By John Ruberry

Most of the main characters in Hell on Wheels, my last Netflix binge-watching adventure, were shaped, and scarred, by the American Civil War.

In this BBC 2 television show, Peaky Blinders, set in Birmingham, England beginning in 1919, World War I casts its shadow over the lead characters.

Three seasons have been released so far. The action–and the violence–is centered upon the Anglo-Gypsy Shelby family, led by Thomas “Tommy” Shelby (Cillian Murphy), a decorated Great War tunneller who returns home a new man–and a better suited one to run the family business, Shelby Brothers, Ltd, a bookmaking operation set in the grimy and noisy Small Heath section of Birmingham. But the gang is generally called the Peaky Blinders by members and their enemies. His oldest brother, Arthur (Paul Anderson) is clearly more psychologically damaged from the war than Tommy, but he’s better suited to serve as the enforcer for the family. “I think, Arthur. That’s what I do,” Tommy explains to him. “I think. So that you don’t have to.” Third son John (Joe Cole), another World War I veteran, is also employed in the muscle side of the operation, while Finn, the youngest Shelby, is only 11-years-old when the series begins.

Tommy has a sister, Ada Thorne (Sophie Rundle), who is married to communist agitator. But she’s still loyal to the family.

While the Shelby men were fighting in France–the family business was run by Elizabeth “Aunt Polly” Gray (Helen McCrory), a kind of a Rosie the Riveter of the underworld. Tommy quickly takes over from Polly, who serves as his senior advisor. Like Edward G. Robinson’s legendary Rico character in Little Caesar, Tommy becomes a small-time-hood-makes-good-by-being-bad by playing one gang faction against the other, first in Birmingham then in London, while largely ignoring Aunt Polly’s warnings.

When the Peaky Blinders stumble upon a large machine gun shipment in an otherwise routine heist, that gets the attention of Secretary of State for War Winston Churchill (Andy Nyman in the first season, Richard McCabe in the second), who dispatches Inspector Chester Campbell (Sam Neill) from Belfast to find the machine guns. Those guns give Tommy power and respect–and enemies. Not only do Churchill and Campbell want those weapons, but so does the Irish Republican Army.

Campbell sends in an Irish domestic spy, Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis), to work at the neighborhood pub owned by Arthur, appropriately named The Garrison. She quickly becomes its de facto manager.

In season three, which is set in 1924, Tommy, at Churchill’s request, gets involved in another armaments caper, this time with members of the Whites faction who haven’t ascertained that the Communists have won the Russian Civil War. Arthur warns Tommy to stay out of “this Russian business.” It’s too bad the script writers didn’t take their own creation’s advice. As was the case with season four of Sherlock, what follows is a collection of tangled and confusing plot lines. Possibly realizing their mistake, the writers include quite a bit of gratuitous nudity to accompany the Russian adventure, including a bizarre orgy scene which does nothing to advance the storyline.

On the other hand, the Russian diversion is loosely based on a 1924 scandal that brought down Great Britain’s first socialist-led government.

At least two more seasons are coming.

The cinematography of Peaky Blinders is masterful. Imagine Tim Burton creating a remake of The Untouchables television show and setting it in 1920s Birmingham. And this is an ugly Birmingham. J.R.R Tolkien lived in the city before the Great War and his reaction against it was his creation of Mordor for The Lord of the Rings. Just as the Eye of Sauron looked upon that evil realm–the sparks and the ashes of the foundries oversee the Midlands metropolis here. And the industrial roar is always there too.

Blogger in his flat cap

Without getting into spoilers it’s a challenge to bring a description of Jewish gangster Alfie Solomons into this review, but his portrayal by Tom Hardy is too good to overlook.

Oh, the name. Peaky Blinders? There was a Birmingham gang by the same name who gained that moniker because its members supposedly sewed razor blades into the peaks of their flat caps. And in fights the hoodlums went for the eyes.

And finally, the music deserves special mention too. Anachronistic goth rock dominates, the unofficial theme song is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand.” You’ll find selections from PJ Harvey, Tom Waits, and the White Stripes too.

And Johnny Cash sings “Danny Boy.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

British Prime Minister May and President Trump stand with the bust of Winston Churchill in the Oval Office.

President Trump has been compared to two of the world’s most vicious murderers and villains: Hitler and Stalin.

Let me try another comparison, one with the man whose bust has recently been placed back in the Oval Office: Winston Churchill.

Leftists will scoff at the comparison, but most of Winston’s supporters came from the right. The Huffington Puffington Post lambasted the comparison, which was made during the presidential campaign by Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr., calling it one of the “growing list of Hail Mary passes by the campaign and its allies.” I guess those Hail Marys worked out pretty well for Trump.

But let’s look at a comparison of the two men.

Both Trump and Churchill came from wealthy families. As young men, neither was a particularly good student.

The British leader changed parties several times during his political career–much like Trump–and ended up as a conservative.

Many leaders and historians consider Churchill a racist for his views toward Gandhi and the insistence that India remain part of the British Empire. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly been characterized as racists.

Churchill always put Britain first in war and peace. Both Trump and Churchill tried to warn about the greatly weakened military of each country—a weakness both sought to correct. Churchill fought the Nazis; Trump plans to defeat Muslim extremists.

The two leaders clearly share a similar temperament—one that does not suffer fools gladly.

Here are some of Churchill’s more famous quotes—most of which have fewer than 140 characters. Some of them sound a lot like Trump’s stump speech and tweets.

–Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

–If you’re going through hell, keep going.

–You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.

–A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

–Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty.

Clearly, there are subjects on which Churchill and Trump disagree, particularly trade. Churchill opposed tariffs on trading partners and extended government-subsidized social programs.

Trump is no Churchill yet. That remains to be seen. But the comparison with Churchill rings far more accurately than the other names Trump’s detractors use.


Christopher Harper, a longtime journalist, teaches media law.

by baldilocks

Sabo triggers Hollywood liberals yet again.

A conservative street artist famous for lampooning liberal Hollywood is celebrating the inauguration of President Donald Trump at an anti-Trump rally Friday in Los Angeles using faux posters of Fox’s revival of the hit TV show 24.

The artist, who goes by the pseudonym Sabo, is also attacking a bunch of musicians scheduled to perform at an anti-Trump rally, also in Los Angeles.

Some Grand Master-level Trolling of Liberals

Protesters gathered Friday in and around L.A. City Hall and L.A. Live — an entertainment area near the Staples Center where NBA’s Lakers and NHL’s Kings play — for something called “United Against Hate Inauguration March,” where Sabo posted several fake advertisements for 24: Legacy.

I watched the feed of the Inauguration and the parade yesterday. It was especially thrilling and gratifying to see the Talladega College (AL) Marching Tornadoes as they fulfilled their mission: they came to entertain. (I wrote about them last week at my blog.)

Former President Obama and Mrs. Obama are now hanging out around my way for a post-presidency vacation: Palm Springs, CA. I guess they wanted to be among their people–oh and do some golfing, of course. One of my Kenyan cousins—an Obama fan, to be sure—would be thrilled to give the former president some tips on the green.

President Trump has restored the bust of Winston Churchill—a loan to the White House from the British during Former President George W. Bush’s Administration–to its former place of honor in the Oval Office. It had been rather infamously removed from the Oval Office by then-President Obama back in 2009, and replaced by a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. A TIME Magazine reporter claimed that President Trump had subsequently removed the King bust, but that turned out to be false.

Oh and today: a lot of women are on the march for some reason.

ht: Andrew Marcus

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done on February 2017! Follow her on Twitter.

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