No Love for LOVEFiLM

I’ve written before about my mixed relationship with LOVEFiLM. It’s now becoming obvious that, as I suspected might happen, the turnaround time for sending out DVDs is worsening again - my last five or so have all taken several days longer than they should have, and the delays are getting longer each time. I’m far from the only ex-Screenselect customer to see this. If this continues, I’ll be cancelling my account. Please, LOVEFiLM, get it sorted.

Scarface

I’m not a big fan of gangster films, so I’m only prepared to watch the very best. Most such films are violent and gruesome, which turns me off (particularly the latter), and Scarface is no exception. However, it’s surprisingly moralistic. As Tony Montana (Al Pacino, of course) says…

I never fucked anybody over in my life that didn't have it coming to 'em. You got that? All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don't break 'em for no one.

… and he’s right: at least by his terms. Scarface is also an interesting study of the drugs industry. Of course, it’s hard to know how accurate it is (I suspect real drug dealing is much more mundane than the glamorous life here), but nevertheless, there was more than one scene that reminded me of the interesting study of drug dealing in Freakonomics, with the price of risk being openly discussed.

The film runs much as you’d expect: rise to power followed by fall from grace, but it does it with style, cheap 80s music and cheap 80s fashions. Unlike Roger Ebert, I don’t think it’s a classic (although, as I said, I don’t like the genre much anyway), but Scarface is still one of Pacino’s strongest performances: his jutting jaw and accent so parodied now that it’s hard to watch without being amused. It’s still a strong film.

Free Banking Update

After writing a few months ago about how bank customers were reneging on the contracts they signed and suing their banks for ‘illegal’ bank charges, it appears that free banking is indeed in danger, with HSBC introducing a monthly fee. I’m glad to see that they won’t be charging them to those account holders with balances greater than £1,500 (read: those who rarely encounter fees anyway), but it’ll still be interesting to see how this shakes up the market. To me, this is a clear example of an unintended consequence of government regulation, in an area that would be better off left alone.

Steve Forbes @ London Junto @ Lansdowne Club @ Mayfair

Richard and I went to see Steve Forbes (of Forbes magazine fame) speaking last night at an event organised by The London Junto (a libertarianish organisation). The topic was flat taxes, and Forbes made a compelling argument for one - albeit probably preaching to the converted. Forbes has to be one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve ever seen speak - he dealt with economics, business, and geopolitical questions with equal capability, forthrightness, and clarity. He’s a former Republican presidential candidate, and it’s obvious from his winning politician’s smile. The Lansdowne Club is a traditional old-boys London Club (you can tell this partly because they pointedly use the word criterion on their website), and it made a suitable venue, although it didn’t exactly appeal to my taste. All in all, a worthy experiment.

Exim: Remove 'if error_message...' From Your .forward

For users of Exim only:

It’s normally recommended to include the line if error_message then finish endif in your .forward filter file, to make sure error messages don’t cause recursive problems in your mail system. I have found that this doesn’t work in practice if you normally receive a lot of spam, because spammers are increasingly using your email address to spam other people. This causes bounces back to you, which bypass your spam filter because of that line (at least in my setup, using sa-exim). Removing that line greatly reduced the amount of spam reaching my inbox.

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