Friday, 30 November 2012

Friday Talisman: Mean Ginge Killing Machine

Turns out the Other Half has a significantly superior camera to me when it comes to photographing miniatures.  Here, then, in new and improved Flissvision, is the Doomsayer. Who might say rather more optimistic things if he could find a decent tailor.

Special bonus models: I've successfully doubled the size of my Blood Angels fleet.  I would've taken pictures of them in the Carpet Nebula as is traditional, but the Space Marine Strike Cruiser is one of the most unbalanced models Games Workshop ever put out.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Sophie's Choice Of Custodians

This press self-regulation vs government press regulation argument that's been re-sparked by the upcoming release of Lord Levenson's musings really has me confused.  Do I want the press policed by the shits who caused this whole mess in the first place, or do I want it policed by the shits that were buying champagne for the shits who caused this whole mess in the first place?

It's a tough one, and no mistake. Still, at least it's handed Nick Clegg another opportunity to collapse like a blancmange gazebo.  Like we were running out of them.  Maybe not, though; maybe Nick really will leap to his feet and say some mean things about David Cameron.  Not so much biting the hand that feeds him as biting the hand that stole his food causing him to make an online video apologising for ever promising to eat.

Monday, 26 November 2012

"We've Been Called Wrong Too Long To Start Doing Right"

Ah, Jonah Goldberg; you are so much fun to have around (via Balloon Juice).

For those not familiar with Goldberg, he's the political genius responsible for Liberal Facism, a book which attempts to explain how progressives are a specific subset of authoritarian bigots.  You can probably guess for yourselves the level of argument employed there; because Nazis called themselves socialists actual socialists must be Nazis; that kind of razor-sharp analysis.

I wouldn't normally darken the pixels of this blog with his random wittering (though I dimly remember tearing him apart a few years back over at GeekPlanetOnline), but this was just too funny to pass up.  Sure, most of it is standard deliberate misunderstandings, assertions without context, and outright lies (it is impossible to "defensibly" dub Secretary of State Susan Rice as incompetent over her role in the aftershocks of Benghazi unless you accuse the CIA of lying to protect her and pretend to not understand how linear time operates), but the really choice part is here:
But can you imagine how much worse it will get if Republicans actually do reach out to black community (as they should)... Any serious attempt by the GOP to win black votes won’t involve Republicans copycatting liberal policies. It will require going over the heads of black and white liberal slanderers to offer a sincere alternative to failed liberal policies on schools, poverty, crime, etc. The more effective that effort, the more the GOP will be called racist.
Get it? The liberals have done such a good job of calling Republicans racist that even if the Republicans start trying to adapt their policies to black concerns, they'll get into trouble.  They've been called racist so long they're not sure they'll be able to actually start listening to black people.  If only they'd been allowed to ignore black issues for fifty years without being accused of racism, they'd be in a position to consider whether there's anything they might be bothered to do for the Afro-American community.

(Oh, and on the freak-out over Romney's "birth certificate "joke""; if you can't tell the difference between a joke's audience and a joke's target (in this case, racists and a guy who people were being racist about, respectively), then you're a goddamn idiot.  Indeed, you might even be so stupid as to argue that a party racist until the 1960s is more of a problem than a party racist from the 1960s until right fucking now.  Oh, wait...)

Thursday, 22 November 2012

D CDs #495: Keep At It

Well, this is interesting. A synchronicity that borders on predestination, you might say.  If you were Rupert Giles, that is.  Having spent the last album review comparing a black man's straight-up blues to a white man's bluesy soul, here's a white woman's countrified blues to complete the set.

Obviously, it's not really complete at all. I'm confident we'll be paying a visit to Lauryn Hill at some point, if no-one else.  But there's something interesting in considering how moving one step away from "white male" alters the dynamics of the kind of music we seem to keep dipping into.  Especially since Raitt, like King and Scaggs, is represented here by a collection that includes both covers and re-interpretation and original material.

Which is nice, because it lets me side-step the identity politics this time and talk about covering songs.  When I was young and stupid (and there's ample evidence that I am no longer young, at any rate), I tended to think anyone who didn't write their own songs was little more than a hack.  Doubtless this was at least partly just a teenage rock fan turning his nose up at pop music, and finding authorship a convenient place to draw what I could pretend was a meaningful line.

I still think there's a point buried in there somewhere, though; the best music has an emotional resonance which doesn't have to come from a direct connection between writer and singer, but that's certainly a good way to do it.  The fact that so many people swear it's almost impossible for cover versions to eclipse their originals suggests I'm not alone in this assumption, though just to confuse matters, whether or not I prefer a cover version is almost entirely dependent on whether or not I heard it first.

Live From Cook County Jail, Boz Scaggs and Give It Up can all be used as test cases for this theory.  All three as noted are mixtures of covers and originals, but due to my near-total ignorance of American music from before the early '90s, there's not a song I recognise from some other source. I'm entirely reliant on the liner notes as regards provenance.  And once again, the three discs all take different positions. BB King proves himself to be an energetic and arresting entertainer, but his actual songs aren't nearly so interesting as the classics he takes on.  Scaggs seems equally impressive no matter who penned the material, indeed of the three, his is the hardest album to guess which songs were imported elsewhere.

Raitt, on the other hand, includes three of her own songs on this album, and each of them is excellent.  The stuff she mines from musical history?  That's not so great.

Perhaps I might have been inclined to simply cite this as proof of the "original = best" theory, except that Scaggs has already made us question that, and King has blown the idea out of the water.  So what's going on here?  Let's start by talking about the three original joints we got here.  The first of these, "Give It Up or Let Me Go", opens the album, and it's simply wonderful, a foot-stomping lick-heavy rant against a wandering boyfriend that's impossibly energetic even before the sublime horn section and boogie piano solo shows up.  "Nothing Seems to Matter" follows on, a slow-burning, delicate breathing space to give your adrenaline time to recede.  It's such a perfect opening pair of songs that it's maybe not so much of a surprise that the rest of the album can't meet the expectations.  The closest it comes is with the penultimate track Raitt's third songwriting credit, "You Told Me Baby", another uptempo romp, with more wonderful guitar and complaints about men, only this time with a bitching saxophone solo.

Elsewhere, though, things seem to come unglued.  There's nothing here that less than competent, but then when you're picking and choosing from the back catalogue of anyone you damn please, hitting competence really isn't particularly impressive.  There needs to be something that pushes a new version of an old song into its own territory.  You'd have thought the enthusiasm Raitt brings to her own songs would be a start, but with a couple of exceptions (a quite lovely rendition of Joel Zoss' "Too Long at the Fair", a good approximation of the kind of restrained force Jackson Browne specialises on a version of his "Under the Falling Sky"), the spark feels like it's missing, or at least not it's not setting alight the right parts of the material chosen.

Which is a real shame, given what Raitt can clearly accomplish when she's guaranteed herself that direction connection.  I may not have been invariably right about all this back when I was fifteen, but in these moments in 1972, I'm pretty sure I had a point.  It would be seven more years before another of Raitt's albums would include an original composition.  One wonders what might have happened if she'd kept writing.

Six tentacles.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Studies In Space Sapphism

I've mentioned before how much I enjoy Philip Sandifer's TARDIS Eruditorum blog, and that's not an opinion that has changed just because he's given a shellacking to what was for three years my favourite TV series, Babylon 5.

That said, there's something in that essay that needs further consideration, because it reads as a re-statement of a common criticism levelled at Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and whilst the arguments and counter-arguments have been done to death regarding that show (specifically, whether it heaped too much misery upon its lesbian characters), it's worth looking at them in this new context.  Well, I think it's worth it.  Mainly, I just spent twenty minutes writing a response over at Phil's place, only for my computer to eat it (what kind of gimpjelly designs a mouse with a hair-trigger "previous page" button millimetres above where the thumb is supposed to rest), so I might as well get a blog post out of a re-write.

This is the line in the essay that bothers me:
It tries to be brave and do a “lesbians are OK and people have fluid sexualities” plot between Ivanova and Talia, but ends up burying it so deep in the mix that it feels like the show is ashamed about it, and furthermore seems to only do it so that it can then tragically destroy the couple because, after all, lesbian couples only exist for searing tragedy.
This is unfair in at least two different ways.  Most obviously, whilst I have no idea how much responsibility Straczynski bears for Andrea Thompson's departure from the show (for his part, he's always insisted the problem was that she had unrealistic expectations of how large her role should be; I've never heard her side of the story), it's clear it wasn't a storytelling choice made by the showrunner to split the characters up.  Moreover, the actual split - brought about when Talia proves to be a sleeper agent for some rather unpleasant people - was played as a Major Plot Point first, and as a personal tragedy for Ivanova second.  Hell, the next time Talia is mentioned the implication is that it's Garibaldi who was most affected by the revelation, with Ivanova being the one to talk him out of blowing his stack.

In other words, it's difficult to see "Divided Loyalties" being an episode interested in generating "searing tragedy" for its lesbian couple.  The point that the relationship itself was buried deep in the mix makes more sense, though we should consider US genre television as a whole here.  The second season of B5, in which the entirety of Ivanova and Talia's relationship takes place, was broadcast in the same year as Deep Space Nine used a lesbian kiss during sweep's week.  Now, the episode in question is really rather lovely, and doesn't come across in the least bit exploitative, so I'm not inclined to criticise the writers, but the fact that Paramount considered this the sort of storyline they wanted to push during a week usually reserved for action-heavy stories, major league special guest stars and the like casts some doubt on the idea that a months-long homosexual relationship would sit well with the powers that be. A full five years later, Joss Whedon would come within a whisker of resigning as showrunner for Buffy because Fox were being assholes about the idea of Willow and Tara being allowed to kiss on-screen.  To paraphrase Aaron Sorkin, Straczynski's show wasn't ashamed of gay characters, the suits in his profession were.

Seventeen years after Susan Ivanova awoke and was surprised to find Talia not in bed beside her, there has still not been a single explicitly gay character in Star Trek. For all it's progress in portraying lesbian characters Buffy played Andrew's latent homosexuality entirely for laughs.  And both of those are points about 21st century television.  If there's another example of a genre show - or any show in the US - making so little fuss of including gay characters only halfway through the '90s, I'd like to hear about it.  B5 deserves far more credit for what it did that Sandifer is prepared to grant.

Another problem with the "lesbians = searing tragedy" brush-off is that searing tragedy was absolutely what B5 was about when it came to romance.  Yes, Ivanova lost her gay lover.  She also discovered that a former long-time boyfriend had become a xenophobic killer.  Dr Franklin hooked up with a woman who turned out to be a drug addict who stole from him to feed her dependency.  Garibaldi lost Talia - admittedly in a different way to Ivanova - and then had to spend months working for the love of his life's new husband.  Once that got resolved, he almost pissed it all away again by, er, getting all pissed again.  Both Sheridan's wife and Bester's lover got themselves lobotomised to be fitted into Shadow vessels.  Zack Allen and Marcus Cole both chased their hearts desire for years without success, and the latter ended up sacrificing his life for his unrequited love.  Lyta Alexander fell in love with a guy who set himself on fire, Londo for a dancer who broke his heart and came back to him in a body bag.  Lennier was so badly crushed by the pressure of his feelings for Delenn that he broke the moral code he had dedicated his life to, setting in motion a chain of events that (we're told) eventually led to his death.  The only woman we ever saw Vir engage with romantically turned out to be running a concentration camp.  And if we get to include the (supposedly canonical) spin-off novels as well, then Sinclair had a crappy time of it too, losing his fiancee to an unfortunately-located temporal rift.

Drama revolves around misery in love, of course, but that's a fairly impressive list of horrors right there.  Aside from the functionally asexual Na'Toth and the briefly alive Warren Keffer, the only main characters to get through without any kind of major romantic trauma was Delenn, who pretty much just got lucky, or G'Kar, who staved off disaster by just fucking as many hookers as he could.  The fact that one float of this near-endless parade of hideous maladjustment happened to be Sapphic strikes me as unworthy of comment for any other reason than noting that at least it was there. 

In fact, if you want to talk about unfortunate subtexts in Babylon 5's romantic plots, I'd suggest bypassing Susan and Talia altogether and focusing on how much time was eaten up by male characters pining for unattainable women (whether because they weren't interested or weren't around, due to being on other planets, in other times, or presumed dead), and how those stories more than once developed into attempts by said male character to prove themselves worthy of the women who clearly weren't interested.  If there's a more perfect encapsulation of pre-pubescent boyish fantasy than watching Ivanova go to pieces because she never really appreciated Marcus until he sacrificed himself for her, I've not seen it.

But that whole lesbian thing?  That was OK.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Bless My Soul, What's Wrong With Him?

It's mixed news from the Thursday by-election in Corby (ancestral homeland of both regular commentator Brutal Snake, and free-floating chaos-courting liability Ibb).  Obviously, any occasion in which the Tories are defeated and Louise Mensch has to suck lemons can only be a good thing.  Interesting that this is the first by-election Labour has won since the last time they were out of power, but then I'm not sure how surprised we should be by that. I'd have thought the opposition would tend to better in such circumstances, since lower voter turn out tends to mean protest votes have a greater weighting than they do in the general.  That's true of American midterms, at least, maybe Tomsk has something to add on the matter.

On the other hand, we should consider it a national disgrace that the Elvis Loves Pets party didn't break into triple digits.  One more lousy vote!  Brutal Snake, I hold you personally responsible.  How can anyone not want this man in Westminster?

(Best comment on that video, by the way: "Elvis really, really liked cow.")

I mean sure, Sawford's victory means one less Conservative can stink up the place, but a Bishop victory would resulted in the castration of Boris Johnson, so it's hard not to see this as a missed opportunity.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Four Animals, Twenty-One Legs

It's been an interesting fortnight for water-based critters. Current Biology published an analysis of DNA from two whales that beached in New Zealand in 2010, announcing they are a new species; the only known whale species never to have been seen alive.  The closest we can get is to something with a similar skeletal structure, the ginkgo-toothed beaked whale, which is also almost (though not quite) entirely unobserved whilst alive:

No matter how often it happens, I never get over the thrill of being reminded just how much life exists in the sea about we know almost or entirely nothing.  I mean, what is this shit?

Or this?

Or this?

Oh, wait.  That's not a deep-sea-dwelling perversion of the natural order. That's a frog messed up by flatworms and reprogrammed to have eight legs. Nice.  And apparently it's our fault.

I guess it's nice to know that as we catalogue more and more of the species the Earth produced for us, we don't need to worry about running out of things to engage our curiosity. We can just mutate the everliving fuck out the most common of animals, and play around with them for a while.

Monday, 12 November 2012

The Encroaching Darkness

Just so you know, things are liable to be quieter than usual around here for a little while. Once I've finished writing this post, I'm going to be packing up what little remains of my things and headed off to pastures new. Critically, these pastures do not yet have anything so advanced as a phone connection, due to some obscure BT problem that doubtless they will fix with their typical efficiency.  If I get to use my landline to wish people a happy Easter, I will be more than a little surprised.

I hate moving, but there are marked advantages to the new place: I'm having a girlfriend delivered and installed in a fortnight's time (must remember to stay in to sign for her), and there's no evidence of yawning holes in any of the ceilings.  And yes, the chasm above my bath is still there; someone came round last week who I thought intended to fix it, but turns out he'd just been asked to work out how best to rip out the en-suite shower. Clearly that's a priority when the bath is filled with rubble.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Mockery And Milestones: US Election Edition

Of all the insane right-wing reactions to Obama's re-election, this one is my favourite, even though it was posted two days before Romney's defeat.  There's just something wonderful in watching a mind so utterly unhinged. Charles Pierce talked a lot about this in Idiot America; the American crank is a marvellous thing, at least right up until they're given a microphone and told to sell ad space.

I particularly love the phrase "dictatorial full monty", which I'm sure Ringer intended to be weighed down with dread import, but just makes me think of Robert Carlyle stripping out of a Nazi uniform. [1]

While we're on the subject of the election, I wanted to mention four milestones that have come out of the down-ticket races:
  • The first ever openly gay senator was elected in Wisconsin.  She is, obviously, a Democrat.
  • The first ever Buddhist senator was elected in Hawaii.  She is, obviously, a Democrat.
  • The first ever all-female Congressional delegation was assembled in New Hampshire. Three of the four are Democrats.
  • The first ever Congressional caucus in which white men are not the majority was assembled nationwide.  They are, obviously, the Democrats.
And if all that wasn't enough, gay marriage got itself good and legalised in two more states: Maine and Maryland.  Both, obviously, voted for the Democrat.

Good news all around, then. I look forward to four more years of Glenn Greenwald telling sociopaths like me that there's no real difference between the two major parties.

[1] Not, I confess, for the first time.

Radio Friday: Flaptastic

Watching Skyfall on Wednesday reminded me of Heineken (hardly a surprise; the things we have to do to scrape together enough money to have Daniel Craig shoot up a whole bunch of people), which in turn reminded me of this.  More contemporary music videos should be centered around dancing flappers.

One wonders rather if Heineken have shot themselves in the foot here, though; all I want to do watching this is drink gin cocktails.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

A Lack Of Permutations

In which the mission of the new Bond films is made clear: remake all the shit ones but make them interesting.

This time round, it's Goldeneye combined with The World Is Not Enough; former agent turns traitor (the former) and goes after M (the latter).  It's got imagination to spare in the set pieces (though the fortuitous placement of a bulletproof JCB was a little too much to swallow), which is good.  On the other hand, there's nothing in the plot that isn't blindingly obvious, or even outright lazy (thank God only three men in the world use that type of bullet!  How fortunate that assassin carried a embossed gambling chip whilst out on a job!).  Indeed, the most surprising thing in the whole film is there is the obvious plot twist they decided not to bother with.

Without saying too much, though, that's largely because of another aim of the film, which is to bring in some of the more familiar elements of the series.  It's not entirely successful in this regard, mainly because the Craig Bond films are already deeply confused as to whether or not they want to have any thematic association with it's forebears, and with this film the uncertainty reaches the point where it's introducing Bond to characters already familiar from the previous series, whilst porting over artifacts from those films implying this Bond was the one who used them.  I'm also not sure what's up with all the references to how long Bond's been at the job, given it was only two films ago that he earned his double-0 rating.

Of course, maybe once Judi Dench was ported over from the Brosnan era, they figured that continuity was irredeemably fucked in any case (it's explicitly made clear here that James Bond is the characters real name and not, as could previously have been argued, no less transferable an identity than 007).  Speaking of Dench, her central role in the proceedings means that to all intents and purposes she's this film's Bond girl, which is a wonderful development, even if it does mean Naomi Harris and (particularly) Berenice Lim Marlohe get somewhat wasted.  Not that there's absolutely no rumpy-pumpy; it wouldn't be a Bond film without sexytimes, though it's rather unfortunate that there's one scene in here that's easily as stalkerish/rapey as anything Bond did back in the day.  Maybe that's the price you have to pay for Bond's first dalliance in homoerotic flirtation, which was a nice surprise (mind you, the last time he was tied to a chair by a villain he got a club to the blokeberries; I'd imagine just being cracked on to must be a significant relief).

So, bonus points: action sequences, Judi Dench, gay flirting.  Minus marks: lazy plotting, too little for non-Dench women, and a shower scene that would frighten any sane woman.  Looks like a draw.  Except; who's this arriving to break the tie?

That would be Javier motherfucking Bardem.  And thus is victory declared.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

US Election Blogathon

04:37 With victory now assured absent acts of God - and not an ordinary God, one of the really unpleasant ones - I think this is a good time to sign off.  My thanks to everyone who've been reading over the last eight hours, and let me just say, from the bottom of my heart: fuck Joe Walsh.

04:24 Ohio for Obama!  What can I say that isn't summed up by Andy Borowitz on Twitter: "Man Who Told Half the Nation to Fuck Themselves Somehow Loses Election"

04:23 BBC coverage announcing Colorado legalised marijuana.  For the record, Brutal Snake told me first.

04:19 Feel terrible that I used "inevitable" twice in that last update.  That's Bush league shit, right there.

On the other hand, Obama just progressed from "overwhelming favorite" to "certain victor absent the invasion of the bodysnatchers".

So it's swings and roundabouts, really.

04:15 So excited about a second Obama term.  Healthcare safe! New START implemented! The inevitable dance-off with Iran inevitably in the bag!

04:09 Maybe all the Transformers running around are causing problems.  Or the Fog.  It could be the Fog.

04:08 Does Oregon even know there's an election on?  I mean, Alaska I can forgive, but...

04:06 Basically, Republicans are telling Romney they can't stack possibly stack the deck with the number of aces he's gonna need.  People get suspicious when you wanna play with more than 52 cards...

04:05 So Jeb Bush thinks Romney lost Florida? I guess when the grand high wizard says he can't cast a powerful enough spell to befuddle the peasants, it's all over.  And yes, "spell" in this case means "obvious voter fraud".

03:57 Democrats do not have a problem with men. They have a problem with white men who've never seen the ocean.  That's very different.

03:54 I think it says a great deal that a Republican is boasting about how one election in the last four they managed to get as many women to vote for them as men.

03:51 My eyes feel like they're three times their normal size.  Is that a good sign?

03:45 Latest in Ohio has Obama at 53% and Romney at 48%. Whoever wins: maths loses.

03:43 Which of course, would make the challenger Mitt Romney of Many Colours.  Except green, obviously.  Never green.

03:38 Apparently there's only ten routes left to victory for Romney.  And three of those involve stealing the One Ring from Sauron.

03:35 Also, as I understand it, the US just got its first openly gay senator, which is wonderful news.

03:34 More technical problems have overcome me, so this is a good few minutes late, but just for the record: Wisconsin is the first result to even slightly surprise me (my brief wobble on Pennsylvania notwithstanding).

03:32 Brilliant that the panel can't keep all the insane Republican claims about rape straight. There's just too much shit to sift through.

03:21 Given the economic situation and Republican intransigence, I don't think having Obama carry on before is worth the qualifier "just". "Hey, Neil Armstrong; are you just gonna keep wandering around heavenly bodies no mortal man before you has reached?"

03:19 Aw, Linda McMahon lost her race.  That's got to be bad news for wrestling fans who also don't know what the fuck reality is.

03:18 We are now looking inside Virginia.  You can fill in the rest of this joke yourself.

03:15 Current score is Obama 157, Romney 162. That's somewhat misleading, though; Republican states are often the first to declare, because a) voter fraud has gotten pretty efficient, and b) no bugger lives in the Midwest anyhow.

03:12 Not much point using Romney quotes in an argument.  Your opponent can always counter through the use of Romney quotes.

03:05 A useful explanation there that "exit poll" means people who are "polled" as they "exit" the polling booth.  Email me or comment if you require further explanation.

03:04 Noooo, BBC!  Don't use pie charts!  They're really bad, for some reason.  I forget why.

03:02 I'm still too fuzzy to deal with the electoral maths, but looking at that border-to-border streak of red, it's clear that Romney has won Blockbusters.

03:01 It's proving to be a very bad night for white men announcing how women should deal with rape.

02:59 "If we're looking for an electoral college victory." What on Earth else could we be looking for? The treasure of the Sierra Madre under a voting machine?

02:56 Warren announced winner in Massachusetts.  Hopefully this time it isn't bullshit.

02:55 Just as an aside, the BBC electoral map is very slow.  Dimbledude's coverage is significantly ahead.

02:53 New Hampshire for Obama.  Not a surprise, but not a foregone conclusion either.

02:52 Also, that "big government" bit was purest horsecrap, but then that goes without saying. Whenever a Republican starts bitching about the size of the federal government, you need to tune them out immediately.  They're either hypocrites, or so fabulously wealthy that the whole country could collapse and they'd still have the bullion to buy all the security guards and whores they'd need.  Or security whores.  Has anyone done that before?

02:50 Fucking hell, did he just name Bobby "volcanoes will never erupt, boy howdy!" as a potential Republican candidate for president.  Immediate fail, your name is whoever that guy was.

02:48 Nine times out of ten, "Momentum" just means "we're losing, but please don't assume we'll lose".

02:47 Angry Black Lady informs me (in all caps, not that the announcement doesn't warrant it) that the berk insisting that pregnancies borne of rape are "God's will" just got his head handed to him. Amen, said the atheist.

02:46 Good advice.  We worry about Florida only when we have to, as I've said.  When I made my prediction two days ago I was worried Florida (or almost any other state) would be the decider, but I'm rather less worried at this moment.

02:44 It's at this point that I wish I was sober enough to do the maths, but I'm pretty sure Obama is well in the lead.  That said, I may be so out of it that I'm clicking on four year old links.

02:43 Wait, Romney's got his headquarters in Massachusetts too?  That's like me redirecting all mail to my ex-girlfriend's house and demanding she fuck me the day before I might get a promotion.

02:40 They got some weird music up at Lake Michigan.  It sounds like a whale trying to pass a wind-chime.

02:34 I'm hearing from Glenn Greenwald that Alan Grayson is back in Congress.  Which should be entertaining, since he was the only 2008 freshman perfectly happy to tell the GOP to go fuck themselves with all possible speed.

02:33 Let's not bring up 2000, hmm? It only matters if it's the deciding state. Let's cross that bridge when we come to it (flashing our genitals as Antonin Scalia as we do, natch).

02:29 Oh thank God. It's been an hour since I learned whether Captain Turtleface was sick of what's been going on in the US over the last four years.

02:28 I still don't believe the first debate had the impact people say it did, but the problem with saying Romney screwed up by not going to Pennsylvania to flip it when he had the chance was the number of other states he needed to flip while he had the chance. There's only so much a man could do during the brief period people don't think he's a tool.

02:21 Dammit! Call for Warren apparently a mistake.  Hopefully the same isn't true of Pennsylvania, because that's pretty much the ballgame.

02:17 Pennsylvania called for the blues!  Mwuhahahahahahahaha!

02:16 Again, not surprising, but no less depressing for that: the House is gonna stay Republican. I confidently predict they'll all be intolerable douchebags.

02:15 I don't want to disturb the ghosts of 2000, but given the current lay of the land, it's not a good sign for Romney that Florida is so close.

02:12 In happier news, Massachusetts just called their senate race for Elizabeth Warren.  Which is phenomenal news, because Warren is a fantastic candidate and all-round smart cookie, and Scott Brown is a truculent child who I'm told happens to look good naked.

02:10 I can't get the link to work, but the Washington Monthly are saying the Republicans have picked up five seats in the House. I don't have any more general context for that right now.

02:08 Romneygirl makes a damn good point. If you can't refrain from slamming a member of your own party for working with the president to deal with a hurricane, then you absolutely, positively need to fuck off with all haste.

02:04 "Nothing has changed hands, except for Indiana." Sums it up, especially since Indiana was factored in some time ago.

02:01 Gosh, it's past two in the morning.  I should really have my dinner.

02:00 Republicans have governorship of North Carolina.

01:57 Mississippi too?  Man, Romney's really sweeping the racist states, huh.  I wish I could work out why that was.

01:55 Steve Holt!

01:48 And there we go.

01:47 The speed of the recovery is not due to the size of the recession.  It's due to an utter refusal by a Republican House to vote for anything other than a tax cut on the rich to deal with the problem.

01:45 Gods, do we really have to talk about Romney's likeability?  He got away without revealing his tax returns.  He got away with a series of lies so breathtaking Loki himself would have counselled the guy to cut it out. He got away with a miraculous swing to the center so calculated it involved decimal points.  Piss off with your likability.

01:41 Though if the Republicans take Pennsylvania and the Democrats take Florida, we're still up on the deal.

01:40 Not at all happy about the numbers coming out of Pennsylvania.  You'd think a state so difficult for me to spell would cut me a break.

01:37 I called it at 22:32; New Jersey hates Romney enough to kick his arse during the fallout from a hurricane.

01:35 Another non-surprise as Tennessee, as they remind us they didn't champion a white man with a black voice just so they could suffer a black man with a white job.

01:32 Is there any chance the BBC filmed more than two votes today? Rather sick of a woman begrudgingly supporting Obama and a tortoise inside man's clothes bitching about the current president.

01:29 Alabama and Georgia vote for four more years of racism.

01:28 I call a moritorium on predicting Florida.  Also, the term "bellwether county".

01:26 Yeah, yeah, yeah. Connecticut called for Obama.  Yawn, etc.


Ahem.  There's also some Senate (and House) elections tonight. So far a Democrat has retained their seat, and an Independent has replaced a retiring Republican.

01:17 Florida leaning Republican again. What it would be saying if Rick Scott wasn't governor, the Gods alone know.

01:16 The early vote issue a tough argument to take a side on.  On the one hand, the Democrats are arguing voting is a fundamental right and must be respected.  On the other, the Republicans are arguing it would cost too much money to ensure every citizen can vote.  Man, I'd hate to choose between those two positions.

01:14 Very efficient of Oklahoma to declare for Romney without presenting any actual voting data. Or so the
BBC would have me believe.

01:12 Not that that matters. If Obama takes Ohio and Florida, then it's game over.

01:10 Though if I'd listened to my own advice, I'd have missed an Obama surge.  Florida also still leaning Democrat. Virginia, erm, isn't.

01:09 Must resist urge to just keep clicking Ohio and ignoring everything else.

01:05 This is interesting; BBC site has Florida leaning Democrat and Ohio (just, just) leaning Republican.

01:03 57-40, I'm hearing.  We may have already seen the last time Romney is ahead. But we'll see.

00:57 I think XKCD pretty much obliterated the "It's never happened before now" meme.

00:54 Not sure I'd include Ford in any kind of extrapolation of presidential fortunes. The Nixon pardon pretty much trumped everything.

00:42 NOOOO! Shut up shut up shut up!  The Democratic Party has not moved to the left.  No-one, anywhere, ever, has been able to back that up, except that they're a bit nicer to gay people these days.

00:40 In 1976, I mean.  They're not that backward.

00:39 South Carolina is called.  The only surprising thing here is that they voted for Jimmy Carter.

00:35 West Virginia, in the complete opposite of a surprise, goes for Romney. Given the current results, I predict 67 - 472.  Which is total bollocks, but I'm already doing better than those feckless idiots who were baiting Nate Silver last week.

00:30 Did people know when and where Romney would show up to vote in Massachusetts?  It's my understanding they'd happily beat him to death with Boston Legal DVDs the instant they could pin him down to a zip code.

00:26 I don't agree with Dean's "Go over the cliff" policy, but I don't see a better plan.  Other than growing up and treating the deficit as something less than the upcoming apocalypse it's painted as.  We could try that.

00:25 And he's had enough.

00:24 This is an awfully long time to let a guy lie to your face via satellite.

00:21 If Romney loses, will he even bother with a concession speech?  If I were him, I'd just walk onto a stage constructed from one hundred dollar bills and moon the cameras.

00:17 "Republicans ignored Latinos and Democrats took them for granted". That's actually a pretty nice line from Ms Republican. That said, I don't get to speak for American Latinos even more than I don't get to speak for American white guys, but in my opinion, Obama could certainly have done worse by Hispanics than he did.

00:16 Is Arizona still one of the top ten Hispanic states?  I thought they'd passed laws to have them all shot.

00:15 Back now.  Nice shout-out a few minutes ago to the Lily Leadbetter Act.  For those who don't know, that's a law named after a woman who was discriminated against because of her gender regarding pay scales, but didn't find out about said discrimination until it was too late (where "too late" was determined by, IIRC, the Supreme Court, wretched business-lickers that they are) and so was entitled to no compensation.  The LLA is designed to make it harder for corporations to pay women less then men.  Naturally, pretty much the entire Republican Party voted against it.

00:08 Another Romney surrogate arguing the problem is no-one knows their candidate. If only he'd had access to money and airtime, huh?

00:04 Crap! Technical problems. On steam-powered laptop right now.  Everything I was going to say, the BBC just said.

23:51 The BBC are attributing Romney's resurgence to the first debate.  I've never been entirely convinced on that; it seemed too quick and too large.  That said, I've no better explanation, so what do I know?

23:49 "[Running for president] has cost [Romney] a significant proportion of his career".  I thought for a moment he was going to say "fortune", but I'm not sure anything short of building five Death Stars to use a giant executive toy could make that kind of dent in Romney's offshore accounts.

23:47: Yep, 2000 was too close to call.  That's why the Supreme Court had to step in and piss all over the constitution.  Bitter?  Moi?

23:45 I say this is like a cup final where the losing supporters might get bombed.  Northern Owl disagrees; considering it a cup final where the scores will at least go above two hundred.

23:43 "This election is a political popularity contest."  Yep.  And a t-bone steak is a flat beef apple.

23:41 Don't know anything about Katty Kay, so already, it could be worse.

23:37 The most important question about the BBC's coverage: will they let John Bolton back on after his appalling behaviour last time?

23:32 BBC election coverage about to start in earnest.  I'll probably be sticking with that in the main, not least because my Al Jazeera feed keeps cutting out (my fault, not theirs).

23:24 Which reminds me of one of my favourite comments during the 2008 election, from David Sedaris:
I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes​ down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. 'Can I interest you in the chicken?​' she asks. 'Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?' To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked."
23:19 As much as the electoral college gets beaten on, it's worth remembering that if it was removed, then the US would basically replace a system in which people only care about a fraction of indecisive states with a system in which people only care about a fraction of indecisive people.

23:17 Back to Al Jazeera.  They're pointing out how strange it is that a candidate can be a half million votes ahead and still lose due to the electoral college.  If you're interested, you should check the comments of this post, in which Tomsk is explaining attempts to change this, mainly by beating up my maths, which makes me sad.

23:05 This, on the other hand, is utter crap. Just because income equality is inevitable doesn't mean it's a problem. Cancer is inevitable.  Homicide is inevitable. A new Kid Rock album, it would seem, is inevitable.  It's important to minimise misery wherever possible.

23:04 Interesting comments on whether a second Obama term might finally force Republicans to actually govern the country instead of trying to undermine him.  I'm slightly more sympathetic to this argument than most progressives, but even so, I'll believe it when I see it.

22:57 There now follows a brief pause whilst my girlfriend and I look at meerkats.  Because you should never forget what's really important.

22:51 Watching Newsnight now, and hearing Ohio could take as long as ten days to come up with a definitive result. To call this "not ideal" would be to call Piers Morgan "slightly a twat".

22:44 "Which Mitt Romney is the world and America to believe?"  I'm loving this.

22:43 Holy God! Al J has interviewers who push back!  I've missed that, I really have. This Romney stooge is literally arguing anything his candidate said six months ago can no longer be discussed.

22:39 Breaking news: people vote for Obama because they don't understand Romney's policies.  In fairness, it's difficult to understand a policy when you refuse to explain it.

22:39 Twenty minutes or so until polls start closing.

22:32 I sympathise entirely with the difficulties people in New Jersey are having in voting, but I can't possibly imagine Al J are right about the states electoral votes ending up in the balance.

22:29 The answers are in, courtesy of my friend on Facebook: the New Hampshire symbol is "the old man of the mountain". Truly I am learning tonight.

22:26 Back at Al Jazeera, who are pointing out the difference between Romney's last-minute fast-food campaign stop, and Obama sitting down and calmly eating a meal.  Obama wins dinner, people!

22:21 Thanks to Northern Owl on Twitter for pointing out the Wisconsin symbol is probably a badger (presumably in a blanket).  I should have remembered the Wisconsin-badger link.

22:13 Hugh almost forgot Romney's name then.  Would that we could all be so lucky.

Yeah, I know; that one's obvious.  The soccer gag's drained me for a little while, I think.

22:10 Why does 55 electoral votes make California "the cashpoint"?  That's like calling Christian Ronaldo "The JJB".

Yeah!  A football joke!

22:06 "The millionaire businessman has spent six years working towards this moment." I make it seven, actually, but if he loses it'll be pretty funny either way.

22:01 BBC just told me 150 million Americans can take part in the election.  That's less than 50% of their population.  Is that a strange statistic, or is it about right for an industrial democracy?

21:57 Still trying to figure out those state symbols. The best I can come up with for Wisconsin is that it's a rack of toast atop a porpoise. Any other suggestions?

21:47 Before I beat on this panel too much, I concur with k9 on Twitter, who suggested Al Jazeera's coverage in the first place.  I agree with very little of what's being said, but it's far more enlightening than CNN.  As, of course, is being made to write the letters "CNN" in your own feces.

21:46 Greenwald is complaining about voting because it makes no difference.  If he wanted to give up on politics, he'd now be allowed to join the army.  There's one difference right there.

21:42 Having said all that, everyone at Al J seems happy to call the massive outpouring of anonymous money that blighted this election cycle as the anti-democratic bullshit is is.

21:40 Oh good, now we learn that both candidates are misrepresented by the other camp.  See 20:22.

21:38 Watching Al Jazeera's coverage right now.  Lynn Sherr wants us to know Romney doesn't literally want to end all government.  Thanks.  Glenn Greenwald wants us to know it makes no practical difference who wins, because there's something wrong with him.

21:30 90 minutes until the first polls close.

21:26 Incidentally, I love the little pictures the BBC have up for the different US states.  Texas is a lone star, Wyoming is a coyote.  New Hampshire is, I think, a tramp emerging from a dumpster.

21:15 That came from CNN too, actually.  I'll stop being mean about it.  Unless Wolf Blitzer shows up, obviously.  How can such an awesome name have been wasted on such a milquetoast wood-relief?

21:14 Really, Pennsylvania?

21:11 CNN also tell me that Romney and Ryan just went to buy some fast food.  Romney's order can be found at their site, if you're literally too stupid to go on breathing.

On a personal note, though, I only just saved my cheese bites from getting burnt.  Now that's important information.

21:05 CNN says first preliminary results are crawling in.  Obama's at 65.1% in New Hampshire.  That's based on 0% of precincts, apparently, so I'd advise taking that too much to heart...

21:00 Well, that was a rather weird election special.  What's next?

20:56 There's no point in starting an abortion debate by arbitrarily deciding a certain number of abortions is too high.  That's a recipe for bulldozing right over the individual circumstances of the women in question.

20:52 Have now been informed that it's not as simple as "Democrats pro-choice, Republicans pro-life".  This is of course, true.  It's actually "Democrats generally pro-choice, Republicans led by insane mouthbreathing misogynist monsters". We must be accurate about these things!

20:45 Just passing on a quote from Nate Silver, this blog's favourite statistician (courtesy of Balloon Juice):
I'm not very pro pundit, I have to say.  If pundits were on the ballot against, like, I don't know, Ebola, I might vote Ebola.  Or third party.  
A stats monkey and a wit.  I may have to hunt him down and crush him.

20:34 BBC3 has turned into a debate on lowering the voting age, which is interesting.  I don't really have a horse in the race, but I do agree with the idea that someone needs to explain to me how a sixteen year old's desire to vote for their own selfish short-term gain differs from everyone else's desire to vote for their own selfish short-term gain.

20:28 The Washington Monthly wants rid of the electoral college.  I'm not sure I agree with all their reasons, but overall; yeah. Rather tired of waiting to see what Ohio feels like doing.  Mind you, I'd put proportional representation in the UK as a more likely change than doing away with the Electoral College. Otherwise an awful lot of people would have to fess up about the US doing things the wrong way, and apparently that argument isn't even permissible after an election is thrown into disarray due to voting machines that don't produce legible votes.

20:22 Just because I respect this guy for the balls to stand up doesn't mean he isn't a prick, obviously.  Great point from his opponent: campaigns are not merely either totally truthful or utterly ethically bankrupt. "Obama has stretched the truth too" isn't an argument for anything other than teaching conservatives how to, well, argue.

20:19 If you don't read him anyway, you're missing out, but tonight I'd particularly recommend taking a look over the last few day's worth of posts by Charlie Pierce.  He's been writing a lot about Republican officials in battleground states screwing with the voting process. Really powerful stuff, and frankly makes Florida 2000 look like jolly lawks.

20:15 I admit to respecting people willing to go on the BBC and shill for Romney.  There's no political benefit to it, and they're trying to defend a guy who only learned where Britain is so he could fly over here and be a dick about the Olympics.

20:11 "America has kept peace in the international community".  This will be comforting news to the Iraqis.

20:09 Not the best opening argument Pro-Romney.  Obama hasn't visited Israel or turned around the deficit yet.  Also, IRAN!

20:06 Early days with this BBC3 coverage, but not convinced.  Everyone looks so young.  Nice work setting out the stakes straight off: there's very little chance that the ultimate choice of president won't affect the UK sooner or later

20:05 Finally back after a nightmare evening.  What'd I miss?

What Was Wrong With Paraguay?

This is really interesting, if somewhat guilt-inducing: a list of every modern country with territory at one point invaded or attacked by England/Britain.

Apparently, no-one's done this before.  Actually, no-one's done this yet, since when you read the small print it transpires it also includes countries where we paid the government to let us keep troops there, which basically makes it a map of places we invaded, attacked, or just bought tickets to go on holiday there and brought a gun.

Even so, 90% of the world is a remarkable number (it's not remotely a surprise was that our first effort was against the French, and that we lost), and that's before we factor in Mordor, Narnia, or the Lost World.

So, yeah.  Sorry about that, all of the world.  We feel terrible about it.

(For the record, the US has had armed troops in at least 5 of the 22 countries not on the list.  Plus, you know, they've got the moon and Klendathu.)

Monday, 5 November 2012

Autumn Branches

After thinking about it for a while, I decided that utterly witless Dylan Byers column I linked to last week needed more rubbishing, and that it might be worth breathing life into my It All Adds Up column over at GeekPlanetOnline to do it.

So I did that, then.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

48 Hours And Counting

I suppose I should really put out some predictions for Tuesday, since I've been banging on it at such length for at least the last two years.  Others are encouraged to do the same in comments; whomever comes closest to the final result will win some kind of entirely nebulous prize.


Winner: Obama.
Proportion of popular vote: 47.6%.
Electoral votes: 275 (i.e. a real squeaker).
Margin in Ohio: Less than 2%0.2% (whoops!) of total vote.
Length of time Republicans contest result: 3 weeks.
Supreme Court majority will: be assholes about the whole thing.

Basically, I'm expecting Virginia and Florida to go for Romney (along with Colorado), Pennsylvania to be end up going for Obama by too great a margin for the Romney Campaign to see any point in contesting it.

Ohio, though, will go to Obama, but narrowly enough for the GOP to make all sorts of noises about it being too close to call and there needing to be recounts.  Like with Florida in 2000, only with voter suppression having prevented the true winner from winning by more rather than flipping the whole thing, and with five cockmonkeys on the Supreme Court who'll want to overturn the results, rather than ensuring it stays the same through the most chickenshit method possible.

(I'm not predicting an actual overturning, for the record, but a few weeks of political wrangling and general soul-crushing doesn't seem beyond the boundaries of possibility.)

Anyway, I'll probably be liveblogging the election itself, at least insofar as I'll have access to my computer whilst I watch the coverage and drink myself into oblivion.  Kick-off time will be 20:00 GMT, to give me time to get back from tutoring the minds of tomorrow.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Friday 40K: On Better Ground

Having already re-based my Tyranids, Tau and Dark Angels, it's time to give the same treatment to my last army.  Here's my Blood Angels Captain and his Honour Guard.

The guy on the front left is shiny and new, actually; the last of the five Sternguard I bought a while back.  One of them is now an Ultramarines Sergeant, the other three Dark Angels Veterans