Saturday, February 14, 2009

The 13 Year Old Father

I'm not outraged. I'm sure at 12 and 13 nothing would have pleased me more to have had the opportunity for sex - any sex. But I also don't buy into the 'more power to him' mentality - whilst most of the moral outrage currently swirling around Alfie Patten is false (it's hardly a new phenomenon and most certainly doesn't represent 'broken Britain'), it does reflect Britain's schizoid relationship with sex.

What makes me sad is the way in which the story is even treated. A 13 year old who is clearly still a child has a baby and is paraded in front of the TV cameras for all to gawp at. Why? Whose decision was this? And whilst all the newspapers fall over themselves to snipe at the parents' social class, they all ignore their complicity in creating the circumstances for Alfie and Chantelle to even have a child. The Sun says:
What a damning indictment on Britain’s hugely expensive sex education programme in schools.
What a load of bollocks. There's a reason why teenage pregnancies such as this happen, and it isn't because young people are educated about sex. Take a look at The Sun's page 3 - see the breasts? See the casual sexualisation of women? What about the latest boyband - how old are the latest lot? What about all Gap Kids advertising? Young people are sexualised in this country more than ever before, by corporations like The Sun's parent company, eager to eke out ever greater, easier profits by people who are weak to it. And it won't just be consumers who are affected by it - young people will inevitably respond, the more they see themselves in this light.

I don't think it's just early sexualisation which is the problem however. As an increasingly Americanised society, we do things because we can, rather than question whether we should. In a post-religious society, fuelled by the internet's ability to deliver anything we choose at all times, how do we help young people like these two, when we don't really know how to relate to it ourselves? It's telling that someone's made a profit out of their youth already, and I've not seen anyone question how this story should be reported.

Young people need more information, to be treated with greater respect, and should be given a greater voice in society. Alfie and Chantelle had plenty of other options rather than an unprotected sexual encounter. That neither he nor she felt they had the freedom to work it out before a pregnancy occurred is to all our shame. I wish them both well, and hope that they have a significant and supportive circle of family and friends, but their status as media scapegoats didn't come from out of the blue, and doesn't bode well.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Daniel Radcliffe Interview

Why? Because he's so damned cute...

Don't just thank me, enjoy it!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!

It's been a lovely Christmas. I think the older I get the more open I get once again to the idea of family and tradition, but the next generation is making a difference. Didn't get to see my nieces this Christmas, but seeing my Goddaughter was fantastic. This is her Dad Matt by the way - I think tired doesn't quite cover it!

Doctor Who, The Royle Family, Blackadder and more, it's been great, but I can't deny the wine's helped! Will the drunken Christmas parties ever end?

How was your Christmas?

Posted by ShoZu

Saturday, December 20, 2008

An Irregular Comics Review - 20/12/08

Amazing Spider-Man 581
writer: Dan Slott
penciller: Mike McKone

Not quite as sharp as the last three issues, but given that the book's semi-weekly, this is impressive stuff. Slott's clearly dictating continuity for the book, which in part makes it less interesting (Waid and Stern had more freedom by playing much faster and looser with the 'Spidey brain trust's game plan), but he's got the most interesting handle on Harry Osborn in thirty years and his explanation for his 'resurrection' is pretty good. His Green Goblin father Norman Osborn's fingers are in every pie, and his influence will no doubt be felt here too as Dark Reign hits the Marvel Universe. McKone's art is merely workable compared with what he's capable of, but it's no less enjoyable for it. The book is far from challenging, but that's not in the nature of the property, and the way which Brand New Day has been used to restore its accessibility remains hugely impressive.

Invincible Iron Man 8
writer: Matt Fraction
artist: Salvador Larroca

Not the only book this week to have had a high point with Warren Ellis and to have found a truly great run now. Fraction is full of ideas, throws the book chock full of great character beats, and is aided by Larroca at the top of his game. Norman Osborn is in charge of H.A.M.M.E.R. and effectively the world, but remains a step behind Tony Stark, who has secreted the Superhuman Registration Database in his head. Now that's a great premise for Dark Reign - on the run from Norman Osborn who has thoroughly perverted the already uncomfortable conclusions of Civil War. I honestly haven't enjoyed this character (Larroca even dresses Tony well and believably) this much this consistently since the first Michelinie/Layton era - this team needs to stay for a very long time yet!

Thunderbolts 127
writer: Andy Diggle
penciller: Roberto DeLaTorre

Nowhere near as strong as last month's opening for the new creative team, but it's a good step forward into Norman Osborn's Dark Reign which is about to transform this title once again into something new. Diggle realises the strength of this team book and core members such as Songbird and Moonstone - it's mutability. While this month the writer mostly bided his time, we've seen new alliances formed, Venom again used to horrific effect and the next step of the Osborn/Songbird death match. Where that goes in the coming months will be interesting - we're far from the model of bad guys seeking redemption, we're somewhere much murkier and its unpredictability works well. DeLaTorre's storytelling was off on a number of occasions - Deodato he is not - but I hope he gets to reach his unquestionable potential on this book. Ellis should be proud of where his strongest mainstream superheroics effort since the Authority is leading.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Why I Don't Feel Sympathy

I am quite astonished by the way in which shooters C12 and C2, who shot Jean Charles De Menezes are still being protected by the establishment, be that the BBC which writes uncritically of the police and the marksmen in particular, or former policemen, quick to close ranks:
I don't know the identity of all the firearms officers involved at the tragic scene of the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, but I certainly know the identity of one. I am told that I would know the others, but that is enough for me. Of one thing I am certain: that to a man they are decent, right-thinking men who are devastated by the whole issue. Their torment continues with no end in sight.
And this is where the spin comes in. Noone has said that C12 or C2 aren't decent human beings at heart, that they haven't been crushed by their involvement in one of the darkest moments in the history of the Metropolitan Police. But that doesn't mean that their shooting of a fundamentally innocent man was lawful, nor that they shouldn't be punished for it. Decent people do bad things for a variety of reasons, which are sometimes are adequate defences, but shooting a man 7 times in the head with no warning and without reason isn't one of them. C12 said he shouted 'armed police' - 17 witnesses disagreed and so did the jury at the De Menezes inquest trial. C2 said he heard a surveillance officer on the bus De Menezes travelled to Stockwell tube station on, positively identifying him as failed suicide bomber Hussain Osman. The surveillance officer in question denied this in court. He also said he made the choice to open fire because he approached him in a threatening manner. The jury's response to the Coroner's questions implied they believed he lied too.

What we had was a gung ho team of Metropolitan Police shooters, trigger happy and nervy from arriving inexplicably late to stop the man being surveilled from entering the tube network. Where any truly right minded individual would expect a police officer, even under the pressure they were under the day after the failed suicide bombings, to behave in a cool, rational manner, reacting to evidence rather than presumption, they both went straight onto the train and blew Jean Charles De Menezes away for no reason. I feel no sympathy for them at all.
As for the officers involved, they are victims too, of crushing pressures. Were we asking too much of them? What will they do if a similar situation occurs again? Can we afford to dilute their resolve? They deserve and need our support as well our sympathy. Mark my words, if this pressured and scrutinised task becomes any harder, these volunteer officers may begin to fade away.
Sorry? How are they victims when they colluded in the smearing of an innocent man for three years? He didn't behave in a threatening manner, he wasn't acting suspiciously beforehand and looked nothing like Osman. He wasn't wearing clothes out of keeping with the season, nor did he leap the barriers at the station and resist arrest, all of which have been claimed by those involved. Can such behaviour be justified through 'crushing pressure'? What if it were your friend, your brother, your boyfriend, your husband? It might as well have been. The marksmen haven't been overscrutinised since the killing - quite the opposite. They are being held, at least in some quarters if not legal ones, to account for not doing their jobs adequately. Former Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick gave testimony that they even breached Operation Kratos (the Met's shoot-to-kill policy):

"The policy says that if the firearms officers have any doubt that the suspect is a suicide bomber, they should shout a warning and react to how the suspect responds," he said. "But if there is no doubt, then you can fire a critical shot without warning. The evidence is that they didn't shout a warning. Yet we have a surveillance officer saying he didn't get a proper look at Jean Charles when he left the flat and surveillance officers with varying degrees of certainty as to whether it was [terror suspect] Hussain Osman or not. There was ambiguity and no code word."

In other words, there was so much confusion that the officers should not have been sure. So they should have shouted a warning.
They didn't, which even under Operation Kratos, makes this an unlawful killing. But the inquest coroner Sir Michael Wright prevented the jury from issuing such a verdict. Although Roger Gray and other former and current police officers might wish otherwise, it does mean justice hasn't been done and far from feeling sympathy for C12 and C2, we should expect them (not alone, I'll grant) to face justice for their actions.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

An Irregular Comics Review - 11/12/08

Amazing Spider-Man 579
writer: Mark Waid
artist: Marcos Martin

Marcos Martin is fast becoming the finest Spider-artist of this generation, and coupled with Waid at his best - dramatic, yet light-hearted and with fantastic characterisation - this makes for equally as good a read as last issue's effort. The new supporting cast member's reappearance forces changes in the status quo for others, as this book finds its strongest voice since the 80's. Speaking of the 80's...

Amazing Spider-Man 580
writer: Roger Stern
artist: Lee Weeks

See? You can go home again. Roger Stern returns to his spiritual home (he left at issue 250) for some old school goodness. Freely referencing his 80's Marvel continuity (which is more than welcome) with the return of the Blank, Stern's voice for Peter Parker is every bit as enjoyable, traditional and accessible as it ever was. Weeks too does one of the best jobs of his career, cementing what appears to be a continuing collaboration on the book next year with Stern. It couldn't be more welcome.

Captain Britain and MI:13 5
writer: Paul Cornell
penciller: Pat Oliffe

I never thought I'd like Pat Oliffe's art, but it gets the tone of the book in one. The arrival of guest-star Blade is overshadowed by a wonderful character piece between Dane Whitman and Faiza Hussain, a female Muslim superhero on MI:13, making this a brilliant jumping on point for a book with massive potential. Cornell has a fantastic ear for dialogue, and is a hugely welcome addition to the Marvel stable.

Captain Britain and MI:13 6
writer: Paul Cornell
penciller: Leonard Kirk

Cornell feels like he's channelling Roger Stern's Dr Strange run here, bringing in villains from the Dark Dimension for some challenging fun for the new team. The sub-plot between Blade and vampiric Spitfire would be wonderful to see on television (and it's no surprising it should feel like that, considering Cornell's TV background), and although I don't enjoy Kirk's artwork as much as Oliffe's, it captures the characters well (just not the action).

Captain Britain and MI:13 7
writer: Paul Cornell
penciller: Leonard Kirk

Slightly odd pacing (the story as a whole feels like it belongs in an annual or something), but the magical threat by Plokta gives the still-new characters a real workout. If you could have everything you ever wanted, would you take it - particularly if you were someone like Pete Wisdom? Brian Braddock's impatience is nicely in character, and it looks as though everything falls completely apart at the end - Cornell does do cliffhangers well! Kirk's art is still effective, if let down by multiple inkers.

Captain Britain and MI:13 8
writer: Paul Cornell
penciller: Leonard Kirk

Still not sure about the art - musical inkers aren't helpful at the best of times - but the writing by Cornell is still strong. The ultimate betrayal at the end is quite surprising, as is the conundrum faced by Brian Braddock, and the TV-esque pacing is quite delightful. You don't need to know Excalibur/Captain Britain continuity to enjoy this title, which in this era makes this book a great read, just not yet the greatest. I'd have preferred the story to be finished by now, traditional as Cornell's overall approach is.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

An Irregular Comics Review - 29/11/08

Amazing Spider-Man 578
writer: Mark Waid
artist: Marcos Martin

This seriously is about as good as Spider-Man gets. I was as skeptical as anyone else when Brand New Day began, but it's bearing fruit. Mark Waid brings a lightness of touch and consistency to Peter Parker not seen since the time of Roger Stern, and Marcos Martin's Ditko-esque flourishes and distinctive style are a perfect fit with the character. I'm looking forward to seeing what's made of the new supporting character.

Captain America 44
writer: Ed Brubaker
penciller: Luke Ross

The title really suffers when Steve Epting isn't on art chores, and although Luke Ross is leaps and bounds a better artist than he was when on Spectacular Spider-Man in the 90s, he isn't a fully comfortable fit with master writer Brubaker. Brubaker's pulpy dialogue is as strong a narrative voice as ever, and his transformation of the title into a legacy book was a masterstroke, but the edge the book had during the Death of Captain America arcs isn't here. That said the mysterious UN cargo which Batroc is pursuing is intriguing, as is the conspiracy around it!

Invincible Iron Man 7
writer: Matt Fraction
artist: Salvador Larroca

I was dead set on enjoying a nice, long, espionage-based run by the Knaufs and Rob DeLaTorre, but it sadly wasn't to be. This however is a delight - Fraction proving himself quickly one of the freshest and most accessible new mainstream writers in decades, taking the new edge given to Tony Stark in the Civil War, whilst blissfully retaining the humanity and warmth the character enjoyed in the 80s. Sal Larroca's been looking for a perfect fit for some time - this is it. Using Spider-Man to tell a character piece about Tony Stark is a masterstroke. Great title.

Thunderbolts 126
writer: Andy Diggle
artist: Roberto DeLaTorre

Diggle and DeLaTorre in one episode make up for the loss of Ellis and Deodato, and even run with their open subplots. They both play to their dark, espionage-orientated strengths, pushing Norman Osborn's post-Secret Invasion status quo in an unnerving and quite believable direction. I'm looking forward to seeing if the breakup of the team causes the Dark Avengers to form, and if so what Norman is going to do with the Thunderbolts. Darkness works well in comics with those who know how to use it - these two do.