09 September 2019

A massive week in British politics

The week I pick to go on holiday to the Isle of Man... and British politics goes even crazier than it has been lately.

Boris Johnson's majority was eliminated, pretty much through his own actions. He should have never made the Benn act vote a confidence matter, but he doesn't seem to be getting very good advice lately. Now, with Parliament prorogued until 14 October, he faces the prospect of being forced to ask the EU for another extension unless he gets some new deal by then, which isn't very likely.

So, what next? Possibly more MPs standing down; maybe even further defections from the Conservative Party.

I think we are likely to have a November General Election - whether it is during a No Deal scenario or after another extension, it will be very bad for the Tories.

We might just get Prime Minister Corbyn...

24 August 2019

Forest fires in the Amazon

The rather large fires in the Amazon forest have led to considerable world concern due to their potential impact on the effects to combat climate change. The fact that these fires are now routine and this is apparently below average fire activity is concerning.


It's good that EU nations are threatening to block the Mercosur trade deal unless Bolsonaro takes more action on this whole affair.

While people in the West can consume less meat, it's not going to do a thing unless wider action is taken to change agricultural production practices and indeed take other needed action. This is a global problem and it needs global solutions.

Unfortunately, the leadership sadly is absent in several key countries at present and I fear it might not turn up until it is too late.

In fact, it probably already is too late; we're going to have to move sooner rather than later to contain the damage corporate and other greed has caused. Which likely means building new, sustainable, cities for the refugees of the coming storms - literal and metaphorical.

15 August 2019

Get Off My Space Lawn! (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.12, "The Deadly Years")

"The Deadly Years" is very much Trek by the numbers. Crew beams down to colony, discovers strange thing going on that starts to affect crew...

In this case the strange thing is that a bunch of young whipper snappers have all turned into old folks, four of which are already dead and the other two (both played by genuine old people, included the earliest born actor to ever appear in the franchise, who was born in 1882 in Switzerland and has a noticeable accent) are heading that way.

All of the landing party are affected, except for Chekov, who is immune for some pseudoscientific reason. With the three main characters plus Scotty all rapidly ageing, the makeup department get to have some fun making the characters look old. This is mostly a ship bound episode; the battle scene later was reused footage from a previous episode and I'm assuming the stuff on the remastered Netflix/DVD version is added specially.

It's interesting to see Kelley and Shatner playing in advance the old men that they would later become in real life. McCoy becomes even more crotchety - and even more Southern - than he normally is. I'm not sure what happened in RL on that front. Kirk on the other hand goes pretty much senile, what Shatner turning in an excellent performance here. It's good to note the now 88-year-old Shatner still seems very compos mentis, although alas Nichelle Nichols, just two years younger, appears to have advanced dementia.

The guest cast... are mostly pretty poor, especially one Commodore. Except for the old guy at the start. He's nice.

The science in all this stretches credibility by a long chalk, with a very quick recovery by Kirk once the solution is found. I'll let it slide partly because of the cool way in which Kirk deals with three Romulan ships without firing a shot.

We also have another old flame of Kirk, who again gets his shirt off and a comedy last scene. Like I said, Trek by the numbers.

Conclusion

For an episode whose deus ex machina involves radiation, it seems appropriate to use the classic line from Chernobyl.

"Not great. Not terrible."

7/10

11 August 2019

Guess we're not having a silly season

With the current Brexit date two and a half months away, no-one is going to be getting a rest from politics.

Johnson is determined to get us out of the EU on 31 October come what may, seemingly without caring without constitutional norms he wrecks in the process.

Labour (which can't be called a Remain party) and the Remain parties are arguing in public over the shape of a Stop Brexit unity government; compromise is for many something the other side needs to do, not them.

I'm hoping - and indeed praying - this all gets sorted out before we have a No Deal Brexit... because otherwise it will need to be sorted out after.

05 August 2019

Everybody Was Kirk Fu Fighting (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.11, "Friday's Child")

It's been a while. It's been a serious while. Like two years. A plan to watch all the episodes of Star Trek for the 50th anniversary fell completely by the wayside... and I've decided to rectify that.

With a flood of new Trek content coming over the next couple of years (Picard looks great), it does seem rather appropriate to go back onto this.

I'll link to the previous episode I reviewed here.

I'm going to be aiming for medium length reviews every week or so, but I can't guarantee anything...

****
So, "Friday's Child"... is full of woe. In multiple ways.

The Enterprise arrives on the planet Capella IV to negotiate a mining treaty with the warrior culture that inhabits the planet while wearing some very silly outfits, only to discover a Klingon representative has gotten there ahead of them. A coup happens and our main trio must flee with the pregnant wife of the former leader. It's suggested that McCoy might be the actual father... which sounds something more like Kirk would do.

There is an episode with a lot of problems in it. The guest cast is poor all around, with phoney accents and bad acting a plenty. Julie Newmar's whatever accent as Eleen is badly distracting, I'm not sure what Tige Andrews was trying to do as Kras the Klingon and Maab just looks silly throughout.

In fact, the whole Capellan portrayal is, shall we say, very much of its time...

We have some frankly dubious scenes where McCoy decides to touch Eleen's belly without warning, gets slapped twice... then slaps her back. With this show of  'male dominance' he then becomes the only person allowed to touch her!

The fight scenes are ridiculous with Kirk Fu galore and a lot of clearly polystyrene rocks.

Where this episode works is whether Lieutenant Commander Scott, Uhura and Chekov in fine form back on the ship as they deal with a reported distress call that is in fact fake. Scott's willingness to take firm decisions is great and we get a wonderful bit of him doing the 'Captain's Log' live on the bridge.

Finally, it is a law universally acknowledged that any pregnant guest character must give birth in an awkward situation... although we don't actually see the birth itself, probably because that wasn't acceptable in 1968.

Conclusion

This is really a rather poor episode, only saved from being awful by some very strong Scotty material.

5/10

04 August 2019

Mass shootings in the US

With two mass shootings in the last 24 hours, apparently by white nationalists, the United States needs serious action on both domestic extremism and firearms control.

Unfortunately, there is no realistic prospect of either happening. Not with a President who is actively pouring fuel on the fire with comments saying that his opponents should go back to where they came from.

Trump is the worst US President in my lifetime end of. It's fortunate that he's incompetent, because I fear what an actual competent demagogue would do.

21 July 2019

50 years since the Moon Landing

I've learned a lot in the commemoration of 50 years since the first walk on the Moon. The Apollo 11 in Real Time website allows you to experience the audio and the visuals for the entire mission, with much useful commentary.

In particular some highlights:
  • The routine nature of much of the communication i.e. relaying positions and alignment is still very special.
  • Buzz Aldrin taking Communion on the Moon as one of the very first things he did. His faith meant that much to him.
  • Michael Collins, ship comedian.
  • The fact that only the audio was transmitted live on television; the networks had to rely on models and animation to provide a visual update to the audience - and because of the need for Armstrong to take manual control, the CBS simulation finished early.
 Hopefully, we'll be watching another lunar landing live before 2030.