All is Quiet

I haven’t been posting much lately, although I doubt that anyone’s reading this anyway. Not that I ever check the logs for traffic, but there you go. I was planning to write something in response to Eric Raymond’s post on Today’s treason of the intellectuals, but haven’t had the time as of yet. Hopefully I will, but it’s looking like it’ll be a bit delayed, if it ever appears. Oh well.

Censoring Adverts

The BBC reports that an advert for a satirical cartoon, 2DTV, has been banned for being insulting to President Bush. To my mind this is utterly ridiculous. I’m sure that President Bush isn’t going to lose a great deal of sleep over what a few satirists in the UK have to say about him – I imagine that he’s got more important things on his mind.

Not to mention the fact that public figures are by their very occupations open to ridicule – This is one of the things which marks a free society. You do not seek to become a high profile politician, a movie star, musician or sportsman without some expectation that someone out there will end up taking the piss out of you. This is fundamentally different to libel or slander.

The Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC), the body responsible for clearing ads for broadcast, argue that President Bush hasn’t granted his permission for his appearance in the ad, and so it can be banned. If this is indeed the letter of the law, then I suggest that it’s a bad law, and I’d argue that in essence he has granted this “permission” purely by seeking to occupy the role that he does. It goes with the territory. (Note that ads are apparently subject to stricter regulation than actual TV shows.)

There might be some mileage in having guidelines which discourage the mocking portrayal of people in adverts where the context doesn’t fit, but in this case the show in question is a satire and the context couldn’t be more appropriate.

Living in the Future

Heard a couple of titbits in the news this morning that serve to remind that we already live in the future.

In the UK a Doctor calls for public debate about the ethics of Face Transplantation. Apparently this could be of benefit in reconstructive surgery where the patient has suffered extensive damage to their, err, face.

Dr. Severino Antinori, the Italian famed for being a vocal proponent of human cloning, announces that the first three human clone births are imminent.

Die Another Day

Note: this might contain spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen the film.

I think that I’m getting too old for Bond. Went to see the new one last night and have to say that while it was fun, it was also disappointing. Now I know that one shouldn’t expect too much from Bond movies, but still.

At first I found it a little difficult to pin down exactly what it was that I didn’t like, I just left the Cinema with a feeling of disappointment. I certainly found that the film didn’t quite carry my attention, although that might have had something to do with the irritating group of teenagers who kept whooping whenever Halle Berry appeared on the screen. I think that the film suffers from trying to compete with the modern action movie, where constant fast-paced action sequences and flashy effects take precedence over scene setting and plot development. From what I recall of the Bond films from earlier decades there was often a lot of scene setting along with the action, and what action there was wasn’t always of the breakneck variety prevalent in today’s action movies. This can probably be partly explained by the capabilities of new technology (not to mention the enthusiastic desire to use it as much as possible), but it doesn’t always make for a good film. DAD was basically a series of intense action sequences spliced together with a small amount of banter and a bit of background, and I think that it suffered from trying to follow this model. Leave it to Vin Diesel. Please.

I also suffered a lapse in my suspension of disbelief faculty, which can take quite a lot given the amount of SF I read (although that can often make it a more rigorous faculty, but that’s a different subject). Bond movies pretty much have to contain a plethora of cool gizmos, but the car’s invisibility mode… I know, I know – in the past there’ve been lots of similar things, but this got to me. The improvised windsurfing escape also boggled a bit, as did the fact that the aeroplane managed to survive it’s trip though Icarus’ beam of concentrated sunlight (well, maybe it just clipped the edge or something). The sheer quantity of ideas caused a bit of overload too.

Brosnan makes an OK Bond, although I always find his delivery of the trademark quips a little unconvincing. Maybe it’s just growing up with Connery and Moore, but those two could both pull this aspect of the role off far better than either Dalton or Brosnan. He gets higher marks on the sophisticated amoral killer persona. I happen to like Dench as M and Cleese as Q, Dench gets that exasperated-with-but-fond-of relationship with Bond just right, and Cleese is, well, Cleese, and I suppose that if you like him then you’ll like him in this role.

Over all DAD gave me the impression of being an action movie trying to be a Bond movie. This isn’t the first time that I’ve felt this about the more recent offerings, and I think that there’s something about the whole franchise that doesn’t quite work for me outside of the context of the 60s and 70s. Having said that, I’ll probably go and see the next one (apparently Brosnan has agreed to do another), and I’m sure that it will proove to be an entertaining couple of hours. Despite my gripes, the film is watchable and entertaining and has some good set pieces (I enjoyed the sword fight), but I don’t rate this as classic Bond. Go watch it, and make up your own mind.

A New Name

I was never really happy with calling this blog “Sam’s Online
Journal”, I just had a failure of imagination when setting it
up. But thanks to Polly, it now has a new name – as you can probably
tell. No one else seems to have used it before, judging from a quick
google anyway.

Politics turns off the young

The BBC reports the results of a survey on political attitudes in the young by the National Foundation for Educational Research. Unsurprisingly, one conclusion is that the majority of youngsters in the UK are not particularly interested in “Politics”. This is not a particularly revelatory finding – concern has been expressed over this for some time now.

The respondents were asked to gauge how much they agree with the statement “I am interested in politics”, and I suspect that this has skewed the results somewhat as interpretations of what falls under the definition of “politics” vary. Certainly the main thrust seems to be that there is widespread disillusionment with Parliamentary Party Politics, and who can be surprised. The major political parties in the UK don’t offer any radical differences in their macro-level policies; the devil is, as they say, always in the detail. The only really major issue where there is some divergence is the Euro, but then whoever is in power when this comes to a head will have to take the question to a referendum anyway. With what appears to be such little real choice, who can blame the young for disregarding the process? This can’t be helped by the constant reports of attempted media manipulation – particularly the more cynical forms – and the fact that debates in the Commons often seem like a game of Who’s Soundbite is it anyway, that is when the speakers are not being drowned out by incoherent heckling.

The study did suggest that the young are more interested in politics of a non-party political nature – social issues, exactly the sort of politics where they feel they can participate and possibly see the effects of their actions. Parliament has to seem less remote for people to want to be involved. Precisely how this can be achieved is, of course, open to debate, but it’s important if we want to reverse the trend away from participation in national politics. A more diverse mixture of views in Parliament itself would probably help, and that’s one of the reasons I see potential value in electoral reform – whatever it’s faults, Proportional Representation has the potential to introduce a wider spread of views into the process, and it would be good to see this back on the agenda.

Giftmas in the West End

Dammit, we’ve just got rid of all the bloody summer tourists. Lunch breaks are only ever peaceful in February.

Christmas is a terrible thing. In my opinion the best way to give gifts is when you see something you know someone would love, buy it and give it to them as a surprise. This never seems to happen to me at Christmas. I wander the streets of London gazing at the hideous window displays and trying to avoid those idiots for whom Oxford Street is the height of chic, and never seem to be able to find anything suitable at all. In the end the good old Christmas list saves me, but of course this means that everyone already knows what they’re getting on the day. If you’re lucky, you might get to be surprised by who gets you what.

Not that I’m the easiest person to buy for anyway. When you have a fairly specialised set of interests, no one but a fellow geek knows what the hell to get you. You end up getting socks. Still, I need some socks, so maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all. And it’s certainly preferable to bad Star Wars novelisations.

University Staff in London take Strike Action

Yesterday members of the major HE Unions in London – UNISON, AUT, AMICUS and NATFHE – came out on strike over the issue of London Weighting – the allowance given to those working in the capital to help mitigate the increased cost of living. London weighting has been frozen for the past 10 years at between £603 and £2,355, and the Unions argue that this is unfair given the rising costs of living in the capital over this period. The London Weighting awarded to University staff is significantly lower than that awarded to Police (c.£6000) or Teachers (c.£3000).

Unfortunately yesterday the action taken by University staff took a back seat as the news has been completely dominated by the Fire Service strike, and in London by the disruption this has caused to the tube, with deeper stations closed and drivers staying away due to fears over safety.

For anyone interested in more on the University staff dispute, have a look here at the AUT website, or at the Guardian’s report on the subject. Those who would trust neither of these sources are, of course, free to google up their own.

Interest: I am a member of the AUT.