Tuesday, 29 January 2013

British troops to intervene in Mali


Interesting - Cameron may be posturing over his independence from our European partners but apparently he is still willing to pragmatically assist their foreign engagements.

Whether or not this will be a short intervention or not depends largely on the reaction of the Tuareg rebels. They have now been expelled from all of the main Mali cities but have not put up much of a fight and seem to have withdrawn intact with weapons, vehicles and supplies. The future of Mali depends on their commitment and whether or not they see the international intervention as an invitation to guerilla war.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

New Discworld game from Wallace


***ing called it (to quote Mr Tulip).

Not many details yet but they are pushing to release in September of this year. I'm pretty optimistic about how good it will be. While others criticised Ankh Morpork, I found it a fun and chaotic little game that appealed to non-gaming family and to the more experienced alike.

Martin Wallace wisely left many areas of the Discworld mythos untouched. The Witches was the obvious expansion but if this one goes well we could certainly see games set around Cohen the Barbarian, Rincewind or the Assassin's Guild.

Cooperative play also sounds intriguing and suggests a definite change in direction from the cut throat style of Ankh Morpork.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Thoughts on Dollhouse after four episodes

So I'm an avid fan of Joss Whedon's 'Firefly' and have acquired a grudging acceptance that, while 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' isn't my cup of tea, it is well made television that appeals to lots of people with decent taste. Therefore, I've often considered viewing 'Dollhouse' and have even dipped my toe in before and watched the pilot.

Having taken the plunge, I have to say that it has certain weaknesses. Character development is too often sacrificed for sexy actresses in skimpy outfits. While the central premise is interesting it is not entirely original to anyone with any experience of science fiction and lacks an intriguing and cohesive universe to engage with.

However, this doesn't mean it is a total wipe out. The idea of the Dollhouse allows them to keep each episode fresh and to make use of a wide roster of, generally compelling, characters. Further there are certain themes that ooze with promise and intrigue. The Doctor is a supremely effective character despite her tendency towards introversion, which limits her dialogue. Her scarring encounter with Alpha reminds me strongly of Aumonier in Alastair Reynold's 'The Prefect'. Let's just hope that this central storyline resolves in an equally shocking and original manner.

So what do I expect from the rest of the series? My current hair-brained idea is that the apparent 'director' of Dollhouse is another active. In such works of fiction we are often presented with the idea that the copy can only be distinguished from the original by creativeness and character. While Adelle DeWitt exhibits the clinical precision of an imprinted personality, it is lowly Topher who quotes Hamlet and develops the infastructure on which the project depends. Further he has the human weaknesses and foibles that are rarely selected for by those seeking to create a truly effective tool or weapon.

…. and of course we all know how convenient it is to have a controllable figurehead when running a secret and potentially illegal operation ;)

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Question time bluster from the PM


Cameron continues to adopt his suicidal approach to Europe despite opposition from American democrats, his own Economy advisers and experienced British ambassadors.


The effects that this is likely to have on British relations with essential European trading partners and politicians is bad enough. However, the Conservative rhetoric is also sickeningly hypocritical and poorly defined.

Cameron rejects the assertion that his prickly policy will damage the economy and yet he pushes any referendum back to beyond the next election. Hopefully by then he will be out of the driving seat anyway but this convenient delay simply illustrates his desires to pander to Eurosceptics without admitting the consequences of his brinksmanship.

Further he is clearly keeping an eye on the headlines. "If you want to stay out of the single currency you vote Conservative, if you want to go into the single currency you vote Labour, if you want to give power to Brussels, you vote Labour." he pontificates, like a chubby-faced Nigel Farange.

This is lunacy and flies against all the facts. What Labour did was acknowledge economic necessity and political common sense by avoiding antagonising our closest and most important allies in Europe. They had thirteen years to adopt the Euro if they had so desired and showed no inclination to do so. Only a struggling prime minister in a detested coalition would resort to such ineffectual tactics and bare faced lies.

Grotesque NRA advert


This may be the most tedious piece of agitprop I've ever seen. At the risk of having my words twisted and mis-represented like the straw men 'gun control' opponents in this video, I don't think I've ever seen a more brazen display of manipulative opinion formation.


Reading the BBC coverage I thought that the author might be being a bit sneaky in his claim that the NRA were saying that they had gained 100,000 members since the Newtown massacre. "Maybe", I thought, "They have been asked a leading question by a hostile journalist and then had their response quoted in a slightly misleading manner. Surely they can't really be trumpeting growing membership in the weeks after shootings."

But no, the 'stand and fight' advert actually has an NRA membership count scrolling up in the corner. Maybe the promoters should try taking a look at some real indicators of what guns mean for America. A graph showing the yearly numbers of victims killed in schools, when compared to countries with more sensible gun control laws, might convince them to adopt some less moronic stances.

I'd recommend watching this video just to see how low the NRA have sunk but, no doubt, they will use the viewing figures as evidence for the global popularity of their cause at some point in the near future.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Cameron's deluded EU policy


Even Cameron's advisers can see that leaving the EU or pursuing an aggressive and recalcitrant policy towards it courts economic disaster and weakens our foreign policy.

Apparently only our enlightened prime minister and the nutters on the fringes of his party cannot see the economic and political risks of engaging in brinkmanship over our relations with Europe.

Friday, 11 January 2013

School shooting in California


Another American school shooting on the news this evening. A student in California shot another with a shotgun before being persuaded to give up the gun by a brave teacher.

The National Rifle Association and other gun lobbyists should be ashamed that they are prepared to see such events become a monthly occurrence rather than accept sensible gun control.  

Hollande's aggressive condemnation of Mali rebellion


So predictably it is France that answers the calls of Mali's current rulers for assistance against the rebels who have seized the North of the country. France has a long history of intervention in Francophone nations and former colonies. Further the Islamic platform of the rebels and their background in the Libyan conflict have alarmed international observers and led to a low-level, condemnatory media buzz around potential damage to the historic city of Timbuktu.

However, these statements are illustrative in showing Hollande's foreign policy priorities and how his government will interact with the non-European world. His support for withdrawal from Afghanistan is shown to be tactical rather than ideological. By contemplating intervention in Mali, Hollande shows that his left-wing government is not committed to a more peaceful foreign stance than his predecessor but was merely keen to cut unpopular and unwillingly adopted positions in support of American wars.

It will be interesting to see how this impacts on the war in Mali and whether Hollande follows through on his statements of support for the government of this embattled state.

[Edit] - Now that was quick. Hollande has confirmed that French troops are already in the country and are supporting the Mali army. No mention of how many or what they are up to yet.


Wednesday, 9 January 2013

American official recommends caution on Europe referendum


The Americans are now being more sensible on the question of British membership of the European Union than our elected Conservative prime minister. I never thought I'd see the day.

Still, what else can we expect from a man who has to share a party platform with Douglas Carswell? The Clacton M.P's insighful comment on Twitter being, "A US official believes UK should continue to be ruled by EU officials. Hardly surprising - it's how officials think.".

Politicians should always be wary of advocating collective blame - which they have a tendency to attract themselves. Further while Philip Gordon can blandly be described as an 'official' he could just as easily be referred to as a respected academic and published author.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Natural Nuclear Reactors




This is absolutely amazing! Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that such a process could occur naturally!

However, it does make me somewhat glad to be living in an extraordinarily stable and temperate region of the Earth where landslides, floods, volcanos and earthquakes are largely something that happens to other people.

Keeping it this way is just one of the many reasons to oppose the Tories' scheme for large scale and government-backed fracking in the UK.