Artists? Making money? That'll never catch on!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Amanda Palmer says something important which I cannot find fault with. Go, read her blog.

Back so soon?

OK. So my position is that I'm not a consumer. Consumers are what corporations wish we were - passive, dull, happy to accept the next thing on the production line. This attitude has got them into trouble, because while the customers were changing the suppliers were not and all of a sudden it turns out that maybe we've been giving the wrong people the money.

In times past, a good artist could find themselves a rich person to glom onto. Said rich person wanted to be seen to be wealthy and what better way of demonstrating your ridiculous levels of disposable wealth than by supporting an artist? These people were referred to as Patrons. "Oh," they would say "he/she is such a patron of the arts!" and they would fan themselves. Or something.

The point is, we're actually all in a position to be able to do that. To an extent. I'd like nothing more than to be able to amble up Charles Stross and say "What ho, Charles, here's thirty large. Sequester yourself away in yon drafty garret and turn out another of your excellent scientific romances."

I can't, much to my (and Charles Stross's) disappointment. What I can do, and what Amanda Palmer is suggesting I do, is give money directly to the artist. It's a world idea, really. Instead of saying "I do like the latest song, Ms Palmer, and have bought your CD! Here, enjoy this fraction of what I gave a record company" I can just hand her the entire five, ten, twenty bucks...or perhaps a smaller amount for just the one song as a download.

Why do I like this? Two reasons.

1: I don't like supporting the maniacs who currently run the music, movie and games industries*. I don't like giving Those People money because they think I'm a criminal scuzzbucket moron who they're happy to treat like dirt that they own. This is a misconception I wish to clear up. So if I can circumvent them, I will.

2: Enlightened Self Interest. This year it has become very obvious that writing is what I enjoy most. I want to be able to stop doing awful jobs and become a writer. If I can do that by producing things people like and might actually pay me to own/read etc, then what I want to do is make it really easy for them to support me.

So how about it? I think she's right. Does anyone disagree?

*I will support publishing because I'm addicted to books, I can't help myself. The other day I was shopping for a power adapter and accidentally bought a book at the same time. I'm a reader, I'm hopelessly hooked. I have a Kindle 2, 300 books on that (give or take) and it's just not enough! God help me if I ever own a house again.


I quit!

Monday, September 28, 2009 job, at least.

I've got two weeks at my current employment and then I'm taking flight, literally.

I can't wait to quit. Much as I like the people I work with - most of them, anyway - I've had about enough of the company itself. There have been some interesting reactions.

Overwhelmingly, the people I have told have been glad for me. Two have said they'll be sad to see me go, but just about everyone else is making the best of a bad job in a company they aren't particularly happy to be working for. The reason they're staying? Again, overwhelmingly, it's because there's nothing better to go to.

This is actually a little sad. There are some nice, talented people at the place where I work and some of them deserve a bit better (or a lot better) than they're getting. I suppose it all depends on what they are willing to risk in order to better themselves, and what the price for failure might be. For a lot of my colleagues, the price of failure would be too high, and that's to be regretted. I hope things improve for them and opportunities arise for them to leave too.


Series Cancellations, TV Conservatism and The BBC

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Yes, I'm returning to a current bugbear. The thing is, many folks in the UK have no idea what they would be letting themselves in for if the UK's television landscape became like the USA's.

A quick reminder of How Things Are in the land of the free: Television programs exist to create a reason for you to watch adverts. Their primary purpose is to sell advertising space. This is how the networks make most of their money. A TV show that doesn't get an audience is taking up valuable space which could be better used by a TV show that people actually watch.

It's not about art. It's not about good. It's about "watched".

Our case in point is the ABC series Defying Gravity. This was a brave attempt to write some interesting sci-fi coupled with the proven-popular mechanics of relationships and angst as seen on Gray's Anatomy. Add to this the now-popular "every episode contains flashbacks" thing, as popularized by Lost and we have a patent way to get to know the characters and their inter-relationships while we advance the plot.

The plot is a goodie: after a tragic Mars mission, NASA decides to take a Grand Tour of the solar system. In flashback, we follow the crew of the ship through training and selection. In "realtime" we follow the progress of the mission and the challenges they face. The production design is nice - very "20 minutes into the future" - and the characters are engaging and interesting. They're all sympathetic to a greater or lesser degree, so the ensemble cast works really well, and we have only one real standout villain - the control freak Mission Director back on Earth.

We also have a problem: a mysterious entity known only as "Beta" is with the crew. We know it's alien and very powerful, but nothing else. In Episode 8, after all hell has broken loose, Beta decides to reveal itself to the crew. They stand in front of an open door - some are awestruck, some disquieted, and one is wondering what the hell is going on...and we only have to wait a week to find out for ourselves.

Except that episode 8 is the last we will ever see on broadcast TV. The show was quietly - and I had to Google "defying gravity cancelled" in order to find the news - canceled with the remainder of the 13 episodes to be seen. They won't be broadcast, so when ABC releases the DVD we can buy them and watch them that way.

I was watching the show on the Hulu website, since I don't have a TV, and was therefore contributing to the ratings. However, the show is gone. The stated reason for the cancellation was that the show was "having trouble finding an audience". This means that the ratings were not where they needed to be in order for the show to be worth broadcasting. Not that it failed, or was bad, but it just didn't get watched by enough people. It may not have been watched by enough people as it was shown, so they might not have included the online viewers. I don't have the figures, so I don't know.

However, it's my case in point: in a commercial environment the success and failure of a TV show, the drivers for every decision made about it, are economic. Let's use a more familiar example: Doctor Who would have been canceled in 1963 after the first story: BBC Execs were not happy with the show, it seemed to be having trouble finding an audience too - and if they'd been looking at advertising revenue, we would never have seen "The Dead Planet" let alone an actual Dalek.

If this sounds like sour grapes because a show I was watching got canned, you'd be wrong: I was far more invested in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles which was just as interesting and well written, but also didn't get an audience. Primarily, I think, because not enough things exploded.

It's possible that Defying Gravity was too scifi for the Not We and not Scifi enough for the We. It's possible that the We decided there were too many squishy organic relationship things going on and this show was clearly for [edit: Not We], while the Not We were having a hard time reconciling the presence of people in space and an alien with romance and angst. These things are not mutually exclusive, but the audience was having a hard time deciding whether it liked the combination and ABC weren't really helping with the marketing. This show should have been perfect: it should have been a show that the Scifi Nerds with Normal Partners could have watched together, but for some reason that didn't happen. It's a shame, since I think it could have happened, but the show wasn't allowed time to develop. It was on the air for two months, and I found it on Hulu totally by accident whilst trying to find Better Off Ted.

Now imagine if this were to happen to the BBC. The typical BBC season is six episodes. If the BBC were dependent on ads it might kill a show after three. ITV axed Primeval because it was too expensive, and this means that we end up in an environment where if a show is going to succeed it has to be cheap. So you can kiss Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, a third season of Being Human, another season of Survivors and almost anything else not guaranteed high viewing figures goodbye. The TV landscape doesn't have space for anything that isn't able to justify the production costs, which is why we have seen so much reality TV over the years and why so much if it is awful.

It also means that TV becomes formulaic, that there is little or no risk taking in story or script, that you simply don't take chances. Look at the output of the BBC over the last few years and compare it to ITV and Channel 4. Look at the output of NBC, CBS, ABC and compare them with HBO.

If we end up parceling out the license fee or making the BBC accept adverts, we will end up with conservative, dull, ugly TV where nothing interesting or dangerous ever happens.

The alternative to the BBC is not something we want to see, because the alternative is shit.


I was writing

Thursday, September 24, 2009

So, successes.

I've been published by Tweet The Meat four times. Yay! Click the link to read the stuff.

My contributions to The Celestial Toybox , the magazine of The Doctor Who Appreciation Society, continue unabated. Next up is issue 375/6 which contains a piece I did on The Cartmel Masterplan. I forget the grand total of issues I've appeared in, but we're looking at half a dozen at least.

Today I completed a bit on the first appearance of The Daleks, revised it (it's lots better now, but bears little or no resemblance to the original).

I make progress with the whole "Time War" thing. I now have one piece revised and another piece in dire need of tweaking. I was always impressed and amused by the dialog between spaceships that happens in Iain M. Banks's "Culture" novels (particularly "Excession") and this resulted in an attempt to write a short story that appears entirely as recorded data. Here's an extract:

[REDACT: node creation parameters restricted to Level 4 and above. If you require access to this data please see your supervisor]
[REDACT: 1.7s placement and space/time data restricted to level 4 and above.]
[REDACT: 4s traffic shaping - non neccessary data]

Identities Present.

+/set Tom
+/set Chell
+/set Tor

Tom - it's good to be with you again.
Chell - hello tom! It's been a while.
Tor - =image: sunrise over a snowfield=
Tom - it's good to see you too, Tor. We have about 20 seconds here before you go out of range. Do you have anything to share with us?

=stream: 127y data=
Tor - =image: an empty plate, remnants of food and a wineglass with a red residue in the bottom=
Chell - I bet! Wow. That's nearly a whole month's data. You're lucky to be out as far as you are.
Tor - =image: a child's birthday party. several laughing infant humans are present=
Tom - what, all the time?
Chell - I've spotted something interesting here. Tor, the third and ninth packets show an anomalous trend. Can you confirm that for me?
Tor - [ABRIDGED: half a second's worth of astrophysical data related to gravity, depicted as several charts and graphics]
Tor - =image: Rodin's Thinker=
Tor - =image: lightbulb=
Tor - [ABRIDGED: 1/100th of a second further equations and graphics relating to astrophyiscal and cosmological theory]
Tom - well, that's just not very likely.


Tom - what was that?

++CARRIER LOST - [LikenessOfAFreshYoungMaid]++

Chell - whoa.
Tom - one moment

/locate [LikenessOfAFreshYoungMaid]
\terminus not found

Tom - that's absurd. Even if the ship was destroyed it would take seconds

/display elapsed time
\session open for 2.1 seconds
It needs a bit of work, but I'm essentially happy with it. Of course, it's the last story in the sequence and now I have to go back and write the middle two, and then the one that occurred to me as being quite a cool idea but wasn't part of the plan at all, and possibly the other one that I'm sort of kicking around in a semi-amused fashion.

Anyway, when they are done they will be pulled together as one volume (called something like "Collateral Damage: A Possible History of the Last Great Time War") and presented for download and enjoyment as an ebook. Or eNovella. Or whatever. Part one is already at close to 10k words, so obviously I'd like to finish it and see what happens next.

The plan, such as it is, would be to have this ebook and invite people to d/l it for free, read it, review it if they like and tell people about it. I'd be interested in seeing what people think.


Top 25 Who Stories

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fandom, as a wise man noted, loves lists. I do not love lists, so here is one. It's in no particular order either.

- note: 2005 onwards, any multipart story counts as one choice!

Edge of Destruction
- an intense two parter, in which the nascent Tardis crew almost fall apart (and stab each other). It's full of 60s dramatic acting, but extremely effective and still compelling, and it contains a turning point for the character of The Doctor - in which Barbara Wright proves herself to be perhaps the most important companion The Doctor has ever listened to, and in which she sets up a situation which Russell T Davies will use again later.

Thinking about it, some current fans might think of Barbara as a sort of proto-Rose. But in fact, Rose is a Neo-Barbara.

The Wargames
- one of the few Troughton stories I've seen without recourse to recons, it's surprising how brave this is and how it manages to keep the attention over 10 episodes. It's worth the effort for the presence of the iconic Troughton era team: Zoe, Jamie, The Doctor plus assorted interesting
supporting characters and the introduction of The Time Lords themselves. This beats out Tomb because of the range of ideas and the performances.

Ghost Light
- an episode shorter than it should have been and occasionally quite baffling, but it's also a tour de force for Sylvester and Sophie, it's atmospheric and creepy, it's strange and it could only have been made as a Doctor Who story.

And don't worry, according to the DVD extras, most of the cast (and the director) didn't understand it either.

- one of the best Who stories ever. It's a brilliant dilemma, it showcases The Doctor as a scientist and the Brigadier as a soldier. We get germ warfare, a tense race to find a cure and the unexpected deaths of quite a few civilians which really does raise the profile of the Silurians. After that, you have to wonder whether The Doctor's stance on the reptiles is quite the right one to take.

Spearhead from Space
- a genuinely frightening Doctor Who story, doing what the show does so very well: taking the mundane and making it uncanny. It's interesting to see The Doctor out of action for a comparatively long time, so we get to spend a while with the supporting cast and UNIT, which is important considering how large a part they will play in the coming years.

It's also got a genuinely creepy villain and while the Nestene intelligence is a not particularly good special effect (although the plastic thing in the tank is rather nice and understated), so much of the story is grounded in something approaching reality that you get a sense of The Doctor being a part of the Real World.

Three Doctors
- for me, this is the only multi-Doctor story that has ever worked. The Two Doctors comes close, because watching the contrast between Colin Baker and Pat Troughton brings to mind this initial outing with Pertwee, Troughton and Hartnell. It's not that good a story, really, but the
performances lift it from being an oddity to being something rather special.

Horror of Fang Rock
- this is the first time I realised that the endings of Doctor Who stories are not necessarily connected to the plot resolution. This is as much about the Doctor and Leela as it is about a trapped Rutan. It is chock full of atmosphere and a creeping dread, the supporting cast are fun, the resolution is exceptionally dodgy science, but it's such a Hinchcliffe/Holmes era story (and stands in for all of the stories that I couldn't put here, because it turns out I am a Hinchcliffe/Holmes Fanboy - and proud of it) that it's hard not to like.

State of Decay
- more Gothic horror, but one that features three awesome things. One is Tom Baker really getting into the feel of the story. One is Lalla Ward, and the chemistry she creates alongside Tom. And the third is the only good performance Matthew Waterhouse got out of Adric. Or do I have that backwards?

It's also got camp vampires, who nevertheless contrive to be a great deal more vampiric than Edward Cullen, and while there's very little in the way of scares, there's menace. Oh, and a wodge of Time Lord prehistory to keep the inner fanboy going squee into the night.

- Tom's swansong, and he plays it perfectly. I think it's the strongest performance from Baker, T. we get in at least the last two seasons; you can feel the loathing he has for the Master, the sense of doom he feels once he spots The Watcher and the fact that this is once more The Doctor as a hero: he does what he does knowing that he'll die, and does it anyway.

As exits go, I think this was the right way for the 4th Doctor to go out. Tom Baker was My Doctor, and Logopolis - even with the associated oddness that surrounds the story - underscored that I was going to miss him terribly. I did, too.

Black Orchid
- a BBC specialty and a thing of quiet and unassuming joy; it's the 1920s, the Doctor gets to play cricket, there are no monsters in it and we get to see two lots of Sarah Sutton - one half of which is not Nyssa. Hurrah!

Doctor Who does not need monsters. There are some stories where you can tell that the monster is integral and there are others where it's just been tacked on to fulfill the "hiding behind the sofa" criteria. Here, the monsters are people and vice versa. I find this rather satisfying.

Caves of Androzani
- A case in point. Ignore the stupid mud lava beast thingy, which definitely doesn't belong to any kind of ecosystem and has no place except to go "Raaah!" and claw at things, and concentrate instead on The Doctor and Peri in a great example of the thing only Doctor Who can do: a regeneration story.

It's interesting that the last 5th Doctor story is, in a way, the one that best defines him. Ignoring the supporting characters and subplots, we see The Doctor give up everything to save the life of a friend, and then draw on all of his friends for support as he dies.

Revelation of the Daleks
- Colin Baker really suffered during his tenure, but even in two seasons of very uneven stories there are gems and this is the brightest of them. If you ignore the Daleks, and you put the inevitable Davros appearance to once side there's the friendship between Peri and the 6th Doctor to watch. There's an...interesting...role for Alexi Sayle. There's the plotting and scheming among the staff of Tranquil Repose, which frankly does make all the shenanigans with Daleks worth while, and there's the redemption story for Orsini and his squire. The whole thing jumps and crackles with character and dialog that more or less render the presence of the Daleks pointless.

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
- It has the scariest monster of the new run, the introduction of Captain Jack Harkness, some wonderful lines for all of the cast, The Doctor being extremely Doctorish, and possibly my favourite performance from Christopher Eccelston. Plus, everybody lives. It's a winner. If you flick through the number of cool moments, or fun lines, or interesting character moments, you can see why it had to be a two parter.

- It's very cool, this story. The concept of a defeated enemy sitting down face to face with The Doctor and asking him to justify his actions, is interesting. Where does The Doctor, who has been judge and jury for so many, get his right to condemn others? We don't want that question answered, so this becomes a classical Greek play with a deus ex machina at the end to sort things out. Alongside that, there's the tale of Mickey and Rose. Potentially this is the start of Mickey Smith's rise to greatness, so it's good to see him confront Rose about how her decisions have affected him. In a very short space of time, we learn a great deal about our two central characters, and we're reminded - not for the first time since The Edge of Destruction, and not for the last this series - that the TARDIS has some character of it's own.

- There was a time, back in the days of William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, when the Daleks were badass. They got slightly watered down in the Pertwee years, saddled with Davros during Tom's run and stayed Davros's pet goons down the years that followed. Even with a brief return to being badass in Remembrance, it's pretty much All Davros All The Time. When the 7th Doctor blows up Skaro, it's almost a mercy killing.

This story puts the Daleks back where they belong: intelligent, scary, ruthlessly efficient. Evil.

Some people have commented that the dubious flirtation with Rose Tyler emotions was a bit "Exterminate! Exterminate! What! Is! Love?" but they ignore the fact that the Dalek is not at all happy with the situation and finds itself repellent. It latches on to Rose because it is a Dalek and it needs orders, not because it feels anything for her. Right up to the end, the Dalek is manipulative and determined. It also manages to pwn The Doctor, which isn't bad at all for a lone pepperpot.

Love & Monsters
- People have described this as RTD's letter to fandom. I think of it as a mirror. Fandom has always been something that people come together over, something that gives people common ground and something to tussle over. Fandom is very much L.I'n'D.A. and although we meet them but briefly we can see elements of fans we have known in those characters. And together, via their various conventions and oddities, they actually become something more than just fans. RTD enjoys fandom just as much as we do, and just as we do sees that it also has flaws.

The story works, too. As does the Monster, and particularly well because it was designed by a Blue Peter viewer (something which has to have been the cause of a few sleepless nights for the production team). But inspiration comes in strange places, because the critter turns out to be a rather useful allegory for either superfans or internet fandom. It's perhaps the quintessential RTD story because it's working away on a number of levels, and because RTD can't resist throwing in a few laughs and a sly comment on The Doctor's character. It also develops Jackie Tyler in interesting directions, all of which is unusual and new for the show. There had never been a story like Love & Monsters - at least in Who's canon - and quite apart from introducing us to Doctor Lite stories it does something else equally important: it gives the fans something else to argue over.

Tooth & Claw
- Scottish werewolves! Scottish Kung Fu Monks! Queen Victoria, armed and dangerous! Every fanboy button I own - and note that I am not a particular fan of Scotland, Kung Fu Monks or werewolves by themselves - pushed in very short order. So how could I not include it?

The Shakespeare Code
- I am a sucker for Shakespeare. I am also a sucker for the likes of Shakespeare In Love, so I was always going to enjoy this. Plus, Martha Jones in Shakespeare's London, a bit of location work at the Globe, some local temporal colour and the Carrionites, whom I rather enjoyed - add up to a fun story. Plus, of course, there's the subtle hint to the kids watching: William Shakespeare was the JK Rowling of his day. Interesting approach.

The other thing is, since The Unquiet Dead, it's become obvious that The Doctor likes writers. Dickens, Shakespeare, Agatha Christie...

Of course, being meta about it one realises that this is writers trying to pimp their craft. And long may they do so! Bloody good idea! As long as he never meets L Ron Hubbard, we're good.

Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords
- If I wanted to be grumpy about it, this is technically not a three parter. But sod that, it's my list. I enjoy everything about this trilogy. The presence of Derek Jacobi is a treat, the arrival of John Sim is another, the presence of Captain Jack (and the resumption of various running gags about Jack) is a third. We get The Master back, we get cannibal hordes, a stolen TARDIS, the Master wins by becoming Prime Minister, marries, conquers The Earth, kills millions of people, beats The Doctor (griefly) AND does a song and dance number on the way past. There's almost too much to cover, too many reasons why this trilogy leads the others for sheer spectacle and awe.

Oh. For the record. Floaty Jesus Doctor? Totally based on scientific study (if not actual results) so, you know, all y'all and the horse you rode in on if you don't like it.

Partners in Crime
- It's a romp. It's fun, slightly silly, so sit back and watch the cast. It works, it's a great way to remind us who Donna is and why we should like her. Catherine Tate is ace, and a good match for David Tennant. Donna, over the course of this story, is almost in SJS territory and that's instantly endearing.

Plus, I just like the lighter touch.

- A Donna Light story. Cramped, unnerving, RTD firing on all cylinders, excellent work from the cast in a Night of the Living Dead situation...

It's a relief when it's over. But you can't take your eyes off it when it's on.

Turn Left
- Way, way back in The Edge of Destruction we see an important moment in The Doctor's character development: his decision that his companions are worth trusting. After that, we sort of forget how important they are to him.

This is the story of what happens if The Doctor doesn't have a companion for one dark moment. Oh, we've seen it before (Rose in "Dalek", Sarah Jane in "School Reunion") but this takes us to a pivotal moment and shows us what would have happened if the Doctor and Donna had never met.

What's most interesting is that, in the end, Donna does the typically Doctor Who thing: she redeems herself totally with an act of self sacrifice. It's a powerful and quite moving story, very human, as we rattle through the last couple of years listening as familiar characters fall (we hear the end of Torchwood, the fall of Sarah Jane Smith and the death of Martha Jones in passing) and events take place which would otherwise have not, and we're left with the understanding that Donna's a lot more important than she thinks.

Of course, this is rather undercut by the reappearance of Rose Tyler. Bah.

Remebrance of the Daleks

Back to the start in so many ways: the Doctor vs the Daleks. But this is the 7th Doctor embarking on what is occasionally referred to as the "unfinished business" arc or the equally portentous "Cartmel Masterplan".

I like it because new companion Ace takes center stage and her relationship with a darker, slightly more dangerous Doctor appears. There's a lot to like in this story, particularly the Doctor's cafe chat and the gleeful demolition of a Dalek by Ace wielding a baseball bat.

The ending is weak - The Doctor Kirks a Dalek - and it's got Davros in it, but that's OK for the rant the Doctor goes off on. It's also nice to see the Daleks making an attempt to get back on form.

The Robots of Death
I had to toss a coin between this and Talons of Weng Chiang, and Robots won.

It's a base under siege story, with the twist that the base has already been infiltrated. The 4th Doctor and Leela feature, with some interesting character points from both, but my attention is largely on the crew of the sandminer - who begin to crack up almost before the killings start - and the robots themselves.

There's even a good reason for the villain to be a nutter - and he is, a quality nutter - which helps round out the whole story.

The "D'you want to come with me?" trailer
Listen, it's my list and I can have this in it if I want.
It's the full pre-season trailer with Eccleston and our first look at the Tardis, and that litany of what was to come. It's the single best trailer I have ever seen, for anything, ever, and it sent - and still sends- chills down my spine. It gives me goosebumps. It causes me to say "now what have we here?" and feel like a tiny child on Xmas eve.

It's pure, distilled many times, Doctor Who. If I was ever in a position to give Who writers advice (ha!) then I would point them at that trailer and say "write like it's going to be ushered in by that trailer".

So, technically, not an episode as such but oh lor, what a trailer!


The Government really needs a good firing.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

That's a bit of a contentious title.

I mean the Government of the UK, or at least the bits of it that won't listen to the board of advisors that they appointed to reel the BBC in and make them behave.

HMG planned to "top slice" (whatever that means) 130 million off the license fee in 2010 and give it to ITV and Channel 4 (or just C4) on the basis that they too perform elements of public service broadcasting.

The BBC Trust have been doing some research and have discovered that the recent 5.50 rise in the fee, levied to pay for the switch to digital, needs to go away next year - after the switch is completed. I'd rather it was kept on and the extra fiver went to making a new series of Torchwood, or perhaps was used to commission some new programming in from some new writers. Maybe we could have another poetry season. However, the general public thinks it should go and the license fee should come down.


They also said that the general public does NOT want C4 or ITV getting hold of the license fee, or any part of it.

Here's the whole story including the whys and wherefores of the survey.

The Daily Mail puts it like this.

The Daily Mail is owned by The Daily Mail and General Trust, who have a subsidiary called DMG, who own a 20% interest in ITN...well, Wiki has a general list here, with appropriate caveats about trusting Wiki entirely.

Essentially, the Daily Mail's parent company is in direct competition with the BBC, both for local and national news, and has a significant internet presence to defend - a presence which is going to either have to change business models or disappear behind a paywall while the BBC continues to be "free".

The Government's response to the license fee issue was "well, we might anyway" - which is why it needs firing. The people have spoken, at least in a poll, and this should indicate that they've got to rethink.


James Murdoch Hates The BBC.

Monday, September 7, 2009

It looks like the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, because this
Murdoch is as Howling Mad as his dad!


James Murdoch says the scope of the BBC's ambition is "chilling". So?
It's a corporation created by Royal Charter at a time when Great Britain owned two thirds of the gorram planet.

James says it's impossible to compete with the BBC because it gives things away free.

James is wrong.

The license fee pays for the BBC and everyone with a TV pays the licence fee. So it ain't free. If you want to build up a case against the BBC having the licence fee, be a better public service
broadcaster than they are. Make your content better and drain away their audience. Spend some money on the things that your network shows. You know, compete.

James says that the BBC is a state broadcaster. Except that the State doesn't really like the BBC. James works in the News Corporation, which also owns Fox, so his relationship with current events is going to be shaky at best. James may have missed the Government of the UK punishing the anti-government BBC by threatening its funding. James may have missed that
a DG got sacked for telling the truth about the UK's entry into Gulf War 2. James may regularly miss that, while the BBC is the Crown's deal, it's the Exchequer that collects the License Fee.

He's also missed that the BBC is generally known for a mild bias against the sitting Government of the day and always has been. The BBC has perennially been a thorn in the side of whoever's residing at 10 Downing Street and has developed a generation or two of political interviewers and
commentators who simply aren't all that impressed by the title "Minister".

This is hardly the behavior of a "state" broadcaster, but it's an unsurprising comment from the people that brought you Fox News, which famously won a court case in which it claimed it didn't need actual facts to broadcast news. Instead of making Fox News broadcast under the banner of "current events entertainment" or "current events opinion", it's still allowed to be a news channel. Baffling.

James Murdoch is wrong about practically everything, which is just one of the reasons that the News Corporation's profits are down and there's going to be an awful lot of scrambling to make people pay for things that were previously free. Long term, that's going to make his position worse, not better, and it's probably time that the UK took a long, hard look at the BBC and decided once and for all whether they want it.

My opinion is that it would be foolish in the extreme to allow it to disappear, and that the Government in particular needs to be aware that punishing the BBC makes them look like totalitarians and twats.


Updatingness, and stuff, and vampires and Star Trek

The State of Play.

I have, I think, a mere six weeks left of my time in the USA. I shall miss
bits of it.

In the next six weeks, I have to reduce my life to less than 100,
preferably less than 80, lbs of stuff. I have to quit my job, quit my
apartment and leave behind everything that the last eight years has meant.
Then I have to rebuild it all in another country.

I admit, I'm nervous. Eager for the challenge, but nervous.

It's all uncomfortably close. Right around the corner, this big change.


I've seen Let the Right One In and ooo, that was good. Dubbed into English, since I don't speak Swedish. The Americans don't think anyone will understand a movie set in Sweden and are remaking it. I certainly hope they don't get it wrong.

The film itself was written by the guy who wrote the book, so it's interesting to see what cuts and changes he made, alongside a director who was dead set on making the entire book into a movie and using all of it. Naturally, this would have been a long movie.

The movie is chilling, not so much for vampire creepery, but because the location and the characters contribute to the feeling that everyone and everything in the film are somehow trapped. Trapped by habit, by weakness, by immortality, by desires and by actions. It presents a really bleak picture which herds you and hems you in. It's also strangely beautiful.

Plus, the writer actually sat down and wondered what happens if a vampire enters a dwelling uninvited. Score!

I also rediscovered the 1998 TV show Ultraviolet starring all sorts of interesting people. Joe Ahearne wrote and directed this single series 6 episode run about vampires and the government team that investigates them. If you want to know what Torchwood pre-Children of Earth could have been, and what Torchwood post COE might be, it's worth buying the DVD and watching this intelligent, interesting show.

I have also seen Star Trek. Excellent cast, excellent fun, makes my inner scifi geek sit up and scream with anger while at the same time making me love the heck out of everything that happens. I can point to a half dozen things that were rubbish (like being able to see Vulcan from Delta Vega) whilst at the same time willingly ignoring absolutely everything because of the main cast's performances and the breakneck speed of the plot.

Less lens flair next time, though.


Just so you know...

I don't know what this bit is for. Perhaps I should give it a purpose?

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