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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Mon Feb 01, 2010 at 08:30:27 AM EST) Reading, Watching, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "Perverting the Course of Justice". Watching: "The Book of Eli". Links.


What I'm Reading
Finished Perverting the Course of Justice by Inspector Gadget. Book based on a UK police blog, now wiped out after the Inspector's bosses found it.

Annoyingly there's a printer's error: about forty pages are missing, replaced by what look like some kind of children's historical book about Spain. Not sure if it affects just this copy, a whole batch, or all of them.

It's fairly familiar from the other police blogs, like Coppersblog and P.C. Bloggs: bureaucracy and top-down micromanagement damaging the service. Respectable citizens are alienated by being used as ways to meet targets: criminals often given easy times to get easy detections. As a genuine Inspector, Gadget gives a view from a bit higher up the hierarchy.

It's fairly interesting, with a good selection of anecdotes. However his attitude gets a little irritating at times. All the police failures he thinks are due to terrible systems and government meddling. He's occasionally sympathetic to some other bodies: a few PCSOs and some social workers, but generally regards similar failures by others as due to deep moral and personal failings.

The Magistrates Blog has documented at length how sentences are tightly restricted by tariff books: they literally give an exact formula for what the sentence should be when all aggravating and mitigating factors are considered, and the magistrate just applies them. If he varies it, he's almost certain to just be overruled on appeal. Gadget however constantly fulminates against the gullible, liberal, out-of-touch magistrates and judges handing down light sentences

Interestingly, at a couple of times he hints that he does have a certain discretion that he doesn't use. He complains about the time wasted on Mispers (missing persons) who are hunted down even they're happy teenage skivers. He mentions that they're categorized as High, MIddle and Low risk, but he and everyone else is too worried about consequences to rate any Low.

In another incident, he complains about a minor marijuana offender, reported by his mother who wanted a policeman to give him a little scare, being severely prosecuted. He mentions here that he could have given a written document, but regarded this as impossible since it would affect his future career.

So it does seem that the picture might be a bit more complicated than just government incompetence.

Overall, pretty interesting even if you're familiar with the genre, would be even more so if you're new to it. However it's a little self-serving and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Update [2010-2-5 18:20:51 by TheophileEscargot]:
Monday books have read this diary and responded!
First, the Inspector Gadget blog is up and running. (I thought it had been taken down, but must have been wrong).

Second, there was a printers error affecting a couple of hundred copies, most of which were recalled. They've offered to send me a replacement copy: not sure I'll bother but it sounds like good customer service!

What I'm Watching
Saw The Book of Eli at the cinema. Bit of an oddity: it's partly a Denzel Washington vanity project, partly aimed at the US Christian cultural parallel universe, partly aimed at the mainstream.

It's set decades after an apocalypse devastated the Earth. It's not specified, but more consistent than 2012 or The Road: some kind of war weapon blasted everything above ground. Only the most resilient creatures survive in the wasteland: rats, hairless (mutant?) cats, and aging British thesps. Denzel Washington is the protagonist, carrying the last Bible on a journey to somewhere, since they were all destroyed in a reaction after the apocalypse: apparently some blamed the war on it.

Starts off very well. There's some decent if ostentatious cinematography with much use of filters and flipping the camera around. The ruins and desert are impressive on the big screen: lots more CGI than The Road, though of course we've seen this kind of thing many times before. There's a great early action scene with Eli flipping out and killing people in silhouette under a bridge.

However it bogs down a bit later on. A lot of time is spent on a conflict between the one major villain and his assorted henchmen. You might have to be a Christian to take some of this seriously: it's hard to believe that the villain first wants the book, and second doesn't just shoot Eli in the back and take it rather than going through the whole temptation routine.

The movie also follows the annoying trend of using divine intervention to fill in plot holes. To be fair I don't think this is particularly due to the Evangelical subculture. The Will Smith "I Am Legend" and "Battlestar Galactica" did the same thing and aren't a part of it. Also I read the first of the "Left Behind" books and it didn't use that lazy get-out: the only divine exposition they get is through reading Revelation.

One scene is particularly awkward: the elderly cannibal couple is uneasily played for comedy, I get the feeling the writers couldn't reconcile how it would work for the two audiences.

However it tightens up near the end. Some aspects of the ending are very effective. I think it does help that the film-makers have a distinct moral and philosophical vision, rather than just going through the motions of hauling a McGuffin around.

Overall, a bit flawed, but still a pretty good experience, fairly entertaining to watch.

Review, review, review, RT.

Web
Video. The Phantom Menace guy has now done an Avatar review: Part 1, Part 2. Charlie Brooker generic news report.

Articles. Is depression undertreated? John K. animation rant. Does Nuffield Trust report show NHS targets work?

< London is cold. | Randon thoughts and stuff. >
His Booky Wook | 13 comments (13 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Flip Chart Fairy Tales guy... by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #1 Mon Feb 01, 2010 at 10:08:47 AM EST
is satire or not?

It's one thing to attempt to skate by criticisms of targets, but to actually quote "waiting times" as evidence that "targets work" when it's the single most gamed statistic in the entire NHS seems... well... Onion-like...

One thing that is definite by Herring (4.00 / 2) #5 Mon Feb 01, 2010 at 11:07:29 AM EST
Setting targets increases the likelyhood of an organisation meeting those targets. If that means a hospital setting up a ward called "Not Technically A&E" then so be it.

And who are we to say that a simple, clearly defined target is a gross oversimplification of a complex situation, the pursuit of which will lead to unwanted side-effects.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

[ Parent ]
It's kind of depressing... by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #8 Mon Feb 01, 2010 at 12:42:54 PM EST
how a working paper - not yet published (i.e. not yet undergone full peer review) is promoted instantly to "proof" that targets work.

I can't be bothered to point up all the problems, but the quality measure (patient mortality) is a blunt tool for assessing waiting - just because no more people died doesn't mean other problems did not occur - we're pretty good at not killing people... less good at not maiming them...

They claim to control for extra resources in the difference in difference tests at country level... but... they don't show their work, so it's hard to know whether it's been done correctly, but the existence of the independent treatment centres, set up with new resources to treat specific elective problems (e.g hip replacements) which do not class as hospitals suggests that there were resource dependent supply changes that would affect waiting times which this study... carefully ignores?

[ Parent ]
His point is by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #9 Mon Feb 01, 2010 at 01:21:05 PM EST
That while it's often claimed that target chasing makes things worse by diverting resources away from non-targetted areas, the report suggests otherwise.
Furthermore, this research also refutes the claim made by opponents of NHS reforms that a focus on targets simply means improvements in the target being measured while everything else goes to pot. For example, Professor Propper found that "targets led to a fall in waiting times without apparent reductions in other aspects of patient care". Comparative studies between Wales and England have also concluded that the use of targets has not had a detrimental effect on other aspects of patient care.
(My emboldening)
--
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 ]
(Comment Deleted) by Metatone (2.00 / 0) #10 Mon Feb 01, 2010 at 04:47:01 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by Metatone



[ Parent ]
That sounds like a movie by ad hoc (4.00 / 1) #2 Mon Feb 01, 2010 at 10:22:46 AM EST
Malcolm McDowell would be in.
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Re Inspector Gadget by bobdole (4.00 / 1) #3 Mon Feb 01, 2010 at 10:28:30 AM EST
My copy seemed to have the correct pages, well at least the pages that possibly were inserted into my book made sense :-). I do share your thoughts, I also read similar books by a few other job-bloggers (Diary of an on-call call/PC Ellie Bloggs, The Waiter, Standing on a box/The bouncer and that ambulance guy) they all share the same problems as books - they're not really great in book form. They read as bloggs on paper and to be honest I find reading 100+ pages about some job I can't directly relate to myself gets a bit boring in the end. All of them seem to have their own agenda that more or less shines through their incantations of work.

That said I found "Standing on a box" to be the most entertaining, perhaps because it's the one I can relate to best myself, but also because it included some insight into the main character's life outside of the job sphere.

-- The revolution will not be televised.
Divine Intervention to fill plot holes by wiredog (4.00 / 2) #4 Mon Feb 01, 2010 at 11:06:15 AM EST
Can't speak to "I Am Legend", but God (or The Gods), intervening was a fairly explicit part of the BSG plot from early on.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

From the miniseries by ucblockhead (4.00 / 3) #6 Mon Feb 01, 2010 at 12:12:31 PM EST
It was actually amazingly telegraphed.  "Head Six" was saying crap like "God has a plan" from the outset.  The viewer was just misled by the assumption that this was crazy talk.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Homage? by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #7 Mon Feb 01, 2010 at 12:16:11 PM EST
though of course we've seen this kind of thing many times before.

I haven't seen the movie, but the look of trailer bordered on a straight ripoff of Fallout 3.

Story sounds utterly different, though.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

One of the developers of Fallout 3 by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #11 Tue Feb 02, 2010 at 05:27:41 AM EST
Said in an interview that parts of it were influenced by The Road (the novel, not the film)

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
The Book of Eli by duxup (2.00 / 0) #12 Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 07:41:27 PM EST
I haven't seen the flick but your first blacked out note occurred to me just from the promos. It seems to be one of those worlds where guns are still around except when they're not as awesome as swords and are  only effective when the plot requires it.

____
Nightjack by Breaker (2.00 / 0) #13 Mon Feb 08, 2010 at 10:20:59 AM EST
Blog got pulled after some Times hack tracked him down.

A spiteful act, the result of which is I will never buy the Times again. 


His Booky Wook | 13 comments (13 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback