Archive by Author

Where did the Hollywood monsters go?

14 Feb
Still from Nosferatu

Don’t panic! He’s only delivering a box of Milk Tray.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, vampires were widely believed to look like this, or this, or even this. Far from being nice, they were the kind of creatures you would not wish to bump into in a dark alley, and you certainly wouldn’t have wanted to wake up to discover one had crept into your bedroom because he wished to be your boyfriend. Then a few years ago, someone decided it would be far better if, instead of being amoral, bloodsucking creatures of the night, vampires were emos, who sparkled – how scary is that?! Okay, not very.

I have learnt to live with this. If Hollywood had decided vampires should be about as scary as an English Lit. student with a bad case of unrequited love, that was okay, because in other parts of the world film makers were producing such films as Let the Right One In, which is both touching and disturbing. Meanwhile, television (surprisingly) does a great job of supplying more traditional horror options*. But now, this apparent quest to make completely non-menacing movie monsters has gone a step further.

Warm Bodies is a love story about the relationship between a zombie and a living person. Yes, that’s right: a zombie who wants to win your heart not eat your brains. Bless. The film has a pretty good rating on the IMDB, maybe it’s great. I don’t know. I won’t be watching because it’s just wronger than a very wrong thing indeed. This is a zombie, would you want to snog him?

What’s next? A werewolf film that features a character who, every full moon, turns into a cocker spaniel who sits in front of the fire licking his bum? And who might be a bit grouchy, but wouldn’t dream of ripping anyone’s throat out ’cause he prefers cuddles. Or a film about a poltergeist who does the housework, and organises the home owner’s book collection according to the Dewey Decimal System?

While I appreciate the idea of subverting a genre – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman do this brilliantly in Good Omens –  it is annoying that this is being done at the expense of more serious films that would appeal to genuine horror fans. Of course, those more serious films are being made, just no longer in Hollywood, which is sad because the horror film industry there was once vibrant and ground-breaking. However, now it seems to be focussing on horror for people who don’t actually like horror, and would really prefer a nice rom-com starring Jennifer Aniston. Maybe, that will be next on the agenda: a funny, heart-warming movie starring Jenn as a succubus who just wants to find Mr Right …

* I mean, Being Human’s Mitchell versus Sparkly Twilight Boy? There is only going to be one winner. No?


Fixed Term Parliaments: What would Churchill do?

14 May
Winston Churchill in Downing Street giving his...
Image via Wikipedia

Former Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis – yes, that is his real name – has been speaking out against the fixed term parliamentary system introduced by the new Tory/LibDem coalition, describing the idea as a “constitutional outrage”. I know, some might say it’s just a case of sour grapes from the losing party, but he does have some support from constitutional experts.

The argument for change is that the country needs a strong and stable government to oversee the rebuilding of the economy following the credit crisis and bailing out of the banking system. Superficially that does make sense, but closer scrutiny suggests it’s an extremely misleading idea.

During World War Two, Britain was run by a coalition government installed after a vote of no confidence led to the resignation of Conservative prime minister, Neville Chamberlain whose policies of appeasement had proved both unsuccessful and hugely unpopular. Winston Churchill became PM, and later found himself facing a similar vote, but survived to lead the country to victory. I do wonder what he’d think about his successors trying to manipulate public anxiety to make changes to the parliamentary system.

While it is true that we owe a stupendous amount of money, and that we will be paying it off for decades to come, this can not possibly compare to the threat the country faced in the 1940s. Back then, we also had a massive national debt – billions owed to the US alone* – and it was growing because not only did the country have to finance the war effort, there was also the cost of rebuilding once hostilities were over. And of course, the danger was not only financial, the world’s biggest super-power was camped just across the Channel and planning to invade. In the meantime they were bombing our towns and cities into rubble and attacking our shipping with the intention of starving us into submission. Yet, despite this, at no point did anyone think the government should be shored up with changes to the system which made it harder to remove them from power.

Fast forward to 2010 and that very thing could happen. The Tory government want to make it harder to remove them if it all goes horribly wrong. And make no mistake, these changes would protect the Tories, not the coalition! If the coalition falls apart, the fixed term and new rules about votes of no confidence will enable the Tories to stay in power until 2015, despite the fact they will have no majority. They tell us this is a good thing because the country is in financial crisis and needs a firm hand on the tiller to see us through the difficult days ahead. They may have a point, but surely a minority government is not a firm hand, it’s a weak hand, and one which could lead to at best stagnation, and at worst, catastrophe.

So what would Churchill do? Would he approve of a minority government playing on peoples’ fears to introduce undemocratic changes to the parliamentary system to keep themselves in power? I think not.

* It took until 2006 to repay the money owed to the USA


Kay Burley: She’s a little bit mad isn’t she?

9 May

(Sorry, the sound on the video isn’t great, you’ll need to turn your speakers up!)

A Twitter campaign is calling for the sacking of Sky News presenter, Kay Burley after a complete dog’s breakfast of an interview she conducted with David Babbs from campaign group, 38 Degrees.

This is the same Kay Burley who mistook an Ash Wednesday mark on Joe Biden’s forehead for a bruise. That might have been forgivable if it wasn’t for the fact that Ms Burley was brought up as a Catholic, so really should have known better.

It’s also the same Kay Burley who made Peter Andre cry, then claimed she did it for his own good – ’cause she’s nice like that. What may look like spite to the rest of us is actually the outward manifestation of a truly caring personality.

However, despite all that I don’t think Kay should be sacked, after all, who in their right mind would employ her? Instead, I think we should just learn to love her strange little foibles and accept the fact that she is to journalism what the Simpsons’ Cat Lady is to intelligent discourse.


Undecided voter? Please read this!

5 May

Just popping in to share a couple of links to great posts about what may await us if the Tories gain a majority in tomorrow’s vote.

Welcome to Cameron-Land: Johann Hari takes a look at Hammersmith and Fulham council, now in the control of “compassionate Conservatives” and considered to be the model for the new Tory government.

Remember 1983? I warn you that a Cameron victory will be just as bad: Jonathan Freedland looks back at the last Tory regime and warns us about the dangers of history repeating itself.


Justice will only be served if Jon Venables remains anonymous

9 Mar

The news that Jon Venables has been returned to prison* has, unsurprisingly, caused something of a feeding frenzy amongst right-wing tabloids and their readers focused around an alleged “need to know” why he has been recalled. So far, the “need to know” brigade have been unable to explain precisely why anyone unconnected with the case has any need to know anything about it, preferring to deflect such questions with emotive and inflammatory arguments about it being in the public interest, and all about justice for the family of James Bulger (along with lots of silly remarks about NuLiebor** secrecy). However, I can provide a very good reason why not only do we not need to know, but it is actually far better if we don’t. 

Venables is, apparently, accused of child pornography offences. This means there are now a whole new set of victims who have suffered either directly, or indirectly, because of his actions. These children deserve justice every bit as much as James did. 

It’s commonplace to assume that looking at photos of children being abused is, in some unfathomable way, less serious than actually doing it. This is a completely bogus argument. Anyone who looks as such material for enjoyment is complicit in the acts depicted. End of! The children in those images are real, they aren’t ‘posed by models’, they aren’t computer generated. They are real children who suffer for the gratification of others. They deserve to have their suffering recognised, and their abusers prosecuted. As anyone with half an idea about the British legal system knows, these children will not get justice if tabloid newspapers are allowed to print identifying information about Venables because, once identified, there would be little chance of him receiving a fair trial. The Crown Prosecution Service will be forced to drop the case, he will go unpunished, and may even end up back on the streets. 

And no, that’s not because of some left-wing plot to promote criminals’ rights, it’s because our legal system attempts to ensure everyone who appears before a court is tried without favour or prejudice, no matter who they are, and no matter what they may have done in the past. Whether you agree with that or not, it’s a system that’s worked well over many centuries and only the stupendously stupid would consider it should be overturned simply to satisfy the prurient curiosity of armchair vigilantes. 

Furthermore, arrests in such cases often come as part of a wider investigation. It’s entirely possible that, if guilty, Venables is only one link in a very long chain, and that identifying him to the public will compromise the whole investigation. 

Bearing all that in mind: if you genuinely believe you “need to know”, do you also think that should be accommodated at any price? Even at the price of letting guilty people go untried? 

*Technically, it’s not a return because he didn’t serve his original sentence in a prison.

** Not my spelling, but that of the oh-so-witty ranting righties who seem to have overlooked the fact that Venables was last tried under a Tory government when he was named by a judge, leaving the Home Office no choice but to give him a new identity. 

Is lack of trust in politicans eroding our democracy?

2 Sep

Interesting post from Tim about the continual erosion of the trust (or what’s left of it) between politicians and the UK electorate.

This year, as with every other year has been a constant drip of political cronyism, lies and deceit, eroding trust, connection and communication between political leadership and the, Sep 2009

Do read the whole post!

Something Rotten in the House of Commons

18 May

Watching cross party MPs turn on the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, was somewhat perplexing. On one hand, his lack of leadership was instrumental in allowing recent expenses scandals to take place. On the other, it is hypocritical of MPs to expect one man to take the blame for something they all seem to have been aware of, if not actively involved in; not dissimilar to seeing a gang of criminals blaming their crimes on the chief inspector of their local police force. If only he’d arrested them before they robbed that bank …

It is impossible to overstate the significance of today’s events. If Mr Martin does resign, he will become the first speaker since the 17th century to be forced to do so, and I’m sure the House hope this will draw a line under the whole affair. He will become a high profile sacrifice to placate a public who have lost all confidence in the democratic process and those who administer it. But will it be enough? Do we really believe the entire blame lies at his door? I think not.

The expenses system was drawn up by the very people who so readily abused it, yet, they seriously expect us to believe with one sacking honesty and transparency will be restored. This belief that we can be so easily hoodwinked smacks of extreme arrogance! These are the people we elected to represent us, they do not seem to be doing that. They appear to be more interested in lining their pockets and advancing their own interests, which really isn’t good enough. We deserve better!

Politics used to be seen as a form of public service. That may be an old fashioned idea, and it may not have always been true, but that ideal did set the tone of the House; MPs were there to speak for the interests of their constituents, not to further their own. Unless we return to that old fashioned notion the voting public will continue to feel unrepresented and disenchanted with the political process, and that could have far-reaching and disastrous consequences.