Trident? “Yes, Prime Minister” , because it’s the very best, most pointless that you can buy.


Want to reblog this for two reasons. One, it was a great show. Two, this reasoning and debate still goes on.

Originally posted on Think Left:

Sir Humphrey tries to convince the Prime Minister why he must spend money on the very best nuclear weapons which we won’t use, because …. well because …

Sir Humphrey tries to convince Prime Minister Jim Hacker that he must buy Trident because Britain needs the best nuclear deterrent available because the Soviets can’t certainly know that Hacker probably knows that they probably certainly know…

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Techniques of neutralisation: David Cameron’s excuses for Iain Duncan Smith


Contempt abounds in Cameron’s response:

Originally posted on Politics and Insights :

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Iwrote earlierabout the way the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) heavily micro-managed the recent Mortality Statistics release, and how the Government are using an excessively bureaucratic approach to ensure that no inferences are drawn from the data published, insisting that it’s “wrong” to link the mortality rates of sick and disabled people with punitive, Conservative austerity policies.

However, the accounts and experiences of sick and disabled people and their families (recorded in the media, in parliamentary inquiries, Commons debates – all preserved on the Hansard record) inform us that there is a clear correlation between the Tory “reforms” and increased distress, a loss of dignity and autonomy, financial insecurity and insolvency, increasing ill health, and sometimes, the death, of disabled people.

When confronted in the Commons, Iain Duncan Smith and other ministers dispensed with civilised debate, and simply blocked any discussion regarding concerns raised by the opposition…

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Dredd vs Dredd

I was wondering about my love for the movie Dredd, originally called Dredd 3D, and my loathing for the piece of trash, Judge Dredd. One is a recent film starring Karl Urban. The other stars Sylvester Stallone, who I like a lot, but I seriously dislike the movie. I have watched it a number of times, but it is from the 90s and been shown on tv often. It is a simple, trashy scifi flick to have on when you have better things to do. Not so Dredd. I have probably watched it more times in the shorter time it has existed, and each time I get sucked in.

So one I am passionately supportive of, one I am passionately despising of. I did wonder, am I just being a hipster or a snobbish geek? Am I just bitching against the film by Stallone because I truly dislike it or because that’s the consensus among geeks, especially 2000AD fans? Do I just like one and not the other for no rational reason? Possibly a simple case of taste?

So I thought and I came to the conclusion that, no, I really do have my passionate opinions and I have good reason for them.

For one, I love Karl Urban’s portrayal of Dredd. He plays the role. He keeps the helmet on. He dishes out tough justice with a grim face and nothing more. Dredd is an iconic character; almost an epitomy of the need for order in Mega City One. He is there to keep control by punishing any trespass. Dredd isn’t good or evil, nor even hero or anti-hero. He just is, administering justice and maintaining the status quo. That’s how Urban plays him. He is there to deal with the criminal element of Peachtrees and that’s that. He is the law.

Stallone’s Dredd is just Stallone playing yet another action hero in a scifi film. He removes the helmet so everyone can see it is him. He finds himself on the receiving end of justice so ends up being the renegade. It is basic Hollywood stuff. Early on, he is more Dredd-like, handing out sentences on any crime as the law states he must. But Stallone plays him almost gleeful as he does this. It comes across as comical. Dredd isn’t meant to be funny or enjoying the role of Judge. He just judges.

Another obvious difference is the mood and look of the films. Dredd is gritty, grimy, harsh, glum. Judge Dredd is colourful and flashy. Some grime, sure, and certainly some gore, but still feels more glamour than it should be. I also really like the soundtrack to Dredd.

I find there is a lack of reverence for the character of Dredd in Stallone’s movie too. Growing up in the UK, Dredd was always well known to me. I had read a number of the comics, I now own several graphic novels, but I was far from a knowledgeable fan. But Dredd was iconic to scifi loving Brits. Like the Doctor or Terrahawks. Okay, maybe not Terrahawks, but he was known as that grim lawman who never removed his helmet and never backed down. If you play James Bond, you wear the tux, drink your vodka martini, fire your Walther PPK and mark smart quips as you kill henchmen. That’s just how it is. Dredd isn’t nearly as famous and not bound by so many features, but if you play Dredd, you wear the damn helmet and you maintain your resolute demeanour. Stallone played a typical hero. Nothing wrong in that, but he wasn’t Dredd and it felt like they never tried to make a Dredd movie.

I feel similarly about the Conan films. Schwarzenegger’s Conan is a dumb thief, as much as I love those films. The newer movie I like a lot less, and while the Conan is better, he’s still not Conan for me. I’m still waiting for a true Conan film.

The new Dredd felt like they were trying to show us Dredd and his world. Mega City One, the apartment blocks that feel like their own insulated environments, and the desperate lifestyle of the inhabitants is brought to us. You can argue they still fall short of that. Sometimes the city scenes feel like a normal city today than a vast, crowded city state of a future. It was a low budget film, after all. But they were trying. They went for it. They wanted to give us that world.

I much preferred the villains of Dredd as well. Judge Dredd’s bad guys are fairly predictable and cartoonish. Ma-Ma, brilliantly played Lena Hedley, is a vicious gangster. Nothing fancy, but very intimidating and threatening. I love the moment when she has her men use mounted mini-guns to blast through numerous rooms just to kill the Judges. It is a character defining moment. She ruthlessly goes for the overkill to get what she wants.

Anderson was a much better second character than anything that goes along in Judge Dredd. The less said about fucking Rob Schneider’s sidekick the better. A few others get a bit of screentime, but nothing to give us a character to support, let alone character development. Anderson is a strong role that is the character we can engage with while watching Dredd be Dredd. She starts off doubting herself if hoping to prove her worth. She screws up yet that forces her to get stronger and see the whole thing through. She is a Judge by the end, whether given a pass or not, and Dredd knows it.

A great comparison is Anderson having to execute a man. Early on, Dredd makes her judge a man who tried to kill them, lying wounded on the floor. She hesitates but does it, and that act hurts later on when she meets the family of the man (yeah, bit contrived I know). Late on in the film, we see Dredd and Anderson pushing up the block, gunning down Ma-Ma’s crew as they go. We briefly see a few bodies on a stairway and Anderson finishes one man off as they pass by. She doesn’t even blink. The movie doesn’t slow down to exaggerate the moment either. Nothing is highlighted but that itself displays the difference. Anderson struggles early on, but by the end she has toughened up enough to just do the job. She can do it. You don’t want to cross her now.

Speaking of comparisons, I can bring up Conan again. Something I dislike about both old and new Conan is that they give an origin story. Howard never had that. We know something of Conan’s past, but the stories never told of how he came to be. We don’t need to know. Conan just is, a primal force in human form, come into the civilised worlds to plunder and achieve glory. We don’t need him explained. He is, for me anyway, better off not being explained.

Dredd is the same. I prefer Urban’s Dredd as being a Judge in the middle of a crisis, needing to survive while doing his duty. I prefer the simple plot of the film. I prefer the directness of the storytelling. I enjoy watching a movie where I come into it, find Dredd as he should be, watch him behave as Dredd would, and then it is over. I don’t need fake family photos, cloning plots and Dredd becoming praised by the people. I know the cloning thing is from the comics, but I didn’t need to explore Dredd’s character that far in one movie. I just want him to show up.

Oh, there is one scene I have to talk about, which links the two films.

Something I despise about most remakes is taking lines or scenes from the old movies and crowbarring them in just for the ‘reference’ factor. Dredd does this, but it works so damn well. I can’t recall if Dredd goes around saying ‘I am the law’ in the comics, but it became famous, maybe infamous, due to the shouty ways of Stallone. The over-the-top LARRWWW was as laughable as it was entertaining. It was also probably one of the few things people remembered by the time Dredd 3D came out. So into the film it went, only when used, it never felt crowbarred in. It was part of Dredd’s speech as he asserts his authority over the block. He reminds Peachtrees who is really in charge. He depicts himself as an agent of a authority even Ma-Ma cannot match. Urban’s matter-of-fact delivery is perfect. For me, it helped make clear this film was about depicting Dredd and his world, not sensationalising it.

So I love Dredd’s portrayal of the main character, of other characters, of Mega City One, as well as it’s tone, soundtrack and look. With Judge Dredd, it is just cheesy fun at best.

I must also declare I’m a full supporter for the demand for a sequel to Dredd. Every time a new and pointless sequel gets made, that Dredd meme shows up and I always give it a like.

Seriously, make a second one. Now. Or as soon as you can. Please. Please please please!

The Amazon Debacle, or Why You Won’t Be Able to Read Me for Free Anymore


I think this is a worthwhile warning to pass on:

Originally posted on KH Koehler Books:

I can honestly say I’ve had what amounts to the worse experience with Amazon that I’ve ever had. I will try to be brief and get to the point of things.

When KDP Select (the “borrowing library”) was still rather new earlier this year, I tested it out with a title. I didn’t like the results. I made sales, but almost no borrows, and the few I did, I managed to net so little profits, I realized early on that I had made a mistake. I was not alone in these feelings. Because Amazon demands exclusivity, I had removed the book from the other sites I depended on for royalties, including Kobo, BN, Smashwords, and Omnilit. The question was, how to get the book out of the borrowing library?

Then I read that if you published your book elsewhere, Amazon would forcibly extract your book. I–and rather a lot of…

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Saving the Day as a Hard-Ass

I recently watched the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode (in two parts) the Chain of Command. It is one of my all time favourites. Now I’ve read up on it, I’m pleasantly surprised to see I’m in the majority on this. It is a great story, with a powerful performance by Patrick Stewart under torture, yet I mainly remember it for Captain Jellico.

Jellico is played by Ronny Cox, an actor known for being the bad guy in scifi, such as in Total Recall or in the Stargate tv show. In this, he could easily have played another bad guy, but in truth, he’s far from it.

“He was a bit of a hard-ass, but not a villain.”

That’s from Ronny Cox, so now you know where my title comes from. I utterly agree with it. Some really dislike his character, which is fair enough. He isn’t there to be liked. But what doesn’t happen is Jellico being shown up. That’s the thing I mainly remember about this episode. It stands out from most tv I have seen over my years.

You see, in most shows, anyone who argues or counters the main characters are wrong. Just wrong. No, don’t argue, don’t use logic or reason, they’re wrong. Not only that, but they will be proven to be utterly wrong in time. In fact, most likely, they will fail somehow before the episode ends, to prove just how wrong they are, or, even more condemning, it will be revealed that they are a traitor or spy or something.

You don’t argue with the characters. Too many shows are practically preaching the entire time, which means their characters have to be right and smart and right and correct and right and winners. So when a character is introduced to argue with the main characters, it is someone being sent it to fail. The arguments will only prove how great and right our heroes are.

For instance, while I loved the Stargate tv show, I remember the time Hammond was replaced for one episode. The new bloke fell apart under pressure and all was back to normal by the end. There are other instances of Stargate being better than that, sure, but that’s a good example. Many shows have such.

Star Trek was okay with showing up the main characters. A great example is in the original series, when Kirk and Spock are trapped on a planet when Klingons arrive to claim it. Kirk keeps encouraging the natives to rebel, while they keep assuring him not to worry about it. The more he acts, the harsher the Klingons get, the more the people suffer, the more he wants to help, and so on. By the end, the natives reveal themselves to have attained a higher level of living, so no one has suffered. Kirk and the Klingon commander exchange looks. They both feel a bit ridiculous.

In Chain of Command, Picard is relieved of command so he can be sent on an undercover mission. Jellico is placed in command of the Enterprise. He is strict, hands-on, demanding and authoritarian. What he wants done, he wants it done, no questions, no time wasted. This is very different to Picard. Jellico’s ways do not go well with the Enterprise crew. Again, in most shows this would mean he has to be shown up at some point. We need to know this man is just wrong. Wrong I say!

Yet he isn’t unsympathetic. Not only does he feel for others, sometimes openly, we see softer sides to him. He and Picard have some frank exchanges. He shows a badly drawn picture by his son to Troi. But when push comes to shove, he pushes hard. He understands the role of command – he calls the shots, he takes the responsibility, he gets things done.

When Troi comes to him to let him know the crew need time to get used to change taking place, he listens but in the end he pretty much says too bad. ‘This isn’t the Academy anymore’, or something like that. Essentially, he tells her they need to grow up. Honestly, I really agreed with him. It is at times like this that the Enterprise crew seem pandered to by Picard. He has listened to every whine and whinge. Surely the finest crew of the Federation, who boldy explore space, can handle some ship changes without going to pieces?

Riker bumps heads a lot with Jellico. La Forge complains a bunch too. It is almost funny when he protests against changes Jellico asks for yet Data instantly states these are definitely achievable. In fact, Data seems a perfect foil for Jellico. I would have enjoyed seeing an episode of Data being transferred or somehow working with him again.

Basically, we have someone come into the normal set up and go against the main characters. They complain. This usually leads to the one winner. Usually the show itself portrays the antagonist as the problem and the entire problem.

Star Trek gives Jellico humanity and character. We know more than the main characters too, so often we can see why he is aiming for certain things.

I’ll be honest though, Riker and La Forge don’t really rank as some of my favourite characters. Riker especially. I don’t hate them, far from it. But they aren’t ones I’d side with on instinct. So when they complain, they do really come across as whiney and unprofessional. Riker especially. Jellico is in charge and Riker acts like he is Captain Bligh or something. He pushes the crew but they are on the edge of what was only recently enemy territory. It makes sense that he wants everything he can get out of them.

I love Picard. He is one of my favourite captains from Star Trek. But he was always the liberal, touchy-feely, think first and act later captain. That’s a big part of what I loved about him, yet I also loved Kirk’s man of action, ‘I’m the captain’ Schtick. There were times he would really boss his crew. Picard came across as everyone’s favourite teacher sometimes. Mind you, Kirk and Picard were captains from different eras.

Jellico was a captain who knew the Cardassians – the enemy for this episode. He had negotiated with them, understood them more than any on Enterprise, and knew you had to be tough with them. In essence, Jellico was a war-time captain, and Picard was the peace-time adventurer. I loved Picard, but in truth, if war broke out, Jellico is the one I’d want to follow. You can even see it in some of the crew. Data and Worf go with his demands. Crusher, who I liked a lot, does raise valid concerns about his actions, yet also comes across as petulant. I loved Jellico’s way of handling her. When he tells her he wants sickbay ready, and she adds ‘yeah, for the wounded you’re about to give me’ he just nods and confirms. He isn’t a glory hunter. He isn’t seeking conflict. He has to do this. It needs doing. The others can like it or not, just be ready to ‘Get it done’.

So when this two parter concludes, after we have watched Picard suffer so much and the crew clash with their new captain, we could easily have something where Jellico loses out. He makes a bold call. He plays his hunch. If Picard had, the crew would back him without question. When the new bloke does it, they question and doubt. He goes through any way. This could easily have been a set up just to have him fail.

We do get a scene with him and Riker where they are frank and, while they never make up (which I really liked) they do act together to make this work. In a way, it is odd that Riker agrees. If he had been needed to pilot a rescue mission for Picard, sure, but this is just playing out Jellico’s hunch about a Cardassian ambush. Still, maybe it shows Riker isn’t as smarmy and full of himself as he sometimes comes across. His ‘You’re welcome’ doesn’t help though.

But this whole thing concludes with Jellico not just stopping the Cardassians and saving thousands of lives, but getting Picard back. Okay, I’m sure if Riker had been in charge they would have whizzed off and rescued him somehow, but that’s not how the show played it. They had the ‘hard-ass’ who pisses a lot of people off play out a plan that wins everything. Like him or not, the characters can like him or not, Jellico is someone who gets things done. Do as he asks, complain but don’t challenge him, and you’ll get along fine. You can’t argue with the result. Hell, I kind of suspect that if Picard had been in charge, things would have gone badly.

So kudos to Star Trek. They introduced an individual who rubbed many characters up the wrong way, and many fans too, but they never used this as a means to glorify how great and right the main characters are or to show up the new guy. Jellico is abrasive yet interesting. He is blunt but smart, experienced and rational. He cares about people and does what is best for most, while feeling bad for the one that might have to be sacrificed. When Picard is telling him of the mission, he sighs at how bad the intel is and offers every help he and the Enterprise can be. This is early on. Even then, we see signs that he isn’t just some one-off shithead come to mess up the status quo. They keep him that way.

By the end, he is the hero. The show doesn’t give him a huge fanfare – it ends on Picard telling Troi he believed he could see five lights (which is a powerful way to end) – but that felt fitting to Jellico. He seems the type to say no to any fuss. He was just doing his job.

I do love his little comment about maybe the Enterprise is a little better now.

What is really weird is I had it in my memory banks that Jellico and Riker have a conversation at the end where Jellico spells it out that, yeah, he isn’t Picard, but he is still a good captain. At this point, Riker realises maybe he was being the problem, rather than everything being Jellico’s fault. No such exchange takes place. Perhaps I got this from something else. It felt a lot like the end of that South Park episode where the Mormon kid tells Stan, sure I believe in some weird things, but they make me happy and I don’t hurt anybody, unlike you, so suck my balls.

But even if that bit never happened, I still feel the show’s voice was never on one side only. Riker had concerns, Jellico was certainly brusque in his manner, yet I felt the show was also showing Riker up a little. Others too. Jellico wasn’t bad, he was just different. Perhaps if he had had the time he would have eased changes in, but he knew he was being sent into a dangerous situation with a hell of a lot at stake. He kicked some arse because he had to. In order to save lives. Like a hero.

Anyway, to cap this love fest off, here is a link to an interview with Ronny Cox where he talks about playing Jellico, and some other features of his long and worthy career: