Month: March 2014

Strange callers and turncoats


lib dem rosette

We at Castle Dent (n.b. not an actual castle) had an interesting caller yesterday afternoon. Whilst the sun beat down on Southend, the doorbell rang, and I was the one to open the door.

And it opened onto a strange gentlemen, with a clipboard in hand, and a look I knew well. He introduced himself as the Conservative candidate for Victoria Ward. When he asked about my own politics, I was honest — a simple Google search would have told him the truth any how. It was a little different to how I would have canvassed someone on the doorstep; a lecture on the follies of François Hollande and the Parti Socialiste.

His name was Denis Garne, and less than half an hour later I learnt that he was a former councillor on Southend Borough Council. Representing the, erm, Labour Party.

Read on…

Useless Southend Independents cancel each other out


southend civic centre

It has been, now, over a week since the fun and games of Southend Borough Council’s budget meeting, and a lot of the focus — my own included — has been on Nigel Holdcroft’s accusations of horse-trading against, err, his own administration, and Ron Woodley’s histrionics at his inclusion in the ambit of such horse-trading.

So I’m afraid that I’ve neglected to look at the actual votes cast on the borough’s budget for 2014/15. That is something I shall attempt, in part, to remedy now. It is, I note, difficult because at time of press the council had released no minutes for the meeting.

But from my own observations, and the observations of other bloggers covering Southend local politics, one thing has become apparent: in at least two wards, Independent Party Group councillors cancelled each other out.

Read on…

RoboCop [2014] – A Review


robocop 2014

I recall when I saw Total Recall at the cinema. The remake, not the original. I remember emerging blinking into the day, and wondering what on earth I had just seen.

Despair of remakes is not new, either generally or me. I generally hold it as a badge of unoriginality, a symptom of the malaise afflicting the film industry wherein spinning out an old success once again as a certainty of money is more important and worthwhile than taking a risk on something new.

Enter, then, another 80s SF remake: Robocop. I’m late in the day seeing this, and honestly wouldn’t if the well of new releases had not run dry in the post-Oscars lull. The original was an important film, if a bit — well, a bit 80s. Remaking it isn’t encouraging, for the Total Recall reasons above, and yet there is something a little more timeless about the story of a robot policeman.

Read on…

Heresy of the Week – No Zack, you’re not better than Terry Gilliam


watchmen comic

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:

In his recent derisory comments about Terry Gilliam’s approach to making Watchmen, Zack Snyder exposes his tin ear for film as a greater art form, an also the arrogance which poisons his own works.

Read on…

It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it: a view on Hugo-gate


jonathan ross

Sorry, I lied.

If you haven’t heard about the debacle which unfolded over the weekend, the summary is this: Jonathan Ross was going to be hosting the 2014 Hugo Awards; some people weren’t too impressed with the choice of him as host; in the resultant controversy, he ended up stepping down.

Now, there are plenty of opinions floating around here — too many, in fact — and I don’t really want to get into the substantive issues. I doubt that this post will make me many friends, but if I wanted a quiet life I wouldn’t have a blog. Or a Twitter account. Or the internet. In fact I’d live in a cave somewhere, cut off from the rest of the world.

But what the hell, eh?

Read on…

What’s in a title?


andromeda

As a writer — particularly a short story writer — one of the most difficult parts of creating a story is actually naming the damn thing.

So many works-in-progress and, yes, the neglected hulks of abandoned half-completed tales, bear names such as “Black Hole Story” and “Horror #17”. Not terribly exciting, I know. Usually once the beast is completed, a title does present itself, and there are the rare gems where the title falls into place during the creation process.

But no, there is a distinct art to titles, and it’s an art which I’m very much an admirer of. Not simply in fiction — though I will say that I have particular love for Heinlein’s time-travel classic “All You Zombies”, and the Hugo-nominated “From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled” by Michael Swanwick — but actually I find that the titles of TV series episodes are where some of the best work is to be found.

Read on…

Southend Independents for sale?


cllr ron woodley

By recent standards, the full meeting of Southend Borough Council last Thursday was a brief affair. It was done by around half ten, unlike previous occasions when it has gone on into the wee hours of the morning.

I didn’t attend myself, but thanks to the magic of technology I have been able to catch up via webcast on the thrilling debates around the current budget — perhaps the last full-year’s budget to be set for Southend by a Conservative administration. Though it might have been shorter, it was definitely not short on content of interest — and potential scandal.

Now, I don’t know what the truth of matters are. I have no idea if what Cllr Holdcroft alleged on the floor of the chamber is true, and I will cast no judgement on that. But it does present, in my view, some very serious issues which need addressing.

Read on…