A Tale of Two Rail Lines


greater anglia c2c

You can, I believe, tell a lot about a party’s policy by how it’s opponents react to it. When Ed Miliband announced an energy price freeze, the Conservatives denounced it as dangerous socialism, even as those at the sharp end of ever inflating bills welcomed it. When Labour announced measures to prevent excessive rent hikes and landlords turfing tenants out, Grant Shapps labelled it “Venezuelan-style rent controls”.

So when the Labour Party announced that they would permit the state to bid for rail franchises, the Tory reaction was of great interest to me. And, predictably, this was what James Duddridge (who may as well be Grant Shapps’ puppet) tweeted:

Like I said, predictable. And a shame, too, because not only is Mr Duddridge willfully misrepresenting the policy, but Southend is actually one of the places which it would best serve.

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Heresy of the Week – Spock should have been captain of the Enterprise


kirk and spock

Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.

This week’s heresy:

“One of the biggest criticisms of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek films has been how desperate it has seemed to get back to the “normal” of The Original Series, rather than taking the opportunity to innovate. And on that note: Spock should have been the Enterprise’s new captain.

Read on…

“The Boy with the Porcelain Blade” by Den Patrick – A Review


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(Gollancz, 320pp, pb £8.99/hb £20.00/eb £7.49)

This review was originally published in issue #252 of science-fiction magazine Interzone. You can buy back issues and subscribe to future issues at their shop.

When challenged, I usually describe myself as a lapsed fantasy fan, in much the same way as others might consider themselves lapsed Catholics. My journey into the world of genre started with the likes of J.R.R. Tolkein, C.S. Lewis and Anne McCaffrey.

A large part of what ended up putting me off fantasy was a perceived lack of imagination within the confines of the genre itself. So you can see why Den Patrick’s “The Boy with the Porcelain Blade” appealed to me.

A fantasy in a renaissance-ish Italian setting, rather than the medieval western European model which has become so prevalent; it claims to offer something different. Which is a good starting point for a novel of any genre.

The shame of it, from this reader’s perspective, is that it fails to capitalise on that.

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06 “This Woman’s Work” (Defiance season 2) [SPOILERS]


defiance

This episode marks the midpoint of Defiance‘s second season, and it’s safe to say that it has found its stride. I enjoyed the first season a lot, and I think I’m set to enjoy the second even more.

The reasons for that, in my opinion, is that it has mixed up its storylines well, and hasn’t been afraid of its own zaniness. Which is good, because that has always been where it has shone.

At this stage, though, we need to start seeing some weighty movement on the story front. And please less of Tommy sulking, or at least do something with it.

Read on…(and mind the spoilers!)

Splitting the vote: Vote Green, get UKIP


green ukipBack in 2011, at the AV referendum, I supported the Alternative Vote. Despite all of the propaganda against it — President Clegg? Seriously? Even with AV, who is going to be voting for Nick Clegg now? — I was firmly in favour. As an electoral system, First Past the Post is inherently unfair, particularly the level to which election results can be distorted by split votes to give a result contrary to the wishes of the majority of the election.

This has, I think, been made borne out through a few recent election results.

Read on…

Black Static #41 (Jul/Aug) – A Review


black static #41

Regular readers — hello to both of you! — will know that I like my horror dark, and tailor my reading habits thusly.

Recently, though, rather than fiction I sometimes feel like I could just be reading the news. Probably I’m just noticing it more than usual, but it seems to have become a never ending cavalcade of misery and suffering; new stories of murder and worse on a daily basis.

Misery, it goes without saying, is not entertainment. What is fertile ground for exploration in the hands of writers of fiction, is bleak and unremittting in the cold light of the real world, shorn of analogy.

But fiction is where we explore the world. We can bring out ideas from today and test them, analyse them, know them. All fiction is analogy, after all. So when the world is become so dark a place, where does our fiction have to go in order for us to get a handle on it? How far into the dark night must we go to flush out the real monsters behind our fears?

And on that note, the latest issue of Black Static.

Read on…

Southend Politics & Social Media: Part 1 – Meet the Tweeters


 

tweeting on sea

Like it or not, the internet has changed politics dramatically in the last few years. It has changed the way that people interact with issues — local and national — and it has changed the way that politicians and activists campaign.

This has, of course, been taken up in varying ways and with varying different degrees of success by different parties. Twitter, for me, is an indispensable campaign tool, giving easy reach to hosts of potential voters, many of whom are towards the younger end of the demographics — and therefore statistically less likely to vote.

So I figured why not let my inner stats nerd loose on the Twitter use of Southend’s political actors? That’s sure to draw in the crowds, right?

Read on

Hersey of the Week – Aragorn has more character in film than book


aragorn shards of narsil

Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.

This week’s heresy:

For all the shouting that books are better than their film adaptations (and it usually is true) it is not universal. Sometimes films, or even parts, are better than the books they draw on — in particular, the character of Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings films.

Read on…

05 “Put the Damage On” (Defiance season 2)[SPOILERS]


defiance

After a somewhat wooden opening episode, I have to say that the second season of Defiance has been pretty strong. A format has emerged whereby a central “investigation” forms the vessel for explorations of the social issues in the occupied town. It’s pretty effective general method.

But what is making this shine really comes down to the writing. There are so many easy traps into which it could have fallen, the most notable to me being launching immediately into a resistance story. That hasn’t happened, instead we’ve seen a subtle raising of tensions, played out by strong cast of characters.

And, of course, the odd dollop of what the hell.

Read on…

Kipperwatch: UKIP cllr plans board game in Southend council meeting


kipperwatch

Reaching a point, you have to wonder what certain people are thinking, exactly.

Of the new crop of UKIP councillors gifted upon Southend by a poor turnout in May, three of them are still pretty much complete unknowns to me. Though second-hand reports of Cllr Waterworth’s antagonistic conduct has reached my ears, Cllrs Callaghan and Burling are still inflatable question marks in my mind’s eye.

Cllr Moyies, my esteemed and victorious opponent in West Shoebury in May, is the UKIP councillor I have heard the most of. He chairs the People Scrutiny Committee, and has spoken the most out of the five in any public forum. I’m sure I will have plenty more to say about Cllr Moyies as his term continues, but so far he has not be the ‘KIPper about whom I have blogged most.

No, that honour belongs to Cllr Lawrence Davies, who only last week was the subject of a blog on his apparent lack of judgement. This time, though, the poor judgement is rather more than “apparent”.

Read on…