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An observation on the Hugo Voters Packet that's a little too long for Twitter [30 May 2014|11:12pm]
So today Loncon released the long-awaited Hugo Voters Packet. Between this morning and this evening, I've now snagged all the parts except for Best Novel (no interest in WoT) and Best Fancast (for obvious reasons).

If I have one observation that applies across the whole packet, it's this.

I would have liked to have seen every work in each category represented in some form.

Yes, I know, there are cases where people chose not to release their work to the packet, as is their right. Or where the work is already freely available on the web so there was no need to do so.

But, goddamn if it's awkward to have to cross-reference the packet with the finalists announcement in order to work out what's missing.

All it would have needed was a little text or HTML file for each item:

"Saga volume 2 can be purchased from all good retailers, Comixology and Image."

"xkcd: Time cannot be included due to the nature of the comic, it is best experienced at this webpage here."

"We Have Always Fought is a blog post hosted at A Dribble of Ink [link]"

(Actually, that last one kind of baffles me. I can't see why it wasn't included anyway.)

(Also baffling, that only two Fan Artist finalists submitted portfolios.)

To play devil's advocate against myself, for the moment, I can see why absences aren't noted. It could be construed as putting pressure on folk to allow their work to be included, for instance. "Let us put your work in or we'll highlight your intransigence with some bog-standard boilerplate!" Folk might fear it'll harm their chances, perhaps.

But then again, total invisibility isn't going to help their chances much either.

So I stand by what I said first. Acknowledge the gaps. Provide a full accounting. That would be the best way to go.
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Everyone else seems to be putting their Hugo ballots on the internet [31 Mar 2014|09:00pm]
Granted, everyone else has fancy-schmancy blogs and that while I've only got this tired old LiveJournal, but it'll have to do.

(In no particular order.)
Read more...Collapse )
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2014: Books and Films [01 Jan 2014|12:01am]
Books:

01/01 Big Baby, Charles Burns
02/01 The Language of Dying, Sarah Pinborough
07/01 The Violent Century, Lavie Tidhar
09/01 Apocalypse Now Now, Charlie Human
10/01 The People of Forever are Not Afraid, Shani Boianjiu
11/01 Signs of Life, Anna Raverat
11/01 She Is Not Invisible, Marcus Sedgwick
14/01 The Hate List, Jennifer Brown
20/01 Gemsigns, Stephanie Saulter
23/01 Drakenfeld, Mark Charan Newton
26/01 Terra, Mitch Benn
30/01 The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink, Olivia Laing

02/02 The Astro Boy Essays, Frederik L. Schodt
05/02 Btooom! vol. 1, Junya Inoue
06/02 Swimming Home, Deborah Levy
08/02 Stray, Monica Hesse
17/02 Get Out of My Life… but first take me and Alex into town, Tony Wolf and Suzanne Franks
23/02 The Machine, James Smythe
26/02 Minecraft: the unlikely tale of Markus 'Notch' Persson and the game that changed everything, Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson

01/03 Poppet, Mo Hayder
03/04 The Interestings, Meg Wollitzer
06/03 The Eye of Minds, James Dashner
10/03 The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
15/03 Hatchet Job: Love Movies, Hate Critics, Mark Kermode
17/03 Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green and David Levithan
19/03 Shovel Ready, Adam Sternbergh
19/03 What's Left of Me, Kat Zhang
20/03 Alex, the dog, and the upopenable door, Ross Montgomery
23/03 Locke & Key: Alpha & Omega, Joe Hill
23/03 Scotland's Jesus, Frankie Boyle

06/04 Slow River, Nicola Griffith
10/04 Angelmaker, Nick Harkaway
16/04 Tank Girl: Book One, Jamie Hewlett
16/04 Railsea, China Mieville
17/04 Andre the Giant, Box Brown
18/04 What Lot's Wife Saw, Ioanna Bourazopoulou
19/04 The Lonely Londoners, Sam Selvon
28/04 The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes

05/05 Shift, Em Bailey
12/05 Who Censored Roger Rabbit, Gary K. Wolf
25/05 The Fractal Prince, Hannu Rajaniemi
27/05 Ash, Malinda Lo
27/05 At Speed, Mark Cavendish

09/06 The Long Tomorrow, Leigh Brackett
11/06 The Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick
25/06 Empress of the Sun, Ian McDonald
28/06 The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Claire North
30/06 Ask the Passengers, A. S. King

03/07 Garth Ennis Presents Battle Classics: HMS Nightshade / The General Dies at Dawn, John Wagner et al
Bruce Gilden: Photofile
09/07 Say Her Name, James Dawson
17/07 The Ascent of Rum Doodle, W. E. Bowman



Films:

11/01 Universal Soldier: Regeneration
12/01 Universal Soldier
14/01 Masters of the Universe
15/01 Cop Land
17/01 Elysium
17/01 Showdown in Little Tokyo
24/01 The Trip

04/02 Girl Most Likely To
05/02 You're Next
15/02 Pitch Perfect
16/02 Say Anything
18/02 Drinking Buddies
19/02 The Breakfast Club
19/02 Cocoon
20/02 A Lonely Place to Die
20/02 End of Watch
22/02 Ain't Them Bodies Saints
22/02 Say Anything
28/02 Library Wars

13/03 The Place Beyond the Pines
18/03 Veronica Mars

01/04 Captain America: the First Avenger
18/04 Above the Street, Below the Water
19/04 The Raid 2
21/04 I, Robot

4/05 The Big Chill

01/06 Murder, My Sweet
02/06 This Gun for Hire
03/06 The Maltese Falcon
04/06 Double Indemnity
05/06 Laura
06/06 The Woman in the Window
07/06 The House on 92nd Street
08/06 Mildred Pierce
09/06 Detour
10/06 Fallen Angel
11/06 The Lost Weekend
12/06 Scarlet Street
13/06 Leave Her to Heaven
14/06 Shock
15/06 The Blue Dahlia
16/06 Gilda
17/06 Somewhere in the Night
18/06 The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
19/06 The Stranger
20/06 The Big Sleep
21/06 Black Angel
22/06 The Killers
23/06 Decoy
24/06 Lady in the Lake
25/06 Born to Kill
26/06 Crossfire
27/06 Body and Soul
28/06 Kiss of Death
29/06 Dark Passage
30/06 Nightmare Alley

/07
17/07 Shame
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Following in the footsteps of giants [27 Dec 2013|11:04pm]
i09 accidentally manages to nail while I was so disappointed by NOS4R2:
Hill channels the classic novels of his dad, Stephen King

See, I liked Joe Hill when he was writing his own stories. I liked 20th Century Ghosts (the closest touchstone I have to that is not any Stephen King, but Otsuichi's Zoo), and I like Locke and Key, and while Horns didn't entirely win me over it was at least clearly Hill. But NOS4R2? It felt like I was reading something King had written. And that's bad - it was overlong, indulgent, reference-y, and ultimately a real struggle to read.

Halfway through I thought of Alexandre Dumas, and how the fact that these days not many realise there was Alexandre Dumas pere and Alexandre Dumas fils, and so just think all the stories were written by the same Alexandre Dumas. I hate for Joe Hill to suffer the same fate, for it to be the case that in 100 years time everyone thinks Stephen King pere wrote the lot and Stephen King fils is forgotten.

I hope Joe Hill manages to find his own voice again with his next book.
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Having read a book, some words. [16 Dec 2013|01:19am]
Some day, aye, you will walk into a room, or a car, or an aeroplane, or a toilet, and you won't know it right then - but you will never get back out again. Exit only. Fact.

That's possibly one of the lighter passages from Jenni Fagan's The Panopticon, a book that had me gripped right up until page 290 of its ~320 page length. Where it lost me, it lost me for much the same reason that Requiem for a Dream did - it reached a point where it was just too unrelentingly fucking grim to stomach.

For maybe four pages there, it was just a bit too much. And it didn't quite stick the ending - one ending was given, which would've been an ideal place to close on, but there was still another chapter to round things off, which felt kind of superfluous. Nowhere near LotR-style excesses of endings, but still, felt like one too many.

Other issues - it started off reading like YA. The only thing to challenge that reading for a long time was the excessive use of the word 'cunt'. Other than that? Totally read like a YA book. And I struggled to figure out why, at first. To take a counter-example, The Testament of Jessie Lamb didn't read like YA to me when I read that, even though that's similarly narrated by a teenaged character.

After some thought, I think the answer comes down to the voice. The The Panopticon is narrated entirely from the perspective of the main character; we inhabit her head for the whole of the novel, and everything is seen through her perspective. A perspective that is a hallmark of YA novels, in my experience - this happens then that happens and then so on, all from POV of narrator. There's no point where the narrator steps outside to look at things from a wider perspective (either in-character or as some kind of narrative device). Jessie Lamb, on the other hand, does have sections where it steps outside.

Still. I'm open to argument on that point, really. It just struck me, personally, as kind of weird that I was reading it as YA, given that I'm usually the person strongly on the "just because it has a teen character doesn't mean it has to get the YA label" side of the argument.

One last thing; I've no idea how it got shortlisted for the Kitschies, mind. They can hide behind the word 'progressive' all they want, but, given that they are basically SF awards, that every other book ever shortlisted is arguably SF, this one sticks out like a sore thumb. It's entirely realist, not SF at all, doesn't fit with the others in the slightest. Bizarre.
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The Guardian do a top ten martial arts movies [07 Dec 2013|12:59am]
In the not too distant future I hope to have the time to break this down like I did the action movies one, but right now I just have time to save the link and note that my immediate reactions ranged from "Oh yes" to "Fuck right off!" to "Meh, predictable."
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Fuck stigma [04 Dec 2013|02:01am]
My mother, short of anything to read, asks me if I have anything.

I have two books to hand so I show her both of them, not mentioning anything about either of the two.

The first she rejects outright. I'm not surprised; the 'dragon' in the title cues her in to the fact that The Dragon Griaule is a fantasy book, so that puts her right off.

The second, I have to insist that she ignores the flap copy and just starts reading. "No, seriously, just start from chapter one and see how you get on," I say. And she gets on alright.

Enough so that when we get home, she holds on to it to keep reading it.

But she ignores, or forgets, what I said earlier. At some point, she reads the flap copy.

And so, in short order, I am confronted.

"Is this a children's book?"

What can I do? I lie. No, it isn't. The flap copy refers to the author's other books. This one? It's a thriller, honestly. Look, you're reading it, aren't you? You were enjoying it, weren't you? Why suddenly be put off because you think it's a children's book? Which it isn't (it is).

I think I managed to convince her. But seriously. Fuck stigma. Fuck dismissing books because they're 'for children'. Fuck prejudice and all that fucking shit. It's bollocks, the lot of it.

This I know because I've done it many times with books at work; give someone a book that looks interesting, and they'll read it. Give them a book that looks interesting and tell them it's a children's book, and they won't even consider it.

So. M T Anderson, Patrick Ness, Marcus Sedgwick, Siobhan Dowd, Judy Blumdell, Meg Rosoff, fuck knows how many others; all authors whom, by disguising the fact they write for children, I've managed to get adults to read. And all of them they've enjoyed.

But you let the curtain down for one second?

Fuck stigma.

The book my mother is reading is She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick.

I've had tremendous success in getting people to read The Pox Party by M T Anderson. What baffles me is that the number of people who've read The Kingdom of the Waves is significantly lower.

The Chaos Walking series is easily pushed to sci-fi readers.

After reading The Bog Child, one patron wanted to read more books by Siobhan Dowd. After she rejected The London Eye Mystery for being a children's book, I was careful to reserve A Swift Pure Cry and Solace of the Road without letting on that they were also children's books.

Much the same happened with another patron and Meg Rosoff. Read The Bride's Farewell, liked it, wanted to read more, but got cold feet when I fetched How We Live Now from the Teenzone section; had to give some flannel about how 'it's an adult book, it's just that the only copy we have to hand at the moment is the one they marketed for teens'.

If I sneak What I Saw And How I Lied into the crime section, someone will usually borrow it.
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Because no-one reads this anyway [23 Nov 2013|09:12pm]
My God. It's like Moffat personally reached out of the TV set and wanked off every Doctor Who fanperson all at once.
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Noted for future reference and consideration [19 Nov 2013|01:16am]
Moffat defends himself, though in not quite so many words, against accusations of misogyny.
Moffat's female characters are empty vessels defined only by their relationship to the Doctor: Amy the childhood friend, River Song the brave-faced but pining on-off wife, Clara Oswin the mystery to be solved.

"The thing is," Moffat argues, "the show is about the Doctor, and the effect he has on people's lives. We don't tend to see the companions away from him because if we did that it wouldn't be Doctor Who. I've heard this criticism of lack of interior character about River Song – but she's the only one who's ever turned him down. I think I have written companions who've carried on with their own lives. The Doctor is central not because I think men are better than women but because he's the central character. How is that not also true of Rory?"


Am trying to avoid kneejerk response. My instinctive reaction is that he's wrong. But I need a bit of time to mull it over and figure out exactly why I think he's wrong.
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Sticking the boot into the Guardian. Again. [03 Nov 2013|01:33am]
So. Saturday's Guardian Weekend magazine has an 'Ask a Grown-Up' column in it, where a child under the age of ten asks a question and an appropriate grown up answers it.

It's always been a bit patchy; sometimes the answers use terms and descriptions that, chances are, the parent of the child asking the question is going to have to explain, rather than the answer being able to stand alone.

But things such as that are a matter of interpretation, rather than being 'wrong' per se.

Today. However.

The question:

is killing a fly or mosquito murder?


The Guardian get "Peter Singer, moral philosopher" to answer for them. He starts of well: "I don't think so." Then enters a realm of 'what the actual fuck did you just say?'

We should use [the term 'murder'] only for killing a being who wants to go on living – and to want to go on living, you have to be able to understand that you have a future.

My immediate reaction:
 photo epic-jackie-chan-template.png

What Peter Singer, moral philosopher, has told the child there, is that if a person is terribly depressed, doesn't want to live any more, can't see a reason to go on, then killing them wouldn't be murder! How could it be? They don't want to go on living, so it's not murder. Maybe he might say that's not what he meant, but it's what he said.

(An aside - I wonder if anyone has ever written a crime novel about someone who only kills people who are suicidal?)

The was an article some years back, in the New Yorker, I believe, about the Golden Gate Bridge and people jumping from it. And part of it deals with the fact that most people who are prevented from jumping don't go on to commit suicide some other way. A moment of crisis takes them to the bridge, but when prevented from carrying out the act, the crisis passes.

The article also mentions that, in the rare cases where people have survived jumping, they've said they regretted their actions almost instantly.

Which is to say, going back to to the exact wording of the answer, it's wrong to say that it's not murder to kill a person who doesn't want to go on living because while that may be true for that moment, there's every chance that there will be a later moment when they do want to go on living.

Possibly it's the case that Peter Singer, moral philosopher, was trying to leave it open for a discussion on euthanasia in the case of terminal illness and whether that's OK or not (and that's also a hugely contentious issue). Many people say "If happens, I don't want to live like that, pull the plug." But what if does happen, and the 'you' that remains is aware enough to say, or want to say, "I've changed my mind?" or simply "I want to live?" What takes precedence? How do we decide?

Can open. Worms everywhere.

Honestly. I can understand trying to boil the answer down into the simplest terms possible. But this time, for the first time, the mark has been horribly missed.


(Huh. Have just realised, that while writing this reply, I have, unintentionally, been listening to Fiendflug's "Sterbehilfe" EP.)
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I may be wrong, but this just jumped right out at me [01 Nov 2013|08:54pm]
John Goodman gives good interview with Vulture.

At one point they have the following exchange:

You hadn’t done a movie with them since O Brother Where Art Thou? in 2000. Had there been a rift?
No! They kind of ran out of gas with me. They started writing characters that were too similar, for me. They even had the same names in one case. They’d written one character for me who was just too similar to everything I’d been doing for them, so they decided to cut me loose and go with somebody else. I think that was all it was; they didn’t have anything for me. There’s no rift. God no.

What movie did the repeat start on?
I don’t want to say because it might look bad to mention the other actor, that he wasn’t the first choice, so I’d rather not say.

2001, The Man Who Wasn't There, Big Dave Brewster, played in the film by James Gandolfini. It can't possibly be anything else, can it? The reason it'd look bad to mention the other actor is that he's not around to 'defend' himself any more, I guess, perhaps a feeling of not wanting to be seen pissing on the legacy of a dead man. Understandable, I suppose. But yet, it's so obvious, isn't it?
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All I seem to do these days is wonder what the hell is wrong with people [25 Oct 2013|03:12pm]
Suspected "homemade" gun components were seized today during a police raid. Detectives said the bamboo tube and a big rock could make a viable gun.

A spokesman said for the police said "What we have seized are items that need further forensic testing by national ballistics experts to establish whether they can be used in the construction of a genuine, viable firearm."

As yet, Captain Kirk has declined to comment.



Yes. Despite the police being made to look a laughing stock, this story continues to be nothing less than absurd. A fact the Guardian appear to recognise, having pulled their article on this story totally.


What next? Police raiding garden centres and seizing all the fertiliser, on account of it can make a genuine, viable bomb? All non-blunt objects seized because they can make a genuine, viable stabby thing? So long, cricket bats! They're a genuine, viable blunt-force trauma causing weapon!


Is it really so hard for the police to say "We fucked up, sorry"?
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Sometimes I really don't know why I pay attention to the internet [24 Oct 2013|10:32pm]
Apparently today Twitter at large became aware of the new Captain America film.

Apparently today Twitter at large decided to get really upset because it 'rips off' Ed Brubaker's Captain America stories.

Apparently today Twitter is full of fucking idiots.


This is how comics work today when it comes to characters like Captain America.

Comics company says "Hello, comics writer. We would like you to write some stories for this character, and when you do that, we will own them all."

Comics writer says "OK!"

This is called work for hire.

Work for hire means that comics company owns the results, not the writer. All are aware of this. All are happy with this.


So, Marvel using stories that they own from the comics for inspiration for the film? Entirely within thei right. They own the source material. They can do anything they care with it.

That's how work for hire works.


If Twitter at large can't understand that, then Twitter at large is full of fucking idiots and I despair for the future of the human race.
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Slow handclap for the Guardian [22 Oct 2013|10:36pm]
Today, as OS X Mavericks is released, the Guardian ask, why name software after a surf break that has killed two talented surfers?

What. The. Actual. Fuck?

Where, I wonder, are the Guardian articles asking why Apple have named releases of OS X after dangerous big cats that have killed hundreds over the years?

Mountain Lion - eight deaths from 2001 to 2008 source

Lion - lots. Just Google "death by lion".

Snow Leopard - don't appear to have caused any recorded deaths that I can find; snow leopards are so rare that Google just keeps turning up stories of baby snow leopards dying instead.

Leopard - in some regions of [India] leopards kill more humans than all other large carnivores combined. and the rate of leopard predation on humans in Nepal is 16 times higher than anywhere else, resulting in approximately 1.9 human deaths annually per million inhabitants.

Tiger - The most comprehensive study of deaths due to tiger attacks estimates that at least 373,000 people died due to tiger attacks between 1800 and 2009. 373,000? Jesus Christ, Apple, why would you name an OS after a big cat that has killed 373,000 people?!

Panther - Keep getting results related to the Black Panther Party instead. Also is basically a mountain lion, isn't it?

Jaguar - one mauled an US man to death!

Puma - Also a mountain lion, no?

Cheetah - woman killed by cheetah in zoo.


So there we have it. Apple have been naming their operating systems after deadly things since 2001. Why so late to the party, Guardian? How did you miss so many chances to write completely bullshit stories?
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An element of design [18 Oct 2013|01:16am]
Don't suppose anyone knows if there's anything out there that could generate talkfields like these?

There's something about the lines and dots I find aesthetically pleasing. But, you know, I'm not going to use those exact ones because I don't want to be sued to fuck by Harlan Ellison.
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In defence of NYCC [12 Oct 2013|10:13pm]
So. People on the internet are complaining that their Twitters were 'hacked' by NYCC and made them tweet things without their knowledge.

What actually happened was people agreed that the NYCC application could be linked to their Twitter account and be allowed certain permissions, one of which was that it could have permission to tweet on their behalf.

If you don't want something to tweet for you? Don't allow it to have that permission in the first place!

Yeah, what NYCC did was sketchy in having the tweets in question read like they were genuine tweets rather than app-generated tweets. But still. You don't want to be surprised by finding you've tweeted something you actually didn't? Then don't approve apps which ask to do that!

I dunno, it bothers me. The story isn't that NYCC tweeted on the behalf of those who opted it, the story is the *way* it tweeted on behalf of those who opted in. Yet everyone, but everyone is writing about the story as if it were the former.

Edit: or, to put it another way; there is absolutely a story here. But everyone, instead of burying an open goal, is blazing it over the bar instead. And not only that, they're blazing it over the bar with such conviction that people forget they're watching football and think they're watching rugby instead.

(There ain't no metaphor like a convoluted metaphor, gonna show you how.)
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Worst. Top 10. Ever. [11 Oct 2013|12:13am]
Top 10 action movies according to the Guardian. And of those I've seen, only one is actually an action movie.

The Last of the Mohicans? Really? How? What? Bloody hell, if you're going to stick historical drama in then Gladiator trumps this anyway.

Goldfinger. Eh, borderline. It has action, granted. But then it has the other elements in it that make it a 'Bond movie', which trumps action.

The Adventures of Robin Hood. Again, borderline. It's what audiences of the 1930s would've considered an action movie, true. But it's not what anyone today would think of when asked to think of an action movie; guns, bombs, explosions, big SFX. The action movie is a 'modern' invention, really.

Die Hard. One of these is not like the others, one of these is not the same. Yep, this is the only action movie on the list. Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker!

Bullitt. Have you seen Bullitt? I have. Aside from that chase scene, the amount of action contained within? Zero. It's a procedural movie with an action sequence.

Raiders of the Lost Ark. Another borderline; and perhaps the one I'm wrong to dismiss, but to me it's a homage to classic serials, not an action movie. And Temple of Doom is the most action-y of the Jones movies anyway.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Action, but the wrong kind of action. And not the best wuxia movie anyway. Hell, not even the best wuxia movie that got a cinematic release in the UK - both Hero and House of Flying Daggers trump this on the action scale. I expect most people would plump for Hero, but I have a soft spot for House of Flying Daggers myself.

Wages of Fear. The one I haven't seen.

Deliverance. "Now let's you just drop them pants." Everyone knows this film. Would be fair to say not everyone would have it come to mind when asked to think of an action film. It's a survival film. It's a serious drama. It lacks the true high stakes that an action film has; in this the stakes are personal. Revolting Cocks sampled this film for 'Beers, Steers and Queers'.

North by Northwest. A typical tale of mistaken identity. As the article says, it's a mystery film, it's a suspense film; but an action film? I don't see it.


To be clear. This is what I think of when I think of an action film. I think of guns, bombs, and explosions. I think of films where making the plot make sense matters far less than, well, blowing shit up. I think of films where the visual spectacle is the important thing. Films where the scenes between the action are not there to develop the story, but to speed the viewer on to the next action scene.

Or to put it another way, I think of '80s movies. Willis, Stallone, Schwarzenegger. Simply saying those three names, you can picture the kind of movies exactly. The Die Hards, Hudson Hawk, The Last Boy Scout, Rambo, Cobra, Tango and Cash, Terminator, Commando, Predator.

Those. Those are action films.

So. In no particular order. What my top ten (as of this moment, right now):

Crank. Perhaps the exemplar of the modern action movie. Rather than try and construct a complicated plot to drive the action forward, then go for a simple one. Jason Statham has to keep his heart beating or he dies, and the only way he can do that is by doing exciting action-y things. It's a brilliant stroke of genius, actually. They don't have to come up with all sorts of spurious reasons for the action, they've already established that the whole point of the film is action! So if you buy the premise, you're pretty much locked in for the rest of it.
Also, Statham is the sole modern Willis/Stallone/Schwarzenegger, and makes almost any film better (almost; no-one could've made In The Name of the King better).

Die Hard. Because it's Die Hard, natch.

Robocop. He's a cop. And a robot. The director takes satirical swipes at our potential future. But most things just get shot the fuck up. I don't judge people but if I say "You have 20 seconds to comply" and you look at me with a blank face, you're dead to me. There was only ever one Robocop movie made, by the way. ONLY ONE.

Point Break. No so much in the way of explosions, but a non-stop thrill ride from start to finish. The plot makes no sense. The characters make no sense. Nothing Keanu Reeves does or says makes sense. But I still love this movie so much. The last time I watched it I pretty much live-tweeted the whole thing. I should be ashamed, but I'm not.

Hard Boiled. John Woo tried his hand at Hollywood movies, but most were naff, and Face/Off was great at the time but I think some parts might be problematic were I to watch it today. His Hong Kong films, on the other hand, are pretty much all much better, and this, the last film he made before Hong Kong was handed back to the Chinese, is, if not his best, his purest.
They started shooting without a script, as the bloke who was going to write it died. It stars Chow Yun-Fat, the figurehead of many of Woo's best films. It's almost all non-stop action; first the tea-house, an explosive way to start, then we have the boat shootout and the warehouse shootout. The scenes inbetween? Scarcely exist. And finally, the hospital shootout - an action sequence that lasts for something like 1/3rd the running time of the film, IIRC. It's masterful. And much of this is because, as mentioned above, the chap who was supposed to write the script died.
I have, I think, seen this film more time than any other film (only Drive comes close, and that's not an action film so won't be mentioned later). I've certainly purchased it more times than I have any other. Twice on VHS, twice on DVD.

Terminator 2. I've never actually seen the first Terminator, you know. Nor any of the later films, though I have seen the Sarah Connor Chronicles. But as action movies go, T2 probably trumps the ones I haven't seen anyway, as immovable force pursues irresistible object; T-1000 finds John Connor, blows shit up as he tries to kill him, JC runs away with help of T-800. And repeat until end. The truck smashing through the bridge and down into the storm drains, still awesome. (Though as far as deliveries of "Come with me if you want to live" go, I think Summer Glau wins.)

Police Story 2. It's impossible to have a list of top ten action films without having a Jackie Chan film, it really is. What's perhaps unique about Chan's films is that usually in action films the hero is near perfect, invincible, and if he loses a fight it's because he's doing it deliberately as part of a plan to draw the bad guy to the right place. Chan actually shows the hero as fallible, Chan will actual have fights where he's getting the shite beaten out of him - not because he's got a plan, but because he's being outfought. It's an inspired way of getting the audience on-side of the hero, so that when he manages to snatch back the upper hand, the pleasure is all the more appreciated.
But. Police Story 2. To my mind, the best of the Police Story films, and it's the Police Story films that are the most action film-y of his output. In Police Story 2, Chan takes what he did in the first Police Story and develops it, builds on it. And, more importantly, the final sequence at the fireworks factory is far more of a visual spectacle than the final sequence at the shopping mall in the first Police Story.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Because it's impossible to have a list of top ten action films without a Shane Black film (and yet the Guardian managed it? Philistines!) I could've picked a Lethal Weapon, granted. But KKBB trumps them on these accounts; it's written by Shane Black, *and* directed by Shane Black. Also, it stars Robert Downey, Jr. Ain't no other Shane Black film gonna top that. Alright, the ending might be a little weak, but the rest more than accounts for it.

I feel as if there should be a Stallone movie on this list, but I can't decide between Tango and Cash and Demolition Man. The former is dumb, absolutely of its time, and classic '80s action. The latter is clever, tries not to take itself too seriously (the seashells!), yet though there is still something quite '90s about it. I think I'm leaning towards the latter; Demolition Man is very much the better film, Tango and Cash is more a guilty pleasure.

And finally - oh, crap. I thought I'd struggle to think of ten, but here I am down to the last one and there's three at the front of my mind. Blade II, Full Contact, and Bad Boys.
Blade II was the best of the Blade films, my introduction to Guillermo del Toro, and possibly the last film Wesley Snipes ever made where he gave an actual shit about what was going on.
Full Contact is another Hong Kong film - I could quite possibly do a top ten of HK films alone - again starring Chow Yun-Fat, but this time directed by Ringo Lam. Lam also directed City on Fire, one of the films that Tarantino called upon when making Reservoir Dogs. But I digress. Full Contact is the most stylised of Lam's films, and most action-packed, as CYF throws his weight around, takes part in a criminal plot, gets double-crossed, then comes back for his revenge. Simon Yam very nearly steals the show as the villain, and the climax introduces the bullet-cam shot.
Bad Boys is basically Will Young and Martin Lewis doing something akin to Miami Vice, as they drive around, shoot shit up, visit clubs, shoot shit up, protect witnesses, and, well, shoot shit up. Said witness is played by Tea Leoni, once best know for being married to David Duchovny. Said shit is well and truly shot up. Bad Boys 2 was parodied in Hot Fuzz, but I haven't seen that one. And now I wanna watch Bad Boys again, if I can find the DVD (fun fact: in one scene, a KMFDM song is playing).


Bugger; try and do a top 10, end up with something more like a top 13. But, you know what? 12 of those (not including Die Hard) are far more action movies than any of the others on the Guardian list.


(I don't say this much, but if you read this far? Please comment, so I know I'm not typing into the void and just generating tl;dr entries.)
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AKUTBCILJ: Finance [07 Oct 2013|11:11pm]
So. I need to keep track of my spending. And I've yet to find a workable solution.

I know for many the simple solution is 'spreadsheets'! I'd prefer something simpler, though, where I don't have to download spreadsheet software, and rely on myself to not fuck up any of the formulae.

I've tried Toshl. I didn't get on with it. In all but one respect, it was exactly what I wanted. But the one was a big one (and hey, if it turns out I was using it wrong, I'll be happily corrected).

Conceptually speaking, far as I'm concerned, there are pots of money. The root pot is the actual money, or bank accounts. But there are intermediate pots in the form of credit cards.

The part I couldn't get Toshl to handle was spending £x on a card and then later paying off the credit card bill using actual bank money. It tracked money out, and money in, and that was it. No separate kinds of money out. Money out from bank is very different from cards - not least because money out from cards isn't *actual* money out until the money out from the bank pays it off.

So, LJ, what software should I be using to track my spending in a way that works?

Or is it the case that my conceptual model is broken and I'm thinking about it all wrong?
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A brief review of Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. [07 Oct 2013|07:15pm]
I'd rather watch the Shield.
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2:37 [25 Sep 2013|01:08am]
Naive. Misleading. Thoughtless. Dangerously irresponsible.

Nothing I can think to say that sums up 2:37 paints it in a good light at all.

Crass. Exploitative. Offensive. Dangerously irresponsible.

2:37 is an Australian film from 2006 (though not released on DVD until 2010). It starts with a teacher discovering someone has died by suicide in a school bathroom, but keeps the identity of the person secret and jumps back to the start of the day, showing the actions of various characters leading up to that moment (and leaving the viewer guessing as to which one it might be).

Suicide is a serious issue, teen suicide particularly so. It deserves a film that brings the subject to people's attention in a sensitive way.

It doesn't deserve this film.

(I'm going to spoil the fuck out of it, by the way. I don't normally spoil films, out of respect to those that might want to watch them. But given that I don't believe anyone should watch this film, I don't give an actual shit.)

The main characters the film introduces us to are these:

A bit of an odd kid. A teacher has a little word to him about what was, apparently, a highly sexualised story he wrote for one class assignment. He tells the teacher he deliberately wrote it to shock and it means nothing. We don't hear any more of this for the rest of the film. He has a sister...

Who we first see in a very distressed state in her bedroom. Crying buckets, not that we know why. But hey, after the opening, we're all primed to guess! What we learn about her through the film: she's sad, some people think the school stud is secretly having an affair with her, she does a pregnancy test and it comes up positive. Oh, yeah, and her brother raped her a few days ago.

An out gay kid. Who is bullied for being gay. Also smokes weed. And argues with anyone who spouts homosexual views in class.

The school stud! He's ripped. Has a hot girlfriend! He indulges in misogynistic banter with his mates, because that's what school studs do! He's so manly! And he's also totally and secretly gay for the gay kid! But he's so far in the closet he can't admit it, so overcompensates by bumming his girlfriend instead. Oops!

The hot girlfriend. That's literally the extent of her character; she's the hot girlfriend of the school stud, and she's sad because he's being mean to her (he's being mean because he's CONFLICTED over the gay thing!)

And finally, the disabled kid. He has one leg longer than the other. And he keeps pissing himself because he has two urethras and can only control one of them. The main reason he exists in the film is so he can be in a toilet stall changing his pants after having pissed himself and so overhear school stud and gay kid argue, snog and argue again. Then he gets beaten up by school stud for it.

Such are the main characters. All TORTURED by their own demons. So, which one topped themselves?

If you guessed "None of the above", well done! Gold star! Top of the class!

See, turns out the person who took their own life was 'the girl everyone ignores'. Where 'everyone' also includes the fucking film itself.

If I become slightly incoherent from this point on, its because I struggle contain myself and explain how this is wrong on so many levels.

The most serious of those levels is the fact that the film itself ignores her too. It's not like you can go back through the film and see scene after scene where she's shunted aside. That kind of subtlety is clearly alien to the director and script writer. There's one scene where incest boy ignores her attempts to chat him up, and one scene where disabled boy tells her he's OK after having been beaten up, but that's it.

I mean. We have so many characters where we're shown just how much PAIN these characters have to endure - he raped his sister! she was raped by her brother! he's gay! he's a closeted gay! her boyfriend was mean to her! he pisses himself! - that to the average audience, having someone completely different top herself for no reason is a bit of a cheat.

Being charitable for a moment. Perhaps the director wanted to show that being alienated and ignored is a deeply frustrating and depressing experience, that people who try to connect with the world and constantly fail have as much reason to be depressed as any other, or that sometimes depression has no reason and people who don't obviously appear at risk can be those most at risk. Perhaps that's what he tried to do.

Fucking failed at it, but.

By not having her as an active character through the rest of the film, no-one watching has has any empathy with her, or her situation. It's a cheat twist. Not only that, many people watching will think badly of her. They'll think "Goddamn, all these other people had problems, they were alright. Why'd that pathetic little bitch top herself for nothing? That's stupid."

(Don't believe that people would think that way? Take a trip to Amazon, check out the one-star reviews of 13 Reasons Why. Hate humanity.)

A better, more skilled, director would've incorporated this character into more or less every scene. In such a way that the viewer notices she's there without her really actually being there (if you see what I mean), so that a second viewing would reward knowledge of the ending because watching it again would show all the times she's been ignored or pushed aside.

2:37 doesn't do that. Worse than that, it tries to fake that using a quick montage at the end, as if a minute or so of previously unseen clips could suddenly make the viewer care about a character who has been given minimal screen time previously.

Ugh. I can't. I mean. Goddammit.

The other characters are stereotypes, and exploitative. What was the point of having the incest twist? That adds nothing to the film. What was the point of having the disabled character who pisses himself? Again, that added almost nothing. It's all a distraction from what ends up being the ultimate story, and unbalances the film horribly.

Which leaves me to cover one more thing. The thing I said twice. With emphasis. The reason why this film in dangerously irresponsible.

I should probably include a trigger warning at this point. That if reading details of the method have any chance of distressing you at all, please stop reading. Don't carry on. Stop, go no further. Leave now. Please. I can't discuss the ending without discussing the ending (tautologous, I know), and the ending is... distressingly detailed.

I suggest you take a moment first to read what the Samaritans have to say on reporting suicide, as most of it applies here (and I hope to god I haven't fucked up anywhere above).

The first point the Samaritans make is the most important, and most relevant to my criticism. And I can't criticise it without committing that very sin myself. I'm sorry for this, and this is why I warned - and warn again - that if it's going to distress, please stop reading.
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