Monthly archives: April 2013

Daily Blog 04/29/2013

  • Robbie, you may feel like you are just a mere family entertainer, a singing clown that no-one takes seriously but we acknowledge the flashes of inspiration in your music and that you have the ability to write really good lyrics within the pop format and that you have worked with really good songwriters from the more rebellious side of the equation. In short you seem to be a lot more than a dancing bear and there seems to be a genuine tingle of passion and humanity in your soul which is all too rare in your part of the pop world.

    tags: music politics TakeThat

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily Blog 04/28/2013

  • A news item over at Archaeology reports that a little wireless robot called Tlaloc II-TC will soon “investigate the far reaches of a tunnel found beneath the Temple of the Plumed Serpent at Teotihuacan,” entering a chamber “estimated to be 2,000 years old, and [that] may have been used as a place for royal ceremonies or burials.”

    tags: archaeology robots

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily Blog 04/26/2013

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Help Transport for Greater Manchester secure £20million to improve cycling infrastructure

Transport for Greater Manchester – Cycling – Pledge.

A cycling revolution is within Greater Manchester’s grasp. A revolution that shows we’re as serious about cycling as cities such as Berlin, Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

But we need your support to make this vision a reality. Pledge your support right now by clicking the link on this page.

Greater Manchester is bidding for up to £20 million of government investment, to be spent over two years, to make cycling safer and easier.

Most of this investment will be in a series of more continental-style, largely segregated, cycle routes within the heart of the conurbation, together with the delivery of a number of cycle and ride stations.

£20 million’s not a lot, compared to the huge amounts spent on motor traffic, but it’s a start.

Daily Blog 04/25/2013

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

If you’re a cyclist, or know a cyclist, you really should sign this petition

Promote cycling by implementing the recommendations in the ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report. – e-petitions.

The petition needs over 100,000 signatories to get discussed in Parliament.  It’s got over 25,000 in its first two days, so please help keep the momentum up.

We need to encourage more cycling, better infrastructure and more understanding from- and harsher punishment of, if necessary- drivers when it comes to sharing the road.  The ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report is built upon an enquiry into the state of cycling in the UK and its recommendations are based upon input from a wide range of experts.

B-Movie Night: Death Wish 3

This film features product placement by a gun company. That tells you all you need to know about its tone and intent. For the first quarter of the movie, Charles Bronson keeps going on about how he’s waiting for his friend Wildey to turn up. When Wildey does arrive, it’s revealed that ‘he’ is a rather ugly pistol. Bronson quickly fulfils his contractual obligations by explaining to awed onlookers that the gun takes cut down rifle cartridges and has some sort of compensator device which can be adjusted depending upon the power of the load. Wildey then proceeds to kill loads of street punks.

With everyone he cared about dead or alienated at the end of Death Wish 2, Paul Kersey decided to take a vigilante bus tour of the USA- like the Littlest Hobo, but with violent retribution. Finally returning to New York, he brings the Curse of Kersey with him- the old army pal he’s visiting is beaten by a gang at the exact moment that Kersey phones him. The old codger manages to hold on until Paul has made a mad taxi dash across town, then expires almost immediately he gets there.

Arrested on suspicion of the murder- and giving the name Kimble- Kersey is given an ultimatum by the Chief of Police. He can bring his sidewalk vigilante act back to the Big Apple so long as the cops get to look more effective than they really are as a result. Kersey returns to the warzone that is East New York and sets to work.

It’s particularly dangerous to be a woman when Paul Kersey’s in town. One of his new neighbours starts helping out with his street patrols- so the gang targets his wife to be so brutally raped that she dies of her wounds. A public defender takes an interest in ‘Kimble’ and makes the terminal error of sleeping with him. She ends up dying in an automotive fireball. A local shopkeeper is emboldened by Kersey’s actions- so the gang’s leader slices his wife’s throat.

The men in Kersey’s shadow don’t suffer as much. The battered old veteran who supplies a cupboard full of guns is beaten up and thrown off a fire escape, but he lives and is back on his feet in days even after suffering multiple broken bones. The Curse of Kersey is far worse if you’re a woman.

It all ends with a massive fire fight, leaving dozens- maybe even hundreds- dead and razing even more of the blighted neighbourhood. In amongst all the smoke and blood, Kersey just picks up his suitcases and wanders off, not really giving a toss that he’s destroyed more innocent lives and legitimate businesses in a couple of weeks than the drugged up scum he was killing could ever have hoped to.

A decade had passed between the first Death Wish and its second sequel, and a lot of blood had flowed into the gutter. Michael Winner must have moved with the times, making this a dumb action movie with a nod to the reactionary glorification of street law from the first two. It’s still Charles Bronson killing hipsters, though, so it’s fun if you ignore its attempts to say something nasty about the state of the States in the eighties.

You can buy Death Wish 3 from Amazon.

Daily Blog 04/20/2013

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily Blog 04/17/2013

  • 28th April this year will be the 50th anniversary of “Black Sunday”, when eight pubs in the Ellor Street area were scheduled to close (one actually floundered on for a few weeks, but its fate was sealed.) This was when the whole area was being redeveloped and much of the housing had gone, but loyal customers still returned for a Saturday night singsong or a game of darts on a Sunday from as far afield as Little Hulton or Kersal. The fact that some long-serving licensees endured to the end reflects the community spirit that the pubs helped to keep alive.

    tags: manchester

  • From rare sports cars and competition vehicles to more family-friendly vehicles that brought motoring to the masses, this might well be the most complete collection of classic Japanese vehicles anywhere in the world.

    tags: japan cars

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily Blog 04/16/2013

  • Nestled in the hills of Japan’s scenic Gunma Prefecture lies a car museum unlike any other I’ve ever seen. Actually, to even call this place a “car museum” is to understate just what you’ll find here. A visit to the M. Yokota Museum is like taking a trip back to a different era, and the exquisite selection of vintage Japanese cars is only one part of the experience.

    tags: japan cars

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily Blog 04/15/2013

  • Around 400 B.C., Socrates was brought to trial on charges of corrupting the youth of Athens and “impiety.” Presumably, however, people believed then as we do now, that Socrates’ real crime was being too clever and, not insignificantly, a royal pain to those in power or, as Plato put it, a gadfly. Just as a gadfly is an insect that could sting a horse and prod it into action, so too could Socrates sting the state. He challenged the moral values of his contemporaries and refused to go along with unjust demands of tyrants, often obstructing their plans when he could. Socrates thought his service to Athens should have earned him free dinners for life. He was given a cup of hemlock instead.

    tags: hacking politics

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

B-Movie Night: Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape

This documentary is part of Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide, providing a lesson in how lies, lobbying and the media can create controversy from nothing and destroy businesses and lives.

With the arrival of home video, a whole slew of films were suddenly available for home viewing. What would previously have required a trip to Times Square or a low-rent drive in Stateside could now be found on the shelves at corner shops and petrol stations in Britain. The market for home video grew so quickly that distributors bought the rights to anything and everything. Giallo, grindhouse and all manner of cheap indie horror was rented without any sort of classification or quality control.

It would be disingenuous to suggest that these films were great works of art. Some were groundbreaking, most were entertaining and the most talked about ones broke numerous taboos. They were bound to fall foul of the sort of people who like to condemn things they haven’t seen. The usual suspects all lined up- Mary Whitehouse, the Daily Mail and otherwise impotent Tory MPs caused a fuss which became a frenzy, fuelled by research fudged to give the desired results. The Police got involved, raiding shops and taking all their stock- to watch down the nick later before arbitrarily burning it.

Once the frenzy was up and running, Whitehouse and the Mail found their useful idiot in the gullible shape of Graham Bright MP, who pushed through a Bill introducing over-the-top censorship. The law was used to destroy business and send people to jail, but was never even legal itself. All of this done to “protect” the lower classes from material that might corrupt them.

Almost every new entertainment medium has drawn calls for, and actual, censorship to protect the proles from stuff that might “corrupt” them- from vaudeville to video games. The video nasty palaver was just a particularly bad example. The moral panic is still in use- currently over benefits- with the usual suspects frothing at the mouth and propagating useful lies and damaging people’s lives. Censorship is not as bad as destroying lives, but it was an empowering stepping stone on the way there for fundamentalists (religious and Thatcherite) who bullied and cheated it into law. The takeaway lesson from this film, and the eighties in general, is to question all those who want to crack down on your freedoms for ill-defined reasons.

B-Movie Night: Death Wish 2

I watched the start of this film thirty years ago*, now I’ve finally seen the rest of it.

Obviously, the first Death Wish was enough of a success to warrant a sequel, so here we are- different city, same crime-run-rampant paranoia, more street law fantasising.

Run out of New York at the end of Death Wish, Paul Kersey now lives in Los Angeles. He’s designing the boring square headquarters for a local radio station and sleeping with one of their presenters. His daughter is even improving after the trauma she suffered in the first film. Things are looking good, until he tangles with a gang of muggers which includes evil Laurence Fishburne.

In a frightening development that Kersey doesn’t seem to have considered, the muggers can read, so they can find out where he lives from the contents of his wallet. They break in to his home to rape (and, later, kill) his housekeeper. Then they attack Kersey and kidnap his daughter, who jumps to her death before they can all abuse her.

Kersey is, of course, devastated by this- you can tell this by the couple of extra lines that appear on Bronson’s face for a few scenes. However, unlike the earlier film, there isn’t any soul searching to be done before he takes up his guns. All it takes is a minute or two of meaningful wood chopping and he’s getting the semi automatic out from its hiding place in the cupboard.

In the first film, Kersey never got the chance to settle the score with evil Jeff Goldblum and had to settle for shooting random muggers and scumbags instead. This time he gets a shot at closure as, unfortunately for evil Laurence Fishburne and his gang, he has seen their faces.

As is the way with sequels, the set pieces are bigger but have less of an impact. The detective from the first film returns, though it’s never clear just why he’s there and he ends up dead. With all his ties to his pre vigilante life severed I can’t wait to see what it is that sets Kersey off in Death Wish 3 and how crazy he gets.

Buy Death Wish 2 from Amazon.

*On a school trip to France, there were a few videos on the coach that the teachers played to keep a gang of thirteen year olds from getting restless. They let Death Wish 2 reach the first rape scene before they realised what we were watching and stopped it

Daily Blog 04/12/2013

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.