Print Story Spirit in the Sky
Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 08:00:11 AM EST) Reading, Watching, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "Song of Susannah". Watching: "The Spirit". Econoweb. Web.


What I'm Reading
Finished Dark Tower book 6 Song of Susannah. Another pretty weak and self-indulgent one. Gah, I wish King hadn't hooked me when I was young and impressionable.

What I'm Watching
Got the complete Deadwood box set for Xmas thanks to my brother. Watched the first seven episodes of the first series, loving it so far.

BSG starts again on Friday: that might slow me down a bit.

What I'm Watching
Braved The Spirit at the cinema, despite uniformly dire reviews from mainstream and geek sources alike.

It certainly has some flaws. As with 300, it tries to use comic-style dialogue and narration rather too literally: bombastic phrases drift over the images in a way that comes across as leadenly pompous on screen. I think that's a mistake rather than just faithfulness. Reading a comic, the fovea of the eye can't read dialogue and scan images simultaneously: you just can't integrate snappy and fast-paced dialogue. So, you're missing out on the possibilities of the medium if you do that in a screen adaptation.

The backstory is also clumsily handled, with past love scenes almost wincingly bad. There's also an excess of clunky exposition. I'm surprised some reviewers complained they couldn't follow it: the fairly basic plot seemed to me to be explained in ponderous depth. Maybe having two McGuffins instead of one confused them.

However, there's also a lot to like. Visually, it looks superb, integrating CGI and cinefilm into some astonishing images. We've seen some of this before in Sin City, but it's still a joy to sit back and boggle at.

As the IMDBers have said, while the movie seems to have been marketed as if it were Dark Knight, it's much more like Kill Bill: deliberately camp and over-the-top. So, the critics complaints that the characters aren't fully rounded seem to miss the point: I thought it was great to watch Samuel L. Jackson chew up the scenery as a costumed supervillain. Gabriel Macht as The Spirit seems to fit pretty well with Eisner's "lighthearted guy who could have fun as he was getting the job done."

The girls have less to do except look sexy: don't think it would pass the Bechdel test.

Has a reasonably amount of action, though it's all pretty stylized.

Overall though, while I liked it, probably no-one else will.

Also I think this is the sort of movie that really needs to be seen at the cinema. It won't really work if you're doing Sudoku with one hand and stopping every 15 minutes to take a phone call: needs more immersion.

Web
Pics. Abandoned Soviet atomic lighthouses (MeFi). Very long exposure pinhole camera pics. (MeFi)

Articles. Quasi-monopolies and wary governments curb Web freedoms.

Econoweb
Graphs comparing this recession to post-war recessions. Looks pretty normal, but the marginalrevolution commenters reckon things will nosedive when more quarters come in. These guys reckon that declining uncertainty is a good indicator though.

Why the Tories are struggling on the economy.

Times economics editor David Smith:

Osborne and his leader, David Cameron, have had a bad crisis. Baited by Brown as the "do nothing" party, they have been provoked into small, largely irrelevant initiatives. Even Brown's enemies do not hold him entirely responsible for the worst advanced-country downturn since 1945. Cameron and Osborne, overplaying the blame card, invite ridicule and allow Brown to get away with things he should carry the can for, such as over-spending in the good times.
Michael Portillo:
The Conservatives, being in opposition, cannot act but are under pressure to make statements. Throughout the crisis they haven't managed to find as many things to say as the government has found to do and so have paid the price in the polls.That muddle ought to provide a good opening for the Conservatives. But Barack Obama's statement last week, promising more federal spending and borrowing, is a real problem for them. However confused Brown's policy may seem, Obama is firmly on his side of the argument. With all the hopes riding on the new president, to push against that tide will be tough for Cameron.
Matthew Parris: Cameron must change:
We reach the paradoxical position where the "modern" part of the Conservative Party is stuck in about 2001, and horribly out of date. There is no national nostalgia for a return to the decade in which, we now begin to realise, it all started to go adrift. Does the Conservative Party in 2008 not understand this?Gordon Brown does, in his dark and bitter heart, understand. He knows what was always rotten about Blairite politics, detests it, and British voters are coming late to the same realisation. The contrast that Mr Brown presents with his predecessor - shadow where Blair was all sunlight, leaden charmlessness after the unbearable lightness of being Tony - is now his strongest selling point with voters.That our present Prime Minister is a deranged monster of a politician has still not dawned on most people, and in the meantime Mr Brown is pulling off the remarkable feat of running more successfully against a Labour Government - the previous one - than the principal Opposition is running against his own.
< We all have that moment. | Oh Bostonia! >
Spirit in the Sky | 39 comments (39 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Deadwood was the shit. by superdiva (4.00 / 2) #1 Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 08:43:01 AM EST
Pity HBO cancelled it after three seasons.  Idiots.  Rome was another great show HBO thought was too expensive to produce.


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Psych-E.org
Might have to try Rome by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #2 Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 08:51:38 AM EST
Watched the first episode, but couldn't really get into it. Also I've got a general idea what's going to happen ;-)
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Well by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #3 Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 08:55:52 AM EST
They played pretty fast and loose with the history. My biggest complaint was that they covered so much history in the first season (Gallic wars up to "Eh Tu Brute") that everything historical got short shrift. (IIRC Caesar and Cleopatra got one episode.) The cultural history, however, was spot on, and the writing and acting extremely good.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Cable Network Series You Have to Watch... by superdiva (4.00 / 2) #5 Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 09:00:30 AM EST
Dexter on Showtime.  About a serial killer who is also a forensic blood splatter cop.  MUST WATCH

Swingtown.  This series is  actually available to watch instantly on Netflix.  Sadly, it was cancelled.  It's another retro-70's series.

True Blood.  - Just finished watching the first season.  Took a while to like up to the fifth episode then the storylines got better by episode five.

I'm now watching Brotherhood on Showtime.  About two brothers on Rhode Island, one a congressman and one a gangster thug.  This one took a few episodes to like but the plotlines got better by episode six.

Sometimes the self-referential humour on Rome is a turn-off, but you have to watch Ciaran Hinds' dying Caesar...he doesn't even say "Et tu, Brutus?"  It's all in his eyes.  Great performance.


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Psych-E.org
[ Parent ]
Dexter by Herring (4.00 / 3) #7 Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 09:58:07 AM EST
Mrs. H. is a huge fan but bastard UK TV is not showing series 3 until September. If only there were some way of obtaining US TV shows over the internet, possibly sharing chunks that you have already downloaded with others in a sort of peer-to-peer fashion.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky
[ Parent ]
sounds like a huge hint... by superdiva (4.00 / 2) #10 Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 10:56:12 AM EST
I'm streaming all three seasons of Dexter here=====> http://psych-e.org/node/879

But I can't guarantee excellent streaming yet.  Orb is kinda shitty, but I'm looking at other alternatives for streaming servers.


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Psych-E.org
[ Parent ]
Dexter by Vulch (4.00 / 3) #8 Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 10:29:38 AM EST
The books are worth a read too. The first book and first series are the same story, after that they diverge.


[ Parent ]
I loved Deadwood by nebbish (4.00 / 2) #13 Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:38:00 PM EST
Really loved it. But I felt it lost its way a bit half-way through season two.

Will try Rome.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Like Theophile Escargot said... by superdiva (4.00 / 2) #16 Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 11:36:09 PM EST
They do alter history, but the culture is spot on.  I think Bruno Heller created the series knowing that there were a bunch of I Claudius fans and just decided to have fun with it.

Another show I forgot...The Wire 

Best cable network show ever, IMO



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Psych-E.org
[ Parent ]
I liked the Wire by nebbish (4.00 / 2) #17 Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 11:47:52 PM EST
But preferred Deadwood, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, BSG. I didn't think it rewarded repeat viewings as much as the others.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Rome by Breaker (4.00 / 2) #21 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 02:51:43 AM EST
A+++ would watch again.  Having read a fair bit of Roman history I didn't notice any glaring discrepencies; the storyline was good enough that you're not going "but Caeser fought Pompeii with a maniple formation and flanked with the cavalry late in the day [1]!" you're going "you utter cold hearted bastard!".


[1] I made this bit up with words I dimly remember from the Roman military books I read.


[ Parent ]
Discrepencies by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #32 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 07:31:46 AM EST
The most obvious was the way Octavian visited Caesar in Gaul when in truth he would have been 6 years old. They compress a lot of time. There's also the way they just entirely drop Caesar's campaigns in Hispania and make it seem as if he just kicked around Rome for a few months and then went running off after Pompey. There were a lot of little things like that that bugged me. Though it was usually just a glossing over and ignoring events rather than inventing them.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Yeah by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #33 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 07:46:59 AM EST
But against a backdrop of incest, murder, and general beastliness, I didn't think that artistic licence really ruined anything. 

Did Octavian really knob his sister after she seduced him at Servilia's bidding?


[ Parent ]
Who knows? by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #34 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 07:53:27 AM EST
That show gets away with a lot simply because no one really knows what happened.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Deadwood by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #4 Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 08:56:52 AM EST
I really enjoyed the first few episodes, but never watched any more. I've gotten distracted away from TV. Silly, really, given that my brother lived in the actual Deadwood for years.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
Ah yes the do nothing argument. by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #6 Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 09:50:18 AM EST
Remember, the Tories are not in power and even if they opposed any governmental action Labour have enough of a majority to ram it through regardless.

2 months ago the Tories had a plan to help the jobless, which NuLabia criticised heavily as "desperate stuff".

Now NuLabia are nicking that plan and claiming it as their own.




I spotted that by Herring (4.00 / 1) #9 Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 10:42:38 AM EST
I'm not at all convinced by the plan as stated by either party.

I suspect that there aren't really the jobs left in the UK for low-skilled people without the "customer facing qualities" to work in a Starbucks. Especially with the construction industry in the hole big time. Let's face it, we offshored all the real blue-collar jobs and in return we get cheap stuff but also high unemployment and crime. You pays your money (or not in this case) and you makes your choice.

There may be a few people out there with actual skills who have been unemployed for 6 months, but I doubt that there are enough to justify the admin.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

[ Parent ]
Me neither by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #11 Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 11:17:13 AM EST
In the race to be seen "doing something" neither appears to want to put the words "that will actually help" on that sentence...


[ Parent ]
Aye by Herring (4.00 / 2) #12 Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 12:30:28 PM EST
I like to put it like this:
We must do something
This is something
Therefore we must do this

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky
[ Parent ]
The jobs are there, people don't want them. by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 1) #19 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 02:05:43 AM EST
Last year lots of agricultural produce was left to rot because the government stopped East European temporary workers coming to do the work in the UK.

Why were those jobs not taken by native unemployed people?

Like this example there are many others in many industries.

I have two possible explanations: there are not enough low skilled people to do this kind of work (after you reach certain level of education you know that a crappy service job is immensely better than one picking strawberries); my other possible explanation is that the benefits system does not make attractive enough for people to go and do this kind of physically demanding work.




[ Parent ]
3rd possibility by Herring (4.00 / 1) #20 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 02:26:34 AM EST
That this work doesn't pay enough to live on. OK, the benefits system doesn't really encourage casual work (or at least not declaring it) due to the hassle of signing on and off. There is also the factor that rural areas are, well, sparsely populated. Back in the day, you would have whole families of Londoners going down to Kent for the hop picking. Nowadays, machines and Poles are cheaper.

I seem to recall that it used to be popular with British students to go to France for the grape picking. Similar sort of thing - you get a bunch of fit, keen youngsters in to fill temporary jobs at low wages.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

[ Parent ]
Well, that is the problem. by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 1) #27 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 05:12:46 AM EST
If people are making the calculations that doing nothing is better than earning a little then we can't complain about lack of jobs (the minimum wage is more than £40/day, that would be £800/month at least. Are benefits paying much more than that? ).

This is not necessarily a bad thing, it means you have a highly skilled population which should do work that has a higher value added. The problem with political discourse is that it is inherently xenophobic (everywhere, I am not singling out any place in particular, in Mexico people complain about the Guatemalans taking away "our" jobs), thus any party that declares immigration is good or even necessary would be commiting political suicide.


[ Parent ]
Globalisation by Herring (4.00 / 2) #29 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 05:44:19 AM EST
The problem being the unemployed British guy with two kids is competing against the 19 year old Polish student who doesn't mind sleeping 6 people to a room for a couple of months.

The farmer who is paying their wages is also competing against farmers in the third world who have far lower labour costs.

I believe (although I could be wrong) that people lose their housing benefit if they get a job - even a temporary one. That's a big disincentive.

BTW: I am not saying that there are no lazy scumbag dole scroungers out there. Of course there are. But you have to be very careful with the benefit system as knee-jerk changes can easily catch the innocent in the crossfire.

So, back to your point, yes it is easy to stir up xenophobia by blaming the outsiders for taking "our jobs", but it's not very constructive. In California, if farmers didn't employ illegal immigrants to harvest crops then they wouldn't be harvesting any crops. They just wouldn't be able to compete.

And, compared with the flow of money from the 3rd world to the first, the flow of people is really quite small.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

[ Parent ]
We are competing all against each other. by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 2) #30 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 06:09:05 AM EST
If there were no immigrants from Eastern Europe then the guy with kids still would be competing against 19 year olds willing to put up with more discomfort, they would be British tough, the interesting thing to note is that the jobs were there last year and they were not taken, neither by men with children or by teenagers (which is more understandable, their minimum wage is lower).

You hint at problems with the benefits system again, I think there is where the disincentives are, but the rabid right wing press will not allow that people getting benefits go to work in low paid jobs. And they will not allow neither more immigrants.

So we are screwed basically because at the very least Labour governs by checking tabloid newspapers every day.




[ Parent ]
Very, very true by Herring (4.00 / 2) #31 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 06:35:43 AM EST
Another problem with the benefits system: the tabloid press forever bang on about single parents. But, again, the benefit system penalizes people who move in together. When you see stats about "benefit cheats" most of these are people pretending not to cohabit when they do.

So the current benefit system discourages people taking on casual/seasonal work and it discourages people forming stable family units. Hmm.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

[ Parent ]
Also by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 2) #35 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 09:40:44 AM EST
Britain doesn't seem to spend that much on unemployment benefits. From here:
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, member governments spent an average of 0.75 percent of gross domestic product on unemployment benefits in 2006. France spent nearly twice this sum, and Germany almost three times as much, while the United States spent one-third of the average, and the United Kingdom just more than a quarter. Germany spent more than 10 times as much as the United Kingdom, relative to GDP.
There seems to be a huge tabloid-led myth that Britain is a uniquely soft touch, with our generous natures ruthlessly exploited by an army of dole-scroungers. But we're actually even stingier than the Yanks. (Though possibly the tendency to shove them on incapacity benefit skews things a bit.)
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Germany... by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 2) #36 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 09:59:54 AM EST
I think you can demand to get a job with a similar level of income to the one you had before.

Also you pay mandatory unemployment insurance, so when you are unemployed you get 85% of your last salary while unemployed (I don't know how long that lasts, but the UK is not that generous by any means) ....


[ Parent ]
Excellent stats by Herring (4.00 / 2) #37 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 10:20:47 AM EST
I would also be interested to know what proportion of the "huge benefit bill" is actually state pension. I bet it is > 80% (based on numbers pulled out of my bottom). If you rephrase "we must slash state benefits" as "frozen grannies all round" then it's a different thing.

If I had the time, I would look up the stats on what tax money is actually spent on.

BTW: I bet a lot of the NHS budget goes on old people as well. Soylent green (now that I'm too old for Logan's Run).

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

[ Parent ]
I'm sure I've googled this about a zillion times by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 2) #39 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 12:00:33 PM EST
Last result has in 2008:

Old age pension £69.7bn
Sickness and disability £28.3bn
Family and children £22.3bn
Unemployment benefit £3.9bn
Housing £3.9bn

Surprised family and children is so high, since it doesn't include education. I think sooner or later some government's going to bite the bullet and start means-testing child benefit.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Pay is generally OK by Vulch (4.00 / 1) #38 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 11:44:52 AM EST
It's long days though, sunrise to sunset and later for some crops, and almost always live on site for however it takes. No deciding to call it a day at 3:30, popping to the pub for a few lagers and Sky Sports on the 52" plasma.


[ Parent ]
You nearly made it though there by Imperial Mince (4.00 / 2) #15 Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 11:18:42 PM EST
Without calling them NuLabia. Did you see poor old old holborn got outed?

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This space reserved for whining like a little bitch and being sanctimonious.
[ Parent ]
I think Nu Labia is fitting by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #22 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 03:02:25 AM EST
Don't you?

Try as I might I can't really muster a similar amount of contempt for the Tories; they annoy me for not being a better Opposition but that's through crapness rather than viciousness.

Old Holborn - fool.  When arguing controversial news items, make sure you're hard to find before you start.  No sympathy for him.



[ Parent ]
Dunno by Imperial Mince (4.00 / 1) #24 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 03:23:22 AM EST
You could just call them labour though. I'm not sure I know what Nu Labia means, unless you're just saying they're a bunch of fake cunts?

I can only assume Old Holborn didn't realise how popular his blog would become, or he would have started from scratch properly, with a new name. Although maybe you're right, in the historical records he can be seen claiming to some fast car, and proving it with a stock photo.

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This space reserved for whining like a little bitch and being sanctimonious.
[ Parent ]
You may claim your £5 by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #25 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 03:50:56 AM EST
If I could work out how to get "lying mendacious troughing bastards" in there too I would.  Not that the Tories would be any better though; what is it about 3 terms in office that ruins people's ethics in UKia?

Have you seen Dolly Draper's new outing?  Mandelsnake's piece is worth reading, if only for the comments.  Check "view trash" to see a better picture of their "embrace and engage" policy is like...


[ Parent ]
Politicians, innit? by Imperial Mince (4.00 / 1) #26 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 04:10:50 AM EST
It's only news if you find an honest one, and all that means is he hasn't been caught yet.

Lord Mandelson is obviously a very capable and intelligent person, who very occasionally suffers from lapses of memory and/or judgement, I'm shocked that anyone would think this should prevent him from holding political office.

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This space reserved for whining like a little bitch and being sanctimonious.
[ Parent ]
And already by Breaker (2.00 / 0) #28 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 05:13:05 AM EST
The knives are out for him.


[ Parent ]
That is old hat. by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 1) #18 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 01:56:56 AM EST
They have been stealing policies from the other two parties all these years. That strategy neuters your enemy and is easily carried out during a time where parties are pretty much in general agreement about how to run the country.

Now that there are fundamental disagreements it will become a trick harder to pull.



[ Parent ]
Triangulation by Breaker (4.00 / 2) #23 Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 03:07:08 AM EST
Has been the death of politics in this country.

What the Tories really want to be saying to the private sector is that they will cut public sector spending.  Labour immediately spin this as "DOCTORS AN NURSES AN POLICE AN FIREMEN TORIE CUTS TORIE CUTS TORIE CUTSSSSS!".  Whereas most people think that perhaps we can do without 5 a day counsellors or street challenge workers that help kids play football in the street, this isn't the message that CallMeDave is getting out successfully.

It is interesting reading articles on the BBC that seem to want to get the "Tory cuts" meme plastered everywhere whenever CallMeDave or YachtboyOsbourne say they'll reduce increases in public sector spending.



[ Parent ]
Was budget a Deadwood factor? by LinDze (4.00 / 2) #14 Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 10:42:31 PM EST
I thought it was a The Wire situation where the show was deemed "done" and wrapped up. I also seem to recall that there was talk of a feature length episode or two to follow up at some point.

-Lin Dze
Arbeit Macht Frei
Spirit in the Sky | 39 comments (39 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback