Finally gotta life!
MOVIE REVIEW: Birds of Prey – and the fantabulous emancipation of one Harley Quinn
The ‘me too’ movement now has a comic book heroine on the big screen to champion the cause that women will no longer tolerate being put down by men, or are willing to remain a punching bag for testosterone-filled tyrants.
No-one messes with the female warriors of this film who smash, bang and wallop all the dastardly dudes who get in their way with a clear message that if the fairer sex unite they cannot be defeated.
The first reactions to Birds of Prey are in, and it appears many praise the film’s fight sequences, Margot Robbie’s performance as the lead character, and its overall creative flair.
That’s hard to dispute as there are strong performances by all the female characters. But, on the downside there were some unnecessary stomach-churning moments too, one broken leg episode, for example, is particularly sick in the old-fashioned sense.
In the Warner Bros Pictures film, Margot Robbie returns as Harley Quinn, alongside Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress, Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary, Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya, and Ella Jay Basco also stars as Cassandra ‘Cass’ Cain in her feature film debut with a warming ‘orphan Annie-style’ delivery and she was certainly my favourite character.
Poor Harley, in the midst of an abusive relationship with the Joker, finds herself kicked out on to the streets and a target for all those fellas she’s upset in the past and a few more besides who wouldn’t touch her for fear of her connection with the arch villain.
After growing up as an unwanted child, getting beaten up at school by nasty nuns, hearing tales of the broken-minded as a psychiatrist and falling for a lunatic, it’s not surprising to find that she ends up as a psycho too.
And, perhaps it’s inevitable that she would team up with a cop, songbird and mafia princess, all damaged by men in one way or the other, of course, be it career-wise or through violence, to rescue a child thief who Gotham’s bizarre skin-peeling villain, crime lord Roman ‘Black Mask’ Sionis (Ewan McGregor), and his zealous right-hand, Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), want to capture.
Some of the plot is hard to swallow though. For example, when Harley, worse for wear after drowning her sorrows, looks about to be molested and is rescued by Black Canary in fearsome style, the scene is ruined by the consequence of the action. After watching her fighting, instead of hiring her as extra muscle, Sionis recruits her as a ‘driver’. I don’t get that.
That’s a poignant moment too when the one man Harley relies on prefers the fast buck than loyalty and she almost slips and puts self before sisterhood, but it’s a comic book drama, so obviously all’s well that ends well.
I thought I’d hate this, and had the tables been turned and it was a gang of men beating up women, I would have walked out of the cinema (I’m waiting for the barrage of abuse now from women, saying, that’s reality not fiction) but I kind of warmed to the entertainment as such.
It’s not going to win any Oscars but I wouldn’t mind nominating the canine that played Harley’s pet hyena, now that’s a character with plenty of bite.
I suppose it was only a matter of time before I would be targeted by an online thug. I’ve had a few near misses and once stupidly paid for a popular toy from a social media advertisement and found it was all a big scam.
I actually paid the money into an account opened at my own bank and when I complained, was told it had been emptied with no forwarding address. The bank refused to offer any recompense.
This week someone wants me to pay hush money because they say they’ve broken into my Mac’s webcam and have taken images of me in front of the screen and plan to merge them with some naughty videos.
The fiend also claims to have installed a software programme to uncover my entire contacts list and is threatening to share the work with them unless, of course, I pay a tidy sum to have it erased.
The amount being demanded as a ‘reward’ is $1,559. I wonder why he, or she, has come up with this particular amount. Why not round it down to 1,550 or up to 1,600? What’s a dollar between enemies? It reminds me of a special car dealership or supermarket marketing ploy, the customer will never pay $1,600 but we’ll get him for $1,559!
A former colleague was once the victim of a cyber-hate campaign with her face being doctored on to the bodies of scantily-clad models and her email address being forwarded to perverts preying on women.
She reported the matter to the police, who took down details and investigated and, although the creep appears to have disappeared, she still gets occasional calls today from desperate men who find her name listed on deviant websites.
I only hope whoever has captured my image manages to doctor my body too. Please superimpose my head on some Hollywood hunk’s frame. I quite fancy going viral and becoming an internet sensation as Schwarzenegger Stan.
Whoever is responsible had better be warned though. The last person to try it on ended up serving a six months prison sentence, although it was well before the internet exploded and was at a time when answerphones were about as high tech as it got.
The man who had inundated my old newspaper with a torrent of abusive, threatening and racist telephone calls eventually pleaded guilty to charges of racially aggravated harassment when it came to crown court.
He had admitted leaving abusive and threatening messages on my office answerphone. Police scrutiny of his phone line found he made some 60 calls to me, though only 28 were the subject of the charge.
Initially, he told police he hadn’t made them. His solicitor, however, said he later admitted the comments were “foul, abusive and offensive”.
The bully first came to my attention more than two years earlier when he started abusing colleagues so I decided I would handle all future calls. The first conversation I had with him was quite amicable but then he started to take out all his frustrations on me.
Some of the calls were really sick and evil. He threatened to attack my teenage daughter with broken glass and when he said he was going to lob a brick through my window I had to move my younger son to a room at the back of the house.
The case was protracted, leading to me spending five days in court, but you have to be persistent if you want to tackle this kind of menace.
Today’s online criminals may hide under a more devious cloak of anonymity but it won’t be long before technological advances catch them out. See you in court one day, sucker.
They think they are invincible
AS a parent I’ve always wished there was some kind of wonder drug you could inject into the brains of children when they reach their teenage years containing all of your life experiences… so that they could make informed decisions.
I’ve made my fair share of dumb mistakes in my time and although I have regularly tried to highlight some of the pitfalls encountered to my own four children I’m sure most of it has gone in one ear and out the other.
But there are two life experiences that I continually hammer home to them, one in particular to my two sons, and the other to their sisters as well.
Firstly, if you take a girl out make sure you bring her home safely, no matter what happens, no matter what row you have on the date and no matter how your feelings get hurt.
I took a former girlfriend to a concert. The magnificent Freddie Mercury and Queen were in town and I had a couple of VIP press tickets. She was vivacious and, although she hated it, a man magnet.
I was young and immature and hated it even more. I was so jealous of the attention she was getting from guys, lost my temper and went home.
At 4am, I was woken by a knock on the door. The police asked me to follow them to the station as my girl had been raped as she left the concert. She was crying. They thought it might help if I was by her side.
I will never forget her howls of anguish. I will never forget the look of disgust on the face of her grandmother when she asked: ‘Why did you leave her?’ I will never let a son of mine repeat my mistake.
Secondly, don’t drink and drive.
A close Bahraini friend and her family are going through a traumatic time at the moment. Her sister was a passenger in a car driven by a young man who had enjoyed a good night out in Adliya.
He probably thought he was indestructible and a few drinks wouldn’t impair his judgment. It did. He wasn’t paying attention and when he sped over a speed bump the car catapulted in the air, smashed through a barrier and landed in a crumpled heap.
All three in the car were hurt. My friend’s sister was the only one left unconscious. Apart from concussion she suffered a dislocated elbow, broken collarbone, a chest fracture, cuts to her head down to her feet and, worse of all, serious spinal injuries.
The student may now have to undergo spinal surgery which could involve an air ambulance to specialist medics in the US.
The foolish driver faces a likely lengthy spell in prison once the court case is heard and, but for the grace of God, it could have been me.
Aged 17, I had just passed my driving test, was invited to report on a nightclub opening and took a friend with two of her pals.
I thought I was indestructible and a few drinks wouldn’t impair my judgment. It did. I wasn’t paying attention and when I sped round a tight corner the road went one way and my car went the other.
My beloved VW Beetle spun out of control on two wheels, missed a lamppost by millimetres before righting itself.
We were lucky. I drove the girls home in silence, thinking how could I tell their parents, in different circumstances, that I had killed or seriously injured their daughters?
I will never let a child of mine repeat my mistake.
Test drive report: The McLaren GT
McLaren says it has ‘rewritten the rules of modern Grand Touring’ and I can honestly report that the company has remodelled my memories of the joys of driving a glorious GT.
OK, I admit, my first experience was at the wheel of the now defunct MGB GT in the 1980s, which was a shade more comfortable than my soft-top MGB which used to blow a gale across my fringe (when I had hair) and leave my nose as icy as the windscreen.
With this BD90,000 McLaren GT you’re talking a totally different driving experience. It was the fifth McLaren model I’ve had the pleasure to test drive and my favourite to date. It has everything a man of my maturity could possibly desire.I try to keep fit with a morning jog, but getting in and out of a normal sports car with my dodgy knee and aching Achilles can be somewhat ungainly and undignified. But not so with the McLaren GT. This car was made to measure.
It’s easy to slip in and out of … and once you’re inside the fit is insanely pleasurable.
Practical for everyday use, from a driver perspective it’s a lot more comfortable and better tailored for our roads because the ground clearance has been much improved too. It’s an ‘every day car’, perfect for driving to and from the office and on the occasional trip to the golf club, of course.
It’s not a track car, it’s everything a grand tourer should be, designed to take you across the causeway for an adventure to the UAE with ease with an incredible amount of power, but more of that later.
Positioned alongside the established Sports, Super and Ultimate Series families, this is a new McLaren for a new audience and provides an alternative to existing products in an expanding market segment, the company says.
A bespoke MonoCell II-T monocoque body structure – the T denoting ‘Touring’ – incorporates a carbon fibre rear upper structure that adds minimal weight but allows the creation of a 420-litre luggage area below the front-hinged, full-length glazed tailgate. The tailgate has a soft-close function as standard and can be optioned as electrically powered as part of the Premium Pack version I drove.The low height of the engine and positioning of the exhaust system has allowed the volume, shape and usability of the luggage bay to be optimised. A golf bag, for example, as well as luggage, can be carried with ease, while a further 150 litres of storage at the front means the new McLaren GT can accommodate a total of 570 litres.
It seemed only fair to throw my irons, sand wedge and putter in the back and head off down to the Royal Golf Club and call into a few of my favourite haunts on the way.
At almost 4.7 metres long, the new McLaren GT is longer than any of the cars in the McLaren Sports or Super Series. The front and rear overhangs also extend further than is traditional for McLaren, but the 10-degree front approach angle (13-degree with vehicle lift engaged) allows the new GT to cope with the most aggressive traffic calming measures; in combination with underbody clearance of 110mm (130mm with vehicle lift) this ensures the car is eminently usable in all urban situations, competitive not only with all rivals, but in ‘lift’ mode the equal of mainstream sedans.
That proved handy when we approached the fort near Seef and drove over numerous speed bumps. Within seconds of parking up, the car was besieged by onlookers grabbing images and taking selfies alongside it.
That’s because it’s a good looking beast.
There are two levels above the standard specification – Pioneer and Luxe – and beyond this the opportunity to choose options from McLaren Special Operations (MSO), at the soon-to-be-open regional centre in Sakhir, for both interior and exterior enhancements, including even lighter carbon fibre components and 14 MSO defined paint colours.
This is in addition to the 16 colours available within the McLaren GT palette, five of which – Black Ingot, Viridian, Amaranth Red, Burnished Copper and Namaka Blue – are newly-introduced for this model.
The width and stance of the car are emphasised at the front by the signature ‘hammerhead line’ that runs horizontally across the nose and draws the eye to the sides of the vehicle, while at the rear an integrated fixed rear wing, large diffuser and substantial exhaust tailpipes reinforce that this is a grand tourer with supercar performance.
A new 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged engine produces 620PS. Designated M840TE, it further expands the family of McLaren V8 engines. Bespoke to the new GT, it has the immense power and torque and superior exhaust sound quality that are the hallmarks of a true Grand Tourer.
Peak torque of 630Nm is produced between 5,500rpm and 6,500rpm, with more than 95 per cent available from 3,000rpm to 7,250rpm.
The new engine is mated to a 7-speed SSG transmission to deliver linear, seamless and relentless acceleration.
With a launch-control function optimising acceleration from a standing start, 0-100km/h is achieved in only 3.2 seconds, and 0-200km/h in just 9.0 seconds. The maximum speed of the McLaren GT is 326km/h although, of course, I’d never dream of driving that fast on our highways.
Within a blink of the eye, however, videographer Fardan and I, were pulling into Riffa Views.
* Check out our adventure here (VIDEO link below) and for more details, contact McLaren Bahrain, visit the showroom in Tubli, or call 80007878.
Waiting on the tarmac
I recall how embarrassed I was as a Brit abroad when Heathrow Airport’s new Terminal 5 opened in 2008 with much fanfare only to descend into chaos, with its new baggage handling system suspended and dozens of flights cancelled.
What was supposed to be a day of glory for British Airways, sole occupant of the mammoth terminal, built at a cost of $8.6 billion, turned into a shambles as problems worsened. The airline was finally forced to restrict passengers at the terminal to hand-luggage only.
At one point, a British Airways flight left without any of its baggage in the hold, embarrassed airline officials conceded, making a mockery of an earlier claim that the new state-of-the-art baggage system would work well from Day 1.
Things are a lot slicker nowadays and the technology worked a treat when I checked in after a festive break with the family for my return flight back to Bahrain.
I did feel slightly uncomfortable having to put my own bag on the conveyer belt, print out the label and attach it myself. Perhaps I’m just lazy and like someone-else doing it. But I managed it OK although I couldn’t help feeling that aging parents of expats planning a visit might find it a tad intimidating.
I enjoyed the couple of hours before boarding in the Inspire Lounge for a hearty breakfast and refreshments until the time to head on down to the gate was highlighted on the big screen. There was a longer than usual wait, probably around 40- minutes, before we were invited to jump on the bus to take us to the aircraft.
The post-Christmas flight was jam-packed and I spotted more than a few acquaintances and their families lining up patiently with their families in the queue.
As soon as we climbed on board and settled in our seats the captain informed us that they’d been a repair carried out on a cargo bay seal, hence the delay in boarding, and the work had been carried out to his satisfaction and take-off would commence shortly once the paperwork was sorted.
For the next three-and-a-half hours the embarrassed crew profusely apologised for the continuing delay explaining how the said paperwork apparently had to travel from BA HQ to the Civil Aviation Authority, back to base and on to Heathrow.
I can just imagine the scenario.
The chief seal repair director who needed to sign the form had left for lunch and would be back in an hour. Unfortunately, the CAA’s executive seal repair authoriser had popped to the shops to exchange her New Year party dress because her stupid husband had bought her the wrong size skimpy frock for Christmas (she’s no longer aged 23 or a Size 8) and no-one else had the authority, or wanted, the responsibility of signing it.
In reality, it was probably much more boring … just bureaucracy.
We sat on the plane and waited. I received several texts from BAeServices, one offering light refreshment vouchers which could be collected from the customer service desk, another advising me that the engineering repairs had been completed sooner than anticipated so we were going to stay onboard and another apologising for the delay.
One would have thought that in this high tech world of instant communication – I regularly transfer funds across the globe and even signed mortgage agreements using my mobile device – surely the airline and the government entity responsible could do likewise.
On the upside, I am told the delay may bring some compensation, which will go towards my son Stan Jnr’s flight to Bahrain in February to celebrate his 17th birthday. Hopefully he’ll arrive in time for the party.
I blame Michael Jackson. When I was a child ‘bad’ meant, well, bad. Suddenly, in the 1980s, the former Bahrain resident and late pop icon released an album called Bad and everyone started using the term as if it meant good.
The same goes for ‘dog’s life’. Originally the term referred to the hard life of the working dog sleeping outside in a damp shed and living on scraps. Today, however, it has acquired the completely opposite meaning, the ultimate description of a pampered existence.
I’ll let you to decide which connotation should be used after reading my sorry festive tale.
When I first came to Bahrain 13 years ago, the good lady wife, Kathryn, and I decided to leave Daizy, the cocker spaniel behind. The decision became ‘dad’s’ and whenever our children, Imogen and Stan Jnr, are angry with me, they’ll bring up the time I ‘abandoned’ their beloved pet.
It didn’t help matters that my sister, who had kindly said she would look after Daizy for the ‘two years’ we were away, moved house and placed Daizy in the care of a friend.
The friend and his family fell in love with Daizy and before we knew it she had a new home and we were even banned from seeing her on our annual trip back to the UK in case we ‘upset and unsettled her’.
To ease the heartache in the Szecowka household, after spotting a couple of small pooches advertised on a shop noticeboard on Budaiya Highway, I brought Millie and Lillie home to our villa in Saar.
But small mutts are not cool. I used to take them for walkies late at night so none of my friends from the Dilmum Cub would spot me. Then one evening two young lads on bikes came tearing down the road with a puppy tied by a rope round its neck.
The stray desert dog collapsed and the boys cycled off. I thought he was dead but after a while he got up and followed me home … and Lucky joined the family.
When Kathryn and the children returned back to the UK during the summer for educational reasons, the dogs, of course, had to go too.
One of my Bahraini friends shook his head in disbelief when I told him how much it was going to cost.
I’ve just flown back to Bristol for a very short trip to spend today with the family and to celebrate granddaughter Eliza’s first Christmas.
I’m very much hoping that my eldest son, Louis, will join us tomorrow but he’s just become the proud owner of a Cocker-Doodle called Walter.
Louis is a theatre executive in London and he is allowed to take the dog with him to work each day.
My eldest daughter, Charmaine, having spent the past couple of days with us and my other two grandchildren, Kai and Esme, is spending Christmas Day with him.
I thought I had it all planned. Fearing Lucky might eat Walter if he came along too, Charmaine volunteered to babysit the puppy, allowing Louis to come and see me.
But nothing is that simple.
According to Louis, his big sister spends too long on her smart phone and won’t pay enough attention to Walter, who he believes will ‘stress’ without him close by.
So D Day is Boxing Day. Will his love of dad or dog prevail?
Either way, one of us will be in the dog house when I fly back to Bahrain on Friday.
In recent days I’ve been on a whirlwind of festive fun. I very much doubt any place on earth puts on a brighter or better celebration of togetherness and happiness than the Kingdom of Bahrain.
It started with the Manama Singers carol singing at the Dilmun Club and then the five star properties joined the party in what appears to be quite a competitive round of dazzling displays.
It’s fabulous to watch as staff members from each hotel pull out all the stops with carol singing, dancing and musicianship, watched and supported by senior management, and fully appreciated by enthusiastic crowds of onlookers.
I love ‘people watching’ and it’s an absolute joy to study the faces of families, of all races and religions, gathering together in a spirit of harmony so unique to this kingdom.
And why not? Who doesn’t love a fat man, with a white beard, pot belly and a cheerful ho, ho, ho?
I recall the first time I stepped on to Bahraini soil, exactly 13 years ago at this time of year, for that all important recce before starting the job proper in the New Year.
Like most Europeans, I had little true understanding of the Arab world apart from the research I had done for the first interview and the decades of misconceived stereotypical prejudices I had soaked up by being brought up in the West.
I was nervous and it didn’t help matters that Heathrow Airport was soulless, horrible and nasty (it’s a lot better now that Terminal 5 has opened). The people working there, from the coffee shop assistants to the security personnel, were miserable and unwelcoming.
As I joined a queue of passengers herded towards the luggage check-in I spotted only one skinny, pathetic-looking excuse for a Christmas tree on display, hidden round one of the corners. There was nothing to mark the season of goodwill on the roads leading up to the airport or at its entrance.
The bright lights of Bahrain were breathtaking in comparison. OK, they might have been put up to mark National Day, but who cares. I remember thinking, ‘wow, what a place!’
I stayed at the Gulf Hotel and also visited the Ritz-Carlton and could not believe my eyes. I still can’t when I attend the annual lights switching on ceremonies at these properties and all the others I have recently been invited to.
When I set off from Bahrain International Airport (and I hope it keeps its friendly intimacy when the big expanded facility opens next year) there was also a stunning display in Departures, with a Father Christmas on a train and delightful displays of festive fun.
I couldn’t wait to come back.
And, although I’ll soon be making a flying visit home to embrace family and friends in the UK, I know a piece of my heart will remain here in Bahrain, even for the few days I’m away … and it will forever more.
Santa Claus is the epitome of a good person. Even if everything about him is unrealistic, there's something about Santa that we would like to see in every person. His kindness and generosity knows no bounds, and let's not forget that he lives in the happiest place there is … Bahrain.
I know, I’ve personally seen him on at least a dozen occasions in recent days.
May Christmas warm your heart the whole year long and to quote award-winning author Louis Sachar: ‘Whenever you give someone a present or sing a holiday song, you're helping Santa Claus. To me, that's what Christmas is all about. Helping Santa Claus!’
Run baby run
GDNonline's ace videographer Ahmed Jaber Fardan had a double celebration ... he completed his first ever Ironman and then raced to the hospital after being told on the finishing line that his pregnant wife, Eman Sabah AlHaddad, was about to give birth.
Ahmed, 29, from Bani Jamra, completed the run, swim and cycle challenge in eight hours, 10 minutes and 22 seconds and despite being exhausted he managed to perform a baby swinging jiggle before collecting his medal and setting off to Salmaniya Medical Complex still wearing his sweaty tri-suit.
"I was so excited," he said. "As soon as I crossed the finishing line I got the call from my mother-in-law to hot-foot it to the hospital as Eman was just being taken into the delivery suite."
The couple's beautiful baby daughter, Sara, weighing 2.7kilos, was born on Saturday at 5.47pm, a brother to two-year-old, Adam, around three hours after the race finish.
"Mother and baby are doing just fine and Adam loves having a little sister," added Ahmed.
As for dad, he says he just needs a rest ... in between rocking the newborn!
The votes are in and the Laureus Academy will now choose the winners from the six nominees in each category that you have decided. The winners will be announced at our 20th anniversary Laureus World Sports Awards in Berlin on Monday 17 February 2020.
Thank you so much for taking the time and being part of the Awards – we genuinely couldn’t do it without you. I hope the Academy agrees with your choices! Please keep an eye out for the shortlists which will be announced in January – when once again, we would love you to become an active part of the wider debate around who in the sporting world had a 2019 to remember!
LAUREUS WORLD SPORTS ACADEMY
Stanley Louis Szecowka
Editor/Journalist & Blogger, Restaurant & Motors Reviewer, FinTech Writer, Manager, Trainer.
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