wider differences in duties, like soybeans, farm and fish products, and certain manufacturing products.

Pic of the Day

At dawn on Saturday 5 March, National Geographic Channel and a team of scientists, engineers and two world class balloon pilots successfully launched a house measuring 16 feet by 16 feet and 18 feet high, using 300 eight-foot coloured weather balloons from a private airfield east of Los Angeles.

The launch – inspired by the Pixar film Up – set a new world record for the largest balloon cluster flight ever attempted. The house and balloons measured more than 10 storeys high and reached an altitude of over 10,000 feet, flying for approximately one hour.

The record will be part of a new National Geographic Channel series called How Hard Can It Be? which will premiere in 2012.

Italian women face 500 euro fine for wearing miniskirts


Nothing illegal here, eh?

Women who wear miniskirts or show too much cleavage will face fines of up to 500 euros under new rules to be introduced by an Italian town.

In a move sharply at odds with a country which produced the likes of Monica Bellucci and Sophia Loren, the town of Castellammare di Stabia, near Naples, intends to prohibit women from wearing provocative clothing.

The town’s council also wants to ban men and women from wearing low-slung jeans as part of a list of 41 new rules that “every good citizen must respect”…

Playing football in parks and gardens and swearing in public will also be banned under new regulations which will be put forward for approval at a council meeting on Monday…

Warms the cockles of your heart to see political correctness returned to it’s proper Fascist roots.

A local parish priest, Don Paolo Cecere, said he supported the crackdown…

Italy has become entangled in a web of petty rules and regulations in the last two years, after the government of Silvio Berlusconi gave councils extra powers to tailor laws to tackle crime and anti-social behavior.

Across the nation, towns have banned a range of seemingly innocuous activities such as building sandcastles on the beach, kissing in cars and feeding stray cats.

Beer sales at British pubs fall to lowest level since Great Depression

The iconic British pint is fast losing ground as the national drink, with a report out showing beer sales in pubs slumping to their lowest level since the Great Depression.

Squeezed by a nationwide smoking ban, rising costs, competition from supermarkets and the economic downturn, beer sales fell 4.5 percent between April and June this year, compared with the same quarter last year…

In Britain, the BBPA’s quarterly barometer also highlighted the growing trend for drinkers to enjoy a pint in the comfort of their own home instead of at the pub. While overall sales are down, sales in shops and supermarkets rose nearly 4 percent.

BBPA chief executive Rob Hayward urged the government to rethink the heavy taxes on alcohol, accounting for some 90 million pounds (around US$180 million) of revenue each year, which the industry blames in large part for its woes.

“We need a change of approach from the government,” Hayward said. “Brewing is a major industry, beer our national drink and pubs a treasured part of our national culture.”

Certainly, I see families both sides of the Pond taking advantage of the entertainment life of HDTV to stay in for an evening instead of going out. You needn’t worry about killing some other poor sod with your car on the way home either.