...a blog by Richard Flowers

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Day 2771: Mysteries of Doctor Who #16: Is he MORE than just a Time Lord?


"In the end, Doctor, you are JUST another Time Lord," says Mr Davros.

"Oh Davros… I am far more than JUST another Time Lord," replies Mr Dr Sylv.

Or rather he doesn't because that exchange was cut from their confrontation over the Hand of Omega, and yet somehow EVERYONE manages to know about it anyway.

Nowadays, Mr Dr David will tell you that he is "…not just a Time Lord. I'm the LAST of the Time Lords." But does that make him "more" or is there something more to it?

What exactly was that mythical exchange supposed to mean?

Followers of the Cartmel Master Plan would tell you that this is one of a series of hints – along with what mad Lady Peinforte didn't say in "Silly Nemesis", and what evil Mr Fenric alludes to in "The Curse of Fenric" – that Dr Who has a mysterious SECRET in his past, possibly related to when Mr Rassilon and Mr Omega first invented Time Travel.

Later, Mr Russell Gary would use the novel of the sensational TV movie staring Mr Dr Paul (aka "Time Waits for No Man") to suggest that by "more than a Time Lord" Dr Who had meant "half human".

Later still, Mr Russell Davies apparently nixed THAT idea with "Journey's End" saying there's NEVER been a half-human half-Time Lord before.

But just looking at the series, there is SOME evidence that he really is MORE than the other ordinary Time Lords.

It's worth pointing out that Dr Who does have some "Time Lord super-powers" anyway, even if you don't count the amazing bigger-on-the-inside space-time machine: speed-reading (as seen in "City of Death" and "Rose", and implied by Susan in "An Unearthly Child"); the ability to mimic other's voices ("The Celestial Toymaker", "Masque of Mandragora", probably "The Invasion of Time" and the Master does it all the time too, notably imitating the Brigadier in "The Time Monster"); hooting really loud to shatter glass ("The Power of Kroll"); and (more plausibly for a TIME Lord) immunity to certain out-of-whack-ness in the time-fields (as in "The Time Monster" and "Invasion of the Dinosaurs").

The Doctor and the Master both demonstrate hypnotism to varying degrees and proficiencies, so that MIGHT be a Time Lord power or it MIGHT be a learned skill. Both of them can hypnotise other Time Lords, too.

But there IS one distinct occasion when Dr Who gets a definite "power up", plus another that is a bit of a maybe. Added to which there is the all-important question whether there is more to him than perhaps even HE knows.

The indisputable one is that in "The Invasion of Time". Dr Who is joined to the Matrix, the Time Lord's collection of all knowledge and Keanu-movie archive.

There's no question about it, Mr Gold Usher makes it explicit that you can't be UNCONNECTED from the Matrix afterwards, so we have to assume that even when he seems to lose his memory at the end of the story, Dr Who remains wired in to near omniscient knowledge. And this would rather make sense of a lot of the times when he's a total know-it-all from now on, most particularly the "narrows it down" scene with Mr Dr Christopher in "World War III" – because he is accessing the second-hand knowledge of the Matrix rather than stuff he knows himself.

If you want to take this a step further, Mr Lance Parkin's range-finishing Eighth Doctor novel "The Gallifrey Chronicles" says that when his home planet got the FOOM treatment, all the contents of the Matrix were bundled up and safely stored between the Doctor's EARS. It's semi-implicit that he downloaded it all again later, but you don't have to read it that way; it could all still be there.

The next occasion to consider is the conclusion of "Enlightenment".

Ahh, you may say, but Dr Who turns it down (just like he turned down the power of Mr Azal in "The Dæmons" and will turn down immortality when Mr Rassilon offers it to him in "The Five Doctors" though Mr Rassilon may be taking the michael by that point). Well it is TRUE that he turns down a lump of glowey stuff that Mr White and Mr Black Hat are offering him.

BUT, Turlough also turns down a bit of Enlightenment, a big diamond, when it gets offered to him. Turning it down gets Mr Black Hat off his case (and indeed melts all the buttons on his flame-proof nightie). And then Dr Who says that enlightenment WASN'T the diamond; it was the CHOICE.

So, at least implicitly, Dr Who did get Enlightenment at the end of that story when HE got the choice over the glowey stuff.

You can add this to other occasions when he has "grown" in a Buddhist way: quite recently in "Snakedance" he gained the insight to defeat the mental Mara; and of course his entire third regeneration is a great big Buddhist parable, with all the bells and whistles and spiders.

As well as the Guardians, Dr Who has encountered a LOT of other god-like beings on his travels, from the Toymaker and the Animus via Sutekh the Destroyer (these days, bringer of milk to all humans), through to the Beast. With the exception of Mr Azal (turned down) though, he rarely risks benefiting from the encounter, unless he picked up tips on dusting from Sutekh while held in a brain lock. (Mind you, his hypnotism DOES improve after this: witness Best Friend Sarah, Mr Henry Gordon Jago and Ms Rodan all put under the 'fluence with barely more than a hard stare!) By the time he gets to the Gods of Ragnarok and Mr Fenric, though, he's knocking them back with aplomb, so either he's getting used to it or he HAS got more powerful since the early days.

One possible piece of evidence to point to is "The Deadly Assassin".

Plugged into the Matrix, playing a life-or-death computer game against traitorous Time Lord Chancellor Goth, Dr Who gets "killed" when hanging off a cliff by only his scarf and a Samurai-disguised Goth chops his scarf in two. It is all over for Dr Who! And then he manages to come back again. Coordinator Engin, monitoring from the APC control room, remarks that Dr Who must have "extraordinary reserves of Artron energy."

"Four to Doomsday" reveals that the TARDIS is powered by Artron energy, and it's long been assumed that it is therefore a kind of Time Lord brain juice.

Dr Who therefore has more of this than other Time Lords.

It's possible that this is natural to him – we see his mental force drained in "The Savages" (or we would if the BBC hadn't "savaged" the recordings) and it's a lot more than a grunt-level human. Which doesn't tell us a lot. But then when he's Mr Dr Pat he turns the tables on the Great Intelligence and in "The Web of Fear" has a go at draining THAT. We know that Jamie pulls the plug too soon, but we don't know how much (if any) Great Intelligence Dr Who gains in the meantime.

Having said that, the newer episodes, "Dalek" and "Army of Ghosts" talk of time travellers soaking up Arton energy as a "background radiation", harmless but one that the Daleks can use to feed off.

This is quite clever as it suggests that Dr Who's "extraordinary reserves" have been built up because of his many, many years of travelling; most ordinary Time Lords rarely leave the safety of Gallifrey and so do not have the same amount stored up.

A case of travel literally broadening the mind.

This is similar to the way that in "City of Death" he is able to detect the "crack in time" caused by Scarlioni, the Count, and his half-working time machine when his time-slip is showing. There, Dr Who says that it's because he's crossed the time lines so often, again implying it's a sense or sensitivity – like the time-sensitivity that becomes important in "Warrior's Gate" – that no ordinary Time Lord would have. Ms Romana, who is with him at the time, does appear to confirm that she senses much less than he does.

And on a similar track, "The Invasion of Time" sees him better able to thwart the mind-reading powers of the invading Vardans than senior Time Lords like Chancellor Borusa because he's had lots of EXPERIENCE in the big bad world and can confuse them with his muddled and eclectic thoughts. What's for tea?

In extremis, Mr Mad Larry Miles's "Alien Bodies" suggests taking this to the ludicrous limit with the implication that by the time he finally snuffs it, Dr Who will be so chock full of magic powers from building up experience points that even his BODY is going to be a SUPER-WEAPON in the Time Lords' future War.

On the other fluffy foot, there IS an occasion when Dr Who's mind-power is shown to be LESS than another Time Lord's. It is in "The Brain of Morbius", when Mr Morbius totally wins the mind-bending contest. In fact Dr Who is only still breathing at the end because Mr Morbius's head-case goes bang-pop!

Mind you, any ordinary Time Lord would just DIE after the brain-wrangling that Morbius gives him. But Dr Who is given a dose of the Elixir of Life and recovers. You COULD argue that that is another definite upgrade, though the rest of the story implies that the effects of the Elixir are temporary… or at least the immortality upgrade is. It's not IMPOSSIBLE that Dr Who does gain other benefits from having had a swig of the good stuff.

Of course "…Morbius" is the story that also presents us with the "eight earlier Doctors". "Lungbarrow" – as I have previously explained – chooses to explain these faces by suggesting that they belong to the mysterious figure called "The Other" who helped Mr Rassilon back in the beginning. This implies that Dr Who is special because he is the reincarnation of this strange person who isn't even from Gallifrey at all!

Some commentators have pointed out that after these faces are revealed, Dr Who begins his change to something "more than just a Time Lord", quickly rising to President of Gallifrey and discovering previously hidden knowledge of the Guardians, the Fendahl, the Great Vampires and other ancient powers and evils.

A simpler explanation though – and one of my favourite fan retcons – might be that Dr Who's past has been CONCEALED for some reason not yet known. After all it is hardly uncommon for Time Lord history to be, shall we say, edited for the greater good. The Time Lord's have no knowledge of The Master, for example, because he has simply removed his Biog Data Extract from the records.

This of course would mean that in reality, unknown to himself or the Time Lords, Mr Dr Tom is the TWELFTH Doctor, not the FOURTH and Mr Dr Peter the THIRTEEN and LAST.

As further evidence, the dying Mr Dr Peter seems uncertain that he CAN regenerate – "feels different this time" he says. And poor Mr Dr Colin is VERY confused at still being ALIVE when he becomes Doctor.

Then, remembering that Mr the Valeyard is said to come from "between your twelfth and final incarnations", this might tie him in to the mysterious Watcher – who in this counting scheme is also an intermediary figure between these two personas. Perhaps Dr Who is split, like a nasty Star Trek transporter accident, into white and black versions of himself during that particular regeneration crisis. (An effect which might tie in PSYCHOLOGICALLY with one interpretation of The Key to Time stories.)

That would then make rather more sense of Mr the Valeyard's desire to posses the Doctor's remaining regenerations. If Mr Dr Colin, rather than being sixth is in fact at the start of an UNEXPECTED new regenerative cycle, then taking his regenerations represents an entire lifetime to Mr the Valeyard rather than a paradoxical possession of the lives he's had once already.

To sum it up, then: Dr Who IS more than just another Time Lord: he's got all the knowledge of the Matrix; he's probably gained Enlightenment (several times over); his travels have boosted his Artron energy and made him sensitive to the timelines; he may actually be immortal and even if he isn't he seems to have had more lives than he's allowed.

But the MOST important thing is that Dr Who has been hanging around for ages with HUMANS, and good ones at that. They've clearly been a GOOD INFLUENCE on him too. Nowadays he is much less likely to drop a big rock on a wounded caveman's head and much more likely to use his faith in them to hold off Haemovore attack. Or to snog their brains out at any opportunity.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Day 2790: When the Wind Blows


I am DELIGHTED to hear Mr Clogg's latest plans for ENERGY INDEPENDENCE.

He was off to visit a wind farm to see how it can be done and he pledged an Apollo Project for renewable energy: kind of appropriate to mention the Sun God when Solar Power has got to be up there in the mix!

Regular readers will know that it is the sort of thing I blather on about ALL THE TIME. That is because I think that apart from being jolly sensible in itself, it is a good way to sell the benefits of GREEN ENERGY to those people who are sceptical about the environment but can see the ECONOMIC advantage in not getting clobbered by the energy companies. Basically, Conservatories.

Listening to Mr Clogg on the The Today Programme show, I thought that he was very good EXCEPT for the one question that he ducked, which was about cars.

Now, fair enough, he was on there to talk about plans for generating electrical energy from renewable sources, and it really was a case of the interviewer either totally missing the point or DELIBERATELY missing the point, but actually you CAN answer this one as well.

The first and most obvious thing to say is "One step at a time, Sarah. First we want to deal with securing our domestic power generation in a way that is sustainable and independent."

But you can go further than that. When SERIOUS car companies like MERCEDES are saying that they will phase out producing petrol cars by as soon as 2015 then you CAN say: "but the next step is to look at moving to clean fuel for cars, with technology making advances in areas like hydrogen fuel cells and electric vehicles."

Now, I know that using electric power for cars means we will need a lot MORE electricity than just what we use at the moment. But the thing is we have GOT the capacity – great big open spaces called "The North Sea" and "The Atlantic Ocean" – that is perfect for wind power and wave power.

Green IS going to be the technology for the next generation (assuming that civilisation doesn't accidentally end because the oil runs out too soon or because Prince Vlad and the Monkey-in-Chief get into a "Whose Missiles are Bigger" contest!), and the Germans are already forging ahead.

We need to get into the game if we're to have a bright future.

Day 2789: Bottomkickers – Series Two


Fear not fans of POTTY Dr Gillian Magwilde and her gorgeous and demographically-balanced team of I hesitate to describe them as archaeologists…

First with the BREAKING NEWS, BBC One's national laughingstock groundbreaking… literally groundbreaking as in they break the ground… drama "Bottomkickers" is to return and the first episode of the new series will see them in AMERICA uncovering the mystery of the BIGFOOT!

"As the ice melted, the exposed head was found to be 'unusually hollow'."

"As the process continued the feet …were found to be rubber."

…it's a GORILLA SUIT in a block of ICE, isn't it.

Never mind, I'm sure Dr Silly Gilly will find a way to prove that Roddy McDowell was using Excalibur as a walking stick while filming Planet of the Apes.

This may turn out to be a hoax

Friday, August 22, 2008

Day 2786: Georgia – the Balloon Goes Up


Mr Balloon flies into Tbilisi, the besieged capital of Georgia, to stage a lightning press opportunity.

Well at least he went!

Since making a GESTURE is about all that we seem capable of, then this was a pretty grand gesture to make.

On the other fluffy foot, Mr Balloon is in a better position to make BELLICOSE pronouncements since he ISN'T in a position to put anybody's life on the line to back up his JINGOISM.

I just can't recommend his Neo-Con rush to have Georgia join a NATO that can afford neither people nor arms to defend it. Nor am I sold on his desire to replace Lord Blairimort as the yipping poodle beside America's sabre-rattling.

Far more PRACTICAL were the efforts of President Sarcastic of France, demonstrating that DIPLOMACY not threats could bring the Russian aggression to an end.

Good for him.

"Strong European cooperation must be the way forward," said Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary Mr Ed Davey, urging greater British support for Monsieur Sarcastic's efforts.

Unfortunately, it seems that, like Mr Balloon, the Russians are capable of a GRAND OLD GESTURE of their own, and their "withdrawal" appears to be more a case of driving in circles and GLOWERING.

Meanwhile the "independence" movements in the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are appealing to the Russians to annex them recognise their sovereignty.

The way I see it, though, by being BELLIGERENT we are actually making things WORSE for the Georgians.

The Russians KNOW that we do not want to get into a REAL conflict over the Caucuses, not least because any confrontation with Russia runs the risk of going NUCLEAR. But if American and Britain are STRUTTING their STUFF, then the Russians can claim pseudo-legitimacy when they roll their armour about the place too; if we are HUFFING and PUFFING then the Kremlin thinks it's fine to BLOW THE HOUSE DOWN.

Day 2784: Safe as Houses


Now this is where the bite of the credit crunch starts to get NASTY; people are losing their homes.

Repossession orders, the lenders' first step towards kicking someone out of their home, are up by 24%; and last week we learned that full repossessions are up by 48%!

"This suggests that we are on track for a repossession crisis very similar to the early 1990s." warned Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Mr Vince "The Power" Cable.

The terrible irony is that the Government recently BOUGHT a major bank. You may have heard of it, it was called the Northern Rock.

They COULD be using that to CALM the troubled housing market: just as Sooty in the Treasury seems willing to extend more than generous credit terms to the "Bank that Likes to Say OOPS!" and indeed take a larger equity stakeholding, he COULD be pressing them to be more generous with their mortgage customers.

Remember repossession is the WORST outcome for everyone – the homeowners become homeLESS, while the bank is saddled with a duff property in a poor housing market. Everyone looses.

Offering to take a part share in the equity in exchange for the customer continuing to pay a more manageable mortgage on the rest, means that the bank keeps a stream of income and can make a future profit on the capital when the homeowner is either able to buy it back, or when the housing market recovers and they sell the property.

Alternatively, how about arranging for the local council to buy a part share or even all of the property, taking the homeowner on as a tenant (a sort of reverse "right to buy")? The Council gets to improve its housing stock at an affordable rate and is able to house the household who would otherwise become homeless and have to be found some other accommodation. Nor does the homeowner lose out, since they will be able to use the right to buy to buy their home back later.

I realise that Sooty has other economic woes on his mind at the moment…

Inflation is up to more than double the Government's target at 4.4% (with the more realistic cost of living index the RPI up 5% and food inflation at an eye-watering 13.7%).

Unemployment is rising as well, up 60,000, which makes it harder for the economy to pull back out of recession.

And Sterling is down against all currencies, even the dollar (the DOLLAR!) as speculators gamble that the need to keep the squeeze on inflation is less urgent than the need to kick-start the economy so the next interest rate move will be down rather than up.

…but more than any other country in Europe, or possibly even the World, Great Britain's economy is built on bricks and mortar. The motto that an Englishman's home is his castle, would be more accurately reworded as an Englishman's home is his SAVINGS, INVESTMENT and PENSION.

In other countries there is much less importance placed on "home ownership" and as such people have more diversity in where they put their money; here, your house IS where you put all your money, getting the biggest house for the biggest mortgage you can. Which is fine and dandy when interest rates are low, salaries rise regularly and house price inflation rockets away. Because the mortgages gets (comparatively) easier to pay and you make a tax-free profit on the resale of the house. Everyone is happy (except the poor first-time buyers who can't afford a shoe box!).

But it is HIGH RISK when everything hinges on one big investment. Because when interest rates surge and wages stagnate and house prices go into freefall, no one has anything else to fall back on.

That is why it was RECKLESS to let the housing bubble get so overheated in the first place, why letting people run up so much debt against the value of their home was such a BAD IDEA.

A correction in the price of houses has been coming – indeed needed – for ages and frankly the government were warned about that too. Now it's arrived and they need to be taking steps to ensure that it is as gentle a crash as is humanly possible.

Unfortunately, Sooty does not appear to come fitted with AIR BAGS.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Day 2788: Strike Three – Mayor Quits. Now BoJo is in charge!


So Farewell then, Mr Tim Parker.

Less Prince of Darkness, more Mr Pound.

To the horror of all Conservatories, BoJo the Clown has made it clear that he thinks HE is going to be running London.

As his first act, he has written:

"If you believe the politicians, we have a broken society… what piffle that is."

AS his SECOND act… he has issued a "clarification":

"When I said politicians using the phrase 'broken society' were talking piffle, I definitely meant all politicians who AREN'T Mr Balloon, who is a wise and clever egg. Am I still fired, Dave?"

It is good to see that BoJo holding down a lucrative job moonlighting as a Torygraph columnist is in NO WAY compromising his ability to totally Horlicks up his day job as Conservatory Mayor.

Day 2785: The Genius of Ms Mortimer…


…is that she guessed my FAVOURITE diary of the year without being told!

Day 2466: EXCLUSIVE: Millennium Meets Mr Balloon: the Interview

Who can challenge the wisdom of a lady with such PERSPICACITY!

It is obvious to everyone that she is going to win this year's Blogger of the Year Award. So that is why I am nonimating… Daddy Alex*.

Oh, I am SUCH a naughty gonk!

I do hope you'll vote for me anyway!

Meanwhile, Daddy has suggested that we all do his TONS OF FUN meme, the awards you cannot lose 'cos you award them to YOURSELF.

If you are going to recommend ONE Fluffy Diary, please recommend my Interview with Mr Balloon. It's my favourite!

But if you're going to see TWO… no wait, that's Austin Powers…

Having already picked that one as my overall winner, I should like to nonimate a post each for each of my other ARCH-ENEMIES…

Mr Frown:

Day 2681: Görd-erdämmerung (Twilight of the Frown)

Master Gideon Oboe:

Day 2661: Gideon Goes for Gordon

and His Worship, the Beardy Weirdy of Canterbury:

Day 2597: Every Burkha has a Silver Lining

Then, on a more positive note, something about DOCTOR WHO; this one which was particularly praised by Daddy:

Day 2462: Mysteries of Doctor Who #12: Who sends the Doctor after the Key to Time.

But there are also one whole GROUP of diaries that I am particularly proud to have got:

Day 2501: The Leadership Interview… Chris Huhne meets Millennium (and some other people)
Day 2514: The Leadership Interview… Nick Clegg meets Millennium (and some other people)

Day 2528: Lessons in Leadership: Millennium Elephant talks to Dr Vince Cable MP

Day 2614: Man of the Moment: Ed Davey meets Millennium Elephant (and some other people)

Day 2641: Millennium Elephant meets Ron the Dinosaur (oh and Mr Danny Alexander and some other people)

Day 2684: A Hundred (and-forty-one) Days of Mr Clogg

Day 2759: Liberal Youths: Millennium Elephant (8*) talks to Ali Wood (15) and George Duffett (12). And of course Ms Jo Swinson (28)

And the one that even made it to the Grauniad:

Day 2543: Nick Clegg: His Hand on My Bottom
Day 2544: The Pat of Power
*Of COURSE I shall nonimate Citizen Alix as well; what sort of a soft toy do you think I am!

This has been (thanks to some SERIOUS catch-up back-posting) my NINE HUNDREDTH fluffy diary, and was brought to you by the miracle of Daddy's TONS OF FUN meme!

Day 2730: Whip Crack Away

Sunday (ish… time to make Daddy catch up on those diaries he missed!):

Well grant me a professorship with tenure and a pension if it isn't the long awaited return of a George Lucas classic that somehow doesn't QUITE live up to the hype or our memories!

Yes, Professor Henry "Indiana" Jones is back in the really rather-too-long-to-type "…and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull". So grabbing my bullwhip and fedora, I open up the secret passage from the Thuggee temple into the back of the cinema to go watch it with my Daddies.

History hangs heavy on this film, with a portrait of Mr Denholm and a photo of Mr Sean reminding us that even the FRANCHISE is now an historical artefact, first unearthed in the Eighties.

And for the first half of the movie it all looks like it's being quite clever, with commentaries on Indy getting old and on the US being so caught up in looking for communists within that they completely overlook the small army of GENUINE communists roving around their air bases. And using the gunpowder and shotgun pellets to find the magnetised metal chest was great, classic Indy using his smarts to improvise a cunning way to the treasure.

The second half rather more disappointing.

The conclusion of Last Crusade felt like it MEANT something, with father and son both learning something about each other and Jones Sr surrendering the quest for the Grail and persuading Jr to let it go.

Here the conclusion feels… perfunctory. Ms Cate Blanchett gets incinerated because… it's time to incinerate the villain; there's no sense of it being even particularly ironic, as with Mr Beloq getting melted up by the Ark because he is actually BETTER than Indy at stealing ancient artefacts or Mr Donovan getting aged to death when he was after immortality. She is smart, psychic and has that sword as a character point, but we don't really get a STORY for her. We don't really learn that her quest is for knowledge whatever the cost and that the Soviets are merely a means to her end. Daddy Alex would have liked the alien to look into her head, see her autopsying the Roswell alien and take revenge for that.

"They were archaeologists" was a really good line, but "knowledge was their treasure" came out of nowhere and didn't really tell us anything – also, how did Indy know? The only person who GAINED any knowledge went fizzle-pop because of it!

Daddy Alex was very pleased to have been ahead of the film twice: once when he mentioned (correctly) that gold is not magnetic – shortly before Indy spots that the crystal skull shouldn't be magnetic, and Mutt replies nor is gold; second when he figured that the "great serpent" clue was the Amazon, shortly before Indy did.

There was a BIT of the old Tomb Raider stuff in the Peruvian graveyard, with Indy getting them into the hidden inner crypt, but the only really big puzzle was the Mayan ziggurat in Eldorado, and – in a huge cheat – John Hurt had already figured that one out ahead of times.

Miss Marian doesn't have an awful lot to do, but she does do it with such a huge smile on her face that you know she's just loving every minute of being back.

Nor does it help that the dictates of the film mean that Harrison Ford is STILL being the action man hero. He saves Mutt (hoho – Indiana was the dog's name too) several times. We would have much preferred it if Mutt had kept saving Indy from fights and physical danger but at the end it is Indy's superior knowledge that gets them out of the flying saucer (rather than just "run for it!") – something, anything to show that there ARE compensations for getting older and that young and old need each other. Also, I was expecting some payoff for all the times Mutt whips out his comb to reset his hair. And what a shame that Indy takes the hat back from him at the end rather than settling it on his son's head to (a) pass the torch (b) finally hang up his hat.

Plus, the big spinny CGI swallowing up the pyramid is very very similar to The Mummy Returns, which itself is a poor-man's Indiana Jones… and that says a lot.

Brickloads more fun then to be had playing the computer game version: Lego Indiana Jones.

This is (obviously) the follow up to the hugely popular Lego Star Wars games. And honesty compels me to admit that it is not QUITE as good. Indy can use his whip to swing across gaps or to grab things, while other characters can dig up buried treasure or fix machinery with a handy spanner, but it's not QUITE as much fun as using the Force. Swords and pistols are no substitute for blasters and lightsabres either, but most importantly, playing the evil characters in Indiana Jones is just a bunch of Nazis, and not a patch on playing Darth Vader or the Emperor. Nor do you get the fun of some puzzles only being solvable by using the Dark Side.

On the other fluffy foot, there are none of those levels where character actions is swapped for trying to fly a Lego spaceship, the controls of which are far too fiddly for my flappy feet! So that's more platform jumping and problem solving and less shooting and crashing into things – a plus for me, though depending on how much you LIKED those levels, your mileage may vary.

Possibly BECAUSE of that, it does also seem ever so slightly EASIER, as I have finished all the levels (except the annoying one with the roller-coaster mine cars) while Lego Star Wars still remains challenging so long as I keep flying my fluffy X-Wing into the walls on the Death Star.

Like the Star Wars games, each level can and should be played at least twice – the first time in "story" mode, where you follow the adventure as it played out on screen. It is usually pretty obvious where you have to go, and what you need to solve each step, though a working knowledge of the movies is, naturally, quite handy, particularly towards the end of the "The Last Crusade" sections. Once you're through once, you can then play AGAIN in "Free Play" mode, where you can take in a CRACK TEAM of Lego figures of your choice (make sure you've got Indy for whipping stuff; Ms Marian or Ms Willie who can jump higher; the Maharaja who is small enough to climb through certain spaces AND can get special powers from the Evil Thuggee Statues™; and one of the Bazooka Troopers who are great for blowing up metal things, like Bounty Hunters could do in the Star Wars games). In Free Play you should be able to access all the hidden areas that you couldn't reach in Story mode (usually because they are blocked by metal doors or Evil Thuggee Statues™) in order to collect all the parts of the level's secret artefact, and grab a special power-up bonus to post back to Barnett College.

Speaking of the College, there are secret levels to be found there. Access is through the Trophy Room, which looks very nice once you've filled it up with all those secret artefacts, but you will have to search Indy's office pretty carefully to find the key first!

As an extra super-secret, there are five old friends from Lego Star Wars to be found imprisoned in various levels of the game. Collect all five and Indy looky-likey Han Solo is unlocked as a playable character. With blaster!

C3P0 is a golden statue in the Hovitas Temple (that's the one with the rolling boulder, as if you didn't know); Luke Skywalker is frozen into the roof of an ice cave in Tibet; Princess Leia is being held in Cell Block AA23 which for some reason can be found beneath the Temple of Doom; and the Jawas have left R2D2 in a canyon on the way to Alexandretta.

But the best is, I suspect, finding Chewbacca holed up in a SUSPICIOUSLY familiar Cantina in a back alley in Cairo!

So, lots of swash-buckling fun to be had, at least enough to tide you over until BATMAN arrives. Yes, Lego Batman is being released in the Autumn. (Oh, and there's some flick with Christian Bale in it out too.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Day 2782: Genetically Moronic Crop


Oh Mr Prince Charles! GM crops DON'T cause Climate Change!

Ever since being appointed PRINCE OF WAILS, Mr Charles has been famously shooting his mouth off about anything and everything that he finds "Absolutely Ghastly". Yes, he's not so much monarch in waiting as Britain's Battiest Blogger.

But as a living, breathing example of SELECTIVE BREEDING taken to its most ludicrous extremes (his claim to own all of Cornwall depending entirely on his dodgy assertion that he's some special "breed") you would think that Mr the Prince would be a TINY bit more cautious before condemning anyone else's GENETICS.

Just to be completely fair: the engineering of the seeds for sale, plus the shipping of them around the world to where they are to be sown will CONTRIBUTE to CO2 emissions and that WON'T HELP global warming.

But it's not the main CAUSE either, and Mr Charles has already gotten in enough hot water for jetting around the world to know that there are WORSE things for the environment. (At least he's learned that nowadays it's better for the planet if he travels by HOLOGRAM.)

And, yes, selling poor people crops that "self terminate" or in English don't let you plant them for next year's crop is really MEAN.

BUT… if third world farmers can grow a yield of two or three times what they used to so that they can feed themselves AND sell the excess so that other people can feed themselves AND have enough money after being (admittedly forced) to buy next year's seeds to make a profit then… how are they going to see this as "A BAD THING"?

The Crown Prune risks UNDOING the good work that has done in keeping the threat of Climate Change at the top of the agenda but making silly, over-the-top claims conflating a GENUINE THREAT that is supported by loads of scientific evidence to worries about GM that remain scientifically unfounded.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Day 2781: Bottomkickers – less of a review; more of a burial

Tuesday (again):

You just KNOW that something has gone horribly HORRIBLY wrong when the Metro's sixty second interview is asking questions like:

"Are you worried about how the programme will be received? Recent BBC 'drama' Bottomkickers is a national laughing stock."

Which is exactly what they DID ask… on the very day of the series finale.

So, only a brand-new, giant-sized, high-definition, Freesat-ready, flat-screen tellybox could have induced my Daddies to watch the last ludicrous episode of Life-on-Mars-creators Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah's unintentionally appalling, reputation-wrecking "Bottomkickers" this week.

Tragically, that is exactly what arrived in the post that morning…

The series was billed as "Indiana Jones meets CSI", which was always GOING to be a big ask, but it turned out to be rather more "The Antiques Roadshow meets Wallace and Gromit".

You just KNOW that "Indiana Jones meets CSI" was the pitch when they sold the show to the BBC. (And allegedly "Make us 'Ashes to Ashes' and we'll grudgingly let you" was the reply). But you also might want to ask if "Indiana Jones meets CSI" is ACTUALLY the sort of thing that it is possible to DO.

The thing about Indiana Jones is that first it is displaced in GEOGRAPHY to "exotic" locations like lost temples in the middle of the jungle or cities swallowed by the desert. In these sorts of places it seems ALMOST reasonable that someone might have built a ludicrous, sand and clockwork powered death-trap-cum-treasure-chamber. Not that it's REALLY reasonable, but that generations of Hollywood EPICS have prepared us for that sort of imagery.

And second it is displaced in TIME, to circa nineteen-thirty-swashbuckle so that it is superficially reasonable to have Nazis running around with Lugers shooting up the place 'cos they're like so evil. With a big enough budget you can crank out enough chases, shoot-outs and perils that no one's brain has time to stop and go, ooh hang on a tick.

And third, the big big thing about Indiana Jones is that however ludicrous the plot McGuffin appears to be, however magical and completely unbelievable, whether it is a telephone for talking to Mr God, or fist-sized glowy rocks that make the crops work, whether it is a cup of water that cures everything up to and including death (though probably not being-a-glamorous-but-treacherous-lady-Nazi) to aliens having parked a big shiny flying saucer under the conclusion of the Mummy Returns, at the end of the movie it turns out to be COMPLETELY TRUE. The supernatural powers get released at the end of the movie, conveniently sorting out the obviously evil bad guys and leaving Doctor Jones (who is obviously good-hearted even if he like the baddies shoots people, steals things and tells fibs) and his lady-friend of choice not dead. (Subject to her not being a glamorous-but-treacherous-lady-Nazi).

Television simply does not HAVE that sort of budget. Not to do the locations; not to do the non-stop chase, fight, perils; not to do the super-special effects climax. Certainly not to do all of them at once. They may do SOME of these things, but not all of them and never ever ever on the sheer SCALE of a Spielberg popcorn-flick.

Where CSI (and indeed Spooks and Hustle) get away with this is by focusing intensely on minutiae and dazzling you with loads of seemingly-realistic technical guffery so that you don't notice that it is PADDING. Essentially, they are trying to sell you the idea that what you see is really, really real, as though the makers have done proper research and not just made up something based on a DNA test that they Googled.

So Dr Jones's "magic works, gasp!" conclusions are never going to fit with these sort of shows.

They may use a "heightened reality" – or Hustle's justifiably stylish "Jedi powers" moments – but you would never see Mr Dr Grissom save the girl from the serial killer by suddenly blurting "expelliarmus".

This leaves "Bottomkickers" STUFFED from the word go. Promising both popcorn levels of rollicking adventure AND intense realistic seeming archaeology, which particular stool do you choose to topple off?

And they never quite knew how to treat their artefacts – whether they were supposed to be genuine historical objects to be examined scientifically, or genuine quasi-mystical objects with fully operational magical powers.

So what was on the "Bottomkickers" conveyor belt this time?
  • The Cross of Jesus (brought to England by the Knights of Ni who, coincidentally, were lugging Excalibur around with them);
  • The remains of the black man who fought alongside George Washington (who, as it happens, happened to be wielding Excalibur on behalf of the American Revolution);
  • The secret grave of Boudicca and evidence of her Roman boyfriend (who, would you believe, brought Excalibur to England – or rather Britannica – from the Middle East where he picked it up from Gordium… as in Knot, Cutting Of);
  • The prophecy that would reunite Iraq (written by some blokes wot also, get this, made Excalibur out of magic meteorite iron);
  • The bones of St Joan of Arc (that was no letter opener she was waving around);
  • And, in a shock twist, Excalibur.
The power of these objects – with one obvious exception – lies in their MAGIC. This is where Indiana Jones does not disappoint: if HE were to find Excalibur it really would be a magical object that both inspires and makes the bearer invincible.

Now, the exception is the black escaped slave who fought with Washington, a plausible-seeming story that requires no supernatural element to give it mythic power. That is probably why the second episode was both interesting and timely and probably worked best, being troubled only by the intrusive plot-arc and one whacked-out conspiracy-theory. (Seriously, if the black candidate for the Presidency is going to get shot, it's going to be because HE'S THE BLACK CANDIDATE FOR THE PRESIDENCY, and not because he might reveal some slightly interesting historical nugget.)

The Boudicca story was mainly a gratuitous excuse for unrequited SQUISHINESS between hero-figure Dr Gillian “drives you” Magwilde and Mickey Bricks from 'Hustle'. And rather tasteless if you are at all familiar with WHY the lady of the Iceni went on her famous berserk killing-Romans-and-raising-Londinium-to-the-ground spree. And it's really very very very difficult to credit that the Romans might have invented the land mine and then NOT mass-produced it. Mass producing weapons (and using them on anyone and everyone) is what Ancient Rome DID!

The suggestion that modern Muslim Iraq might be saved by the intervention of Babylonian gods – apparently with fully-functional Tiamat – might also be in questionable taste. This was the one that featured the most "archaeology is like solving the cryptic crossword" guff. Though you hardly needed to puzzle out the Da Vinci Cod to guess that the saviour was going to be the little girl and not the heroic-but-troubled Silas Carson (he's Ki-Adi-Mundi – among several others – in Star Wars, you know).

The World War part One meets Joan of Arc story was in some ways the most sympathetically directed, and the use of flashbacks to Torchwood's "Weevil Boy" Mr Burn Gorman and his doomed attempt to end the War was pretty well done. In spite of all the episodes opening with a "what REALLY happened all them years ago" flashback, this was the only one where that worked. This one (apparently the only one NOT penned by Graham or Pharaoh) was written by Mr Tom McRae, which is another Doctor Who connection, since his name is on the credits of that Cybermen disaster from the 2006 season. Most of the best jokes were nicked from Doctor Who too, but none the worse for that. And there WAS something interesting to say about the English still not having got over the fact that today's Germans did NOT fight in the War. Having said that, the "nice man from the MoD" might as well have turned up waving a flag that said "I'm going to cover this up if it kills you!" And you definitely got the feeling that St Joan was only in there 'cos there had to be SOMETHING. She was certainly more important to the 1914 archaeologists than she was to the present-day plot. And surely even daytime soaps have given up using "I'm the sister you never knew you had!" as a plot device.

But where they really REALLY blew it, whether through over-ambition or some idea to give the audience a really BIG opening, was in the blindingly potty utterly wanton STUPIDITY of the opening episode.

Never mind the real life Knights of Ni wandering around with big shiny swords and dirty great tabards on. Mental illness fitted as standard. Never mind the completely gratuitous horror-shot of Mr Nice Muslim getting decapitated – like we don't all know what THAT is really about. Never mind the ultra-slimy evangelical televangelist with his TV show "I'm Evil For Christ… ask me How!" Never mind all that, we're going to go for yer very actually CROSS of Mr JESUS CHRIST himself, large as life and yer Mr God's honest truth, true as my name is Mr Phineas T. Barnum Esquire. Which it isn’t because it's Millennium Elephant.

This wasn't just jumping in at the deep end, this was Saint Marks and Spencer jumping in at the deep end, this was Tombstoning off the Rock of Gibraltar jumping-the-shark in at the deep end.

There are, rather famously, more than enough "splinters of the true Cross" in the world to make a full sized matchstick cathedral. Edmund, the Black Adder, while temporarily the Archbishop of Canterbury, discovered that Baldrick was working a lucrative sideline in such relics (along with St Paul's fingers, St Peter's noses and Mary Magdalene's… altogether in a box set if you wanted). Relics of the Cross are by now a positive byword for GULLIBILITY.

It's a sure fire way to flag up your top team of tomb-raiders as SUCKERS.

Even so, there is just possibly a way to do this, which is to make sure that the audience AND THE CHARACTERS know up front what the team are looking for. Remember, Indiana Jones knows he's after the Ark of the Covenent/Sankara Stone/Holy Grail/Von Däniken Memorial Lecture Circuit right from the word go.

But here is where the CSI/Spooks/Hustle format completely (if you'll forgive me) crucifies the plot. Because the format foisted on them by THAT PITCH demands that the team has to FIGURE OUT that this week's quest-object is THE Cross, a plot development thoroughly spelled out in the thirty-second trailers that the BBC had been showing for a month and, even if you'd managed to miss every single one of them, by the numbingly crass direction that shows the archaeologists' dig from above where the cross-trench turns the site into… gasp… a cross! The audience is so far ahead of the team that they are BORED by the time that anyone suggests that suggesting that it's the Cross they've discovered would be dumb. Even Colombo couldn't circumlocute long enough to not have solved this one by now!

So you've got a team who are TOO STUPID to work out that they're digging up something that they'd be STUPID to believe is real even if they worked out what it was.

Meanwhile, Joe from EastEnders is wandering around in a daze chopping people's heads off like they're responsible for casting him in that weary medical soap on ITV.

(And that's without mentioning the sort of dialogue that would have made even Sir Brian Blessed blush. "We're archaeologists… we DIG!" being merely the example that scars the memory first.)

And then the concluding episode was just about as bad. How you could possibly have got through the series WITHOUT expecting Ex-flaming-calibur to be in the last episode I do not know. How many swords ARE there, for fluffy's sake?

(Well, loads and loads probably, but can you NAME five?)

So how did the team manage to go so long without mentioning what Gillian's potty mum was driven round the twist by obsessing about? Or what all those pointy drawings on Dr Magwilde's wall were about?

And then, when they finally fish the thing out of its hidey-hole (and it has to be said Ms Sophie Aldred's lady-of-the-lake in 1989's Doctor Who story Battlefield is BETTER), they only go and break it!

Plus, the mysterious figure behind the conspiracy-of-the-week turned out to be… just a mysterious figure. The complete lack of a big reveal – either that he was, as thunderingly heavily hinted, Magwilde's academic nemesis, the ridiculously named Professor Mastiff OR in some kind of attempt at a dramatic twist, Doctor "Dolly" Parton (hence his "Well, I'll be off then" early in the episode, before his unconvincingly convenient "This is me turning up just in the nick" moment later) – left you wondering whether these people had ANY idea about how drama works at all! "Life on Mars" looks ever more a lucky FLUKE!

So, HURRAY for the BBC for bravely trying something NEW.

I do hope they try something new again next year… and not more of THIS total hokum!

…and we only kept watching after episode one because we thought that the photo of Dr Magwilde’s mad and wild mum was of Ms Susan Engel aka Vivian “isn’t she” Fay of Rose Cottage, Boscawen and “The Stone of Blood”. Only in the end she wasn’t. What a SWIZZ!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Day 2781: Cities on the Edge of Forever aka Abandon hope all ye who enter Liverpool!


Oh very fluffy dear. A lot of FUSS has been caused by the new pamphlet from the Policy Exchange.

Opinion has been divided between:

Northern Tuff: "Eee, ow very dare you! Appen our Northern cities r'as fine as any of yon poofy southen uns, by eck if they're not!"


Southern Jessie: "Ay say, what jolly poor show, we're too bally overcryded already! We don't want a hale load of oiks coming down ere ryning the hayce prices, dontcha know!"

But if Mr Balloon AND the Minister for Magical Accidents are rubbishing it, it must be doing SOMETHING right!

Mr Prescott, the former Magical Minister, was on the Newsnight Show defending his time spent pouring billions into centrally controlled redevelopment schemes and improvement gimmicks.

"Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! THE TORIES! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah!" he bellowed.

Just for once you wished Ms Waaaark had done her homework, 'cos she could have shot el Prezza down right there: "Mr Leunig ISN'T a Conservatory, you ignorant, prejudiced, half-witted buffoon," she could have said.

"And besides, didn't you 'improve' Hull so magnificently that the people of that fair city… ditched you for the Liberal Democrats?"

Now Mr Balloon has commented.

"Insane," says Mr Balloon.

Though of course, since the City of Liverpool is not a member of the Conservatory Party he cannot comment further.

The way it's being reported is that the report by a "Conservatory" think tank is suggesting that the cities of the North should be abandoned and their citizens moved to the South East where the jobs are.

You would think it said the entire North of England should be raised to the ground and the people led in chains to be paraded in loin-cloths before the Emperor Balloon before being fed to the cat-monsters in the new Olympic Stadium.

Instead, if you READ it, there appear to be two quite reasonable suggestions.

First suggestion: look at the evidence.

For all the money spent by the Magical Minister and his new layers of unaccountable quangocracy, has it actually helped the redevelopment cities to catch up? NOT has it had any effect at all – you cannot deny that there are many beautiful buildings, and many gainfully employed people, and many wonderful artistic projects in the development cities. But on average, wages are STILL lower and there is STILL more poverty there than in the South East where no redevelopment money has been spent. And in fact the gap is getting WORSE.

Second suggestion: stop spending all that money centrally. Simplify the system for allocating it and give it to the local councils to spend how THEY want, or more importantly, how the local people want it spent! If they still WANT the same redevelopment scheme then there's nothing to stop them. Or they could do something else. That seems like a very LIBERAL idea. Cut the state, devolve the power, put people back in charge.

Quite the OPPOSITE of abandoning the Northern Cities, the suggestion is to stop treating them like babies who need nurse-maiding by the Magical Minister in Whitehall and PUT THEM IN CHARGE of sorting themselves out!

Now, the OTHER part of the pamphlet also suggests allowing cities in the South East to expand – London, obviously, along with Oxford and Cambridge all get fingered.

Now it seems to me that this is about OPPORTUNITY and not about some crass "on yer bike" COMPULSION. Looking at the evidence (again): people are ALREADY coming to London from the cities and regions of the United Kingdom.

In free market economic terms, housing is THE barrier to entry in the South-Eastern labour market.

The shortage of decent housing in the South East is the key reason that people remain TRAPPED in poverty. If people who WANT to move are blocked from doing so, then there will be too many people and too few jobs in the North, and the reverse problem in the South.

That drives inflation too – because if there is a shortage of labour in the South then people can demand more pay (if only to cover the higher cost of living) and that means costs go up all over.

This drives up house prices too (AND leads to rip-off builders building smaller and smaller rabbit hutches in the knowledge that some poor sap is still going to be forced into buying).

And the North is left even further behind.

Now, you might quite legitimately argue whether people moving en masse to the South is a good thing or a bad thing. More people and more cities means pushing back the green belt and putting ever greater strain on resources like water and electrical supply, which means more infrastructure to move power and water around the country which means more greenhouse emissions which means melting icecaps and the whole of the South East drowning in the long term anyway, and THEN all the people still in the North can feel smug.

But at least look at the evidence and SEE that it is HAPPENING and then plan accordingly.

Mind you, I'm not going to include that as one of the "reasonable" suggestions… 'cos I’m not sure how you do that without contradicting the whole "return power to local people" bit earlier.

Day 2779: Where are the Conservatories going to PUT all the people they want to lock up?


Abandon the presumption of bail? Oh yes, VERY Civil Liberties.

Day 2778: Don't Panic!


Bird Flu tops the National Risk Assessment!

Day 2777: War Games


And the Olympic Gold Medal for Throwing Their Weight About by a Superpower goes to… well, actually it's America again, but not without a fierce late challenge from the Empire of Vladland (formerly the Peoples' Plutocracy of Yeltsin).

"This is not a war," the Russian ambassador told the world straight-faced. "This is Peace Enforcement."


It's funny (funny-peculiar that is) to see such an OLD-FASHIONED war peace-enforcement: a simple grab for land and resources, with none of your new-fangled asymmetric war-on-terra-fare.

But then Vladland is an old-fashioned sort of a place, with old-fashioned tanks and old-fashioned massive numerical superiority.

It's not that Georgia is ENTIRELY innocent in all this – they went barrelling into their dissident province of South Ossetia intent on using force to crush the local partisans. (Just like Vladland went barrelling into THEIR dissident province of Chechnya to crush THEIR local partisans… but we'll not mention that.)

But then the Russian army responds with 200 tanks that they JUST HAPPEN to have parked across the border. Crossing the border to possibly topple a rogue state (just like WE did in Iraq… but we'll not mention that either) to prevent crimes against humanity and protect their own ethnic group (just like the GERMANS did in the… and at that point Godwin's Law is satisfied).

The key question that troubles the West is this: if we HAD moved to admit Georgia into NATO (which IRONICALLY we didn't do because it might have been "provocative"), would that have contained the Russian threat or would we now be facing World War Part Three as our treaty obligations forced us to respond to an attack on one member as an attack on all members?

Because, let's face it, none of us WANT to see Georgia being crushed under a Russian invasion… but I think many of us want to see a full scale war with Russia EVEN LESS. So all the Monkey-in-Chief's brave talk about defending Georgia is… just talk. The Georgians, and indeed the rest of the states in the Russian "sphere of influence", can expect Western support all the way up to just short of actually committing any real assistance.

And of course the Russian leaders, Prince Vlad and President Mediocre, know this. Indeed they are counting on it.

The lessons from history are clear: after the Cold War we smashed Russia to pieces, plundered her reserves of natural resources and – at least from their perspective – humiliated them and left them with a drunk in charge. Prince Vlad seized that opportunity (and a lot of his old KGB files) and used it to forge a new powerful image for Russia built on ethnic image and a cult of his personality. Does ANY of this sound familiar?

Yes, after confronting the Soviet Union for eighty years of Cold War, when it turned out that their MASTER STRATEGY for World Domination was, er, to huddle in their defensive position and wait for the inevitable revolution, it seems that we have managed to turn Russia into an aggressive neo-feudal dictatorship that really DOES want to conquer her neighbours.

And we are going to have to face the fact that there's not a whole lot we can do about it in the short term.

The Monkey-in-Chief's adventure in Middle Eastern politics – with Lord Blairimort's support – and our ongoing commitments to rebuilding Afghanistan and continuing to smash up Iraq leave us with neither the ability nor the moral standing to do anything about it when Russia gets pushy with any of her neighbours.

But what we CAN do is commit to spreading prosperity and democracy to the Eastern European states who HAVE joined the European Union. By making the Union a success throughout the expanded area and by being clear that this is an opportunity (not a threat) to all the former Soviet Republics AND RUSSIA HERSELF, then we can show that our interests are peaceful AND that it works! This isn't a quick solution; it is the challenge of a generation – but it is doable. We have seen it done. Just as the first generation of the Union saw that peace between France and Germany was possible, just as the second generation brought in former military dictatorships like Spain and Greece, so our generation can erase the division of the Iron Curtain.

And maybe in time we can persuade the Russians to join us too.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Day 2776: Environmental Disaster as Bojo Blows Hot Air


Boo! Evil Mayor Bojo of London seeks to establish himself as Clown Prince of Climate Crime by cancelling Mr Mayor Ken's order for a fleet of hydrogen powered vehicles and abandoning plans to rescue Parliament Square from being a glorified car-clogged roundabout.

And he cancelled the proposal to increase the C-Charge on the most polluting vehicles.

Mr Balloon will soon need to have his bicycle followed by his Lexus in order to carry his OXYGEN TANKS along with his shoes.

We never realised that: Vote Blue Go Green meant LITERALLY turn GREEN as you CHOKE TO DEATH ON SMOG!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Day 2775: Mr Frown Stamps on Housing


Great Britain has a housing market where it is too expensive for essential workers to buy a house; where people were encouraged by greedy banks to take out mortgages that were way too much for them to afford; and where, thanks to runaway house price inflation*, investing in property was seen as SUCH a one-way bet that it led to the credit crunch and now no one can get a home loan at all and repossessions are going through the roof. Forgive my pun.

So… when did it become a BAD thing for house prices to be going down?

(* balanced against low ordinary inflation. What with houses being the only things you can't import on the cheap from China. And now BOTH kind of inflation are going a bit iffy.)

Mr Frown has announced through his puppet Chancellor, Sooty, that he's going to spend the next month dithering about whether to axe Stamp Duty on houses.

In case you don't know, Stamp Duty is a tax on buying a house. If you buy a house that costs between £125 thousand and £250 thousand, then you have to give 1% of what you spend to Sooty. If it's more than £250 thousand then it's 3% and more than half-a-million quid and it's 4%.

Thanks to rising house prices – the average house now costs £218 thousand pounds – Sooty raises almost a billion-and-a-half pounds from this, so it's not the cheapest tap to turn off. (And where, you may well ask, is the money to cover the hole left by this latest bribe going to come from?)

But as Citizen Alix points out, 1% off is not much of a SPECIAL OFFER.

On a one-hundred thousand pound flat, a thousand pounds extra in tax is an IMPOSITION, but a thousand pounds off is not going to change your mind to buy or not to buy.

And of course that is even assuming that the buyer GETS the thousand, rather than it being INSTANTLY ABSORBED into a one-off tiny, hardly-worth-the-effort increase in house prices. Essentially, the seller just pockets the Chancellor's money and the buyer, particularly the first-time buyer, ends up having to pay exactly the same.

But the worst thing is that this dithering, this "announcement that there MAY be an announcement", introduces UNCERTAINTY into the market.

Who in their right mind is going to buy a house in August when Sooty has let it be known he's (MAYBE) going to announce a 1%-off offer in September. I mean, it's not a very GOOD offer but you still wouldn't want to pay it for no reason. So now no one's going to want to buy any houses AT ALL for a month.

This is SO obvious that even the Conservatories have spotted it.

So we have to ask ourselves two key questions:

  • Will this help to boost house prices?
  • Would we WANT to do that, even if it DID?
And then, since the answer to BOTH of those questions given a moment's thought is NO, we ask: so why did Mr Frown let it be known that he was thinking about doing this?

That's the trouble with spin… spin, that thing Mr Brown said he was giving up!

Because, of course, by letting it be known that you are thinking about it you create a rod for your own back… or more accurately a GREAT BIG STICK for the DAILY HATE MAIL to hit you with when you decide not to do it… or "Perform another U-Turn" as they'll put it… or "Betray the Home-Owning Democracy" as they'll put it.

Remember folks: flying a kite CAN lead to you being struck by LIGHTNING!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Day 2774: Conservatory Dirty Tricks: an apology… would be nice.


If politics in Watford is to return to normal, the Conservatories must clean up their act.

They PICKED their Conservatory Candidate, and while he WAS Conservatory Candidate he conducted a CRIMINAL CAMPAIGN of hate and intimidation.

NOW they say they can’t comment because he’s no longer a Conservatory.

Daddy suggests a Liberal Democrat MEME:

Every time the Conservatories comment on someone who is NOT a member of the Conservatory Party… Mr Frown, Senator Obama, the Editor of Nuts magazine, anyone… link their comment to this story saying:

“But you can’t comment; they’re not a member of the Conservatory Party”.

THIS is what the Conservatories say about their candidate NOW.

OR you can read the Google-cached version.

As they say at the top of the page: “you can get it if you REALLY want”.

If Mr Balloon REALLY believes that people should “take responsibility” then he needs to start with his OWN PARTY.

What happened in Watford all sounds very horrid.

For the details, please read the words of Ms Sara Bedford, Mr Iain Sharpe and Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Ms Sal Brinton.

I do hope that it is all over.
Yes, it’s a SHAME when you have to use a headline again.

Day 2773: Darwin was a Genius… but these guys are plain NUTS!


I hope you all watched my good chum Mr Professor Richard Dawkins on the tellybox, telling us about Mr Charles Darwin who started out wanting to become a quiet Anglican pastor before a sea voyage changed his mind and he set out to have the most HERETICAL idea in the history of human beings instead: EVOLUTION by NATURAL SELECTION.

Mr Professor Richard is awfully good at explaining evolution, and showing that it is FACT not THEORY. Though perhaps Channel Furore tempted him a little too much to put in the "this is why we don't need Mr God" stuff.

I read another review of the programme which says that the lady sex-worker in Nairobi has "evolved" an immunity to HIV. Salome, the lady sex-worker in question says that she thinks Mr God has blessed her. Nancy Banks-Smith, the reviewer in question, says she thinks that must have got up Mr Professor Richard's nose.

Personally, I think what would get MORE up his nose is the supposedly educated reviewer saying that Ms Salome has "evolved" an immunity. She most certainly hasn't.

In any population, some will be MORE resistant to a new virus – like AIDS – and some will be LESS resistant. That is just the chance factor of having different genes. EVOLUTION is what happens when those random differences give Salome a better chance of surviving to have descendents. If, in the future, MOST people were DESCENDED from Salome and her relatives, THEN the new humans with AIDS-resistant genes could be said to have "evolved".

Mr Darwin was not INSENSITIVE to the fact that his idea was going to kick over the apple cart. (And to be fair to the churches, they caught on almost at once to the implication that they were suddenly irrelevant. They weren't stupid. Just 100% totally wrong.) He sat on his findings for twenty years before being spurred into publishing when another scientist almost got the same idea. And apparently he lived in fear that SOMEONE would find a species that didn't fit into the pattern that he had seen, that just one would exist that required a separate creation.

And yet, ironically, that is the MOST brilliant thing about Mr Charles' idea. It only takes ONE counter-example to disprove it. Only ONE. And they still can't do it.

Later we caught a repeat of Room 101 with Mr Stephen Fry as the guest. One of his requests for casting into the room of worst nightmares was "New Age Guff", in part for its casual pillaging of random bits of ethnic cultures and adding them higgledy-piggledy to a melange of other ideas without a care for the ACTUAL culture, but also in part for using the word "energy" to mean something meaningless.

His best remark was his critique of "holistic techniques" that do NOT treat the WHOLE because they leave out the RATIONAL INTELLECT. Not that he wanted to REJECT the "spiritual" dimension of life – almost everything we do, love, hate, fear, desire, they are all "spiritual" in a sense. But for goodness' sake USE YOUR BRAINS! said Mr Stephen.

So with these two towering appeals for some proper THINKING, what do we find on the BBC's website a hundred and fifty years after Mr Darwin showed us that we don't NEED a superstitious story to explain our lives and origins?

An interview with the Flat Earth Society. No, really.

Never mind that we've known it was a sphere for two-and-a-half THOUSAND years. Aristotle knew it. Plato knew it. Pythagoras probably knew it. A bloke called Eratosthenes even worked out the Earth's circumference in 240 B.Mr.C. And he was nearly right – certainly near enough to have got a grade C GCSE out of it.

Apparently, they say that the Earth is a big flat disc (turtle optional) with the North Pole in the Middle. The reason that no one has fallen off the edge is because it's frozen and we call it "Antarctica".

Now just excuse me while I bash my fluffy head against a wall for a moment.

THIS is Antarctica.

Perhaps they can convince you that every single space mission ever has been faked. Because like Mr Darwin, it would only take ONE photo of a flat Earth to disprove the round Earth theory.

Perhaps they can explain how the magnetic South Pole works so that you can approach it from any Antarctic shore and still find the flag (because if you think about it, that flag is going to be literally on the other side of the world if you pick the "wrong" place to start).

Perhaps they can come up with a way to make GEOMETRY work differently so that the circumference of Antarctica is smaller that the circumference of the equator.

And perhaps they can come up with a way to explain how in AUGUST you can have a longer day in the MIDDLE of a circle than you have at the OUTSIDES? And how in JANUARY you can have a longer day at the OUTSIDES than you do in the MIDDLE?

Perhaps they can even explain how it can be day and night SIMULTANEOUSLY in different parts of a flat disc. (And nowadays you can phone someone in New Zealand to FIND OUT… if you don't mind being bawled out for waking them in the middle of the night!)

But REALLY, TRULY ships sailing out to sea do NOT disappear over the horizon because the sea is HILLY!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Day 2772: Memo to Mr Frown


The SUSPICIOUS thing about the Sunday Hate Mail's leaked memo… well, ONE of the suspicious things… is that it was supposedly written last autumn in the aftermath of "The Labour's disastrous conference".

So which conference would that be? Because the one I remember had the entire Labour Party buoyed up and convinced that they were about to call AND WIN a general election.

The wheels only started to fall off the FOLLOWING week when Mr Frown flew into Iraq just as Master Gideon was promising tax cuts for millionaires. Between them, these two developments led to the bottled election-that-never-was.

Not that I think it is UNLIKELY that Lord Blairimort was writing little notes saying "Blimey, Gordon, look, I mean, I know you're new to this but, phew, you stink!"

And the urge to leak a great big "I told you so" to the papers must have been irresistible.

But look at the analysis: the key allegation is that Mr Frown has set himself on this disastrous course by offering change rather than sticking to more of Lord Blairimort's policy of Thatcherism-lite. (Still half the calories, but now with added State Funeral!)

The truth is, Mr Frown has come to disaster by promising a change from Lord Blairimort and NOT DELIVERING.

We all know that the former Prime Monster hung grimly on to power for as long as he could. But the idea that everything has gone wrong JUST because Mr Frown finally prized Lord B's fingers off the Downing Street doorsill is simply preposterous.

Had Lord Blairimort remained as Prime Monster, there would STILL have been a Credit Crunch; Northern Rock would still have collapsed; the Customs and Revenue would STILL have put half the nation's personal data on a couple of CDs and then lost them; and the Labour would STILL have lost London, Crewe & Nantwich, and Glasgow East.

Still, the Minister for Magical Accidents, Mr Prescott, wouldn't have QUIT so there wouldn't have been a Deputy Leadership election and Mr Peter Vain wouldn't have "forgotten" about the hundred grand in campaign donations being slipped his way through a phoney think-tank. And the Labour would merely still be stuck in the mid-20s in the polls where they were with Lord B… which of course they STILL are under Mr Frown.

Not that Mr Frown doesn't deserve to get the blame – he was in charge of the country from his Treasury bunker; these are the rotten fruits of ten years of the Blairimort-Frown partnership. It's just that Lord Blairimort deserves his share of the blame TOO!

So, anyway, it's week TWO of the Gordo's Gotta Go crisis.

The Prime Monster is being further undermined by a group of anonymous has-beans unnamed former ministers suggesting that since HE can't come up with any policies, they'll have to do it for him.

And, coupled with the leaking of this memo, it certainly LOOKS like a retaliatory counter-strike by the Death Eaters Lovely Fluffity Bunny Followers of Lord Blairimort for the (Prime) Monstering of Mr Millipede.

You can't have failed to notice that after Mr Millipede's unexpected full-frontal DENIAL of wanting Mr Frown's job, as many as one or two Labour backbenchers – completely independently of Downing Street – urged the Prime Monster to sack him.

"If David Millipede was placed back on the backbenches, then I think he'd become the non-entity that he was before his accelerated promotion!"

said backbencher Ms Geraldine Who?

"…it is a DUPLICITOUS message which is the worst possible kind of politics," added Mr Bob Marshall-Andrews, the backbench LOYALIST who has LOYALLY rebelled against the Government on more than a hundred occasions, at least twenty in the current Parliament alone.

Obviously this is the POD-PERSON Mr Bob Marshall-Andrews and NOT the OTHER Mr Bob Marshall-Andrews who once decried the "ruthless expunging" of "intellectual challenge and dissent" under the headline: "Our Prime Monster is nothing but a BULLY"

Hot on their heels, fluffy Apprentice Star, Mr Sir Alan Sugar, also told Mr Frown that Mr Millipede should get FIRED.

(Presumably Mr Sir Alan hasn't seen Mr Millipede's REVERSE PTERODACTYL yet!)

And with the usual spin machine going all SECRET STALIN again and laying into Mr Millipede, three Cabinet Ministers were quickly on scene to cover Mr Frown's bottom.

Well, I SAY three, but two of them were Sooty and Ms Harriet Harpy, so they barely count. The other one was Mr John Deadman, Secretary of State for Moving Mr Frown from Work to Pension.

"Mr Frown has a profound understanding of what this country needs" Mr Deadman told Andy Marrmite. "He knows what it's like to be totally f…" and then the theme tune cut in.

The other rumour is that Mr Frown is going to spice up his team with a RESHUFFLE, moving Mr Millipede to the Treasury to put him under the EYE of SAURON as a reward for his loyalty and talent. Though I really can't see Mr M wanting to take Sooty's place with Mr Frown's hand up his… and then the theme tune cut in.

Anyway, according to the BBC there is a consensus in the Labour that if Mr Frown is to get back in the game by September, he needs to create a "BIG BANG"… which leads me to remember the old PROVERB:

"When you are in a hole… don't use DYNAMITE!"

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Day 2770: A Nuclear Non


Well, it’s not EVERY day that you get to see the Government’s energy policy AND environment policy both implode before breakfast.

We ARE going to need extra generating capacity if we’re to avoid the lights going out; we’ll need it NOT to be more fossil-fuel-based plants if we are to meet our Kyoto targets. But really, the whole idea that we could flog off British (Radioactive) Energy to the French and get them to build us the infrastructure on the cheap is just TYPICAL of this Government, particularly Mr Frown and his ENRON-ACCOUNTING PPP (or Pay Pounds Perpetually) schemes.

Ironically, the deal also failed because in their keenness to do GOOD deal for EDF, the Labour Government forgot that selling to France at below the market rate also toasted the private sector who said that the deal was off unless they got a fair price – including for the taxpayer!

But do we REALLY want to be handing over control of YET ANOTHER energy industry to another country? From moving to a position where the country could supply its own energy needs, through coal and North Sea oil and gas, we have allowed ourselves to drift into a state where we are at the WHIM of foreign corporations and governments and WILDLY fluctuating international prices.

We already have HUGE increases in the cost of energy, hitting the poorest hardest – and worse, it’s disproportionately harder because of the way they are excluded from cheaper deals like Direct Debit payment!

The Government should be taking RESPONSIBILITY for guaranteeing future supply.

And now, it would appear, that the Government has abrogated its duty AGAIN, and wants not only to inflict atomic power plants on us, but to inflict atomic power plants on us that are under the control of FRANCE!

If you WANT new generating capacity – and we do – just go and BUILD IT. For personal preference, I would rather build a dozen windmill farms, but if you MUST make atomic power stations then just MAKE them rather than insisting on doing something stupid and then trying to get some other fellow to do it for you. On the cheap.