Thursday, June 29, 2006
The Conservatories in Bromley really ought to be expecting to do very, very well in Bromley. Even when they lost the last general election last year, they still got 51.1% of the vote (the Labour got beaten down to 22.2% and the Liberals got a creditable improvement to 20.3%) so they should be expecting WELL into the 50s if not the 60% bracket!
Having TANKED in Scotland – SLUMPING to a poor FOURTH in Dunfermline and West Fife, and FLAT-LINING in Moray – the Conservatories must have been thanking their lucky stars that if they HAD to get a by-election it was such a safe win for them as a seat like this.
So what then can explain the ABJECT TERROR behind this attack on the Liberal Democrats by Mr Ed Vaizey in the Grauniad?
(What, you might ask incidentally, is a National Newspaper doing giving such a blatant party political as this to the Conservatories the day before their defence of a by-election? Well, ask yourself: what does the LABOUR supporting Grauniad have to gain by letting a CONSERVATORY lay into the LIBERAL DEMOCRATS? It's a MYSTERY!)
You should go and read his article in full, because Mr Eddy GUARANTEES that Liberal Democrats will misquote it somehow.
Since that is a GUARANTEE Mr Eddy will no doubt, after the result, provide some PROOF that he was misquoted. Or admit that this was a FIB.
One thing is clear from this, and it is that Mr Eddy-fying is in training for the 2012 Olympics, where he will be representing England in the Chutzpah!
For those people who haven't noticed, when Mr Eddy complains about not seeing Liberal policies – he comes from the Conservatory Party that doesn't HAVE any policies!
In case people have forgotten, when Mr Eddy complains about the Liberal tactics – he comes from the SAME Conservatory Party whose campaign in Cheadle was ENTIRELY about how Mark Hunter lived a BUS RIDE away! At least, it was when it wasn't being LIBELLOUS! One local Newspaper denounced the Conservatory campaign for MISREPRESENTATION. Remember Mr Eddy's GUARANTEE?
And if there are any people who cannot spot the difference, when Mr Eddy asserts that Ben Abbotts has "two jobs" too – "three jobs Bob" gets £49,265 for moonlighting as a GLA member for the next two years while Bromley Councillors like Ben get an allowance of £9,470.
(Which is hardly a living wage, although that actually looks pretty generous now I find out about it – aren't councillor's allowances normally about £3,000? Who's been running this council, then? [R: answer: Mr Balloon])
Mr Eddy asks:
"Why are they indulging in personal and highly misleading attacks on Bob Neill, who will be an excellent MP for the area?"
In that case, if it is so BAD, why is Mr Eddy trying to turn those same attacks against the Liberal Democrats? Isn't that just a bit HYPOCRITICAL?
Let's not mention that Mr Bob and Mr Balloon have gone down like a BUCKET of COLD SICK in Bromley.
After all, Mr Bob's track record speaks for itself, including:
* making a FALSE DECLARATION on his nomination form;
* upsetting the pensioners by refusing to sign their petition;
* arrogantly insisting he will keep his other highly-paid jobs;
* and even getting wrapped over the knuckles by FIFA for abusing the WORLD CUP!
Don't the local people of Bromley DESERVE to know all this about the man Mr Eddy thinks would be "excellent"?
And Mr Eddy decides to attack the Liberal Democrats for making a campaign of it!
Could it be that Conservatory Central Office have only just realised that Mr Balloon has made a TOTAL HORLICKS out of ANOTHER by-election?
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
My chums in the House of Lords club are choosing a new SPEAKER today, who is to be the person in charge of their DEBATES when they are trying to stop Lord Blairimort's latest mad scheme.
As a special treat he or she will also get to pitch Lord Charlie Chum off the WOOLSACK and sit there in his place because from now on Mr Frown wants no more confusion over who is CHANCELLOR.
There are ten people running for this job, even though the first thing that they will need to do is get DRESS ROBES costing £10,000!!!
They have all been given a chance to say something about themselves, what they would do in the job, how they would spend the prize money, that sort of thing!
Lord Boston says "Nothing is more satisfying than serving this House" which suggests that either he is buttering them up or he might need to get out more. He goes on to add: "If elected, I would wish to serve for one term only: this post is unique; it should be shared" which is much nicer.
Lord Elton has a good mini-manifesto, particularly the bit where he says he wants to "Explain [the House of Lords’] constitutional role and relevance to a large audience, particularly of the young, in the UK and encourage then to engage in the political process" though he loses points for adding: " With the House Committee, advance its general interests and security" Um, (a) playing the security card and (b) shouldn't you be advancing the interests of the COUNTRY not the House?
Baroness Fookes line is "The Lord Speaker must be the servant of the House and not its master". More buttering up, then. HOW would she be the servant? She doesn't say – but she DOES have experience as a Deputy Speaker in the OTHER PLACE.
Lord Grenfell (catchphrase: "Lord George… Don't do that!") says he is "a tax-paying, voter registered, five-day-a-week London resident." Which is nice, whatever it is supposed to mean. He says he'll stick to the limited powers and only act as the House instructs. Which kind of ought to be in the job description anyway!
Baroness Hayman hopes her record will show her to be"…an energetic, diplomatic and persuasive ambassador for the House, its value and its values." She's fond of integrity and self-regulation too.
Countess Mar talks of her 30 years of experience and enthusiasm. She says how good she is at sensing the mood of the House, which would be a useful talent in a Speaker, it is true.
I LIKE Lord Redesdale because he says "I pledge, as Speaker I would do as little as possible in the Chamber, apart from sitting on the Woolsack." This is what I do all day too! Daddy Alex says that Lord R is being a Liberal and warning that there is too much POTENTIAL power in this job and that he will stand against ABUSE.
Lord Richard says "As a former Leader and Leader of the Opposition…" and that's all you really need to know. He is reminding people not just that he is used to being in charge, but also that Lord Blairimort sacked him for being UPPITY. So he means "elect me and stick one on that upstart Blairimort!"
Finally, Lord Ullswater rightly sees that "[t]he main challenge for the Lord Speaker lies outside the Chamber" and pledges to devote himself to spreading wider appreciation and understanding.
You can read their full statements, and their register of interests here: clickity.
The key themes that emerge are the importance of INDEPENDENCE and SELF-REGULATION for the House of Lords, and the need to EDUCATE people about what they do and how they do it.
I am all for EDUCATION, education is GOOD because it empowers people to take charge of the democratic process.
INDEPENDENCE I agree with too, because it is VITAL to our well being that there are checks on the power of the Prime Minister and the House of Lords is one of the very few remaining!
But SELF-REGULATION is more troubling. I realise that in this context, "self-regulation" is CODE for "not regulated by any maniacal Prime Ministers you could think of (not mentioning any names but it’s Lord Blairimont)".
But The Houses of Parliament – both of them – should be answerable to the BRITISH PEOPLE and not just to themselves. Self-regulation is actually saying "good chaps trust other good chaps to be good chaps" and "we're all good chaps, so you can trust us".
Except, of course, we're no longer sure that we CAN.
A proper CONSTITUTIONAL SETTLEMENT would say just what powers (AND NOT MORE!) the Houses of Parliament could actually use. It is Parliament's contract with the people and the only real way of legitimising anything that they do there.
As important as she or he may be as a figure, the creation of the Lord Speaker is really just more TINKERING with the cobbled together collection of bits and pieces that we LAUGHINGLY refer to as the British Constitution.
Even though Lord Blairimort promised to sit down and work out a proper set of reforms for the House of Lords – including the way that people get into the club – he has AVOIDED doing so, and instead done everything in his (considerable and growing) power to UNDERMINE them as they are a THREAT to his authority.
So much of what people are worried and upset about stems from the fact that our government is not properly kept in check.
Thank goodness for Mr Balloon, eh! He has set up an official CONSTITUTION TASK FORCE to look into this sort of thing. He takes them VERY seriously, as you can tell be the way that, er, he has started making up new bits of constitution without bothering to tell them.
Now, what was it they said about ABSOLUTE POWER?
PS: for explanation of today's title, see: here.
It can hardly have escaped your attention that former Minister for Trying to Bang People up Without Trial, Charles Clarke, has given a series of interviews to Radio 4's "On the Ropes", BBC 2's "Newsnight" and Rodger Stavro Mordick's "the Times".
In these interviews, Mr Clarke says how unfair and MEAN it was of Lord Blairimort to sack him for being rubbish and that he deserved at least two more years to prove just how much MORE rubbish he could be!
And it certainly wasn't the case that he SOBBED LIKE A BABY when Lord Blairimort was prying his fingers off the doors of the Home Office. There may have been something in his eye, that is all. Probably a foot. Having missed his mouth.
Mr Clarke has also complained that his replacement Dr John "sweetness and light" Reid spends too much time being POPULIST and reacting to the TABLOIDS.
Dr Reid should be following Mr Clarke's method of saying one thing, then saying another and then blaming the Liberals and THEN reacting to the tabloids before doing whatever Lord Blairimort told him to do in the first place.
The Home Office is certainly NOT not fit for purpose, insists Mr Clarke. The mistake is to assume that the purpose of the Home Office is to run the police, the prisons and the immigration service! It certainly couldn't do any of that!
People – and by people I choose to include runner up to Mr Balloon in the least hated Conservatory of last year contest, Mr Davis David – have said that Mr Clarke's tantrum is as devastating to Lord Blairimort as the resignation of (then) Sir Gerffey* Howe was to the (then) Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
[R: *among his other duties, Sir Gerffey was once President of the Cambridge University Conservatory Association and this is the name that they printed on all their material for freshers. I hope they are honoured that I will always remember him this way.]
Of course, Mr Davis David is WRONG about this.
Sir Gerffey's attack on Mrs T was so devastating because is was totally unexpected and – to everyone's enormous surprise – not actually RUBBISH. Two killer factors neither of which apply to Mr Clarke's tittle-tattle.
The other thing to remember was that Mrs Thatcher was VULNERABLE but only FELL because there was a PREDATOR waiting on the back benches for the opportunity to strike. Mr Michael Hessleswine had the gravitas and charisma necessary to be a CREDIBLE contender for Mrs Thatcher's job. Furthermore, for him NOT to have challenged her after Sir Gerffey's resignation speech would have fatally undermined him in any future attempt: in short he not only COULD but HAD to challenge her when he did.
Lord Blairimort faces no such person today.
Very sadly, the only person who COULD have fit the mould was former Foreign Secretary and former Leader of the House, Robin Cook, but he tragically died.
The Labour don't really have anyone else who isn't just… well… Mr Clarke.
And anyway, Lord Blairimort has one huge advantage: a human shield. Anyone wanting to challenge Lord Blairimort will have to stand in line or go through MR FROWN first.
Installed in the Chancellery sorry Treasury with almost as much power as he wants and unofficially crowned as heir-apparent, Mr Frown is as happy as a PIG in MUCK. His only real worry is whether he will be TAINTED by association when he finally ascends to the Prime Ministerial throne. For HIM to challenge Lord Blairimort would be the, er, NUCLEAR OPTION – an all or nothing gamble which he could, after all, lose.
If ten straight years of stability in the economy tell us anything, it's that Mr Frown and gambling are STRANGE bedfellows.
Almost all of the Labour MPs are desperately trying to convince themselves that Mr Frown is their great hope, the king over the water who will make it all good again after the years of corruption under Lord Blairimort and his lapdogs in the cabinet, er…
What this is is a very NU Labour story: add gossip to media and STIR.
Charles said this about Tony. ooOOOoo! Well Tony said this about Charles! ooOOOoo! Well, now Charles says this about John and Margaret tells all of them off and Peter says it was all Gordon's fault anyway and he's not playing any more. So there! ooOOOoo!
Don't you wish we had GROWN UPS in government?
"…on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened…"
It is June in England so it is time for that traditional RAIN MAKING CEREMONY, the British Lawn Tennis Association Open played in WIMBLEDON.
We normally find Wimbledon VERY annoying because of the way that it interrupts all the normal television schedules. But this year, the schedules has already been smashed to flinders by the World Cup so frankly, who is going to notice!
What is it about the BBC Sport department that makes them think that they have sole rights over what anyone else can broadcast? Fair enough, when an important match or game or rounder is running over, you do not want to cut away then – but if you have ALREADY overrun your time, should it not be the boring post bout CHIT CHAT that is the first thing to get CUT? Apparently not.
So anyway, BBC Watersports turned on their cameras and OBVIOUSLY the heavens opened. (That means that it started raining, not that it was early doors at a nightclub!)
Meanwhile, under the Earth there are rumblings from the springs of the deep as London's water table is quickly rising.
Hundreds of years ago, London was almost floating like Venice! The water from the North Downs and the Chiltern Hills gets trapped and held in a layer of CHALK between the STRATA of London Clay and Gault Clay under the city and it fills up like a BOWL OF WATER. The capital was SO full of water that the fountains in Trafalgar Square used to be fed by GROUND LEVEL springs!
Over the years of the VICTORIAN age, though, factories in London were allowed to sink BORE HOLES into the ground and SLURP up the water they needed for their business. And this made the water table go down and down until it had retreated to a depth of 80 to 100 metres below the surface.
Since the 1960's though, factories have been moving OUT of the city and with less water being taken from the bore holes, the water table is quickly FILLING UP again. In some places it is now back to between 40 and as little as 10 metres under the surface.
For the London UNDERGROUND, this is a BIT of problem. A lot of their DEEP tunnels were dug in the early 20th Century, in the period when the water table had gone down very low and was still falling. But now it is filling up again… They have to pump 30 MILLION litres of water out of their system EVERY DAY, because their tubes are not equipped to turn into SUBMARINES!
(If it wasn't all horrid from being contaminated by the stuff in the ground that would be enough for over 200,000 people's average daily use!)
And it's not just the tube: tall buildings have deep foundations and it the water keeps rising, they might start to, er, WOBBLE.
So with London awash with water above and below, there is NO CHANCE of a drought this year… oh very fluffy dear.
Still, at least the water companies continue to roll in the profits.
They must be laughing like drains! (Ho very ho.)
At this point, Daddy Richard feels compelled to put his ACCOUNTANT hat on as point out that rebuilding their pipes is probably counted as CAPITAL expenditure and so not included in the costs in the PROFIT statements.
Maybe so, but the companies still have to hand out great wodges of cash to their SHAREHOLDERS, or else their share price will collapse and they will be bought up for peanuts by dodgy companies. Or the French.
The PROFIT figure on its own is a VERY BAD way to judge the performance of a company. You need to look at the CASH that the business is generating and how much of that cash is being REINVESTED as opposed to given out as dividends
This is the FLAW in the privatisation model. The need for SHORT TERM cash. The plus side of this is that it drives companies to be efficient and innovative; the minus side is that it makes long term investment a BAD IDEA. The quick fix solution will always be the preferred answer.
(It's not like this is original – the Victorians themselves had a habit of just sticking a roof over a problem and hoping that meant it had gone away – where do you think THE EMBANKMENT came from?)
Most of the rest of the country has plenty of water. It is only in the south-east where there are too many people and far too many houses being built that there is a problem. Everyone else will probably have a GOOD LAUGH when something fairly BIBLICAL happens to London and we all disappear into a SWAMP or something.
Maybe now would be a good time for me to learn to SWIM!
Monday, June 26, 2006
This is me with my friend MINIMUM ELEPHANT
This is MINIMUM ELEPHANT with my two Daddies
And this is MINIMUM ELEPHANT with his NEW friend Mr SIMON
Mr Simon is a PROPER WRITER (not like me: I can only do one letter at a time with my trunk, but I bet he can type stuff properly!) He has written books and everything. And not rubbish, either – good ones about Dr Who.
When he is not writing books or plays or the Magna Carta he writes this diary which I like to read.
Sometimes, Mr Simon reads my diary too. (blush)
Happy Birthday, Mr Simon!
Please look after Minimum Elephant and protect him from the CAT!
Daddy Richard has been very busy at work this week doing tax forms which are so unbelievably interesting that I will not shock you with the details. Fortunately I have now knocked him back into the right shape and so he can tell you about Doctor Who this week again:
Alex immediately seized upon the fact that this is "The Idiot's Lantern" but done in the modern Doctor Who way: they almost form a Trad/Rad pair, both concerning the theft of identities through an unusual medium during a huge patriotic celebration. But while the earlier story played very much on the strengths of old Doctor Who – period setting, chases and building gadgets – this week stirred up a much more Sapphire and Steel eerie atmosphere and laced it with New Who emotional connection. Where the Wire was driven by megalomaniacal greed, the isolus (aesolus? eyesolus?) was motivated by loneliness and a child's temper.
"Fear Her" is as much about 'her fear' as ours. Chloe has lost her father, lost him to a violent and drunken man long before he got himself killed in a car crash. But she's lost her mother too, lost her to silence. And into that empty place comes another 'lost soul', the fallen isolus who grants Chloe the powers to snatch new friends, but also to unleash the nightmare that still haunts her.
The father in the wardrobe may be Doctor Who's first genuine wardrobe monster. Added to the Clockwork Robot under the bed in "The Girl in the Fireplace" and it seems that Russell T and team are on a mission to reawaken all the childhood terrors.
Rose and the Doctor worked well as a pair again this week, a likeable double act each contributing skills to their investigation: the Doctor knowledge and Rose insight. It was nice to see them comfortable with each other but not so excluding of other people, as they have been on occasion this season. The Doctor's sudden shift of mood as, like the weather, he turns to stormy comes as more of a surprise this week than it might have done in others. Though possibly some more foreshadowing would have helped as it was just a little bit: "By the way, Rose, the season finale two-parter starts next week!"
Adding to the "let's drive the fanboys nuts" column: "I was a dad once". A perfectly natural remark that gets a great reaction from Rose and if anything adds to the character mystery.
There's more than one way of being a Dad, of course, as readers of Lance Parkin's "Father Time" are quick to remember. And this neither confirms nor denies anything biological. It doesn't have to refer to Susan's parentage – though that's the obvious inference, it's not necessarily the right one – and hasn't the Doctor stood in loco parentis for an awful lot of his companions?
And, of course, the dad theme resonates back to Chloe's nightmare. Here the Doctor is presented as "the good father". He even gets to be in the "my daddy at work" picture. Unfortunately for him.
The Olympic Games element was less successful.
It's easy to see how they wanted to split up the "present day" stories of "Love & Monsters" and (by the look of the trailer) "Army of Ghosts", and also how the Olympics would present themselves as another in the series series of Great British landmarks. But the story was very focused and contained in the close (which didn't need to be Dame Kelly Holmes Close) as a particularly suburban nightmare of missing children and the "big events" rather took us away from that.
The small crowd of extras gathered at the end of the close and the newsreader on News 24 never managed to convince us that we were part of the huge Olympic crowd, indeed only served to emphasise that we were not really there. It made the Olympics feel tacked on, rather than integral to the plot, which is unusual for the normally deft hand of this series.
And it has to be said, all the saccharine of "this is a torch of hope, a torch of love…" had us reaching for the insulin before the diabetic shock could kick in. Does anyone remember the ending of "Ghostbusters 2"? Well, it wasn't actually as bad as that, but the moment when the Doctor runs up the red staircase to light the Olympic flame was definitely looking longingly in that direction.
That big threat to the Olympic Games detracted from the smaller, but more intimate and so more important threat of big bad dad "coming to hurt you, Chloe".
Coincidentally, we had the chance to chat with some of what you might call the Doctor Who glitterati (Big Finish, not BBC Wales) after tonight's episode and found some of them a little downbeat about it (while generally more favourable about "Love & Monsters" and enthusiastic about the two part "The Satan Pit"). Saccharine, as above, was the main cause for complaint, added to the odd caustic remark about both acting and music being turned up too loud occasionally. (Much praise for the music in "The Satan Pit" – especially the silent bits!)
The 2005 series set a very high standard for what we expect from Doctor Who now, but it also did it on an increasing curve – front loading the dodgier episodes like "Aliens of London" and keeping the home run on a constant high. (Yes, even "Boom Town".)
This year with episodes as awesome as "Tooth and Claw" and "The Girl in the Fireplace" at the beginning of the season it's just that much harder to keep the quality going upwards. Having said that, we should also bear in mind that once we've seen the season finale we may find ourselves, like last year, reassessing with hindsight all that has come before.
Which reminds me: great trailer!
Next week: When Worlds Collide…
As you know, there are two by-elections going on at the moment, and one of them is in BROMLEY in South East London, so we can occasionally here the sound of metaphorical gunfire from my flat by the river.
I have already told you about the Conservatory Candidate Mr Bob Neill
[Gabriel Woolf: Neill before Sutekh!]
And how THAT happens every time I mention his name!
But now it turns out that Mr Bob may have FORGOTTEN that in fact he is being paid £5,000 a year to do YET ANOTHER job – and this one is what is called POLITICALLY RESTRICTED, which means that he cannot stand for Parliament while doing it at the same time.
Credit where it is due: I may be a fluffy elephant, but it took a monkey to spot this dropped coconut!
Even the in-flight magazine of the Conservatory Party has now noticed!
Most people, of course, RESIGN from this sort of job before standing for election, because they have to sign a form, called an ASSENT TO NOMINATION, that says that they are NOT doing any jobs that ruled out under the House of Commons Disqualification Act of 1975.
I SUPPOSE Mr Bob might just have forgotten – although that might be a bit worrying to the people of Bromley, in case he just FORGETS that he has to be their MP one day!
As it turns out Mr Bob's job (number four) is going to cease to exist on Friday anyway, so even if he IS elected he will ONLY be breaking the law for about 24 hours.
Of course, the Conservatories REALLY ought to be against that sort of thing, even for only 24 hours, as they don't usually want to let anyone else get away with breaking the law, after all they made an AWFUL fuss when Mr Mandelson made a false declaration on one of his forms, even though no one got hurt or lost any money then either. Except Mr Mandelson, of course.
But they seem to make special exception for someone if he is one of their own… as Mr Balloon himself has special reason to remember.
Even so, you would think that if they were truly HONOURABLE people, then they would at least issue an APOLOGY
How about that, Mr Neill?
[Gabriel Woolf: Neill… no chance!]
If there is one BIG rival to DOCTOR WHO in the 21st Century, it is no longer the tired, axed relic of STAR TREK, but it is the re-invented BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.
Many people speak of this series in awe and wonder saying how it has re-invented SCIENCE FICTION for a new generation.
So, obviously, my Daddies haven't watched any of it!
Well, no, that's not quite right – Daddy Richard did buy the DVD of the mini-series / pilot story.
It is one of those VERY ANNOYING DVD releases that sticks together several episodes and edits out the TITLES that come in between meaning that you have to watch it as one five hour programme. Or rather, you have to GUESS where the episodes MIGHT have ended and then stop before your eyes start to glaze over. So that counted against it from the start.
Also, guess what: the villainous Baltar has a BRITISH accent. Coo, that IS original. We never get tired of THAT old "British = Bad Guy" cliché.
But the real surprise was how DRAB and ORDINARY we found it to be. Lots of dull grey CGI spaceships flying in space with eye-straining faux-camera shake. Lot's of grey military corridors filled with grey uniforms on grey military American-Air-force-IN-SPACE! types. Lot's of "gee, haven't we seen this all before?"
What is it with American sci-fi series: Star Trek, Stargate, Babylon 5 and now this: there is never any sense that when we get into space we will have any culture other than the US military. At least Babylon 5 was COLOURFUL!
The original Battlestar Galactica series in the 1970s WAS pretty dreadful, with an almost never moving plot and more ham and cheese than is served at ABIGAIL'S PARTY! But it did have three things going for it: John Colicos as a PROPER villainous Count Baltar; the voice of Patrick Macnee as the Cylon Imperious Leader; and some terrific chunky chrome design for the Cylon Centurions.
For the remake, even very few the real metal Cylons that we DO see have gone all gun-metal dull, but worse, the rest of them have gone all HUMAN. Oh how amazingly innovative that really isn’t.
The subtle as a plank backstory then has the Cylons discovering "god" and returning to take horrible vengeance on the nice gods-fearing ordinary type people with an appalling terrorist atrocity perpetrated by infiltrators and you cannot tell who they are! Oh, and the English liberal atheist is a traitor to humanity.
Most people should be able to work this out faster than you can say "right-wing propaganda".
So, for all the above reasons we hadn't bothered to rush out and buy the DVD of the television series first season and (not having the desire to contribute any to Mr Murdoch) without Sky One it is only now that the series has reached Freeview based Sky Three that we are seeing it for the first time.
Is it any better than the pilot?
Well… no, but we'll probably keep watching to see if it picks up.
What IS worth seeing?
Well, in spite of accent related misgivings, the paranoid performance of Gaius Baltar is certainly worth tuning in for. The one interesting conceit here is that he may or may not have a Cylon implant in his head that is causing him to hallucinate a beautiful woman who he thinks/knows to be a human-form Cylon. There is an edgy uncertainty as to whether she is "real" in the sense that the Cylon's actually put an implant there, or whether she is a product of Baltar's own guilty twisted psyche. She certainly seem interested in helping him personally (NO, NOT RUDE!), even if this seems to conflict with the Cylon agenda sometimes.
Then there is a mildly diverting game of duality whereby the character of Boomer (actually a human-form Cylon) gets to appear both on the Battlestar AND back home on "occupied Caprica". This neatly plays with the old thing of the gap between the audience learning something and the characters leaning it. Here the gap is measured in light-years and there appears to be no easy way that Boomer 1 and Boomer 2 are going to be brought together.
And for reasons that pass beyond human understanding, Sarah Jane Smith has become president of the surviving humans.
PS: would someone please tell Edward James Olmos to STOP WHISPERING all the darned time!
We wake to the sound of an EXPLOSION from the bathroom and this tells us that Daddy Richard is in the shower, listening to ANNE ATKINS!
This is just my thought, but what GOOD is Mrs Anne actually trying to do here?
She says that she is condemning murder but then SLYLY tries to suggest that there is something wrong with these killers getting EXTRA HARSH punishment because they the set out to TERRORISE the GAY community rather than the BLONDE community.
(Let's ignore the obvious question: does she know ANYONE who has set out to kill someone just for being from the "BLONDE community"?)
She is trying to suggest that GAY PEOPLE are getting some kind of SPECIAL TREATMENT.
She is trying to TWIST things around so that it seems like it is the gay people who are in the WRONG because ooh, look, they get something that us normal, good, clean, HOLY people don’t get.
(Because yes, gay people ARE getting special treatment – it's the SPECIAL TREATMENT of being SPECIALLY TARGETED for being BEATEN TO DEATH, but it seems Mrs Ann is OKAY with that sort of treatment not being specially bad.)
So who benefits from Mrs Anne's words?
Do gay people feel better for being told that this wasn't fair justice? No.
Does the family of Jody Dobrowski feel better for being told his life should have been worth less? No.
Do the killers feel that someone is saying that they shouldn't have been sent to the slammer for so long? Ahhhh….
Mrs Atkins is choosing to be part of the "support network" for people like these criminals. She supports these killers by feeding into the sour soup of soundbites about gay people not DESERVING rights – only the rights that would be the same as ANY people get, like the right not to be sacked for being yourself, or the right to see your other half in hospital, but somehow for gay people to want this makes those SPECIAL rights.
With a large group of people like Mrs Anne banging on all the time about it being okay to belittle gay people, then you are more likely to get a tiny group of people thinking it is okay to KILL gay people.
In the big book of Christianity, there is a story about the PHARISEES.
It does not do any good to go around saying "ooh, look at me, I'm so holy, do what I say!" That is not religion, that is SHOWING OFF, and any silly person can do that!
What Mrs Anne says is "if he was heterosexual his life would have been worth half as much"
What my Daddy Richard says is "if he was heterosexual, he wouldn't be DEAD, woman, he wouldn't be DEAD."
It has been announced that Lord Blairimort is to get two aeroplanes to fly him to places. This is so that they cannot stop him with roadblocks any longer.
It is nice to know that Lord Blairimort thinks it more important to spend some extra money on a few luxury perks for himself and whoever comes after him as Prime Minister rather than on something trivial like a few more policemen or quarter of a hospital.
But really, this is just one more step along the path away from our politicians being ORDINARY PEOPLE and into the realm of silliness inhabited by the leaders in America (yes, I KNOW what I said yesterday!).
It's not a proper democracy if only billionaires can get elected!
Most politicians in this country are not billionaires, or even multi-millionaires and work at their day job like everyone else. Yes, they get paid quite a bit (£59,095 as of 1st April 2005) which is rather more than most people, (average earnings £22,412 as of 2005) but, no matter what people think, it is not like most MPs could just quit working tomorrow.
This is a good thing too, because so long as MPs have to travel on trains or get stuck in traffic jams or have to take out a mortgage, then they will have a connection to what ordinary everyday folks have to put up with most of their lives and might actually DO something about the railways, the roads or the banks.
Lord Blairimort, however, is away in fantasyland.
Swanning about on private jets like he is in DYNASTY or something, surrounded by people who are only there to serve his every whim, it's hardly any wonder that he has lost touch with the real world entirely.
So the solution is simple.
Instead of an aeroplane, we should buy Lord Blairimort a rocket ship and blast him into space!
Then he can REALLY live in another world and stop bothering the rest of us!
My Daddies have been watching "The West Wing" on DVD. They have just got to the end of the third season and are going to start on the fourth after that.
I do not think that the third season was anywhere as good as the first two – which Daddies galloped through at two or even three episodes a night – probably because much less seems to happen. The main bits of story about assassinating the Middle East terrorist and CJ being stalked and the campaign against Governor Ritchie (aka Monkey) do not even start until the last few episodes! These episodes are very cracking, but it does seem to have been a long time coming.
Anyway, the thing that this made me think was about the very positive way that Americans see themselves. They may make some VERY silly decisions sometimes, but whatever it is, at least they will stand up and CHEER and really go for it ALL TOGETHER!
"Let's go to the moon!"
Wooosh, off they go!
"Let's flatten Iraq!"
Kaboom, see them do it. Hooray!
Watching "The West Wing" and seeing Mr Martin playing President Bartlett stand up and say something wise and inspired and true or even watching that daft Monkey who is REALLY the President say something, at least they can SAY things like that and get all the people behind them.
It is both CREDIBLE and INCREDIBLE the way that the President of America can stand up and say "Let's go to the moon!"
It is TRAGIC that the most exciting thing that the President of Europe could say would be "Please don't vote against the Constitution again, thank you!"
It's just not good enough to moan and say "but we're not 'Europeans' we're all different peoples". That's defeatist and backwards and it's what makes us all fall apart instead of all pull together. It is WHY we hand everything to the Americans.
We need to stop being so PAROCHIAL: self-interested and self-centred. We need to find the oomph to go out there and STRIVE for something. We need to find the self confidence so that we COULD say: "Let's go to them moon"
No, why stop at the moon – let's go to the STARS.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
It is Father's Day today. Happy Father's Day to all Daddies, including MY two Daddies.
In the news, there is competition this week for "who can be the most heart warming" between our two friends Mr Balloon and Mr Frown
First up, Mr Balloon tells us that:
"…whatever I do or don't achieve in politics, nothing matters as much as my family."
Mr Balloon is starting to spend quite a lot of time harping on, telling Daddies what they should do maybe he should spend more time with his OWN family.
Obviously, it's a lot easier to spend QUALITY TIME with the kids when you don't have to worry about the mortgage on your million pound home, or indeed the vacuuming of your million-pound home. Or your OTHER million-pound home, even. It must be very nice doing the PR for a company like DOOMED ITV Digital, but does it really pay the rent? I suppose at least it must help pay the SERVANTS.
Possibly, Mr Balloon is so naïve that he does not realise that most people have to WORK all day in order to look after their kids rather than hiring a NANNY with some of the oodles of dosh that they INHERITED from their family of rich city stockbrokers. Or gamblers, as they are properly called.
On the other fluffy foot, do we really want a Prime Minister who does not know where the FEES for ETON come from?
Still, Mr Balloon goes on to add:
"…it goes without saying that my children couldn't care less whether I become prime minister or not."
It's not just your kids, Mr B!
Not to be outdone on the barf-o-metre, though, Mr Frown invites us into his beautiful luxury Downing Street apartment to share his pleasure at watching the footy on the telly – and to report back to anyone who will believe us that his Chancelorship is:
(a) an ordinary BLOKE who likes to relax like all ordinary blokes,
(b) a GENUINE supporter of England who cheers when they score and does not leave tripwires for Wayne Rooney, and
(c) certainly has plenty of spare time in which to do Lord Blairimort's job.
There is nothing wrong with Mr Frown wanting to support the England team – after all he hope to be Prime Minister of ALL of Britain and that does include England – I just wish he would not be so OBVIOUS about doing it to try and look more English-Friendly! He is a Scot and should be proud of being a Scot.
I mean, look at Mr Balloon: does he try and disguise the fact that he is an upper-class twit? No, he does not. He tries to convince people that having no brains and a lot of money that you didn't earn is a good thing.
So, Mr Frown should be saying what a good thing it is to be Scottish!
Personally, I am supporting the QUEEN'S team in the football, and I hope that Germany do very well!
"Ampersand". Here is a story – in olden days when even Daddy Richard was learning letters, the monks in the monasteries used to spend all day writing out the alphabet (I think this was to try and keep WARM or something).
So, they would write out all the letters A, B, C, D… all the way through to …X, Y, Z and then they would write this squiggle symbol "&" that means "and" and they would say "and per se 'and'" meaning "and on its own and". Over the years "and per se and" got SQUIDGED into one word and became "ampersand"
I am FULL of useless knowledge.
ACTUALLY, I am full of FLUFF and Daddy Richard is full of useless knowledge.
Here are his thoughts on Doctor Who this week.
It was obvious that this one is going to be the one that divides fandom for 2006.
A story that concentrates entirely on the perspective of a character we have never met before and his little band of friends and co-adventurers as they are one by one destroyed by the monseters would be… well "Mission to the Unknown", actually, but this week's story focusing on Mark Warren's Elton Pope and his friends in L.I 'n' D.A. probably wasn't what most fans were geared up for either.
But, actually, this story is exactly what OLD Doctor Who is supposed be and entirely what NEW Doctor Who is supposed to be: it is about introducing us to the sheer WEIRD of the world and at the same time it is about the strength and power of human relationships.
Love is at the heart of this episode. See how it is built up around the relationships between Elton and Ursula, Elton and Jackie, Jackie and Rose, Bridget and her missing daughter, Mr Skinner and Bridget, Elton and him mum. There are monsters in the cracks between all these relationships, but don't be diverted by Peter Kay, no matter how entertaining he undeniably is. The monsters here are shyness, fear and misjudgement, loneliness and loss, drugs, bad timing and repressed memories.
It is the most "Buffy" episode so far, and clearly the most Russell T Davis episode, the one that you have to listen to the people talking – all the things they are saying and all the things they are not saying – where you have to understand that this is about something rather than just a big spectacle.
Marc Warren owns this episode: for a week he is the Doctor – he is the Doctor that all of us fans secretly play inside our heads, the hero of his own adventure. Obviously he's hugely famous for "Hustle" now, but this was far beyond his wide-boy character Danny Blue: vulnerable and shy and geeky and very, very human.
That's not to downplay the other supporting actors: Shirley Henderson as fiercely protective Ursula; Simon Greenall as quiet and gentle Mr (Colin) Skinner; Moya Brady as heart-warming mum, Bridget; Kathryn Drysdale as Bliss, bless Bliss. Between them they created a little family of completely believable and tragically disposable characters. And it mattered to us when they were disposed of.
Being Doctor Who, there needs to be a villain and the big role was filled by Peter Kay. Astonishingly, interviews have said that he was initially offered the role of Elton – which would have been such a waste. Here he fills up the role of mysterious Victor Kennedy with sinister exuberance, hiding his true nature behind his eczema – or exzeeema as he insists. He manages to be disturbing and somehow very funny.
Then there is the monster behind the man, created by Blue Peter competition winner William Grantham (like you didn't know that): meet the Abzorbaloff. Kay has a ball here as a creature both vile and pathetic: a sort of combination of the sins of Envy and Gluttony that desires only to consume the experience of others. What is great is that a lot of that is actually implicit in William's winning idea: and wasn't it good to see him getting a "Abzorbaloff created by…" credit in the end titles, just like Robert Holmes or Bob Baker. Terrific accent, by the way, though what a shame we didn't get a "lot's of planets have a north", eh?
The twin planet of Raxacoricofallapatorius is Klom. We rolled about.
What didn't work? One thing was the Scooby Doo chase for Rose the Doctor and the unnamed monster at the start. On paper – indeed in animation – it must have looked like a good idea, but – even accepting that this is Elton's "cartoon" recollection of the event – live action doesn't quite work that way and you need a different set of sight gags: go watch "Paul Merton's Silent Clowns" to see how the greats did it.
The other was the Abzorbaloff costume. It's fine sitting down behind the desk, but running down the street… oh dear. Great idea but probably one for the million-pound CGI budget of a movie rather than a prosthetic job. Not that it isn't a lovely piece of work: the "absorbed" heads are terrifically creepy; and extra kudos for clearly making costumes for "before" and "after" the absorbing (abzorbing?) of Ursula. Still, the director clearly recognised this and was doing all manner of zany tricks, ramping and fast cutting, to distract us from actually looking at the thing.
But "Love & Monsters" isn’t really about either of those things. And if you allow a misjudged monster costume to distract you from the punch of recovering Elton's memory, then frankly you have no soul.
More trivially, this episode finally pins down the date for "The Christmas Invasion": Elton recalls the Auton invasion of 2005 as "two years ago", the Slitheen gambit as a year after that and the arrival of the Sycorax spaceship as Christmas, therefore logically Christmas 2007. This also helps us to date "School Reunion" to 2008 (Sarah refers to "The Christmas Invasion" as "last Christmas".) And of course, "love & Monsters" is 2008 as well.
It's a bit of a train-spotter's point, I grant you, but it does restore the fact that we can date to a year every story of the returned series.
In fact, Elton's little flashbacks actually help to ground the episode in the series more strongly and reciprocally, ground the series continuity more strongly as well. All these events are shown to be "more real" because they happen not just to our heroes the Doctor and Rose but also to innocent bystanders who don't understand what is going on and have to make their own explanations.
More credit to the director, Dan Zeef, for taking the trouble actually to restage the Auton invasion (and, frankly, realise it better than was achieved in "Rose") and to mount an "alternative" perspective of the Sycorax spaceship from Elton's flat. Even the one bit that was obviously lifted from last year's footage (you know what I mean: "Bong!") even that is expanded with a new reaction shot from Elton and the people behind him.
And bizarrely, I've seen complaints that it was "just a clips show"!
Monsters seen here in order of appearance: humans; the Hoix (apparently); Autons; Slitheen spaceship (flown by pig, not seen); Sycorax spacecraft; Abzorbaloff and a Shadow from the Howling Halls.
Next week: topical sporting tournament… the Olympics (er…)
Once upon a time, the BBC were being VERY stupid. They had lots and lots of recordings of old television stories but not very much space left in their basement. A bit like my Daddies, if my Daddies HAD a basement. And these recordings were on mouldy old CELLULOID FILM and not nice shiny DVDs.
So, the silly old BBC decided that the best place to keep all their old telly was IN A BONFIRE.
As a result of this EXTREME DAFTITUDE, rather a lot of old television stories are not available for DVD release. Which is a shame and a nuisance.
My Daddies' favourite series, DOCTOR WHO, was one of the ones that was scheduled to be thrown on the fire – and indeed rather a lot of it actually was, which is why there are 108 missing episodes to this day.
But it was nearly very much worse.
Fortunately, on the VERY DAY that the BBC was stoking up the boiler in order to incinerate some of the Doctor's first series of adventures, including his very first encounter with the Daleks, Mr Ian Slitheen was in the basement and he said "Noooooooooooooooo!" and stopped them.
So it is important to remember that he did something very good and very important in saving a lot of Doctor Who adventures so that we can enjoy them on shiny disc today!
On the other fluffy foot…
He does have a teeny-tiny bit of a GIGANTIC EGO and tends to fall out with people.
In the later bit of the 1980s he spent a lot of his time being VERY HORRID about Mr John Tardis-Tuner who was the producer of Doctor Who back in those days, because they had fallen out. Mr Slitheen always tells everyone that he was very involved in making Doctor Who and helped Mr Tardis-Tuner with all the details of CONTINUITY. This was because Mr Slitheen had all of the old Doctor Who tapes from the BBC basement and NOT because he was the ultimate SAD FANBOY at all!
Mr Slitheen is also one of the people to take the credit (or BLAME) for writing ATTACK OF THE CYBERMEN. This story is supposed to sort out all the continuity errors in the history of the Cybermen but quite by accident is ACTUALLY the very most complicated to understand Doctor Who story of all time unless you have taken a DEGREE in CYBERMEN HISTORY from the University of SAD.
For a very long while, he kept himself out of the way of Doctor Who fandom, which was probably very good for his blood pressure as Doctor Who fans are some of the sanest and nicest people on the Internet – by which I mean they are ONLY dribblingly psychotic eight-and-a-half times out of ten.
But the advent of the return of the series to television tempted Mr Slitheen back into the world of fandom and since then he has been writing posts on the Outpost Gallifrey forums and even preparing EXTRA FEATURES for the Doctor Who DVDs!
Tragically, the CURSE of SLITHEEN has struck again, and he has FALLEN OUT with some people. Namely all the people who make Doctor Who DVDs and all the people on Outpost Gallifrey.
Still, never one to slink off head bowed when he can
I have been reading it for a while today.
I now feel the need to climb into the washing machine for a while.
Please set me to the right wash speed, Daddy.
Do NOT look at this website!
Nor at this one!
Do not even THINK of looking here!
News has broken and no matter where you look it will find a way into your head. Even sticking my fluffy head under a cushion did no good as my big fluffy ears still picked up the news from a trailer for Newsround!
Ooh, John Craven would never have given it away!
So, if you don't want to know, look away now!
No, I said look away!
You're still looking!
Okay, after this it's YOUR fault!
Okay, it's the news that Rose Tyler is Leaving Doctor Who!
Oh, you already knew.
This news has been both handled and greeted much better than the similar news last year that Mr Eccy-thump was leaving.
Obviously, that all came tumbling out in a rush because of a newspaper, but even so, just after the first episode it was hardly the most perfect of timing. Fortunately, that episode "Rose" had probed to be so phenomenally popular, and the people creating the series at the BBC were so talented, that they were able to surf that publicity and turn it from bad to good. It could have been a crushing blow, but instead it actually helped sell the series arc as a tragedy and the "search for the next Dr Who" gave the press something more interesting to speculate about for a while as well.
Newspaper #1: Will it be David Tennant?
Newspaper #2: Yes
This year, although there have been rumours, they have succeeded in keeping this news bottled up until much closer to the end of the series. Hopefully, this will provide a shot in the arm of publicity just as the ratings are sagging due to summer holidays and sunny Saturdays. A kind of "last chance to see" plus the "what will happen to Rose?" factor.
I will be very sad to see Rose leave, and I imagine Dr Who will be very sad as well too. This will probably be turned into A GOOD THING by the mighty pen of Russell T Vision who will find a new vein of emotional ore to mine.
It is funny, because just this morning, before we knew, Daddy Richard was wondering what Dr Who would do for friends NEXT, after Rose has gone. We think that they will have to come up with something a bit different so as not to undermine the whole Dr Who-Rose relationship. i.e. he will look a bit of a GIT if he just picks up the very next blonde that he comes across and starts up with her the same as with Rose.
Maybe it would be better to have a COUPLE as his friends – then the emotional bits can be between the two of them while Dr Who gets over the feelings of Rose having gone. Also, it would be nice to have a boy in the TARDIS as Captain Jack did not get to travel for nearly long enough, in my opinion.
Anyway, farewell and fluffy hugs to Rose for being wonderful.
Questionable Time on a day early this week, what is a fluffy elephant supposed to do? Anyway up, guests on the panel included the Lord Chancellor Lord Charlie Chum, Theresa "you may not" May, a crinkly old man from UKIP, Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty and old friend of the Liberal Democrats Mark Oatcake.
You may remember that a few months ago Mr Oatcake was in the contest to be leader of the Liberal Democrats that Sir Mr the Merciless won. Unfortunately, Mr Oatcake did not have enough support, so try and attract more attention to his campaign he had a SCANDAL, That didn't work out too well either, though, and he has gone very quiet since then because he has been trying to put his life back together.
Well, at least he WAS quiet until this month. It seems that he has put his life back together, even if he is still missing some of the pieces and it doesn't match the picture on the box any more.
Or, at the very least, he has finished transforming his image from this
So now he has been on the television several times to explain how being on the television is not good for him. Or something.
The good news is that ACTUALLY Mr Oatcake was quite good – by which I mean Daddy Richard only shouted "Populist Pilchard!" at the screen once when Mr Oatcake was talking. And there was only one question that descended into mawkish self-flagellation about "HOW HE DONE BAD". Believe me, this is good going!
Much more interesting was watching Ms Charming Shakrabati, or more accurately watching her BODY LANGUAGE. Because it seemed that half the time she was turning away from the audience in order to address her answer not to them but directly to Mr Oatcake.
I was strangely reminded of all those novels by Jane Austin where the heroine would rather fight and squabble with the hero than admit her inner feelings! Obviously, in this case Ms Charming is Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Oatcake is… well, not Mr Darcy, but maybe Mr Darcy's gerbil trainer.
Now, one explanation would be that Mr Oatcake's new whiskers possess the strange power of pheromones, those subtle alluring chemical scents that spell LURVE… so that can't be it!
No, it seems more likely that it is not Mr Oatcake in person but what her represents that is inescapably attractive to Ms Charming. Yes, she wants to get into bed with the Liberal Party but cannot do so, just THINK of the proprieties! Oh Mr Bennett!
On the one fluffy foot, this is a shame because Ms Charming would be a TREMENDOUSLY good (and LIBERAL) Liberal MP.
But on the other fluffy foot, she is probably able to do more as director of Liberty than she would be able to do in parliament.
Now, if only we could get over the need to SPAT with each other every time we meet at the dance!
People have asked: "Why is Lord Blairimort SO into the War on Terra?"
Obviously the answer is because Darth Cheney and the Monkey won't give him the spaceships to take part in the "War on Luna!"
(That joke works better when you say it out loud!)
Kirsty Waaaaark and the Newsnight programme did an update on the "War on Adjective" and how we are doing with that so far. Kirsty had several guests in the studio to discuss this afterwards, a bit like Gary Linnekar's bit in the World Cup programmes except that the waffle was not allowed to overrun into DOCTOR WHO.
Kirsty's guests did not include Alan Hanson OR Ian Wright, but did include left wing apologist commentator David Aaranovitch and a lady professor live via satellite from a picture of the White House.
Mr David said "it is not about won or lost, this war is a process and we have to judge whether we are safer at any stage of the process…"
This is all fairly standard GUFF.
If you want to take the idea of a "War on Terror" seriously (no, I said IF) then it is pretty OBVIOUS where the WINNING line is: we WIN when we are SAFE. Or if you prefer, we are SAFE when we WIN.
It is ALSO pretty obvious that this is actually IMPOSSIBLE.
Okay, well not ACTUALLY impossible, but really much more complicated than is being made out and certainly not DOABLE by force of arms.
The thing about you people is your ASTONISHING ability to harbour RESENTMENTS whether it is who had the last sticky bun or whose bestest friend gave them the Middle East in the first place. If you really want to deal with the main cause of "TERROR" you are going to have to sort out the fact that really most of you people are teed off most of the time about something, especially when, quite frankly, really rather a lot of people in the world have a good reason to be teed off about the West getting ALL the sticky buns and everyone else being stuck with mud pies made of REAL MUD.
Shooting their next door NEIGHBOURS and blowing up their GRANNIES (even when you DO get the BAD GUYS along with them) is only going to INCREASE the resentment. You would be much better off selling them a whole load of televisions and DVDs, you really would.
Anyway, given that getting to the WIN square is looking very unlikely, what with there being all snakes and no ladders on the way, people in FAVOUR of the "War on Adjective" have to change the terms of the debate.
If you can't WIN you can say well at least we're WINNING.
Which is where Mr David's line about "process" and "safer" comes back in. Sure, we haven't got all the BAD GUYS yet, but look you aren't actually DEAD so you must be safer than you were!
The interesting, or possibly TERRIFYING, thing was that after Mr David said this, he was interrupted by the American lady from the picture of the Washington Zoo Ape-a-torium.
If you want to know where she was coming from, she had already started REWRITING HISTORY by telling everyone how Mr Cheney's monkey had been warning about the threat of TERROR back in his first campaign to (not, actually) be elected back in 1999. Funny that, because if he was SO concerned then, how come he ignored the warnings about an attack on America and went on a long holiday in August 2001?
So she interrupted Mr David to say: "no, no, no, it's NOT about safer and less safe AT ALL".
If not being able to win means you change the language to "safer" rather than "safe", just HOW BADLY do you have to be doing to want to change the language AGAIN!
News just in: raise the ALERT LEVEL to BANANAS!
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Quick! Quick! Call for the Minister for Asteroids! The sky is falling!
It seems that a meteorite has struck the Earth, or specifically NORWAY, with the force of the ATOM BOMB that destroyed the Japanese city of Hiroshima!
Here is where they think it hit!
You would think that this sort of thing would get more coverage!
Monday, June 12, 2006
The lovely people from KALDOR CITY are hosting an interview with scary voiced Mr Satan himself, Gabriel Woolf, if you are BRAVE enough to read it!
Here is Daddy Richard again with his thoughts for the week:
The thing that I noticed after watching this is that although the two-part "Rise of the Cybermen" had the huge scope, with thousands of people affected and "an" entire Earth at risk and in comparison "The Satan Pit" was played out on a planet at the edge of the universe and took in no more than a dozen people, but it was this story, "The Satan Pit", that felt huge and epic.
Part two, this week, was good but not great in the way that part one was great. In part, this is no doubt due to the usual let down of "how do you follow that?" but there was also a slight sense that the story lost its focus towards the end. It builds to a huge confrontation between the Doctor and the Devil, but by the time he finds Satan in the pit, the Beast's mind has scarpered and we are deprived of the kind of face off that, well, "Pyramids of Mars" delivered. I would have preferred it for the Doctor to have had that big show down only to realise after a while that the Beast was just keeping him talking, as so long as Toby got away he would let the Beast's live free without ever having to leave his prison.
Because this week, the Beast felt somehow less powerful, less like a genuine threat to the entire universe. Last week, wearing Toby's body he could walk unprotected on the surface of Krop Tor and kill Scooti by shattering a window with a gesture. This week, he played a few mind games courtesy of simple telepathic trickery. I remember (again) Sutekh holding back an explosion by the power of his mind: surely the Beast could have shown some similar enormous power – holding the planet against the Black Hole by the force of his will alone, perhaps. Until Rose blasts him/Toby into space.
It was also just a little bit too easy to recover the TARDIS. As in the Doctor literally stumbles upon it just as he needs to escape. Obviously, we all KNEW that the old girl was going to be safe and well at the bottom of the pit, but there didn't seem to be any reason for it to have got there in particular: why not lodge at a higher level within the ruins rather than in the pit which is obviously dug deeper than the old city. Perhaps something could have been added to suggest that she was brought there by the same prison-builders who arranged for the Doctor's soft-landing so that he could throw the Beast into the Black Hole.
Or, perhaps we would kill two birds with one diabolical stone, and have the Beast see the TARDIS in the Doctor's mind and show his power by drawing it to him through the planet as it presents itself as an alternative escape route.
It was a shame because this needed just something to suggest that the Beast really was something SO nigh on omnipotent that it could be the greater form on which the Daemons modelled themselves that it could have been the dark design that inspired Sutekh. As it was, we were left with the distinct possibility – and I appreciate that the story did call for open questions to be left at the end – the possibility that this was just a large monster. There were other questions that could have been left open: who chained him in the first place, and were they really light to his darkness? The chained titan can be Prometheus as easily as Beelzebub, after all.
I'm just sure that there was room for MORE in this story.
On the other hand, this episode excelled in its quieter moments, such as the Doctor's contemplation on belief while hanging alone in the dark of the Pit. Or Ida left on the planet and at the lip of the pit with only the recollection of her plea: "I don't want to die alone".
And what a brilliant episode for Rose. When she takes command of the crew to save them all from the Ood she really grew to a new level, an interesting counter-echo of "The Christmas Invasion" where she goes to pieces under much less critical circumstances. Obviously, the difference here is that the Ood are an obstacle to recovering the Doctor and this drives her to be creative, whereas at Christmas she had the Doctor but he was left directionless.
And then she does it again in the rocket, justifying the Doctor's one belief: in her.
Alex has often pointed out that Russell T Davies has three very favourite stories from the classic era: "City of Death", "Pyramids of Mars" and "The Ark in Space". (I'll let him expound on the evidence for why.) Obviously, there is much that informs "The Satan Pit" from "Pyramids of Mars" but there is also plenty of homage to "Ark in Space" here too: from drawing the power from the rocket's independent motors and being given remote directions to crawl through the access tunnels – even the CGI rocket is reminiscent of the optional CGI from the "Ark in Space" DVD.
"Doctor Who" has encountered an elemental evil from the dawn of time before, of course, in the form of Fenric from "The Curse of Fenric", and I wonder a little how this story and that quite sit together. It's not an actual contradiction: the Doctor accepts Fenric as a primeval evil but doesn't say he is from "before" the universe, just the very beginning.
Except, of course, in the novels, starting with the New Adventures – in particular "White Darkness" but many other follow from there – where it is suggested that Fenric and many of the gods/demi-gods that the Doctor has previously encountered – the Great Intelligence, the Animus, the Celestial Toymaker, the Nestene, the Gods of Ragnarok – are all "Great Old Ones" (yes, as in H.P. Lovecraft) who are really beings from "the universe before ours". Well, this story draws heavily on those concepts while at the same time stating baldly that the Doctor doesn't believe a word of them!
Actually, I'd much rather buy into this series version of the mythology as too many of the books authors used that explanation to tie things down pat. The demi-gods of the Doctor Who universe should remain mysterious.
Having said that, it does occur to me that an obvious way to tie Fenric to the Beast would have been to suggest that humans were not the first to come here, and Toby was not the first vessel that the Beast had used to try to escape and walk the universe. Yes, last week I wanted the Beast to be Sutekh; this week I'm implying that the mind of the Beast could have been Fenric.
We're entering the closing weeks of the second season now, but unlike last years there isn't quite the same sense of momentum. I suspect that that's because last year had a solid story to it: the Doctor's slow and painful recovery from the trauma of the Time War and the gathering of events around him as directed by the Daleks and ultimately the Bad Wolf. Despite Torchwood cropping up all over the place this year it has less of a sense of impending doom to it not least because there seems to be no sense that Torchwood is "out to get the Doctor" in the way that the Bad Wolf seemed to be (even if she was turned on her head in the end). How much of the form of last year's story only really becomes apparent with hindsight, though? Perhaps we will see this year more clearly by the end of July.
In the meantime, it seems to be a season of good to excellent stand-alone stories, with – so far – this one, "Tooth and Claw" and "The Girl in the Fireplace" ranking as the class acts. Great stuff.
And it WAS a REALLY good Satan.
Next week: a Blue Peter competition winner
Saturday, June 10, 2006
My Daddies made me watch “The Impossible Planet” again on repeat on BBC 3.
Daddy Richard thinks this may have been the first time since “Rose” that an episode was so good that they have watched it more than twice in the week of its first broadcast!
As we watched, they counted up the number of times that something is called IMPOSSIBLE and, like so many other things on the Impossible Planet there are SIX!
(Daddy Alex has helped me to find them all by doing the COUNTING!)
1. The alien language that Toby has written on the wall is IMPOSSIBLY old. (1m40s)
2. Mr Jefferson tells Captain Zack that they’ve found real people and Zack replies: “Don’t be stupid, that’s IMPOSSIBLE.” (3m40s)
3. "But you’re a sort of space base, it can’t be that IMPOSSIBLE," replies Rose (3m50s)
4. The Doctor and Rose see the Black Hole for the first time. "But that’s IMPOSSIBLE," exclaims the Doctor (7m40s)
5. The Doctor says to generate the gravity field and the funnel would need an inverted self-extrapolating field of six to the sixth power every six seconds. And that’s IMPOSSIBLE. (12m00s)
6. Danny warns that the Ood telepathic field has reached BASIC 100. But that’s IMPOSSIBLE! (38m35s)
I hope that the conclusion is just as clever and exciting.
Do not forget to watch!
Sir Mr the Merciless is back with a vengeance this week.
First, he actually manages the rare trick of winning at Prime Minister's Questions (a game like Grandmother's Footsteps played with live ammo).
Then, he makes a sweeping new policy statement that even gets the top headlines on the Today Programme!
It should not really come as any surprise that Sir Mr the Merciless has announced that the time has come to stop increasing the tax burden. The Liberal Democrats have, for several general elections now, been working very hard on getting and keeping their reputation as the party that talks honestly about TAX.
Tax, we say, is a necessary evil in order to let the government help people to achieve their goals: education opens the door to opportunity; the health service frees people from suffering under the weight of illness; pensions reward people with dignity in retirement.
After YEARS of the Conservatories under-investing in our nation we were the ones who HONESTLY said: we will need to ask the public for a little bit more to put things right. First it was the "penny on income tax" and then it was the "50p rate for those earning over £100,000".
But since then, the Labour has taken the tax money even though they didn't ask for it!
Mr Frown put a penny on National Insurance, which turns out to be EXACTLY THE SAME as putting a penny on the basic AND higher rates of Income Tax (which is actually even MORE money than the Liberal Democrats asked for – did I mention that Mr Frown took without asking.)
Mr Frown has also been being a bit SNEAKY with the ALLOWANCES, not putting them up quite as much as inflation. This means that more and more people at the LOWEST end of the scale find that they are paying tax. Mr Frown has had to introduce a complicated system of TAX CREDITS to make up for poor people being caught by his TAX COLLECTORS.
So it is fair enough that the Liberal Democrats now HONESTLY say: "thank you very much, you have given enough money. It is time we saw that it was being used properly."
Sir Mr the Merciless's PLAN is to shift the burden of taxation away from those people on low incomes altogether, and instead target the taxes at people who are better off and at people who pollute the environment.
The Independent said this was "a bid for higher ground", calling the tax proposals "impressive".
The Telegraph described them as a "sudden attack of sanity", although that seems to be because they are under the impression that Sir Mr the Merciless is doing this in order to get into a coalition with Mr Balloon.
The Times called them "Bolder, Smarter" in the hopes that it is the first step to REDUCING the total tax burden.
Meanwhile, the Guardian found Sir Mr the Merciless "an unlikely Robin Hood figure" and expressed some trepidation at this step away from soaking the rich.
Even the Sun found something nice to say!
Although, Mr Balloon's baldy friend Nick "Mate of Dave" Robinson has come out with a fairly blatant ATTACK on his own BBC weblog.
Hopefully we can look forward to him showing how IMPARTIAL he is with a piece challenging Mr Balloon's Party next:
Questions to the Conservatories
1. What are your policies?
2. What are your policies?
3. What are your policies?
4. What are your policies?
And one final question, given the sharply marked contrast between Liberal Democrat serious minded policy development and Conservatory superficial spin: what ARE your policies?
At his own press conference (once he had finished gloating about blowing up yet another person in Iraq) Lord Blairimort dismissed the new Liberal policies saying he could not see how a cut in Income tax could be paid for by raising green taxes.
Perhaps he is just too tired to do maths; maybe he should ask Mr Frown to help him. Come to think of it, Mr Frown has probably told him that taxes are paid for by the pixie gold at the end of the rainbow (!)
[Blairimort: and just because… we have not found… any evidence… yet… that does not mean… that the intelligence about the pixie gold… was inaccurate… I-know-what-I'm-talking-about glower… £7,000-hairdo hair… where-did-I-put-all-those-receipts worry lines…]
Reaction from the (ahem, OTHER) Conservatories has been understandably CONFUSED. They SO want to get along without having to have any policies at all and LOOK OUT! Here comes Sir Mr the Merciless with a POLICY announcement that only goes and OUTFLANKS THEM on two fronts at the same time:
Front Number One: Mr Balloon's "I'm so green" looks a bit pale if he won't match the Liberal promise of action on green tax
Front Number Two: Mr Balloon's tax policy looks a bit half-hearted if the Liberals can offer up the kind of tax cut his gang likes and he's left umm-ing and ah-ing.
Only the other week, shadow minister for pocket money, Mr Boy George Osborne, promised cross-his-heart and hope-not-to-be-reshuffled that he would never, ever, ever promise to lower taxes.
This left another of Mr Balloon's friends, Michael Gove, furiously rowing back on Question Time saying that of course what Mr Boy George had meant to say was: "we promise there will be tax cuts we just promise we won't promise them, and that's a promise!"
Many Conservatories have actually PRAISED Sir Mr the Merciless's new proposals today because they do promise Income Tax cuts. Perhaps they think that this means that Mr Boy George will be able to quickly drop his own promise not to promise.
Daddy Alex has been saying for a while – in fact since before the last general election – that the Liberal Democrats should be pushing much more the GAINERS as well as the LOSERS from our policies about tax. In particular, when we promised that GREEN TAX would be tax neutral that meant there would be ways to REDUCE people's other tax.
It had almost become that we were trying SO HARD to be HONEST that we had put on a HAIR SHIRT and were beating ourselves up to admit who would be worse off, when what we needed to be doing was TRUMPETING that there would be lots of people BETTER OFF.
Fortunately, that message seems to have got through now.
I think most people have come to the conclusion that the government takes enough money now, and to take more will start to hurt the economy and waste all the good that has been done during Mr Frown's time in charge.
Sir Mr the Merciless has shown that the Liberal Democrats are paying attention and listening to what people think. It's not just a question of giving them what they want, though, it's a question of giving them what is FAIR.
Fair tax. Green Tax.
A better answer.
Not to blow my own trunk or anything, but it looks like I'm not the only one to think Mr Balloon was just a bit SILLY to blame Radio 1 for crime.
Friday, June 09, 2006
It's all been such good news for Mr Balloon recently that he must be rather upset that suddenly he's having a bit of a time.
It is probably to do with things coming to a head about his ONLY PROMISE – you remember, the one to his Conservatory gang that he would pull their MEPs out of the European People's Party because they were too SOFT. He has to come up with a DECISION about whether to BREAK his promise or to go ahead even though the MEPs don't want to go.
It's a tricky one isn't it, especially if you're not good at decisions.
So he has sent Mr Vague off to Europe to go and
In the meantime, Mr Balloon has MUCH more important things to do than KEEP HIS WORD.
He has put his thinking cap on and come up with a brand new wheeze about the subject of violent crime and decided to lay all the blame squarely on… Radio 1.
Mr Balloon says that this is an example of his courage(!):
"the courage to speak up when you see something that is wrong" despite the fact that "you will get a lot of bricks thrown at you".
Other examples of Mr Balloon's bravery:
"I put a glass tumbler over that spider in the bathroom, despite the fact it was quite big and hairy."
"I'm not afraid to eat the last sticky bun, despite the fact that it IS my wife's birthday."
Mind you, if he WAS being BRAVE, you would have thought that he might have MENTIONED something to them when he was ACTUALLY ON Radio 1 at the start of this year.
It's all a bit of an about face since the early days when he was SUCH a "hip and with it" young thing.
Is it possible that Mr Balloon is not as "down with the kids" as he appeared to be when appearing on Live FM and telling them:
"This is a great project, this is a great community, keep backing it, keep it real."
In those days Mr Balloon LOVED the "youf culture" and even had a little bit of "dangerous rock-n-roll" on desert island i-pod.
Ah, well, if you're on a desert island you're going to need flip flops.
But IS claiming that SCARY SONGS cause VIOLENT CRIME really so very brave? Even if you ARE being confronted by the editor of GOOD HOUSEKEEPING?
And this may come as a shock to Mr Balloon, but the idea that music or films or television are somehow to blame for violence in society is NOT, in fact, very ORIGINAL.
Almost since the first caveman started banging the rocks together, a Mary Whitehouse was there to say that this new-fangled rock-banging would lead to the end of cave-civilisation.
Politicians love to bang on about it being the fault of the DREADFUL things that young people listen to / watch / play. The trouble is, it seems that evidence to prove this is elusively hard to find.
Here is an interesting address on the subject, to the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in 1999 by Stuart Fischoff, Ph.D. (GREAT NAME, by the way!)
Doctor Fischoff says in particular:
"How many of you here are familiar with the research by Stanley Milgram, William McGuire, Ron Milavsky, Jonathan Freedman, Dolf Zillmann, Jennings Bryant, and dozens of others whose research doesn’t support the media-violence connection?"
"The only study of which I’m aware which purportedly dealt with real violent crime was the Huesmann and Eron study on cumulative effects of TV watching and real-world criminality. In their study, however, watching violent TV did not correlate with real-world violence or criminality when measured concurrently at ages 8 and 30. No, it correlated with violence watching at eight and criminal behavior at 30. "
Blaming "the media" for violence is really NOT very brave after all. It turns out that it is a bit of a LAZY CLICHÉ and not one that is very well supported by real PROOF.
(How VERY unlike Mr Balloon that must sound!)
Mr Balloon isn't REALLY going to get bricks thrown at him for saying this: it is more like he's joining the crowd throwing the stones!
I do hope he does not live in a glass house!
Or as my Daddy Alex might say:
"Kids Today, eh!" snorts posh young fogey…
Not exactly "Man bites Dog", is it?
Day 1981: Mysteries of Doctor Who #4: So, is my Butterfly Net REALLY a threat to the Entire Universe?
Science fiction has a habit of picking a fancy and sticking with it: the nature of the relationship between creator and created as applied to the shiny robot; alien invaders among us who are really (SHOCK!) Communists; or uploading your mind into a whole new environment called cyberspace are all examples.
Doctor Who is no different, whether it is the "let's remake every horror story ever" era of the mid seventies; the "footlights fuelled fantasy whimsy pastiche" era of the late seventies; or the "GUNS with a capital GUNS" era or the mid eighties.
When it came to the nineteen-nineties (oh yes there WAS Doctor Who in the nineteen-nineties) the particular piece of zeitgeist that the NEW ADVENTURES surfed most often was THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT.
The Butterfly Effect is the most widely known (and most widely misquoted) example from the mathematic theory called the study of systems governed by non-linear equations by people who know what they are talking about but not how the real world works, or CHAOS THEORY by people who want to sell books.
Most people probably remember from school physics classes some stuff about how the world is kind of run by some LAWS that were made up by mathematicians, especially Sir ISAAC NEWTON-BOMB.
Sir Isaac basically said that moving things carry on moving pretty much as they are unless you PUSH them. And then how much they ACCELERATE depends on how HARD you push.
At the time this was revolutionary, because people thought then (and often think now) that it is how FAST you go that depends on how hard you push, but this is not right: how fast depends on how hard you push AND how long you push for.
(People tended to be distracted by the fact that FRICTION causes things to slow down again when you stop pushing sideways, and GRAVITY tends to pull things down to Earth with a bump a lot when you stop pushing upwards.)
Anyway, that is a CLASSIC example of a LINEAR SYSTEM. The outcome is determined by one input (push) and how much output you get out is PROPORTIONAL to how much input you put in.
Also, it is nice and easy to solve using ALGEBRA. Or even counting on your feet! If you know where you are at the start and how fast you are going, then all you really need to do is some MULTIPLICATION to know where you will get to at the end and how quickly.
Unfortunately the maths gets very, very hard if you try and solve more complicated problems, like when there is more than one input.
If you take a system like the WEATHER, then there are a lot of "inputs". There is which way the wind is blowing determines how the clouds move, how many clouds there are determines how much the sun warms up the sea beneath; how warm the sea is determines how much rain becomes clouds; the shape of the surface of the land is determines how the wind and clouds move; how cold it is where the clouds end up determines whether it is rain or snow; how much snow falls changes how much sunlight is reflected back and in turn how warm or cold it is; and so on and so on.
This is called a NON-LINEAR system because there are MANY inputs and they do not respond in the nice easy PROPORTIONAL way of giving back in relation to how much you put in.
Nevertheless, you could still work out a BIG EQUATION with lots of letters and numbers and try to make a MODEL of how the weather works.
In fact, this is EXACTLY what the weather men do with their computers. When they aren't playing TOMB RAIDER, anyway.
But here is the problem: you want to use your model to predict what the weather is going to be like tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that.
So you tell the computer lots of things about what the weather is like today and it puts all of these into the big equation and it says "bleep bleep this is tomorrow's weather".
Yes, JUST like that.
Some scientists were doing some experiments just like this to test their weather computer. It was in the nineteen-seventies which was a while ago and so they had to run printouts on paper to see the results. They would run one every half an hour. At the end of the day, they had to switch off the computer and because it did not have a HARD DISC DRIVE or indeed any kind of storage memory, that would be the end of the experiment for the day and the next day they had to start all over again by feeding in the last set of numbers that they had printed out the night before.
However, in order to check that the machine was working alright, what they did was in fact feed in the figures not of the LAST print out, but the LAST-BUT-ONE print out and then they expected to get a check after half an hour that the first printout of that day was the same as the last from the day before.
Except it wasn’t.
It was quite a lot different.
This puzzled them a lot for a very long time and they took their computer to pieces and couldn't find anything wrong so they put it back together again and still it didn't work out the same.
And then they had a brainwave: the figures on the printout that they were typing in the next morning were NOT the same as the figures that the computer had been thinking of at the time of the printout. In order to save paper and indeed themselves from going bonkers, the figures were ROUNDED to a few decimal places.
BUT the computer had been thinking of figures that were VERY, VERY SLIGHTLY different.
When they put in the last-but-one-time's figures, they were actually putting in an APPROXIMATION of the REAL numbers that the computer had been thinking of.
And here's the thing: when you are doing LINEAR equations, if you get the starting figure a LITTLE bit wrong; then you get the finishing figure a LITTLE bit wrong. Because, being LINEAR, the wrongness in the output is PROPORTIONAL to the wrongness in the input.
But when you are doing NON-LINEAR equations the mathematics gets more COMPLICATED – not just in the sense that you can tie all four of your legs together if you try solving them by counting on you feet, but also because you can no longer be sure that a SMALL error at the start will end up with a SMALL error at the end.
Worse than that, it is often impossible even to predict whether a small error at the start will give you a big error or a small error at the end!
People remember that Chaos Theory is the branch of mathematics that gave us all those exciting computer pictures of FRACTALS and MANDELBROT SETS.
What the Mandelbrot Set is – in one sense – is a map of the kinds of errors you get in one simple non-linear system: if your starting error is inside the set then your ending error is small; if your starting error is outside the set, the your ending error is HUGE. But, as everyone knows, the edge of the set is INCREDIBLY fiddly twiddley and the detail seems to go on forever. In fact it's not just seeming, it REALLY DOES go on forever: you can expand it ANY NUMBER OF TIMES and still find more twiddles.
Okay, you are saying, so where does the BUTTERFLY come in.
Well, if you are going to build a weather computer, you need to give it all that information about today's weather – so where do you get that information from?
What you do is this, you set up lots of weather stations all over the world and take readings on all the input things like cloud cover and temperature and rainfall and wind speed and how many cows are lying down.
But that's REALLY an approximation, because you are going to have to guess what the input values were for places that you don't have weather stations.
And we've already seen the problem with approximations: the small errors quickly blow up out of all proportion and in random and unpredictable ways. Your weather computer's prediction for even a FEW WEEKS into the future is predicting heat waves when it turns out you get hurricanes that week instead.
Even if you make you approximation really, really, really good it can only ever be an approximation because you cannot cover the entire surface of the Earth in weather stations. There'd be no room for elephants!
But suppose, just as an experiment, you COULD cover the entire surface of the globe in weather stations, one every metre say. You would have a very, very good approximation indeed. But you still would not be able to take into account every air current in the Earth's atmosphere.
A BUTTERFLY, flying between two of your weather stations flaps its wings in a way that your equation doesn't predict because it doesn't even know the butterfly is there. So there is STILL, even in this insane experiment, STILL a difference, an error between the numbers that you tell your weather computer and the ACTUAL starting position of the Earth's atmosphere.
And the chaos maths means that that error, tiny as it is, has an entirely unpredictable effect on the difference between your prediction and the weather that really happens.
THAT is what is meant by the famous quote:
"The flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil causes a tornado in Tokyo"
The butterfly ON ITS OWN does not cause the tornado: it is only one tiny contributing factor. The point is that you did not PREDICT the tornado because you did not include the wing flap in what you told the weather computer.
The Butterfly Effect is that PREDICTIONS in NON-LINEAR systems GO WRONG.
However, that is NOT the end of the stick that was grasped by the writers of many of the New Adventures.
They got the idea that changing something tiny makes a big difference in the outcome.
In particular, if you go back in time and change something – typically murdering an unfortunate butterfly JUST TO MAKE THE POINT – then when you return to the future, shock gasp, the Federation has ceased to exist and/or everyone you ever loved is now mauve in hue and/or Mr Balloon is an honest and entirely believable figure of wisdom benevolently guiding mankind with no thought of benefit for himself.
[R: steady on, Millennium, the world couldn't be THAT different!]
This, of course, misses half the point.
The Butterfly Effect is about PREDICTIONS.
If you travel back in time from the future, then the future is NOT A PREDICTION.
It is a bit of your STARTING information.
Because of the uncertain nature of memory never mind history, you could argue that HOW the future got from the point that you travelled to in the past to where you started from IS a prediction and so that COULD change. Not that you'd notice, because your start point (in the future) is fixed by BEING the START point, not the END POINT!
Anyway, after all those Butterflies affecting the Seventh Doctor, they only went and gave the eighth Doctor a whole ROOM FULL of the things!