Saturday, December 13, 2008

Who has the X-Factor? Do I give a toss?

It’s the most anticipated event this year…. No not the Presidential election or even CERN switching on the Large Hadron collider. I am of course referring to the MASSIVE news that the X-factor winner will be decided tonight.

Naturally my previous comments are sarcastic and suggest how people’s news values can be rather, well, misplaced.

However, it’s been a revealing year for this year’s Stars in ther…. I mean X-Factor contestants. We’ve seen the whirlwind (and vomit-inducing) teenage romance of Diane Vickers (that’s right my voice doesn’t work tee hee) and grandmother’s favourite Eogogogogogoggooghan (or as I pronounce it: ughgjdnfdsjsnfsjndsf) Quinn.

A contract, which could be enforced “anywhere on earth or in the solar system,” was leaked pointing out that the contestants were legally obliged not to be unpleasant to Simon Cowell (something which TV’s Mr Nasty laughed off whilst he phoned his legal hawks to have those responsible annihilated).

Finally (and rather irrelevantly) I was given a glimpse into this world of deluded dreams and overblown egos, when I spent 2 days working amongst the production team for work experience. I have to admit I have seen the underbelly of human dignity and decency with these two days of hell where I had to contend with idiots (mostly heavy set idiots I should add) who were trying out, having a go at me for the queues not moving fast enough, which considering I was working a 10 hour shift for a mere £5 an hour is a little bit harsh. Then another set of idiots who refused to obey my instructions to stop the queues from becoming bottlenecked, complained about the organisation too. I have to say I’m glad that no one from the audition I attended made it into the final. At least there’s some justice in this world.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Review of The Dark Knight

I haven’t written a film review for a long time, quite possibly because I haven’t seen that many films of late. However, last week I decided to go and see the dark knight as - let’s be honest - the hype of it was impossible to ignore.

#CONTAINS SPOILERS#

This film was always going to be big news firstly because of the sudden death of Heath Ledger and secondly that the Batman franchise always carries weight around Hollywood.


I must admit I was a little worried that all this hoopla surrounding the film would make it over hyped; however having now seen The Dark Knight the hoopla is certainly apt.


It takes about 10 minutes before Ledger’s stylish and somewhat hilarious entrance with the line, “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stranger” and from there the audience are in for a real treat; no matter how short this tenure as the joker is. Ledger’s joker is nothing short of genius both as a character and as a person as there is a certain invincibility and mystery surrounding the dark clown, underlined by psychotic violence. This is especially poignant when he is regaling a mob boss about how he got his facial ‘Glasgow kiss’ scars (a story which changes with each telling) whilst hovering a knife worryingly close to the man’s mouth. The best way to sum up the Jokers actions in the film is that the whole thing is really just one big joke to him (pun intended). He is motivated neither by money, women, power or revenge; he’s in it just for laughs and to create a shadow to Batman’s deeds.


This of course brings me onto the titular character himself who is once again played by a gruff sounding Christian Bale. Batman of course does, what he does best which is swoop into action with his hi-tech gadgets to take down the scum of Gotham city. The good thing about the dark knight of Gotham since the reboot began is that rather than being invulnerable he is in fact very vulnerable as is shown near the beginning when he gets rather badly mauled by some attack dogs and the messages of doing justice by any means and no matter the cost, definitely makes people sit up and listen. In spite of this The Joker does steal the show for a large portion of the film and it’s also a shame that Bale doesn’t carry this charisma to Batman’s alter ego Bruce Wayne who seemed to come across as wooden and at times a bit of an anti-climax.


Other nods have to be angled at Gary Oldman at his reprisal of Sergeant Jim Gordon who once again brings to the film a level of gritty-ness as Batman’s incorruptible police liaison stuck in a corrupt precinct, and Michael Caine playing Alfred the butler par excellence. Christopher Nolan also does a fantastic job at directing ambitious action sequences and bringing a dark yet realist comic book world to life; one can only hope that he continues with the Batman franchise in years to come.


Criticism has to be laid at the length of the film however (running length 150 mins), which during the conclusion seems padded out. In addition to this problem is the late arrival of Harvey “Two Face” Dent as the villain. I think personally that Two Face would have been better saved for the next film rather than being squeezed in during the forty five minutes.


In spite of these small critiques the film on the whole is a solid affair, which entertains shocks and wows its audience and is a fitting tribute and legacy to Ledger. It is definitely worth all the hype.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Buy a pirate DVD and EVERYONE will hate you?


I’ve recently focused my attention onto a campaign called Knockoff or not, which pours scorn onto people who choose to copy films and DVD’s as well as people who generally cheap out of things (although their focus is mainly on DVD’s).

This first came to my attention through their TV campaign which had a funny little bard with a guitar coming into a pub and interrupting a date; claiming that the man was a cheap bastard who couldn’t pay for flowers (he found them on the street apparently, which is oh so common with all those bouquets of flowers just lying around on the road) and buys knock off DVD’s. The end result is the man’s social humiliation as the pub all joins in with the Bard’s chorus of calling him a knock-off Nigel, and he gets dumped. The advert then ends with the subtitle “knock-off Nigel buys knock-off DVDs,” and all seems to suggest you better think twice about trying to save money on overpriced films or everyone will hate you. So pirates beware right?

Wrong I think, all that this is going to do is probably just create ill-feeling towards who-ever fronted the campaign, which I must admit is rather a mystery unto itself. I can’t find anything about who’s launched the campaign or which company is trying to socially ostracize DVD pirates, and I reckon keeping their name off the whole damned mess was the single best idea about the whole thing.

I won’t try to plead innocence here, I have downloaded films in the past and had knock-off DVD’s (and why not as sitting in front of me is a rather ample DVD collection which is official and I paid for myself so I think I can allow myself a bit of a saving here and there on films I wouldn’t otherwise consider buying), but who doesn’t now. Obviously coming from the 20-25 age group I know more people who are savvy enough to know where to find downloads and streaming sites which provide this sort of thing and I’d be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t a ‘knock-off Nigel’ out of my friends and family. Does that then mean that the idea of social humiliation doesn’t really work as the ‘Nigels’ are in the majority?

I just detest the smarmyness of the whole thing which tries to create a profile of a cheapskate, and implying that people should splash their cash needlessly because it’s the cool thing to do. Let’s not forget we’re in the middle of a recession, so what’s wrong with trying to save money? Surely saving money is to be encouraged at the moment, but then if everyone in the pub says it’s not cool then I better do what they say hadn’t I? How could all these people be wrong? Besides just because you buy knockoff DVD’s why would you have to be an all round cheap skate too.

What amused me most about the whole silly campaign was how much hate they seem to be pouring on people like myself who have done this. Go onto the website for the campaign http://www.knockoffornot.com/ and you can find all sorts of fun and games. For instance you can pelt a knock off Nigel with tomatoes and other such items (how civilised for the 21st century? Why don’t we just have him tarred and feathered next or better yet burn him at the stake?), or you can take a quiz to find out if you are a Nigel yourself. I took the quiz expectantly and was quizzed on such things as whether “I had stolen from my mothers purse?” or “Farted and blamed it on someone else”. However you immediately lose if you admit to buying knock-off DVD’s and downloading films even if you put the right answers for everything else. When you lose it refers to you as “not well, ” so not only are you a sneaky little twat who steals money and doesn’t pay for anything if you knock off DVD’s but you are apparently also mentally ill? Well that’s good to know that me all my friends are criminally insane, I wanted some clarification on that.

All I can say in conclusion is I’m proud to be a knock off Nigel, in spite of this silly reputation the PR campaign is trying to create around the whole debate. After all there’s nothing like dumbing a whole debate down to an argument, which is tantamount of social propaganda. What next a campaign with tagline: “If you buy knock-off DVD’s you’re a paedo?”

Saturday, July 05, 2008

News Abuse



An interesting thing happened recently. For the first time ever I actually heard the results of a survey I took part in published in the news media. The survey in question was about domestic violence and was completed by students in Wales (which of course I am one of). This NUS and Amnesty International survey, which can be found here, seems to show that domestic violence is on the rise and an alarmingly high number of students know of someone who has been subject to abuse in a relationship or has pressured a partner into sex.


This of course seems a horrific thought, that so many young people have seen or know of this level of domestic violence. However there is a key flaw with this survey, which has surprised me the most. As of course I was subject to this survey I got to see what the questions were and with some luck I happened to be studying research methods in the media at the same time. I can say on the record that this survey was highly biased.


It seemed to lead the participant into answering that they knew someone who had been hit, and if you hadn’t then you couldn’t really answer all the questions properly. Me and two of my friends, who are also doing my course, filled out these questions and were quite shocked at how it seemed to lead us into making claims that we knew people who had subjected a woman to an ambiguous level of abuse. As such we decided we didn’t want to contribute to something which distorted reality so we left feedback in the closing comments, which implied that we thought the survey was unnecessarily biased. What then surprised us was that one of the NUS staff who had handed us the survey claimed that they too believed that it was biased and that some of the top level management also wasn’t happy with it, although as Amnesty International had supplied it without their input they had to just deal with it effectively.



The fact that this has now been publicized as hard news makes me wonder how much this happens where a seemingly biased piece of research can be made to serve an agenda and create a moral panic around it. Now this of course is a noble cause to a certain degree as domestic violence is deplorable but why should everyone be shocked into submission with a very biased piece of research into the matter. Surely if the results don’t speak for themselves in a fair test then is the issue such a big problem?


I also don’t like the thought that leading research such as this could easily get the public to believe in something which is morally wrong, after all it only takes an organization with an ill agenda and a newspaper looking for easy news for a survey similar in structure to create a moral panic on something which in reality isn’t really that bigger problem and could have adverse effects on certain people. I don’t agree that we have to be manipulated into taking action on something, rather we should have something which reflects the true picture of things but then I suppose when has the absolute truth been important to news?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Don't drink and drive or you WILL be branded with a hot iron!


Apologies for the lack of witty title but I really couldn’t think of one at this point in time. I want to just make a few comments about some of the draconian government initiatives which sometimes are tantamount of fascism.

I’ll start with a particularly annoying advert for drinking and driving. First of all let me just say I do not in any way condone drinking and driving, I think it’s a stupid and dangerous thing to do and I think the law should be firm on it. However what I don’t agree with in this case is the way that government adverts try to imply you will be socially outcasted and ruined financially if you do it. What’s a stronger message than saying you will die? That’s the point they should probably put across to people rather than implying that you will get caught and be marked for life.

The content of this advert is as follows:
The TV ad focuses on Matt, a young man out for a couple of quick drinks with some friends, as he's deciding whether or not to have a second pint before driving home.
As Matt is deciding what to order his world freezes and the barman he's about to order from suddenly transforms into a succession of characters that Matt would encounter if he's caught drink driving. Matt is powerless to do anything as he sees a police officer asking him to step out of the car for a breath test, a solicitor explaining that he's going to get a 12 month driving ban, his boss explaining that it's company policy not to keep employing someone who has a drink drive conviction, a used car dealer offering him a very low price for his car because he has to sell it quickly to pay a hefty drink driving fine and Matt's partner, angry and distressed that Matt has lost his licence, his job and his car.
Finally, the barman appears again and puts the question to Matt - "So, what's it going to be?" (taken from: http://www.thinkroadsafety.gov.uk/campaigns/drinkdrive/drinkdrive.htm)

The way this seems to flow is that he’d be better off dead as he’s basically screwed for life. What would have been more fitting would be showing Matt committing suicide at the end or as a homeless drunk vagrant. It’s just really patronizing and should really include a government minister wagging their finger at you throughout its run and repeating “don’t you dare”. It does ultimately represent the worst case scenario but I don’t like being coerced in such an overdramatic way. It’s like saying “become a drink driver and people will always hate you and avoid you”.

There was a similar ad out for drug driving which showed a man, having lost his license, turned back into a child and all his mates avoiding him as a result. I always find social manipulation of this sort the most hard to swallow. Maybe they should have an advert for paedophila too which shows a convicted paedo being branded on his forehead with a hot iron and being thrown to a pack of ravenous Daily Mail readers. In fact he doesn’t need to necessarily be a paedo, the way these campaigns of terror seem to run it could be any miscreant being branded here for any particular crime.

It’s a shame that a hard hitting campaign like this has to be made really. I know people will rebut my points saying it’s the only way to get the message across to people that drinking and driving is a stupid thing to do. But surely there’s a better medium than this? It's like Reefer Madness all over again.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

One man's Dictator...


It has not failed to capture my attention recently that another term of Robert Mugabe’s brutal rule in Zimbabwe is about to be ushered in. The seemingly eternal president has once again managed to bully his way to the premiership by threatening supporters of his opponent Morgan Tsvangirai, and of course Tsvangirai himself.

The sad thing about the whole affair is that we, the western world who have seemedly pledged to end all dictatorial injustice in the world (that’s the official line at least), are just sitting back and doing nothing, well except for strongly wagging our finger disapprovingly. Well that ought to stop him won’t it? It’s a pity that Zimbabwe isn’t oil rich otherwise we’d have been in there like a shot.


Instead we seem to spend our time on economically strategic action rather than morally or humanitarian strategic types of intervention. Let’s be fair here Saddam Hussain did have a bad human rights record like Mugabe. The only difference of course was that we delayed our intervention (to be blunt also we didn’t go in to save the Iraqis from him did we) until a good decade after he had committed the worst of his atrocities. Who knows maybe in 10 years time we may cotton on to how serious the situation in Zimbabwe is and take the

delayed initiative although too late to save anyone and just in time to screw up the country completely (if that is at all possible, as to be fair that would be a big job for any meddling nation).


It’s as plain as daylight that the Zimbabwean elections have been rigged and the people threatened to vote for Mugabe lest they face having already meager food supplies cut off, or family members taken away etc. It’s also clear to see that Mugabe has managed to mess up the whole countries infrastructure with his megalomaniac tendencies. This of course brings me to the issue of the white farmers being thrown off their land. This was a terrible idea as these people whether you liked them or not knew how to keep the land prosperous. After all as many people have told me (some who once lived there) that Zimbabwe was the “bread-basket of Africa” and to think that one man driven by the same race-hating anger which he was protesting against has managed to ensure that the prosperity is lost is nothing more than pathetic and saddening.


Of course you can call me biased because I am white and British but that doesn’t mean the facts are any different. Why the other African nations let alone someone from the UN, EU or USA haven’t done something sooner is beyond me. It’s hard for us (Britain) to intervene as there’s so much bad blood from the imperial times but we

should try doing something still, especially as we attempted to come across as such enlightened humanitarians in war. It’s hypocrisy to take up a humanitarianism cause to one (not as recently atrocious) dictator, as we did in Iraq, and to ignore one who’s doing worse in the here and now. We really need to sort out our priorities. Also what about Kim Jong Il!?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Oil Be damned


As many of my countrymen will have noticed of late, there have been angry rumblings about the prices of petrol. The prices quite frankly have begun to spiral out of control, as it doesn’t seem all that long ago that the idea of paying over one pound per litre of unleaded fuel was deemed madness. However, now my local petrol station it can be seen that the price is now £1.17 and rising. In fact only about 3 months ago when I set off on my long road trip to Cardiff (which I take every now and again) I found that it cost about £1.14 at the most expensive. To think that the price is still creeping up at this rate is somewhat worrying.

But why are we paying so much is what people cry. I personally find that this is down to a number of factors such as the price of oil per barrel (See! the Iraq war was not a good idea for getting more oil was it!) and government taxes etc. I don’t propose one single reason for this happening although I am suspicious of the fact that all the major oil companies are still posting record profits in spite of their higher costs. This is what makes me angry at the corporate world, and especially the oil companies, is that because they offer such a frequently needed product they feel that they can form a cartel (someone prove to me that it isn’t because I don’t see how it can’t be) and profiteer from the everyman.

However I don’t intend to squarely blame the company as that’s a limited and rather easy target. I feel people themselves are to blame for accepting this treatment, and giving in too easily to the higher prices at the pumps. I’ve seen plenty of petitions on Facebook and circulated through e-mails that suggest a way of instigating consumer power over the petrol companies but because too many people just have to use their car (normally a gas guzzler) to drive a mile down the road to pick up their kids or buy a loaf of bread, means that this never works, why not walk?

Admittedly it is hard to blame people who use their cars for their livelihoods as that would just be stupid to expect them to suffer for the sake of others. What I can’t stand is when people have to use their cars for everything and then complain if petrol is too pricey and yet not offer any action or solution.

This is why I hope that we have another petrol shortage like we did in 2000 as only then will we learn that through serious and meaningful action we are not at the mercy of the price-setters. It would also nice to get one up on the greedy or selfish people who add to the problem. If you don’t intend to do anything about it then don’t complain about it!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Five become more contemporary?

Having now returned to the leafy suburbs of Bromley and a house with Sky TV, I noticed that the children’s classic book series The Famous Five has been remade as a contemporary cartoon series on the Disney Channel.

As I read these books as a child I was naturally curious how it had been approached. As many people who grew up with these books will remember, the books involved a group of 4 upper middle class children (all privately educated at boarding school of course!) and one upper middle class dog (for some reason given the status of a person in spite of not being able to talk and having fleas) going on jovial mystery solving adventures in the 1940’s countryside on their own, eating slap up lunches of cakes, sweets and lashings of Ginger beer. Naturally the books seemed to describe a life style which seems archaic, rather lavish and really quite charming in its way. Ginger beer was the real head scratcher for me as I tried it once or twice and thought it tasted vile; certainly not refreshing or even a treat, still each to there own.

Also there was a certain old school middle class complacency involved in everything which happened. Like for instance the children could stumble upon money laundering rackets or a hidden treasure from the middle ages etc. It was all quite conventional crimes or adventures, nothing like drug running or foreign prostitute smuggling, just twee kinds of crimes. They also somehow managed to not break any laws whilst enacting their vigilante justice (well save for trespassing but it was all seen to be in the greater good).

Unfortunately from what I’ve discovered is that none of that is true any longer as everything seems to have changed. For example it’s not even the same children; it’s their off-spring (well I’m not too sure about the dog). The worst thing about is that the usual diversity considerations are all thrown into the equation as well as the token American character to appease our cousins across the Atlantic, who apparently wont touch something if it hasn’t got a character who calls a pavement a sidewalk. Honestly we cope without token English characters (which is a good thing considering Daphne in Frasier who seems to be from 1950s Manchester rather than today’s).

Apart from pleasing all ethnic profiles, the show is given more up to date crimes such as DVD pirating (those devils!) and also the children are well versed with modern gadgets such as mobiles laptops etc.

So if the characters are different who are they?

(information taken from Wikipedia)

Unfortunately the whole idea of the characters living in modern times and being adrenaline junkies, or gadget fans means all the charm is lost and doesn’t extract a glisteny eyed view of a seemingly perfect world where kids can eat sweets until they burst everyday, there is no fear of stabbing and paedophiles and everyone speaks with a charming regional accent or the queen’s English. Of course there are criminals but even they seem to have a sense of fair play, in that they don’t tend to abuse children (save for the occasional clip round the ear) women, or kill people, the threat of death is still there but it’s a low threat at best. Naturally I know the world was never this idealised but who cares as it was a pleasant place to escape to.

In spite of all the changes I noted on my one viewing that some things never change and that goes for the way that these kids talk in the new series. For instance the phrase “a negative nanny” appeared which if I know contemporary English doesn’t really fit into modern slang. Still it’s better than “LOL OMG ROFL” finding its way in to the mix.

At one point I also wondered if Timmy the dog had been replaced with a chimpanzee, which I was rather ambivalent about as on one hand it would prove a funny example about how modernizers try to cash in with exotic or ridiculous characters. On the other I’m pleased that they stuck to a traditional animal sidekick.

Overall I would have to say I don’t think the modern version will last. I know I could be wrong but there really is no charm or sense of adventure that could be found in the books or previous TV adaptations, it all seems a bit Scooby Doo now. Maybe the reason these books worked in the first place was because they were out of touch with reality. Then again Harry Potter and His Dark Materials suggests more than anything that that is what children probably want from fiction. The modern world is hardly escapist in the end.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Boris Bashing

Hello there, I am back after a long hiatus filled with the joys of revision, coursework and other unpleasant things that remind people that Uni is not a holiday camp (and also debunks the naysayers who dismiss all students as lazy, who can rightfully piss off).

However let’s not talk about me, let’s talk about something I think. Today’s seminar is going to be on Facebook and the London Mayor. The latter of which I must say has saddened me, as we now have a clown for a mayor. Ok I admit he probably is a very intelligent man (as people keep constantly reassuring me) but couldn’t we have chosen a mayor who at least doesn’t make Dick and Dom look more able to maintain a credible public image.

Boris comes across as one of those bumbling idiots who may one day turn around and say something like “cripes chaps I seem to have accidentally sold London for some magic beans,” and if that happens I will be screaming in a very patronising way “I told you so.” I am a realist of course and I doubt it will (even Boris isn’t that bad after all) but I can see some silly things happening during his reign as mayor. Boris himself seems to be a bad statesman too which whether you like it or not, in this day and age is a pre-requisit for someone in charge of any major office. Especially and I stress, in a multicultural area such as London, which has the most diverse population in the country. All it takes is one badly placed comment to cause a potential protest, and it’s not like the press won’t try to force one out of him. In Ken Livingstone’s 8 year tenure as mayor the tabloids tried on a number of occasions to make some mud stick to Red Ken and failed every time and why? Because he was careful, that’s why.

As for policy I must say there isn’t much difference between Ken’s policies except for the usual conservative shizzle of trying to turn everything back to the so called good old days. I am of course referring to the part in Boris’s manifesto to bring Routemaster buses back to streets of London. I just question why, when it will simply just cost a fortune, which of course we’ll end up footing the bill for. And for what on a pointless flight of fancy to make London like how it was in the 60s. What is wrong with bendy buses anyway? I admit I’m not as qualified for comment as some people are as I have actually never used one but I can’t see much harm. Other major cities certainly cope ok with similar models. Besides instead of spending a fortune replacing them why don’t we simply just get used to them and put the money to better use with social programmes (considering the current youth murder moral panic in the media at the moment) or perhaps working on other parts of the transport infrastructure (The Tube perhaps!).

I admit having a clown for a mayor does annoy me somewhat, but what saddens me more is the fact that Facebook is starting to be used as a political tool and was in the campaign for the London Mayor. This mainly applies to my home borough (Bromley) which is one of the most conservative in all of London (which I find amusing and annoying in equal measure, given my centrist/liberal attitude). In other words it’s a safe seat for Boris although a certain politician by the name of James Cleverly (Conservative London Assembly Member for Bexley and Bromley), decided to kindly inform us that the congestion charge was going to be extended to Bromley due to his an article in The Times (which can be found here). As you can see the article doesn’t suggest that this is definite proposal, it just heavily implies it, something which Cleverly was quite happy to exploit. The result of this was a Facebook Group called No to Bromley Congestion Charge which announced the “secret plans” of Ken Livingstone to extend the charge zone.

At first glance even I was a little concerned at the prospect of the charge being extended especially as I commute to and from Cardiff to get to university and could be affected. However when I read further I found the Times were his only source and even then it didn’t propose a real plan as such. All it said was that:

“in 2006, TfL identified areas that might benefit from congestion charging. They were Harrow, Hounslow, Kingston, Sutton, Croydon, Bromley, Ilford, Romford and Wood Green.”

Further to this the source for this article itself was “someone close to the mayor” who considering he is talking off the record 1. Could just be anyone who works in city hall (politician or not) and 2. Have an axe to grind. Therefore I hardly think it’s worth worrying about. However that didn’t matter as Cleverly had rather cleverly managed to exploit Facebook and coerced some uncertain people into voting for Boris, whilst defending himself vigorously claiming he was just informing that this could happen. What I find worse is that a number of people didn’t read between the lines and realize that this guy was simply after easy votes.

A disappointing day for a system of government I find more cynical and shambolic each day. Then again what other way is there?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Crunch Time


Well it’s nice to be out of London again for a bit and back in Cardiff. To be fair the weather here has been uncharacteristically good for April although today has proven to be the exception. Still can’t complain.

I’m not enjoying the work so much, what with the fun of revision coursework and everyday course reading eating in to my freetime (which would otherwise be occupied with Mario Kart in all likelihood). Still it’s nice to be out of the suburbs and back in the student community.

There are certain features you notice in suburbia, especially in a commuter town, with a lot of schools like mine. The chav population is higher for one thing. Well I say Chav, but I really mean small kids who dress in tracksuits and hold on to this hopeless belief that they live in a ghetto and subsequently form ‘crews’ and have fights to prove their worth. It’s all quite deluded and Neanderthal really. The other day proved this point when I encountered some Chavs on my way home from West Wickham (the town I live in although the Chav’s have bastardised the name to sound like ‘Est Ickham’ how street…) and I overheard them discussing about a possible blapsing session, in which I heard one of the tykes claiming ‘I would rather be in fights where I was one of the worst of the best than the best of the worst’, and it all seemed a little naïve. These fights can involve twats with knives and to be fair if they were in one of these fights they aspire to I’d imagine they’d probably shit their pants and run away. After all Chavs are many things but they are not brave.

On to more topical business anyway, and that brings me to the recent credit crunch. All I really think about this is how long has this been coming. No one seemed to realise that having an economy based primarily on borrowing and credit was, well, a bit silly. People seemed to have thrown caution to the wind and taken out massive loans for kind of unnecessary things such as new cars, or house extensions. No one ever seemed to think of saving money should something like this happen. Well its all a bit late to moan about why in any case as we are facing an economic slowdown, and to be fair maybe its time to teach people that spending frivolously is helpful to the economy but people still need to remain within their means.

The government I must say aren’t doing a bad job although lets be fair it is most likely labours economic policy over the last few years has kind of left us in the lurch. After all they were the ones who lead us into the Iraq war and I think enough has been said about that for me to skim over that. In the end wars are expensive and an economically motivated war such as this seems to have only backfired in all our faces, quite frankly I would imagine Saddam Hussain is laughing in his grave.

With the economy slowing in the west we have to wonder could this be the end of the western world’s dominance or the beginning of the end in any case. China must be watching and waiting with some enthusiasm.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Vantage Point Review


To give a brief summary of the plot: The president is due to give a speech at an important peace summit. That is until his is shot and shortly after the event he was speaking at was bombed. What follows is basically the explanation of what really happened from the Vantage Point of various people caught up in the terrorist attack.

Now I don’t know how to approach a film like this as I could see that it carries quite an overt political warning that basically legitimates the war on terror. The whole thing screams out to the American public that the terrorists are one step ahead of the US intelligence and also possess quite ridiculous levels of mobile technology. Now let’s remember one glaring flaw with this fact portrayed, and that is that terrorist’s budgets and technological know-how couldn’t possibly create a mobile phone (as there was in the film) that can blow up bombs remotely or control a remote gun. Then again it did to that end also come across a little like a Sony handheld device advert also, as in all the ‘vantage points’ a Sony Product (be it a video camera or a ‘super phone’) played an important part in the narrative.

Another problem with the narrative was that it did get a little tiresome seeing the same events portrayed time and again (the mayors speech especially). I have no problem with clever or unconventional narrative design (look at Tarantino for example or the Usual Suspects) although they sometimes over relied on specific markers which got annoying quickly.

However for all the nitpicking you can angle at the plot it is a typical action thriller plot, so you can forgive it for its discrepancies and applaud it for its attention to detail, although in some ways it succeeds and fails on both counts. Also for what it’s worth it does make for a compelling and interesting viewing although second time viewings would not be recommended.

Most of the praise for the film I mainly placed on the special effects and cinematography which is pretty much on the mark for a film like this. There’s some slow-mo, explosions, and fast editing thrown into the mix which have the desired effect on the viewer but it does seem almost a little too run of the mill. Yes it excites you at the time but in reflection it feels like the film was a little too business as usual in that sense.

Also the film boasts quite a stellar cast surprisingly, including big names such as Sigourney Weaver, Forest Whitaker and some other smaller but still good performances from Dennis Quaid and Said Taghmaoui (out of La Haine). However it feels like the big names are selling themselves a little short and they don’t feel like they fit into the mix properly.

Overall I would give it maybe 3 Stars out of 5 as it isn’t a bad film intrinsically although it does seem to have been cooked up by someone whose imagination was a little overactive and also the political and product placement shows.

Monday, March 31, 2008

It sucks to be a child these days.

I have now reached the age where childhood becomes something of a memory. However, it hasn’t failed to reach my attention that the childhood of my yesteryear is significantly different to the childhood of 2008.

When I was growing up you could sense that we were riding on the last hurrah of a fairly carefree childhood. Both in school and in life generally, as it was an easier time and a little less pressurised.

Things have changed massively since then, mainly through the amount of exams that kids are forced to do since then. I mean for heavens sake, children are now given homework from the age of 5. Homework didn’t become a thing for my age-group until at least when I was 10 and even then it wasn’t that much. Nowadays kids get somewhere between 1 hour to two hours of homework each night, and this is partially to do with the way that school has been bastardised and turned into key modules which no one gives a damn about. Things like the literacy hour and the numeracy hour immediately spring to mind. Now don’t get me wrong here I’m all for kids receiving a good amount of education, in fact it’s something I stand for as an academic, but when you make learning as dry and clinical as that then it’s really no wonder that illiteracy and innumeracy are becoming problems.

As if the everyday struggles of school weren’t enough of a problem, then kids have the summer to look forward to, a summer of exams that is. It seems that children are tested from the word go now rather than just in years 2 and 6+. I personally think that is abhorrent as childhood should be a time when stress seems like like an impossibly intangible concept that doesn’t matter, much like a good song by the Kooks. Is it any wonder that younger and younger people need professional help from psychologists? Still at least the help is there.

Moving on from school there are other kill-joy factors that are now taking place. Firstly there is this whole business of suing. Children seem to have to be wrapped up in cotton wool as a proviso to do anything worthwhile or fun. The thought of children running around and possibly hurting themselves (as children tend to, after all it’s how they discover the limits of the world) for companies having anything to do with is a common one, and its not made easier by greedy parents out to make a quick buck with injury lawyers 4 you. As a result every fun avenue has to be watered down or even cancelled, for their own safety. Then again what’s the point in saving a life when you fail to have one in the first place?

Another problem with youth is that there’s this whole furore around the recent health craze. I think the most extreme part of this is the way that the government is stepping in and trying to control children so that they can’t even attempt to get fat. Its true, children probably are fatter than they used to be, and yes unhealthy food and things like video games do play a part. But rather than punishing everyone for liking things that are bad for them, why don’t you try and understand why they are avoiding the good things for the. Of course there are numerous reasons including the case detailed above, whereby less people are willing to run youth sports groups in fear of injuries occurring or worse. There also seems to be a reluctance to even let children out on such things once again for their own safety (walking too and from said clubs being the primary problem because who knows a paedo may jump out and fly off with them etc etc worse case scenario drivel). Then there’s the age old problem of money to take into account as many people shy away from some groups because they are expensive. As children are frightened, coerced and ‘protected’ away from sporting pursuits then it is not a surprise so many people are fat.

For the government then to want to try and prevent older children from being allowed off-site at school in fear that they might go into the local corner shop and buy a mars bar instead of an apple strikes me as preposterous. All it does is patronise the younger generation further and creates worries that we are increasingly having our lives manipulated too far from a younger age. I know this kind of manipulation is no where near as bad as something like the Hitler Youth, but really you need to teach a man to fish rather than try and protect him from starving by feeding him fish heads (strange analogy I know).

All I’m saying is let people make mistakes for themselves, yes it is the government’s role to influence matters to a degree but coming in and trying to run everything like this just ruins everyone’s growing up. Let the kids have their fun within reason and let them worry about exams, and diets etc when they are older. It would probably help too if BBC Three and other such channels stopped with programmes like Honey we’re killing our kids too. Let’s remember our parents had even worse stuff to eat when they were growing up but it didn’t matter because they could play games somewhere without someone chasing them off their land in case they scrape their knee and sue the landowner.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Lacking Inspiration

What Can I say except it is hard to focus on things when you have spent the whole day stuffing envelopes. Envelopes that are being sent to big names such as Ross Kemp or Sir Bob Geldof and will probably never be looked at twice before they end up in the bin. Still that's the price I pay for fairly flexible work whilst temping. It's just money at the end of the day.

As a quick moan. Don't you find it annoying when parents of murdered problem children claim their children wouldn't have hurt a fly. How the bloody hell do they normally find themselves in that kind of situation in the first place do you think? I mean there are notable exceptions to the rule like for instance the Rhys Thomas case last year.

Now don't get me wrong the death of a child is a horrible horrible thing, especially if they are killed as an innocent bystander. But in the many cases the child was a little hellion and then for the parents to try and paint a tawdry picture portraying their child as an angel who was just there with the wrong people etc is insulting to our intellegence.

There was one particular case last year near where I live, where a young boy of about 15-16 was killed in what can only be called a gang-fight. His parents then came out and made the point that he was a lovely lad really and wouldn't have hurt a fly. My question then is what was he doing at a gang fight. I bet they were just having a little disagreement over penny sweets that got out of hand. I'm sure he was just stepping in to inform his chums that fighting is against the law and can be punished with a criminal record and was caught up by accident.

Some children quite frankly bite off more than they can chew and I can offer little sympathy to them. For their parents, (who can be delusional but grief does horrible things) I offer 100% sympathy. I do realise this contradicts my previous gripe but is it really necessary for the papers to give their grief space like that. It just makes a fool of everyone.

As you can see I'm not really firing on all cylinders at the moment so I best end it there.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Thought for the time being - Why is Heather Mills still here?

Good Afternoon,

Just as a little pre-amble, I have decided to revive my blog. Why? Well because, you know it’s something to do and it helps with my writing. It’s going to be more of the same really a few details about my life, with a little bit of social commentary on current affairs. Some of consequence and others of none, but not everything in life needs to be of consequence after all.

Just to fill in what’s been happening with me (if anyone reads this to find out how I’m doing then thank you, we should go out for a pint sometime), I’m still at Uni and living with 4 out of the 8 people I lived with last year. My course has been good if a little bit difficult in certain moments. Although I get the impression some lecturers mark harshly on purpose in the second year to scare us, as everyone seems to be getting lower marks. Nothing much else has happened really, although I am becoming slightly spiritual in a Buddhist sense and I also am now a radio producer for a nice little show which I like to think combines banter with a little bit of cultural knowledge (as I said, I like to think that).

Well now that’s done lets get on with the matter at hand, Heather Mills-McCartney (aka Lady Mucca, Long John Silver, Golddigger etc). I don’t really like to get involved in such bitchy hate campaigns normally, but this whole thing has become ridiculous. Especially as I may end up in the PR industry, I find her displays quite frankly embarrassing and if she is being represented by a company, then people need to stay away from them like Northern Rock’s directors from the company accounts.

Now I know that divorces are hard for people and that money is often an issue. However, when the amounts of money talked about (something like £120 million) are presented as essential for living, then I have a hard time taking that seriously. As Mill’s said herself, about the way this may impact on her daughter Beatrice:

“Beatrice only gets £35,000 a year - so obviously she's meant to travel B class while her father travels A class"

Now let’s just make one thing clear! This toddler is earning £35,000 a year, which is more than some people will earn a year this year, a good £15,000 or so more than I expect to earn when I find employment. It doesn’t matter who her dad is (and to be fair to Sir Paul, I expect that he will probably end up spending more on her than that, I mean she’s probably going to get a yacht for Christmas this year or something) that’s a lot of money for an infant. I used to get £1 pocket money a week when I was her age and I though that was enough for me.

Also what a horrific thought, that poor little Beatrice won’t be able to travel first class anymore on her flights. I mean, perish the thought she may have to travel economy with the normals, eat the bad plane food, and have a sub-par in flight film. What next luxury will be taken from this poor little mite according to ‘Ms Mills’:

  • She may only be able to afford one horse for her stables this year
  • She’ll only a get one Mercedes sports car for her birthday one year
  • She can’t hire out the Ritz for her birthday party, and will have to make do with the Dorchester
  • She can’t have Caviar for breakfast everyday except weekends.

How anyone can live in such squalor boggles the mind….

Of course I was being sarcastic, but if that doesn’t suggest that Mills is a gold digger, then I don’t think anything will. I mean when you have £24 million pounds you are set for life and that is that. The fact that she wanted 100 times that amount says that this is about greed rather than her daughter welfare and a mother using her daughter in that way is hideous.

Also to come out and assume that people will feel that she has been hard done by, in the result of this case, is naïve bordering insanity.

Well rant over anyway