Saturday, January 15, 2011

Euro: a slow-motion car crash. And are Nicolas Cage and his senses going their separate ways? Quick, more holy water!

The wise old Economist (which I think of as a magazine, but which insists on calling itself a ‘newspaper’) the week leads: The euro crisis: time for Plan B. What I think is so significant is that as a rule the Economist makes Pollyanna look like a manic-depressive. Optimism and looking on the bright side is its stock in trade. I always imagine that the week after Armageddon, some bright spark writing the first leader will begin: ‘Well, the worst is over. What lessons can be learnt.’ So when the Economist, the cheerful Economist, is gloomy about the prognosis for the Eurozone, you just know things are bad.
It writes that all the bailing out hasn’t really worked. The strategy was intended to demonstrate to the money markets (remember them?) that they could huff and puff for all their worth, the Eurozone would stick together and see each and every member through. Well, the huffing and puffing has carried on (with a short break for Christmas, of course, we
can’t begrudge the money markets a break after all that frantic activity), and it seems the strategy isn’t going to work. Which brings the usually cheerful Economist to Plan B: restructuring of sovereign debt, for which read all the countries up to their neck in debt should get in touch with their creditors and work out an easier timetable for repaying all the moollah they borrowed during the eternal summer of the early days of the euro. Doing that a few months ago, the Economist argued, would have caused panic and precipitated a crisis, but things are now so bad that the sooner the ‘restructuring’ is done, the better. Delay will only make the pain worse. This, I should repeat, from the every-so-optimistic Economist for whom the glass is always half full. So, is that it?
What should be remembered is that before the euro was introduced with a glorious fanfare and promises of prosperity for all (and naked contempt for all the siren voices disinclined to join in the jubilation), countries going bust usually went down alone. And they didn’t always go down. They had the opportunity to devalue their currency and put up with a few years of being condescended to by their more frugal neighbours. Now, in the glorious brotherhood that is the Eurozone, they are all in danger of tumbling down together. What might have been, in global terms, a local crisis will not, if it does develop, be a supra-regional crisis, and for that very reason even those who don’t belong to the Eurozone will suffer. And all this was predicted by those very siren voices decried by all the euro fans.
Given that things are already tough in Ireland and Greece and look like getting tough in Portugal, it would be more than unkind to say ‘we told you so’. After all, it is always – always – the ‘little man’, the ‘man in the street’ who suffers, never the fuckwits who caused the mess in the first place. But you do hope that, for once, the decision-makers will heed that line from the Economist and learn a few lessons. Or to put it another way, you do hope that finally pigs will learn to fly.

. . .

It’s the little things which can add those moments of pleasure to life, and one such little thing came my way earlier this morning when I was reading some film reviews online. One review was of the new film Season Of The Witch, which stars Nicolas Cage as a murderous crusaders with an impeccable American accent. Historically, it seems, the film is several miles adrift of what we know of medieval times in that it details the outbreak of the bubonic plague which is said to have claimed the lives of one-third of the population of Europe. That outbreak is blamed on Satanism and witches and Cage the crusader is tasked with escorting the chief satanic culprit to her trial before a church court. It did not bother the producers that the last Crusade had ended 70 years before the plague broke out, nor that the latest scientific research indicates pretty conclusively that the plague was spread by rats carrying infected fleas, not witches casting evil spells. But it wasn’t Hollywood getting up to its inaccurate best which amused me.
The review I read describes Cage’s performance as low-key to non-existent and remarks that he seem very subdued, even depressed throughout the film. It seems he had good
reason to: a castle near Bath he had bought and had renovated has been repossessed as have two homes he owned in New Orleans. His money troubles might also explain why he felt obliged to take the part in Crusader Of The Witch which by all accounts was a pretty low-budget production. (The reviewer remarks that ‘The armour seems made out of cardboard. The swords look ¬plastic. The backdrops resemble stage scenery’ and was none to impressed with the dialogue – characters are reduced to this: ‘Let’s get the hell outa here!’, ‘We’re gonna need more holy water’ and ‘I’ve saved your ass’.)
This is all bad enough – for us all, not just Cage, the actor decidedly on his uppers – but in his review, the writer also added the strange detail that Cage will now only eat flesh from animals who have ‘dignified sex lives’. That’s got to be a wind-up, I thought, that really is a case of an actor turning the tables on the press and sending them up for a change. But apparently it isn’t. Cage announced it in a serious interview with the New York Daily News, but even as I was reading it, I thought the joke was on the paper. Not a bit of it. Mr Cage, it seems, might well already be a sandwich short of a picnic.

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