Film review: Imperium

While I don’t often write film reviews (aside from short opinions on iTunes, perhaps), once again I felt compelled to; this time after watching the dross that is Imperium.


British actor Daniel Radcliffe plays an FBI agent who goes undercover with white supremacists and for the most part he does a good job. It’s just that his American accent occasionally slips and his short stature affects his credibility as his character’s undercover alter ego. Clearly, this lack of credibility is only obvious to the viewer, because on screen, Radcliffe’s character Nate has no trouble fitting in with various groups of neo-Nazis and appears to infiltrate with comfortable ease and at remarkable speed, deflecting any tension with wit and intelligence. Hopping from one racist clique to the next, Nate is always the smartest in a room full of white guys; he has an answer to every question and an explanation in response to any doubt raised. If it wasn’t for all the other white blokes being so thick, no doubt his cover would have been blown faster than you can shout ‘White Power.’

Meanwhile, Radcliffe’s Australian co-star Toni Collette‘s American accent is better than his, but her problem in this film is that she seems to parody rather than just play an FBI supervisor. In Wittertainment parlance, it’s a performance turned up to eleventy stupid. The less said about it, the better.

The most believable acting performance in Imperium comes courtesy of Tracy Letts. By the time we learn the truth about the radio presenter he plays in this film, I sincerely wonder how many broadcasters, columnists and other professional opinion-givers in the real world have built their careers on a similar earning model to that of the fictional Dallas Wolf. It makes sense. He makes sense. Letts’ convincing performance is let down, however, by how poorly his part has been written into the plot; it’s a storyline that might have worked better before internet radio and podcasting blurred state lines and country borders, but I’m not sure it stands up in 2016.

Taking cues from American History X and The Firm —the one with Gary Oldman, not the one with Tom Cruise— only illustrates how good those films were and how not-very-good Imperium is. Moreover, unless my memory is deceiving me, there’s one specific scene early on that I feel I’ve seen before, at the end of I.D.:

What, if anything, did I learn from this film? Two things. Firstly, that going undercover doesn’t require FBI training or experience; reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People should suffice. Secondly, once you pretend to be a white supremacist, you will no longer need your glasses; then, when you stop pretending to be a white supremacist, you will need your glasses again. (Mind you, with a frame as ill-fitting as Nate Foster‘s, I doubt glasses are of much use in the first place — he must have been peering at the rim more than through the actual lenses.)

Imperium is currently on limited release in UK cinemas and available to stream from We Are Colony and Amazon Prime (other options or services may be available) For a proper film review, I refer you to Mark Kermode’s one here.


Self Help

Although I’m a great fan of investing in self improvement, I’m not the most compatible with talking therapies. There are countless self help and therapy books available, many of them utter rubbish that just make you feel as if you’re being taken advantage off (ripped off, scammed, whatever you wish to call it).

Thankfully, there are exceptions. I would like to use this blog post to list a number of books that seriously helped me out over the years.


The Tao of Pooh – by Benjamin Hoff

Really?! Yes, Really. This light bed time reading is the best book ever to slowly, simply change your outlook on life to a more positive one. Nothing flippant whatsoever, it seriously changed me for the better; so much so that whenever I can afford it I buy extra copies to give out as presents to friends and strangers.

The Tao of Pooh is available here from Amazon UK.

Voor Nederlandse lezers: Dit boek is ook beschikbaar in een Nederlandse vertaling bij


Negaholics: How to Overcome Negativity and Turn Your Life Around – by Cherie Carter-Scott

Once upon a time I was convinced Murphy had it in for me, that everything that could go wrong, would always go wrong as far as my life was concerned. And I prided myself on being a level-headed realist when, in reality, I could only view life in terms of (potential) problems and so I often failed to see or reach solutions and too often found myself in unnecessary (often futile) conflicts. A regular customer at the bookstore I worked at when I was 19 suggested I read this; I did and it changed me for the better.

Negaholics is available here from Amazon UK.

Voor Nederlandse lezers: Van dit boek bestaat geen Nederlandse vertaling, maar het Engelstalige origineel is wel verkrijgbaar bij


Self Help for Your Nerves: Learn to relax and enjoy life again by overcoming stress and fear – by Dr. Claire Weekes

My GP in 2003 suggested I read this, because at the time I didn’t really ‘believe’ anxiety and depression were anything more than figments of people’s imaginations, even though I was clearly suffering from both conditions. This book helped me acknowledge and appreciate what was going on with me (and other sufferers), and what I could do about it myself. There are a number of other (audio) books with similar titles accredited to the same Dr Claire Weekes, but personally I’d stick with this one and accept your doctor’s prescription for medication to help you out while you help yourself forward.

Self Help for Your Nerves is available here from Amazon UK.

Voor Nederlandse lezers: Van dit boek bestaat geen Nederlandse vertaling, maar het Engelstalige origineel is wel verkrijgbaar bij


Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking: Be a Happy Non-smoker for the Rest of Your Life – by Allen Carr

I nearly forgot to add this book to this list, because I haven’t smoked since February 2009 and I don’t really think about it anymore. It was only when going through my past book purchases to compile the list of books for this blog post that I bumped into it again. It’s brilliant! It didn’t get me to quit smoking for good straight away: I read this book, then I quit smoking, then I started smoking again, then I hated myself for smoking, then I quit smoking again, then I read this book again, then the penny dropped: Carr wrote about the ‘liberation’ from one’s addiction to smoking, and indeed I felt liberated from it; but I also realised the same principle could be applied to every and any other addiction (including eating disorders, which in many ways are like addictions too).

Carr himself quit smoking too late to save himself: he died from lung cancer. But what a legacy he leaves with all the people who didn’t and/or won’t die thanks to his books.

Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking is available here from Amazon UK.

Voor Nederlandse lezers: Dit boek is ook beschikbaar in een Nederlandse vertaling bij


Change Your Thinking with CBT: Overcome Stress, Combat Anxiety and Improve Your Life
by Dr Sarah Edelman

The term CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is bandied about everywhere these days, just like NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) was a few years ago. It’s become something of a fad, meaning there are a lot of books and practitioners out there and I doubt each of them offers high quality; but I do believe the basic principle of CBT makes perfect sense.

Over 20 years ago I was seen by a married couple (he was a psychiatrist, she was a psychotherapist) for rather heavy, confrontational, intense/intensive therapy over the course of three or four months. The name CBT wasn’t being used back then (was it even known in the 1990s?) but in hindsight I believe the therapy I received from them probably was cognitive behavioural therapy. It equipped me with coping mechanisms and tools there and then at the time, and still works for me to this day. CBT doesn’t just change your mindset or attitude, I found it’s changed me so profoundly that even how my emotions operate today are down to the aforementioned therapy as well as books like this one by Dr Sarah Edelman.

Change Your Thinking with CBT is available here from Amazon UK.

Voor Nederlandse lezers: Van dit boek bestaat geen Nederlandse vertaling, maar het Engelstalige origineel is wel verkrijgbaar bij

Additional/alternative reading:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy For Dummies – by Rhena Branch and Rob Willson

Available here from Amazon UK.

Voor Nederlandse lezers: Van dit boek bestaat geen Nederlandse vertaling, maar het Engelstalige origineel is wel verkrijgbaar bij


Anger Management for Everyone: Seven Proven Ways to Control Anger and Live a Happier Life – by Raymond Chip Tafrate and Howard Kassinove

Punching a pillow can only do so much when you’re a hothead like I used to be. Once upon a time I was the queen of tantrums and grudges, who could get make myself really angry and upset (usually over things not even worth getting angry or upset about); nowadays I am by no means perfect, and I am definitely still learning, but the aggression I used to harbour is most definitely gone.

Anger Management for Everyone is available here from Amazon UK.

Voor Nederlandse lezers: Van dit boek bestaat geen Nederlandse vertaling, maar het Engelstalige origineel is wel verkrijgbaar bij

Additional/alternative reading:

Anger Management for Dummies (UK Edition) – by Gillian Bloxham and W. Doyle Gentry

Available here from Amazon UK.

Voor Nederlandse lezers: Van dit boek bestaat geen Nederlandse vertaling, maar het Engelstalige origineel is wel verkrijgbaar bij


Full Catastrophe Living: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation – by Jon Kabat-Zinn

‘Mindfulness’ is another current fad, but this book predates the fad by years and years and helped me meditate. I should be picking up this book again, really, and re-read it, as I’ve let slip of the meditation in recent years… even though it really does a lot of good for both my mental and physical health.

Full Catastrophe Living is available here from Amazon UK.

Voor Nederlandse lezers: Van dit boek bestaat geen Nederlandse vertaling, maar het Engelstalige origineel is wel verkrijgbaar bij


Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness – by Erich Schiffmann

To this day I find yoga pretty boring, but it does me the world of good, particularly for my physical health. It steadies my balance (I have a minor balance disorder due to oxygen deficit in birth and meningitis when I was two years old) and improves my posture (reducing pain and discomfort from my endometriosis and other gynaecological issues). Better posture also means I sit/stand/walk more steadily and straight and people might interpret that as confidence on my part, which isn’t a bad thing either.

This book was my introduction to basic yoga exercises that you can do at home without risking injury (if you take things slowly and carefully) and I rely on it now that I cannot afford yoga classes.

Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness is available here from Amazon UK.

Voor Nederlandse lezers: Van dit boek bestaat geen Nederlandse vertaling, maar het Engelstalige origineel is wel verkrijgbaar bij

Boob job

NO MORE BOOB JOBS ON THE NHS!” scream some of today’s headlines. “We should not be doing cosmetic work on the NHS,” says Britain’s Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. With the next election less than a year away, that’s possibly a popular statement to make to voters. But what if the context of such a statement isn’t as black and white as presented? 

Mention ‘NHS’ and ‘cosmetic surgery’ in one sentence, and middle England will undoubtedly be reminded of tabloid stories like this, this and this, about nobodies ‑ with agents ‑ who had cosmetic procedures courtesy of the British taxpayer and seem to have sought fame on the back of it. For a politician to pick up on the public sentiments is a clever move to garner popularity, but let’s not look at this from an entirely cynical frame of mind: the taxpayer-funded NHS is dreadfully expensive, and we need to look at what medical care we want it to cover and what not. Cosmetic surgery is a subject we therefore need to discuss and I, for one, appreciate a politician listening to people and responding to people’s concerns.

Cosmetic surgery is certainly on my mind when I walk outside in the lovely weather we’re currently enjoying, and I see people with plenty of flesh on display, showcasing their piercings, tattoos, stretched earlobes and other visible body modifications. Then I can’t help but wonder if in years to come there will be an increased demand for surgery and other treatments to ‘undo’ previous modifications, and whether the NHS (read: the British tax payer) will be able to provide this or if people are going to be told to seek private medical care at their own expense. I believe we should think and plan ahead now rather than later and do so for the long term rather than merely till the next elections. But I also believe we shouldn’t fall for tabloid-style rhetoric in which issues and possible solutions are presented in black and white, when reality is more likely to involve varying shades of grey.

This is where I’ll get personal. You see, I’ve had cosmetic surgery on the NHS.

For as long as I can remember I’d always had a small but visible spot on my right breast. On the nipple, to be exact. When that suddenly started growing into an uncomfortable lump, and a second spot ‑ about the size of a birthmark ‑ appeared, I decided to see my GP about it. She was confident that both the lump and the spot were probably benign, yet she did order to have them removed, ‘just in case,’ but also because apparently sometimes perfectly benign tumours can become malignant. Since removing the two tumours might disfigure my breast, she referred me to a cosmetic surgeon. This decision was purely for aesthetic reasons. It wasn’t until I actually met with the surgeon, that I learned that there was more at stake than just looks: nerves, glands and milk ducts might get damaged in the operation.

In the end, I was operated on by a different surgeon than the one I’d initially been referred to ‑ there was a waiting list and a slot had opened up in the other surgeon’s schedule ‑ and that cosmetic surgeon decided in the operating room to leave the small new spot be and just remove the larger tumour that caused me discomfort. This left me with minimal scarring at the time and now, five years on, you can’t even see that I was ever operated on.

The biopsy later confirmed that the tumour had indeed been benign, so does that make my operation indeed one hundred percent ‘cosmetic’? Should I have been turned down for surgery on the NHS and been told to save up and pay for it myself?

Strangely, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s remarks have come at a time that the small spot that appeared five years ago, has just started growing. It is no longer the size of a birth mark and may end up growing into a tumour like the previous one, that gets itchy and painful and causes the other discomforts that its predecessor did. So what do I do?

If I could afford to go private, I wouldn’t even be asking this question. But I happen to be fully reliant on the NHS here. Do I deserve for taxpayers ‑ of which I am one myself ‑ to pay for a cosmetic surgeon to remove this growing-but-probably-benign-again tumour from my breast and hopefully do so (again) without scarring or disfiguring my breast? Or should I wait until it develops into something more sinister than it appears to be right now?

What would you do if you were (a) me; (b) Health Secretary; or (c) a UK taxpayer? See how this isn’t a plain black-and-white issue?

© 2014 Jo Hughes | All rights reserved


In Britain everybody around Jimmy Savile seemed to know what he was up to, yet let him get on with it. Now they’re gasping at the extent of his abuse that’s become clear since he died. No one’s acknowledging their potential enabling of him and his actions at the time, though.

Terry Richardson is another Jimmy Savile and no one’s doing anything about it.

Meanwhile, Ian Watkins has been jailed but the only ‘enablers’ of his that appear to have come to light are the mothers who let him abuse their children. And I just don’t believe those women were the only enablers he had, I refuse to believe no one else knew. But anyone who I’ve asked questions in relation to this has so far simply refused to answer, because I am nobody and they’re somebody, so why the hell should they have to answer me (or anyone, for that matter).

Still, it’s always been the way that celebrities do stuff that in the non-celebrity world would be frowned upon, to say the least. If your non-celebrity next-door neighbour did the kind of stuff Terry Richardson’s allegedly been up to, he’d be labelled a sick you-know-what. But do that sh!t in the art world, as a rock star, or in Hollywood, and at worst you’ll be labelled ‘eccentric’. It’s almost as if being a creep is a virtue.

It seems there’s a different world out there that has a teflon coating on it, and perhaps nobody in that world does anything because if they did it might implode on itself (and them); there’s everything to lose and nothing to gain for everyone involved.

It makes me sick.


ETA: Jamie Peck published a brilliant piece on the Guardian website about predators and power dynamics. Click here to read her excellent analysis.

“Wanna fight?”

Another true story.

Years ago I was standing at a bus stop, a man standing next to me. A seemingly inebriated guy randomly walked up to him, got nose to nose, and barked: “WANNA FIGHT?!” Without even flinching, the man calmly replied “Nahhh, I don’t like fighting. But I’ll be your friend, if you want.”

The aggressor, stunned, backed down and walked off, dazed as if he’d just been dealt a knock-out blow.

© 2014 Jo Hughes | All rights reserved