UK Snap election June 2017

Well, well, well. Who saw that result coming? YouGov did apparently. It’ll be remembered as the election which few people wanted, fewer people liked the result and cost ~£130m. Don’t hold your breath, because there might be another one soon, when the walking corpse Theresa May is finally ousted as leader past her sell by date. The Tories felt like they lost and Corbyn felt like he won, even though the opposite was true.

It’s quite funny to see May fail so spectacularly. The right wing Tory propaganda machine, that is the newspapers, foreseeing a 100+ majority only for it to be reduced was ironic, take that Alanis Morissette. May said she called election to give her a mandate and a stronger position for Brexit negotiations. The EU didn’t give a shit about the election and in fact the result showed just how weak she was. The real reason she called the election was because the papers were telling her she had a 15 point lead and she thought she could crush the opposition, paving way for her vision of a hard Brexit. Also to use arcane, out-dated laws like the royal assent to repeal rights without oversight.

I just wanted to remind everyone of the three Tory soundbites, that were reiterated during this election, that turned out to be false (lest ye forget):

Strong and Stable – May thought that if she said this enough times, that it’d come true. Like an exercise from a self help book for weak, duplicitous, leathery-faced gargoyles. Strong and Stable? More like Weak and Wobbly. Especially as you send Amber Rudd to fill in for you on a debate. I saw a statistic that said for each key marginal May visited, the Tories lost. And she cited visiting constituents as the reason to not attend debates. The more the population saw of May the less they wanted her.

There’s no magic money tree – There clearly is and it’s called borrowing. The government used the tree to buy 10 DUP MPs at £100m a pop to form a coalition. Since then they have borrowed more for other projects as well. If they disagree with something they’ll just come out with this shitty line. If they do agree with it, they’ll borrow – or use the tree, in their words.

Coalition of Chaos – No, this is not your cousin’s shitty metal band that he wants you to be in. This is the threat of a Labour/SNP coalition (or the so-called rainbow alliance – with other parties &c). Which party made the coalition post election again? Oh that’s right, the Conservatives. Coalition government isn’t necessarily a bad thing – take the best ideas from multiple parties. Do you want a government with a whopping great majority to pass through laws without them being adequately challenged? Legislation might take a little longer to pass but overall I think it’s a good thing. Funnily enough, the DUP has blocked some Tory legislation over the NHS. How’d you like those sky potatoes?

So what have we learned through this treatise? That the Tories are lying bastards and can’t be trusted.

2017 in films part 2

  • Creed – Nice to see a different take on the Rocky Series. Rocky reluctantly coaches Apollo’s bastard son. Finally, a film in which Rocky doesn’t box himself (don’t give him half a chance, even at this age he’s up for it. See Grudge Match) and finishes the franchise off nicely, leaving a legacy. 8/10
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes – The franchise was recommended by James Rolfe. I was not particularly impressed by the opening act, found it quite boring during the middle though. Felt a lot like Project X but not as good. I have high hopes for the sequels. Also I’ll probably end up watching the originals. 6.5/10
  • Prometheus – When this came out several years ago I heard it was shit, so I didn’t bother watching it. But as an Alien series fan, I felt like I had to. It was indeed shit. I jest, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I tried to look past the blatant scientific inaccuracies but ultimately, you’re watching a film about extra terrestrials so you can’t complain too much. However, there are degrees of plausibility, and this film effectively debunks evolution. Notwithstanding this BS, it didn’t really feel like an Alien film. At times it was quite captivating but overall left more to be desired. There was lack of motivation from the antagonist and a poor script. Visually it looked great. What really pissed me off is, this is NOT supposed to be a prequel, it’s just meant to be another film set in the Alien universe. Then why is it set in the past and has a ship crashes in a very similar way to the one from Alien? This all gets very confusing. And for this it loses appoint. The title is quite clever too. 5/10
  • Ted – I don’t know why I even bothered watching this turd, I don’t know what I was expecting. It’s essentially Peter Griffin the Movie. Basic, predictable Hollywood hogwash, the kind of thing they churn out routinely from the sausage factory. The film’s worst crime of all is, that it’s not that funny for a comedy film. I didn’t care for any of the characters. Why on earth was there a sequel? 4.5/10
  • Conan the Barbarian – I was aware of this for a long time but never watched it. Finding out it is an Schwarzenegger classic, I felt compelled to view it. At times disgusting, fantastical, overtly raunchy (surprisingly) but great action scenes and a thrilling plot. It’s got Darth Vader and Arnie. What more do you want? It’s a shame the sequels were shit. Loses a point for losing suspension of disbelief when he fucks cat woman. 8/10
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula – Disgusting.  Nice to see where all the vampire clichés come from. I particularly liked the opening half an hour, where the legend is set up and Keanu has to escape the castle. Reeves was an unexpected bonus, reprising his role as wooden actor, in this playing an Englishman – the boot fit.  Again unexpectedly raunchy. After the initial castle scene I did get bored and lost the plotline a little. Though it finished strongly. 7/10
  • Eddie the Eagle – Who doesn’t like an underdog. The man is a legend and I didn’t know the full story. I was entertained start to finish. Loses a point for historical inaccuracies, seriously why would you lie about the distance jumped? 9/10
  • I Am Legend – I’m not sure how they did it, but they managed to butcher a really good book.  Will Smith was not the best actor to choose as lead for this film.  The ending and the introduction of other characters was what really ruined it. He’s supposed to be the last man on earth. 5.5/10
  • My Scientology Movie – Much anticipated and lauded only to be disappointed. This doesn’t feel like a typical Louis Theroux documentary and I was wondering why. Then it struck me, he wasn’t interviewing active Scientologists (not including fleeting aggressiveness in the street). At first I thought auditioning for actors to play the head of Scientology was filler. Why not just play the tape of his original interview, instead of getting an actor to dress up like him and read the words? It transpires later,that we sat through this charade because he wanted them to act out a piece of violence that there’s no footage of, which is fair enough. It still strikes as a little superfluous. I imagined this film to be groundbreaking but Theroux failed to give some basic facts about the origins of Scientology. Like how they believe Xenu saved some idiots from a volcano. I felt more informed from a South Park episode from a decade ago. In the end, Scientology’s aggressiveness has been covered before by Panorama, albeit in less detail. So this film felt like we’ve seen it all before. 6.5/10
  • Dredd – Reboot of the franchise, a cross between the raid redemption and a dystopian future. Suspenseful entertainment but I honestly preferred the original with Sylvester Stallone even though it appears to have been rubbished by critics. Probably due to nostalgia alone and being able to quote lines from it. Last saw it over a decade ago. The reboot loses a point for excessive gore. 7/10
  • Fahrenheit 9/11- Bush stole the 2001 election and a critique of the Iraq War. It shows what it takes for the supporters of the war to go against it, probably influenced a lot of people at the time. The US has behaved despicably. 9/10
  • Mr Plinkett’s Ghostbusters 2016 review – Not a film in of itself but thought I’d include this anyway. I’m reviewing his review… INCEPTION! I was never going to watch the film, luckily with this review I don’t have to. Much of the blame of the failure of this film is leveled at the actresses through wanton mysoginy, which is wrong. The full blame should be put on the script writer/director Paul Feig. I mean this idiot can’t even say his own surname correctly, according to pronunciation norms, so what were we expecting? The script was terrible and the director made them ad lib most of it. Think of the film as 90 minutes of improv. Unfortunately the film was a commercial success, so we can look forward to seeing more of these turds in the future. Hollywood has very few original ideas left. I’m particularly annoyed at Bill Murray’s cameo in this film. He supposedly held out on doing Ghostbusters 3, for reasons unknown, script issues maybe? But when he saw this shit sandwich on his plate he greedily gobbled it down and asked for more. Mr Plinkett’s Ghostbusters 2016 review gets 9.5/10
  • Revenge of the Nerds – Pure 80s. Goofy humor throughout. 7/10
  • Death Note (2017) – Hatchet job, in the same way that Big Bang Theory is blackface for nerds, this is blackface for manga readers. Though an improvement on previous live action films, setting it in America was a mistake. This adaptation deviates from the original manga too much. The ending was especially poor and I didn’t like the ‘L’ character either.  6/10

The last two are rewatches. Both are a lot more disturbing than I remember but you know they’re excellent, when they spawn numerous clichés. The following prove you don’t need a complicated plot to make a great film.

  • Taxi Driver – You get the feeling that Bickle could have been a productive member of society if circumstances were different. Or maybe he’s just an absolute nutcase. 9.5/10
  • The Warriors – Just some guys trying to get home after a crazy night out. What could possibly go wrong?  Manlets are the worst. 10/10

Frankenstein – Reviewed

FrankensteinFrankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A true classic. I picked this up on a whim from the library, as they didn’t have the book I actually wanted. I had seen the film about a decade ago and I was a little weary, whether they’d be similar. It was nothing like the films. Now I finally know the origins of “Bride of Frankenstein”.

It opens with a brilliant hook but then starts off a little slowly. However by the middle of the first volume, once all the background is out of the way, it becomes a real page turner. Curiously much of the tropes of the monster’s animation are notably absent from the text e.g. lightning. Though it may be argued that they are mentioned in earlier editions. If you really read between the lines you may find justification for them.

Victor somewhat sidesteps the issue about the secret of life creation, which feels like a bit of a cop out. But it’s probably a wise move as it leaves an air of mystery but also is justified later on. The classical Halloween monster look of the fiend is an awful caricature. Extensive description of the beast is notably absent, the reader only has a gigantic deformed mummy to play with. So I’m not sure where this stereotype came from. Probably one of the early movies exercising poetic license.

I liked how there were stories within stories. The book was easy enough to read. I did feel a lot of empathy for the beast and drew parallels with radicalised islamists. The beast is a lot more eloquent than the movies lead you to believe. I do feel Victor could have made a few different choices and am tempted to write some fanfiction about it. The rough notes of which are outlined below, best not to read on if you haven’t read the book.

So I’m assuming Victor has blinded by rage and couldn’t think correctly. Otherwise he could have set various traps to kill him. It’d be a lot more effective than simply pursuing him.

Make a fake bride for the monster. Set up a camouflaged pit filled with a flammable liquid. Lure him to the pit to claim his mate. Once he falls in, ignite the liquid, using his weakness of heat to defeat him.

If Victor wanted to carry on pursuing him, try flaming arrows to reach him. Though not really possible with respect to the range.

Victor should have faked his own death. At least then the beast would be within striking distance.

The fiend threatened to be with Victor on his wedding night. He should have never let Elizabeth out of his sight. He should have made a fake Elizabeth and stood her up in the bedroom. With the real one taking shelter. As he waited for the monster to appear, hiding in a cupboard, he would jump out dual wielding pistols and making the monster into Swiss-cheese by sheer volume of bullets. Then whip out the shotgun to defenestrate him. At ground level, shoot it in the brain for good measure.

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Impractical Jokers used to be better

Like any hit show, there’ll be the inevitable decline. Jumped the shark, nuked the fridge, call it what you will. But I think season 6 of Jokers is the turning point. This is probably one of my favourite all time comedy shows. However, when you devote 40% (10 minutes) of the programme to ritual humiliation you’re running out of ideas.

Why’d they do this? I have a few theories. They’re a victim of their own success and get recognised more often. This leads to many pranks to be foiled and it’s harder to get usable footage. Previously they have resorted to using stooges, such as this incredibly hot “baddest girl“, who was later revealed to be a model. Youtube super sleuths at work here.

The other reason is, they’ve ran out of ideas. It’s harder and harder to get original footage. Maybe they’re fed up with doing the same old pranks. Of course they still need to pad it out to 25 minutes, so they elongate the punishment with “impractical insider”. Where some ardent douchebag with goofy hair noses around the set. The punishment shouldn’t be such a large component of the show. The pranks are funnier. Do . More. Of. Those. In the initial seasons, the punishment was something trivial and lasted two minutes. Now it has its own segment in of itself.

The other problem is, the quality of the pranks isn’t as good. Usually there’s only 2 different pranks on one show in season 6 (sometimes there is an additional joker vs joker). So they’re extended a prank for more footage. Back in the earlier seasons there were many more per episode.

Don’t get me started on the abomination that is the UK version either.

Regardless, I will continue watching because there’s nothing else to watch…

Doctor Zhivago – Reviewed

Doctor ZhivagoDoctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Let me start by saying this book was hard to read. The font was smaller than average, it was incredibly dense (not necessarily a bad thing) and a myriad of characters. The latter point has its own added complexities, given that it’s set in Russia. So for starters, you have this enormous number of people with unpronounceable Russian names. Then you can multiply that by two as each one has a male patronymic and diminutive. This is acknowledged by the translators who have a section at the start tilted “Principle characters in this novel”. Sometimes it can be easy to forget who said/did what. Is this relevant to the narrative, or a fleeting occurrence? Being an old library book it was also quite smelly.

Having said all that, the book gets quite good in the final third. Up until then I did consider shelving it for a while, but in the spirit of Mastermind, I started so I’ll finish…

It’s the greatest story of “Will they, won’t they?” ever told. With quite an obvious hint as to the outcome. Reductively, you could compare it to a man chasing a woman through some trees in a Bollywood film. The trees being a metaphor for the Russian revolution. The book was educational in respect of Russian history and it did give me some inspiration for some modern satire. Probably worth reading for that reason alone. Personally, I don’t feel satisfied by Pasternak’s reasons for Yury’s love of Lara. This is a medical doctor, who is prepared to give up his wife and kids, falls head over heels and the explanation is little more than love at first sight or innate beauty. Pasternak probably did explain it a bit more than that, but I must confess I wasn’t paying that much attention.

His writing was beautiful provoking interesting visuals but at times a little too verbose. Bizarrely, the translation hyphenated words like “to-day” and “to-morrow”. I’ve read some old literature and never come across anything like this. Besides, being set, written and translated in the 20th century, this shouldn’t be a reason for this spelling. I am unsatisfied by Yury’s brother being a mysterious deus ex machina, whose powers are never fully explained. I was somewhat underwhelmed by the ending but it did leave a nice legacy, tying up loose ends.

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The Firefox Phone is dead

In 2014, my Nokia smartphone was on its last legs and it was time to upgrade. As alluded to previosuly, I didn’t want an iPhone because they are locked down and expensive as fuck. I didn’t want an android phone because of the so called Google “botnet”. I was left with little option than to consider soldiering on with the Nokia. Until of course I found out about the Firefox phone. I bought a ZTE open because I believed in principles of openess and right to privacy.  Little did I know, that I’d wasted my money on this piece of crap.

There was a a myriad of things wrong with this phone. If they had try before you buy I would have never have bought it. The keyboard was very hard to type on. You had to be very precise with your fingers to select the right key. Although updates did improve things slightly, it was still shit.

There was a lack of apps and developmental enthusiasm. Fundamental software like a terminal emulator was lacking.

There were no updates. Mozilla got into bed with some dodgy chinese wankers like ZTE. They promised the phone would be updated but of course it wasn’t. They released 2 updates, one official the other one not. After that nothing. There were developmental builds but hard to install and often had their own associated problems.

I made the mistake of buying this thinking it was for consumers. It was a devlopers phone for people wanting to make their own builds and apps. The only good thing about this phone was that it was virtually unbrickable. There were many times it wouldn’t work but you could always reset it somehow.

In the end, I took advice off of XDA who said cut your losses by selling it and moving on. Some poor sod bought my phone and I got most of my money back. What on earth he bought it for, is anyone’s guess.

Last year I heard from a Mozilla employee that the project has been closed down. Why couldn’t Mozilla developers make the OS better? At least then, the phone might stand half a chance.

2017 in Films Part 1

Here’s a list of films I’ve seen in the first half of this year:

  • Point Blank – French film I saw some time ago. Can’t really remember much but I enjoyed it. 7.5/10
  • Zombieland – Quite funny. Though getting duped by the girls twice was criminal 7.5/10
  • Ender’s Game – Based on the eponymous book. A nice twist which I predicted. 7/10
  • Aliens – A rare case where the sequel is better than the original. Loses a point for being a bit long. 9/10
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Disgusting, but an enthralling horror.
  • Barry Lyndon – I first tried to watch this in ~2010 but my version was italian so never watched it. Luckily it got shown on TV. Despite being 3 horus it was captivating from start to finish. Possibly kubrik’s magnum opus. Does the luck of Barry Lyndon run out? 9/10
  • Vertigo – A little too long and the plot is rather convuluted. Quite slow at times too. However, some interesting developments towards the end make up for it. 8/10
  • The Ring – Not the japanese version. I had the ending spoiled for me about 13 years ago. Started strong but petered out towards the middle and there was loss of suspension of disbelief. 7/10
  • Room – Harrowing and heart wrenching tale of child and mother. A film of two halves where the first was better than the second. 8/10
  • American Hustle –  I got the strangest feeling of de ja vu watching this and having an inkling to the ending makes me believe I have watched it before.  Bale pulls off a superb performance as fat grifter. Amy Adams is stunning but Jennifer Lawrence is annoying as fuck. Loses a point for being unremarkable enough to forget. 6/10
  • Interstellar – The science in this film is certainly on shaky ground. Stunning visuals, interesting concepts, plot twists (both banal and unexpected). Overall a great film. 8.5/10
  • Rogue 1 – Original plot is a big plus. Though the film is probably longer than it should be, considering the quest for Saw Gerrera is superfluous. There are accusations of bad acting, unbelivability about the blind guy and the fat guy with the powerful gun. One thing I found unsettling was Cassian killing someone he shouldn’t have. It’s still better than Episode 7 because it’s not a soft reboot. Though not as good as the orignal trilogy it is better than the horror show that was the prequels. 8/10
  • The Fugitive – Another thrilling suspensful film. At times crossing the boundary into disbelief, the number of times Kimble managed to escape and surviving a fall from the top of a dam and building. 8/10
  • A million ways to die in the west – Puerile but entertaining. Nothing to write home about. Saving grace of Charlize Theron being easy on the eyes. 5.5/10
  • Pulp Fiction – Rewatch. First ~1hour is boring as fuck. Only picks up after Butch is on screen. 7.5/10

Stay tuned for part 2 for more rambling.

A pessimist’s guide to the future

  • Trump will walk away unscathed from the Russia investigation
  • The Democrats will fail to win the house in the mid term elections of 2018
  • Trump will win a second term in the white house, further enriching his estate at the expense of the state
  • Brexit will be an utter debacle in the short to medium term, inflicting abject poverty on the United Kingdom
  • There’ll be another general election within 1-2 years, Corbyn will turn out to be a one trick pony – not gaining any substantial seats. The Tories, supported by the right wing Murdoch press, pulls off a majority. Likely with Boris Johnson at the helm.
  • There is overconfidence in the market. With household borrowing on credit cards and car finance rising and the uncertainity from Brexit, there will be an especially bitter recession within 2 years.

Paxman’s autobiog – Reviewed

A Life in QuestionsA Life in Questions by Jeremy Paxman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An entertaining read. Written in a conventional linear style, Paxman’s lifestory is more surprising than you’d think. For one, he was quite a rebel in his younger days, even as a fag in public school he often disobeyed his superiors resulting in thrashings. His school years were full of amusing events like being flung into a boxing match, getting decked, then in his stupor connecting punches after the bell. All in all, he did come from humble beginnings and is an example of social mobility, to a certain extent.

Some of the most interesting sections were, when he was talking about his early years of broadcast journalism in Northern Ireland and Yugoslavia. For once, actual valid criticisms of the EU, it supported a doomed Slavic state which was tearing itself apart with civil war, along ethnic boundaries. Insights into the Northern Irish conflict without the lens of British state propaganda.

Paxman touches on a number of themes, such as the unbalanced power distribution of elderly voters who are pandered to by the political parties. He says an idea is to limit votes to tax payers only, which is a novel solution. He talks about the decline in religion and the subsequent rise in celebrity idolatry. We’ll always believe in something: be it God or someone who was the runner up to X-factor 7 years ago, it seems…

In terms of the EU referendum Paxman sums it up beautifully, paraphrasing: Cameron thought he could stamp out vociferous eurosceptics, in his own party, by putting one of the most important foreign policy decisions of our lifetimes, into the hands of the British public.

A line I found profound about journalism is thus: It’s about putting as many of the editors prejudices into the newspaper without offending the advertisers.

This review can’t do it justice, read it yourself, it’s well worth it.

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17 Equations That Changed the World – Reviewed

In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the WorldIn Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World by Ian Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My enjoyment for this book can be described as the parabola of order two. It started off very strongly, became quite dry in the middle but finished off well towards the end. Highlights: Relativity, Pythagoras, i, Quantum mechanics and thermodynamics. Lowlights: Normal distribution, Euler’s law of polyhedra.

Each chapter is a mixture of, some problem or quaint curiosity, mathematical derivations and how the equation shaped the world. I often found myself looking forward to the latter. Even with a mathematical disposition it was tricky to follow the derivation at times.

Epiphanous moments included, rationalizing Schrödinger’s cat/Quantum Multiverse theory, the origins of the nuclear bomb, entropy’s arrow of time and AM/FM.

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