Friday, February 29, 2008

Sign Me Up?

I'm in an odd situation and it's definitely age related - not in a bad way either. Events of the last year showed up a fundamental disconnection with the process of life, which I've now started to deal with in embedding meditation and meditation classes into my life. But where does this end, where should the boundaries be? I as much as everyone else, want desperately to believe that I am unique, that I am unlike anyone who's gone before and that I can determine every aspect of my uniqueness. But the more I'm learning about myself this year, the more I realise that my uniqueness has limitations - I'm determined strongly by my friends, I'm determined strongly by my parents, and by my family. Those elements I have no control over and they're as much fundamentals as my sexual orientation.

What I'm trying to get at is if I start down the road of exploring Buddhist meditation, how free am I really to cherry pick? Totally free ultimately, but doesn't there come a point that that's just hubris? The reason for cherry picking after all is to protect my uniqueness at all costs, but if that's just a defensive imagining of myself? Is it time to succumb to a realistic imagining of myself and completely give myself over to a system of thought, a communal way of being? I don't have any answers yet - I think I have a lot to read before that.

Iron Man Edges Closer

Iron Man Exclusive Trailer

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This is simply awesome. Everyone involved in this looks as though they just get it. Downey in particular is dream casting, but attention's paid to the origin, to the little details like Michelinie & Layton's seafront mansion (from their second run), through to a sense of humour about itself (which Daredevil found itself unable to do). This deserves to be simply enormous. I can't wait!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Obama is not a Muslim

Word has it that Hillary's campaign, in its desperation (a pity, considering she remains the strongest candidate), has released this photo:

If this simplistic recourse to the politics of race actually has an effect (and I can see how it might), it'll be an illegitimate victory. Just like the NuLabour victories since 1997 - not earned on their own merits. On the one hand I hope she can break the Obama cult of personality in time - the world really doesn't need another Tony Blair - but she must present herself as a better candidate on her own merits; without that she's surely lost on Tuesday.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fat Christ

Rather than actually run trains on time, the geniuses at Transport for London have banned this poster, for fear of its causing offence:

It's a sad point in history when such a major organisation starts to play thought police - particularly when noone's asked them to. Still though, it's given the play media coverage it would never otherwise have had, which is almost karmic. Censorship rarely brings with it a happy ending - do we really want to go down the road of Pakistan, blocking off access to YouTube entirely for fear of permitting anyone to see idolatrous images, whether or not they're offended by them?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More Maxxie

It's more of the very lovely Mitch Hewer. I don't care that he's straight - Maxxie isn't ;)

Borrowed from Mitch Hewer's official website.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

President McCain or Obama

So Obama and McCain both win in Wisconsin. No shocks there, but it was a state Hillary should have had a shot of winning in. Nine successive defeats for her now, but she's not out. She just has a now almost impossible mountain to climb. To become the nominee she'll not just have to win both Ohio and Texas, but win them in a big way, keep motoring on from there, and most likely have enough super delegates in her pocket in the nominating convention in the summer, and succeed at getting Michigan and Florida delegates seated there and...get the picture? Half of those requirements would alienate people she needs from her anyway.

It's doable, but would now require a comeback far greater than New Hampshire or anything Bill has ever managed. I get the feeling Romney's withdrawal and endorsement of McCain did this to her, and even though I still believe she's the best candidate, that's a political narrative completely out of her control.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Captain Britain and MI: 13

Couldn't be better news. Just while Marvel really does seem to be on a roll, they assign Paul Cornell to 'Captain Britain and MI:13'. Not another, failed variant of Excalibur, but a variant of Cornell's successful MAX 'Wisdom' limited series, with Cap joining up with Britain's MI:13 to fend the UK off from Skrull invasion.

Cornell of course is also the screen writer of some of the best episodes of the Doctor Who relaunch - specifically Father's Day, Human Nature and Family of Blood. His strong characterisation and tightly focused plotting bode very well for this series and I'm really looking forward to it. Find out more about it here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Eye Candy II

Who else here is watching Skins then? ;)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Comics Aren't Cheap

A freeform post this one - I really want to do a post about comics but don't really know how, without sounding like a child or overly serious about a mass entertainment medium which these days is largely out to milk the customer dry.

At Marvel it's all about Civil War still. Sure, many of the developments are already undone - Peter Parker's identity is now completely secret once more, Reed & Sue Richards' marriage is back in one piece, there are multiple signs of reconciliations between the Avengers teams and Captain Marvel...well what about Mar-Vell? We now have Millar & Hitch on the Fantastic Four, a Brand New Day for Spider-Man, and the upcoming Invincible Iron Man looks to reunite Matt Fraction & Salvador Larroca (who together did the truly sensational Sensational Spider-Man annual) on a book which isn't continuity dependent.

So what is my gripe? It's the inconsistency in the argument Millar, Quesada and others put forwards. No, you don't have to read 100 books in order to appreciate the Civil War and its aftermath. You don't have to read 100 books in order to appreciate World War Hulk and its aftermath. You won't have to read 100 books in order to appreciate Secret Invasion and its aftermath. It just helps. And once I would have leapt at the chance. Bendis is still writing both Avengers books, the Mar-Vell storyline is progressing pleasingly (who'd have thought?), Hitlar are doing their Ultimate thing in the 616 universe, Captain America's the best it's ever been...the event books themselves are even done by great, entertaining creative teams. But comics aren't cheap anymore. I used to be able to read the FF and have it stand alone entirely. Thank you John Byrne. I used to be able to read Moon Knight and have it stand entirely alone - thank you Moench & Sienkiewicz. And that was in a day when they only cost 35-50 cents! Try nearly 10 times that now!

You shouldn't have to save up for these things - the same is true of DVDs. I don't want to have to spend £60 for a Dr Who box set (and haven't), leaving the real options of avoiding these media altogether. I know quality on these media is rapidly improving, with quality creators rushing to make their next zillions on a sure thing. But until I win the lottery I just don't have the money. And as pretty as some of it is, I'm not sure whether I care about retrodden work - Millar & Hitch on FF? Claremont & Davis on Uncanny X-Men? Busiek & Pacheco on Superman? Are any of those series as interesting or as pretty as when Byrne was on them? I don't think so. At least a TV show like House is self-contained, enjoyably self aware, and ends up with cheap box sets. No wonder it's so popular. Marvel and BBC take note!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

And I...Begin to Wonder

We know Obama now has momentum. He has won more states and delegates for the first time since the contest started in earnest in Iowa. The media still love him, and his character has at least been tested by Bill Clinton if noone else (they both seem haughty and to have temper problems - how apt). With her campaign sloughing off key managerial staff and with Clinton herself having to lend the campaign money in order to go on when Obama's making $1 million a day, it looks bad for Hillary. Or does it?

She's still more than able to win Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania, is fighting to get her delegates from Michigan and Florida seated at the Democratic National Convention in the summer (which admittedly isn't doing her any favours), and is currently favoured by a majority of super delegates. This could yet be key for this contest, given that Obama or Clinton would have to win the remaining high-delegate states by margins of over 60% in order to have a fighting chance of crossing their 2025 threshold, leaving the super delegates the final arbiters of who will fight John McCain in November. Key party grandees like Ted Kennedy and John Kerry won't be supporting her, but she successfully humiliated them both in Massachusetts and has someone named Bill on her side. And whilst Obama has successfully made inroads into Hillary's base, remember the older vote which she sill commands is more reliable than the youth vote.

There's still all to play for, but she really needs to trounce him in the next three states in order not to walk away with her campaign terminally crippled.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Government Vs the Internet. Again.

Yet again government has been shown to completely misunderstand the internet and technology in general. The British government is suggesting it might cut internet access altogether to people who download music and films illegally. If they go ahead with such a clearly ridiculous move the question of course would be 'who benefits'? Certainly not ISPs, certainly not artists, who when it comes to music rarely get any of the proceeds back - they make it off merchandising and concerts. Oh yes it would be giant corporations, who certainly aren't in the game to be artistic. In recent years they've got away with making huge amounts of crap and then bleating when people decide it isn't actually worth buying and download it illegally instead.

Maybe, just maybe it would make more sense to a) improve the quality of films & music, b) provide a delivery system which allowed good product for a decent price and with few strings and c) stop persecuting internet users for using the internet in a truly democratic way. Given that there are always ways around it, it's a stupid way of trying to control people. But this government is soooo wedded to control and surveillance...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Bounce or no Bounce?

Today we may find out in the Washington state, Nebraska and Louisiana contests whether Obama or Hillary got a 'bounce' from Super Tuesday. They both claimed to, which is hardly surprising considering the demographics largely becoming their 'bases' did what they needed to in big numbers, but there was no crossover worth mentioning. Obama did well in states outside his comfort zone, Hillary got the major metropolises. Let's see if I can make yet another good call.

Obama and McCain (that last one's now a no-brainer) today, although it'll be very interesting to see if Huckabee takes any of the southern states again. With the Idiot Bush interfering in the contest it'll be interesting to see if his call to his base was heeded or if he's now a lame duck in every conceivable sense.

What could turn out to be the next really exciting showdown though comes on Tuesday. Virginia and Maryland, as well as DC.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Nothing So Scary as a Loopy Theist

Loopy theists are at it again.

This was put on a billboard in southwest London until the Advertising Standards Agency forced them to take it down. They have some disgusting arguments defending their position, but they're completely undermined by the most recent Social Attitudes Report, showing only 32% of people think homosexuality is mostly or always wrong. It doesn't help their case that they're morally backward too. To refute the majority of their argument would suggest that they have an argument, when they don't.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Bond is Coming...

I don't know about you but I'm getting excited about Quantum of Solace. Finally a post-relaunch Bond movie helmed by a great director. Martin Campbell's work on Casino Royale was shockingly good, considering he was also responsible for Goldeneye eleven years earlier. Marc Forster comes off The Kite Runner, Finding Neverland and Monster's Ball - all highly acclaimed. Add him to Daniel Craig, Judi Dench and no other Bond staples and you have a hit waiting to happen...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Oregon Finally Leaps Forwards

At long last Oregon has implemented its domestic partnerships law, and the reverses in gay rights of the last four years start to roll back. Speaking as an Oregonian I'm absolutely delighted. Whilst I still can't bring my British husband home with me, at least not permanently, my home state at least now has a law which respects me and my relationship. Now that anti-gay discrimination is also banned under the law, I can't help but wonder how long it'll take to reverse the constitutional change banning same-sex marriage. That, after all, is itself discriminatory.

Interesting times. Good on you Oregon, and well done Basic Rights Oregon!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday

So I called South Carolina right too.

I'm going to be daring and call the winners today: John McCain and Hillary Clinton. It may not end the Democratic nomination process, but unless Obama wins a majority of states or delegates, he's really not going to make it after all. I think when it comes to the crunch people will plump for Hillary instead of lofty (albeit noble) rhetoric from a one term Senator (albeit one with enormous potential).

Of course the outcome I hope for is a Democrats is an Obama/Clinton ticket. There's not a chance in hell that McCain could beat that.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Trains...Down the Drain

I. Do. Not. Get. It. This country remains bananas when it comes to public transport, moreso than any other European country I'm aware of. I'll grant you we now have High Speed 1. It took long enough - it should have been in place in 1994, but our elected 'leaders' really don't care. Take a look at the Ave S103 - Spain is aiming to get 10,000 km of high speed track by 2020. That's utterly unthinkable here. Why? I honestly couldn't say. Put in High Speed 2 from St Pancras and Heathrow to Birmingham, and you lose the need for a sixth terminal at Heathrow immediately. And that's without taking into consideration the ability to grow regional airports instead, with the economic growth spread around the country rather than illogically concentrated in the south-east.

Yet in July 2007 the Opus Dei Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly ignored High Speed 2 in her planning of Britain's transport infrastructure over the next thirty years, saying that 'green is good' on the one hand, yet opening up far wider air travel expansion than any of her European counterparts could now contemplate. Ridiculous. As usual, a very British lack of planning or coordination is to blame. How shocking. I saw an interview a week or so ago, questioning the difference between government's claim that the economy and infrastructure are strong and in place to weather the oncoming economic storm. Those of us who have to navigate the economy and put up with the infrastructure know different.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

President Blair

It was a term of derision, used to describe his presidential style when he was Prime Minister. It was also richly deserved, but last year we finally got rid of him from the British political sphere. Look at this though, and read the article. Scary, no?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Inland Revenue Incomptenece

Some of us have known this for some time indeed. All of us realised last year (when HM Revenue & Customs lost the personal details of half the population in the post) just how incompetent they were, but they've now outdone themselves. The deadline for self-assessment was yesterday. Not only did the website crash the day of the deadline, but it's fallen again today.

Yet another failed government department, failing the whole time. Pathetic.