Saturday, June 21, 2003

Mark Lawson's best columns usually come when he's writing about the arts, and his column today is an example of that - a good piece on how 'success' in the arts world is often now discussed in financial, rather than artistic terms.

I don't have anything to add to his main point, but he makes a point about film distribution in Britain that reminded me to write about the subject:
At the other end of the measure, three remarkable foreign movies were released in the UK yesterday: The Crime Of Father Amaro from Mexico, and Summer Things and Etre Et Avoir from France. Though vastly superior to the American thrillers and rom-coms given lavish publicity and distribution alongside them, this trio of high-class cinema receive back-street releases and are not even reviewed in some newspapers. Thus guaranteed to fail at the British box office, they are as pre-destined to disappear as the Harry Potter novel is to dominate.
Firstly, what's interesting is that he doesn't go for the traditional lament when discussing this subject of blaming the public for a film's lack of success, but correctly points out that there are a lot of films that people don't get to hear about, and even if they do, never get the chance to see it.

The one film that I remember most in this context is the excellent film Croupier, which was originally released in Britain, got good reviews but didn't do too well, then got released in America, became a cult hit which led to it being re-released in Britain accompanied by lots of 'why oh why do people not go to see good British films until they've been hits in America?' comments. The answer's quite simple - because people didn't get the chance to see it. Like so many films, its 'British release' was to a few cinemas in London and perhaps a few screens in other big cities, but for the vast majority of people there was no chance to see it because their local cinemas were showing whatever over-hyped Hollywood blockbuster was out that week. Even on re-release it didn't get to most cinemas and I didn't get a chance to see it till it came out on video. (If you haven't seen it yet, you really should)

Working in London, I've been able to catch a few films that I would have missed otherwise - Series 7, The Tao of Steve and Dancer in the Dark spring to mind - but I've only seen those films because I was in London anyway. I like films, especially when you can find a good one that no one else has seen and recommend it to them, but I'm not going to make a trip up to London especially to see one because it just costs far too much (okay, I might make an exception if Battle Royale 2 gets a British release).

The point is that there is a market out there for these films, but a combination of the policies of the distributors and cinema chains, combined with the belief that 'people don't want to see these films' means they never get shown outside London and a few big cities. Instead, we get the crap like 2 Fast 2 Furious foisted upon us repeatedly and then everyone wonders what happened to the British film industry?'

Friday, June 20, 2003

via Iain Murray, I've discovered that Channel 4 News now has a weblog to which viewers can submit their own links. It doesn't seem to be completely open-access (either that, or no one ever submits jokes/fake websites/porn etc to them, so they don't need to edit them out) but there's some interesting links there, plus it's an interesting use of weblogging as an interactive medium between broadcasters and viewers.
I've not really been paying too much attention to the 'Church of England appoints gay Bishop shock' story mainly because, as an atheist, I find theological arguments to basically consist of grown men arguing over who knows the most about their imaginary friend. However, Giles Fraser did make a nice little statement in his Guardian article today, and it'd be a shame if it was to be missed:
Everything before the but is bullshit. It's a useful hermeneutic rule when dealing with sentences of the type: "I'm not racist, but..."
Can we call it Fraser's Law? A quick Googling doesn't show it being used that much beforehand.
It's almost time for the Summer Solstice, which means which means lots of 'Druids' get to go and parade their historical ignorance at places like Stonehenge and Avebury and lazy journalists can write articles about how 'paganism is on the rise in Britain' (found via The Poor Man). It's your typical bit of recycled journalism - mentioning both Buffy and Harry Potter (with bonus points for a mention of Sabrina The Teenage Witch as well) as well as getting the obligatory quote from the Evangelical Alliance: “The Evangelical Alliance calls on government and TV regulatory bodies to monitor programs which promote or glamorize Pagan issues,” I wonder if that's the message on the EA's answering machine, or do they have a choice of messages?

You've reached the Evangelical Alliance. Press 1 for a denunciation of paganism, 2 for a denunciation of homosexuality, 3 for a critique of the Archbishop of Canterbury for allowing paganism and homosexuality to happen...
Bobbie at PolitX has a good article on why we shouldn't be letting the right hijack the issue of Iran:

This is not a party political issue. This is not a game. These people are not pawns in an argument over 'whose world view is better'.

But, I'm sure it won't be long before (it's probably happened already, I just haven't seen it) before someone starts saying 'you're just objectively pro-Ayatollah' or some such insult. Like I said at PolitX, I'm dully in favour of Iran of having a secular democratic government, one where the leadership of the country doesn't have to call on the blessings of some invisible friend in the sky to justify itself and its policies. But then, I'd like to see that in every country...

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Apparently, the story that Powergen's new Italian subsidiary had begun operations at the domain has a slight problem in that it isn't true. Powergen don't even have an Italian division.
Conservative MP Tim Yeo now has a weblog. Except he doesn't, because this one has been set up by Tim of Bloggerheads to help highlight Yeo's hypocrisy - last week he made a big fuss about how Tony Blair doesn't have an email address, but doesn't actually answer his own email. Still, there's a nice picture of Tim Yeo on Bloggerheads' page about the whole issue.
Ryan at Beatniksalad has a good post on the current situation in Iran, pulling together news and views from various different sources.
I'm a bit late on this one, but no one else seems to have noticed it either! Labour MP Paul Daisley (Ken Livingstone's successor in Brent East) died yesterday. The Guardian and the Times have obituaries.

It means the Government will have to face a by-election in what should be a safe constituency (results from previous elections) complicated by the fact that the constituency itself is due to disappear at the next election, being split between Paul Boateng's Brent South and Glenda jackson's Hampstead and Highgate.
Here's something that's both interesting and amusing. Someone decided to reply to a '419' email scam, to see if they could find some way of luring him out into the open. It's an interesting record of their email and phone conversation, complete with photoshopped pictures, stalking a man round Dubai airport and several quotations of 'Solomon Grundy'.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Bet you can't guess which site takes you to... Note to any passing conspiracy theorists with a shaky grasp on both reality and humour - it's a joke. (via Al Storer)
Fifty-two per cent of people (in Britain) say they back an EU constitution, up three points from the previous poll, with 9 per cent against the idea and 39 per cent of people saying they don't know.

The survey also shows that Britons are less concerned about keeping national vetoes than almost any other EU nation. Four out of 10 say they must be retained to preserve essential national interests - with only the Spanish registering a lower figure.

One in five Britons believes the veto should be "limited to a very few essential areas", while 12 per cent say they should be given up "for all decisions in order to make the EU more efficient".

Any volunteers to break this news to the Daily Mail?
For those of you coming here from Atrios, looking for the latest right wing lie, you want this post by me (or just scroll down to the headline Danger Will Robinson! Right Wing circle jerk in progress!), Harry's posts from yesterday headlined Eurosteria or More Lies (and a few laughs) - his permalinks are bloggered - or this piece by Iain Coleman.
Remember Afghanistan? How everything there is now fine and we need pay no attention to it?
KARACHI - Such is the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, compounded by the return to the country of a large number of former Afghan communist refugees, that United States and Pakistani intelligence officials have met with Taliban leaders in an effort to devise a political solution to prevent the country from being further ripped apart. (found via Beatniksalad)

Move along, nothing to see here...

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Another MP has started a weblog - this time it's Richard Allan, Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam. He's Lib Dem spokesman on IT, so it's good to see him embracing new technology.

Of course, this now means I'm in a minority. What with this new blog and Iain Coleman becoming a councillor last month, I'm now the only Liberal Democrat blogger who doesn't hold an elected position! Unless, of course, there's a Lib Dem blog out there I've not heard of...or someone I have heard of isn't confessing their political allegiance.

So, when do we get the first Conservative MP with a weblog?
Stuart Jeffries has a good article in today's G2, asking just what the point of all the various new gizmos and gadgets that appear every day is. (Though a gadget that could bash me over the head when I write a sentence as ungrammatical as that might have some use)

Our consumerist technological zeitgeist is summed up in a question from Stuff, the techno-geek mag, in a recent article despairing of cyborg technology: "We've launched missions to Mars, so why can't we build a robot to pour us a drink?" The proper answer, surely, is that while interplanetary exploration is conceivably a noble human aspiration, needing a robot to pour your pop is the hallmark of the idle ponce.

That's why the Innovations catalogue has disappeared - its work is done, and we are all slaves to the gadget.
Danger Will Robinson! Right wing circle jerk in progress!

Ah, summer. The sun high in the sky, the smell of freshly mown grass hangs in the air, the noise of kids playing outside until late... But what's that sound in the distance? That moaning, groaning and slapping sound? Why, it's the first right wing internet circle jerk of the summer!

Yes, it's that wonderful time when they all gather in a circle to reinforce their prejudices based on the flimsiest of facts while screaming 'lalala we can't hear you!' at anyone who tries to stop them. Sometimes these circle jerks are known to summon up one of their patron saints (St Glenn Instapundit or St Andrew Milkyloads) to scatter down blessings and referrals upon them.

So, what's this one all about? Like many other right wing circle jerks this one is centred a whole new Euro-myth, giving them the chance to rail against 'our would be masters' in Brussels and bring out the old Stalin and Hitler comparisons. Look on the bright side, at least they haven't gone for the Paisleyite idea of branding anything related to the EU as the work of the Devil and/or the Antichrist (who may well also be the Pope).

What's stirred their ire this time is the revelation that the Council of Europe has been discussing the issue of right of reply in online media. Now, the proposals are a pretty mixed bag, and probably unworkable, but as they refer to online media, it means that right wing bloggers can make that huge jump in logic they love and proclaim that it's all about them and not those minor other websites that get in the way of the great circle jerk. (see here and here for examples)

Now, those of you reading this with any understanding of international organisations may be scratching your heads at this point, wondering what all the fuss is about. After all, the Council of Europe is a separate organisation from the EU and doesn't have the power to make laws, as just a quick look on their website will tell you:

The Council of Europe should not be confused with the European Union. The two organisations are quite distinct...
The Council of Europe's work leads to European conventions and agreements in the light of which member states may subsequently harmonise and amend their own legislation to comply with them.

So, we 've got an organisation that is not the EU, and doesn't have any power to pass laws, but can set standards that member states may adopt should they want to. As the proposal on right of reply that started all this circle jerking states:

(The Committee of Ministers) Recommends that the governments of the member States should consider introducing measures in their domestic law or practice so as to extend the right of reply to the on-line media along the lines of the following principles:

Note the use of the word 'recommends' (not 'forces member states against their will') and the phrase 'along the lines of' (not 'you shall adopt this exact policy or be sent to the Euro-camps'). Hardly the work of a 21st century Josef Stalin, is it? But like almost all the Euro-myths, who needs truth when you've got your 'everything to do with Europe is bad' blinkers on and can spin something into what you want it to be to fit your paranoia about the 'Euro-commisars' and all their evil plots against you and your freedoms?

Still, I'm just a voice in the wilderness here. I'm sure that the message 'the EU wants to censor the internet and throw you all in jail for not complying with it' will have circled the world a few times by now. After all, what's a bit of missing truth amongst friends?

Still, if all that's depressed you, then go and read Harry Hatchet's excellent pro-European piece to cheer you up.

Update: Harry's also got a good post on this story as well.
Wow. The International Whaling Commission has voted to change its role ' towards conserving whales, rather than managing how many are caught.' I was reading about this in the papers over the weekend and the belief then was that Japan and Norway had managed to amass enough pro-whaling votes to block this move, and maybe even overturn the moratorium on commercial whaling, so this is good news. However, I'm not an expert on whaling, so I don't know what the effect would be if Japan carries out it's threat to leave the IWC in response to this new direction.

Greenpeace are very happy about this, as you'd expect. They also have a good brief guide to what the new role of the IWC - the Berlin Initiative - involves.
Jez Smith (of the aptly named Jezblog) is producing a multilingual weblog glossary (or bloglossary for fans of neologisms), translating various blogging and web terminology into other languages to help cross-cultural understanding on the internet - or just to make it easier for American bloggers to insult the French. I've already discovered that one of the Portuguese words for 'blog' is blogus.

Anyway, he needs people to help with translations into other languages (he's already going well on French, Spanish and Portuguese) and as I'm useless at languages, I thought I'd mention it here in the hope that any multi-lingual readers I may have can lend a hand.

Personally, I want to see the translations into Welsh and whether they go for the 'keep the same pronunciation but use Welsh spelling' approach that gives us words like Tacsi and Ffacs or the 'does this word really need vowels?' approach that gave us the Welsh version of place names in Pembrokeshire.

Monday, June 16, 2003

The Labour Party's website has been hacked (via Absurdistan). I just took a look at the site, and though the BBC are claiming all was put back to normal by 0945 this morning, it still seems hacked to me. There's something on there about Labour being a 'democratic socialist' party, for a start...
Another bit of alternate football history: The all time English league table. It's just every teams results since they joined the league all added together and ranked in order. Some might say I'm only posting it because it places Wolves 4th (all those years riding high in Division 1 without getting promotion have paid off) and they'd be only partially right. I'm also posting it because it's a league table that doesn't have Man Utd on top - Liverpool beat them by 15 points.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

I know I've got at least one reader in Oklahoma who'll enjoy this story (from the back page of today's Independent):
Anthony Phillips had an inkling that the job interview wasn't going well when his prospective boss called police to have him arrested. Staff at the Oklahoma firm recognised him as the man caught on security camera robbing them just the day before. He didn't get the job.