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Strong and stable

After being ridiculed for "Brexit means Brexit" and the cringe-worthy "Red, white, and blue Brexit", May's new madness mantra was "Strong and Stable".
Problem is, May is a Tory. And while she might even have come out fairly strong if she concentrated on Brexit and Brexit alone, the scum that constitute the ruling party couldn't help but to screw over the little guy. It's in their nature. However screwing up pensions, disability care, education, and work (you know, trivial stuff that doesn't matter) went down like a bit of a lead balloon, so a hastily reworded Manifesto 2.0 was released, which wasn't much better.
At the same time, children and teenagers (mostly girls) were blown apart by high velocity pieces of metal, and May has some serious explaining to do to everybody as to why she keeps pressing for laws in order to snoop and spy on the entire populace, while cutting back the police and security forces. Do you feel more safe knowing that the organisations tasked with preventing acts of terror have loads more data to wade through, and less people to do the job. Trust me, more people will die. But don't worry, some knee-jerk legislation will be passed so the incompetent bastards in Westminster can be seen to be doing something.

All of that, yet people still voted for the Tories. Is the population so xenophobic that they will press on with Brexit despite the many unpleasant side effects that the current Tory party offers?

It may be that Banksy, who apparently offered artwork to residents of northern Somerset in return for not voting Tory, may be indicted on charges of bribing people to influence their voting. It's the same law that unfortunately nixed the idea of Operation Croissant (which I thought was a lovely idea). Okay, granted, offering something in return for a vote is influencing the outcome of a democratic election (and having been following the Brexit madness, it is rather hard to say that with a straight face), however if Banksy is to face punishment then I fully expect Paul Dacre (the owner of the Daily Mail) to face greater punishment for his newspaper did not contend themselves with simply smearing the leader of the opposition in every way possible (really - I'm surprised they didn't have a lurid front page interview discussing Corbyn's lack of bowel control when he used a nappy in preschool.....). No, the Daily Mail went one better and published a list, maps, and such telling you exactly where and how to vote in order to help shovel in the most Eurosceptic MPs on offer. Sorry, but vote rigging is vote rigging and Banksy's little localised offer pales in comparison to the huge steaming pile of shit that passes for a daily newspaper.

Still, we are now in the post-election wilderness, with the Mail actually ragging on May (Piers Morgan's vitriolic piece is epic-funny), with the Tories so desperate for friends that they're sucking up to the DUP (the hardline Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland). May is still ranting incoherent crap about her plans for the future. She's so delusional she has yet to realise that she took a bet on gaining a large majority and actually took her party from it's majority to a hung parliament which necessitates a coalition government in order to function. Great job. Don't slam the door on your way out...

You know, if this was going down in Greece, or Italy, we'd be laughing at them and shouting that they're no good, idiotic morons, and ought to be kicked out (of what? everything...). If this was South America or Africa, we'd talk of a "banana republic" as if such things were simply expected.
Well, now the United Kingdom is the no good idiotic moron banana republic.

Good luck in all your Brexit negotiations, you now are a worldwide laughing stock with zero creditability.


Random sci-fi rants

Spoilers ahead. Stop here if you have not seen Passengers or Ghost In The Shell.

I like sci-fi. I like good sci-fi. I like sci-fi to be good. So for these two films, I get a bit shouty...


Rant: Passengers

Oh wow. Where do we begin?

Okay, the visual side is magnificent. The spaceship Avalon is actually really quite astonishing to look at, and the depth of "space" is immense. The premise behind the movie is actually fairly sound. In order to go and colonise a new earth-like world, a big (from end to end, the ship is three kilometres long) ship has been built to carry five thousand people (and crew). It's a long way away, so this ship (going at half the speed of light) is going to take 120 years to get there. For most of the journey, the passengers will be in cryo pods. Frozen in time. There's a brilliant scene where the tech guy sends a message of help to the Homestead Corporation is told it'll take something like 15 years to reach Earth and 40 or so to receive a message....come back in fifty five years.

But, ultimately, the science parts are let down by some ludicrous nonsense because the script writers must have been thinking more about the awkward love story then anything else. It's no secret that the tech guy wakes up early (90 years early) thanks to a malfunction of his pod. THe system is supposed to be so advanced that it is quite incapable of dealing with a pod malfunction. The robo-barkeep gives a brilliant mathematician's answer when it is pointed out to it that something must have gone wrong because tech guy is getting a drink from robo-barkeep.
The ship is such a high tech and complicated machine that it is able to detect and 'heal' problems, but simply cannot conceive of a pod failure. The important crew are locked behind a vault (why - everybody is supposed to be asleep), the onboard computers refuse to understand the possibility of a pod failure. I guess it is lucky that they deigned to offer him food on request instead of saying "you cannot be".
As the story progresses, we find out that there are recreation/eating areas for 5,000 passengers, as well as cabins (such wasted space - if there is no human around to monitor, why not just put the pods in the cabins?). The people will be awoken roughly four months before arrival. And - get this - there is one lousy medical facility (an auto-doc) for the lot of them. What?
But we haven't reached the fun stuff yet. The ship is in grave danger. The system "healed" by rerouting stuff in patently infeasible ways, only the load is too much so it causes slow motion cascading failures. Which will eventually cause the fancy swirly stuff that makes the ship explode. Because in space, everything eventually blows up.
But, for all the ship's complexity, when the diagnostic system gets taken out, the obviously correct situation is to report zero problems instead of thinking "oh crap" and reviving key members of staff to deal with the issue. Indeed, part of the tension of the story is that there's no method to put a person back to sleep because, as we keep getting told, stuff just won't fail.
Yup. There's no protocol for any of this.
Neither, apparently, is there a means by where the ship is capable of understanding that it has been hit. There are tension grabbing "Warning! Danger Will Robinson! Danger!" announcements around the decompression of the meteor strike, but there seems to have been no mechanism whatsoever for the local computer giving the warnings to have reported back that something went wrong (or maybe the extent of "healing" was to simply shut the door, instead of waking up some staff on the premise that a high velocity piece of rock impacting the structure might well have caused some damage).
So, let's rewind a bit. Jim is the tech. His pod fails. He wakes up, wanders the ship, tries (and fails) to break into the crew area. Finds technical descriptions of key pieces of equipment, goes a bit Rain Man on us, and totally walks the length and breadth of the ship for a whole year, totally alone except for unhelpful computers and a wonderful BFF in the form of robo-barkeep, whose one-liners on life bely his fairly simplistic AI programming.
Kilometres of corridors. So many rooms. With breathable air everywhere. Why? For most of 120 years, the ship is effectively dead. Everybody is suspended, nobody moves. Nobody does anything. Why is there air? Why is the ship even pressurised. Why the hell is the swimming pool full of clean water when nobody used it for the past 30 years and there's another 90 years to go before somebody will be using it?

Then we get to the crummy part. Having failed to open the outside hatch without wearing a space suit (the hatch can connect and automatic tether, but it can't notice you aren't suited up?), Jim stumbles across a beautiful woman. Of course it is, it's Jennifer Lawrence looking as unlike Karniss Evergreen as humanly possible. He pines. He obsesses. He wants to wake her. It's unethical. It's horrible. He has the tech manuals for the pods. You can see where this is going. So she wakes up, believing she was a random pod malfunction just like Jim. And the two people alone on the ship, they fall in love. Yeah, you can puke now.
Robo-barkeep doesn't understand subtleties of speech so when Jim unwisely agrees that there are no secrets between them, robo-barkeep mentions how much Jim wrestled with himself before waking her up. Ooooooh, now the story gets interesting. Aurora (meaningful name, of course) totally freaks out. Because this lost lonely pod-malfunctioning traveller she's fallen for turns out to be a psycho murderer. Yes, murderer. The ship will arrive at the new world in something like 88 years. Which is more than her available lifespan. Unless they go on a rampage and wake up loads of people, he has condemned her to die on that ship, totally alone except for him. Now this could have been a doozy of a story. But, alas, Aurora cries, screams, fails to smash his head in with a crowbar (because she's just not a bastard, unlike Jim) and.......goes jogging. Then out of the blue another pod malfunctions. Finally a dude with a uniform. And they discover the ship is in a critical state, end of the world is nigh, etc. As the ship falls apart, so does the movie. We forget what could have been a solid character study and we dive headlong into some of the most ridiculous action pieces imaginable. The fusion reactor about to blow up, Aurora in the room with the glass cracking and not a hint of radiation sickness? Jim standing right in the line of the reactor core venting because the hatch must be held open manually and the handle is logically placed in a tunnel in the path of the ejecta. That you can even "fix" a reactor core by slamming a big fireball into space. That one clumsy deus ex machina later and Aurora has not only forgiven Jim, but is back in love with him. Such wrestling with her emotions over toasting him with the core ejection (sounds like something ripped out of Star Trek TNG) that Jim actually has to remind her of the 5000 passengers. Why? Shouldn't she slam the handle down thinking "burn you evil scum, I don't want to spend the rest of my miserable life with you and you only!". No, she gets weepy waily in a serious of events that lead to and hugely unsatisfying ending.
Not to mention the lunacy of - if the malfunction had not awoken Jim, the ship would have exploded killing everybody, having only made it about a third of the way to its destination...

Now do look for a picture of the starship Avalon on Google. It's distinctive, three twirly arms rotating around a core command centre. Note that the events that lead up to the problems in the movie was the failure of a special shield to block a particularly large meteor. Enjoy, also, the oncoming meteor storm that totally fails to sell the idea of "half the speed of light" to us. Anyway, the frontal shield is going to do absolutely nothing to protect the ship from any debris that isn't straight ahead. If it comes in at a 10 degree angle, huge swathes of the ship will be vulnerable. Now look at the ship again and marvel at how much utterly wasted space there is right in the middle. I get it, the rotating things are there to provide gravity, but you're taking your spaceship to colonise a new planet. Why not secure supplies and such in a sort of three dimensional (gravity-less) warehouse in the middle? It's not as if that would make much impact on the behaviour of the ship.

Why does power loss cause the gravity to stop? If the people are in the central areas, it would be an artificial gravity failure, but if they're in the twirly thingies, they will keep on twirling (it's call inertia). They may slow down, but they won't suddenly stop (or they'd break off).
Why does the power loss not cause all those other pods to fail?
While the zero-G swimming pool is spectacular, it is pretty bogus. Aurora thrashes around in the water, unable to get out of it. Rubbish. That would happen if you woke up floating through air because there is nothing to push against. In water, there is something to push against. You might not know which way is up or how the water itself is moving, but you ought to be able to swim in a manner not unlike normal (Newton's Third Law - and if you're unsure, think of children being taught how to 'float' on the water, that's about as close to zero gravity as you're going to get on Earth).
If most of the ship is rotating, why are none of the outside-through-the-window shots spinning?

So we've travelled about 30 years at half the speed of light. This means we are 15 light years from Earth. Look at the wonderful views as we slingshot around Arcturus... which is around 37 light years away. How is that possible? And why is the PA system making an announcement of this fact for people who are not ever going to see the sight as the pods never fail...?
The duration of 120 years is made quite clear. Now, is this in Earth years or in Ship years? Why? Time dilation. Which will be quite notable (about fifteen or so years difference) in a vessel travelling at half the speed of light. It's part of Special Relativity, or in excessively nerdy terms, the dilated time is the actual time to the square root of 1 minus the velocity squared divided by the speed of light squared, which for us at v/c of 0.5 (half speed of light) would give a result of 1.15; which means 1.15 Earth days pass for every ship day.

And, finally... Why oh why oh why is the ship's propulsion always running? In space, you'll keep on going until there is an opposing force. This is demonstrated by Jim throwing the door-piece. So why doesn't the ship itself use the same principle? It doesn't matter that the ship is big, our planet (and its moon) are far bigger, yet while they are slowing down, the measure is not one to have had much overall effect in millions of years... The propulsion should fire when the speed starts to drop (like hitting the meteors). Other times? There's just no need. It'll keep on going by itself...


Ghost in the Shell (live action)

Is crap.

No, seriously. I can make this review shorter as the live action version of GitS is just bad.

No, let me qualify that. It's a pretty good attempt at bringing Masamune Shirow's crap-sack world to the screen in a live action manner. But that's about all it is. Don't expect the deep socio-political nusings and events that underpin the GitS universe to feature here, the movie explains multiple times what the "ghost" is and what the "shell" is, as clearly viewers are morons.
What this film is can be explained quite simply. Somebody watched Mamoru Oshii's various GitS films, failed to follow the subtitles, and remembered all the really cool visuals. These visuals were than assembled, with a vague understanding of "the Major" and "section 9", into the story that we have today.

It is a story set in a "random semi-Asian dystopia", starring some characters that seem kind of familiar, acting out a plot that has little in common with Ghost In The Shell other than "robots and stuff". There's only a scant mention of the impact of a cybernetically enhanced populace, of the risk of bugs/hacks/hijacks (the PuppetMaster of the original film), or how people would relate to each other in this new teched up world. That weirdo bloke in the film? You have no idea how I longed for him to be a bizarre incarnation of the PuppetMaster. But no. This film is basically the cool visuals strung together with bits of invented plot to guide us from one set piece to the next.

We don't even have Kenji Kawai's haunting soundtrack. We just have Scarlett Johansson looking worried and upset and blowing stuff up. A lot. And... uh... that's about it.
Levity? Zero. Philosophy? Zero. Psychobabble? Zero. Moralising on enhanced humans? Zero. Similarities to GitS? Practically zero. Reasons to watch this? Pretty scenery,



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David Pilling, 21st June 2017, 15:10
Theresa May is one of those things... Before, common wisdom was she was great. After, she is dreadful. There's no predictive power in this, just folk on the TV going with the flow. As soon as she became PM she appeared on local TV here, and put in a poor performance, answering questions by repeating nonsense. One of the things that lost her the election. There were clues. 
As to JC, everyone knew he was a loser until he didn't lose. Someone who has spent his life doing politics, got all those votes in the Labour party. Again clues. 
Hindsight is worth nothing - this included.

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