A Cinematic Quest of Rediscovery

I used to be very “into” going to the movies. So much so, in fact, that I can remember one occasion when my now wife and I went to the local picture house (a horrible chain multiplex, but it’s nearby) and, after looking through all the listings of movies to be shown later that evening, we couldn’t find a single film we hadn’t seen. These were the good times. The features were much the same as they are today; some good, some bad, most pass the time well enough and will be forgotten in six months.

The differences from today’s experience of the cinema are the price, which has almost doubled, and the audience, which has massively declined in manner and increased in the number of light-emitting personal devices on constant show… Oh yeah, and they never turn the bloody lights off anymore. This is not the distant past I speak of but a mere decade!! Anywho, these factors combine have served to put me “right off of” going to the movies anymore.

The glasses I use to view my old cinema-going days

Partially in an attempt to resurrect my love for the movies, a few months ago I tried the new fangled IMAX screen that had opened up at the slightly less local horrible chain multiplex. This, however, turned out to be something of a disaster. Besides sitting through 2 hours of Ridley Scott doing to Alien what George Lucas so successfully managed to do to Star Wars ten years earlier (FYI; That’s not a good thing), I found the whole experience even more off-putting. The screen is massive, but not in a cinematic ratio, the sound is massive, but so loud it physically hurts and the price tag, you guessed it, is MASSIVE. £13 per ticket! Are you bonkers? I will certainly not be returning to one of those screens any time soon.

In between times I’ve visited the cinema now and then but have come away largely disappointed. I did happen upon the excellent “Sightseers”, a real “must see” for anyone with a dark sense of humour but, in the main, movies such as Captain America, The Avengers and, most recently, Skyfall have been seen but were all very blah.

That brings us pretty much up to date and to the reason for this piece. Tomorrow, my lovely wife and I will be attempting to simultaneously reignite our love for the movies and make best use of a (n Orange) Wednesday we both have off by going to the cinema to watch three movies in a day. It’s something neither of us has done before but it seems like something we should have. We won’t be helped by the fact that one of our planned features is the almost-three-hour The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey but it is so rare to find three films you actually want to see that we’ve thrown it right in there. The others are: Life of Pi 3D, I’m not really into threed but this is supposed to be very well made and my wife loved the book, and Safety Not Guaranteed, which I stumbled upon last week and is an indie film about three reporters investigating a guy who’s put out a small advert in their paper asking for a volunteer to go back in time with him.

We’ve worked out our schedule, allowing for trailers, and we should be able to work it to see The Hobbit at 10:45 first then run straight into Safety Not Guaranteed after which we have just over an hour break for dinner and finish off with Life of Pi 3D until about 19:55. That is, of course, if all goes to plan and we don’t get Deep Vein Thrombosis for our efforts.

I ought to get off now, as tomorrow has turned into later today, but I wanted to share with you all the peculiar adventure the Wifflecopter (TM) and I will be going on.

Wish us luck and see you on the other side…

UPDATE:
Well looks like we’re back on the cinema horse now, we had a really good time watching three very good & completely different movies with well behaved audiences. Couldn’t have asked for more.

We had to reorganise immediately on arrival, as the 10:45 showing of The Hobbit was sold out (we found out later this was probably because the 2D showings were in very small screens!) but the reschedule worked out best for us, giving us 50 mins between each film instead of the first two following through immediately.

I think three films in a day is definitely our limit but, that said, enjoyed every second spent reacquainting ourselves with our love of the pictures.

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Saving 6 Music

The BBC and I are no longer as close as we once were. First there was that whole homeopathy thing, and now they’re threatening to kill off 6 Music. Mark Thompson, Director-General of the BBC and all round twat has been steadily decreasing the cultural value of the once-proud institution, and now he is recommending the closure of 6 music and the Asian Network by the end of 2011.

For the last 6 months or so I have been listening to podcasts of some of the finest new music, and classic, iconic songs from people that actually understand music. Radio 1 is at best an infuriating alternative and at worst a festuring turd polished up and sold to you as popular music. You’re not 3008, I won’t poke your face and it’s definately not Bonkaas, it’s shit. FACT.

The report states: “Given the strength of its popular music radio offering from Radio 1 and 2 and the opportunity to increase the distinctiveness of Radio 2, the BBC has concluded that the most effective and efficient way to deliver popular music on radio is to focus investment on these core networks.” I tend to agree more with Eddie Argos; “The record buying public shouldn’t be voting.”

Surely the whole point in championing new, independant, music is precisely that it isn’t yet popular since the record labels hosting the talent can’t afford the publicity and air time for a radio 1 heavy rotation that seems to go hand in hand with chart success. Some songs I’m not going to like despite how many times you play it, ok. I think the RATM thing over Christmas showed that there IS a musical revolution happening, sick of Scowell’s chokehold on our music, and this is  why 6 music is so important.

Luckily the gallows are not on the horizon (metaphorically and musically) for 6 Music just yet and there is plenty we can do to help save it:

  • Listen to it. Pretty obvious really but some estimates already suggest thet the listening audience has already doubled since the news first broke. If you can listen to it through the iPlayer, even better, as this is one of the key measures of the stations success
  • Sign the petition to BBC Chief Sir Michael Lyons.
  • Use 36 Degrees’ template to contact the BBC trust
  • Email your thoughts to :-

srconsultation@bbc.co.uk
michael.lyons@bbc.co.uk
richard.tait@bbc.co.uk
jeremy.peat@bbc.co.uk
mehmuda.mian@bbc.co.uk
david.liddiment@bbc.co.uk
janet.lewis-jones@bbc.co.uk
rotha.johnston@bbc.co.uk
patricia.hodgson@bbc.co.uk
alison.hastings@bbc.co.uk
anthony.fry@bbc.co.uk
diane.coyle@bbc.co.uk
chitra.bharucha@bbc.co.uk
trust.enquiries@bbc.co.uk

  • Change your twitter avatar using the twibbons.
  • Join the Facebook group

And if none of this works?

Turn off your radio…

Why does the media love homeopathy?

Ok, so I’m sure many of you share my vitriol at homeopathy. I’m not going to go into all that again, many people have done it much more eloquently than I. Besides, it wouldn’t do much anyway, after all the BBC* seem to be undoing all my hard work anyways.

Homeopathy was in the news again today, as the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published their report on the use of NHS funding for homeopathy, concluding that: “Homeopathy should not be funded on the NHS and the MHRA should stop licensing homeopathic products.” Not that you’d know from watching said news.

Now I’m all for balanced journalism and there’s certainly enough of a story to warrant opinions from both sides of the camp, however this didn’t seem to happen. Sure the homeopaths were given their chance to bring up studies that cherry pick their data, avoid controls and have, at best, dubious methodologies, but why was there no scientist allowed to chip in on this issue?

Radio 4 seemed to have an MP in rationalities corner, however all the other reports I have watched or read seem to leave it at the homeopaths explanations, making it seem that there is a substantial evidence base for homeopathy. Let me just remind you all of the facts:

Homeopathy has never been reliably shown to out perform placebo” and “ should not be funded on the NHS

If you want to buy sugar pills fine, just don’t use my taxes to pay for them.

Interestingly the Chief Scientist at the Department of Health, Professer David Harper, seems to think that there could be something in the memory theories associated with homeopathy. It’s ok though, he gets the closest thing to a bitch slap that the committee could muster:

“63. We would challenge Professor Harper’s comment that research funding should be directed towards exploring theories that are not scientifically plausible. Research funding is limited and highly competitive. The Government should continue its policy of funding the highest quality applications for important scientific research determined on the basis of peer review.
64. The Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor John Beddington, has told us in unequivocal terms that he is of the view that there is no evidence base for homeopathy. We recommend that the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and Professor Harper, Chief Scientist at the DH, get together to see if they can reach an agreed position on the question of whether there is any merit in research funding being directed towards the claimed modes of action of homeopathy.”

*Other news channels are available…

Homeopathetic; Or how the 10.23 overdose campaign will probably do nothing

Cartoon credit: worldofweirdthings.com

You may have heard about the planned mass ‘overdose’ that was done on Saturday. If not then I guess it failed anyway, but basically a group of homeopathy sceptics from Merseyside all took a massive ‘overdose’ of homeopathic remedies in a bid to “raise awareness about the reality of homeopathy.” In an open letter to Boots they state that they don’t expect to find products on the shelves of a trusted pharmacy brand that don’t work. In fact Boots’ own Professional Standards Director, Paul Bennet, has readily admitted before the Commons Science and Technology Committe that he doesn’t believe homeopathy to be efficacious. Unfortunately the very reason that people believe homeopathy to work will be the reason that Boots continue to sell homeopathic remedies by the idiots-shopping-basket-full. Let me explain…

So What is Homeopathy?

Homeopathy is a type of medicine treatment that works on the principle that like treats like. Burnt your sausage fingers getting your frozen pizza from the oven? Don’t worry, just hold them over the gas rings, that’ll sort it right out… And it gets better, as the whole discipline is further based upon a dilution scheme, whereby the tincture is diluted first one part into one hundred parts of water (1c), then further diluted to 30c. You don’t have to be Avagadro to realise that there is nothing left of the original tincture. That’s ok though, a homeopath is able to create an energetic imprint of the medicinal substance through a process called succussion, or ‘shaking it up a bit’. Presumably that’s how they differentiate the intended energetic imprint from every other substance that has ever been dissolved in water. Homeopath = magician…

That sounds mad, surely science has something to say?

Scientific literature including double blind, randomised, controlled studies have found little evidence in support of homeopathic remedies. An oft-quoted study that appeared to support homeopathic remedies (Inflammation Research, vol 53, p 181) in which Madeleine Ennis studied the effects on basophils, white blood cells involved in inflammation, which were treated with ultra-dilute solutions of histamines was later shown to be unrepeatable and the responses that were seen were blamed on poor experimental design. (Citation needed)

Wait, I’ve heard that Quantum Entanglement explains it all…

Quantum Entanglement is the theory that a connection can exist between two objects at the quantum level that defies classical and relativistic concepts of space and time, and that measuring an observable state in one of the objects, such as spin, will give you information about the other object in the entangled pair, regardless of distance. Many homeopaths use this to postulate that the universe is all connected. Victor Stenger explains it much more eloquently than I could in his book ‘The Unconscious Quantum’ but essentially a pair of entangled photons just have the same observable phenomena, this has nothing to do with healing, and the effects will average out given the number of photons present in your average sugar pill

OK, but where’s the harm?

Ordinarily I go along with the adage about fools and money, but this can be a problem where proven treatments are ignored in favour of the homeopathic remedies. In fact there is a veritable catalogue of potential outcomes to delaying treatments. According to one such catalogue there have been 368,379 people deaths and 306,096 injuries directly attributable to homeopathy. In fact there are many children on that list that have died of treatable illnesses like pneumonia and epilepsy because their parents would rather give them a ‘safe’ alternative to medicine.

Furthermore it is my taxes that are paying for £4M worth of NHS homeopathic treatments. Not cool Brown, Not cool.

So why do people use homeopathic remedies at all?

There are numerous sources of anecdotal evidence ‘proving’ that a homeopathic pill cured Aunt Margaret’s cold, or whatever. Clearly the placebo effect is a powerful one, that still needs a great deal of study before we understand what is going on, but knowingly selling a sugar-pill with only the patients belief as an active ingredient is dishonest and, for, me the 10.23 effort didn’t go far enough. Instead of overdosing (on nothing) the group should have taken Boots to court under ‘Fraud by False Pretences’ as they are selling ‘medicines’ that they (in their own words) ‘don’t believe to be efficacious’.

So why was the campaign doomed to fail?

Big Pharma may have it’s faults, and without going into tin-foil-hat territory I have equal disdain for GlaxoSmithKlein as the homeopathic snake oil dealers, however it was clear to me that no amount of media posturing was going to win over the homeopathic remedy crowd. It is their very belief in these remedies that make them work, and if someone believes that a sugar pill treated with an energy imprint can heal their ailments by exposing them to the same thing that is causing their illness then no amount of logical debate or scientific evidence will change their minds.

The best form of Offence…

A story came to my attention this week regarding a TV show and a comedian I rather like. The basics of the item were that Frankie Boyle had been disciplined by the BBC for a joke he made on the panel show Mock the Week. He said that Rebecca Adlington (of Olympic swimming fame) resembled “someone who’s looking at themselves in the back of a spoon”. This lead to 75 complaints and precipitated a BBC Trust meeting that decreed the comments may have caused offence to the audience. Boyle has since discontinued his involvement with the show, but the story went on, covering Miss Adlington’s agent recently stating that they thought that he’d not been sufficiently punished and that the BBC had let him off lightly.offense_o_fence_sticker

I reacted in several ways to this article, and they were as follows:

+ I loled, finding the joke reasonably amusing and “it’s funny ‘cause it’s true”.

+ Well that’s a shame, I like that show and he’s the funniest comedian on it.

+ I’m not too keen on her any more. I thought she seemed quite nice, but if she can’t laugh at herself then she’s not as British as I supported her for being (let’s not forget she is from Mansfield after all).

+ What the hell is it coming to when a COMEDIAN can’t make a JOKE on what is quite obviously a COMEDY show.

I can’t believe that anyone could realistically think that regular viewers of Mock the Week don’t realise that some of the content may be a little cutting and would therefore be offended by it. Therefore my conclusion must be that this judgement was made as a horrible knee-jerk reaction to the personal involvement of a well known sporting personality, which is no way to run a public funded television station.

This does obviously raise larger questions about where you draw the lines in comedy and how they should be policed. There are some things we can broadly agree aren’t appropriate for people of certain ages, but that’s not what we’re talking about here, we’re talking about adults in the society we “of-age” inhabit.

Personally I’m a proponent of the Stan Marsh school of thought on this question, “Either everything’s alright or nothing is”.

You can’t start laying down rules, because everything risks offending someone somewhere in someway. Especially when it comes to comedy, as you’re laughing at something and that thing can easily be a person, a group of people or something people feel passionately about.

What exactly is the problem with causing offence anyway? A great number of things offend me. Pumping billions of pounds of tax payer money into the banking system, only to have them immediately start paying out bonuses again. The National Lottery being run by a profit making company, people actually voting for X-Factor contestants, oh, and Miss K Price being at all paid attention to by anyone ever.

However, I’m adult, so I take that offence and channel it into rants like this. I don’t start stamping my feet like a baby and tell them to stop, stop, stop. I simply take note that those people are probably idiots and move on with my life with that in mind.

It is a human right we all have to free speech, the problem I see is that few people realise that it comes with the responsibility to maturely manage any offence you might suffer as a result of someone else exercising that right.

[Waffle-o-Tron] Kicking Dogs

bigpot6PROPAGANDA WARNING!
I forewarn you now this post will be preachy and talk about feelings an’ stuff, but it’s cheaper than therapy. This post reprisents my views, which will differ from yours, but that’s OK. I present this more as a discussion piece rather than a way of saying ‘you’re wrong,’ and I hope you will take it in the spirit in which it’s intended.

Today in the office folks have been discussing the news article Puppy is kicked to death in park on ye olde BBC News. The act of kicking a puppy to death was roundly condemned by the folks I work with, the phrase ‘sick bastards’ was bandied around a few times. Most people’s concern at this act stemmed from the fact that someone had mindlessly taken the life of a cute puppy discompassionately and for no gain, almost killing for sport. Some others saw the problem more like theft, the abhorrent part being the hurt caused to the family.

The thing that struck me was the people who were upset by this were the people who were dismissing vegetarianism the day before. I try not to talk about my vegetarianism, it tends to make people uncomfortable (I’ve heard a similar thing from religious folks) and their initial reaction is to question me, to find holes in an argument I haven’t stated yet. Usually it’s ‘do you eat fish?’ followed by ‘do you wear leather?’ then ‘do you eat eggs?’ These are the questions you tend to laugh off, but yesterday someone asked me ‘why?’ and it threw me.

I couldn’t just bat the question away, so I told him. I don’t eat meat because I think it’s wrong to kill an animal.

Here’s a video of a slaughter house (or abattoir if you prefer). There’s none of the horrific music or the abuse of livestock that litter most videos of this type on youtube, this is how a slaughterhouse works:

Even this makes me feel uneasy, but that’s probably where you differ from me, and I understand because I used to be a meat eater and laugh at silly vegetarians and their morals.

Back to the original point, the disgust you may have felt at the news report that a puppy was kicked to death for no reason is exactly the same reaction that I now have for the idea of any animal being slaughtered to feed me. That’s why I don’t eat meat. I don’t think it’s wrong that you’re a meat eater, and believe me when I say I think PETA and the ALF are wankers too.

See, us veggies aren’t all assholes. Most of us don’t mind that you eat meat, and we’re happy to sit and watch you while we eat our (inevitably crappy) veggie burger, some of us are so skilled at being a veggie you might not even realise. In fact I’m going to say something you might not expect a vegetarian to ever say: if you’re happy with it eating meat is OK.

You made it all the way to the end? I’m impressed! Here, watch the awesome Penn & Teller have a go at militant animal rights groups and have a pork pie, I won’t judge you for it:

Mobile Telecommunication for a Flat Earth

The first things that I need to get across are 1)  I am a technophile, more to the point I love gadgets, I have a very real need for new things to play with on a regular basis.  2)  My mobile phone network of choice is Orange, not for any special reason, it’s just that that’s the one I landed on.  3)  My contract is due for renewal in July and I’m in the market for an upgrade.

While trying not to deviate from the righteous path of rant into the dark fields of viral marketing Nokia’s new N97 has me Greasy excited.

It would need to really, considering the last Nokia product I owned was a Gen 1 N95 which was so flaky I nearly ate it.  While in the bath. I eventually had a hissy fit with it in Blockbuster car park, took the battery out and refused to put it back in.  It was at this point I vowed I would never own another Nokia product.

But seriously God-damn that’s one awesome looking gadget!

So any way, I’m thinking woot!  awesome new toy just around the corner, let’s have a look at it  on the Orange website.  Hmm, not on the phones coming soon page, strange you’d think they’d have made more of a fuss about such an important product.  So I checked The Feed (Faux corporate blog), one entry, answered with possibly the most insulting, patronising answer a marketing drone could muster. Not the type of coverage you’d expect for a device being hailed as the next big step in mobile technology.

Finally, feeling defeated I turned to google for my answers.  The answer I found has left me disappointed, and will probably lead to my changing my service provider.  Among its many features the N97 has integrated 3G Skype support, meaning it would allow owners to talk for an unlimited amount of time for free, anywhere in the world.  This is no doubt making many mobile service operators tremble as should it catch on it would ultimately negate international call charges.

Using orange as an example, to call Australia using an Orange mobile phone costs a whopping 49 pence per minute!  Any where in the rest of the world other than the US, Australia or Europe costs almost a pound a minute.   At the moment therefore calling abroad from a mobile would only ever be a final option.  Using a Voice over Internet Protocol such as Skype however places all locations under one price-band.  zero pence per minute.  That’s only short term as well.  Should this trend continue, as VoIP phones become more main stream we will eventually see all call charges for become a thing of the past.

This doesn’t really relate to me at the moment.  There is no-one I really need to call livng overseas who I really need to talk to, VoIP isn’t yet so popular that I can abandon regular calling.  That isn’t and should never be the point though.  My point is that a company who I Choose to patronise is refusing to provide me with a product I want, and am willing to pay for because it cannot dictate to me the way the product will be used.