Iain Duncan Smith Should Be Put On Trial Over The Work Capability Assessment Deaths

Reblogging this because I completely agree, and I would love to see other leaders, ministers, etc held accountable for their criminal neglect when people’s lives are at stake.

the void

atos_kills_banner The tragic death of severely unwell Mark Wood, who died of malnutrition just five months after he was found ‘fit for work’ by Atos and the DWP, was not just ‘wrong’ as the Government have today admitted – it was grossly negligent.  Whether this negligence was criminal must be urgently investigated.

Morally, and almost certainly legally, the DWP have a duty of care when making decisions which can potentially devastate the lives of those called  ‘vulnerable adults’ by care professionals.  The Work Capability Assessment, which led to the death of Mark Wood, has already been found unfair for people with mental health conditions in the courts.  Instead of halting the assessments based on this judgement, Iain Duncan Smith has brushed it aside – convinced he knows better than the courts, the medical establishment and the thousands of sick and disabled people themselves driven to despair by the current system.

Mark…

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Old Boy

Another old review from a forum about a movie that wowed me when I first saw it and has remained compelling to watch each time I’ve come across it since then:

First off, this movie is out there. If you find a Hollywood horror tough, forget about this. It is mad, but clearly with method in it, and a lot of class. It is very intelligent as well as deranged, and moving as well as horrifying.

The plot is brilliant. It doesn’t let you down either after so much build up, and the music is wonderful, really raising the level of drama. This isn’t some petty gore movie or something freakish just for the sake of it. This has feeling and thought behind it, and the two antagonists are vile and yet not without sympathy. They are never apologised for, just explained.

You will watch this to find the answers, but at the same time will care about the whos and the whys.

I wouldn’t call this a horror movie, but it is horrifying at times, yet can be funny and moving too. For some reason Asian cinema can do all these without lessening the others; unlike a Tarantino or Ritchie movie, this isn’t a jolly violence fest, but a movie that inhabits each area naturally.
But the horror moments are really vicious, and #SPOILER# I will warn people that there is a scene where he eats a live squid, and this is actually real. Korean cinema has no problem with this, so look out. You won’t get the line ‘no living thing was harmed in the making of this movie’!

A lot of the subject matter is disturbing too, but then this movie sets out to disturb, not tantalise or make light of. Again, the topics are dealt with seriously and the outrageous moments work because they knock you back. They make the reaction of the characters that much more understandable.
This movie contains violence, sex scenes and bad language (in Korean), but again, the real things to beware are the disturbed natures of the main characters. Beware the monster.

SPOILER TALK

It is based on a manga series I should add, about a man who goes missing.
In this film, it starts with a dramatic moment, then goes back, and you see Oh Dae-Soo, who is drunk, shouting and causing trouble. Soon after he disappears, and then you see him locked up, pleading, insulting and yelling at one of his captors.
He is in a room, not a cell, and has no idea why he is there or for how long. He watches TV, has meals brought, and now and then he is gassed so they can cut his hair and tidy the room.
Unsurprisingly, he goes nuts. All he wants is to get out and get revenge. He punches a wall, writes down his sins, sees on the news that his wife was murdered, supposedly by him!

He tunnels a way out but before he can take it he is released. Again, he has no idea why or who is behind this, but now he is out, all he wants is to find them, get them, do everything he can to them.

That is the set up. Basically, it is a revenge story. This horrific thing has happened to him, he wants to know why more than anything, and goes through whoever he has to for the answers, while befriending a girl and falling in love with her. But it isn’t enough for him. He sees himself as a monster now; he doesn’t fear, just fights.

Oh, I forgot to mention something special. There is one spectacular fight scene, where he takes on what looks like twenty guys in a corridor with a hammer. It is brutal, very realistic, but was also done in one take. Not heavily edited so you can’t follow it, therefore question how he could manage this. You can track his ferocious assault as it ebbs and flows until it is done.

Like I said, it is a savage quest for an answer, but once he has it he has to have revenge too. He thirsts for payback. He has so much anger to expel it has to be unleashed. Yet there are more shocks to come. The answers he seeks are arguably worse than everything he has gone through to get them. It leaves him in such a state… Well, it has to be seen to be believed.

An intense and dynamic movie. Not easy to watch, but worth it. Definitely.

An Introduction to my World

The segment posted below is the introduction I have used and will use for my short stories set in the world of the Sojourners in Shadow tales. This is our world, but in the future, after bizarre upheavals, so this intro is a summary of events and changes, to help the reader gain some small grasp of what kind of place they are entering. It had to be concise so as not to slow down, if not get in the way of, reading the story itself. It is there to set the scene, I guess, with each story filling in more and more details, as the world is shown through various viewpoints, in various places. It will remain for every story, just in case a reminder is needed, or for anyone new.

So here it is:

In a time no one knows when, a man, Dylan Winter, cast the world into hell. Sick of the human race and its bickering, unable to stomach any more of its shallow, pointless existence, he chose to teach mankind a lesson. He opened the door to the Shadow World, the dimension on the edge of reality, where nightmares lurked and the monsters of myth were inspired from. He was the first to die and millions followed. The world became infested, terror was widespread, and the human race responded. Badly.
Most monsters could be killed with ordinary weapons, but people struggled to face them and some wielded terrible power. Magic and mayhem was engulfing humanity so it turned to science, creating improved men and women to overcome the horrors. However, not all went as planned as those made superior eventually turned on their creators, as did the robots and cyborgs then developed. These were what destroyed civilisation – the monsters only sought terror, the mutants and machines sought conquest.
Cities were overrun by super-soldiers, populations were decimated by relentless droids and creatures from the Shadow World gleefully flitted through the fray. The three races also fought each other and this saved humanity from annihilation. But, well over two centuries since Dylan Winter acted in hate, his people are scattered and the world is transformed. So is much else. Some monsters have lost their evil lusts and mutant breeds push on in their altered evolution. Things keep changing, even as the old sins remain the same. However, members of all the races – humans, monsters, mutants and machines – strive to overcome this hostile existence via whatever paths they find before them.

More Movie Bobbins

So here are some old thoughts and feelings on one of my favourite movie series and one of my absolute favourite movies.
The series is the Evil Dead series. The move is the Thing. The originals, of course.

First, the Evil Dead. Very good horror from the 80s. Set very much like a horror, low key and straight forward, with the kids in danger aspect as usual. However this pushes further, with some nasty scenes – argh! the pencil! – and great effects. The last quarter of the film with just Ash is the best – weird camera angles and moments of stillness suddenly interrupted by mad violence.
Bit tame by today’s standards, but a top notch horror.

Evil Dead 2 is even better. Less of a standard horror movie, much quicker into the action and madness, and it has a quirky humour throughout. More monsters and better done, a bit more is delved into on the demon side of things. But mainly you watch for Bruce Campbell beating himself up or getting beaten up by everything around him (under Sam Raimi’s direction).
This movie works from start to finish, with gore and frights and madcap monstermania (ie. I love this movie and think it is a damn near perfect horror film).

Evil Dead 3, or the Army of Darkness, is no doubt the weakest of the trilogy. But I still love it, mainly as by now Ash is into his own and spends the movie being annoying, ridiculous, pompous, and yet still kicks undead arse. There are two versions of this, with different endings too, and I prefer the full one, yet not always – “Good, bad, I’m the one with the gun.” – and only with the deleted scenes on the dvd will that windmill scene ever make sense. But then the Evil Dead has never worked well logically (are they sequels or remakes or what?) and the little Ashes and Evil Ash make this movie worth watching.

As for the Thing, it is one of my favourite horror movies, favourite scifi movies, favourite horror/scifi and favourite of any. Really great cast, great music, great monsters in too, and has that setup that always works in these movies – a group of people trapped alone with the enemy. Fantastic lines and the real effects in this kick the crap out of anything recent, with smooth clean CGI trying to terrify. There are scenes you will never forget in here, such as the heart attack, the blood test, the dogs in the kennel, and so on. From the dramatic opening of two Norwegians trying to kill a dog right to the end where…. Ah, not saying. But it is all great, always tense, and never letting you down.
Some people may find it a bit bleak and slow, just as some may find the Evil Dead too mucky or silly. Balls to the lot of them!

On a further note, if you can get these on dvd, all 4 movies have really good commentaries. I highly recommend listening.

David Gemmell and Fantasy Heroes

Gemmell remains one of my favourite authors of all time. I read Legend, his first book, when very young. My family had a ZX Spectrum computer and we got a game called Legend. It was almost two games, with one side of the cassette loading up an RPG-like game, and the second side loading up a strategy game. Essentially, you journeyed and recruited people for the big battle, unless you just loaded up the battle. Not a good idea.

With the game came the book. My dad read it to learn an answer to the password that let you play the game. He then gave it to me saying: you’ll like this.

I loved it. Druss remains one of my favourite heroes of all time. Old men have often been portrayed in action but rarely as old men. Druss was a legend (hence the title) and he fought like one, but he felt his age all the time. He was reflective of a life of bloodshed and no children too.

Alongside him we had Rek, a coward who becomes a nobleman and champion, and Virae, whose passion and courage make him love her to the extent that he follows her to war. We also have Orrin, a pudgy commander who trains hard to become ready for the fight ahead; he really does change. I loved the Thirty. I loved the two farmers now soldiers, one a farmer at heart, one who can’t stand it but doesn’t feel much better about fighting and dying on a wall.

I’ve read Legend many times and I truly love it. It is very straightforward, with a good, old fashioned them vs us plot, an Alamo/Rorke’s Drift type desperate battle, and characters joining up to face the foe.

Characters joining up is very much something I loved in the Knights of Dark Renown. That might be my favourite Gemmell book. The perfect knights who vanished through a portal. The sense of a golden age having passed, so now we have outlaws fighting for freedom and a king’s champion losing his hand when defending what was right. We have a number of unlikely heroes, including a ruthless outlaw, a poet, a strict nobleman, a former champion and a lost knight, uniting to form a new order of knights. It was good versus evil again, only the good were flawed and interesting.

That was what I loved about Gemmell’s heroes. He knew how to make them flawed but not defined by them. He didn’t write flawed heroes but heroes who had flaws, had dreams, had fears. He wrote rounded characters. But he gave them a greatness. Whether it was Druss, an old man fighting one last battle, or Waylander, the assassin now hunted, or Shannow, the man of faith shooting his way across wastelands while searching for a new Jerusalem – they had that power of personality. They were strong of will, cared for others, refused to back down to evil and were ready to pay the price for their actions. They reminded me of heroes of ancient literature – Samson, Hercules, King David, Achilles, etc. You cheered for them but you didn’t revere them blindly.

He was great at giving us rogues too. My two favourite characters of his could well be Bison and Beltzer. Both odious, blunt, selfish, and yet they were men of action and they would never let their friends down. This is remarked on Beltzer. Something along the lines of – if I were in a valley surrounded by enemies, he would come in, axe swinging. They are men you want to slap some sense into, but you see why others put up with them. A friend, Kebra the archer I think, is asked why he likes Bison. He replies something in the way of – no one likes Bison, we love him.

Gemmell taught me how to write heroes who are annoying, and how you redeem them.

I consider Gemmell to be like a father to me in writing. By reading his work, I learned so much on how to write fantasy, but more on how to write heroes. Heroes shouldn’t be perfect. They can be as weak as any of us, but they rise up to the occasion. He wrote of female characters who were strong fighters but others who were just strong. There was a lesser female character in the Lion of Macedon – Theta or Thesis – who wasn’t even a real love interest for Parmenion, but they were together for some time because she was strong of will and thought, intelligent and resourceful, and caring. She was a woman to be with by virtue of her own worth, not simply because you were infatuated with her.

Another hero was the redeemed hero. The outlaw Daniel Cade turned prophet. The killer Durmast who dies as he defends others. Decado, the Ice Killer, become priest, then a fighter again. With Gemmell, anyone was capable of evil or good, and true worth would be proven when it was really needed. Bad men could change. Weak can become strong. Fear would be overcome, but it would need to be beaten, not excused. Weak heroes and heroes with weaknesses are two different things. Again, Gemmell never allowed his heroes to be defined by their weaknesses either. They were there. Some of his heroes were a bit too unreliable or too reckless. Some wanted revenge rather than salvation. But what made them heroes – that will, that courage, that drive to protect those who needed it and oppose those who had to be – was what always shone out in the end.

I loved Gemmell’s heroes. I still do. Partly for themselves, partly for the type they represent. The hero who isn’t always right. The hero who isn’t the absolute best. The hero who does what they can with what they have.

Hector feared Achilles and went out anyway. Odysseus was a liar and trickster who made it home. Lancelot was the near perfect knight who couldn’t stop his heart, or perhaps his loins, from leading him astray. Beowulf was a boaster. Samson an idiot. Conan was a thief and brute. Moses never reached the promised land. Boromir was desperate to save his people. Gilgamesh was a tyrant.

I also liked Lamorak from Le Morte D’Arthur because he was rated as third or so among the knights and always lost to Lancelot and Tristram. He was great but not great enough to outshine them, which leaves him in their shadow.

So there it is. Once I read a book called Legend. I loved it. I read more and more of Gemmell’s work. I own a slew of them. I loved his style, his worlds, but most of all his characters. He did something that really spoke to me. I hope only to imitate it.

Bubba Ho-Tep

So rummaging around on some forums I’ve been a long time member of, I’ve found some brief reviews I splurted out about movies from years back. I thought I’d throw some up, starting with one of my favourites-

Bubba Ho-Tep
First, this movie is as much about getting old as it is about Elvis or mummies. This movie is about regret, but more importantly taking that chance to set things right.
It takes its time to get going, or rather some may feel that, and they may complain that it is morbid. But that is the point: you start off low, with these old men fading rather than actually dying, and little by little they, and you, claw their way up.

Just to explain, Bubba Ho-Tep is about an old, and obviously alive, Elvis Pressley living in a retirement home, being miserable. Everyone thinks he is mad and refer to him as Sebastian Haff, who was an impersonator Elvis swapped places with years ago. Now he’s just an old man who spends a lot of time in bed and only gets about with his walker.

Yet there are doings afoot. A mummy is going around and sucking the souls from old people. Bit like snacking, sure, but they’re easy to catch food. Elvis and a man who believes he is JFK realise this and try to figure out how to confront the mummy, save their home and fellow old folks, while not getting devoured as well. It invigorates the pair, making these old men feel purposeful and alive.

Bruce Campbell is brilliant, although I love Ossie Davis; he acts the President, not some guy who thinks he is.
The mummy looks great too, especially in cowboy hat and boots, slow steps clinking each time. A far more impressive figure when stalking its victims than the usual.
I do wish we knew why this Egyptian ex-ruler had decided to wear these, and how he got them, but the idea itself is too much fun to really worry about it.

The music is astounding as well, never a wrong note to an inappropriate part. Everything fits. More than that, it raises the level. I defy any beating heart not to feel tugged on when Elvis and JFK come round the corner, set to defeat the Mummy, with the music playing.

Don Coscarelli directed this one. It isn’t nearly as mad as his Phantasm series, but then what is? Reggie (well, the actor, Reggie Bannister) appears as the Rest Home Administrator, but that’s about it for links. This has some good horror in it but I felt the focus was more on character building and personal redemption than scares.

By the way, if you get the DVD there is a fantastic bonus of Elvis Pressley himself doing a commentary on this movie, which he finds bewildering and insulting at times, while eating and singing songs (pssst – it’s Bruce playing the role). There is also commentary from Campbell and Coscarelli which I enjoyed a lot. This was a passion project for both.

Great atmosphere, some funny and also energetic set pieces, as expected with Campbell, and some fine acting makes this one of my favourite movies ever.

TCB, baby.