Friday, 31 January 2014

Friday 40K: Plasma-ed By An Angel

Now that the camera has finally been located (it was, it turns out, entirely my fault), the business of showing off painted models can now continue.  This week, it's the second of my Sanguinary Guard, Brother Fino.
(It was supposed to be Brother Vituto, but I had a weird brain lapse and painted "Tivo" on his chest instead; Fino was the best rescue job I could manage.)

Here he is with his fellow guard, Brother TBA.  I realised late in that I've painted the two pairs of wings differently, but it's not easy to tell, so that's OK.

Finally, the progress of the entire squad.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

It Is What It Is

(Hmm. Post 1800, apparently. How lovely.)

I saw We Are What We Are (or Somos Lo Que Hay, to use its original title) on Sunday night, after a long and exhausting day of brain chemistry issues.  I mention this purely by way of pointing out that if I'd realised what it was about in real-time, rather than the following morning, I think Id have enjoyed it more than I did.

Which isn't to say I thought it sucked, even through my late-ish-night hazy malaise. It looked utterly beautiful - I really at this point be getting sick of films using muted filters as a mood-setting trick, but damn if I don't fall for it every time.  The performances were solid enough; nothing flashy, but then flash wasn't what was needed.  And the sort of slow, mournful tone contrasted well with the occasional moments of gore in a way contemporary filmakers are getting pretty good at.

At the same time, though, it was fairly minimalist plot-wise. Which I suppose is entirely reasonable when one's goal is a character study of a family in turmoil, but aside from the practical problem of the family never quite seeming to gel (a distinct issue from each individual actor doing well), the issue here is that the slow-burn approach gives the audience too much time to realise that they don't have any idea why this family is acting the way in the way it is.  A cannibalistic ritual must be performed in the next day or two, or they're all dead, apparently.  The men do the catching, the women run the ceremony, and that has important social connotations we never get a grip on. It's not that I require everything in my horror films be spelled out, to be clear, it's that if I can't understand why characters are interacting in the way they are, it's difficult for me to buy fully into what is going on.

So went my thinking as I stumbled upstairs in the closing minutes of Sunday night.  By Monday lunchtime, I'd fully grasped how stupid I was being.

Roughly (very, very roughly) speaking, there are three types of unresolved mystery in film.  There's the accidental omission (something thrown up by a script issue or an injudicious edit; the vanishing replicant in Bladerunner, for example), the mystery left unresolved deliberately because it doesn't really matter (shorthanded as MacGuffins, of course), and the mystery that has to remain unexplained because the structure of the film would be harmed by its solution.

I spent Sunday night assuming We Are... was operating under the second definition, and wondering whether it was really getting away with it. Only later did I realise it was in the third category.  Not knowing why the family needs to eat human flesh or perform unexplained rituals is central to what the film is doing.

(Spoilers below the fold)

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Exclusive Secrets Of Secret Exclusiveness

Everybody knows how hard it is to get George R R Martin to talk in public about his future plans for A Song of Ice and Fire, up to and including when he's going to get the next installment out.  Fortunately, your humble blog scribe has finally found a way to break through Martin's silence and bring you the skinny regarding The Winds of Winter: just dream you had a conversation with him and assume all details revealed are accurate!

We therefore provide here the juciest details of last night's interview with Martin, which took place simultaneously in a bar, on a beach, and outside my parents' house.
  • Major clues to the direction of books six and seven can be found by listening closely to the Toto's 1979 album Hydra, though ironically "Saint George and the Dragon" has no connection to the plot whatsoever;
  • Martin expressed bafflement in over his fans' obsessions.  Yes, there are a race of hyper-intelligent shape-changing fish creatures attempting to take over Westeros, but very few of the main cast have been replaced with fishy duplicates;
  • The entirety of the series was written specifically to piss of Robert Heinlein, by demonstrating that military societies are always filled with twats (when it was pointed out Heinlein passed away eight years before A Game of Thrones was published, Martin replied only "Good riddance". It is for this reason an extended sequence featuring the Night's Watch fighting bugs on Klendathu will appear early in the next book. Rumours this will lead to a casting opportunity for Casper van Diem are unconfirmed, mainly because I didn't know if he was dead;
  • "Treme + swords - trumpets = next book";
  • Theon will receive a penis transplant from a Ibennese serial killer with "hilarious results";
  • Dany's dragons will actually be some fucking use.
All pretty exciting, we think you'll agree.  At the end of the interview, Martin expressed some displeasure at having been interviewed at such length without being invited in for tea with my folks, but promised he would happily sit down for another chinwag the next time I can tear my dreams away from Christina Hendricks riding Shai-Hulud bareback.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Rapid Blood Loss

Depressingly, it must be close to thirty years ago that I first sat down in front of a flickering, tiny TV and tried to persuade a creaking Kempston joystick to help me guide a jumbled block of yellow pixels - all but unrecognisable as the Welsh thief I was allegedly aiding - through turnstile mazes in his quest to escape the law by, er, catching turtles and turning them into monsters.  I think. Logic, like diagonal movement, was still just a dream.

There is nothing in the subsequent evolution of videogames that has pleased me more than the conclusion that videogames can and should be coherent works of art.  You can keep your pretty lens flares and your twelve-button joypads ("games controller" still sounds too much like someone legally prevented from calling themselves DM). Even the decision to make a game's story an actual driving force rather than a vague justification for incomprehensible madness doesn't drizzle my olive oil like the dedication to crafting something whole and unique from the marble of coding; to rely on something other than raw processing power to entertain and impress.

It's a good job this approach impresses me, because as an actual game, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon isn't tremendously impressive. At seven missions it's too brief to work as a linear challenge, and its open world is too repetitive for it to function as an explore-em-up.  Too much of the game relies on the thrill of collecting things (which the main character mocks as stupid; it's never a good sign when you have to slate your own game mechanisms) in order to unlock weapon upgrades, which is kind of tedious, and makes the sudden removal of your arsenal in the penultimate mission a supreme dick move [1]. On the other hand, the advantage of a game speed by all but the most dedicated of completists (a group which includes me, but that isn't Ubisoft's fault) means you reach the finale before the joke wears thin. 

And what a joke it is. If Skynet had sent the Terminator back in time not to kill Sarah Connor but to force James Cameron and Paul Verhoeven to make a first-person shooter whilst drunk, Blood Dragon is what they might have come up with. Relentless, pointless carnage flows from the barrel pink laser-spewing automatic rifles or suspiciously familiar machine pistols as your cyborg soldier marches through neon-lit military bases looking for people to shuriken to death.  Women with gel-heavy blond hair and wearing shoulder apds that could double as armour plate come across as tough yet vulnerable as they explain the plot to you, and then fuck you in a manner both gratuitous and appropriately simplistic in its animation. Hardly a minute goes by without your ultimate badass (voiced by Michael Biehn, natch) engages in some hilariously off-kilter '80s action movie dialogue ("Way to die, dipshitter" remains a personal favourite).

References to '80s movies and cultural ephemera in general are everywhere, and the dedication to detail is such that it can be difficult to tell which is which.  Does the final mission really reference Zoids (or even Dinoriders) for example, or was that decade's obsessions over cyborgs and dinosaurs so prevalent that mixing them together was an obvious choice for the game?  And does it really matter? Either way, hearing the stentorian tones of a cyberdino intone "I am firing my lasors" is hilarious, and anyone who disagrees is a fool.

Or possibly just didn't experience the '80s as history, rather than farce. It's not clear how well the game will translate to today's kids with their twerking and their Beibermania.  You can get somewhere to understanding the game by a diet of appropriately blood-soaked synth-heavy period movies, of course, but that's only half the battle. You don't just need to know that this was how Hollywood was extrapolating the future back then, you need to understand how that was possible, and the materials we had to do it with.  That's why whilst the actual gaming environment here is thoroughly modern, the cut-scenes are defiantly 8-bit. It's why so much of the game is spent seeking out VHS tapes (to the best of my knowledge, no piece of '80s sci-fi assumed those things would make it to 2008). It's not enough to understand that in the '80s cyber-ninja was assumed to be a legitimate career path for post-millennials.  You have to have waded through the decade of horrific materialistic excess and bewildering technological change that made looking cool through paying to have your body upgraded with computers seem like a reasonable plan.

Or maybe not.  Being a fully-processed child of the '80s, it's hard to determine how well its touchstones can be packaged as vicarious nostalgia, rather than the more direct kind.  Either way, Blood Dragon is a mildly diverting FPS humming beneath a gloriously high-concept idea, executed almost to perfection. A run-of-the-mill engine made fascinating by tinkering at its edges. A patch, in other words, pulling a game into a realm of dedicated design so well-constructed the actual underlying structure seems almost beside the point.

Ironically, what could be more 21st century than that?

[1] On the other hand, given the game's obsession with the '80s, might this not represent the ultimately hollow nature of the acquire-at-all-costs mentality of the Reagan/Thatcher era?  Probably not...

Thursday, 23 January 2014

"Make Me A Coffee And Swallow This Pill"

One of the main roles in my job is to meet people who want to put together a medical trial, and help them to construct in such a way that the analysis will be sound, and the process will be ethical. The resulting meetings vary wildly in how easily they go, of course, depending on both the experience and the temperament of those involved.

Every now and again truly ridiculous ideas are thrown up, like the idea of forming a control group out of people who refuse to be included in the trial (let's just steal their info without their knowledge) or creating them from people who can't speak English to consent in the first place.  No obvious statistical or ethical problems there!

As crazy as some of these ideas are, they always come from small cogs in larger machines.  If I didn't shoot them down, someone else would; that's why they come to me in the first place.  So when I see governors of entire states buying tickets for the Ethical Vacuum Express, I get worried.
In August 2011, following an email from Bob McDonnell to Virginia's secretary of health, Maureen McDonnell met at the Executive Mansion with Williams and one of the secretary's senior policy advisors. At that meeting, according to the indictment, Williams discussed the idea of having Virginia government employees use Anatabloc, Star Scientific's anti-inflammatory dietary supplement, "as a control group for research studies."
This wasn't the only time this kind of idea came up. In October 2011, according to the indictment, Maureen McDonnell accompanied Williams and a research scientist who consulted for Star Scientific to a company event in Grand Blanc, Mich... The scientist later emailed Maureen McDonnell a summary of their discussions. In it, he suggested it might be useful "to perform a study of Virginia government employees… to determine the prevalences [sic] of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions."
This, of course, is two tastes of conservative thought tasting great together.  You've got the idea that you shouldn't feel bad about assuming the people working under can be taken advantage of above and beyond the fact they do what you want them to for fairly indifferent pay, and you have the idea (not stated, but doubtless ready to be deployed at a moment's notice) that if this scheme were made voluntary, all considerations about inappropriate arm-twisting would suddenly disappear.  An employee taking on a role they really shouldn't be expected to for fear of rocking the boat? Unpossible!

There are hundreds of thousands of people in America and across the world who would say the biggest problem with this idea is that Virginia hasn't done enough to crush its unions to ensure the skids are greased enough for medical experimentation on your underlings. An awful lot of them spend extraordinary amounts of money to acquire the ears of the people who write the law.  This should be more of a worry than it is currently being allowed to be.

(h/t Rising Hegemon)

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Adventures In Alcohol

One of the drawbacks of working in a medical school is that when you announce your intention to consume your own weight in cider at your birthday do, people are likely to offer compelling biological reasons as to why this should not be allowed.  Following Plan A's nixing, I attempted to move onto plan B, which is to drink my friend Siew-Wan's weight in cider, she being the lightest person available for measurement.

Alas, this too was deemed impractical. She might be petite, but there's still an astonishing 92 pints-worth of weight to her.  It looks like we're going to have to make this a team effort.  In order to keep track of the resulting consumption, I have divided Siew-Wan into 92 areas, as shown:

Alcoholic drinks will be marked from the top down (she always claims alcohol always goes straight to her head), and soft drinks will work their way up from her feet.

Will we consume an entire Siew-Wan in seven hours? Will the soft drinks find themselves massacred by the alcoholic variety, or merely soundly thrashed?  Only the future can say!

Friday, 17 January 2014

Friday Artistry

Alas, it is with great sadness that I report the disappearance of our camera (though not with as much sadness as I told Fliss, because it's hers and I was certainly the last person to use it).  Thus this week I cannot show you photos of my gradually cohering Sanguinary Guard unit.

Fortunately I'm a dab hand at the old Paint accessory in Windows, so I've been able to faithfully recreate their current state using computer wizardy.  Behold!

Also, this week was my birthday, so I was wanting to show you the awesome bag my office-mate knitted for me - possibly as recompense for a year of singing tunelessly at her desk whilst I tried to get some work done.  Of course, my lack of camera makes that impossible also, but here is an artist's impression (sadly, the artist is me).

Cthulhu bag!  Yes, it costs 1d20 Sanity to see, but at least you can keep the dice in it once you rolled.

What's The Italian For Gobshite?

Via Rising Hegemon:
A senior Italian IOC member criticized the United States on Wednesday for including openly gay athletes in its official delegation for next month's Sochi Olympics. "It's absurd that a country like that sends four lesbians to Russia just to demonstrate that in their country gay rights have (been established)," Mario Pescante said at an Italian Olympic Committee meeting in Milan on Wednesday, in comments widely reported by Italian media. "The games should not be an occasion and a stage to promote rights that sports supports daily."
Except for those days when sporting events are held in countries that violate those rights, obviously.  At that point your rights can go screw themselves, because sport isn't in the business of supporting anything that won't see the next paycheck waft in.  And please, please, don't make a fuss about that, because it isn't appropriate.  Don't you see how hard sports - that well known unified force through which rights are supported - is working all the days of the year it hasn't sold you out in exchange for fuck-you money from McDonald's? How about you homosexual athletes stay home for no fucking reason with a little goddamn gratitude, huh?

Honestly.  There's being a five-star arsehole, and there's being a five-star arsehole who's annoyed decent people won't help to make his shit easier to shift. The more gay athletes make this man's life difficult this year, the better.  Here's hoping all of them remain safe and well throughout.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Slipped Mooreings

I've said this before, but I've never quite got Alan Moore. Which isn't to say I dislike his work; Watchmen and V for Vendetta were both revelations when I first read them, and I love Top Ten and his Captain Britain work too (Tom Strong, Promethea, and League... I've tried, but couldn't really get into).  But there's always been something about his comics that renders them intellectually rewarding but emotionally unsatisfying.  Some might argue that should be sufficient, and that's fair enough.  For me, it isn't.  For me, Moore reads less like a writer and more like a super-computer extrapolating how a writer should function. There's something indefinable missing, and like pornography, you know it when you don't see it.

Given Moore's phenomenal standing in the comics world, I've thought it worthwhile on occasion topoke around inside this and try and figure it out.  So it was with great interest that I read Moore's "last" interview. Really, it works pretty well in identifying what is probably at the root of my problem with him, which is that he's a clearly phenomenally intelligent man who lives far too much in his own head.

(Trigger warning for below the fold: I can't really get into where I see Moore going wrong here without a discussion of sexual assault.)

Friday, 10 January 2014

The Desecration Of Smaug?

Freeman considers the BBC's opening offer RE
staying on for Sherlock season 4.
It's not just a decent film; Desolation of Smaug is an interesting test case.

Fliss and I waited until after Christmas to see the second installment of The Hobbit Trilogy: More Money Please, partially because we prefer to see films in uncrowded cinemas, and partially because our time before the annual pilgrimage to our respective homesteads is precious to us, and we didn't want to spend three hours of it looking at Martin Freeman pretending to be nervous.

Therefore, by the time I handed over my precious coinage for the right to spend three hours in an uncomfortable chair and uncomfortable glasses, I'd had plenty of chance to absorb what others had said about the film.  To call reviews mixed doesn't really do it justice. "Mixed" is usually just a euphamism for "mediocre mean, small variance". Reviews for DoS were all over the place, with the interquartile range starting at "rollicking action-adventure" and ending at "pissing on Tolkien's grave".

What was really interesting here, though, was the high correlation between arguing the film sucked orc-balls (which, of course, were once elf-scrote before being ruined by Morgoth, possibly using a vise) and insisting the the film is hobbled by all the material that bears no resemblence to anything in the original book.

Each to their own, of course. Every fan of every book ever made into a film has their own lists of scenes that should never be cut or changed, and how much new material can be rammed into place before the whole endeavour becomes unrecognisable.  I'm not going to make the mistake of slamming people who, on this occasion, have a greater desire to see faithfulness to the original than I do.  My time will come (in about two months, in fact, when Game of Thrones starts up again). All that said, though, the idea that this film is worse than An Unexpected Journey because it's bolstered by new material, as oppose to irrelevant fluff from the Silmarillion/Lost Tales, is a hard idea for me to get my head around.

An Unexpected Journey was a classic case of a film that needed a better editor. There's a rather nice 110 minute adventure story in there, blown up to an utterly inexcusable 169 minutes.  Everyone who complains adapting The Hobbit shouldn't take three films is absolutely right, of course, but the problem here isn't so much the decision to try another trilogy as it is to try another nine hour trilogy.  Jackson found himself groping for extra material almost immediately, and it shows, as he rifles through the entirety of Tolkien's back catalogue so he can find one more obscure reference to throw in [1].  As a result, ...Journey feels meandering and fractured and horribly, horribly long.

(Spoilers below the fold)

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Pay No Attention To The Little Green Man Behind The Curtain

Wait, what?
Jim Garrow today appeared on Erik Rush’s radio show to promote the Operation American Spring rally, where he predicted that President Obama will try to distract Americans from his supposed scandals…by claiming that he is now in touch with alien life.
Where could an idea like this even come from? What neurones have to misfire in what combination to think anyone with the capacity to dress themselves in the morning would figure this a sensible plan for distracting the populace.  Has Garrow never seen Wag the Dog, or the Clinton administration?  You distract people with wars, not with claims of extra-terrestrial life.  The fever-dreams of Republicans already insist the President thinks himself a benevolent dictator without intellectual equal.  You think he wants to let them know he can talk to aliens too?

Still, this isn't the most paranoid an Obama conspiracy theory could get.  That would be to insist Obama is in contact with aliens, who have already signed on to help him remould society according to his dark desires.  In no particular order, then, I present an array of potential extra-terrestrial allies the President may wish to call upon:

The Kanamits

AKA the ones from the Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man". No species so perfectly encapsulates the true horror of "Community Organisers" and the creeping danger of mad socialist ideas like being nice to your neighbours, even if they're black or gay or something. Not only are these sneaky bastards only pretending to help out whilst getting us ready for the grill (basically Obamacare death-panels with BBQ sauce), but they have the capacity to stop weapons from working.  First it was the nuclear weapons, sure, but how long can it be before a Kanamit stands on every street corner, disabling your guns whilst smiling community volunteers are pushing you into meat trucks with steak tenderisers?

First they will come for your right to bear arms.  Then they will come for your arms, which taste delicious in onion gravy.

The Tau

It's those irrepressible space Commies, again, here to make you an offer you can't refuse!  It's all in the name of the "greater good", they say, but if you don't want a blank-faced authoritarian giving you orders in a way you find unaccountably... Eastern, then the Kroot will show up and eat your face. And to think these days Obama has to rely on the ATF and census workers to keep you in line! And frankly, if you don't think the man in the Oval wouldn't leap at the chance to read the thoughts of his enemies by having them eaten by rampaging dreadlocked thugs, you simply haven't been paying attention.

Once the Tau Empire arrives and Comrade Obama hands over the keys to the country, of course, that's it for the American dream, replaced forever by an ongoing socialist nightmare in which people join together to build a better world, anyone who asks for it can get food and housing and where military action is a last resort even when arguing with brown people. 

A Stalinist dystopia, in other words.

The Martians

When the Martians first came to our planet in the final days of the 19th century, it took them all of a few weeks to knock over the largest military force ever assembled up to that time.  The English didn't seem to appreciate this at all, but a century and change later, it's clear some people were taking notes.  What better way to bring about the destruction of the America you secretly hate than to bring the tripod-toting red planet thugs for round two? In 1897 they had poison gas that could out-shoot artillery weapons and heat rays that could ruin everyone's day.  Gods alone know what they've cooked up in the last eleven decades.

And that small matter of not being able to survive long on this planet without being struck down by the lurgy?  What else is universal health care access for, anyway?  For two years Obama has been insisting his overhaul of the health care system would not be accessible to aliens.  Was he trying to defend his policy to an increasingly xenophobic and self-centred citizenry?  Or doth the gentleman simply protest too much?

The Pkunk

The ur-bird for lovey-dovey useless hippies.  Whilst they're bleating on about their spiritual relationship with the Pootworm, two thirds of their interstellar civilisation has been blown to feathers by murderous fanatical spiders.

And what on this planet looks like a murderous fanatical spider?  That's right!  Two Iranians sellotaped together! Sure, maybe there's nothing in the Quran about being stuck to one's colleagues with adhesive tape before clumsily advancing through the lands of the infidel, but how do we know?  You've not read the Quran!  I've not read the Quran! There could be anything in there!

And when the eight-limbed forces of Islamic fundamentalism try to unconvincingly cartwheel their chafing bodies down Main Street, what can we expect from Obama and his coterie of long-fingered
beaky bastards? A fucking tarot reading.

Those are my picks, people of the intertubes.  Who else has a nomination?

Wherein I Simply And Forever Loathe These People

Via LGM, let's all take a moment to remember what constitutes a hero in Republican circles.  Take it away, Governor Christie:
A series of newly obtained emails and text messages shows that Gov. Chris Christie’s office was closely involved with lane closings on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge in September, and that officials closed the lanes in what appeared to be retribution against the mayor whose town was gridlocked as a result.
Mr. Christie has insisted that his staff and his campaign office had nothing to do with the local lane closings, and said that they were done as part of a traffic study.
The mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, is a Democrat and did not endorse Mr. Christie. In the emails and texts released Wednesday, Mr. Christie’s staff and appointees were gleeful when the abrupt lane closings gridlocked the town for four days, beginning with the first day of school and including the anniversary of Sept. 11. Mr. Sokolich, who had not been informed of the closings, texted the governor’s top appointee at the Port Authority asking for “help” because the lane closings were making children on buses late to school.
“Is it wrong that I am smiling?” Mr. Wildstein texted Ms. Kelly.
“No,” she texted back.
“I feel badly about the kids,” he texted.
“They are the children of Buono voters,” she said, referring to Mr. Christie’s Democratic opponent, Barbara Buono, who was trailing consistently in the polls and lost by a wide margin.
Political scientists centuries from now, when lecturing the mutant cockroaches who've just arrived on the moon from the smoking embers of Earth, will point to this as one of the most perfect expressions of Republican thought the early 21st century produced.  Who gives a damn about children if their parents are probably going to vote against you?

As Lemieux says, there was no political upside to this at all.  It was done purely to make life more difficult for people who happen to live in a city whose Mayor pissed Christie off (for the hideous crime of being a Democrat who wouldn't endorse a Republican).  This is SOP across the GOP these days, of course; hurt innocent people because Democrats don't want you to, then justify the damage by demonising your victims. From denying free money (free fucking money!) to pay for poor people's medical bills to insisting on expensive regular drug tests for anyone claiming benefits, the priorities of the Republican party have collapsed in on themselves to form a singularity of sheer adolescent vandalism. The goal is no longer to win.  It is simply to hurt your enemy.  And if one can do that by making vast swathes of the population miserable, well then that's OK, because those are your enemies too!  Otherwise, why would you be hurting them?

Still, at least no-one was hurt this time.
Emergency responders were delayed in attending to four medical situations – including one in which a 91-year-old woman lay unconscious – due to traffic gridlock caused by unannounced closures of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, according to the head of the borough’s EMS department. 
The woman later died, borough records show.

(Yes, as the full article states, no-one yet has any evidence Christie actually orchestrated this.  He may simply have been lying to protect his giggling, sociopathic staff, rather than himself.  You'll forgive me if this possibility does not exactly make me swoon.)

Sunday, 5 January 2014


"What do you mean our lips move now?"
I've been thinking a lot recently about Jack Graham's opinion that the Silurians and Sea Devils in Doctor Who can be considered as an allegory (intentional or otherwise) to modern-day Palestinians. As so often with these things, I eventually hammered together enough material to form a post, so I figured I'd throw this out to the gallery to see if anyone has any thoughts on the subject.

In brief, I am nervous about the idea of linking these fictional original inhabitants to the Palestinians, purely because too much of the behaviour of these heat-ray-wielding reptiles represents how the right insists Palestinians act, rather than the actual facts on the ground. 

Jack himself points out the most obvious flaw in the comparison; that the Silurians voluntarily abandoned the surface in order to save themselves - leaving our ancestors to die, by the way - and have returned after millions of years in the freezer to insist they should get back what they surrendered.  In other words, humanity is not an occupier of stolen land, it is a squatter living in a building empty for some two thousand millennia. As Jack says, this fits in with the suggestions of many on the right - Newt Gingrich made some hay with this during his doomed campaign for the most recent Republican presidential candidacy, for example - that the Palestinians never actually owned Palestine (what with the British having stolen it first) and indeed the "Palestinian people" doesn't actually even exist.

As I say, Jack explicitly acknowledges this. He clearly doesn't consider this a sufficient reason to view the Silurian/human relationship as meaningfully different from an oppressor/oppressed dynamic.  And to some extent, I get that. Certainly what might seem the most obvious objection, that no-one actually knew about the reptiles beneath our feet, can be dismissed: it's not like widespread ignorance isn't an essential factor in allowing the oppressor to keep on oppressing.

Beyond that, however, I don't see the biggest problem here as being the Doctor telling an oppressed culture that they should try to be better than those who oppress them.  The biggest problem is that this never works because the oppressed are bloodthirsty psychopaths who reach for genocide as a solution faster than you can say "negotiated settlement".  In every story involving the Silurians/Sea Devils as a group (as oppose to just Madame Vastra) the first instinct of our cold-blooded forebears is to steal from and/or murder us.  The Sea Devils start off as utterly hostile, killing every human they find, including their own nominal allies. The allied scaly forces in "Warriors of the Deep" attempt to obliterate pretty much all surface life, because regaining their ancestral home is of more importance than, say, anything being left of it but a charred cinder.

These are not the actions of reasonable people. These are the actions of murderous fanatics.  The Palestinians have those, of course, but what's missing is a) the idea that fanaticism does not exist in a vacuum and b) fanaticism is not some kind of homogenous affliction that grips an entire people.

Neither of these points seem to receive more than briefest consideration from the reflexive Palestinian bashers.  The most I've ever seen be conceded is that, all right, not all Palestinians are murder-hungry suicide bombers, but that hardly matters because it's the psychopaths who are in charge.  Even when they're not in charge, they're in charge, because every Palestinian official calling for peace is either lying or so weak that they're bound to be replaced any day by soulless killers with knives in their teeth.

Which, of course, is exactly what happens in "The Silurians".  The Doctor is making headway persuading the leader of the cave-dwellers that it might be a good idea for everyone to get along, so the second in command murders his superior and launches a plague intended to obliterate billions of sentients (as well as who knows how many gorillas; chimps; lemurs, maybe...).  Again, this is not the behaviour of a reasoning person, it is the behaviour of a caricature someone wants you to think represents people they insist cannot reason. While I don't want to sign up to the Brigadier's ultimate decision to obliterate the Silurian base (or at least to choose to obey an order to that effect), it's worth remembering that the Doctor seems to be immune to the biological weapon unleashed by his new friends, which rather limits my interest in hearing him lecture anyone about how humanity has a moral responsibility to risk its own extinction rather than to destroy the city of a race that attacked them without provokation.

And hey! Anyone want to guess which country insists their treatment of a contained people who are entirely on the back foot is utterly necessary because their entire existence is under threat?

I'll admit some of these problems fade away in the latter half of "The Sea Devils", thanks to the actions of Walker. Chibnall's stab at the material works better in this regard, too (not a phrase one often has cause to write /childish snark).  Even here, though, he takes great pains to ensure that a situation in which the Silurians can reasonably considered analogous to the Palestinians - and therefore by extension, humanity is analogous to the state of Israel - the reptiles are busy conducting Nazi-like experiments on human civilians.

So, a species - or group of species - who at one time or another have tried to exterminate their enemies wholesale twice, have deposed their own leaders for not supporting mass murder, who conduct obscene experiments on kidnapped people (or who would ally with those who do/did), and who pose a genuine existential threat to all those different from them?  These are the Palestinians of John McCain's fever dreams.  For that reason, I'm nervous about trying to sketch out what parallels do genuinley exist here.  It feels like the baggage it drags across with it does more for the neoconservative's approach of mindless animosity than we should feel comfortable with.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A Tale Of Cocktails #45

Baileys Cookie Martini

2 oz Baileys Irish cream
1 oz vanilla vodka
A cookie
Taste: 7
Look: 7   
Cost: 7
Name: 5
Prep: 7
Alcohol: 7
Overall: 6.8

Preparation: Crumble cookie into sugar, and frost the rim of your shot glass with the resulting mixture. Shake alcohol with crushed ice, and strain into glass.

General Comments: (We conclude here our run of tasty Christmas drinks, where I have somewhat idiosyncratically defined "Christmas" as hot and/or involving Baileys.)

Last time I complained about a drink with no Baileys in it tasting entirely too much like Baileys.  This, in contrast, is a drink which is made mostly of Baileys that tastes entirely of Baileys. On the plus side, it's marginally easier to create than the Caribbean milk, but at least that drink tastiest like one of the rarer, classier Baileys variants, and it was nice and warm. This is just a shot of strong Irish cream with a dull, functional name.  With, it must be admitted, some tasty cookie bits around the place, but when God came up with the idea of selling liqueur and cookies separately, you gotta figure he knew what he was doing.