Lisa Williams: fraud.

Lisa Williams is self-styled clairvoyant who parades around on a show called Lisa Williams: Life Among The Dead, solving people’s spirit problems and helping them communicate with the departed. She’s a piece of work and no mistaking, watch that clip to hear all about her amazing, ahem, gift.

She never wanted a TV series. Yeah, right.

As a clairvoyant it is Lisa’s unique gift, wink, wink, to be able to feel the dead around her. Of course when we say feel we mean react theatrically to unseen hands and make vague statements regarding the probable cause of death or the location that a body was found in.

Make no mistake this is a genuine and unique psychic ability she’s displaying, in no way is it prior research. No sir.

Ok, yes, clearly it’s research. There is no afterlife.

The reason it’s so convincing to the poor stooges though, is because – in the case of murders and deaths where the bodies are left at the crime scene – you can get all the juicy details you require for your act from the police and/or coroner’s reports, thereby appearing astoundingly, dare I say, spookily, accurate! On the other hand in those cases where a body was never found or the, ahem, spirit is from long ago, who’s going to be able to dispute what you say? Nice scam!

What really makes this so horrible though, is that after describing horrendous deaths, making lots of weird concentration faces and generally putting the wind up the poor gullible people she’s supposed to be helping, she’ll do a piece to camera where she makes glib comments like, ‘I don’t know how they’re going to sleep here tonight.’ before grinning to camera like the Cheshire fucking cat. Quite honestly by the time she’s finished winding someone up I’d be surprised if they ever slept again.

Simply put she’s praying on people like some sort of psychic cowboy builder, look at the exchange below. This is a verbatim transcript of her response to someone that has just described how guests freak out after hearing knocking and scraping noises in her hotel.

You would need someone like myself to come in and totally cleanse it and clear that person over, help them pass themselves over. That is not a five minute job.

Hotelier nods.

[Room] 307? The one with the decapatation and everything? The problem is that you’re dealing with a very reluctant and strong willed spirit so it would take a while.

I half expected her to suck air through her teeth and ask for a tea with eight sugars. Ironically if they actually did want to get rid of the knocking and scraping noises a plumber would probably be a better bet than Lisa Williams.

Look folks sorry to break it to you once again but when you die you’re dead. There’s no nondescript ethereal place where you will play with all your other dead friends in perfect harmony. Though if you choose to believe there is that’s fine, if it makes you happy great, just don’t get taken in by charlatans like this, they’re scum.

Sunshine (2007).

Set fifty years in the future Sunshine is the story of eight brave astronauts’ attempts to restart the failing sun. With a nuclear bomb. The size of Manhattan. In a big space ship.

The plucky bunch set off for the sun in their flying space bomb and everything’s going great guns, we learn that Icarus I – the previous mission – failed and that we are now watching the crew of Icarus II, we also learn that no one knows why Icarus I failed its mission. I smell a set up!

As they jet through space we watch them do the usual futuristic space ship things, look at screens, check dials, eat space-food and bicker. Boilerplate space trucker activity that infects every film since Alien in 1979 and also my first problem with Sunshine. I take great exception to the lazy, hackneyed notion of a bickering crew. Whilst it might be believable on a merchant ship or a mining vessel crewed by roughnecks earning their money by putting their lives at risk, this isn’t what the Icarus II is. It’s a scientific vessel, with a vitally important mission.

Before anyone would have been let on board that ship they would have been put through a battery of test to evaluate their psychological suitability for a mission of such immense import. They would have been screened again and again and again, not one trace of susceptibility would have been allowed on that ship or for that matter its forebear; Icarus I. Can you imagine what a disaster Apollo 11’s mission to the moon would have been if Collin’s, Aldrin and Armstrong had been bickering the entire way?

Yet still we see the same predictable nonsense happening here; the crew fight about trivialities, mistakes happen and they tear themselves apart. Hands up who didn’t see that one coming?

This is not the only sci-fi stereotype to be exploited. We have the brave, selfless, stoic captain; the military career man, whose sole priority is the mission; the emotional, tear ridden woman that’s perpetually one step away from a nervous breakdown; the cowardly second in command; the guilt ridden, neurotic, mistake maker; the friendly biologist, who loves plants and loves people; the wacky ship’s doctor and our hero, the mild mannered scientist who discovers a part of himself he didn’t know existed to save the day. All bases are covered, all I think we were missing was a wise cracking robot.

Putting predictability of characterisation to one side, the overriding problem with the film is that it says nothing, either in itself or about the human condition. It plods along, stretching out its 147 minutes into an eternity, yet manages to make no point about anything. Worse still entire chunks of the movie happen for no reason and for no purpose. As an example, in the final reel we learn that there was perhaps a survivor from the Icarus I, yet we are given no idea how they survived and, looking at them, how they continue to survive, nor are we given any clue as to how they managed to move around undetected on board the Icarus II up to this point.

The only reason this villain seems to exist is to create dramatic tension in the dragging final act. Admittedly it’s something the film desperately needed but I can’t help feeling the drama of a dying sun should have been enough to move everything along at a tidy clip.

On a positive note the special effects throughout are outstanding and the acting is decent, if a little stilted, although that could be because of the appalling dialogue. Still, the cast manage to plough on through and pull off believable – if out of place – camaraderie in the first reel but just don’t inject anything extra into the limited material to make you believe they’re on a magnificently important mission or care about them as individuals in any significant way.

All of which leads to a film that’s pleasing to the eyes but not to the intellect, which is a great shame as the eye’s really do get a treat.

As a footnote; no self respecting space agency would ever dream of calling a spaceship, thats sole purpose was to rescue a dying sun, Icarus. Unless of course all these people on board were on a suicide mission and were aware they were on a suicide mission. So doing it in a film is just crass and pointless, simply there to telegraph to the audience the inevitability of the crew’s failure.

Books vs. Kindles.

I love books, it’s a fact. A fact that my bookshelves attest to.

Since childhood I was told that books were things of beauty and learning, to be cherished, respectfully handled at all times and never abused. A book’s spine was to be treated with utter reverence, a book was never to be set down open on its beautiful pages, that broke its spine.

Being responsible for a book’s broken spine was not on my list of things to do.

Largely the message got through, books are good m’kay? I understood, I appreciated that and what’s more it stood me in good stead throughout my childhood. Aside from an incident with a fountain pen cartridge and a school text book, which left me practically paralysed with fear for three days, I’ve been good to books and, in turn, they’ve been good to me.

The whole books are important thing was a message received and understood, and finally in my late teens I became a voracious reader. I’d moved past the resentment of being given Treasure Island over Lego as a child, my love for books had blossomed.

It started with Ray Bradbury. God, Ray Bradbury. The man single-handedly made me love reading. The places he took me with his short stories, the pictures he painted in my mind, I will never forget a single one. His words stretched out across time and took me from the dust bowl to Mars, from the veldt to lighthouses on wind swept, rain soaked prominences.

After Ray came Douglas Coupland. Wow, did he speak to me.

In 1994 Personal Computer World reprinted a short story, which had previously originally appeared in Wired, called Microserfs and it blew my mind. It introduced me to the unique writing style of Douglas Coupland, a writing style that really appealed to me. One of the best books ever written is his; Hey! Nostradamus.

This waxing lyrical about my love of books and the effect their authors had on my adolescent mind is quite obviously designed to (mayhap, over) compensate for the bit that’s coming up, the bit about my desire to get rid of all books.

The Book Industry Is Bloody Wasteful

Trees are cut down, pulped and bleached, the resulting paper is printed, bound, boxed up, put in to lorries, driven and flown across the world then put into air conditioned buildings where they remain until sold, to people who’ve driven there. If they remain unsold, they are put back into lorries and sent to be pulped.

What a waste of energy for something that’s origin – more often than not – begins inside a computer as data, data that can be sent across the world in nanoseconds, to be read anywhere, by anyone, rich or poor, instantly. Digitally speaking a book is a tenth the size of one single MP3. I can’t think of any other industry that is so wasteful and ripe for this digitisation.

Focussing on the smell and feel is perhaps understandable to a certain extent but is simply just nostalgia, there is no need for books to be printed anymore. Buying and consuming books digitally is not akin to the Nazi’s book burning as some seem to feel rather it’s a progressive step forward, a means of moving towards an egalitarian society where information and story telling aren’t limited by greedy middlemen artificially inflating the cost of learning without adding anything of value.

It bewilders me that my most ecologically concerned friends are always the first to assert that books must come in this wasteful form simply because of their feel and their smell. Yet these same people bang on endlessly about global warming, buying eco friendly everything and recycling properly. It’s arch hypocrisy.

Let’s stop this waste. Paper as a medium for the transfer of information should have died long ago, join me, buy a Kindle, forget about the smell and the feel. Focus on the words.

After all, isn’t that what you read books for?

People on all levels of income are better off than they were in 1979. The hon. Gentleman is saying that he would rather that the poor were poorer, provided that the rich were less rich. That way one will never create the wealth for better social services, as we have. What a policy. Yes, he would rather have the poor poorer, provided that the rich were less rich. That is the Liberal policy.

 

Margaret Thatcher, in response to Simon Hughes in 1990.

Me and my mum, the restored snap.

This is a photo that my dad took of me and my mum when I was a nipper. Not sure how old I was but I do know this, I was unhappy about something; that’s clearly my greetin’ face!

Use the navigation buttons either side of the photo to look at the original and the version I’ve done some touching up on.

In what could possibly be the first truly amusing viral video this year, we see Zachary Quinto – post three dimensional chess whipping – challenging Leonard Nimoy to a race to the golf club.

Quinto in his capacious Audi S7 and Nimoy in his Mercedes something. Could it be any more middle class?

Whether or not it makes you want an Audi I can’t be certain but then again I’ve always wanted an Audi so I’m not best placed to judge.

The original Spock.

The original Spock.

The new, sexy Spock.

The new, sexy Spock.

Still, it’s quite chucklesome at points so it’s probably worth a watch. Highlights include Nimoy’s exasperated expletive upon realising his golf clubs don’t fit in his boot and a well timed Vulcan nerve pinch.

It’s always nice to see a bit of comedy swearing from the older generation isn’t it.

Lauryn Hill.

Seemingly Lauryn Hill thinks that tax evasion is a just and fitting way to protest about slavery?!

Said Ms. Hill in court.

I am a child of former slaves who had a system imposed on them, I had an economic system imposed on me.

Is she seriously equating the taxation system to slavery? Really?! To compare the subjugation of a race of people to a system designed to allow a country to function is somewhat stretching a point.

In reality none of us likes paying taxes, who would, but it’s a necessary evil, we know that, so we do it.

To draw parallels with slavery and use it as an excuse for not paying your taxes is disingenuous at best, down right despicable at worst. Is Ms. Hill attempting to suggest that taxes are in someway racist?

As Morgan Freeman once said, when asked how we would stop racism.

Stop talking about it.

What Lauryn Hill has done here is use a dreadful and rightfully shameful part of America’s history simply to distract attention from her behaviour. Not to raise awareness nor further any discussion, just to point at something else and say they made me do it.

That’s self serving and inexcusable.

Some really creative thinking there. To portion up the image using lenticular lenses so that children see a different poster to adults is genius.

Although it does strike me that this may just be a gimmick and that any adult that’s abusing their child would be aggrieved if the child were looking at this poster for too long, regardless of message.

Still, gets some publicity for the message, right?

The coolest pin badge ever!

This pin badge got lost many years ago. Someone, somewhere found it and is probably wearing it with pride. Grrr.

I’m not sure where I’ll find another one, I don’t even know where to start looking. Maybe eBay? All the usual places don’t seem to stock it anymore, which is really rather annoying.

For those not in the know this is Link’s shield, complete with Triforce emblem, from Nintendo’s classic Legend of Zelda series of games. I miss it.

Original Doctor Who was always ambitious with its storytelling. It was sadly an ambition that its special effects couldn’t hope to keep up with. That said the stories were mostly fun.

The biggest difference from new Who was probably the serial format used at the time which allowed for regular cliff hangers meaning danger was omnipresent.

The video above is from The Ribos Operation, a Tom Baker serial from 1978. It concerns Binro, an outcast that theorises that the little lights in Ribos’ night sky are not ice crystals as they are told but in fact distant suns and that the two seasons of icetime and suntime were due to variations in the distance of Ribos from its sun.

His discoveries were in direct opposition to the Ribosian religious doctrine, which claimed that the change of seasons was due to an eternal battle between sun gods and ice gods. Consequently Binro was branded a heretic and jailed, later being tortured in order to get him to recant.

The beauty in this story comes from Binro’s meeting with Unstoffe. Through this encounter he learns that Unstoffe is not from Ribos and that his theory is indeed correct, they are suns! Unstoffe touchingly adds that some day the people of Ribos would recognise that he had been right all along.

Binro’s joy at getting this confirmation is heartbreaking. He repays Unstoffe’s kindness by helping him escape the Graff Vynda-K and for his troubles gets himself killed.

The acting in this scene has a light touch and is genuinely moving (especially compared to Iain Cuthbertson’s, shall we say theatrical, performances elsewhere). It’s these sort of affectionate relationships we need to see more of in new Who and less of a reliance on overwrought romantic love for emotional drive.