One of my photos


February 24th, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Tonight I watched the latest Bond film on DVD. I had prepared for it by watching the previous Daniel Craig Bond films last week. It is undeniably spectacular, with lots of  things you would expect from a Bond film – car chases, boat chases, epic stunts, arch-villian set on world domination, secreat HQ for the arch-villain, etc. etc. but it still doesn’t entirely feel like a proper Bond film.

I think the reason is all to do with the way the franchise has gone since the re-boot. Previously the films were all self-contained. There were recurring characters, though they were often played by totally different actors, and recurring motifs, but no continuity of story. You could watch the first twenty Bond films in any order really, but from Casino Royale onwards the fims have been part of a longer story arc. You need to have watched Casino Royale to properly get Quantum of Solace, and so on.

Spectre tie them all together, when Blofeld admits to his involvement in events from the other films and this seems to be the way things are expected to be now. It is the same with Doctor Who where there are story arcs across a whole series. In a way it is quite ironic because we are always told how short our attention spans are these days and yet such franchises now rely on you remembering the events from earlier episodes.

I find it less satisfying because the climax of the film does not feel as climactic whe you know it is just the set-up for the next sequel. That is what spoiled Quantum of Solace for me: it felt like the whole purpose of the story was to get from Casino Royale to Skyfall rather than having its own story to tell – in other words it was the Star Trek III of the Bond franchise.

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plug in baby

February 23rd, 2016 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Technology

We are having an electric car event at work on Thursday. I am actually on holiday, but I might pop in anyway to have a look. There is a lot of this going on at the moment. The Town Hall has Nissan coming in to show their Leaf off, as is the business next to my own work.

The difference with our event is that it is not just one manufacturer coming in to try and flog their own stuff. We have Nissan, BMW and Tesla coming in as well as some electric racing car, and although I am sure they will try to push their own stuff there is supposed to be discussions about general principles like the provision of charging points.

For me it is really just an academic interest because I walk to work. For what it is worth I think that electric cars are impractical for most people because of the lack of infrastructure for charging, which is especially important if, like me, you only have unallocated on-street parking and thus no way to charge at home.

The tipping point will only come when we reach a point of over-provision of charging places. I know the Town Hall now has provision to charge four cars which is good, until it has five or more employees who regularly drive electric cars.

I will still try to turn up on Thursday though, just for the chance to have a good look at the Teslas, which is a bit sad really as their main UK site is less than a mile away and I could go there at any time.

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Ethical investment

December 16th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

It is all likely to kick off a bit in tomorrow’s council meeting because the Tories seem to be unhappy about the council’s proposed ethical investment policy.

The proposal is that, when we invest in corporate bonds (which we don’t very often. Most investment is with banks or lending to other councils) we don’t invest in companies that are involved in tobacco, pornography, gambling, payday loans or armaments. [Read more →]

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An Android Awakes

November 3rd, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life

An Android Awakes front cover

An Android Awakes front cover

An Andoid Awakes by Mike French and Karl Brown

This is a soon-to-be-published book (Nov 13th) which I had an advance reader copy of from the publishers.

Reading this book, the word that kept coming to mind was ‘kaleidoscope’, by which I mean those tube-like things we had as kids in the 60s where the arrangement of mirrors kept making completely new patterns out of the same elements. [Read more →]

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You, Me and the Apocalypse

October 2nd, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Despite its reputation for being all about Premier League footie and celebrity vehicles that sound like Alan Partridge came up with the idea, Sky have been knocking out some decent comedies over the last few years. Spy, Trollied, A Touch of Cloth, Moone Boy, Yonderland and Trying again were all series I enjoyed and other shows I didn’t watch (Stella, The Cafe, Mount PLeasant) have all had good reviews.

The latest comedy from Sky is You, Me and the Apocalypse. Terrible title, but very watchable on the evidence of the first episode.

The cast includes Rob Lowe and two actors familiar from other Sky comedies, Joel Fry (Trollied) and Matthew Baynton (Spy, Yonderland). I always enjoy Baynton, and not just because he is an Essex boy from Southend. He had a great supporting part in Spy, and not only starred in, but helped create The Wrong Mans and Yonderland. A very talented young man.

So I was a bit perplexed to see the show listed in several places as ‘starring Pauline Quirk’. Yes she is in it, but I can’t really see why anybody thinks that listing somebody who used to be not very good in a not very good sitcom ages ago would be more of a draw than somebody who was in Horrible Histories and played Ritchie Blackmore in a film, or the notorious Rob Lowe.

Anyway, the show is about the 34 days leading up to an asteroid striking the Earth, so I think that black comedy probably describes it well enough.

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I, Robert

September 30th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life

The hardback of I, Robert

The hardback of I, Robert

It is very rare that I buy actual paper books these days. Basically I just do not have the space for any more books. Instead I download e-books which is not the same experience but is much more convenient. The few ‘proper’ books I get are mostly proof copies from publishers or presents. If I am going to buy the paper version of a book it will normally be because there is something special about it like large illustrations that just are not the same on a Kindle.

In this case, the book is not actually available as an e-book as far as I know, but even if it was I think it is worth having in all its hardback glory. [Read more →]

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The Transporter

September 20th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life

I am getting a bit confused by how Channel 5 is treating the TV series of The Transporter. It is a TV show based on the films of the same name, Luc Besson is involved in the production, and it is a fairly high-budget show, about $40m for the first 12 episodes – high enough for location shooting in several different countries and for helicopters to feature sometimes. Also there are lots of expensive cars in it, though I suspect Audi may contribute quite a lot because the whole thing looks like an extended Audi advert sometimes.

The show is about three years old but has never been on UK TV before. What I don’t understand is why Channel 5 show it at 3 or 4 in the morning. That is the sort of timeslot for repeating a show, not for its only transmission. Of course, if you are recording on Tivo and watching at your convenience it makes no difference what time it is actually broadcast, but it just seems strange.

I’m not going to claim that Transporter is high art, but it is probably the only thing on Channel 5 I would want to watch. It is typical Luc Besson – very stylish and full of car chases and punch ups, but with fewer explosions and gunfights than his films have. The Frank Martin part is played by Chris Vance who plays it like he is in an extended audition for the part of James Bond. The only familiar face is Inspector Tarconi and introduction of his assistant, Carla, and mechanic, Dieter, either give it a bit of background detail or give it a slight soap opera feeling. For what it is, it is not bad.

On top of the transmission time, it is broadcast without any adverts in it. I’m pretty sure last week had no breaks at all, and this week it had breaks but only for trailers for other shows. There were no actual adverts. Channel 5 is a commercial channel that makes its money from advertising. Presumably this glossy series cost them something to buy the rights for it so what do they get out of broadcasting it in the small hours with no adverts?

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Under new management

September 16th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Politics

At work today…

Colleague: So what do you make of your new leader then?

Me: Brilliant! He seems to be delivering the goods. I wanted him in charge years ago, but he was all tied up with the Croatian national team… hang on. You mean Jeremy Corbyn don’t you?

I may not be the political anorak that my colleagues assume me to be.

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Even Tories are human

July 30th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

The television news for the last few days has been full of reports about the situation in Calais. What is really disconcerting about it all is the way the reporters, commentators and anchors manage to avoid using a certain word: people.

They always talk about ‘migrants’ doing this, and ‘migrants’ doing that. At no point do they ever refer to the migrants as people. It might seem like splitting hairs, but it feels like a concerted effort to de-humanise an entire group of people, which so often is what we do so that nobody kicks off too much when we do something bad to them.

The same thing happens with people who receive benefits. You won’t see them called ‘people who receive benefits’. They will be, at best, ‘benefit claimants’ but more usually ‘scroungers’, ‘skivers’ or worse. They are defined by one single thing. Even the Krays get better PR than that – they are defined by being a) gangsters and b) good to their mum.

It is a dangerous path to go down. Dehumanising individuals or groups never ends well, and defining people by one single characteristic or attribute to the exclusion of all others is the first step to dehumanising. I always feel a bit uncomfortable when people who inhabit the chatrooms, forums and newspaper comments start describing anybody as ‘animals’. There is always that unsaid, but implied, conclusion that we needn’t worry about due process or any other niceties because you only need to apply that to people.

How are we ever going to solve problems if we are continually being whipped up into a lynch mob mentality?

Even the dentist who shot Cecil the lion is a human being. Not a very nice one, obviously, and not deserving of any sympathy, but nevertheless still a human being.

Even Tories are human. There, I said it.

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Wordy Rappinghood

July 5th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Life

No matter how many times I read this I can’t make it make sense:

While the process was laborious, for, as is often the case, because the computer systems managers have specified don’t report data of this kind, it resulted in atitudinal changes amongst engineers.

I think you have to remove “for” and put the “because” there instead, and then insert “that” between “systems” and “managers” to fix the grammar. And then add PARKLIFE! to the end. Obviously.

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