Saturday, July 31, 2004

Shiny happy people

Jamie from Blood and Treasure has been to Hartlepool. He returns with a heartwarming tale:
Tom and I were sitting at a table in the corner. Tom was making crack pipes on which I was stenciling the words: a present from Charles Kennedy to the children of Hartlepool.

“So” said Tom. “You came in your pants.” I nodded.

“Good.” He leant forward. “That means you’re one of us. Take a look around.” The bright eyed volunteers were bobbing around the room with crack pipers and wads of Kleenex. Each had a tell-tale stain around the crutch. Apart from the women. They just squelched a bit.

“All of us in New Labour love Hartlepool. We love it so much that it makes us come in our pants. Being here makes us come in our pants. Thinking about being here makes us come in our pants. All decent human beings come in their pants at the thought of Hartlepool. And that goes all the way to the top.”

The Cheney clause

Want to see US Vice-President Cheney speak? Everyone's welcome, providing they make a little declaration first:
I, (full name) ... do herby [sic] endorse George W. Bush for reelection of the United States." It later adds that, "In signing the above endorsement you are consenting to use and release of your name by Bush-Cheney as an endorser of President Bush.

And OK, maybe it's a private Republicans-only event, but surely they don't also need to know the race of photographers assigned to the event as well?

President Bush's re-election campaign insisted on knowing the race of an Arizona Daily Star journalist assigned to photograph Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Star refused to provide the information.

Cheney is scheduled to appear at a rally this afternoon at the Pima County Fairgrounds.

A rally organizer for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign asked Teri Hayt, the Star's managing editor, to disclose the journalist's race on Friday. After Hayt refused, the organizer called back and said the journalist probably would be allowed to photograph the vice president.

Both via Atrios

Damn liberal media

You know they didn't give us the full truth about the Democratic Convention. Luckily, TBogg is on hand to give us the true story:
Apparently, instead of a massive balloon drop, hundreds of Hillary Ninjas rappelled down to the stage and systematically slaughtered those who had not rendered unto Hillary what was rightfuly Hers. Then Hillary rose up from behind the podium on a hydraulic lift (in a marvelous bit of stagecraft lifted from Madonna's Blond Ambition Tour) holding the severed head of John Kerry in the air, Her fangs glistening with the blood of aborted Christian babies. A shrieking Joe Lieberman was then immolated on an inverted cross while Chris Lehane, Sid Blumenthal, and Wesley Clark capered about him wearing black capes, thigh-high leather boots, and nothing else. The delegates were then herded into compounds where the women were forced to don black pantsuits and the all of the men were neutered except for those that possessed the "equipment" to saisfy Her unnatural cravings. Later, cake was served.

While there's still a chance...

I'm thinking of going up to Hartleppol for a few days to help out with the by-election campaign. Given today's news, I wonder if this might be the last chance to go out onto the doorsteps and start knocking on doors:
The detail of the proposal will make it an offence for a person to be "outside a home for the purpose of representing to or persuading the resident, or anyone else, that he should not do something he is entitled to do, or that he should do something he is not obliged to do, and causing harassment, alarm or distress to the resident"...

...It would apply even if each individual is harassed on only one occasion, a Home Office spokesman said.

Though of course these laws are only designed to stop Bad People doing Bad Things and won't ever be used for anything else. Oh no. That never happens, does it?

Still, if I ever get pissed off with the Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons coming round, I can always claim that they're causing me 'alarm or distress'.

Something for the geek-end

I'm sure there are others of you reading this who'll like looking at these pictures from the filming of the new Doctor Who series on location at a council estate in Cardiff.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Meanwhile, in the North East...

Liberal Democrats select their candidate for Hartlepool. After deciding that mobile phones were bad in Hodge Hill, it now seems that lawyers will be the bad guys for Hartlepool, though of course it's just a coincidence that Jody Dunn, the Lib Dem candidate happens to be one. Of course, there are no lawyers in the Labour party, though a voice in my head keeps whispering Caesar's wife...Caesar's wife

Meanwhile, the voices in Tom Watson's head start going on about 'crackheads and junkies' again. Keep it up Tom - another 27% swing will do nicely.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Sense of humour failure

Bob reminded me by mentioning it in the comments, and it's been in all the newspapers, but just in case you haven't seen it already, here's the spoof of the Government's Preparing for Emergencies website. The real site can be found here, of course.

Of course, the Government don't approve. Because if people are amused, they won't be scared, and if they're not scared they can't be corralled like sheep into doing as they're told. Slumber now, beloved subjects, go back to bed, your government is in control. All is well. Remain calm. Vote Labour.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Hartlepool

Couple of sites of interest in the Hartlepool by-election: Guacamoleville, a blog covering the latest news from there and the Hartlepool Liberal Democrats site.

And it seems I've found an answer to one minor trivial question - why the local football team used to be called Hartlepools United: among the facts about the town on Guacamoleville I learned that 'The Borough of Hartlepool was created in 1974 following the merger of Hartlepool and West Hartlepool' which presumably explains it.

Spot the difference

Ideas + People = Change - The Young Fabians

Fact X Importance = News - The Day Today

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Sometimes even the loons can make me smile

This should make the next election rather interesting, not that it wasn't already shaping up that way:
UKIP fielded 434 candidates at the last general election but, buoyed by a strong showing at this June's European polls, is aiming for a full slate next time round.

Under the plan being pushed by some UKIP MEPs, the party would pledge not to stand at the next election against MPs of any party who signed a letter saying Britain should pull out of the EU.

Should give Tory MPs in marginal seats a few sleepless nights, anyway.

Because almost 50% of people are of below median intelligence

For possibly the first and last time, here's some selections from an article in the Daily Mail:
Many parents wrongly fear that scores of children are murdered every year and perceive paedophiles as "slimy and lonely", a survey reveals.
Figures found that parents thought 171 children were killed each year after being abducted by strangers, 28 times more than the actual number of six murders, an average figure which has stood since 1972, the study said.

But a further 30% said that child molesters were untidy, slimy, anxious, lonely and always looking at kids, research for ITV1's Tonight with Trevor McDonald programme revealed.

No word from the Mail as to why peopel might believe this, of course, but then it's free to say what it wants as it's obvious that no paedophile has ever even looked at the Mail. At least, I assume their research shows that because otherwise their regular habit of printing pictures of young girls along with discussions of how they're 'blooming nicely' would be at least hypocritical and at worst extremely dangerous.

More on this from Green Fairy and Chris Brooke.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Will this do? (again)

Back when Stephen Pollard wrote his 'I don't like Glastonbury, ooh, I'm so controversial' piece, I speculated on his next offering to the poor newspaper readers of Britain:
of me thinks it'll be 'Wayne Rooney is a tosser' or 'Why I hate football' (though, as he's already confessed to supporting Spurs, we already knew that) though there's always other fearless contrarianism like 'Why more people should kick puppies', 'Jesus, how I hate the taste of ice cream', 'We must extinguish the sun now', 'How dare these nanny staters tell me that banging my head against a brick wall repeatedly might be bad for me and it could be a good idea for me to stop' or 'Really, newspapers will fill their comment sections with any old toss nowadays, won't they?'

Well, we all knew it was going to be the latter in someway or other and today I discover (via the Stoa) that it's the Tour de France that finds itself facing a ruthlessly humourous dissection being moaned about to fill space in the silly season. Really, I can't put it any better than Chris:

Are the only people more stupid and ignorant than Pollard the editors who pay him for his dross?

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Does the News of the World have a Lib Dem bias?

No, I don't seriously think that, but it's interesting that it was a poll for the NotW last year that gave the highest Liberal Democrat figure (31%, in a three-way tie) for several years and a new Populus poll in today's paper (as reported by Labour Watch) gives Labour 30% (-3), Conservatives 28% (-1), Lib Dems 28% (+4) and others 14% (no change). The figures in brackets are the difference from Populus' previous poll for the Times earlier this month. It does bring up some rather different figures from the two result calculators, probably because the Lib Dem and Other figures are a bit out of the scope of Martin Baxter's calculator - that gives Labour 323 seats, Conservatives 147, Lib Dems 144. Anthony's swing calculator on the other hand gives Labour 346, Conservatives 175 and Lib Dems 92. (Update: Apologies, forgot to modify the figures to account for the larger 'Others' share as Martin suggests - that does give similar figures to Anthony - approximately 349, 174, and 92, if I got my maths right)

It's interesting to note that Populus are now giving a limited breakdown of the 'Others' vote (as are the ICM/Guardian) though the problem is that when you're dealing with single-figure percentages the margin of error in these polls becomes much more apparent. ICM's 10% of others gave 3% each to UKIP, Greens and SNP/Plaid Cymru and 1% for all other parties, while Populus previous Times poll (and remember, the 14% total is the same in the NotW poll) gives UKIP 6%, Greens 2%, SNP 2%, Plaid Cymru 1%, BNP 2% and all others 1%.

The question now, of course, is what effect votes for the other parties will have - is that 14% being drawn evenly from all three main parties or is it affecting one party more than the others? Plus, how evenly is it spread out across the country? I expect we'll have to wait until the next General Election to see the full picture, which at least means it'll be much more fun than the Beckettian (Samuel, not Margaret) spectacle of last time - a lot of words, but not much actually happening.

Plato and the superheroes

So, last night I ended up searching through the web for information on Gene Roddenberry's failed series Strange New World (it's a long story) which helped to reveal just how much he liked to reuse plots no matter how many times pilots based on them failed right down to character names - one wonders just what was so special about the name 'Dylan Hunt' to Roddenberry that it got used for the main character in two failed pilots before finally succeeding in Andromeda...which featured a man frozen in time trying to rebuild civilisation. Again.

(Bizarre coincidence: this got mentioned in a SHWI post today)

Anyway, I digress. My search helped me discover this rather fun site which has reviews of lots of obscure, strange and just plain bad films including much of the fodder that fills video stores and the late night hours on obscure cable channels. It's good if only for the fact it proves that I'm not the only person in the world to have seen and remembered such 'delights' as Radioactive Dreams and Krull but it was a line in a review of Sylvester Stallone's execrably bad Cobra that got my attention and prompted the main point of this post:
What makes a movie bad is how ineptly it accomplishes what it meant to accomplish. (That's so simple, it's almost Zen.) Thus, an exploitative soft-core movie (such as would be produced by, say Surrender Cinema) cannot truly be called "bad" simply because it's chock-ful of simulated sex scenes -- that's the raison d'etre of the movie, after all. On the other hand, most Surrender Cinema movies bite because they fail to be actually, you know, seductive. Failure to accomplish the implicit objectives.

Or, to get away from examples that you don't want your mother knowing you're familiar with, this is the reason that I'm one of the few reviewers to give Carnosaur 2 high marks. Sure, it's a mindless little movie about dinosaurs chomping humans in a nuclear installation -- but it's a tight, entertaining mindless little movie about etc.

So when we look at a movie like, say, Cobra (quit yer bellyaching -- Ken Begg would have been another thousand words into the review before he got to the point), we have to judge it against what it was obviously trying to be -- comparing the mortal Cobra with the platonic ideal of Cobra, if you will, and measuring the discrepancy.

Probably because I went to see Spider-Man 2 during the week, this got me thinking about comic-based movies. Specifically, why many comic-based movies feel disappointing even when they're not particularly bad movies.

And that's where the quote comes in - because so many of them fall short of the ideal form they could have attained. Now, this is a problem with many films - you can often tell, watching a bad movie, what the creators were aiming for but failed to reach, and adaptations from other media always have the original to try and live up to - but I'm just going to stick with comic-based movies as I know more about the subject and gives me an excuse (not that it's really needed) to put the metaphorical boot into Keanu Reeves. And anyway, if this post fails to interest you, be assured that the platonic ideal form of it would have done. (Note however, that the platonic ideal of a weblog post has been written)

You would think that adapting a comic (especially an ongoing one) into a movie would be pretty easy. After all, you're not only adapting an existing character or characters, you've also got several years (decades, even) of stories to pick from when choosing something that would make a good movie. So why, I always wonder, do the movie studios in their infinite wisdom decide to go for completely new stories which, almost inevitably, are not as good as ones that have already been published? It's not as if any of them are going to be that well known. For instance, the first Batman movie isn't a bad film, but as an examination of the relationship between Batman and The Joker it's not a patch in terms of story to, say, The Killing Joke. The ideal (or something a lot closer to the ideal, at least) already exists, so why not use it? Why just come out with some bowdlerized version?

I think that's why the Spider-Man films have been successful critically as well as commercially. At the risk of offending any hardcore Spider-Man fans who may be reading this, he hasn't inspired the same level of comic-book storytelling as other heroes and so, while the films are good, they don't have as high a target to aim for so seem better because they're closer to the ideal. There's no sense of missed potential in the films because there's not as much potential to miss. Compare that to Daredevil which was not only a poorer film, but also played a game of pick-and-mix with some of Frank Miller's best stories. There was a potentially great movie to be made from Miller's stories, but the potential was missed...annoyingly so, as they came really close in some of the non-superpowered parts. If there's ever a Daredevil 2, I dread to think of the damage they could do to Born Again.

Which brings me to the bit you've read all this way down for: Constantine. It does look like it may be the ideal form of something, but unfortunately that's just going to be the question 'What the hell were they thinking?'. Just how did whoever was responsible for this movie decide that the best way to portray the character of John Constantine - a blond English antihero, a man capable of conning the Devil yet haunted by the ghosts of those he's betrayed in the past, a man who can save the world but not be able to afford a pint to celebrate afterwards, the rake at the gates of Hell - was to make him American and get a barely animated plank of wood Keanu Reeves to play him? Yes, a man whose sole talent is to say 'woah' while looking utterly blank to anything going on around him. One of the only reasons people think the Matrix films are deep and philosophical is merely because he looks utterly baffled throughout them. (You can already see Keanu's meagre talent at work in the movie's trailer, if you're particularly masochistic)

I'm not asking for perfect replication of Hellblazer in the movie (though I still don't understand why anyone other than Daniel Craig was even considered for the role), but somewhere out there in all the alternate universes there's one where there's a John Constantine movie or TV series that's not so hopelessly miscast (Chas played by a teenage boy?) and someone actually bothered to look at the comics before writing it and realised that the Hunger Demon story that launched the comic would make a great first film. Even I can appreciate that it might be a bit much to give the audience Dangerous Habits without some preparation.

But Keanu? Carrying a gun in the shape of a cross? All is for the worst in the worst of all possible worlds. Hey, maybe that alternate universe didn't have to endure The Phantom Menace as well. Lucky bastards.