Chewing my keyboard

Monday, June 14, 2004

Courtesy of Dead Ringers

"And now, we're going to go live to some townhall somewhere in England and talk to some politician or other whose waiting to speak to us. Oh, hello, and how would you sum up this evening?"

"Well, it's categorically been a success for us and the other two parties didn't stand a chance. What we can take away from this evening is that we've made real progress and nothing is going to take that away, whatever bluster the other parties come out with"

"Erm, and which party are you from?"

"I don't think that's relevant. The crucial thing is that I've said the right thing in a reassuring voice and, more importantly... I sounded like I meant it."

Sunday, June 13, 2004

The old ways...

For some reason, despite being as much of a europhile as you can get, I can feel nothing but pride in UKIP's European election result [see here the Telegraph, the Guardian and the BBC].

I always had a terror in the back of my mind that the British public were like zombies who would vote methodically for the same parties year-on-year and when they didn't vote it was a consumerist-induced apathy. I think the main parties have campaigned along this line. It's always 2 parties (we're seen as 'irritatingly' in the way, but increasingly where we are first or second it is still 2 parties. Us and them. The Lib Dems can't win here, Labour can't win here, the Tories can't win here), tribalism, your supporters, their supporters and voting strategically against whoever's in competition. Policy is rarely mentioned. This is an observation made from debating on boards with 'the other side', reading leaflets dropped into my pigeonhole and campaigning. Sadly, in many cases the Lib Dems are as bad for this as everyone else.

I am glad that Tony Blair has proved for us what happens if you ignore your electorate or just assume they'll vote Labour because they always have. I'm glad that it wasn't the BNP who had to show this to the political establishment. I'm proud to be pro-Europe and Liberals are always internationalist but pre-UKIP, Europhilics had nowhere to vote. Now they do and I hope that we can now start having a dialogue about Europe and asylum to win hearts and minds instead of lazily pretending that Europhilics don't matter and that the BNP only win seats on low turnout. Europhiles and people fervently anti-racist like me KNOW we're right; it's our job to convince the UKIP and BNP voters instead of sitting around with our fingers in our ears and pressing on regardless. Politics is about winning hearts and minds NOT expecting people to put a cross in the box for you because you're not the team with a different rosette.

It's also our job to form a cross-party coalition to go out and talk to people who aren't voting in person. It's amazing just how many people you can talk around on the doorstep if someone says they're not going to vote and you don't just walk away (I've done this). Better yet, if you're the first one to do it then the likelihood is that you're the one they're going to vote for because you took the time to listen and talk to them. It's a mammoth job and it's no single group's responsibility. The interesting thing is just how many people you could get out there to help if it was non-partisan. There are many who would never join a party but are fervent about the importance of the political process.

Finally, the machinery cranked out every election by all the parties needs to be taken apart and examined carefully. The people have a lot more information than they used to and the old conflicts: owners/workers, Tory/Labour don't mean what they did. The wind has changed, the old ways are just that, old, and the establishment doesn't seem to have noticed. We need to 'shock, horror' have a proper conversation with the people for once instead of leaving it all to the Sun. Viva the new age of politics! (she hopes but Tony Blair won't... too set in his ways sadly).

Harry Potter and Gollum's twin brother...

...starring as a werewolf (the CGI was so bad I can't find a picture). Werewolves, so far as I gather, are SUPPOSED to have hair. As it was, it did have a strange resemblance to the bro or sis of gollum who was mighty annoyed at appearing suddenly in the wrong movie bang in the middle of a balding chap wearing tweed.

Out of the three movies I've seen this summer so far, this was the best. An added bonus was the fact I managed to pick a subtitled screening which meant that NOT ONLY did I not have to watch the trailers and adverts (instead, the lights didn't go out for 20 minutes during which time I was reading Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman) but also the subtitles wrote out ALL the script including remarks mumbled at the back of the set. This meant I got to enjoy, for example, the whole of the conversation occurring between Minister Fudge, the Executioner, Dumbledore and Hagrid about tea whilst the main trio were conversing behind some pumpkins. This was otherwise inaudible. My only objection was that birds do NOT witter... They twitter (grrrrrr)... [yep, all background noise was also helpfully subtitled].

So to the movie. Well, it misses out about 3/4 of the book. Fortunately or unfortunately, I read all the books last summer in Chamonix since they were the only things I could find in English translation in the town bookshop. As such, I don't remember which bits were missing. All I did remember was that Sirius Black was the good guy which pretty much scuppered any sense of suspense. That said, Harry Potter isn't really big on suspense. You know that at the crucial, terminal moment a hitherto unmentioned or unmastered magical spell or artefact will miraculously appear and save the day. Thus, Harry on the verge of death brings about nothing but mild curiousity as to what plot device J.K. Rowling is going to conquer up next.

Putting aside for the moment that the only good actors were the ones playing Professors Lupin and Snape, and possibly Dumbledore, and that Malfoy had become so wimpy that he gave me cause to do nothing but shake him vigorously, give him a kick up the ass and then take him to the hairdresser... Putting aside for the moment that Hogwarts had moved location from the previous film, translocating the whomping willow and Hagrid's cottage in the process... I loved the hippogriff

I also loved the clock face on the tower, and the gyroscope and solar system model that appeared whilst Lupin was teaching Harry the Patronus charm. A friend liked the rollerskating spider which was faintly amusing if you like black widows wearing pink rollerskates, that is. I preferred the Monster Book of Monsters myself.

I'm sad to say that the Dementors weren't very scary, rather like wrapping the end of a vacuum cleaner in strips of dirty linen before sticking a few twigs on the end and plunging the whole ensemble into liquid nitrogen.

"Oye, washing-face... Think you can suck out my soul, you son of a lamprey!"

Maybe if I was 6 or 7 years old I'd have been scared but if I remember myself at 6/7, I could think up far worse things than the Dementors all by myself. It was supposed to be rather dark but it was as menacing as Riverdance performing on the forecourt of a 1960s shopping precinct during a rain shower. However, it was based on a children's book and I've just been reading Neil Gaiman's Sandman so go figure:

I don't think a nightmare with teeth in its eyesockets "the eyes are mine" really goes with the territory. In conclusion, mildly entertaining but don't expect profound revelations about the life, the universe and everything. I'm waiting for Shrek 2.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Yet another stupid statistic...

£770m is spent on prostitution in the UK every year, and £400m is spent on going to the cinema, the Royal Economic Society says

Yes, because each time anyone visits a prostitute it doesn't cost £4.75 and £3.50 with a student discount during off-peak times [rolls eyes].

Thursday, June 03, 2004

The joy of statistics...

They never explain the interesting stats, do they? Take this article. No one bothers to explain why 79% of 15-year olds in Greenland have had sex... What is it about Greenland? I'm fascinated...

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The Day after Tomorrow...

... you will have forgotten this deeply forgettable film. Or perhaps it would have possessed an air of menace had I not known that the events it depicted were, to put it bluntly, complete dogs bollocks.

The chain of events ran as follows: enormous crack opens up in an Antarctic ice shelf in exactly the location that a group of scientists happen to be camped (convenient, ain't it?). Then, giant football sized hailstones (why?! apart from the fact that normal hailstones don't kill people) begin falling in Japan.

Next the thermo-haline circulation (THC) shuts down in a matter of hours. Now, ahem, apart from the fact it wouldn't shut down in a matter of hours (even the 'rapid' warming of Dansgaard-Oeschger cycles happened in a matter of decades) the potential of the thermo-haline circulation shutting down (AT ALL, even slowly) comes as a huge surprise to an entire room full of eminent American climatologists. In fact, this theory has been around for some time.

By this point in the proceedings, lots of extreme weather events began occurring that are in fact to do with El Nino. I don't understand ocean currents well enough to know what effect a shutdown in the THC would have on the Pacific but methinks that it wouldn't be to increase global hurricane frequency and intensity right across the globe.

At this point, the film gives up its attempt to be scientific because a few bad winters never hurt anyone (ok, they did, but great movies they don't make). So, hey ho, we were introduced to the mega-muther storm cell thingys that appeared suddenly and had a non-existent relation to the thermo-haline circulation (I would love to know the purported connection). In fact, the thermo-haline circulation was pretty much forgotten as people fast-froze and America disappeared under hundreds of metres of snow in a matter of hours (and despite the amount of water moved onto the continents, the sea-level from space looked exactly the same... hmmmmm). Sorry to break this to folks but in real-life, ice ages tend to be caused by bad winters, cooler summers and the resulting glaciation. However, again, 'Snow patch the Movie' (in which Sylvia the Snow Patch becomes a full formed cirque glacier over a matter of, erm, a fair bit of time) isn't exactly going to sell to Hollywood (minus its sign).

Apparently, this had happened before around 10,000 years ago (some grain of truth there). This patently included the very nicely rendered tornados (huh? Where did they come into things?)...

Cod science over, the film degraded into 'American people of all social groups bond in crisis' whilst our intrepid Quaternary Glaciologist fought his way to Manhattan accompanied by hard-core polar fieldwork equipment. No, I don't think he was a climatologist... He appeared to be either a Quaternary Glaciologist (using ice cores to examine past climate fluctuations and modelling past glaciations) or he could be some sort of Oceanologist (thermo-haline circulation). There is a lot of cross-over... Either way, he'd be in a geography department!

Whilst Mr Geographer & co were fighting their way to a snowed-under Statue of Liberty accompanied only by their fetching bright-orange three-man dome tent, we were exposed to the continuing tribulations of Mr Geographer's son, Donnie Darko...

Ooops, Sam, same actor. Talk about type-casting, imagine the scene:

"We'd like you to star in our exciting new feature. It makes a tenuous link to climate change to get publicity and then we run through our entire collection of CGI weather effects applied to various famous American buildings. We want you to play a late teenage pseudo-genius"

"Ummmm, but I played one of those last time"

"Yes, but last time you were a schizophrenic pseudo-genius. This time we'd just like you to be rather moody-looking"

He and his dad faced many entirely manufactured crises. As if trekking through snow without a snowmobile (?) wasn't bad enough, Mr Geographer hero had to lose one of his number falling through a mall roof. If Donnie Darko having to cross to the ship outside the public library wasn't enough of a trial (a ship which had no one aboard), then there had to be some wolves AND the centre of the 'freezing people alive' storm had to swirl overhead ALL at the same time. Oh pleeeezzzeeee...

The only thing that this is going to add to the climate debate is that lots of people are going to refuse to believe global warming is happening until the football-sized hail showers commence. It made an associated field of study to my own look rather glamorous and heroic which was nice (and international glaciologists do tend to be a hyper-healthy bunch so not TOO far-fetched) but Mr Joe Public is going to be slightly too impatient for results... I loved the way Professor Hall wanted a 'Paleoclimate model' *immediately*. Heck, people spend an entire thesis producing a model! But then again, "our intrepid hero debugs a FORTRAN routine for 2 years without success" wouldn't put many bums on seats. The use of scientific language was definitely from the Vivienne school "Well, Mr President, there's a bit of air coming in from the left. This could mean the end of galactic civilisation as we know it... or it could mean that the sensor went wrong" and probably made my supervisor cringe because he's always correcting my slovenly or non-existent use of technical terms (my supervisor, incidently, was interviewed on Classic Gold about the film and thus decided he had better tag along to see it).

The one inspired moment for which you should see this film is the remarkedly convincing news reel of desperate American refugees attempting to get through the Mexican border and then wading across the Rio Grande with their possessions on their heads. If just the rest of it had been as profound...