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OK. So I see y'all managed to get through the weekend without another wild posting spree, but in the meantime I'm sure you're all dying to know - how much of my list did I get through?

  • I saw Jeremy Hardy vs the Israeli Army. Belleville Rendezvous isn’t on anywhere nearer than Oxford, and Cypher doesn’t seem to have been released at all yet. It was showing at Norden Farm, which is the local arts centre. They don’t show films all that regularly, so I often forget to check up on it, but when I do remember it often turns out that they’re showing something I’d like to see. The film was…interesting. It follows Jeremy Hardy as he travels with the International Solidarity Movement to Palestine to participate in protests against the occupation by the Israeli army. I'm generally reluctant to commit myself to any major political stance, since I always feel I don't have a full understanding of the issues involved, but if nothing else I feel I can now state that firing live ammunition in the general direction of peaceful protesters = bad. And I'm starting to get the urge to be more political (for a long time, I didn't feel the need), so maybe I'll end up with some full opinions one of these days.

  • I finished Singularity Sky (short version: This is your Edinburgh Festival ON DRUGS and IN SPACE. But with spies. And plot twists.), wrote a review, and submitted it to Diverse Books. I didn’t finish The Master And Margarita, but I did get closer to doing so.

  • I did finish the article for peteyoung, and have emailed it to him.

  • TV-wise, I watched the last three episodes of Firefly, the pilot (first aired this time last year) of Jeremiah) and the first two episodes of Dead Like Me. I'd have watched more of DLM, but (a) turns out all the files are .avis, which means I can't watch them on the DVD player (boo!), and (b) turns out I don't have the necessary codec for the third episode. I thought I'd downloaded every codec ever by this point, but apparently not. Anyway, thoughts: All three Firefly episodes were nifty, particularly 'The Message' - and does that make Jonathan Woodward the first actor to appear in all three ME shows? Not that I mind, since he's eminently watchable. All the episodes continued to build the characters and the world; I swear to god, Inara was even not-entirely-dull at one point. It made me sad all over again for the show that's never going to be (although at least we now have the film to look forward to).

    Jeremiah I knew next to nothing about, save the facts that it's written by JMS and it's set in a post-apocalyptic world. The apocalypse turns out to be the death of everyone over the age of puberty. Fifteen years later, the children haven’t done a great job of picking up the pieces; they’ve scraped by, but things are starting to run out with a vengeance. The eponymous lead travels through this landscape, searching for a place that may hold the key to remaking the world. As a pilot, I rather liked it, to be honest. It wasn’t particularly bold, or startlingly original, but it did a decent job of worldbuilding, and the characters were likeable enough. In that respect, I think it’s much like ‘The Gathering’ – and we all know how good B5 eventually got.

    Then there's the much raved-about Dead Like Me, which turns out to be a much trickier prospect to evaluate. The premise here is that Georgina Lass dies and is subsequently recruited as a grim reaper. See, a lot of people die, and that means there need to be a lot of grim reapers to facilitate things – pulling out people's souls before the nasty happens. And it turns out that it’s strange what trips up my suspension of disbelief; I have no problem with a world of secret vampires and demons, and I have no problem with characters in Jeremiah knowing how to drive a truck without any obvious way for them to have learnt, but the setup in DLM...Well, look. It just doesn’t work. The grim reapers aren’t invisible, and they aren’t incorporeal; they’re physical beings, and they have to find ways to live and eat, just like the rest of us. Oh, but they don’t age, and you can’t kill them. This doesn’t work. Someone would notice. Accidents happen. A reaper would get hit by a truck and not die, for instance (and since the reaping system is fairly personal – strictly one person, one reaper – god only knows how they deal with any kind of disaster in which dozens of people die all at once. There must be crowds of reapers hanging around that nobody notices). Oddly, if this was peripheral to the show, it probably wouldn’t bother me – it’d be like the vampire thing – but the way DLM is set up, it’s central: It’s a show about finding your place in the world, it’s just that the heroine happens to be dead. And all her colleagues are dead. Someone would notice. The fact that George is an idiot, and shows very little interest in exploring her predicament (turns out she's remarkably easy to fob off with half-answers and deflections), thus rendering the fantasy elements almost entirely irrelevant, also bugs me. Don’t get me wrong, the show has strengths; it’s often wickedly, blackly funny, it’s pretty to look at (shot in relentless modern-o-vision), and it’s well acted. The characters, though almost uniformly sour, are watchable. It’s a show I’d recommend it to someone who likes, say, Six Feet Under; but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to someone who likes good telefantasy.


As to the other items on the list – well, I’ve started making enquiries on the shower front, and since my parents are coming over for dinner on Tuesday, I can pump my dad (travel guru that he is) for information about how easy it’s likely to be to get to and from Cheltenham. Meanwhile, I also acquired the necessary paperwork for a library card, and bought a new photo album. I must have a dozen developed films lying around that need permanent storage.
 
 
 
 
 
 
(a) turns out all the files are .avis, which means I can't watch them on the DVD player (boo!)

Er, what? All but the first three or so are mpegs, fool. I told you this.
Ah, well, I forgot. Sorry 'bout that. But I can't get past episode three because of the aforementioned codec issue. Can you remember whether it's ok to skip it?
Firefly: I thought 'The Message' was easily the weakest of the three unaired episodes. Jonathan Woodward is fine, but it seemed like the ep was going for big emotional impact, and it really didn't work for me.

Dead Like Me: Hmm. You're the first person I've seen making these complaints.
Accidents happen. A reaper would get hit by a truck and not die, for instance. Which could, indeed has, happened to a vampire or a Slayer.
Oddly, if this was peripheral to the show, it probably wouldn’t bother me – it’d be like the vampire thing – but the way DLM is set up, it’s central: It’s a show about finding your place in the world, it’s just that the heroine happens to be dead. .. Someone would notice. Wait-a-minute. Angel being a vampire is peripheral to the show? And it's more likely that someone would notice in this instance? You're right, it is strange what trips up your suspension of disbelief.
It’s a show I’d recommend it to someone who likes, say, Six Feet Under; but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to someone who likes good telefantasy. But since everyone should like Six Feet Under, everyone should like this too. :)
You're the first person I've seen making these complaints.

Yeah, I'm contrary like that. I like my fantasy shows to actually be, y'know, about the fantastical elements. Rather than it being exactly like every other job. OK, with a bit more moral decision angst, but not much, because as previously mentioned, she's stupid.

Angel being a vampire is peripheral to the show?

No, the fact that there's all these vampires and demons wandering about that nobody notices is peripheral to the show. Of course, if you think about it for more than ten seconds, it's ludicrous - and in the episodes where it's on display for more than ten seconds, such as 'Hell's Bells', it rapidly becomes embarassing. But the shows aren't about that. They create their own world, for which the demons and vampires are the backdrop, and then they tell stories within that world. 'Dead Like Me' makes the fact that its world overlaps with our world the central point of the show, and in just the same way, it's not plausible. Except here, it's more noticeable.

I'm hoping that later episodes will be more sensible about the whole thing. Like, George really should be trying to tell her family she still exists. Whether they believe her or not, it's surely something she's got to try soon?

But since everyone should like Six Feet Under, everyone should like this too.

My problem with 6FU is that it constantly gives off 'ooh, we're so daring! And controversial! Talking about DEATH!' vibes when actually, no, it's not that controversial. The show thinks it's cooler than I think it is, which makes it tricky to watch. I'm getting a similar reaction to DLM.
I like my fantasy shows to actually be, y'know, about the fantastical elements.

I have to disagree (gee, what a surprise ;)). The fantastical elements should be there to reinforce what the show's about - the means, not the end.

And it seems by peripheral you mean that in the MEverse, lots of things happen that people really should notice, but they don't. In this case, reapers look like humans, they can do all the things that humans do, and they try very hard to live otherwise normal lives (it's not even like their day-job involves doing anything as suspicious as, say, killing vampires and demons). Unless any of that changes, why should anyone notice?

I'm hoping that later episodes will be more sensible about the whole thing. Like, George really should be trying to tell her family she still exists. Whether they believe her or not, it's surely something she's got to try soon?

I couldn't possibly comment on what happens later, but uh, why? You're moaning about her being stupid, and now you're saying she should do about the most stupid thing she could do.

re: 6FU, oddly, I did get that feeling from 'American Beauty', but I don't with that.
The fantastical elements should be there to reinforce what the show's about - the means, not the end.

That's a valid form of fantasy - although it's not my preferred form - as long as one condition is met: The fantasy elements must not undermine what the show's about. In this case, I think they do.

And it seems by peripheral you mean that in the MEverse, lots of things happen that people really should notice, but they don't.

Yes. It's part of the setup that people = stupid.

Unless any of that changes, why should anyone notice?

Because accidents happen. Reapers will get hit (deliberately or otherwise!) with cars, or they'll get shot and not die, or something. In the MEverse, when this happens people don't notice because they're stupid. In the DLMverse, people aren't stupid; they're people. And they would notice.

You're moaning about her being stupid, and now you're saying she should do about the most stupid thing she could do.

Firstly, I don't see why it's stupid to want to tell people she's still about and secondly, even if was an intellectually stupid thing for her to do (a) that's entirely consistent with the character as presented in the first two episodes and (b) it's emotionally right.

I did get that feeling from 'American Beauty', but I don't with that.

Guess what? I didn't get that feeling from AB... :)
The fantasy elements must not undermine what the show's about. In this case, I think they do.

So, what do you think the show's about? For me, very broadly, it's 'girl dies, learns how to live'. It goes without saying that that could hardly be achieved if she hadn't died in the first place. It would be a show about an apathetic college drop-out with no particular desire to find her place in the world, and no real reason to. Been there, done that, and I doubt it would make for good TV.

Because accidents happen. Reapers will get hit (deliberately or otherwise!) with cars, or they'll get shot and not die, or something.

I just find it odd that you're complaining about something that, granted, could happen, but hasn't on-screen. If and when it does, we'll see how they deal with it. Maybe the gravelings kill all the witnesses, maybe some higher power comes down and wipes their minds, whatever, it doesn't really matter. What's important is that they're not backed into a corner, because there's any number of ways they could deal with it.

Firstly, I don't see why it's stupid to want to tell people she's still about and secondly, even if was an intellectually stupid thing for her to do (a) that's entirely consistent with the character as presented in the first two episodes and (b) it's emotionally right.

It's not stupid to want to, it would be stupid to do it. Because, best-case scenario, she goes to her family, they believe her and accept her back into their lives. You think Rube or whoever he works for would allow that?
'girl dies, learns how to live'

Sounds about right.

I just find it odd that you're complaining about something that, granted, could happen, but hasn't on-screen. If and when it does, we'll see how they deal with it.

My problem is that as presented, this is the sort of problem that should crop up every day, and the show is pretending it's not a problem at all. You think nobody noticed Mason being run down by thingy when he was stealing those quarters? It doesn't take much to satisfy me, and it can be as handwave-y as they like, but there needs to be something.

It's not stupid to want to, it would be stupid to do it.

And this is a reason George wouldn't do it because...?

Because, best-case scenario, she goes to her family, they believe her and accept her back into their lives. You think Rube or whoever he works for would allow that?

I doubt it. But it'd make an interesting plot, and it'd be a plot in which the fantasy elements work with the 'die and find a new life' metaphor, rather than against it.
My problem with 6FU is that it constantly gives off 'ooh, we're so daring! And controversial! Talking about DEATH!' vibes when actually, no, it's not that controversial. The show thinks it's cooler than I think it is, which makes it tricky to watch. I'm getting a similar reaction to DLM.

Get past the premise already. If you think 6FU is just about death then you are missing the point somewhat. Death is part of it - the way they deal with death is very ground breaking, death is the final taboo and it is slightly shocking for it to be talked about it such a matter-of-fact way - but it is more about life, choices, relationship, growing older, responsibilities, family..... Oh - does that sound the the themes of any other show you can think of??

Ignore the marketing, ignore the hype, ignore the gimmicky 'death-of-the-week' - just sit back and enjoy the interplay of some of the most complex and real characters you will see on TV.....

Ah - I think I may have just figure out why you don't like it.....
If you think 6FU is just about death then you are missing the point somewhat.

I don't think it's all about death, because it's not. What I get is the sense that when it is about death, which is moderately often in some way or other, then everyone involved is so immensely proud of themselves for having a bit about death in their worthy character-driven show. They're so groundbreaking!

Except, uh, no.

I watched the first season, and I think my antipathy to the show can be summed up by the fact that although I meant to give the second season a go, I found I'd rather be watching episodes of 24 that I'd already seen on BBC2...
Umm - you have to remember that the first season was still very much finding it's feet. The second season is *much* better and I can't wait for Brenda to reappear in the third season as I think she will shake things up some more....
This is your Edinburgh Festival ON DRUGS and IN SPACE

Er, care to elaborate a bit??
That pretty much sums it up.
I just can't quite imagine as have mever heard of the book - a random arts festival in space? Or is the Edinburgh bit actually germane?
Singularity Sky is about a culture clash between an imperialist, archaic society called the New Republic and an exuberant upload culture called the Festival. The Festival has this habit of turning up in a solar system, applying a cultural and economic singularity for about, ooh, a month, then moving on, leaving all the occupants of the system dazed and breathless. The Festival comes with hangers-on, pre-eminent amongst which are the bizarre and capricious denizens of the Fringe, and the remorselessly analytical Critics.

Also, Charlie Stross is scottish. :)
In fact lives in Edinburgh.

What a hoot. I may have to read it, even though I have a deep rooted aversion to reading CS, I'm afraid, from the days when I went out with an Interzone editor whom CS constantly barracked with unsold short story ideas :)
Good and welcome! Actually, coming later to some brand of activism (or, indeed, 'activity' if you find the previous term too loaded) is probably better - fewer inherited values and stands, as such.

Yeah, I was shocked and dismayed by the pictures of Israeli APCs firing live ammo at the feet of international peace protestors 2-3 years ago ... completely uncalled for, even reckless.

There was a particularly disturbing expose by Frontline or somesuch show that clearly showed IDF taking aim at journalists and cameramen, and continuing their barrage after they were already down (mind you, they were using rubber bullets, but at lethal ranges or in disturbing frequency). The memory of that story came right back to the fore when US soldiers killed that camerman, claiming they mistook him for a combatant with an RPG.
Good and welcome!

Oh, I don't know that I'm a full activist yet. In fact, I know that I'm not. I'm just gradually getting more interested in this sort of issue. I might even start reading some more of those editorials you link to five times a day... ;-)
Jeremiah I knew next to nothing about, save the facts that it's written by JMS and it's set in a post-apocalyptic world.

...

As a pilot, I rather liked it, to be honest. It wasn't particularly bold, or startlingly original, but it did a decent job of worldbuilding, and the characters were likeable enough. In that respect, I think it's much like 'The Gathering' – and we all know how good B5 eventually got.


Three things I feel the need to say about Jeremiah.

1) It gets even better from the pilot on up (with the exception of note #3).

2) I found myself needed to keep watching "one more episode" - when I was watching it. Even the less strong episodes, plot wise, do manage to create a rather good atmosphere.

3) Episode #15 is not good.
I'm agreeing with ajp here. Jeremiah is definately worth giving a chance to. I was so pleased to read that there's a second series. I'm just gutted that I managed to miss last season's finale.
I think Andrew sent me the complete season. So I may be able to help you out here, if you want.
Yes please! Let me know if you can and I'll forward to you my address. :-)

*huge hug*
(This was re: Jeremiah)

I have got the complete season, but it'll take me a while to get through it. Prod me in a month or so. :)
I'll try and remember :-)