All entries for February 2008

February 26, 2008

Addendum to Torchwood

I was going to mention this in the previous entry but I couldn’t find anywhere to fit it in without ruining the flow so…

One question that does come to mind is “If Torchwood is just another silly adventure show, why the adult elements at all? Why the swearing and sex, why not just make it a kids show too?”

It’s a fair point and I have a theory on that. Torchwood isn’t made for adults. It’s made for teenagers. It wants to be that show that 14 year olds watch in thier bedroom with the volume down in the hope that this episode might have some naked boobies or a guy getting his head blown off. These are the kids who are too ‘cool’ for Doctor Who but to them Torchwood is edgy and sophisticated and crucially, something they can understand. God knows my 14-year old self was smart but wouldn’t have been able to follow The Sopranos.

It also annoys me that that shows like this get so much marketing and support and good time slots from the BBC purely on the basis that they’re home made. Torchwood isn’t bad, but Buffy was far better and Angel almost feels like the show Torchwood dearly wants to be (darker spin-off of a more lighthearted progenitor, immortal lead character, James Marsters…) but they were dicked about the schedules so much (Angel not so much by the BBC as they didn’t even bother to pick it up) they inevitably failed. Meanwhile mediocre shows like Torchwood and even, yes, Doctor Who, are held up as shining examples of thier craft. Clearly the earth is doomed.
*eats apple


February 25, 2008

In Defense of: Torchwood

Lets not get confused here. This isn’t part of my irregular “Shows you should be watching series”. I’m not saying Torchwood is a good show. I’m not even saying you should bother watching it. I’m just frustrated and angry with the people that use it as shorthand for ‘bad television’. Especially if they follow it up by talking about how great Doctor Who is.

See, when you make an ‘adult’ spin-off of a traditionally silly show, you can go down two routes. First is the Battlestar Galactica method of making a touching, gripping, deep, shocking drama that has little but names and a single concept in common with the original. Note that this is almost impossible to do when the show you are spinning off is still on air. Especially if said show’s title character is an ultra-powerful timelord that provides an easy way to Deus Ex your way out of any bleak plot. Basically, it wouldn’t work.

So you go down the second route. You acknowledge that Doctor Who is a fun, silly program, and that it’s world and setting are not conducive to high drama. But you also look at all the older kids and adults that profess thier love of Doctor Who and instead decide to to make a second silly, knockabout adventure show with a slightly more adult feel. And by that I mean with swearing and shagging. Torchwood is ‘mature’ in the same way that the Grand Theft Auto games are – they may both carry 18 certificates but they’re both utterly childish.

But that isn’t a bad thing is it? Doctor Who is childish and we like that. But no, Doctor Who gets away with it purely because it’s a kids show. It might be watched by millions of adults who just want a silly little adventure show, something relaxing that won’t require them to tax thier brains at all but will provide a fun way of passing forty-five minutes. But they can only justify watching it by virtue of it being a kids show. Transplant those silly ideas and over-the-top characters into something that isn’t a kids show, and suddenly it’s drowned under the weight of expectation.

Sidenote: I’m not saying the scriptwriting and performances on Torchwood are as good as Doctor Who. They’re not. But nor are they that much worse.

This is what I term the Harry Potter effect. The Harry Potter books are mediocre pieces of writing at best. But millions read them. Many of these people just want a simple, average piece of writing. More power to them. But many more will read the Harry Potter books with pride but wouldn’t be seen dead with a Mills and Boon or a Jeffrey Archer novel. Even though they’re all just silly fun little books with fairly average writing.

Because at the end of the day, sometimes we don’t want to have our perceptions on society challenged by The Wire, we don’t want to have our minds torn in new directions by the latest Iain Banks novel, we don’t want to have to carefully listen to an album 5 times in a row until all it’s depths and secrets are revealed to us. Sometimes we just want the perfect 3-minute pop song, sometimes we just want the flowing and easy prose of a Buffy spin-off novel, sometimes we just want Torchwood.

But most of us won’t admit it. We’re too entrenched in our snobbery. So we disguise it. We can make excuses for Harry Potter and Doctor Who and Britney Spears because “well they’re for kids aren’t they” or even worse “I’m getting back in touch with my inner child”. But when we’re given what we want without the ‘this is for kids’ caveat we shy away from it or even worse, attack it because we’re embarassed that it’ll let out the secret that we sort of like it.

So Torchwood then. The writing is sometimes clunky, most of the characters are fairly unlikeable and the whole thing smells of early 90s ‘technological thriller’ B.U.G.S but it’s hardly the worse thing on TV. Don’t buy the DVD. Don’t cancel your plans to fit in watching it. But don’t go ranting and raving about how awful it is. It’s got more imagination, brilliance and downright fun in one episode than the entire combined output of everything Ant and Dec have ever done. Except for Byker Grove. That was ace.


February 22, 2008

Dis/Connected Dis/Continued

Writing about web page http://shinymedia.headshift.com/cgi-bin/mtshiny/mt-tb.fcgi/81261

TV Scoop report that Dis/Connected, a BBC Drama pilot based around the story of a teenage suicide, is being shelved indefinatly due to recent events

Now I could understand in the past a sensationalist drama being postponed given recent events, Spooks being delayed a few years back springs to mind after a real-life terrorist attack. I don’t agree with that line of thinking (people can always change the channel if they’re that bothered) but I can understand it.

But from all reports, Dis/Connected appears to be a sensitive, personal drama dealing with the effects of a teenagers suicide on her friends and family. Presumably part of the reason this was made was to highlight the problem that exists. Teenage suicide happens. More than we like to think about. It could also offer some comfort to those who have been left behind in the wake of such tragedys, to help them deal with what happened, it its own small way.

To postpone the show because the events it deals with actually happen is just the BBC burying thier heads in the sand and waiting for it to go away.

I think after this week’s events the need for something in the media to deal with the issues is even greater than it was before. Nice one BBC.


Random thoughts that don't deserve a blog entry of thier own

It’d be sort of funny if fairly-decent-but-not-brilliant show The Unit ended up cancelled this year after the WGA strike resulted in it’s last episode and hence legacy being a truly awful attempt at setting an episode in London, complete with cockney SAS operative.

Why do all my friends who have good music tastes 364 days a year insist on watching the Brit Awards, a show that would give a ‘Best Live Act’ award to Take That and that thinks it’s edgy and cool and down with the kids because it’s just figured out who the Arctic Monkeys are.
Seriously now folks, I know there’s some history of Sam Fox making a fool of herself and Jarvis Cocker playing Pilate to Jackson’s Jesus but: a) when was the last time something interesting like that happened? and b) we have You Tube these days for watching such clips without the rest of the turgid award show attached on the following day. To all objective eyes the Brits ceased to be edgy around 5 years ago and are just another self congratualtory industry piss-up but somehow they’ve maintained their must-see mystique. I do not understand.

Prison Break somehow managed to have a satisfactory and somewhat conclusive season ending despite being slashed to 13 episodes due to the strike. Props to those guys. We’re also only looking at losing 3 episodes of Lost, with 13 eps this season instead of the 16 planned. Nicely the creators have decided to stick to thier plan of doing 48 episodes with this season and the rest, but instead of being 3 seasons x 16 episodes they’ll make it up with slightly longer seasons in the next two years.

There’s 3 tracks from the new Christ T-T album on his Piespace – it’s going to take some getting used to the more over-produced nature of the new stuff after the brilliant 9 Red Songs acoustic album. King of England and 4am are both ‘difficult’ tracks although I do like Lets Do Some Damage.


February 17, 2008

Introducing…

...Mr Tom Hughes and Letter from an Unknown Suplex

Tom is a good friend of mine, he runs The Reckless Moment (Leamington Spa’s number one monday-night-new-material-comedy-club) and provides me with a sofa to sleep on in Leamington on pretty much a weekly basis. He also has a very big face.

He’s currently blogging about film, music and mixed martial arts over at his new blog so you should really go check it out.

I’ve never actually written properly about The Reckless Moment on this blog actually, I’ll add that to my list of things to write about methinks. It’s quite easy to take it for granted but it really is something of a phenomenom and something that technically probably shouldn’t work. But that’s for later.


February 15, 2008

Why I dislike Valentine's day

There’s a lot of so called ‘Hallmark Holidays’ around these days, but I reserve a special bit of hatred in my heart for Valentine’s Day as it’s clearly the most insidious of them all.

See, the problem with Valentine’s is the weight of expectation it places upon people. Most other holidays can be ignored or avoided, but if you’re in a relationship, especially if you’re a man, it’s hard to ignore Valentine’s without upsetting someone. Even if said person agrees in principle that the whole thing is a charade to allow restaurants and florists to mark everything up by 50%, when they see other people being treated by thier partners, an amount of envy and resentment can creep in. And that’s why it’s such a horrible thing. As a holiday it plays on people’s insecurities in thier relationships and purports the fallacy that if you don’t do something nice for someone on Valentine’s day you don’t really love them.

It’s hard for me, as at heart I am an old fashioned romantic, fond of the big romantic gesture, but that sort of thing is best if it’s somewhat spontaneous, and done because you love someone and want to make them happy, not because society tells you that on a particular day, you should do something.

Still, some people seem to like it so I propose a comprimise, lets just move it forward by, oh I don’t know, how about 15 days? Feb 29th. Sounds like a great day to hold it if you must.


February 14, 2008

Why I dislike Hillary

With 4 candidates left in the US election, I was trying to figure out why Hillary Clinton winds me up the wrong way. Now obviously she’s one of those people that hates videogames, something that I like very much so there’s a certain pre-disposion there, but there’s also something else.

You see, the three other candidates remaining seem like they care. They seem like they stand for something, that they want to bring change. McCain may be a Republican but he’s against the blatant warmongering of the Bush administration, has condemmned torture and seems to actually give a shit. Likewise Obama, he’s a Democratic candidate but not in the traditional mould. In fact it’s his youth that stands out for me more than his colour. It feels like he wants to move things on, improve politics in general and deal with the issues. And then Huckabee. Right-wing raving Jesus-nut Huckabee. I hate pretty much everything he stands for, but at least he’s willing to stand up for it, to say that he wants to change things and do things differently, even if what he wants to do is abhorrent, I admire the passion behind it.

But Hillary: I don’t feel like I have any idea what she’s about other than ‘winning this election’. I’ll be honest, I felt the same about Romney and Edwards, but supported Edwards as the easy Democratic victory. Hillary doesn’t offer that easy win but shares the same vapid policies.

One of the nice things about the US elections, and what makes them more interesting than our own, is they’ve resisted much of the homogenisation that’s happened between Tory and Labour in the UK. The two parties are still idealogically opposed and the effect of that is felt in practice. But Hillary’s campaign doesn’t strike me as idealogical, unless you count ‘I must win’ as an idea. The remaining candidates are, I feel, passionate about running the US, and about what is best for the world (however misguided they may be), whereas Hillary is passionate about winning. She want’s to go down in history as the first female President, she’ll leverage that to her advantage when needed but never really talks about what that will mean, if that’ll mean certain sexual equality issues will be bought to the fore or such. Obama, meanwhile, doesn’t ever give the impression of wanting to be the first black President. He just gives the impression of wanting to be President. So he can do the best job he can. Same with McCain, same with Huckabee.

It’s rare in politics to have something like this, an election where people have a real belief in the candidates and a respect for them, a real feeling that people actually want these people as President, rather than deciding they’ll vote for the lesser evil. Hillary isn’t part of that. And in any other year, with other non-entities like Gore, Bush, Kerry et al standing she’d run away with the nomination and likely the election. But this year, somehow those fringe candidates, the ones normally blasted out the running early on because they have personalities and aren’t just by-the-numbers politicians have come through and tied up the entire race. Few expected Obama to do this well. McCain was practically ruled out six months ago and Giulliani expected to sail to victory. Even a month ago no-one could have predicted Romney dropping out before Huckabee.

It almost restores my faith in humanity that, when given a choice of potential leaders, people are finally saying “fuck the politics of it, lets elect someone good”. If Hillary wins the Democrat nomination (becoming less likely by the day it seems) I could almost bring myself to support McCain.

You’ll note, of course, that in this Country we can’t do that. The parties elect leaders behind closed doors, and because of all the deal-making and power-brokering that goes on you always end up with someone middle-of-the-road that doesn’t really stand for anything as they’re a result of everyone comprimising. Then we get to vote for one of three such figures. Yay.


February 09, 2008

How to win the Warwick Saab elections

In an attempt to seem vaguely relevent and justify this still being a Warwick Blog despite me graduating two years ago, I figured I’d talk about the Union Saabatical Officer elections. Ian has a nice summary here and here but I want to offer something else: a guide on winning.

I’d intended to write this before the candidate nomination stuff started in an attempt to get a group of people to follow it and proove it works, but not being a student anymore I forgot when they started entirely. So now it’s more of a post-morten “here’s what you should have done” sort of thing.

Two caveats: firstly this isn’t foolproof, you still need to be somewhat appealing to the voters, and not a big idiot. Unless you’re running for the sports officer post, in which case I’m told that’s a plus (that and flashing your tits to society execs in exchange for endorsements apparently, he says making an entirely out of date reference).
Secondly I don’t think this breaks any electoral rules but there’s a chance it does as I really can’t be arsed to read them all. However it’s presented as working within the framework of the current system, if it’s not permitted to do it that way it can also be done fairly easily and to only a slightly reduced effect outside of it. I’ll explain that later.

So what is the key? The party system.

Believe it or not, the candidates you vote for in the elections are all members of certain parties. You may have spotted this with the Lib Dem or Tory candidates (but no-one is going to vote for nationally-affiliated groups, see “don’t be a big idiot” above) but all the other candidates belong to a party to. Except generally these are parties of one, named after thier campaign slogans, so to all intents and purposes, it’s an individual race.

Now, back to last year. Remember when the two brothers? Wasn’t that cool? And they had an advantage. Few people would vote for one and not the other as they were seen as an homogenous entity with shared values and policies and err…genes. The fact is that most students don’t care for lelecting by reading manifestos and voting on the basis of total policy, they’ll just vote for whoever impresses them when speaking to them at the start of lectures or doing kitchen tours or even has a really good poster. And the vast majority will also not see more than 3 or 4 of these covering only 2 or 3 different posts. But once you’re in the voting system to vote for the one or two people you like, you may as well throw some votes out at the rest while you’re there, at least that’s what the Union keep telling you “Vote! Doesn’t matter who for just Vote!” and only arseholes like me vote for RON.

So what is my point? Well last year the brothers had an advantage, because if one of them impressed someone with a talk or whatever, if that person wasn’t particulary woo-ed by any candidate for the other position, they’d vote for the other brother by default.

The way to win this election therefore, would be to do this, but writ large. Find 3-4 other people that you get along with and that want the job, and forge alliances. People already do this. During those brief stumps before lectures you’ll remember many of the candidates at the end will say “and for person X for position Y to, they’re really good” but you never remember the name so it’s pointless. So what we do is formalise this. Cover four or five positions and run as a party. Have one slogan for everyone, and a couple of major policies that you can all get behind (a real freshers week and cheaper drinks are often good policies that no-one expects you to keep). That single slogan is your party, those policies are what your publicity, talks etc focus on. And crucially you focus on promoting the party, the slogan, the policies, rather than yourself. Make sure all your posters are thematically simmilar, they can have individual faces on, even have a few specific policies related to that position (and obviously, you’ll need some decent ones for the manifesto, to attract those that actually care enough to read them and vote on that basis) but keep the border the same, the font the same, the colour scheme the same and have that single slogan displayed prominently.

What you’ve just done is quintupled the amount of campaigning each member of the 5-person party gets. You’ll be the most noticable, you can cover everything and be everywhere, because you’re each supporting each other. And with such a magnitude of advantage in publicity, you can’t possibly lose (though if one of your members is outted as a kiddie-fiddler, you might have problems. If on the other hand they shag the leader of the cheerleading squad, you all benefit. Especially if they’re female).

As I said, there’s something of a caveat in that I don’t know if there’s a restriction on this. I don’t know if running as a party introduces limitations or reduces the amout of publicity you’re allowed or anything like that. If it does, the solution is pretty easy – run individually but homogenise your slogan/party name with a good word. For example “Freedom for societies”, “Freedom for sports”, “Freedom for commercial development”... well you get the idea. And keep the posters consistent in style and so on, and run a virtual party that isn’t really one so isn’t subject to those rules.

So there you go. That’s how to win a Warwick Saab election. Easy. All the candidates would be kicking themselves now, if they weren’t already drunk.

And best of luck to the RAW team covering the election results tonight, you guys have quite a legacy to live up to but I’m sure you’ll manage it.

Also are we letting The Boar cover elections yet?


February 06, 2008

Super Tuesday

It’s nearly 4am, the polls are soon closing in California and I’ll go to bed soon. Somewhat predictably Obama and Clinton seem to be trading wins and there’s still very little in it.

Hillary seems to be weirdly obsessed with her website, she gave the URL in a speech and it says hillaryclinton.com on the front of her podium. It’s a bit odd really.

Huckabee is doing surprisingly well for the Republicans, though he’s clearly quite a nutter. His speech was full of faintly disturbing ‘Christian’ philosophising but he’s been winning votes. Mitt Romney seems pretty much fucked right now. This is, of course a good thing.

Some Democrats really don’t like Hillary. Leading Republican McCain is something of a moderate voice. It’s quite likely that, should Hillary get the nod, that McCain becomes an actual viable alternative to more centrist Democrats that have issues with Hillary. But if McCain takes on Huckabee, a raving fundamentalist loon (albeit a very erudite one), as his vice-president on the ticket, that’s going to be a much less attractive proposition.


February 05, 2008

US Elections Redux, for Scrubs fans

Saw this on peterdavid.net but wanted to share:

What has two thumbs and doesn’t give a crap?


John McCain, glad to meet you.


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