...a blog by Richard Flowers

Friday, July 28, 2006

Day 2033: What do the Polls Mean?


…when they say:

"Słoń pokrywał w partiach futra"

Oh, that's Poles!

I must offer my congratulations to Mr Black Peter, Prince of Arboria, for offering a challenge to our Emperor, Sir Mr the Merciless. This is very BRAVE of him, if a little UNWISE.

I do hope the kingdom of Arboria does not get blasted into flinders as a result of this!

It looks like quite a lot of Liberal Democrat chums are already flocking to Black Peter's banner… although most of them in order to tell him to put it away before anybody sees.

Oh no! Too late!

No, I do not mean that my favouritest MP, Sarah Teather, is strapping on her red leather flying harness and warming up War Rocket Ajax – I mean that ever-watchful journalists, never straying far from their computers if a story will come to them, are already on to Black Peter's revolt and have reported it in the main stream media. And also the Grauniad.

There is a certain amount of IRONY here, because it seems that it may have been the Grauniad's reporting of their ICbM opinion poll that flushed Black Peter out in the first place.

Now, I have asked Daddy Richard to look at the opinion poll data which can be found on the ICbM website here: zzap!

Daddy Richard is a little bit CONFUSED. More than usual.

It seems to him that the figures that are UPSETTING everyone look like this:

Con: 39% (+3) Lab: 35% (nc) Lib Dem:17% (-1)

But when he checks, those figures it's a bit hard to follow because ICbM do not show their workings. They seem to start from the UNWEIGHTED BASE, that is, the RAW figures that ICbM get just from the people that they telephone.

The ICbM people do some maths to juggle the proportions of people based on age and income and on what they remember voting last time and this gives WEIGHTED figures. These are supposed to better represent the whole population, and in fact these appear on the next line on the report and give the following positions:

Con: 37% Lab: 34% Lib Dem:18%

Now, this is a bit STRANGE, because these figures would tell a RATHER DIFFERENT story to the ones that the Grauniad chose to use. Using these figures, it is Lord Blairimort's New Labour that is going down. Mr Balloon's Conservatories are not gaining so much and they are gaining from Lord Blairimort and Sir Mr the Merciless is holding his position.

And compare this with today's YouGov poll – normally the most biased against the Liberal Democrats – which ALSO shows our poll rating unchanged, NOT down, AND showing Mr Balloon dithering, not steaming ahead, and you might start to think that something is, in fact, up!

Actually, Daddy Richard would have liked to look at the June figures, but the ICbM website has got the WRONG LINK there – and give you the background data for August 2004. Which confused Daddy EVEN MORE!

However, ICbM then do some MORE maths on the figures to take into account how likely to vote people say that they are.

And this is where we have had a bit of a SLUMP. Compared to May (remember June is missing somewhere) when 66% of Lib Dem voters were really keen, saying they were 9/10 or 10/10 likely to turn out and vote, now only 55% of our voters are that enthusiastic. Similarly, people only half hearted about voting (saying there's a 6/10 or 5/10 chance of them getting out) have increased from 14% to 21%.

So this is the hidden message: while Lord Blairimort's voters are drifting off to Mr Balloon, Liberal Democrat Voters are drifting off to SLEEP!

This is not something that should come as any kind of SURPRISE to us – we all know that the media hardly ever give the Liberal Democrats any coverage unless the Representation of the People Act comes along and threatens them with a BIG STICK. We all know that the Today Programme likes to use the Liberal Democrats to fill the early no-one-listens-to-them post-farming six a.m. slots and saves their "prime time" eight a.m. interviews for Lord Blairimort's strawman du jour or Mr Balloon's PR chum of the moment.

This is why we have to generate our own news! So go and deliver some Focuses and work off your angst that way!

As for Mr Black Peter and his band of rebels, do not be dismayed. We are a Liberal Party and we can stand to have a little bit of VIGOROUS KNOCK-ABOUT DEBATE.

But it is far too early to say that the wheels have fallen off: Sir M is still putting them back on from the last time!

Do not be too concerned about the media trying to pin a label on us. We are pulling ourselves together again after a bit of a time of it, since the last general election. It is quite right and proper that people should throw ideas and even criticisms into the melting pot.

Sir Mr the Merciless is a tough old boot who doesn't need obsequious North-Korean-esque kowtowing to the leader. This sort of barracking will not worry him; I am sure he has brutally annihilated worse things in his time.

Sir Mr the Merciless wants us to focus on FREEDOM – freeing people from the burden of unfair tax, freeing people from Lord Blairimort's big-brother society, and freeing people from the fear of being blasted into the void… until such time as he grows weary of them.

Once we get to our Conference in BRIGHTON the policy commissions will have laid out our choices and Sir Mr the Merciless will have given the party new direction. It is an EXCITING time even if some people are a bit NERVOUS while we go through this process. But it IS a PROCESS. At the end we will have reassessed our priorities and retuned our key policies!

So, only one fluffy cheer for Black Peter's bravery – but three cheers for being in a party where we HAVE brave people. Even when they are a bit silly sometimes too.

Day 2032: Daddy NOT in the most boring job in the world


Do not believe MONTY PYTHON! Accountants are NOT among the top-ten most boring jobs!

Actually they are 12th on that list!

Day 2031: Health Warning


Lord Blairimort speaks: It's your choice – be healthy or I'll make you!

Day 2030: So farewell then, Mr Gerbil


Good news! Mr Oatcake has gone to the great Tea House in the Sky. Or any other television channel that will take him.

It is nice to hear that his wife has forgiven him for being annoying. Good job this was before his appearance on “The Ultimate West Wing Challenge” this evening.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Day 2029: Balloon spotted over Afghanistan


As ever, Mr Balloon's finger is on the pulse of world affairs as he misses the Middle East crisis by only a few thousand miles to fly in to Afghanistan, where of the world's largest poppy fields are to be found.

Landing at the airport, he did two choruses of "Is this the Road to Amarillo" and "There'll be Blue Birds Over the White Cliffs of Dover" before the soldiers could direct him to Kandahar and the Centre of Taliban power.

After he left, the troops said that they had cheered up enormously.

It is good to see that Mr Balloon will be striving for a new peace in the area by lecturing the Afghan people on their need for a better WORK-LIFE BALANCE and implementing his new HUG-A-HIJAB initiative.

I hope that he is able to enjoy his trip and relax, safe in the knowledge that the REAL OPPOSITION is covering things in his absence.

[R: PS - diaries entered by TIME WARP today: Day 2021, Day 2022 and Day 2023]

Monday, July 24, 2006

Day 2028: You'll Believe an Elephant Can Fly


Special Effect

Man on Strings

Today we went to see SUPERMAN RETURNS at the Cinema. In order to be fair, this time Daddy Alex bought tickets for ME and HIM and Daddy Richard had to hide in the bag of chocolates.

We thought that this was a FUN movie that was very respectful of the TRADITION of SUPERMAN and SUPERMAN II.

In fact, there are points when it goes BEYOND respectful and into SHOT-for-SHOT REMAKE!

  • Flying through space opening titles – check
  • Krypton from space – check
  • Crystal spaceship crashes in Martha Kent's back yard – check
  • Exploits of young Clark – check
  • Clark arrives at Daily Planet – check
  • Superman's first deed is to save Lois from a falling helicopter/aeroplane – check
  • String of super-rescues - check
  • Superman gives special interview to Lois Lane - check
  • Lex Luthor has a get mega-rich land deal plan – check
  • …and steals a meteorite of Kryptonite to get Supes out of the way (in fact it's the SAME meteorite) - check
  • Superman is almost killed by the Kryptonite and plunges into water – check
  • But is saved and defeats Lex's plan by tunnelling deep into the Earth and using his super-strength to lift a section of the Earth's crust - check

Sometimes this is VERY GOOD – bringing the excitement of twenty-first century effects to classic super-exploits; sometimes though you are left hoping for a bit more originality, in particular from the director who created such a RELEVANT modern fable from the sprawling X-MEN mythology.

The main NEW spin that they have added is that Superman has been AWAY for FIVE YEARS and so Lois is now MARRIED to Cyclops from the X-Men…

[R: Er, sort of. It's the same actor.]

…and they have a little boy. Although he looks quite BIG for a FOUR-YEAR OLD.

(It might have been better to say that Superman had been away for TEN years. Daddy Richard has a THEORY, though, that they chose five years because that would mean that Superman left in July 2001, or rather before SEPTEMBER 2001. But this makes him rather depressed.)

In Superman III – and I should point out that Daddy Alex likes Superman III as well; and who couldn't love a movie with ROBERT VAUGHN in it – but when they made that film, the makers made the decision to put a bit of EMOTIONAL DISTANCE between Superman and Lois. This was a fair decision at the time, because after SUPERMAN II it would have been difficult to take the Lois/Superman RELATIONSHIP anywhere else. But the new Superman movie sort of IGNORES that emotional shift, and more follows on from the CLOSE relationship from the first two.

This LURVE-TRIANGLE might be an interesting new thing to do with Superman – Mr Lois is a GOOD man, just not in Superman's league, and Superman could have been all noble, and Lois could have had difficulty reconciling her "ordinary" love with her love for the super-hero – but this plot does not really GO anywhere.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the Superman/Lois Lane love story is FRONT and CENTRE in this movie.

Which makes accusations of a GAY AGENDA all the more perplexing!

If anything, there is a heavily CHRISTIAN agenda in this movie – with Superman being portrayed several times in CHRIST-LIKE pose (check out in PARTICULAR the "crucified" look as he falls to Earth after hurling the Kryptonite infected rock into space); Lex explicitly refers to the Kryptonians as "gods" (so Superman is the son of…); at one point Superman hangs in heaven literally listening to the prayers of the desperate before swooping to Earth in answer. Oh, plus the whole being "dead" at the end and returning to life after… how many days was it? And then the nurse finds the empty tomb hospital room. What EXACTLY was that trying to say? Some play is made of the "Superman as saviour" idea, in particular when the question is posed "do we need a saviour?" The movie's answer appears to be a great big "yes".

Actually, that all give rise to one of the more WORRYING points, where Lex – vainly comparing himself to Prometheus – claims that "gods are selfish little beings in red capes who keep all their powers to themselves".

The worry is that Lex might have a point.

Daddy Alex had a similar problem with X-Men III: threatened with the "cure" for the gay gene, sorry, the Mutant-X gene Sir Ian Magneto says "Excuse me, but that's attempted genocide, and I for one say no BLOODY thank you!" The possibility that Mr Magneto deserves an answer to his case is quickly glossed over by having him threaten to kill lots of people. So he must be BAD so anything he says is automatically WRONG.

Similarly, here, Lex is a PSYCHOPATH who wants to make a fast buck even if it kills a few billion people.

(Incidental note to authors: check that population of North America ACTUALLY in billions before suggesting that its destruction will result in billions of deaths. Daddy Alex is muttering about knock on tidal waves going round the world, but I do not think that the producers were really thinking about that.)

When Lex dares to QUESTION by what right Superman holds such huge (practically limitless) powers, Lex is also quickly shown to be EVIL.

This is a shame, because in many ways, the actions of Superman in this movie NEED to be questioned. Often they are just as arbitrary and petty and selfish as Lex's.

The very first thing he does is to blast off back to Krypton without telling anybody about it. It may be incredibly important to HIM, but that's no excuse for just DUMPING Lois, or indeed the rest of the planet that so obviously depends upon him.

At the same time, he's left all the incredibly advanced alien technology of his Fortress of Solitude lying around for Lex to break into and steal!

The Greeks and Romans thought of their gods as CAPRICIOUS – they might intend good, but you couldn't count on them and shouldn't cross them. And Superman is very like that: he will try to do good, but it's often the first good thing that he thinks of, or he'll go out of his way to make sure that his friends are safe first. In the scene I mentioned earlier, when he listens to the cries for help – the first thing he goes to deal with is a bank robbery. Rather than the war in the Congo, say. There is a scene, later on, when the Man of Steel is flying to save Lois but sees an earthquake headed for Metropolis and turns back to help the city – which LOOKS like him seeing the bigger picture. But how many OTHER cities are also being shaken to bits by the effects of Lex's "new continent"?

How someone with ALL THAT POWER makes their decisions about how to use it really NEEDS questioning. And not by someone who can be dismissed as "the villain".

Still, Mr Kevin Spacey – who must REALLY have enjoyed playing DOCTOR EVIL in the opening minutes of AUSTIN POWERS 3 – makes a terrifically good job of finding interesting and scary things to do with the character of Lex Luthor, ranging from suave and funny to thuggish. Also, he is not afraid to be BALD for most of the movie (Gene Hackman I'm looking at YOU). The main problem is that Lex (in the movies) is such a boring and petty villain. When he works well, it is because he is rich and powerful and RESPECTABLE – and therefore ABOVE the law: Superman might suspect him, but cannot pin anything on him because he keeps the bad stuff at arms length. I think that this is because the movies do not have enough TIME to develop Lex and must cut quickly to a HUGE DIABOLICAL SCHEME. Often with Land Value Tax implications.

Superman was played very nicely by new star Brandon Routh, doing a very passable impersonation of a young CHRISTOPHER REEVE. It is not very fair of people who have called his performance wooden, as I think he conveyed a lot of Superman's emotions very well – particularly his confused feelings about Lois. For me and most people, though, Mr Reeve will remain the DEFINITIVE Superman, because of an ability to play the Man of Steel with humour and naivety together with some indefinable personal charisma that made him perfect for the role.

In the end, the fact is that the most exciting sequence is the aeroplane rescue early on. The big confrontation at the end somehow lacks the dramatic punch that it needs: there isn't any exciting action sequence (like the missile chase bits in 1978's Superman) to ramp up the excitement; Superman just goes from nearly being killed to saving everyone even though it nearly kills him again.

And the extended will he live or die coda of the movie kind of tails off too.

As Morticia would say: "Oh. He lives."

You are left glad that he survived but wishing he could have got on and done it a bit QUICKER!

Overall, a lovingly made way to celebrate of the original Superman Movies: not so much "Superman Returns" as "Superman Revered!" Will no doubt make a nice "trilogy" DVD box set one day.

Day 2027: Pearls of Wisdom


I have learned that my diary is being read by Mr Daniel Pearl of the Newsnight programme!

I hope that all of my readers will go and look at the Newsnight website: there was a follow up piece to Mother Kearney's interview with Sir Mr the Merciless and it seemed that her audience from the real world came away with generally positive thoughts about Sir M. This is GOOD and shows that he can win people over. Possibly on pain of death.

I hope mentioning this in my diary gives Newsnight a big BOOST!

No doubt saying that has just triggered off Mr Daniel's very clever Internet reading technology so: Hello Mr Daniel! I wave a fluffy foot at you! You are welcome!

I am sorry for the joke in the title of today's diary – I bet you have heard that LOTS of times before! Still, the alternative is "Pearls before Swine" and that did not sound as nice. Daddy Richard has a silly surname too, so he knows how you probably feel.

It is good of you to have spotted what Daddy Alex and I had to say about Sir Mr the Merciless's appearance on your show. Although you might have made your point better about there being a DEBATE if you had chosen people who did not in fact AGREE. There were even helpful links to follow in both my diary and Daddy Alex's!

Still it would be VERY LOVELY if you would like Daddy and me to come onto your Newsnight show and DEBATE Sir Mr the Merciless for you!

I should like to become a FAMOUS TELEVISION PUNDIT: I would make Iain Dale look like Dale Winton!

(Please hire TOM BAKER to do my voice, though – Daddy Richard is too SHY!)

I do wonder what you meant when you went on to add:

"The thing I find strange about all this is that often people who write blogs, or contribute to them, somehow think that they are involved in a private forum."

I do not think that you can have meant that to refer to Daddy and me because only an idiot would not realise that what we write – in our very different ways – is pitched for the GENERAL PUBLIC. And also for my funny friend Mr Frank Luntz who reads my diary and has been on your show!

Daddy Alex wants as many people as possible have something that will make them THINK!

And I want to be the most famous fluffy elephant in the whole wide world (after Babar)!

It was very sad reading all the comments afterwards with people bleating "ooh yes, aren't bloggers all like sheep" when it was clear that none of them had followed your links. Though that might have been because they were broken to start with. (WELL DONE for fixing that, by the way!)

Perhaps you would like to say a friendly "hello!" back to me from time to time using the comments button when you are reading me. Then other people in the real world – or even the Newsnight world! – can see that this is a happy public place.

As Dr Who would say: "A Merry Christmas to all of you at home!"

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Day 2026: A Mild Rebuke


I wish it were possible to SATIRISE the Minister for Magical Accidents.

But it REALLY isn't.

Today we learn that the House of Commons has told the Magical Minister off for being naughty.

"You are naughty!" they said.

It's really NOT good enough.

Not that this PARTICULAR incident is ever so awful – the Magical Minister got his trip abroad paid for and got some free dressing up games – but what is awful is the way it makes things LOOK.

People already think that politicians are pretty LOW. If it LOOKS like top politicians just ignore the rules and then when they get caught out, they say, "oh, well I've declared it NOW" it will just make people think that they are EVEN LOWER!

All too often somebody will say: "oh, they're all in it for themselves!" How can we possibly convince them that MOST politicians are actually HARD WORKING public servants when they are always so SUPINE in the face of ministers who break the rules again and again and again.

What Parliament really needs is an independent WATCHDOG that has the power to ORDER ministers to come and explain themselves and to PUNISH them properly if they break the rules. Basically, that ought to mean that if they break the rules they are BANNED from being a Minister for some months for little crimes or for several years for bigger ones – that would mean an automatic resignation, obviously.

(Actually, ALL parliamentary committees ought to be able to SUBPOENA people – like the Senate can in America – with a crime of Contempt of Parliament for people who refuse to turn up or give false or misleading or incomplete evidence.)

At the moment, it seems, a Minister can get away with anything so long as the PRESS do not decide to do a number on him or her. After that, it will become PRETTY DIFFICULT for them because they will be HOUNDED all day every day while the rat-pack will try to dig up ANY story no matter how minor, or how personal or how unconnected to how they do their job.

Ironically, although personal attacks are far more likely actually to bring down a minister, they also give Lord Blairimort the EXCUSE to NOT sack people who are rubbish because it really would be ENTIRELY WRONG to sack them for "personal reasons". It gives him COVER.

And anyway, why SHOULD it be the PRESS that decide who stays and who goes in government: who died and put them in charge?

Answer: parliament's authority, that's who died – and Lord Blairimort was seen in the vicinity at about the time and looking SHIFTY. (He can't help that, he ALWAYS looks shifty, these days.)

Parliament: you need to get that authority back!

It's time to get madder than hell and stop taking it any more! Get a bit of backbone and vote to give yourself the power to DO something about these people!

[R: PS - diaries entered by TIME WARP today: Day 2018; Day 2019; and Day 2024]

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Day 2025: Sir Mr the Merciless Gets Things Done


Last night we were watching the Newsnight show with Sir Mr the Merciless being interviewed MOTHER KEARNEY in front of a panel of "members of the public". He took the opportunity to lay out again the platform of new policies that he has been announcing, one of which was the scrapping of automatic parole for dangerous criminals.

Clearly Sir Merciless is a FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH! As within twelve hours, the government are rumoured to be doing exactly what he told them to!

Newsnight's report on the Liberal Democrats was a bit ODD. To start with, they ran an opinion poll asking whether people would rather have Sir Mr the Merciless or Mr CHARLES CK1 KENNEDY as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

I do not think anyone should be surprised that more people chose Mr Charles because he was FAMOUS for being leader for six years! Rather longer than Sir Mr the Merciless's six months.

Remember, though, that 70% of the public are voters for the Conservatories or the Labour. It is NOT IMPOSSIBLE that A FEW OF THEM might want a leader for the Liberal Democrats who is NOT the BEST leader for the Liberal Democrats.

The report then went over a mixed up version of recent history – mixed up because it was presented out of order and thus distorting what happened. First, they played OLD clips of Sir Mr the Merciless at Prime Minister's Bear Pit Time, but not the more recent ones where he has been successful!

Then they played clips of the recent elections, but they played Bromley FIRST, then Dunfermline and then the Local Elections, as though Sir Mr the Merciless had done well in by-elections but then fallen back; whereas, as we know, the truth is that we held our own at the locals and FORGED AHEAD in Bromley while Mr Balloon's team got lucky at the locals and then fell FLAT ON THEIR FACES.

Afterwards, Mother Kearney popped questions at Sir Mr the Merciless and allowed members of her panel to say their prepared pieces.

She did keep trying to not let Sir Mr the Merciless finish his points, but he was able firmly to overrule her. "Please let me finish" is a tricky tactic to use (Mr Balloon does it a lot and it makes him sound WHINY) but Sir Ming managed it pretty well – occasionally by pointing out that he WAS trying to give an ANSWER to the real person from the panel.

Mother K got into a bother about who Sir Ming would back in a HUNG PARLIAMENT.

This question is so old it is BORING. We should go on the counter offensive: why does Mother K never ask Mr Balloon whether he would have a coalition with Lord Blairimort? After all, Mr B votes to support Lord B's policies already!

It seems that so long as the other two parties have more in common with EACH OTHER than they have with US, then we should stay out of it! And we certainly don't have to answer that sort of question until they have!

Opinion appears to be divided about Sir Mr the Merciless's performance with some people thinking he did badly because of his raised voice, interruptions, finger stabbing and eyebrow action; and other people thinking he did rather well because of pretty much the SAME THINGS!

Personally, I think he is doing ALL RIGHT with the talents and abilities that he has. He's not an actor, so he had BETTER play to type. Being the BLUNT OLD SO-and-SO who tells the PAINFUL TRUTH is a good fit to Sir Mr the Merciless. I have said it before and I will say it again: we are a lot better off with Sir GRUMPY OLD MAN than with Sir WERTHER'S ORIGINALS.

Presentation may be everything in politics, but not if the other fellow is ALREADY doing that presentation.

Lord Blairimort famously SHOT BAMBI and used him like a SLITHEEN SUIT to look CUTE and NICE and it won him the election in 1997. Now Mr Balloon is trying VERY HARD to do the same thing (although he has unfortunately shot himself in the foot almost as often).

The Liberal Democrat message is that we are NOT like the others: for looking distinctive, for looking authoritative, and yes for looking curmudgeonly Sir Mr the Merciless gets it done!

Day 2024: Heatwave


More GLOBAL WARMING news, and Britain basks in the summer sun.

Well, except those of us smart enough to go swimming!

It is so hot, all the STICKY BUNS have melted – I am DISTRAUGHT!

MELTDOWN is also affecting our chums Mr Balloon and Lord Blairimort this week, as it turns out that the Liberal Democrats are the only party not ACTUALLY bankrupt (*).

It must be SUNBURN because you wouldn't normally see either of THEM as REDs!

The Conservatories have an enormous DEFICIT – that is they OWE more money than they can afford to repay. This is what is technically called BANKRUPT. And is what the Conservatories call VERY BAD when it is anybody else who can't pay their dues.

I have heard some Conservatories make the excuse that they could sell their HOUSE at 32 Smith Square and pay back their debts, but I have looked at their accounts and this is NOT TRUE.

Their house is valued at TEN million pounds, but the Conservatories owe loans of TWENTY million pounds.

And anyway, they CANNOT just sell the house because they have used is as SECURITY for their bank overdraft. This is a sort of PROMISE that the bank gets first dibs on the sale of the house. And not the sort of PROMISE that Mr Balloon makes which he tries to WIGGLE OUT OF either – they would have to repay the bank and another loan first before they would be allowed to sell it.

They are ALSO spending LOTS more than they have earned – in fact they DOUBLED their DEBT from THIRTEEN million pounds at the end of 2004 to TWENTY-SIX million pounds by the end of 2005.

That is what Mr Boy George Osbourne normally calls an awfully big BLACK HOLE.

I have noticed that not only did they spend more than they earned by FIFTEEN million pounds in 2005, the general election year, but they ALSO overspent by FIVE million pounds in the year before as well. Oh, and they overspent by THREE million in the year before that AS WELL!

I think we see the development of TREND, readers.

Are we REALLY sure that the Conservatories have learned how to control money? It seems to me that they are not a "tax and spend" party so much as a "spend and spend" party.

Or a "spend and spend and spend and spend and spend and spend and spend party", even!

Do not think that Lord Blairimort's New Labour are any better at keeping their EXCESSES in check, though!

The party of PRUDENT Chancellor, Mr Frown, currently owes almost THIRTY MILLION POUNDS to repay WITHIN THE YEAR, and only assets of less than FIVE million to cover their rather huge TAB.

Assuming he is not arrested first, Lord Blairimort might yet find himself facing a visit from the BAILIFFS!

Just like the Conservatories, they spent FOURTEEN million pounds more than they received in the general election year AND they overspent in the previous year to the tune of THREE million quid (though UNLIKE the Conservatories at least they did not overspend in 2003, even if they did BLOW the lot a year later – before going for, pardon me, BROKE in 2005!)

Compare this with the PENNYWISE Liberal Democrats: although they spent quarter-of-a-million pounds more than they received in 2005 because of the election, they had wisely put aside a HALF a million pounds the year before to cover this.

Also, the Liberal Democrats have enough money to repay the people that they owe.

Gentle reader, before you put the nation's finances into someone's hands, would you not rather CHECK OUT how they spend their OWN cash? Or – in the case of Mr Balloon and Lord Blairimort – the bank's cash?

I do not think that they should be ALLOWED to be so bankrupt. It seems very strange that the two parties that got most seats did it by taking other people's money and spending it like it was going out of fashion – it is almost as though they were just BUYING the ELECTION. And worse, doing it on the NEVER-NEVER!

That cannot be right, can it?

(*) Okay, in the interest of fairness, The Green Party is not bankrupt either.

(Though they have so few assets, I strongly advise them against taking Mr Balloon out to the shops for an afternoon!)

However, Plaid Cymru owes more than it owns (unless they sell off all their DESKS and TELEPHONES!) and the SNP are also in DEEP hock. They are less INDEPENDENCE parties and more DEPENDENTS on their banks.

Incidentally, the heat also seems to have affected my DIARY!

Does anybody know how to fix it so that my sidebar does not go sliding down to the very bottom like melted cheese?

Day 2023: Yo, Blair!


Lord Blairimort has been overheard chatting with the shaved chimpanzee that Darth Cheney, President of America, keeps around to make him look good.

I think this is mostly a BLOW for Lord Blairimort's RESPECT agenda.

Short of wearing a HOODIE, the Monkey-in-Chief could not have been more disrespectful, and this is a shame.

Obviously, his full title of His Self-Anointed Grace, Lord Blairimort, Order of the Lame Duck, Chamber of Secret Dossiers, Stoned Philosopher and, by the Grace of God, Half Prince of I-See-No-Blood-on-My-Hands is a bit of a MOUTHFUL to use every time, but even so, it is regrettable that Mr Monkey cannot even bring himself to use the short form of "Mr Blair". Or if he's being FAMILIAR "Yo, TONY!"

Calling him: "Blair" makes Her Majesty's Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland sound like a FAG at a minor PUBLIC SCHOOL – being sent to do the fetching and carrying and generally treated like a footstool. Which, come to think of it, might be something Lord Blairimort is used to.

It is bad enough that America has no respect for us any more. But you would have thought that we could have kept a LITTLE BIT of respect for ourselves!

I think it would help if people tried to remember to use the proper honorifics when saying other people's names.

It may be that this all goes back to the time when Lady Thatcher was called Mrs Thatcher had she both Mr Balloon's job AND Lord Blairimort's job. Back then, the right-on new comedians – and a lot of suddenly unemployed people – started referring to her in conversation without her "Mrs" (no, not Denis, her title). This was down to it being easier to express their EXTREME CROSSNESS that way.

Unfortunately, it has become quite normal to refer to all politicians, indeed almost everyone in the news in this way. It is no wonder that young people do not learn to respect each other if older people do not show each other respect either.

It may be very old fashioned of me, but I prefer to call even people like Lady Thatcher "LADY Thatcher" and Mr Balloon "MR Balloon" and Lord Blairimort "LORD Blairimort" and Mr Frown "MR Frown".

I might sometimes get confused about people's names but I try to remember to do it respectfully.

Day 2022: Voyage of Discovery


Today the Space Shuttle Discovery has returned safely from OUTER SPACE where it has been helping with the construction of the International Space Station or ISS (like it is subcontracted to the Ice Warriors!).

There is an underlying SADNESS to this voyage – and not just because of the very tragic BLOWING UP of two earlier Space Shuttles, Challenger and Columbia.

It is sad because there are not going to be very many more space shuttle journeys at all!

The last remaining shuttles: Discovery and Atlantis are due to retire in 2010 after only another 16 trips into space between them.

To be fair, the Space Shuttle was originally designed in the 1970's and in spite of all the upgrades that NASA have installed over the years, it is still like blasting a FORD CAPRI into orbit. And at $55 million a shot, it is only fractionally more fuel-efficient!

The Shuttles never really lived up to their promise to be a properly REUSABLE spaceship – like the sort that we are used to seeing on the telly. Not least because NASA insisted on taking them completely to pieces after every mission. Imagine doing that to the car after the weekly shopping trip! Also, the shuttle never managed to clock up as many space flights as had been planned – mostly due to enforced downtime after the disasters.

The American replacement is going to be called PROJECT CONSTELLATION!

[R: spot those "Star Trek" fans at work again!]

and this will be a new version of the old APOLLO type spaceships: a cone on top of a cylinder. But with better toilets! They have learned a thing or two from the RUSSIANS as well so that they will have some little wings with solar panels on and they will be able to land on land.

I think that these are not nearly as EXCITING as the Space Shuttle and feel like a retreat to the old days of space exploration. I suppose that it is more PRACTICAL since if you are not bringing most of your spaceship back you can launch more in the first place.

However, that is not the only alternative method of getting off the planet – even without hitching a lift to the Clangers on the moon. Alien shape-shifter Burt Rutan won the $10 million X Prize for building his futuristic spaceship called, er, SpaceShipOne. Now he has teamed up with fluffy entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson to try and build a bigger better version called SpaceShipTwo, with the hope of making a commercial fleet of five.

The first two are provisionally to be called VSS Enterprise and VSS Voyager.

[R: spot those "Star Trek" fans at work again, again!]

SpaceShipTwo will fly up 100 km, but this is still not into orbit and the passengers will only get a little bit of space travel. If it, er, takes off though then they will build a SpaceShipThree that will be capable of reaching the INFLATABLE SPACE HOTEL!

This is good, actually, because in order to really get into space we do not want great big PRESTIGE space stations that cost so many squillions that we can only build one. We want LOTS of them and cheaply.

So well done to the brave pilots of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Fly safely and maybe in the future we will get to see you up there!

Day 2021: DOCTOR WHO: "The Butler Did It"


More as a PS to Daddy's big long review of Doctor Who, I have stuck my nose into Lance Parkin's Ahistory in order to see how this year's THRILLING events interact with the things that ALREADY take place in Dr Who's Universe.

It is quite a fun book that tries to take all of Dr Who's adventures and put a date to them and then set them all out in CHRONOLOGICAL order.

It is not quite as good as Mr P's earlier versions of the same book, but this is not really his fault – since the last time he wrote this, Dr Who has had a LOT MORE adventures in books and audio plays and then the new series have happened. And these have rather MUDDLED UP the history of the universe, which is a shame. People should have read Mr P's earlier book!

One thing that I have noticed about the new adventures on television is that they have taken Daddy Richard's wise advice that there is a LOT of room in the future and they have gone off into new and distant and unused parts of it. "The End of the World" is five billion years in the future; "The Parting of the Ways" is in 200,100; and "The Satan Pit" is apparently in 43,000 and there are NO adventures for Dr Who set anywhere near any of those times.

The past is a bit more crowded, of course, but there is more of the TWENTIETH century that they can go to as "the past" now rather than as "the present" so that is interesting.

Another thing that I thought was INTERESTING, though, was the coincidence that there is only one story that Mr P has dated to 2007: "Warhead" by Mr Andrew Cartmel.

In this novel, set in 2007, a corporation called The Butler Institute, or BI, controls all the other companies in the world and is working on a project that will save people from impending ecological crisis by cybernetic conversion.

In this year's television series, set in 2007, Mr John Lumic runs a corporation called Cybus Industries, or CI, that controls all the other companies in the world and is working on a project that will save people from death by cybernetic conversion. Oh, and in a later episode it is revealed that his world is now in an environmental crisis!

Incidentally, Mr Cartmel's book is called "Cat's Cradle: Warhead" in it's full title, but Daddy Richard has a crazy theory about the order that the early New Adventures go in.

I will let him tell you about it (this is a good opportunity for you to go to SLEEP, by the way!):

Chronology in the early New Adventures

Superficially, it is very easy to say that the first eight New Adventures take place in the order in which they were published:

Timewyrm: Genesis
Timewyrm: Exodus
Timewyrm: Apocalypse
Timewyrm: Revelation
Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible
Cat's Cradle: Warhead
Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark

There was, however, something a bit grating about this order:

The opening of Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible

Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible begins in Perivale, Ace seemingly having persuaded the Doctor to allow her to visit Audrey, her mother, on their way back to the TARDIS. It reads very much as though it follows on from the closing moments of Survival – also set in Perivale, and also about Ace completing her "journey" home from Iceworld by defeating the psychological demons of her past (made manifest by the "monsters" of Ghost Light, The Curse of Fenric and Survival itself).

There is nothing to suggest that the Doctor and Ace haven't been on many other journeys in the meantime: but there's nothing to suggest that they have either and it seems unnatural that Ace, having exorcised the last her demons by returning home Survival, would later ask for the Doctor to return her there.

So the idea started to grow in me that the presented order of the New Adventures might not be the correct chronological order as far as our two heroes might have seen it.

There is also a pleasing symmetry in suggesting that the major arc of the New Adventures concerning the legendary history of Gallifrey should begin in the first story and end in the last, Lungbarrow.

There are a couple of other points that suggest a non-linear chronology:

Ace's Memories

At the opening of Timewyrm: Genesis, the Doctor accidentally (he claims) erases all of Ace's memories. He quickly restores them from the TARDIS telepathic circuits.

Dramatically, of course, this is a device by the author to allow him to recap the events of the nine television stories featuring Ace and the seventh Doctor, thus setting the scene and bringing any new readers up to speed.

With hindsight, however – and a little insight into the manipulative character of the seventh Doctor – it is possible to suggest that the Doctor has not, in fact, restored all of Ace's memories, merely those up to Survival: that in fact he has deliberately chosen to remove Ace's recollection of events between Survival and the start of Timewyrm: Genesis, either for his own motives or for her benefit.

Ace's Age

The description and portrayal of Ace's age varies quite a lot over the course of these stories. On television, we see an evolution from a passionate if troubled teenager in Dragonfire – Ace confesses to being 16 – through to a maturing young woman in stories such as The Curse of Fenric and Survival.

The early New Adventures seem, occasionally, to be unable to decide whether she is still an excitable teen (Timewyrm: Exodus; Nightshade) or a more collected twenty-something (Timewyrm: Revelation; Cat's Cradle: Warhead).

In spite of several other (more unfortunate) consequences, the decision to have Ace leave in Love and War and return several years older in Deceit did at least finally settle her age into her early twenties.

Unfortunately, there is nothing consistent about the young/old Ace conundrum. It is, unfortunately, just a rare example of bad editing (probably down to it being so early in the series).

So, my first thoughts were: are Cat's Cradle and Timewyrm just the wrong way around?

There are obvious, and continuous, links from each of the Timewyrm series – the story of the rise and fall of a creature called the Timewyrm – to the preceding books, meaning that they necessarily form a sequence in publication order. The Timewyrm is created in the first book, as we see her evolution from an earlier cybernetic enemy; the Doctor traces her path from the first book to the second; in the third the Timewyrm is practically defeated and in the fourth she has retreated to her hiding place of last resort: the inside of the Doctor's head. There is no logical order for these stories other than publication order. (Although there might be room for one or more "missing" adventure between Exodus and Apocalypse. Timewyrm: Judges, perhaps?)

The links between the Cat's Cradle series are not so strong: in fact really only the first and third novels are in anyway relevant to the overall theme.

The first story, Time's Crucible, sees the TARDIS invaded by an alien parasite resulting in its apparent destruction. The Doctor is able to reform his TARDIS at the end of the story, but she is still very badly damaged. This damage causes the TARDIS to land the Doctor and Ace in Wales at the start of the third novel, Witch Mark, where she shuts down, apparently dying. The Doctor is ultimately only able to repair her by obtaining alien biomass to use in the TARDIS core at the end of the story.

However, apart from a dropped-in continuity reference to carpets at the end of Time's Crucible (referring to Ace being sent to meet Miss David who trades in Turkish carpets) there is little to tie Warhead in to the other two novels. In fact, the frequency and accuracy with which the Doctor is able to use the TARDIS in Warhead flatly contradicts the idea that she has just been blown to bits and is on the brink of death.

Warhead has rather more elements that tie it to the "Future Histories" arc (Love and War, Transit, The Highest Science, The Pit, Deceit, Lucifer Rising) that follows on from Nightshade. It is during the Future Histories that the Doctor becomes his most secretive and manipulative, driving Ace away in Love and War and alienating his new companion Bernice Summerfield on several occasions.

Deceit, in which Ace returns, also reveals that the TARDIS and, via the telepathic circuits, the Doctor himself had become contaminated by a speck of "evil" biomass at the conclusion of Witch Mark. Recognising this, he had shut off a little part of himself to work out a solution while the rest of him behaved "normally": i.e. went off crusading to defeat ancient evils such as the Hoothi or the Yssgaroth. This is the same part that constructs the tesseract that he gives to Ace in Love and War and that drives her away having found Benny to look after him in the meantime. Unfortunately, this self-defence mechanism also emphasised his more amoral character aspects.

The characterisation of the Doctor in Warhead – on a crusade against evil, but amoral and manipulative using Ace and Cartmel's new characters Justine and Vincent as pawns in his game – is much more in keeping with the Doctor of the Future Histories arc. Additionally, the Doctor's adversary in this story is the Butler Institute: a front for powerful corporate interests. In Deceit, the Doctor is confronted by The Spinward Corporation, in fact the company that the Butler Institute has grown into, partly as a result of the Doctor's interference in Warhead. Corrupt corporations feature heavily in both Transit (STS) and Lucifer Rising (IMC) and their influence is referred to in all of Love and War, The Highest Science and The Pit as well.

Thus, overall, it seems much more logical that Warhead is in fact the first part of the Future Histories than the middle part of Cat's Cradle.

Finally, where to place Nightshade? Nightshade is an excellent standalone novel, but contains two distinctly contradictory points for the chronologist.

The characterisation of Ace feels very much more the "young" Ace rather than the more mature version. Although she "falls in love" with Robin Yeadon, it comes across very like the teenage romance, almost crush, she feels for Captain Sorin in The Curse of Fenric. Coupled to this, Ace falls for the traveller Jan Rydd in the very next published book, Love and War, and that relationship is portrayed quite differently: Ace is outwardly much more confident, and at the same time demonstrates a much deeper (and more nervous) internal response.

Of course this is largely down to the differing writing styles and priorities of Mark Gatiss and Paul Cornell. Similarly, the fact that Ace doesn't think of Robin while getting close to Jan is probably a lapse of script editing rather than either writer.

Nevertheless, all of this combines to give a sense of a large separation in time between Nightshade and Love and War.

On the other hand, at the conclusion of Nightshade the Doctor quite deliberately takes Ace away with him, leaving Robin behind. This, it is subsequently suggested, is because he cannot be alone with the "evil" biomass in his head. That bit of him that is working to cure himself knows that he will need Ace in order to find himself again. This would suggest that Nightshade has to take place after Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark.

This would suggest a possible running order of:

Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible
Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark


Timewyrm: Genesis
Timewyrm: Exodus
Timewyrm: Apocalypse
Timewyrm: Revelation

The Future Histories: Warhead

Unfortunately, there is a problem with this.

Timewyrm: Revelation takes place almost entirely inside the Doctor's head and finishes with him triumphantly routing not only the Timewyrm but also his inner demons. It is surprising therefore that no one says "aye aye, what's that blob of evil over there?"

And it seems such a betrayal of the heroic conclusion of Timewyrm to suggest that this is all achieved by the "shut off"/"amoral" Doctor when it is so clearly a triumph for his complete self.

So, reluctantly, I'd have to say that the order probably returns to the almost unchanged:

Timewyrm: Genesis
Timewyrm: Exodus
Timewyrm: Apocalypse
Timewyrm: Revelation

Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible
Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark


The Future Histories: Warhead

Is ANYone still awake?

Day 2020: DOCTOR WHO: The Complete 2006 Series: "We Have All the Time in the World"


My Daddies invited a lot of friends over so that they could spend all day watching all of Dr Who's latest adventures. So I went and hid in the bedroom with Mr Stripy and all the doughnuts!

We are proud to present, in all its glory: The Doctor Who 2006 Drinking Game!

Take a drink for every "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," from the Doctor and every "Oh my GOD!" from Rose.

Take two drinks for every "that's IMPOSSIBLE!"

Take a BIG chug for every mention of "TORCHWOOD" (obviously).

And empty your glasses for… "FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE!"

Actually, the key to Doctor Who 2006 is that every episode has its "FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE" moment.

In a sadly deleted scene, Cassandra is fair game for the Sisters of Plenitude because she has been declared dead; Queen Victoria is waiting for a message from her lost Albert; the Doctor himself appears like a ghost in Sarah-Jane's life, before later receiving Reinette's posthumous letter. For some reason I cannot find an instance in "Rise of the Cybermen" though…

Of course, this is nothing new for "Doctor Who". Cut into almost any Philip Hinchcliffe era story and you'll find the dead coming back to life, whether it is the humans on Nerva or the androids on Oseidon or the Krynoids in the ice (never mind Davros, or Sutekh, or Morbius, or Greel or the Master).

But 2006 has concentrated more on the emotion of loss than on the horror: Cassandra's story becomes a tragedy because she has outlived her time, something she comes to terms with in the end. For the first time the emotional effect on the Doctor of his long life is examined and called a "curse". The one moment where the Cybermen really bite is when one of them reveals itself to be Jackie Tyler: it's horrible, but what we dwell on is Pete's grief and the sense of failure – and it's not very often that we get a mission that fails in "Doctor Who".

Watched all as one, the series does feel much stronger.

The thing that we noticed most quickly was how well "New Earth" worked as an episode two – we had of course started with "The Christmas Invasion" (or, in fact, we started with the Children in Need scene for completism) and that was as strong and epic as it had been last Christmas. Light and frothy makes much more sense after that strong opening, or arguably, expectations were lower this time and the episode could be enjoyed more for what it is than what we wanted it to be.

On the flipside, one episode suffered much more in comparison by being shown in sequence and that was "Fear Her". Alex suggests, and I agree, that the minute long trailer for "Army of Ghosts" at the end was a huge factor in leaving us with a positive glow when we watched it as broadcast, and this time out that high was transferred to the last two episodes where it actually belonged. The proper conclusion of the episode is a bit too much of a mush of sentiment, and the Doctor's run up the steps with the Olympic Flame produced the only groan of the day. It does show the need for a back up plan in case something falls through – as was the case with the Stephen Fry episode.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The structure of the season was a little less tight than last year. While the second half turns about Rose leaving (although much foreshadowing for that in the first half too), the first half – from "The Christmas Invasion" to "The Age of Steel" – probably ought to be about Mickey leaving, and that ball it drops a bit.

Stephen Moffat's "The Girl in the Fireplace" is beautifully written and played, but doesn't gel with the episodes around it. Tension between Mickey and Rose is set up at the end of "School Reunion" that disappears. The Doctor, far from being solicitous of Rose after her meeting Sarah-Jane, takes it into his head to go off with some new French piece. And Rose, quite out of character, utterly fails to be jealous. That's a shame, because clearly Mr Moffat is so good that they trusted him to get it right by mental telepathy rather than ensuring that he was on the same page as the rest of the season.

Would it be heretical to suggest that this episode might have been better next year? It could have been played as a "Doctor on the rebound" story, and have implications for his new relationship with Martha.

With Rose and Mickey so backgrounded for a week, Mickey's story stutters a little and makes the surprise of his leaving to defend an alternative Earth from Cybermen rather more out of left field that it ought to be.

Ah yes, "Rise of the Cybermen".

Back to back it is a terrific "big dumb action flick", and the resolution of the cliff-hanger is much improved by (a) knowing what it is and (b) not having just waited a week for it.

As a movie, it's full of arresting visual images – literally arresting as by this point we were merrily chatting and eating party food, but attention would keep being grabbed by a new image on the screen: the Cybus zeppelin coming in over the Thames; The Lion Sleeps Tonight; Jackie in full sail making her entrance at her birthday party; those party crashers; and so on. And it wins the prize for the best musical moment of the season as well, with the swelling theme for the Cybermen's attack on the Tyler mansion.

It leaves a lot of questions unanswered – why is alternative England a republic and what is it with the curfews and troops on the streets? Did Lumic invent the Cybermen or has he just spent the last twenty-five years working out how to adapt the leftover remains from "The Invasion"? What happened to Mickey's gran? Was there any significance to Mrs Moore's real identity? The answers probably aren't important to the story, but the story treated them as though they were going to be important, so it's a little dislocating to be left without a real answer. And with the walls between universes now closed, we don't seem likely to get any answers.

Bridging the two halves of the season, "The Idiot's Lantern" was generally greeted warmly, probably because it presaged the handing round of the Coronation Chicken buns. It's a story that's taken quite a lot of flak for heavy-handed moralising and lack of anything terribly new to say, but it certainly didn't feel like a dip in quality. If anything, the characters of the Doctor and Rose feel like they are back on form, and the warm and loving attention paid on the period detail just oozes "this is BBC"-ness.

Admittedly, not everyone gets full marks for performance, and it is now hard to watch one actor without thinking of Professor Bernice Summerfield's "my old man's a dustman" routine. You know who I'm talking about.

The largest complaint that it raised, though, was that of "TV invisibility": the way that objects in plain sight remain unseen until pointed out in the script. Jessica Fletcher's ability to potter around without noticing the corpse in the room until it is dramatically necessary to do so is legendary. Here it was a case of "Good lord, the Alexandra Palace! I was ho-blivious to its bleedin' great presence until you mentioned we was in Muswell 'Ill!"

In fact it kicks off a string of stories with strong visuals and consistently great performances from the leads with most of the highly strung emotionalism, the "lovey-dovey-ness" of the Doctor and Rose's relationship, feeling less intrusive than earlier in the year.

Lots more deaths, too, but both "The Satan Pit" and "Love & Monsters" sketch in little backgrounds for the characters that they are about to slaughter. To be fair, there are a couple of "Red Shirt" moments in "The Satan Pit", when Mr Jefferson's deputies get Ooded to death – leading to cries of "who the hell's that!" Necessary to up the threat, perhaps, but maybe one of them ought to have been introduced to us.

No one, it appears, dies in "Fear Her", incidentally. Unless it's the poor athlete carrying the Olympic torch who collapses – has the pod drained all his life energy in recharging? No one seems to care either, which is a bit of a bum note.

Finally, the glorious crescendo that is War on Earth (the antipode of War in Heaven, anybody?): Rose's story ends and the Doctor is left, not alone but with a new beginning. Everyone still here to watch is left on a huge high.

Looking to the future, I'm still excited – which is so much the important thing. There are new stories to tell: I think Billie leaving is not a tragedy, it gives the series room to breathe and she goes out on a tremendous high, still at the top of the game.

I'm sure that we will see the resolution of the mystery of the Face of Boe: it's not hard to guess that it will involve the Time Lords in some way.

If there's to be a linking theme next year then maybe have a recurring figure appearing in the background: spotting a person would be a different game from spotting a phrase, and then there is the question of how this person appears to be in all the time zones that the Doctor is in, and who are they and what are their intentions.

We've seen a lot of "they come here" stories, with the Doctor thwarting invasions and plots at their inception; I'd like to see a bit of the Doctor arriving in a situation where the bad guys have the upper hand.

The Doctor hasn't really had an opportunity to confront the full enormity of evil yet. Satan remained chained; the Daleks invaded but never occupied the Earth.

It's another reason to venture off the Earth as well: to see a world ground down under oppression (without being too horrific for a tea-time audience), occupied by the Daleks.

We need to see again what the evil of the Daleks really means: they are (after all) the Nazis and they occupy and enslave and oppress. It would make the Daleks much more of a threat for us to be reminded of how they behave when they win – to see that there is good reason for standing up against tyranny.

And the victory for the Doctor is greater if the odds are greater. We haven't seen the Doctor as liberator yet in the 21st Century. (Possibly in "The Long Game" but that was a velvet oppression, and the consequences of the Doctor's intervention turned out rather badly.)

Of course, I want all the fannish things as well: I want David Tennant to stay on for five years; I want to see a dozen new worlds; I want to see new times and places on our Earth: America (properly, this time), India, China, Africa, dinosaurs (properly, this time); I want a return of old monsters; I want Alpha Centauri back!; and I want something marvellous and new.

And in the last respect, I have no doubt I will be satisfied. This series is lauded as the most inventive thing on television at the moment. Of course, it always was.

For another viewpoint: alakazam!

Day 2019: Fascinating, Captain; Amazing, Mr Spock


File under: that's no crop circle!

It is apparently the 40th anniversary of Star Trek, which is what American's think SCIENCE FICTION is about because they haven't seen enough Dr Who. My Daddies made me watch all of Star Trek and believe me it certainly SEEMED to take FORTY YEARS to get through the third season.

But never mind that, because Star Trek fan and field owner, Tom Pearcy has found a fun way to celebrate the show.

It is a MAZE.

Predictably enough, it is made of MAIZE!

Personally, I would have thought CORN would have been more appropriate.

Day 2018: Does the vicar work for god or the church?


You might think that that is a funny sort of a question, but – as Daddy Richard learned on his course – it is one that turns out to be IMPORTANT.

For a very long time, the church (and not just the Church of England but all churches in the United Kingdom) have had a special way of getting out of having to obey any laws that protect their vicars, priests, ministers or wundenoogoos from unfair treatment.

The churches have been able to say: oh, no – they don't work for US, they work for GOD!

Apparently, it is notoriously difficult to get THE GOOD LORD to present himself in an employment tribunal and serving papers on him is quite tricky too. HE is rarely even witnessed. Ironically.

Well, that seems like a jolly good wheeze, doesn't it? And it is quite funny too (so long as you are not a vicar who finds himself sacked for being too female); one of those little bits of the law that make it QUIRKY. Or BONKERS, some might say. Although you might find it PECULIAR that a church would be looking for LOOPHOLES rather than being keen to DO THE RIGHT THING.

Well all this has changed thanks to Ms HELEN PERCY who used to work for the CHURCH OF SCOTLAND but had a bit of a FALLING out with them when they caught on that she was being a bit TOO FRIENDLY with one of her parishioners. One of her slightly married parishioners.

Ms Percy was sacked, but she said that this was not fair because the church did NOT sack any of its gentleman ministers who it caught being TOO FRIENDLY.

"Ah ha!" said the church, "but you do not work for us – take it up with JEHOVAH."

"It's a fair cop," said the employment tribunal.

"Yes, they've got you there," agreed the appeals panel.

"Oh aye, you're well and truly up the loch without a caber," said the (comedy) court of session.

Finally, though, her case went all the way to my favourite CLUB: the House of Lords, and the Law Lords said…

"Just hang on a minute. What do you mean she's got no rights because her employer is being all INEFFABLE and refusing to show his COUNTENANCE DIVINE."

…and found in Ms Percy's favour.

And so the law is now, ever so slightly, less of an ASS today.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Day 2017: Go Directly to Gaol


Daddy Richard has been sent on a course today to refill his brain with all the accountancy ideas that have dribbled out over the last year.

Most of it was about tax and law and really boring stuff so let's ignore all that, and skip to the fun bit at the end about FRAUD!

This is particularly good timing as three men have been handed over to AMERICA for just this reason, only today!

The Liberal Democrats managed to make the House of Commons discuss how UNFAIR it is that Lord Blairimort has signed a treaty that say that the American cops can just ask for anyone they want to be SLAPPED IN IRONS and sent from Britain but at the same time the American's own government hasn't even agreed to sign THEIR side of the treaty!

Liberal Home Secretary Mr NICK CLOGG managed to score a victory over Lord Blairimort when only FOUR of the Labour MP's could bear to vote to support the treaty!

Lord Blairimort's Mr Fixit for the day was Star Trek Chief Mike O'Brien who kept trying to say that the Liberal's want to be friends with rich bankers.

We can only guess that this is an example of IRONY!

Mr Clogg was last seen being bundled onto a CIA rendition flight!

For the "Nat West Three", as they are called, things get even more difficult on the other side of the Atlantic.

In this country, we believe that you can only have a fair trial if the defendant can afford proper representation. We call this LEGAL AID and it is why COMPLICATED fraud cases are so EXPENSIVE. In America, they save a lot of money by saying you have to pay for your own lawyer if you want one with the specialised knowledge needed to defend a trial like this.

Otherwise, the court will appoint KEVIN the INTERN as your council and may the GOOD LOOOORD have mercy on your SOUL!

American fraud trials are quicker and cheaper and get a lot more convictions. Mainly because the defendants go BANKRUPT.

Why are the Americans so keen to get hold of these people? Are they VERY DANGEROUS?

Apparently, the crime that they are accused of goes something like this: when they worked for Nat West Bank, they sold a thing to a third company.

(The "thing" was in ACTUAL FACT another company which had made a LOSS so it was not worth anything except that if that company was bought be another company with profits then tax accountants could magically make the loss and the profit cancel out and save someone paying a load of tax. But none of that is important, right now.)

Anyway, they sold a "thing" to a third company for a low price because Nat West wanted the money quickly and didn't want the "thing", so they sold it cheep and then quit Nat West and bought a lot of shares in the company that now owned the "thing" and THEN that company sold the "thing" on to American super-fraudsters ENRON for a lot of money and their shares were suddenly worth a whole lot more.

So they made a profit out of Nat West selling something cheep and Enron buying it expensive.

It is possible that Nat West lost out on a lot of money and that these guys got a bung for it. Or it is possible that they were just shrewd city chaps who made a clever investment.

What is NOT possible is that they defrauded ENRON – ENRON were ALWAYS stupid enough to pay over the odds for the "thing", the only question is whether Nat West or these bankers should have got what share of the loot.

Why, then are the American cops after these men? You may well ask. I think that the Americans want to demonstrate that they are CLEANING UP THEIR ACT after the scandal of lots of people losing their jobs and lots more losing their savings because the Enron board were CHEATING. And the Nat West Three ended up with some of Enron's money. Not nearly so much money as the American's Monkey-in-Chief, of course. But enough for the American cops to want to make a show trial out of them.

It is clear that two things need to be done.

Firstly, the extradition treaty with the Americans needs to be CHANGED so that the same set of rules apply to both sides. It is only right that the Americans should show that a crime has been committed in America if they want to take someone from this country to face their electric bingo lottery of a legal system ESPECIALLY since they would not let out happen the other way around. British people should have THE SAME rights as American people.

And secondly, the Monkey-in-Chief should be arrested and put on trial first!

Day 2016: Mr Balloon, sorted for MEP's and Whizz!


Last month, Mr Balloon gave his chum Mr Vague the job of sorting out the vexed question of how to either get the Conservatories MEPs out of their European Parliament group or get out of getting the Conservatories MEPs out of their European Parliament group.

Mr Balloon gave his chum Mr Vague a month to sort out, and this was a month ago – so it must now be sorted, mustn't it?

The answer is YES: Mr Balloon has kept his promise to pull his MEPs out by, um, not pulling them out YET.

He's managed to break his promise, say he'll join the nutters AND done it in twisty DOUBLE-TALK!

Isn’t this sort of thing why people make jokes about Lord Blairimort only lying when his lips move?

Good going, Opus Dave!

At least he is not delivering the CHAMBERLAIN lecture on the same day. (That's not until Friday.)

Still, this opens up a whole new range of opportunities for Mr Balloon.

Next week, he will announce that he has fulfilled his pledge to return the Conservatories to government! And the week after, he will celebrate fulfilling his pledge to win four consecutive general elections.

After that he can announce that his promises to bring about world peace, end greenhouse gasses and find a cure for cancer have all be met by a grateful nation.

Then, satisfied with a long and successful political career ahead of him, he can announce his RETIREMENT and never be heard of again!

Day 2015: Hood-i-phant


Hug Me!

Day 2014: We were ALL wearing Eyepatches


Yo ho ho and once more disguised – this time as a barrel of rum! – I have again sneaked into our local cinema in order to see THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.

SPOILERS ahoy, me hearties, so if you want to see the movie, do not read beyond this point.


The first thing I want to say is that this movie is a GOOD sequel because it does the thing that GOOD sequels do which is to tell a NEW story. So it is like "The Empire Strikes Back" and not like "Return of the Jedi".

Which is IRONIC because there are a lot of other ways that this story is like the STAR WARS films too!

To start with, they both have big squidy monsters with tentacles and lots of teeth!

The monster in PIRATES (etc) was called the KRAKEN (and that was ALSO the monster in CLASH OF THE TITANS! But then it looked more like a man in a RUBBER SUIT). It was a good and very scary monster!

Then there is also the encounter between young WILL TURNER and his dear old dad who is now covered in DISFIGURING barnacles and has turned to the DARK SIDE. Yes, it is the "I AM your father" moment! Will's dad even tried to save his son by stiffing his boss, DAVY JONES, though with less success than Daddy Skywalker!

Finally there was much BADINAGE between PIRATICAL Captain Jack (Solo) Sparrow and ARISTOCRATIC governor's daughter Elizabeth (Leia) Swann about WHO would turn WHOM to the dark side!!!

The love triangle angle was played much better than in Star Wars, though, with Elizabeth very confused as to her true feelings – not helped by Jack's magic compass – and Will seeing her snog Jack and getting QUITE the wrong idea about why she was doing it. Unless he got the RIGHT idea because she didn't know herself! Plus nobody has turned out to be anybody's SECRET TWIN SISTER, Yet.

I thought all this was pretty GROSS though, so I was glad when the KRAKEN came and ate them!

This film manages to have a good story for all three of the main cast, starting with Jack discovering his DEBT to Davy Jones is due, then Will going on a quest for the magic compass and rescuing Jack only to get himself marooned on Davy Jones ship the FLYING DUTCHMAN (which does NOT fly but is a SUBMARINE instead!) and then Elizabeth escaping and cross-dressing in order to rescue Will and maybe getting caught by Jack instead.

Last time, the jolly old British Empire was represented by Commodore Norrington, aka the man who plays Steven Moffat in COUPLING.

This time, we thought that he had been replaced by an EVEN MORE SLIMY individual in Tom Hollander playing Lord Cutler Beckett, the head of the EAST INDIA COMPANY who was behind Will having to go after Jack's compass. He was very HISSABLE, but we were still VERY delighted when Commodore Norrington returned (sans ship and indeed sans Commodoreship) half way through and SEEMED to join forces with our heroes.

Daddy Alex thought that the film might have been too long and that it could have managed without the COMEDY CANNIBALS(!) But I enjoyed this bit because it was very funny, especially when Captain Jack was turned into a KEBAB.

In fact there were lots and lots of laugh out loud moments, which meant that the film was very enjoyable even if it was dark and scary sometimes too!

Also, that was the "Will's mission" part of the story and it showed that Captain Jack can be a bit USELESS when he's RUNNING AWAY instead of facing his problems. Will's more strait-laced approach may not get the job done but he inspires Jack to arrive at more, er, creative solutions!

The film (based on a THEME PARK RIDE) is a ROLLER-COASTER starting on the high of the light hearted early adventure, dropping you into the dark pit of Jack's betrayal and Davy Jones' locker, then whirling you back up again to the extraordinarily energetic conclusion: a three way triple-cross and then sword fight over the eponymous DEAD MAN'S CHEST, expanding into a five way and then six way fight as first Elizabeth becomes embroiled and then Davy Jones' fishy Pirates arrives! The relentless pace still allows lots of CHARACTER in the fight – Jack's crazy capers counter-pointing Norrington's ruthless revenge. And you have to pay attention all the time to see where the prize is… and who is bluffing, out-witting or just plain beating whom! And the winner is… a surprise!

Then, just like "The Empire Strikes Back" the story finishes on a definite DOWNER, with apparently the baddies in possession of what they wanted and Will and Elizabeth in doubt about their relationship and Captain Jack in, er, the Kraken's tummy!

So all in all it is a GOOD THING that they have all got together to make a THIRD Pirates movie!


Day 2013: DOCTOR WHO: Doomsday


Another day when I am SOGGY from a snuffling Daddy. I will go and wring myself out, and leave him to tell you all about it.

This was terrific.

Russell always promised that he knew exactly how Rose's story would end and he hasn't disappointed. Nothing less than the walls between Universes could keep her from the Doctor's side after the life that he's showed her and the choices that she made after meeting Sarah-Jane and Madame de Pompadour. And although she thinks of her life as over – the trip of a lifetime was her lifetime – she didn't die.

Billie Piper is, let's say it for probably the last time, absolutely tremendous. She gives Rose both fear and bravery when the Daleks emerge to threaten her, and she shows she's learned how to face them down. And the she has all the determination she needs when – nice thematic echo of "The Parting of the Ways" – the Doctor tries to send her to safety and she's having none of it. Her heartbreak when she loses the Doctor – the price of living is living without him – is totally believable, and her numb half non-acceptance in the epilogue scenes as she and her family make their way to Bad Wolf Bay (where else!) makes us feel the poignancy of a life lived on in the shadow of such a loss.

The Doctor manages to get a message to her "from the other side" – another echo, this time to Victoria in "Tooth and Claw" – and he appears as a ghost. Symbolic death upon symbolic death. These scenes are not in any way "tacked on" like the over-extended endings of "The Return of the King"; they are the very heart of this story, Rose's last story, because the truth is life doesn't just come to a convenient ending and stop, there's always something after – look to a lot of Russell T Davies other works, in particular "Second Coming" for similar "life goes on" codas.

The preceding forty minutes didn't disappoint either. While taking us on an emotional marathon of hope and loss and hope again, Russell still found time to do exactly what was asked for on the tin: the war between the Cybermen and the Daleks.

With remarkably few scenes, Graham Harper manages to convey an enormous war for the world – the view from the window of Torchwood Tower really helps to sell this – in a way that the Auton Invasion on "Rose" really didn't, and that the Dalek Invasion of Earth in "The Parting of the Ways" rather ducked out of showing. The view down on burning London makes it feel not just real but widespread, so seeing Cybermen marching round one street corner, or humans defending one bridge becomes – in our minds – part of something larger and infinitely more terrible.

The arrival of the Daleks (if you'll forgive the pun) adds a whole new dimension to the story. To start with, Mr Tennant must be pleased to have received his Doctor's "blooding", that sense that an encounter with the Daleks makes you a "proper" Doctor.

Fans of the Cybermen: I apologise, but it was entirely right that the Daleks – the ultimate threat to the Doctor's universe – should kick serious Cyber-bottom.

"We do not need four Daleks, we only need one Dalek!" was a brilliant line, although Alex was deeply disappointed that the Black Dalek didn't raise its rant level to "ONE DALEK IS CAPABLE OF EXTERMINATING ALLLLL!!!!!!"

But then these Daleks are much more interesting than any shenanigans with Torchwood or Cybermen. They might take over the Earth in passing, but really they have bigger concerns – picking up where they left off during the Time War being the main one; resurrection of the Dalek race being another. Daleks with an agenda – and names, no less – and a piece of the Time Lord homeworld in a Dalek shaped box make for immediate "upgrade" to epic status.

Their defeat – sucked into a hole in the world; strangely reminiscent of the magnetised fate of the Daleks at the end of the second Peter Cushing movie – might have been a little too easy, but this year it came with a proper price: Rose falling into "hell"; and this year they remembered to give themselves a better get out clause, with the Black Dalek's war cry of "Scarper! Scarper!" Okay, the "emergency time jump" was in fact cool and appropriate. No excuse for them not returning next year then, is there.

It seems very mean to be critical of these episodes, but if there was a flaw it's a more general one of this season and it's that the current production team – who perfectly understand the Daleks – don't seem to get the Cybermen.

The Cybermen's mission statement in 2006 seems to have changed from survival at all costs to inflicting "upgrading" on anyone and everyone like some demented sect of tele-salesmen determined to push their product on us all. Sadly and perhaps curiously this left them oddly motiveless. If they were a bit more evangelical about it there might have had a satirical point to make.

Why are they conducting this campaign? It seems a bit… illogical, really.

The Cybermen can hardly want to upgrade people because they feel sorry for us… they don't feel anything at all, by definition. Imposing conversion leads to conflict which is wasteful, hence illogical.

Far more sensible to convert volunteers – Cybermen are immortal, but organic humans reproduce so you get far more Cybermen over time that way as generation succeeds generation and on getting close to death a goodly percentage chose to upgrade rather than perish. Forcible conversion only makes sense once conflict has begun, so the Cyberleader would have been better to have offered peace, freedom and the opportunity of immortality rather than just telling the Earth it was all for the scoop and serve treatment.

It's a bit sad that we missed the opportunity in "Rise of the Cybermen" to play with the whole idea of people going willingly into this conversion not even for survival, but for the bling of it. And this time we lost the chance to have the Cybermen really selling themselves as an opportunity:

"Have you had an accident at work? It would never have happened if you were made of metal like us!"

"Are your debts getting out of control? Why not consolidate them into one simple repayment by selling us your body!"

Done dispassionately it only makes it seem that they are just following pre-programmed orders like just another bunch of boring robots.

Jumping dimensions also seems a particularly odd thing to do for Cybermen sealed up in their factories. Wouldn't building rockets and blasting off to invade, er, Telos have been more likely, especially given the technology to which they probably had access? I suppose we have to presume there is a little more to the backstory that Pete didn't or wasn’t able to tell us: Torchwood probably broke into the Cyber-factories in order to obtain the technology for themselves, but instead tipped the Cybermen off to Torchwood's own existence and hence the existence of the Dalek-created hole between universes.

If they were escaping from the parallel Earth in order to escape disassembly – in order to survive – then that might have made more sense, and reconnected them to the original Cybermen in our universe.

There is a (mildly) interesting debate going on on Outpost Gallifrey as to whether there exists an alternative Doctor in the alternative universe.

They site as evidence that an alternative Torchwood exists – so it must have been set up by Queen Victoria after meeting an alternative Doctor. Counter theorists have suggested, no, either she set it up after encountering the werewolf and surviving, or it was set up by her successors because she didn't survive, or – most entertainingly – it was set up by a bunch of royalists hoping to restore the crown after the New Republic began in a hail of silver bullets.

The suggestion inherent is that the Doctor and indeed the Time Lords stand apart from this multi-verse of infinite parallels. It's an idea that has been put forward before by Lawrence Miles (who else) and Tat Wood in "About Time 3" suggesting, based upon "Inferno" that only the Time Lords have free will, as only they get to choose which universe they live in rather than existing in all of them.

At this point, I am going to have to protest (again) about writers misunderstanding physics – in particular the "Many Worlds" interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.

In the first place, the Doctor Who Universe self-evidently does not operate the many worlds interpretation because the Doctor is able to return to places and his actions have made a difference. The Earth is not run by WOTAN post 1966, nor is it under the iron plunger of the Daleks post 216something.

(If you are uncertain whether these statements are true before the Doctor's adventures in "The War Games" or "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" take place, can I recommend to you Mr Simon's book.)

But in the second place, the universe does not "split" in two for every decision. Think about it – where would all the energy come from? Shall I have sugar in my tea – yes or no and half the energy in the Universe gets diverted into an alternative continuum!

No, the many world interpretation requires that all the infinite parallel realities are all created at once in the Big Bang. They remain identical up to the point of decision and then diverge afterwards. Our choices determine which universe we are in, but they do not, cannot "split" the universe into yes/no components.

In that sense, answers that employ the "Back to the Future" style diagrams are just wrong.

Showing the Doctor and Rose travel back in the TARDIS to 1879 leading to Queen Victoria founding Torchwood and then returning to the relative future down one "branch" while the alternative Earth takes a different turning somewhere in the early 20th Century might look as though they make sense, but think about all the (infinite) other branch lines that aren't shown on the diagram!

(Actually, the "Back to the Future" comparison is unfair, because in those movies, alternative universes are only being created by exceptional events: i.e. the intervention of time travellers which is distinct from the "every decision splits the universe" proposed here. "Bank to the Future" is still scuppered by the energy problem – not to mention the way that events seem to take a while to work out they have been negated(!), which is plot handy but weird science – but at least the diagrams make sense!)

Personally, I prefer to believe that there is one "true" universe (ours, obviously) with only a limited number of parallel worlds, that are reflections or shadows or echoes of it – there may be billions but they are still finite.

The important thing being that not every possible choice exists because, for me, dramatically that is such a wrong answer. Essentially, if every choice and outcome exists then when we see a victory for the Doctor then that is only because the director has chosen to show us his victory rather than the defeat which must also have happened.

In a finite Universe, the Doctor's victories mean something. And the price that has to be paid means something too, because he cannot just console himself with yet another alternative Rose.

Finally, I'm going to be bold and say that the tag scene at the conclusion was completely right.

One thing this new Doctor Who series is not about is leaving them weeping in the aisles. Pitching the audience a curve ball at the end, regardless of whether you think Catherine Tate is funny or not, regardless of whether you are going to give her the chance to show us what she can do, this is just what is called for. It says: "life goes on, even if it's the Doctor's crazy helter-skelter life" and it reframes the series back on the Doctor and the TARDIS now that Rose has gone. It would be entirely typical of the Doctor's alien-ness to go instantly from sorrow to the next problem that presents itself – but when we're shown that handbrake turn, we're left with a much more interesting cliff-hanger.

"What IS going on, HOW is it going on, who is SHE and what IS he going to do now" are all much better, much more "Doctor Who" questions than "how will he cope on his lonesome."

Overall, "Doomsday" knocks you off your feet. Quibbles about Cyber-motivation are meaningless compared to the real story, the emotional impact of what is going on here.

Just… am I alone in thinking "The Parting of the Ways" and "Doomsday" should have swapped their titles around?

Next week: Once More With Feeling!.

Day 2012: Conservatories: No we're not THAT bankrupt


Life is supposed to be so EASY for Mr Balloon. He is the golden boy of the Conservatory Party, he path smoothed for him by his CHUMS; his burdens lessened by his inherited FORTUNE; his house powered by an electric FLYMOW strapped to the roof… that sort of thing.

So how annoying that life keeps being interrupted by these little niggles, eh?

A hasty denial that he has run into a bit of a cashflow problem, having to rush out a quick statement that the LOAN SHARKS aren't calling round to collect the party silver (or were they expecting ERMINE?) can put a real crimp in your day.

The problem here is twofold: firstly that the Conservatory Party is caught up in an insane arms race with their rivals in the Labour about spending as much WONGA as is humanly possible – and then some – on the general election campaign. Even if much of it goes on ADVERTISING EXECUTIVES. Or up their noses, not that Mr Balloon would know what THAT means!

Secondly, the Conservatories are alleged to be spending ASTRONOMICAL amounts trying to dislodge the Liberal Democrats, or defend against them, and yet still the PLUCKY but UNDERFUNDED third party is managing to hold its own against them. The Conservatories crowed a lot about how the so-called "DECAPITATION STRATEGY" had failed – what they do not crow about very much is just HOW MUCH MONEY they are said to have spent shoring up those seats on the "Decapitation List". A list that was made up by the Newspapers and cost the Liberals nothing.

It's all got to come from somewhere, and those undisclosed overseas loans just don't go as far as they once did.

Still, even if you've got no MONEY, you can fall back on you PRINCIPLES, eh?


The day just gets flatter when you have to bail out you own OPPOSITION DAY DEBATE because you've discovered that the comments about Mr Frown from your friend Mr Dunkin' have gone down like a bucket of cold sick.

That's the problem with having an approach to policy making of "oh any old shtick will do" – sometimes it REALLY won't. Taking the time to arrive at a CONSISTENT philosophy as the FOUNDATIONS of your policy platform pays plentiful rewards. Although obviously, the best time to start building your foundations is not AFTER you've moved into the new office.

The lack of any kind of actual policy is clearly starting to be TROUBLE for Mr Balloon: people are beginning to NOTICE – I have even heard the presenters on the Today Programme start to challenge him and his team with "but do you have an actual policy?"

This is not a question you want to face if you do not to have an answer. And for Mr Balloon, answers are in short supply. A philosophy would at least give you a place to TALK ABOUT where your policies are going to come from and what they might look like when finalised.

It's all got to come from somewhere; "I'm jolly nice, let's get more votes" just doesn't go as far as it once did.

Well, if your PRINCIPLES won't stand up, then at least you can count on your CHUMS, eh?


Not a good day to have to cope with an embarrassing e-mail gaffe.

It all sounds very worryingly like Mr Balloon is getting OUT OF TOUCH with his own team in the House of Commons.

Mr Balloon's chairman, Auntie Maude, is not trusted by the party. Which at least is a step up from Auntie's predecessor Theresa "You May Not", who isn't trusted or liked either!

Not that the Conservatories have a pronounced habit of picking a shiny new leader and then starting to mutter about him behind his back. Oh, hang on, yes they do! As soon as the shine comes off, in fact, they are straight in with the back-biting. The problem really, is that there are SEVERAL Conservatory Parties, and none of them really agree on what they want the Party to be doing. Other than running the country, that is.

Oh well, even if even your chums are getting you down, at least there's always the OPINION POLLS, the people are on your side, eh?


I think Mr Balloon needs a HUG!