Monday, November 13, 2006

Damn you Dixon, damn you to hell!

Shaking my fist at the air, impotently raging at myself for listening...

Ah, calmer now, back to the beginning:

Will, among a few others, alerted me a while back to a show called Heroes. Thought I’d get around to flicking through an episode or two, just to humour him. Curses, it’s good!

I watched the first episode and thought “Hmmm, it’s not bad, a little clunky in places, but there might be something to it, so I’ll give it another episode or two to see where it goes.” Now I’m sat, gnashing my teeth, having watched the first six shows and have been thoroughly drawn into its quirky little universe.

My initial lukewarm reaction is undoubtedly due to being able to cherry-pick some outstanding (mainly US) shows against which I subconsciously compare anything new. The scarily high-budget Lost, Battlestar Galactica’s consummate spectacle, Deadwood, The West Wing, etc, etc, all predispose me with a very high expectation of any given new show.

This is not to say that Heroes is in any way bad, but more that I’d been spoiling myself a little, thinking that as soon as the bar had been raised, there wouldn’t be any more tat (silly boy...).

The show has gone for a nice, slightly off-beam take on the whole ‘normal person becoming endowed with superpowers’ thing and brought it to bear on the lives of some fairly ordinary people. None of the Smallville ‘what do they do with the regular, non-gorgeous people in this town?’ syndrome or, worse still, the Torchwood ‘he’s a weapons expert, she’s a ninja death assassin, she’s a whore with a heart of gold and none of them suffer fools gladly’ tosh.

Nope, these are interesting, flawed, complicated characters with a good amount of depth, set against a world of murky grey areas, with an unfolding series of plotlines that pique interest without being just ‘bloody mysterious’ for the sake of it.

A fuller cannonade of blather will no doubt follow this as the series progresses, but that Will Dixon keeps on finding the tasty visual nibblies for us greedy types out here. Well done, sir!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A proud nation awakes

Well, would you look at those mid-term election results, huh?

Without putting together a coherent message, other than “Fed up of the Republicans? Then vote for us!”, the Democrats have managed to stage a mini-coup in the US.

Just goes to show what the democratic process can do in the hands of several million pissed-off voters, doesn’t it?

I came across this, over at The Last Duchess’ place, and thought it deserved a post here. Spend 4.5 minutes of your time with a smile on your face inspired by a jolly US citizen who was “as mad as hell and not gonna take it any more”...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What a carve-up

In between oceans of self-regard, delusions as a serious writer and just plain good ol’ staring out the window, I occasionally deign to view some of the televisual efforts of our colonial cousins in a bid to give them a little encouragement and a patronising pat on the back for at least trying...

This week’s worthy eyefest that’s been on my monitor is the gloriously put-together DEXTER, and is truly, monumentally fabulous.

A riveting and compelling central performance by Six Feet Under’s Michael C Hall as the eponymous protagonist - an amiable Miami police forensics expert specialising in blood-spatter analysis, who also happens to be a spare-time serial killer. He has an uncanny knack for spotting those who are “like him” or who have slipped through the net of justice (other serial killers, child molesters, rapists) in society and has chosen to spend his time removing them from the gene pool in a spectacularly understated, yet chilling fashion. Having been adopted as a child and raised by an honourable cop who saw the potential in the young man for murder, Dexter works to a strict and well-defined code of rules. Without falling at any step into noticeable cliché, this makes for a truly fascinating character without portraying him as a monster. How bizarre...

Accompanying Hall are a great ensemble cast, who aren’t just there as backdrop material. Jennifer Carpenter as Dexter’s sister Debra (a homicide cop), lacking the confidence in her own abilities to take her up to the role of detective, is constantly tapping Dexter for clues and help with her cases.

Erik King’s powerful and intense Sergeant Doakes relies on the work of the forensics crew, but trusts Dexter about as far as he could spit a battleship. There are also some great revelations about and for him as the series progresses. Doakes doesn’t like Dexter one little bit, finding his fascination with his work more than a tad creepy.

Dexter’s complicated and multi-layered boss, Lt. Laguerta (Laren Veléz) has definitely got irons in fires she shouldn’t have. Politically ambitious, she has a touch of the David Aceveda from The Shield about her. Fascinating.

Another member of the forensics squad is Angel Batista, played by David Zayas who has the same magnetic watchability as Jean Reno, different in approach to the work from Dexter, yet thorough and played with a light, deft touch. Three episodes in and I already want to know as much about the “supporting” characters as I do about Dexter.

Though the show is narrated in great part by Hall, illuminating the workings of Dexter’s mind, this doesn’t have the intrusive feel of, say, Harrison Ford’s narration of Blade Runner.

Congratulations and kudos obviously go to Jeff Lindsay, the Florida-based crime writer who came up with the character in the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter, but a huge shout-out must also go to those people involved in the commissioning, screenwriting and production of the show. It’s got a distinct visual style of its own, without having to rely too heavily on style over content, it has a well-crafted narrative and some great moments of dark humour, it’s got some serenely understated performances from a great cast and it has the ability to reference other genre shows and films without ripping them off.

More than anything though, it has taken some chances and is more fuel for the theory that “no-one in this town knows anything” with regard to what will work and what won’t.
“Guys? I have a great idea for a show. The central character is a serial killer, but a kind of good one.”


“Guys? Hello?”

“Anyone there?”

Marvellous! And they’ve already commissioned Season Two - excellent! Trebles all round!

Will made me do it...

This was a rant I’d posted on Will Dixon's excellent blog, which I thought I’d tweak and post up here, just in case it was all a bit much for a “comment”...

Though war is the ultimate insanity perpetrated by one “nation” upon another (anybody recall actually being personally asked whether we wanted to go to war in Iraq?) and it is colouring the issues over which the current “Midtacular” is being fought, there are still things external to this that are fundamentally flawed with the Bush administration.

Keith Olbermann (and Colbert and Stewart) does a fine job outlining Iraq-related issues as well as highlighting those of domestic policy, in which civil liberty infringements and McCarthyism seem to be sneaking in through the back door.

In a similar fashion to the UK, where we have a general public astonishingly credulous of the clumsy fabrications of fact and political ‘spin’ by a government whose oratorial abilities are not much more advanced than those of student debating societies, the US administration (not particularly known for its anti-corruption efforts) is, for the most part, baldly lying to its electorate. And getting away with it.

I generally try to stay away from getting too involved in it all. Partly because I’ll get an ulcer if I let it get to me too much, but also because a lot of my company’s corporate work is tied to, you guessed it, the Houses of Parliament over here. Anyone know of any area of life that isn’t shades of murky grey?

I’m as involved in US politics as most US citizens (possibly more so), mainly due to the US wielding such enormous power on the world stage. The cheesy line “With great power comes great responsibility” is sadly being ignored by the Bush administration to the point that, whenever a conflict arises around the world, the only ambassador that elicits groans of horror when they arrive is Condoleezza Rice. You just know that things are going to get worse once she starts harping on at whoever it is that’s fighting...

The major difficulty facing the US is, as is the way of things in modern times, one of perception. When I was growing up, the US was a country to aspire to visit; kids would dream of going to US schools, having US friends, eating US food and talking in that wonderfully exotic (at the time) accent.

Now, the US is broadly percieved as an arrogant, blundering idiot child of a country, crashing around demanding the rest of the world does things its way, shouting and kicking until it gets its way. I’ve got to stress that this is a perception of the country and is not an attack on the citizens of the US, who are f**king excellent people, IMHO.

As with all generalisations, close scrutiny makes this evaporate quicker than a good glass of whisky in an air-conditioned hotel bar. Citizens of the US are being done a horrifying disservice by their administration, led by a thick, red-necked buffoon who, if he wasn’t in charge of the biggest economy in the world (and all that leviathan entails), would be just the funny little man who runs Dumbfuckistan. However, this illiterate fuckwit and his accomplices have managed to make the world a progressively more dangerous place, provoked wars, increased globabl terrorism (not without the odd spot of help here and there, obviously), pushed the US into brain-melting national debt, endangered relations between many countries and made the rest of us constantly have to remind ourselves that the rest of the US public are not like him.

Bill Clinton, for all his foibles (Jesus, he got his dick sucked - lighten up!), was a deal-maker. Though not possessed of the greatest track record of any US president, he was willing to ask of even some of the most extreme foreign leaders: “What is it you want?” and “How can we come to a compromise that doesn’t involve shooting people?” You have to start from there. Unwillingness to compromise is not strength, it is weakness borne of fear and hatred.

So, I have a plan. Reasonable, moderate and stylish (naturally).

Over here in the UK, we once had this fella called Guy Fawkes...

No, seriously. Get out and vote. Participate in bringing down this bastard and installing someone (anyone!) with a brain and an awareness that foreigners are a GOOD THING and should be engaged in an inclusive dialogue instead of bombed, burnt, tortured and obliterated. Republican or Democrat? Doesn’t matter, just stop him and stop him now. You badly need a government in which you can place some trust.

Rant over. Apologies all...

Currently listening to: Out Of Exile by Audioslave