Posts from May 2006

31
May 06

X-Science

Do You SeePost a comment • 380 views

I like films. I like comics. I have particularly enjoyed the X-Men series of films because they have tended to go for the themes and ideas of the comics rather than slavish continuity and have hired good actors to do the jobs. And it would appear that the success of the franchise, even in a slightly diminished form in the third film (quality of film over box office clearly) would bear this out. And I’m the first to roll my eyes when someone points out that cars don’t really explode like that in films (my wonky eyes do admittedly roll easily).

So why am I perturbed that no-one is willing to say that science doesn’t really work like that? Is it because the premise of the X-Men films (leap in evolution – and lots of twisty turny DNA stands in the opening credits) is scientific. The idea of big leaps in evolution is one that has currency in scientific circles, which allows the film to become about the way “the other” is treated in society. But these are big budget action movies, which need plots. And the plots seem to always involve some form of pseudo-science. Again, that would be fine, if it followed its own rules, or rules we understand – but it does not seem to.

You want examples?

Okay: fallacies which the X-Men films rely on:
a) All metal is magnetic
b) Energy and mass can be created from nothing (seem lasers from Cyclops’ eyes, the water Iceman needs to freeze stuff, Mystique’s ability to turn into taller, fatter people, Multiple Man turning into twenty people)
c) Energy and mass can be turned into nothing (Mystique pretending to be little girls, energy Iceman removes from objects to freeze ’em)
d) Momentum is something that could be affected by your genes (yes Vinnie, I am talking to you)
e) Cures for genetic conditions which will rewrite your entire genetic code will work instantly.
(Actually that last one was also nicked by Doctor Who).

I want someone to moan a bit about this stuff SO I can roll my eyes and say it is only a movie. But movies are the only place we see science, in so called science fiction, shouldn’t that science at least occasionally pretend to some sort of real world or even internal consistency?

Probably just me.

30
May 06

Supping Shearer

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 257 views

I have on my desk a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale. I am not a huge Broon fan, but it certainly has a place in British beer history. But this bottle is special, which is why it is on my desk (I am not usually found with beer on my desk at work, and this one is not open. I nick out for the afternoon pints…)

This bottle is special because it has a distinctively black and white trade dress and in the blue star there is the distinctively unpleasant likeness of Alan Shearer. Yes, this is a ten year Shearer testimonial commemorative bottle. Apparently it is quite hard to get hold of in Newcastle, though one suggests surprisingly easy to get in Sunderland or Middlesbrough. Indeed one suggests it might not be a smart idea to put the ugly face of a footballer who is almost universally reviled outside of Newcastle (and possible not even that well loved in Newcastle).

Of course if it tastes of bitter ashes, all would be forgiven.

annals of higher pedantry #123,45.678 subsector 9bii

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 432 views

Journey to the Centre of the Earth was on TV at the weekend — the one with James Mason, Pat Boone and Gertrude the Duck — and I watched it at my dad’s. I realised I had only ever read it in Look and Learn form, and that my conception of its plot owed much to the interminable Hanna Barbera version. So I braved the Haunted Lumber Room to look out the ancient omnibus edition of The Wonderful Voyages one of my father’s parents bequeathed to us.

Yes! A version of it is included. It is an EXCELLENT version, bcz the translator finds he has scant patience with Verne’s so-called SCIENCE, and adds many testy footnotes correcting same. Verne says there are 600 known elements; a trans.note — on the SECOND PAGE — points out that there are only 65 so far. Verne says the tortoise is a descendent of Glyptodon: not so! insists a grumpy trans.note; and so on! “Rather the mammoth and the mastodon! — trans.note” “B-but Sir Humphry Davey died in 1829!– trans.note“; “300 leagues would take them to Switzerland! — trans.note“; “Having examined a COMPLETE LIST of philosophical instruments, I do not belive there is such a thing as a MANOMETER! I have given them an aneroid barometer instead — trans.note” (OK these are written out from memory, but the SPIRIT HAS BEEN CAPTURED! There are about 20 Get-it-right-Verne! footnotes in all…)

Then it occurred to me that a fake-footnote thing might be a DEVICE OF VERNE’S OWN! It seems like his kind of gag — the heroes are two Germans and an Icelander, in a novel by a Frenchman — it’s a pop science joke which certainly get lost in the kidditoon versions that followed. So I hunted for relics of the 1877 Ward Lock & Co. edition: “This version is believed to be the most faithful rendition into English of this classic currently in the public domain. The few notes of the translator are located near the point where they are referenced… The translation is by Frederick Amadeus Malleson. While the translation is fairly literal, and Malleson (a clergyman) has taken pains with the scientific portions of the work and added the chapter headings, he has made some unfortunate emendations mainly concerning biblical references, and has added a few ‘improvements’ of his own — ”

It’s all true! Forgotten anal crosspatch Rev.Malleson has inserted dubious material about the Great Flood in relation to geology, and at least once sentence-worth of dodgy Victorian race science (to do with so-called prognathis of the jaw).

But hurrah! Because his most deathless correction is this: HE HAS CORRECTED THE TITLE OF THE BOOK! Because the intrepid trio get NOWHERE NEAR THE EARTH’S CORE. And with that in mind, the prim cleric has (korrektly) renamed this edn thusly:

“A Journey to the Interior of the Earth”

28
May 06

Our Ovens Not Working

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 272 views

It went ont he fritz last week and I need to cook for six people today. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve done a dinner party for six with just a kettle and a toaster, but it seems such a setback. More importantly, I shall find out the answer to this urgent and key question:

CAN YOU GRILL A CRUMBLE?

26
May 06

Koons

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 1,406 views

Four Versions of Jeff Koons Balloon Knot Sculpture, in NY, Dallas, and Berlin. The New York one is the newest, and he has been working with the form for about 10 years. I dont know if its a brilliant peice of pop formalism or the same scammed out huckerstism (thats the central question with Koons isnt it?)

I do know that all of them look oddly kinky.

Bricking it

Do You SeePost a comment • 276 views

Brick pushes the limits of noir, because on the whole it takes place in a very bright daytime. Whilst the definition of what noir cinema can vary, one cannot completely escape the meaning of the actual word. And whilst there is a darkness at the heart of Brick, it exists in a very knowingly uncomfortable world of genre car crash.

Yes, Brick is the noir high school movie, but its high schoolness is limited to the vaguest of settings and the (supposed) age of its protagonists. In many ways it more resembles Bugsy Malone with real weapons – even if you are willing to accept that its protagonists are not really in their early twenties. Clearly filmed in a school closed for the summer, Brick relies on a language that Marlowe would have ditched for being too opaque. Stylised, stylish and cliched – it makes almost the perfect bit of two hour fun. Bugsy Malone is a good comparator, despite the lack of decent tunes. Both films recognise the fun of a genre work-out, and when you can’t understand what the characters here are saying, you can be pretty sure its all in the progression of that most cliched of noir plots (the dirty dame). Of course Malone has custard pies and Jodie Foster on its side, but Brick is still top fun, if you don’t take it seriously.

Fancyanewfeature?

TMFDPost a comment • 343 views

Fancyapint, the London boozers occasionally useful friend (they are often wrong about the pubs, but directions are impeccable), have a couple of new features for May. The first is a godawful pub quiz, which is completely unlike an actual pubquiz: it not taking place in a pub. Instead it seems to be fishing for your personal details for marketing. Yay! A better feature would be a list of quizzin’ pubs and some description on the types of quizzes (available elsewhere I know but on a pretty poorly designed site that I cannot find any more).

Potentially more interesting is the World Cup section: where it intends to list pubs doing special stuff for the world cup. A bit bereft at the moment, but hopefully we will be able to identify the best place in London to go and see Togo or Switzerland with a local crowd. Though it could well be a different Switzerland, as their flag on the page seems significantly different to the Anti-Red Cross they usually sport.

25
May 06

THE BEATLES – “All You Need Is Love”

Popular24 comments • 5,331 views

#235, 22nd July 1967

On the I Love Music message board, someone just asked for a definition of “schlock”. I answered, because I wanted to be in the pub and not at work, “anything that you only like when you’re drunk”. I don’t like this song any extra when I’m sloshed but when I listened to it just now what I heard was a song that sounds drunk itself, that’s trying to be my idea of schlock. That reeling trumpet after every line on the chorus, the way the song breaks down into tunelets and shout-outs at the end, the final bleary nostalgia as “She Loves You” crashes the party?.it’s less “All You Need Is Love”, more “You’re My Best Mate, You Are”.

And why not? If you’re sold on the idea of intoxication as a way to world consciousness, you’re going to need a universal intoxicant. “All You Need Is Love” is hardly prime Beatles, or prime anybody – it’s lumbering, ripe for parody, more affable than moving – but ‘write a song for the first global TV link up’ is a big ask by any standards, and it’s not surprising their panacea is more beery shoulder-clasps than LSD ego-death. The woeful koans of the verses, though, don’t even approach the rudimentary wisdom of hop and grape.

24
May 06

The Queen Has Been Damned

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 518 views

Sorry Mark S, Elton John’s musical based on Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles is to close. Lestat will not be transferring to London, and after the critical drubbing it got this will go along with other great horror musical flops such as Dracula and Carrie. My mum didn’t like Sweeney Todd either and while The Phantom Of The Opera has been a tiny success, it is a two song snorefest.

Actually writing musicals about vampires is a daft idea. You will want a song with a key bit of biting going on: but it would be rude to sign with your mouth full.

The Rules of Ruin 3: The Wrong Pint

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 652 views

You know you’re probably pretty drunk when you only notice six sips in that actually you are drinking a completely different beer to the one you ordered. Last night post a free wine reception we went to the Cittie Of York where I asked for three pints of Pure Brewed. What came back was clearly one pint of pure brewed and two pints of White Beer. IT WAS CLOUDY (hint of lack of titular purity). I know the white beer, it tasted pleasantly bananary. And yet I drank it for ages without noting.

In this situation, it is best not to return to the bar staff. I had drunk too much of it and missing the obvious indications would make me a laughing/barring stock.