Friday, July 31, 2009

just want to say

Being number one for the search "parsnips are the devils food" makes me so proud!


Harry Potter and the bizzare plot holes

I'm reading through HP again, for the first time since the release of book 7, which is an enjoyable way to spend ones time. Anyway, as I continue through, there are some things that have always bugged me:

In chamber of secrets Ron and Harry guess correctly that the monster is a basilisk, and where the entrance to the chamber is. They smartly rush to tell the teachers, then hide (why?) and over hear that Ginny has gone missing. This causes them to.. give up? Even if Ginny was dead, it seems out of character for them not to attempt revenge, by, say, informing the staff of all they know. Instead they finally decide to tell someone.. but it's professor Lockhart, a known loser. I understand that Harry needs to face the threat alone, but there's no sensible reason for him not to request the aid of others here, especially considering he was going to do it anyway!

Goblet of Fire is an easy target, because the plan involved is actually kind of ludicrous. Voldemort intends to replace Moody with one of his servants. To do this the servant has to escape at the world cup, and then on the same day take out Moody and copy him. What is more he then has to act exactly like Moody for an entire year- Dumbledore at least, is fairly familiar with Moody, so should notice if Moody fails to remember anything important. Arguably this could be covered by magic, but then to capture Harry, not only does he have to be entered into the championship (a dangerous operation indeed), he then has to win, again something rather dependent on luck. Its fine, but one does wonder why Crouch doesn't just clobber Harry round the head, wrap him in an invisibility cloak, then wander out through a secret passage and apparate away!

Defense against the dark arts has always been such a weird subject anyway. Because their first two teachers were utterly incompetent, this means that everyone in the school must have been taught it quite choppily. Moody decides to show them the unforgivable curses. Is he doing this to everyone? Or just 4th year and above? It makes sense of course- the curses are something Crouch is very likely to know, although he does end up telling Harry exactly how to resist the imperius charm. Oh well.

There'll probably be more of these as I

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

buffy season 7 (may contain spoilers)

Unless I review season 8, the inferior but enjoyable comic series, this'll be it for Buffy reviews.

Season 7 promises to bring it all back to the beginning. Sunnydale High is open again, and Buffy has a job there. Its interesting, and exciting stuff, with the lovely back drop of girls being murdered at the start of each episode with no explanation. Lovely stuff, and the first few episodes are very strong. They present our characters in a healthier place than they were in season 6, but still with issues to deal with. Sadly, this season doesn't quite work.

It feels very much that there was a need to pack a lot into one season here. Season 7 has, more than ever before, a long, ongoing story, which from Conversations with Dead People onwards keeps going until the end. This is a shame, because while Buffy does good plot episodes, its strongest are usually character episodes, with plot happening in the background- see season 4's Faith episodes for a lovely example of this, or indeed Selfless.

This is made worse by an influx of new characters. I'm not too unhappy that the writers wanted to introduce new characters, as certain members of the established cast were fairly well defined. Xander at this point didn't really need another episode focusing on him, for example, and his gradual reconciliation with Anya in the background. Yet they seem to fail to develop most of these new characters, to a frustrating level.

The most irritating example of this was Willow's new love interest. Kennedy is a frustrating character. She is clearly a contrast to Tara, being loud and forthright, but there's no clear reason for her and Willow to get together. We learn very little about Kennedy to warm her too us, and this is annoying. The Killer in Me deals with Willow's feelings of guilt for moving on from Tara, but I'm still not sure why the writers felt she needed to. It is possible to be single and happy, after all.

The thing is, I imagine the point of Kennedy is to force Willow out of her shell, and make her become comfortable with her magic use. But it doesn't work at all, and past Killer in Me the relationship is barely touched on at all. Its a wasted opportunity.

The only characters that really get arcs here are Spike and Buffy. Spike's, mostly, is good. Having got his soul back he is effectively a new man, and seeing him become whole again is good. Spike was always an interesting character, and still is, becoming someone new, different, and finally worthy. My only main frustration is that Spike occasionally acts as if he hasn't even got a soul- see Lies My Parents Told me, which undermines all this.

Buffys arc is probably my main issue with this season. The idea is sound- Buffy has to cut herself off even more than before, leading an army now she is even more excluded from life. Finally, she finds a solution so that slayers no longer have to be alone. My problem with this is that at the end of season 6, and indeed the start of 7, we really do get the idea that Buffy had seen the light, was more hopeful and happy, yet this is utterly sacrificed (to the point of the conversation with Giles where buffy happily tells him that she'd sacrifice Dawn). Its annoying. Whats even worse is the conclusion of this arc is terrible. Buffy is driven away by her friends after a disastrous attack on Caleb (who we shall speak of more soon), in a scene where she is turned upon by everyone she loves. Buffy, is, of course right about going back in (as she always bloody is, so people really should listen to her), and shes goes in alone and succeeds, while Faith leads the others into an ambush. They then make up for the final fight. Except... there were genuine issues raised by all sides, and they're simply NOT answered. Doing this so close to the end of the season was a genuinely bad idea, as it doesn't give the characters time to repair their relationships enough for the climax to work.

The final episode, is, of course, still great, bringing home the main theme of the season, and lots of lovely drama does make it very much worth watching, but I think it could have been stronger. Just a little bit more of character togetherness would have worked wonders. You'll notice I haven't even mentioned Giles, who goes so far out of character as to be utterly unrecognisable at some points.

One final mention has to go to the fantastic Caleb, who really makes the final arc of the season. He carries a brilliant air of menace, and making him a misogynistic bastard was a lovely offset to the message inherent in the final fight. Its a shame, however, that he was killed off at the start of the episode. It would have made much more sense for the first evil to enter him as part of some final desperate scheme, leading to a bit more of a satisfying conclusion.

Best episode here is Selfless, which is absolutely brilliant. I always loved Anya's character, and making an episode all about her, but also about the characters choices (the argument between Buffy and Xander is fantastic), is genius. This is head and shoulders the best in 7. There are other good episodes, Chosen and Conversations with Dead People, but this is the best for me.

Funniest episode is easily Storyteller, which is not only very funny, I think it nicely points out a tendency some of us do have to tell stories rather than to confront reality. Him is also funny, although it has absolutely nothing to do with anything else happening whatsoever (and is probably the first episode to do this in a looong time!)

The worst episode is harder. I don't think any of the episodes are terrible, I just think a lot of them could have been better. Its probably Empty Places for me, it set ups a dilemma shoddily and unnecessarily, which isn't resolved very well at all.

[I'm aware this isn't the best written post in the world, my thoughts on season 7 are somewhat fragmented. Meh)

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

An amusing quote from the comedian Milton Jones

There's nothing more satisfying than getting to the end of a really good book, sitting back, and thinking to yourself 'Ahhhhhhhhhh...there's Wally'.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Buffy Season 6 (spoiler alert, is of course, mandatory)

So, for the dark season. This season inspires many different emotions among fans- among some it is hated, and others it is loved. Its very grim, and often depressing. This, however, is not necessarily a bad thing. Buffy had had 5 seasons at this point, , and this show was a drama, not a comfort blanket, so the writers wanted to explore somewhere dark. That's fine, as long as it is well written and interesting. Season 6 succeeds there... for the most part.

Buffy is back from the dead, and, as we soon find out, not from hell, but torn out from heaven. This is a brilliant idea, and leads to a season of Buffy trying to find her way. She feels like her time is over- she fought the good fight, and was ready to move on, but now she is dragged back to earth to come back again. This works well, and she sinks into a stupor which cuts her off from her friends, leading her to turn to Spike, because she does not feel worthy of anything else. Here is my first issue: Spike was built up as a champion in season 5. Yes, he still had elements of darkness, but he became a trusted warrior. Yet now he is used as a metaphor for how far Buffy has sunk, so they need to build him up as a monster. This is ok, but its more than a little jarring, especially when you consider the start of the season: Spike racked with guilt over his failure to save Buffy.

The other big arc of the season belongs to Willow, who ultimately proves to bring the final climax. The slow work of showing her build an addiction to the power that magic gives her, the need to be someone else, driven by her low self esteem, means she becomes more and more dependent on magic. Tara, seeing this, is driven away by Willow trying to control every aspect of her life, including Tara's mind. This is brilliant, and with Tara's death, you have Willow finally giving up on what she was, and becoming something else, the personification of her self loathing for her ineffectual ways. It works very well, and the final showdown with Giles is, of course, bloody brilliant. Sadly, the writers went too far with the magic addiction arc, with the ridiculous episode where Amy, no longer a rat, suddenly knows of an extremely powerful warlock with drug-like magic powers. Its pathetic, unsubtle, and unnecessary.

Xander and Anya spend most of the season leading up to the wedding. Now I'm afraid this bit did make me mad. While I stated earlier that Buffy should be free to go as dark as it wants, I am going to happily contradict myself and say that the choice to make the wedding fail was stupid. Xander is frightened away from the wedding because of a possible future, where he acts like his father, and while I understand where that comes from, he has shown time and time again that not only is he not like his father, he is far more mature. Anya and Xander's relationship never felt rushed, it felt natural and organic, and to take away the one fun element of the entire season was more than a bit soul crushing.

A failing for this series was the departure of Giles. He decides to leave because he feels like Buffy needs to stand on her own. Its silly, and certainly doesn't make sense in light of Buffy's confession that she was booted from heaven. However, the actor wanted to leave, so it was the best they could do without killing him off, so I'm willing to be a bit forgiving on that front.

One notable thing about this season is that despite the dire tone, theres actually a lot of humour. The villains being three geeky idiots is lovely, and their plot initially is very amusing, but also does go to a very dark place towards the end. This twist actually feels more natural, as people without any connection to reality are finally brought back to earth as they realise that their actions do indeed have consequences. Lovely stuff.

The best episode is, of course, Once More With Feeling. The idea of making a musical episode is a lovely one, but it is not just played for laughs. Each song tells us a story about the characters, and this episode in one fell swoop gets Tara to realise that Willow has been enchanting her (making I'm Under Your Spell EXTREMELY creepy), Giles decide to leave, Buffy to admit that she was in heaven, and Spike and Buffy's first kiss. That the songs are catchy and funny is an added bonus to what is probably the best episode of Buffy ever made.

The funniest episode is Tabula Rasa, with a lovely amnesia plot leading to amusing misunderstandings, and then resulting in that horribly tragic ending, as Tara finally leaves Willow. In second place is Life Serial, which has Buffy dealing with the trio messing with her. The trio bantering is truly a joy to watch, and this episode gives it the most focus.

The worst episode? Smashed, a ridiculous episode with Amy having knowledge that she simply shouldn't have, and the absurd magic/crack metaphor.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Harry Potter 6 (will contain spoilers

I saw this on wednesday evening, and was mostly pleased. It made a lot of changes from the book, but most of them worked well, although some raised questions that would probably only bother book fans (the Weasley's is meant to be magically protected. Otherwise Harry would have been picked off by Voldemort ages ago...), and also as to how they would proceed in the next films (some plot important information is never imparted). Generally though, the adaption worked, and the relationship stuff was lovely, very amusing, and the plot was well told.

Then the end came. In the book a full, frightening fight erupts in hogwarts, for the first time breached by death eaters, with people falling in the background, which then climaxes with Dumbledore's death, then Harry's furious pursuit of the death eaters. Yet thanks to changes, which included no fight, and Harry NOT being paralyzed (literally) during the death scene, took away most of the emotional impact. Yes, I saw the death coming, but the shock of the moment in the book is extremely powerful, all the more because Harry is unable to help. The pursuit afterwards just seemed lame, although the mourning over Dumbeldore did work fairly well.

It seems a shame, because otherwise this film is great, and captures the feeling of the book very well. I'm not entirely sure why the film makers made the choices they did- the changes seem to rob the ending of the impact it could have had, and why they chose that I do not know.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Buffy Season 5 (will contain spoilers)

Been a while since I've written one of these.

Season 5 is really Buffy's first move to a darker place. While everyone notes the sixth season as being heavily depressing, season 5 has a lot of sour notes, and plain sad episodes. Most notable, of course, is the fantastic "The Body", in which Buffy discovers her mother, dead on the couch. This was not only a fantastically done episode, really exploring grief in what felt like a very realistic manner, it was also a real surprise; Joyce has been set up to die earlier in the season, and when it didn't happen, it seemed like she had got through. Having her condition relapse unexpectedly was a stroke of genius.

Dawn is another new addition to Buffy, and a brilliant one. A new character appearing from nowhere introduces a lovely level of mystery, which is actually allowed to continue from episode 2-5, rather than instantly spoon feeding the answer. What's great about the addition of Dawn is that it forces Buffy to act as a protector, a mothering figure, a level of responsibility she has yet to take on. This is of course underlined when Joyce dies, leaving Buffy alone as a single parent (a theme which would continue later).

Willow meanwhile, is still being set up for her fall in season 6. While some people have claimed Willow's actions had no foreshadowing, this is of course miles from the truth. From the very moment she restores Angel's soul we see her tap into a darker magic, and she does so in this season. Her first argument with Tara is about the subject of magic, with Tara expressing some fears about the rising level of power Willow is displaying. Of course, following this up with Tara's mind being sucked by Glory was a brilliant hammer blow. Tara is also developed a bit here, becoming a bit more open as a person. Sadly, her stand alone episode, Family, is a bit weak, but she has a nice moment talking to Buffy in the Body.

Xander also gets to grow up, finally. Having lost his way in season 4, he now finds a job, gets serious about his relationship with Anya and matures greatly. This is nice, as it means he is no longer just the butt of everyone's jokes.

This season also sees the departure of Riley. I guess many would say good riddance, and he really has nothing to do. I maintain that as a character he is fairly perfect. His entire purpose is to provide a more mature relationship for Buffy, but ultimately not one of love. Buffy is still hung up on being hurt.. after all she had to KILL the man she loved. That's got to cause some emotional scars, and the only councillor she ever spoke to got murdered. He did need to go, of course, to drive Buffy to finally realise what she was missing. And while Riley makes the wrong choices, you can sort of see why- he is aware that Buffy treats him as an obstacle, and wants to prove himself. He gets angry and confused, at a very bad time for Buffy, who is coping with her mother's illness.

Glory, I also liked. I know some people disliked her as a villain, but I think she is rather glorious, and brilliantly powerful. The only issue with her is her lack of violence. While initially Glory doesn't like fighting Buffy because it's tawdry, once she becomes aware that Buffy has the key, I'm not entirely sure why Glory doesn't kidnap and torture Buffy. She does, admittedly, do this with Spike, but it does seem like she's holding back somewhat. Still, she was a strong, dangerous villain who, unlike other bad guys, did cause real hurt to the scooby gang, mind sucking Tara and torturing Spike.

Man, this season really is full of character arcs, because I've realised I've got to talk about Spike now! In the previous season we saw Spike joining the others out of boredom, now he begins to develop a purpose. Despite being soulless, he realises he loves Buffy, and begins to change because of it, to the point where becomes a trusted member of the team. This transformation is awesome, and works very well (and is UTTERLY undermined in season 6).

So are there bad points to this season? Well, yes, there are some weak episodes, and the Knights are frankly bloody bizzare. I guess they exist to create the dilemma that drives the plot forward, but why on earth are they using swords and shields? They're fighting a god, not vampires, so standard guns would prove rather effective. They don't really make sense, and stretch credibility a bit.

One final moment that has to be spoken about is Buffy's sacrifice. Buffy refuses to allow anyone to talk of sacrificing Dawn, despite the fact that to do so might save the entire world. From a utilitarian viewpoint, this is wrong. But this misses the point that Buffy is the hero. She always has been, and she simply has not compromised on that point. As she says herself, if these are the choices she has to make she does not want to live in this world. Being the hero is about rejecting these choices, and finding a third way. Yes, Dawn could have willingly chosen to jump herself, but this is not Dawn's story, this is Buffy's. Jumping really encapsulates who Buffy is, and marks a brilliant end to what is the best season.

Funniest episode? As mentioned above, season 5 is not full of laughs. The best are probably Triangle, with Willow and Anya arguing and the hilarious Troll, Olaf, and the Replacement, with the two Xanders.

Best episode? A straight up choice between the Body and The Gift. Both fantastic and powerful episodes for different reasons, so I'd prefer not to choose.

Worst episode? As mentioned, family is weak, and doesn't really work very well. Out of my Mind is also a little bit tiresome.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tee hee

A daily mail headline a day


A comment on michael bay

"There's a DIRECTOR'S CUT??? Holy fucking shit. What, does it just have Jamie Bergman and Kerri Kendall topless, firing rocket-launchers in slo-mo into Check ’n Go offices?"

From this discussion after a post on Bad Boys.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Language usage

Its easy to get irate on the internet. There are countless threads on feminism, sexism, racism, homophobia in which (inevitably) unoppressed middle class white men (and sometimes women, but it seems to be men), make ignorant statements. I think whats frustrating about these people is that I may well have shared their viewpoints on some issues while younger. While the very idea of racism has always been utterly abhorrent to me, including using racially charged words, I certainly acted in a homophobic way while younger, because I was ignorant.

Why do words have value? Why should someone saying something charged, if they don't mean in that way, matter? Gay is an example brought up again and again, as it used by many to imply that something is bad. The claim is that it is used frequently enough that the meaning of changed. This is, of course, not true. The common usage of the word in such a manner is really not that old, and currently the meanings are linked. After all, the reason people used gay to imply something was bad was because homosexuality was considered bad. Thats why I did it, after all.

For me the important thing about controlling words is actually about growing up. Having to spend one's youth being reminded about how margailised one is by the words of children is not a pleasent thing. It is something that we as a society have tried to do for racial slurs- it is known for most children growing up that using such charged language is not acceptable, that its hateful, and, this is most important, there is nothing wrong with being in another race. We have not done perfectly, but society has changed its attitudes, and language comes with attitude. Using racial slurs are taboo, and thats GREAT.

I want the same thing for homosexuality, because kids who are gay shouldn't have to grow up feelign disgusted at themselves, and feeling alienated. Thats how we get generational change, and language is a big part of that.

I understand that language is often changing, and perhaps in 30 years time it will be acceptable to use the term "nigger" as merely expressing friendship for all races. Clearly, we are not there yet, and to claim otherwise is utterly disgenous.

The thing is about language is it rarely hurts us to stop using certain words; in theory we can head to lunacy by making too many words taboo, but most stories related about not being able to say common sense words are exaggerated stories. Its not too hard, if we're honest, to see which words are charged and which are not, and we can make a conscious effort to stop saying those that are.


Monday, July 06, 2009

Skins is a wonderful show

Having finally gotten round to seeing season three of Skins has really confirmed why I love that show. The writing is amazing, the actors are fantastic. The stories, while sometimes exaggerated, are all about the characters, who, for all their sometimes pantomime nature, are very human. What is very clear in this is that these are sixth formers, and in many ways they are children playing at being grown ups. They may act big and tough, but they are extremely vunerable- see Effy in season 3 for an example of this. Its a wonderful show, funny, moving, and clever, with an amazing sound track. Long may it prosper.

Incidentally, if you are a UK citizen you can see all three seasos for free here!