November 2005

27 November 2005
Buffy 1 - Doctor 0.  But why?

I have recently started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  About bloody time you might think but, as I think, better (eight years) late than never.  And, needless to say, given that it was a huge international hit, it’s brilliant.

While watching it I couldn’t help noticing some extraordinary similarities between Buffy and the new series of Doctor Who:

  • the 45-minute, story-in-one-episode format
  • Rose seems heavily based on Buffy even down to the special powers
  • Eccleston’s Doctor seems to have more than a whiff of Angel about him.  Even down to the leather jacket
  • Deaths off-screen (usually) - an apparent break with the Doctor Who tradition

They both have elements of mystery, spectacle and terror.  So, why does Buffy work while (for me, at least) the new Doctor Who doesn’t?  Why is it that Buffy seems perfectly paced while Doctor Who seems rushed?  Is it just bad writing?  That doesn’t seem to ring true.  Russell T Davies can certainly write.  And, if anything, his scripts were the weakest in the series.  Is there, perhaps, a problem with the settings?  Doctor Who has a new setting each week, Buffy, is always right there at the Hellmouth.  Could all the time spent setting the scene be taking away from the mystery?  Perhaps, but you wouldn’t have thought it would be that difficult.

The only thing I can think of is that in Buffy, the writers deliberately slow things down and allow the characters to mull things over in scenes that usually take place in the library.  This allows, us, the viewers, to get involved with the plot.

I like contrived plot explanations.

26 November 2005
Quote of the Day

From the Telegraph:

A multi-million pound campaign to boost Germans’ low self-confidence has backfired after it emerged that its slogan was first coined by the Nazis.

Here

23 November 2005
Croziervision Quote of the Day

Liberty 2005.  From the floor:

Why should we do anything for posterity?  Posterity has never done anything for us.

Disuss, as they say

19 November 2005
“Alex Singleton is the high priest of globalisation” - says some UN bod. Well done Alex  …link
 
18 November 2005
Internment and the Social Contract

Natalie has batted the ball back into my court which has prompted me to create a Wiki page for my views on internment and another for my alternative which I modestly call the Social Contract.

I would like to point out that I don’t particularly like either of these schemes it’s just that I can’t see an alternative.

Talking of alternatives Natalie proposes one of her own.  A couple of questions: a) what if people don’t declare themselves and b) what if they lie when they do?

Irony

I was watching BBC2’s Scandal the other night.  From what I can make out in each show they take a decade and describe the scandals of the time with the aid of contemporary media coverage.  Last night was the 1980s featuring Janet Cooke.  Now, I’d never heard of Janet Cooke but it turns out that she was a US journalist who faked a report and got sacked.  And the irony?  Well, guess who was fronting the TV footage.  If it wasn’t our old friend Dan Rather…

Also in the programme, and rather brave of the BBC I thought to bring it up, was the Belgrano Affair.  Older readers will remember that this was the scandal that erupted when the BBC and others attempted to claim that there was something wrong with sinking an enemy warship in wartime. 

17 November 2005
“…the story of toys is the story of everything…” - hmm …link
 
The Somme, Channel Four, 9pm, Monday 14 November

Some observations:

  • Good special effects.  I especially liked the battle sound effects and the whizzing sound of the bullets.  OK, so we’ve heard it a fair few times over recent years (starting with Private Ryan) but it’s still good.
  • One gets the feeling the Blackadder Goes Forth school of history is having a hard time of it.  Although this was still very much of that ilk one got the impression that they were drawing in their horns.  There was a lot less of the walking in rows, generals were buffoons of the sort I can remember from the 1970s.  The revisionists are starting to win the argument.
  • War is awful.  Yup, message received loud and clear.  Several times.  But so what?  Ok, try to avoid it.  Splendid.  But what if you can’t avoid it?  Answer came there none.  Now, I suppose I might be being a tad optimistic to hope for a discussion of how the British army improved its ammunition, fire plans, gun registration, infantry tactics secrecy and reconnaisance but I would expect something…
  • The real problem is that although they mentioned most of the key issues: Verdun, Britian’s tiny pre-War army etc, the producers failed to join up the dots.  What was the impact of Verdun on the Somme?  What was the effect of Britain having such a small pre-War army (an army that got a lot smaller by Christmas)?  Their biggest failing was omitting to state what the Somme was for.  It was not to gain territory.  It was to relieve the pressure on the French at Verdun and to wear out the Germans.  It achieved both of these things.  Within days of the opening of the Somme the Germans went on the defensive at Verdun.  The German Official history describes the Somme (not Verdun) as the “muddy grave of the German field army”1.
  • Then a real howler.  At the end, they stated that very little ground was gained at the Somme.  Wasn’t it?  A few months later the Germans withdrew up to 30 miles in operation Alberich.  Intelligent readers might like to ask themselves why.

1. All the Kaiser’s Men, Ian Passingham, Sutton (2003), p127

A follow up on the Guns2Thugs case - his mother has left a comment. She thinks it's a miscarriage of justice. Maybe, maybe …link
 
13 November 2005
“The greatest danger in politics is people who try to do things” - P J O'Rourke …link
 
Internment and a possible alternative

Natalie and I have been arguing about internment.  She doesn’t like it and was against the government’s proposals for detention without trial.  One of her reasons for opposing internment is that she believes that we haven’t needed it in the past.  I e-mailed her to let her know that we have used internment rather a lot over the years.

That it has been used, of course, does not prove that it has been needed.  Natalie certainly makes a compelling case against its use in World War II.

She may be right, though I think had I been German at the time I would have been rather grateful to have been removed from the native population.  From what I know there was a lot less of the sort of anti-German mob violence that we got in the First World War.

Anyway, this is all rather by the by.  My central point was that internment is essential when dealing with terrorist groups who can find refuge in unassimilated populations such as the Ulster Irish or (as may turn out to be the case) British Muslims.  In the case of Ulster the rule seems clear enough; if you use internment (resolutely) you win: if you don’t you lose. 

That does not mean I like internment.  But given a choice between losing a few liberties and becoming part of the Caliphate ie losing them all, I know which I would pick.

That is, of course, assuming that that is the choice.  There are others.  Unassimilated populations tend to be, for reasons I don’t entirely understand, geographically concentrated.  One could give these areas a choice: either assimilate eg don’t harbour terrorists, don’t allow pro-terrorist sentiment, accept the status quo OR have your area removed from the UK.  The area would then become a separate sovereign state and would be subject to the same arrangements that all sovereign states are subject to ie the border remains closed until we’re happy.

Incidentally, I was against the government’s proposals.  Not because I am against internment (clearly) - I would have gone much further - but because I have doubts about Tony Blair’s commitment to the cause.  If you are going to use something as draconian as internment you’ve really got to mean it.

Offline

Croziervision has been down for a couple of days.  A very odd error (aren’t they all).  In the end it was a fairly simple solution - repairing the database - but sounds a bit scary.  Anyway, if you are using Expression Engine and your site suddenly gets replaced with an “Error 1016” this is probably the reason.

12 November 2005
Three military campaigns, all sorts of similarities, but does it all add up to anything?

I am currently reading a book on the Battle of the Atlantic.  Before that it was one on the Bomber War.  And before that, and for several years now, I’ve been reading up on the Western Front.  It struck me how similar these campaigns were. For instance they:

  • had no great decisive engagements - it was not possible to lose the campaign in an afternoon
  • went on for a long time - the whole length of the war, in fact
  • had appalling casualty rates
  • had few really well-known characters.  Sure everyone has heard of Haig and Dönitz but try asking yourself what they actually did?  An exception can probably be made for Bomber Harris
  • were all battles of attrition
  • were won by the side that got lots of little things right - technical and tactical.  On the Western Front it was creeping barrages, predicted barrages, air superiority and secrecy.  In the air it was things like Gee, H2S and the Mustang.  In the Atlantic it was hedgehog, Leigh Light, convoys.  All boring (but essential) stuff.
  • (for a long period) seemed to be even-steven and then - all of a sudden - one side started to carry all before it.
  • were (and are) controversial.  I guess this is probably because they drew people into the firing line who had never previously been so drawn. 
Whether this means anything, and whether someone has pointed this out before, I don’t know.  Maybe these are the defining characteristics of industrialised warfare.  Maybe, the Cold War was the ultimate refinement of this.  But who can say?

06 November 2005
Brian takes me to task - over my interpretation of his The Tyranny of the Facts. I had prepared a marvellous response but then I re-read the key passage in TTOTF and realised that he was right and I was wrong. Drat. However, there are a few points that I think are worth making and I hope to make them at some point. …link