Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Spectacular Spider-Man season two

Dunno when this starts but information for the episodes has been released. Unfortunately it's absolutely riddled with spoilers (really awful ones like the development of Peter's love life in lengthy detail) - so I'm reproducing them here with the really bad spoilers cut out. Word of warning though, it still includes spoilers for the end of season one, so if you haven't seen that yet, stop reading now!

If you really want to see the full descriptions (I recommend against this) they are here.

14 – Blueprints
It’s early December, and the first snow is falling. PETER PARKER has a long “To Do” list – leading off with talking to GWEN STACY about their surprise first kiss. But before he gets the chance, SPIDER-MAN has a run in with the sorcerer MYSTERIO.

15 - Destructive Testing
SPOILER CUT! Meanwhile, KRAVEN THE HUNTER has come to New York to make SPIDER-MAN his prey!

16 - Reinforcement
As Christmas approaches, the SINISTER SIX reconstitutes with SANDMAN, RHINO, VULTURE, ELECTRO and new members MYSTERIO and KRAVEN. All they want for Christmas is SPIDER-MAN – dead. SPOILER CUT!

17 - Shear Strength
It’s New Year’s Eve, and all is not right with world. The MASTER PLANNER and his henchmen are literally planning to take over the world! A highly motivated SPIDER-MAN takes the fight to the Planner’s secret lair. But once he gets there, can he survive?

18 - First Steps
School’s back in session, and things have changed. SPOILER CUT! Meanwhile, SPIDER-MAN has to party with SANDMAN, who’s once again looking to make his Big Score. And is that VENOM disappearing into the night?

19 - Growing Pains
VENOM is back and framing SPIDER-MAN. Meanwhile, alien spores infect JOHN JAMESON, increasing his size, strength and mass. J. JONAH JAMESON convinces his son to become a super-hero to capture Spidey…

20 - Identity Crisis

21 - Accomplices
A gang war looms as SILVER SABLE, HAMMERHEAD and DOCTOR OCTOPUS vie for a prize that could change the balance of power in the New York Underworld…

22 - Probable Cause
Some days, PETER PARKER just can’t win… especially when he winds up on a MIDTOWN HIGH police car ride-along with SALLY AVRIL. As SPIDER-MAN, his luck isn’t any better, facing off against SHOCKER, RICOCHET and OX, i.e. the NEW ENFORCERS.

23 - Gangland
SPOILER CUT! TOMBSTONE , DOCTOR OCTOPUS and SILVERMANE call a Valentine’s Day Summit . But SPOILER CUT! the summit erupts into a gang war – one only SPIDER-MAN can stop!

24 - Subtext
SPOILER CUT! MARK ALLAN. But when GREEN GOBLIN blackmails Mark into doing his bidding, neither LIZ ALLAN, MARY JANE WATSON nor SPIDER-MAN may be able to save him!

25 - Opening Night
To test security at the VAULT, SPIDER-MAN volunteers to try to escape. But the GREEN GOBLIN has other ideas, trapping Spidey inside RYKER’S amid a sea of felons he put away.

26 - Final Curtain

Friday, December 19, 2008

Weapons of Mass Distraction

Anyone else think that Labour is deliberately wasting the Tories' time by winding them up on matters like this which vitally matter but which they know the majority of the public doesn't understand or think affects them (and therefore don't particularly care about)? Which they then use as an excuse to attack the Tories for not caring about the economy.

I despair. I saw Andy Burnham say on TV that his interest was in seeing that Labour remain in power forever. It is almost astonishing that a minister would so openly admit that he puts the interests of his party before the interests of the country - except there's very little this utterly corrupt administration could astonish me with any more.

I'm not scared of you Bridget

Iain Dale reports that Bridget Prentice is planning on abusing her power to come down heavy on bloggers. Well, she is a mendacious conniving bitch.

Dizzee and Paxman

Dizzee Rascal thinks Jeremy Paxman treated him "like an idiot" on Newsnight, and the insinuation is that he was therefore being racist.

Actually no Dizzee, if you'd ever watched Newsnight before you'd know that Paxman treats every guest on the show like that, and the audience too. It's not just you.

Labour's blog problem

Guido Fawkes reports that high-ranking Labour people are navel-gazing again on the subject of creating a successful blogosphere that rivals its Conservative equivalent.

Labour is never going to find an equivalent to ConHome or Iain Dale in this top-down fashion, simply because that's not how either of those sites were started. These sites have found success in Britain because they are distinctive voices which demonstrate independence. On the one hand they are not directly interlinked with the mainstream media so they can fully demonstrate their leanings without having to worry about any particular commercial or legal or editorial interests, so the readers understand the perspective the writer comes from and is therefore informed enough to make their own minds up on an issue from the information presented to them. On the other hand, they're independent of the party so it's never a boring turgid party line (both often oppose Tory policy, and IDD occasionally welcomes certain actions of other parties including Labour).

And most importantly of all, neither blog attempts to copy an equivalent from its opposing party.

I suspect that once Labour is out of power, some real meaty left-leaning blogs will pop up down the line because (a believer in democracy hopes) there will be people with fresh ideas and a cause to fight for. But while they're in government it's going to be a lot harder for them to do that (especially given that unlike the Tories' wide appeal to the right, Labour has dozens of fringe hard-left alternatives to deal with). So the party should try doing something different - and it would have to be something that doesn't involve using taxpayers' money or launching puerile attacks on the Conservatives.

In fact Tom Harris's blog seems like a pretty good one. What a shame Gordon sacked him.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Product Updates

This may seem like the most schizophrenic blog ever at times. Please bear with me...

Diamond releases a list of product updates for comic books every week, detailing the most recent changes from the comic books' original solicitations. I give them a look every week, there's usually a few useful pieces of information, but this week's contains the most updates I've ever seen, all from Marvel.

Among the highlights:

• Models Inc. (#1: DEC08 2383, #2: JAN09 2521, $3.99 ea.) is cancelled and will be resolicited in 2009.

I wonder what happened here. Were orders beneath Marvel's expectations? ($3.99 an issue for a totally unknown quantity was a bit much to ask, I think. And they should probably have been a little more upfront about Mary Jane's involvement in the book, or its continuity status, which for some readers is apparently the most important thing in the world...)

• Amazing Spider-Man Extra #2 (NOV08 2359, $3.99) will no longer contain the Phil Jimenez Kraven story. Instead, the page count of the previously solicited Anti-Venom story will increase.

That means more of Dan Slott, which isn't something I can complain about. (The Kraven story shifts into ASME #3 in March.) I wonder why they're putting so many of these out; #3 has been scheduled in place of a regular issue in March, but these specials aren't as successful as the ongoing series has been...

• The Eternals TP Vol. 1: To Slay a God (DEC08 2461, $19.99) will no longer contain Eternals Annual #1, and will run 144 pages, not 184 pages.

And the Marvel TPB ripoff continues.

• The Captain Britain and MI 13 TP Vol. 01: Secret Invasion (Reg./Direct Mkt. Eds.: DEC08 2447-8D) will be $15.99 and 136 pages, not $16.99 with 96 pages, and will now also contain Marvel Team-Up #65-#66.

Thus resolving probably the most controversial solicitation in recent memory, although I don't know if sticking extra reprint material in there is necessarily a good thing (I don't like the mix-and-matching), although this is a good one. Wish they'd just go ahead and reprint the entire Claremont/Byrne MTU run actually, it's truly wonderful stuff that most people don't know about.

• Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four (NOV08 2461D) – solicited as running 144 pages and containing Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four #1-#3; Fantastic Four #300 and #357 at a price of $14.99 – will now run 192 pages and contain Fantastic Four #358, in addition to the aforementioned contents, at a price of $16.99.

Now this just takes the biscuit. The original three-issue series would have cost a consumer $9 in total. Stick in two vaguely-related Skrull stories and it's worth about double that? Er, right. In fact with that there is more reprint material in that book than there is the main series itself. What a joke!

• The Secret Invasion TP: Home Invasion (NOV08 2462, $14.99) will be 120 pages, not 104 pages.

Nothing interesting to note here except that this is the future of comic book distribution - online first (in this case, for free!), then collected as though an original graphic novel. Fingers crossed that Marvel will try more of this distribution format in the near future (although to be honest, what little I saw of it wasn't very good, but that's an editorial problem rather than a format one).

• The Wolverine TP First Class Vol. 2: To Russia with Love (NOV08 2473, $15.99) will be 160 pages, not 168 pages, and will also contain Wolverine and Power Pack #1.

Quite the bizarre addition. The Weapon X First Class solicitation is a bit weird too. I don't like this mixing-and-matching business, just do straightforward sequential collections so people can buy the ones they want and not wind up being forced to buy the same material twice!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Mike Smithson off the telly has posted at his site Political Betting that he thinks Gordon is cutting down on his PMQs sittings (both by reducing parliamentary sitting time and by avoiding it by visiting other countries) and that he thinks this is constitutionally dangerous because PMQs are a key instrument in the PM's accountability.

I'm not entirely convinced this is the case - he missed, I think, four PMQs events in 2008, although he didn't actually miss any during his first six months (when things were going pretty easy for him). What I mean is that under Brown, PMQs has become a half hour of bashing the Tories and Tory policy at every available opportunity (and shoehorning even more in). Brown doesn't actually answer any questions from opposition politicians and uses the vast majority of his response time (on live, terrestrial TV) to propagandise against the Conservatives. Where does accountability come into that?

Meanwhile Brown is instead in Iraq, shamelessly abusing the army in an effort to appeal to the masses. This time he's set a date for Iraq withdrawl - after the suggested spring election. (Yes, I am now convinced they are preparing for a spring election, but this time Labour insiders are sensible enough to shut up about it. Another example here; having been threatening to wreck my friend's life for twelve weeks, they have realised that alienating voters at that particular time might not be such a great idea.) It doesn't have anything to do with the job being done (it isn't; we have a duty to protect Iraq's citizens after the shambles we made of the occupation) it's just being opportunistic. Hopefully he will chicken out of a spring election and this will bite him in the arse.

And what would the soldiers be coming back to? Either redeployment to Afghanistan, or a nasty recession (just as WWI veterans did). Plus a disgusting lack of public sentiment (thanks for nothing, Polly Toynbee).

Friday, December 12, 2008


Manchester has voted resoundingly against the congestion charge.

Sensible enough given that c-charges don't actually combat congestion (usually making it worse), the scheme was wholly impractical for that city (40 mile wide radius or something bonkers like that) and Manchester doesn't even have congestion! Manchester does have a crap road system though, not fit for purpose, they don't even have ROUNDABOUTS there.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ed Balls' Henry II moment

At Paul Waugh's blog, I am reminded of the assassination of Thomas Becket:

It turns out that the Secretary of State had jokingly told aides that the launch of this week's new Government Play Strategy would be a good excuse to get a Scalextric into the Christmas party.

Unfortunately, or fortunately for us, by the time this was passed down the line, some civil servants took the joke literally - and managed to get the firm to provide one of their racing car sets for free for the night.

Perhaps this also explains how Damian Green was arrested...

Crash Gordon

He has delusions of grandeur. He plays the worst sort of politics. He believes that only he can save the world. He is incapable of thinking on his feet.

He is Nixon.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


We all carry our mobile phones with names & numbers stored in its memory. If we were to be involved in an accident or were taken ill, the people attending us would have our mobile phone but wouldn't know who to call. Yes, there are hundreds of numbers stored but which one is the contact person in case of an emergency? Hence this 'ICE' (In Case of Emergency) Campaign.

The concept of 'ICE' is catching on quickly. It is a method of contact during emergency situations. As mobile phones are carried by the majority of the population, all you need to do is store the number of a contact person or persons who should be contacted during emergency under the name 'ICE' (In Case Of Emergency). The idea was thought up by a paramedic who found that when he went to the scenes of accidents there were always mobile phones with patients but they didn't know which number to call.

He therefore thought that it would be a good idea if there was a nationally recognised name for this purpose. In an emergency situation, Emergency Service personnel and hospital Staff would be able to quickly contact the right person by simply dialling the number you have stored as 'ICE'. Please forward this. It won't take too many 'forwards' before everybody will know about this. It really could save your life, or put a loved one's mind at rest. For more than one contact name simply enter ICE1, ICE2 and ICE3 etc.

UK comic prices

Diamond UK is raising comic prices by roughly 15% this week due to the collapse in the value of the pound.

Here's why. Thanks for nothing, Gordon.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008

Jacqui Smith is a hypocrite

She seems to believe that there's one rule law for ministers like her and a different one for everyone else. If she didn't, she would be asking the police why they've arrested Damian Green and why they haven't arrested her own boss for the same supposed offence. If she didn't, she wouldn't have gone publicly on television to tell everyone how wonderfully straightforward and honest she is for admitting she smoked cannabis in her university days (seemingly to present a contrast with David Cameron who rightly doesn't want to talk about the matter, wanting neither to lie nor demonstrate contempt of the rule of law). She is a hypocrite and unfit for the office of Home Secretary.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Mugabe-esque arrest of Damian Green

I find it utterly astonishing that, beyond denying all involvement (yeah right!), the government has not made any comment on this.

Meanwhile, it's been confirmed that counter-terrorism police have confiscated documents and computers from Green's Commons offices. There goes the confidentiality of all his constituents then, along with perhaps the confidentiality the rest of us entrust in our MPs, whose files can apparently be arbitrated by the police on a whim. Bastards.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

George Osborne

Osborne's response to the PBR was brilliant, a defining moment for him (and this along with Harman's first turn at PMQs proves that a good parliamentary performance can change everything). He is the shining beacon of hope in a valley of economic gloom and despair - the likelihood that someone as intelligent and sensible as him will be Chancellor in just over a year's time provides me with the thinnest glimmer of hope that things might turn out okay.

And then I remember how much damage the Labour party intends to do before then. Scorched earth, indeed...

Monday, November 24, 2008

45% on the highest earners would lead to 1978 madness

Anyone who knows anything about economics knows this is an unworkable policy from a man who knows he can't win the next election, so he's putting Labour on full-on damage limitation mode by appealing directly to the left and the "class war" types in the strongest possible terms. Tomorrow, David Cameron must clearly point out that the man who doth protest so loudly at his opponent's supposed "party politics" is the most tribalistic leader to ever inhabit Downing Street.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Oh my god! Will people please stop going on about Boris Johnson using the word "piccaninnies" in an article. The fact is, he used it in the exact same context the critics are using it: to describe someone else as being vaguely racist. In his case, it was Tony Blair. However, the difference between he and the critics is that instead of repeatedly bashing Blair over the head with it, he focused on his work and ascended to the job of Mayor of London.

Pull the other one

Today, Gordon Brown said he was "not thinking about anything related to internal politics".

LOL! He never thinks about anything ELSE. He frames every political decision he makes around how best to boost himself and damage the Tories.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Eureka! (Light bulb)

The regular 60 watt light bulb is being phased out in lieu of the newer "environmentally friendly" low-energy bulbs, purely at the insistence of the European parliament (not for any commercial reasons, just because they like interfering in people's lives). But my mum says the new things flicker and give her migraines. So, fearful that she soon won't be able to get them any more, she has stocked up on the old-style 60 watt and 100 watt bulbs and filled two shelves of a cupboard with them.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Screenwipe review

Oh man... that was the worst Screenwipe ever. I wondered if the show might have a shelf life, has it run out? The Brand/Ross item was the most imbalanced one-sided diatribe I've seen on the subject (the BBC should be ashamed really), it ignored the three most pertinent facts: it was an abusive personal attack on a private individual (so much for it being 'edgy comedy'), if anyone in any other walk of life had done it at their workplace they would expect to be sacked immediately (so much for overreaction), and the papers needed something a bit lighthearted to draw readers in during the sustained economic doom and gloom that have been dominating the headlines over the past few months.

This was followed by a rubbish poem from some bloke I'd never heard of about the same subject and the "overreaction". We then got five minutes of footage of Paul Ross reading from a book (or possibly autocue), occasionally overnarrated by Charlie Brooker making fun of him by pretty much just saying "he's just reading from a book".

Admittedly this led into a decent item about budget cuts in tv but overall it was a bitter disappointment that a show so fine has become something so poor. Oh, and Brooker has put on too much weight as well. (So has Liza Tarbuck...)

How not to interview, part 2

Gordon Brown's latest line of attack is that the Tories are being "partisan" on matters supposedly too important, which is not only rubbish (as if to question his policies is a partisan matter? Isn't that the entire point of having an opposition?) but also utterly hypocritical - is Gordon Brown physically capable of giving an interview in which he doesn't veer off on a bizarre tangent specifically to attack the Tories?

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Judging by the first ten minutes of I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, those MEPs who raised their concerns about Robert Kilroy-Silk using the show to canvass support, to their own detriment... should forget it. The idiot won't shut up.

(Although their complaints of him abusing office seems unfair - according to Kilroy, these three weeks of leave are his first holiday in the whole year.)

Incidentally, Brian Paddick is "fed up of being taken too seriously". Um, I don't think that's really your problem, Brian...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Random incoherent thought for the day

I was just reading Cramner on how Prince Charles wants to be known as "Defender of Faith" (ungh) when he becomes King, and the phrasing of one of his questions struck me. "And does he not also feel obliged to be King to those of an atheist persuasion?", Cramner asks.

But why are atheists considered to have no faith? Most of them adamantly believe that there is no god, no afterlife, etc.

While it's unprovable that such things exist, it's equally unprovable that they don't. Those of us stuck in the middle here are usually known as agnostics, or so I understood anyway.

Atheism is a faith. It's a belief. And I suspect many of them would be horrified to realise that they believe in something...

Colbert goes Marvel.

For the benefit of non-US readers (and that includes me!):

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shove this up your pipe and smoke it

Marvel collected editions decidey people (like you're even reading), listen up. You're missing out on a golden opportunity here. You have a nice little back catalogue of Brian K Vaughan X-Men comics that you haven't collected into TPBs because sales sucked the first time round.

So. Now that he's big and famous and all. How about making one sensible-sized volume out of the lot of them? X-MEN VISIONARIES: BRIAN K VAUGHAN, featuring the as-yet uncollected X-MEN ICONS: CYCLOPS and X-MEN ICONS: CHAMBER miniseries, his story from X-MEN UNLIMITED #22, the X2 WOLVERINE PREQUEL (preferably with Vaughan's own dialogue reinstated on the Wolverine book - an issue he complains about on his web site) and hey, why not throw FCBD RUNAWAYS/X-MEN in there as well!

It'd make for a great package (especially if you use Jo Chen's RXM cover on the front) and despite the somewhat unsuccessful nature of those mini-series BKV obviously has big "name value" in the graphic novel business now (hence DC putting out that Batman/Wonder Woman book for no other reason). Marvel's sitting on a pot of gold there!


"...thinking as a conservative that gay marriage is wrong..."

That's not a conservative opinion. That's an authoritarian opinion. Banning gay marriage actually undermines the entire concept of marriage. Denial of reality is not what conservatism is about (although obviously some "conservatives" seem to feel otherwise) and reality is that some men like other men, and some women like other women, and a true conservative would surely want society to support those men and women who wish to formally and legally commit to their life partners rather than unwillingly existing in the narrow culture of promiscuity which is all too often used as a blunt instrument of propaganda to attack homosexuals with.

And as far as the religious side of the argument goes, that's for each individual religion to decide. The state does not dictate who the church is allowed to marry (and by that same coin you'd hope it would work the other way round as well).

Friday, November 7, 2008

On Obama's win

Clarence B Jones, of all people, put into words what has bugged me most about the US Presidential Campaign. Now I do like Obama, but I think McCain was an equally good candidate (and in some ways better) and I feel like he never got a fair crack at the whip in this election, that he restrained himself against his Democrat opponent because of the racial divide (and of course, even worse, he got tarred with the Bush brush, which given what happened in the 2000 primaries is deeply ironic in the most awful way possible) to the point where at one point he was even defending his opponent in the face of criticism (some say too little too late, but has that EVER happened in a US Presidential election before?).

What Clarence B Jones (Martin Luther King's speechwriter - yeah, I noticed that too) said was that this was a referendum on race. And I do feel like a lot of people saw it that way (including, I suspect, many of the people who voted in it), and if that were the case then the right side definitely won. But it wasn't a referendum on race - it was actually a contest for the most powerful position on Earth, at a time when the financial world is in turmoil, the economy both at home and abroad is slumping and the country is deep in the middle of two very difficult wars. Obama's protectionist policies won't help the economy, his record on the wars is patchy at best, and frankly he has fewer policies than David Cameron (who hasn't even fought an election yet!). I feel resentful about the way he has been almost blindly elevated to the top, no questions asked. There are things to worry about the new President-elect - but his oratory skills, his character, and most definitely his race do not fall into that category.

And actually, the most appalling derivative of the notion that Jones describes is that anyone who voted for John McCain was voting against the idea of a black President. While I'm sure there are some awful people in America to whom black people should be seen and not heard (and for that matter only seen mowing their lawn, licking their shoes and having whips cracked at them), I refuse to believe they constitute the full 48% of the electorate that voted for McCain. In fact looking at the overall number this represents a 6% swing from Republican to Democrat over four years. Does that change really justify the mass hysteria we see at the moment? Is it even a resounding victory for the "referendum on race"?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Really, BBC?


You couldn't find a single Republican celebrity who'd talk to you? And yet you quoted all these Obama supporters, four of whom I'd never heard of?

I'm pretty sure Kelsey Grammer is still a McCain supporter... and that he's more famous than at least four of these so-called celebrities...

Speaking of media weirdness, why is ITV2 showing episodes of the talk show "Sally Jessy Raphael" that were filmed in 1992? Aren't the issues sixteen years out of date? And more to the point, who on earth is watching it?

Update - turns out it was a clip show. But a clip show made in 2002 (the year this show ENDED) all the same. The rest of ITV2's daytime schedule: Jeremy Kyle (double bill), Ricki Lake (ended 2004), Montel Williams (ended this year), Judge Judy (triple bill in the morning, double bill in the evening). Who the hell watches this stuff?

Update II - This Week just broadcast live from New York, they had four studio guests on and every single one was an Obama supporter. What was the point of even going there?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Gordon cannot be allowed to bask in the glory of Help For Heroes

I just saw the X Factor start with Gordon Brown praising its charity single in aid of Help For Heroes, and the hosts thanking him for dropping VAT on sales of the CD.

The charity Help For Heroes would not be remotely necessary though, if Gordon had not worked completely against the military covenant during his eleven years in Downing Street, failing soldiers by cutting funding for their healthcare, equipment and housing, among many other necessities. The charity only exists because the situation has simply become that dire.

So Gordon must not be allowed to bask in the glory of someone else's initiative - especially when it's yet another disaster of his own making.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Insulting your customers

Thirteen cabin crew staff have been sacked by Virgin Atlantic over their use of a social networking website, it has emerged.

It launched disciplinary action last week following claims staff had used Facebook to criticise its safety standards and call passengers "chavs".

It's a shame such standards aren't applied to the BBC, where complainers are routinely dismissed as "old", "kneejerk", "Daily Mail readers".

And, indeed, where no one is ever sacked.

Jonathan Ross will be filled in for on Radio 2 by...

George Lamb.

You couldn't make it up.

Edit - this doesn't seem to be the case any more... it was reported on last night's BBC News at Ten, but it doesn't seem to have been reported anywhere else. This morning's edition appears to be fronted by someone called Richard Allinson. Maybe someone realised what they were doing...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Guest blog: Ed Reynolds (2 of 2)

The US campaign is very frustrating to me.

Eight years ago, McCain hobbled out of the GOP primaries utterly disspirited with politics after one of the most savage and shameful campaigns in modern history -- you know, the one where the bully-boys bankrolled by Bush 41 spread it about that McCain had a 'black baby' (the kid he adopted) and that he was mentally unstable after his incarceration. I don't think he expected to run again and I'm sort of surprised that he has.

I don't agree with McCain on a slew of issues from the EU to abortion rights but I do think he would have made a decent president once. His judgment on the surge was impeccable, and he think his views are in general more reasonable than it's prudent for him to say. As a one-term president, not accountable to a party machine, or even a two-term president bold enough to try and forge a personal following that would allow him to give two fingers to the corrupt party machine -- lot of potential.

But it's creepy to see him now in the pocket of these people who slandered him, these people who behind close doors utterly despise him, paid for by a sitting president who has more than once used him as a punchline. I just kind of wish now they'd chosen one of the suicide candidates like Huckabee. The party deserves to melt down, it deserves to have to rethink itself from first principles and see Bush's fiscal irresponsibility and social tub-thumping as the cause of its ills.

Instead, McCain will lose the election by being 8 years late, the lesson most likely won't be learnt. And I think Obama will win.

Now, Obama in office doesn't fill me with enthusiasm. I think it will be great for America's self-confidence to have a black president and put some sense of closure on a history of terrible race relations in America; it sounds airy-fairy, but confidence and optimism are powerful things particularly in a depression when gloom can breed caution and caution can breed more gloom.

But as far as I can tell his economic policies suck. A windfall tax on oil -- watch as the companies pass this straight onto consumers; effectively, it's a tax on the poorest disguised as a tax on the richest. He plans reforms to make America more protectionist -- a catastrophe. His labour initiatives sound great in a recession but will discourage employers from employing and expanding and so will worsen the downturn. Roosevelt managed to kickstart a short-term revival in the 30s with tax and spend but the "spend" has just been spent and I don't think "tax" is a great stimulus package. Besides, what ultimately cured the US under FDR was WW2 bolstering the army hugely while acting as a global advert for American products.

My expectations are low, but I just hope he seizes the mantle on social issues and gets a good shot at some Supreme Court nominations so he can secure abortion rights for the next generation.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Guest blog: Ed Reynolds (1 of 2)

Gordon Brown has declared that he must act with "vision and courage" (no really) to end "The Age of Irresponsibility".

But Gord, who was it who:
- Put taxes up to record levels.
- Borrowed at record amounts (10-figures).
- Presided over a boom built on debt (10-figures).
- Has the biggest budget deficit in the G8 and almost all the developed world.
- Sold our gold reserves at the bottom of the market.
- Taxed to oblivion the pension fund which in '97 had more than the rest of Europe put together, sending many private funds broke and leaving people destitute in retirement.
- Clobbered students.
- Masked unemployment by rapidly expanding the size of the state, put everyone on final-salary pensions worth 5x that of those in the private sector.
- Spent the fund to pay public sector pensions!

It's unbelievable to me that he's got away with this. Well, now of course, it's too late. He hasn't just spent the money, but he's spent the money for nearly a century to come.

Just think about the enormity of that. Everything of value he's cashed in; every bill he's shoved under the mat for the next guy.

He's hardwired poverty into the British national DNA for generations.

Bush is nearly as bad -- his only saving grace is that at least the American stock market grew under him so there was some money being generated to make up for the money he was pissing up the wall; and he offered a timely tax rebate. But he's carried on like a big government maniac on his tinpot projects to socially engineer a country full of right little Bushes and Dicks.

See, suddenly everyone is talking sagely in revential tones about the failure of the free market. No. This is on governments.

We expect bankers to behave like, well, complete bankers because that's their job to be ruthless to generate money -- money which as well as lining their bonuses also ultimately pays for health and education and so on. I didn't see the Senate Banking Committee grumble as they were cut all those hefty cheques for their election campaigns from the mortgage giants. Nor did I see the Senate Banking Committee tapping their generous benefactors on the shoulder and saying "oi, oi" BEFORE the thing collapsed. I'm sure of course, that bail-out they arrange for their benefactors is going to be quite the slap on the wrist...

But obviously everyone screams "regulate!" as though this is a magic bullet.

Regulating the market into oblivion didn't help after Enron -- it just pushed business out of the USA. Gordon Brown's corpulent FSA, in eye-poppingly lush Canary Wharf offices, do nothing but regulate. Their last go at "pensions simplification" increased the size of the rulebook. But did it do any good? No -- our stockmarket has more or less flatlined for the last 11 years.

The FSA spent millions on thousand-page rulebooks but still couldn't tell Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley that 100% mortgages are a colossally stupid idea.

The problem is the culture, the lack of integrity, the "spend today, worry tomorrow" attitude and that comes from the top, from both Bush (where are the GOP's budget hawks?!) and Brown.

The free market works because bad businesses fail and good businesses survive. Regulation, which will clobber everyone, is counter-productive and largely pointless without a culture of integrity and responsibility from those at the top. It's for the government to say, in effect, "you break it, you buy it" way ahead of time.

When people actually carry the can for their failures, it concentrates the mind wonderfully.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen... drive-through voting.

From Yahoo:
SANTA ANA, Calif. – There were no burgers, car washes or lattes at this Orange County drive-through — just democracy.

Eager voters pulled their vehicles into the county registrar's parking lot on Monday to either register or cast ballots at an electronic drive-through poll station.

The one-day-only offer came on the last day of voter registration for Californians. Only Orange County was offering the drive-through electronic voting service.

Some registrar offices across the state held late-night hours and set up drop boxes to receive voter registration forms before the midnight deadline.

Orange County Registrar Neal Kelley noted that voter registration is up 15 percent in Orange County from four years ago, and the electronic early voting was a chance to lessen the crowds next month.

"I know it is going to be busy as heck," he said of Election Day. "We're preparing for heavy turnout."

Although Kelley said he believes the drive-through is the first one to use electronic voting, the concept of casting ballots from a driver's seat is not new to California or the nation.

Sonoma County, for example, has long had a drive-up window where voters can drop paper ballots. A town in Vermont offered the same opportunity in 2006.

In Riverside County, voters can cast ballots this month from a roving "votemobile" that is traveling across the area.

An observation

Gordon Brown, so they tell us, is the man to steer us through a crisis. But he was absolutely hopeless when we weren't in a crisis, and when we were simply on the verge of one. It's therefore in Gordon's interest for Britain to constantly be in crisis. (In fact during the YEAR between the collapse of Northern Rock and this current financial crisis he failed to legislate ANY financial regulatory reform which could have prevented the hole from becoming so big - presumably he was too busy "surviving from one fortnight to the next".) Is this really something we as a nation can sustain, for the sake of one man's ego? Wouldn't it be better for all of us to have leaders who can keep us from getting us into a mess in the first place?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How not to interview

See this interview with Brian K. Vaughan. (File size approximately 60MB.)

Midway through the interview, artist Pia Guerra appears and Vaughan pushes the microphone in her direction so she can answer some of the questions. However the interviewer virtually ignores her throughout the rest of his interview with Vaughan, pretty much shutting her out. He doesn't ask her a single direct question, and doesn't even include her on "what are you working on now", to which I'm sure she would have screamed "DOCTOR WHO!!!".

I've met Pia Guerra before and she's an absolute chatterbox. That guy could have asked her anything and she'd have given him great value for money. Personally I was disappointed he made such poor use of her time.

It's a great disservice to the industry that most of these "comic book media" types seem only interested in the writing and don't really have a clue what to ask the people who actually do 90% of the work in them. It gravely concerns me that this may simply be the attitude of comics fans in general...

And if that isn't bad enough, they don't even spell "Vaughan" correctly in the headline. How unprofessional can you get?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Was devolution constitutional?

When Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were devolved, in each case the referendum was put to each individual country, rather than the United Kingdom as a whole. Yet, as we have since seen, this is a matter that affects the whole of the UK rather than just each individual country - so why was it never put to the people of England? Particularly given the wafer-thin majority it won by in Wales...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Where's the wally?

hint: he's the only one facing the camera, wondering if he's ruined that guy's shot... (click for bigger)

Courtesy of the wonderful D'Israeli.


I finally caught up with the first two issues of this.

I can't figure out whether Terry Moore is a bit of a mismatch for this series; despite his credentials as an artist these issues are suspiciously verbose. Most of issue 2 is just an interrogation. Still, he does deliver a strong degree of intimacy with the characters, and he's plentiful with the cultural gags the series is reknowned for.

Anyway, the big selling point for this new volume of Runaways, for me, is Humberto Ramos' artwork, and he doesn't disappoint. This guy is absolutely a perfect match for this series, and after a few kinks in the first issue, he absolutely nails the right amount of energy, pathos and humour for each moment, ably assisted by inker Dave Meikis and the awesome colourist Christina Strain (the only one who remains from the very first volume of Runaways).

I'm cautiously optimistic about where the series is heading. Dunno why they had to restart the series again though; the latest issue (#2) is actually the fiftieth issue of Runaways (not counting Runaways/X-Men, or the two Runaways/Young Avengers crossovers). Some anniversary!

Monday, October 13, 2008

E-mails from the agents of comic book writers...

First, from the agent of the very well-known Stan Lee to the less well-known web site:
So I once more politely declined Stan's request for money (via his agent, Roger).
"We" are a bunch of guys who love Spidey. The site is 100% non-commercial and generates zero revenue.
Look, don't take this the wrong way. But much as I love Stan, I don't love him enough to give him money out of my own pocket. There are far more worthy charities out there.
Roger's reply was:
It's clear you don't get the intention of this web cast. It's not a charity. Some of the more savvy fans and dealers understand that this is Stan's way of getting closer to his fans in the Web 2.0 media.
They are gathering together in a semi-private audience with one of the top 100 brilliant people on earth (who else do you know who has 5 feature films in production) and count it a privilege. If you don't want to sponsor that for you and your clients-fine. You lose.
And secondly, from the self-proclaimed future superstar Chau van Truong to the completely unknown Chris Weston:

"It is I, CHAU VAN TRUONG, who ask you to illustrate COPYCAT & THE NAISA MAFIA into a comic book format. I like to get unknown or aspiring talents an opportunity to do something great, to be part of history, and to grab fame internationally in these stories which will soon be feature films. You don't have to believe me and I do not care. There will be no payment until I personally approve of your drawings. If a contract is made, I will contact my entertainment attorney, MARK STEINBERG, to draw it up for you. Do not ask ALEX NGUYEN for compensation when you might not even be picked to be part of this great endeavor."
More fun past the links...

Spider-Girl is cancelled again! But not really...

I'm getting nostalgic. We haven't had one of these for a while! From Tom DeFalco...
All good things come to an end and that includes AMAZING SPIDER-GIRL.

I was informed earlier this week that our last issue will be AMAZING SPIDER-GIRL #30.

On the good news front, there is talk that Spider-Girl will become a regular 16-paged feature in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN FAMILY. (I've been told conflicting things about MR & MRS so I don't know if that feature will continue.)

To those who predicted that SPIDER-GIRL would never last, you were right. (You were off by a little over 11 years, but you were right.)

I'll give you guys more news as I hear it.
Meanwhile, on Tom Brevoort's blog:
I’m not sure whether we’re going to be offering a subscription to FAMILY just yet, but we’ve been talking about the possibility of having the book come out monthly, and if that were to happen, the odds for it getting a subscription push would improve.
So I presume the idea here is to get the readers who were paying $2.99 a month for Spider-Girl to move over to Amazing Spider-Man Family and pay $4.99 a month for a slightly shorter version of the same thing (plus other Spider-Man material).

Overall it's a smart way of resolving the "Spider-Girl dilemma": a choice between publishing this unprofitable book every month or risking a small internet community going into a massive sulk. (Mind you, having gone through last year's reaction to ONE MORE DAY, that probably isn't high on their list of concerns any more.)

(NB. Spider-Girl was relaunched as "Amazing Spider-Girl" after #100, so the title has actually run a whopping 130 issues. It's never been a big hit, has always languished at the bottom of the charts, and been announced as cancelled at least three times before - but revived every time, usually in light of a heated internet-based fan campaign.)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Why is Gordon laughing?!?

Meeting Russell T Davies (warning: contains deeply unflattering photograph)

That went by a lot more quickly than I expected - I needn't have bothered turning up half an hour early, I could have popped along at 1pm and been in and out in half an hour. (I suspect that the requirement to buy the £25 book put a lot of people off - lucky I got it as a birthday present last week!) Still I met a nice young lady in the queue, we chatted about RTD's various works, the book, and her favourite show Torchwood (?!) before she had to dash back to HBOS of all places - to be honest I'd expected to be waiting a lot longer, I was quite underwhelmed with the brevity of the hour-and-a-half wait!

Russell T Davies was bubbly and charming - he looks about fifteen years younger in real life! The camera really does pile on the years. I blurted out (lacking the time to say the million profound things I'd learned from or wondered about his many works) that I loved his cartoons in the book, and that he could have had the career as a comic book artist he'd wanted in his teenage years. I think he was pleased with that(!) Benjamin Cook was also very nice, I told him how much I'd been enjoying the book (so much that I missed Sarah Jane the other day!), he says they might be doing another one(!), and he almost stole my camera!

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Writer's Tale

I meant to do other stuff today but spent all the daylight hours devouring this gorgeous book. And then holding myself back because I don't want to run out of fresh stuff to read in it. It's simply magnificent, far from the fluffy vanity project you might expect for this kind of thing, it's a proper 500-page tome that gives you a genuine insight into the writing process (a little pet hobby of mine), the day-to-day trevails of running a show like DOCTOR WHO, and the life and (incredibly filthy) mind of its writer Russell T. Davies. The presentation is perfect; it's just a raw series of e-mails between Davies and the book's editor, interspersed with script extracts (usually as part of the e-mails) from virtually every stage of the writing process (including deleted scenes such as the origin of Davros!), production notes, screen captures, on-set pictures (all on glossy paper), and - best of all - lots and LOTS of Davies' own cartoons, all of which are BRILLIANT! He mentions at one point (I can't remember where, I've flicked up and down this book so many times that I've no idea where anything is in it) that he was dead set on a career as a cartoonist for Marvel or DC when he was a teenager, but was turned off the idea when his careers advisor told him he had no chance because he was colour blind (?!?) - a grave error judging by his work in this book, which is largely of a professional standard; he clearly has a great mind for visual cues. In fact I'd love to see what he'd do with a full-fledged comic book product (either writing or drawing it!).

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK. RRP £30, but Amazon offers it for about fifteen quid (at time of writing, anyway). Don't wait for the paperback, it needs that hard cover. The two authors are signing across the country next week. I've barely even read very much of it but I already know it's a wonderful product, well worth having.

UPDATE: you can read a fifty (!!!) page extract HERE.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Giant-Sized Band Thing

Featuring Liam Sharp, Phil Winslade, Charlie Adlard and Paul H Birch.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Lord Baron Mandelson

Has the world gone mad? Brown hates that guy. In fact, everybody does. Still he was, we are told, instrumental in Labour's 1997 victory. Doesn't this just smack of desperation?

And who's going to replace him as EU Commissioner? Gordon surely doesn't want to risk a by-election given his state in the polls? But who else is there he could appoint? Blair is surely out of the question. I hear Tamsin Dunwoody is out of a job. Baroness Ashton's got it. That was a close one. ;)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Broadcast reaction

I've got to say the BBC's local regional TV news coverage (Midlands Today) has been absolutely glowing for the Tory conference, they are absolutely bursting with pride (rightly) that it's being held in Birmingham (just up the canal from their studio), it contrasts well with their national news coverage - what a pity Midlands Today is not broadcast nationwide!

ITV's Central News was similarly thrilled about the £20m just one week of conference has thrust into the Brum economy - what a pity half their staff are being axed thanks to the government's moves against regional broadcasting...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Instant speech reaction

A perfectly tailored, wide-ranging speech in a perfectly chosen venue. Hit all the right notes. Serious and straightforward without being dull. The funny lines were few and far between but were genuinely humorous and perfectly timed. It contrasted well with the vacuous diatribes given by party leaders last week and the week before. It was clear that everyone in that enormous hall was impressed.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

NHS waste

Why is the NHS broadcasting television adverts (in the middle of a highly watched show like the Simpsons, of all things) for a free cervical cancer jab for female year eight students given that they're going to get them whether they ask for them or not? What is the point of it? Am I missing something or is this just a collossal waste of taxpayers' money which could have been spent on, say, cleaning the wards, or several extra nurses? Or if they don't care for such things, a reduction in the national debt, or tax cuts...

Monday, September 29, 2008

David Davis and Tory Conference in Birmingham

Today I had the pleasure of seeing David Davis MP take on an audience (and Iain Dale) for a good hour or so at the Freedom Zone. With his by-election long over now I wonder what the future holds for this man. It seems like a criminal waste of his phenomenal talents and energy to leave him languishing on the backbenches, for the sake of political convenience, when Britain is clearly on the brink of economic and social disaster and will need the best possible team to lead it to the forefront of the 21st century in the event of a Conservative election victory. It also feels bizarre that someone who came second in the most recent leadership contest is not in the ministerial team at all (I suppose the same could be said of Labour's John McDonnell, but he was barely even a runner-up - and it was hardly fought on what one could call an honourable basis). Anyway he seemed to please most of the audience, even though half of them wanted to talk more about the EU than civil liberties (there were a few refreshingly distinct voices such as the woman at the end who talked about her lost confidence in politicians and how she might regain them if someone of "principle" such as Davis became part of a government).

The Conservative conference is completely cordened off and surrounded by police; with it being bang in the middle of the city I can't help but wonder how they expect locals to react. In order to attend you have to have been a party member for at least three months and even then it costs something like £200 to attend (unless booked far in advance). Andrew Mitchell mentioned a "conference extra" for the plebs on the regional broadcast but I never saw anything of the sort (unless he meant the external fringe events, but since those aren't organised by the Tories (that I know of) they can't claim credit to them! Not being a badge-holder or, for all I know, a member*, I spent my few hours there in the Freedom Zone but felt distinctly underdressed in my polo shirt and jeans, while everyone else (except Guido Fawkes who was wearing bright orange trousers for some reason!) was in full suit and tie! What little nerve I had to speak to anyone was killed stone dead at that point!

* I thought I was a member when I paid to join last year but I received absolutely no communications apart from an e-mail invite to a "Hague-a-thon" bar crawl (not my cup of tea unfortunately). Was I a member? I guess I'll never know...

Welcome to my brand new blog

This is going to be a UK blog about comic books, politics and hair that is longer than is normal.

My leanings are centre-right, but I am not a Conservative party member (I did pay to join a year ago but they never sent me anything to confirm it). I am unemployed, currently based in Birmingham (neither out of choice!) and will turn 24 in two days (not particularly my choice either).

The picture on the right is me, at an unusually happy moment, just over three years ago.

I will be detailing the events of my uneventful life right here, as well as commenting on current events and what I think you should be reading.

Will I write stuff that gets me into enormous trouble? Let's hope not, but probably...