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YouTube Trailer for New Series of Spitting Image

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 27/09/2020 - 6:48pm in

After over two decade’s absence, the satirical puppet show Spitting Image is coming back to TV. A new series is going to be screened by Britbox, the channel of past shows created by the Beeb and ITV. I found this trailer for the new series on YouTube and it shows that, like its predecessor, the show is very definitely not going to pull its punches sending up politicos, religious figures and other celebrities.

The trailer satirises Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Kanye West, the Pope, Gwynneth Paltrow, Kim Kardashian and various sports stars, as well as Vladimir Putin. Warning: some of the humour is very coarse, such as the last sketch in which a naked Putin beats up Johnson and Trump, also naked, in a sauna. This contains full frontal puppet nudity. Which in itself is enough to boggle the mind.

Here it is, in it all its grotesque splendour and horror. Enjoy!

The Overlord on Rumours that Mark Hamill Has Sold Image for Hollywood CGI Clone of Luke Skywalker

‘The Overlord’ is another YouTube channel devoted to news and views about genre cinema and television. It’s hosted by Dictor von Doomcock, a masked alien supervillain supposedly living at the centre of the Earth. And who is definitely not impressed at all at the state of contemporary popular culture, and particularly the way beloved film classics like Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr. Who and so on are now being trashed by producers who have no respect for these series and their fans. And in this video he talks about the bizarre next step in this process: the recreation of favourite film characters like Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker through CGI, completely removing the need for human actors.

A website, WDW Pro, has claimed that Disney are looking for ways they can break the pause in filming imposed by the Coronavirus lockdown. They are therefore looking at ways to do without human actors. They have therefore been looking at a technological solution to this problem, using the same computer techniques used to create the films The Lion King of 2019 and the 2016 film version of The Jungle Book, as well as the facial recreation of Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars: Rogue 1. Frustrated at the hold-up filming the third Guardians of the Galaxy flick, Disney will use the technology, Cosmic Rewind, to create a completely computer generated movie, but one that would be presented as using human characters. This is going to be an experiment to test the possibility of creating films without human actors and the need for their salaries. According to a rumour, which WDW Pro has not been able to confirm, the projected film is about Young Indy, and its effectiveness will be tested when a rollercoaster based on the film comes on as part of Disneyworld.

Lucasfilm has also apparently made a deal with Mark Hamill within the last 18 months in which he has signed over his image to them so that they can use it to create a CGI Luke Skywalker. This Virtual Skywalker may also be used in the projected Galaxy’s Edge Star Wars theme park. However, due to the project’s severe financial problems, this may not happen anytime soon. Disney are slowly moving towards using this technology to dispense with human actors so that they won’t have to suffer a similar pause in filming ever again, although they won’t move away from human actors altogether immediately.

Doomcock himself laments this development, and feels that it is inevitable in a world where Deep Fake technology has advanced so far that we don’t know if the people we see or the news we watch are real, or that the characters we see on the screen are brought to life by real actors using the skills and craft they have learned. He wonders what will happen to our civilisation – what we will lose – if everything we see on the screen is synthetic, and we are removed another step again from reality and anything that has ‘heart’. It might all be all right, but it seems to him that the more we remove the human element from art and culture and make it the creation of AIs, the more removed we are from our culture.

He also vents his spleen about the choice of subject for this putative movie, pointing out that there was a TV series about Young Indiana Jones years ago, and nobody wanted it. He recommends instead that if this grave-robbing technology is to be used, it should be used to recreate the mature Indy of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom. He also criticises Hamill for what he sees as his poor judgement in making the deal with Disney. Hamill should know personally how a poor director can ruin a beloved legacy character, the actor’s own contribution and a favourite film franchise through his experience playing Skywalker in The Last Jedi. He famously wept on set during that movie and bitterly criticised the director’s decisions. He’s sarcastic about the respect Disney shows such legacy characters. It’s rumoured that George Lucas is returning to helm the Star Wars films, in which everything will be fine and we can look forward to a bright, new golden age. But considering the potential for abuse, Doomcock states that he is dismayed, flabbergasted and disgusted by Hamill’s decision and fearful for humanity’s future. As human culture becomes made by machines, hasn’t Skynet won? Who needs to launch nukes, when we have a CGI Skywalker dancing like a monkey in a bikini?

Here’s the video, but as Doomcock himself warns you, it isn’t for children. It has adult humour. Blatantly adult humour.

As you can see, there’s more than a little hyperbole in Doomcock’s argument, and some people will take issue at what he views as the humiliation of Luke Skywalker to push a feminist or anti-racist message, like Black Lives Matter. But his fears of the abuse of such technology aren’t unfounded, and have been around for quite some time. The possibility that actors would sell their images to film companies to recreate them Virtually, while making the flesh and blood person redundant, was explored a few years ago in the SF film The Congress by Ari Folman. This was loosely based on the Stanislaw Lem novel, The Futurological Congress, but is very different, and, in my opinion, inferior. For one thing, the Lem novel is hilariously funny, while the movie is grim and depressing. The movie is about a Hollywood actress, Robin Wright, playing herself, who makes precisely the deal Hamill is rumoured to have made. She then stars in a series of action movies, including one sequence that is definitely a tip to Kubrick’s Cold War masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove. But this is all computer animation. The Wright herself isn’t remotely involved in their filming. Indeed, it is a condition of her contract that she not act at all, and live the rest of her life in a very comfortable retirement. These developments are followed by the discovery of a drug that allows people to enter a vast, consensual Virtual Reality, in which they can be and do anyone and anything they want. The world’s masses abandon reality, so that civilisation decays into a very grim, dystopia of ruin, poverty and misery. At one point Wright takes the drug, which will return her to reality, only to find herself in a food queue in a burned out, abandoned building. Unable to come with this, she returns to the Virtual world to search for the son she lost while in a coma as a result of a terrorist attack on the Las Vegas congress she was attending at which the hallucinogenic drug was launched. As I said, it’s a depressing film in which such illusions really are bringing about the destruction of humanity. And there is no escape, except into the Virtual world that has caused it.

The film follows a number of other SF works that have also predicted similar dystopias brought about by the hyperreality of mass entertainment. This includes John D. MacDonald’s short story, Spectator Sport, in which a time traveller appears in a future in which all human achievement has ceased as the public live out their lives as characters in VR plays. Another, similar tale is Good Night, Sophie, by the Italian writer Lino Aldani, about an actress in a similar world in which people live harsh, austere lives in order to escape into a far brighter, more vivid fantasy world of entertainment. Rather less pessimistic was the appearance of the SF film, Final Fantasy, all those years ago. This was supposed to be the first film in which all the characters were CGI, and who were supposedly indistinguishable from flesh-and-blood reality. The fact that further films like it haven’t been made suggests that, reassuringly, people want real humans in their movies, not computer simulations.

We’ve also seen the appearance of a number of computer generated celebrities. The first of these was the vid jockey, Max Headroom on Channel 4 in the 1980s. He was supposed to  be entirely computer-generated, but in reality was played by Canadian actor Matt Frewer under a lot of makeup. Then in the 1990s William Gibson, one of the creators of Cyberpunk SF, published Idoru. This was a novel about a man, who begins an affair with a Virtual celebrity. Soon after it came out, a Japanese company announced that it had created its own Virtual celeb, a female pop star. Gibson’s books are intelligent, near-future SF which contain more than an element of the ‘literature as warning’. The worlds of his Cyberspace books are dystopias, warnings of the kind of society that may emerge if the technology gets out of hand or corporations are given too much power. The creation of the Virtual pop star looked instead as though the corporation had uncritically read Gibson, and thought what he was describing was a good idea.

But going further back, I seem to recall that there was a programme on late at night, presented by Robert Powell, on the impact the new information technology would have on society. It was on well after my bedtime, and children didn’t have their own TVs in those days. Or at least, not so much. I therefore didn’t see it, only read about it in the Radio Times. But one of its predictions was that there would be widespread unemployment caused by automation. This would include actors, who would instead by replaced by computer simulations.

Computer technology has also been used to create fresh performances by deceased stars, sometimes duetting with contemporary performers. This worried one of my aunts when it appeared in the 1980s/90s. Dead performers have also been recreated as holograms, to make the stage or television appearances they never made in life. The late, great comedian Les Dawson was revived as one such image, giving post-mortem Audience With… on ITV. It was convincing, and based very much on Dawson’s own live performances and work. It was good to see him again, even if only as Virtual ghost, and a reminder of how good he was when alive.

I don’t know how reliable the rumours Doomcock reports and on which he comments are. This could all be baseless, and come to nothing. But I share his fears about the damage to our culture, if we allow our films and television to be generated by technicians and algorithms rather than flesh and blood thesps. Especially as the rising cost of movies mean that the film companies are unwilling to take risks and seem determined to rake over and exploit past classics rather than experiment with creating fresh material.

CGI’s a great tool. It’s used to create vividly real worlds and creatures. But I don’t want it replacing humans. Even if that means waiting a few years for new flicks to come out.

 

‘Spitting Image’ Returning on BritBox

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/08/2020 - 12:44am in

I found this promising little snippet in today’s I for 5th August 2020. It seems that satirical puppet show, Spitting Image, will be returning to TV after nearly a quarter of a century. The article runs

Johnson’s ‘Spitting Image’ revealed

Boris Johnson, his chief adviser Dominic Cummings and the Duke of York feature among the latest Spitting Image puppets unveiled ahead of the show’s return;. The satirical series will air later this year on BritBox after running on ITV for 18 series between 1984 and 1996. Donald Trump, Beyonce, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Vladimir Putin will also feature prominently.

There were plans to bring it back a few years ago following a retrospective on the programme as long ago as 2004, I believe. Channel 4 looked into it, but turned it down because it would be too expensive. Health and Safety legislation also meant that the conditions in which the puppets were made back in the ’80s and ’90s, which did use dangerous chemicals, would be illegal and need to be improved. In the meantime, we briefly had Newzoids on ITV, which also mixed puppets and CGI to satirise politicos and celebs, but was obviously cheaper.

I thought, however, that Britbox was a streaming service for oldshows broadcast by the Beeb and ITV. This suggests that they aren’t just showing re-runs, but have commissioned new material. It’ll be interesting to see how this works out.

And to see if the new, revived Spitting Image is as vicious, incisive and hilarious at its previous incarnation.

Sometimes to the Authorities White Lives Don’t Matter Either

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/07/2020 - 4:53am in

There was outrage at the end of last month when Jake Hepple, an employee at Paradigm Precision, an aerospace engineering firm took exception to the Black Live Matter movement. Hepple  flew a light aircraft over the Etihad stadium shortly after a matched had kicked off between Burnley and Manchester City, incensed at players from the two sides wearing shirts with the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ to support the movement, and so. The aircraft flew a banner across the sky declaring ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’. Despite initial statements by the police that no crime had been committed, this was seen very much as an example of hate speech. Hepple’s partner, Megan Rambadt, was sacked by her employer for making comments such as  “I love Burnley but I must admit it’s pretty grim, that town centre is like a foreign country. Needs sorting” and “They need sending back on banana boats, stinkin bastards”. Hepple was also dismissed from his job soon after, with Paradigm Precision declaring that it did not condone or tolerate racism in any form. Apart from the stunt, it was revealed that Hepple had strong racist views of his own. Unite Against Fascism went through his Facebook page and found that he supported the EDL and had been photoed standing with its former fuhrer, Stephen Yaxley Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson. He had also posted these racist comments “Why would anyone in their right mind pay £90 for the new England shirt when it probably cost a company full of tree swinging spear throwers about 80p to make? Not a chance I’m paying that” and “I’m not even going to go into detail of how fucked up Sharia Law is, which is what some ‘people’ want in this country, absolutely mental this government”.

Burnley’s captain Ben Mee condemned Hepple’s stunt, saying “Fans like that don’t deserve to be around football … We’re ashamed, we’re embarrassed. It’s a minority of our supporters – I know I speak for a massive part of our support who distance ourselves from anything like that”. The Mirror also reported that those responsible for the stunt would face a lifetime ban from the Burnley ground. The club said “We wish to make it clear that those responsible are not welcome at Turf Moor”. Hepple himself was defiant, tweeting  “Thanks a lot, no apology will be coming out as I’m not apologising for stating that white peoples lives matter as well”.

See Zelo Street: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/burnley-banner-man-will-be-banned.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/burnley-racists-employer-hard-choices.html

Unfortunately, Hepple has a point. The police and the authorities all too often have a needlessly aggressive attitude to Blacks and have shown apathy and indifference to their murder. This was also shown a week or so ago when the Met police stopped Black British athlete Bianca Williams and her family, dragging her and her husband out their car and seizing their baby on the suspicion that they were carrying drugs. They weren’t, and the rozzers’ behaviour served to stir up even further resentment against the police and the stop and search policy following the killing of George Floyd in America.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/07/bianca-williams-and-tory-racism.html

On Thursday at 9.00 pm, ITV are showing again the 1999 drama, The Murder of Stephen Lawrence, about Lawrence’s parents, Neville’s and Doreen’s battle to get justice for their son after he was killed by a White gang in a racist attack back in 1993. At 8.00 pm, before the drama begins, the commercial broadcaster is showing a programme Stephen Lawrence: Has Britain Changed? hosted by Rageh Omaar ande Anushka Asthana and with a panel of experts debating this question following Floyd’s death in Minnesota and the corresponding wave of protests around the world.

Older readers of this blog will remember the murder, and the scandal of the Met’s own racism and incompetence in failing to prosecute the youths responsible despite the overwhelming evidence against. Part of the problem may also have been police corruption, as the young perps were the sons of leading London gangsters. The scandal was front page news for weeks, months and years afterwards and there was rightly a major outcry against it. Private Eye, however, published a couple of separate articles revealing that a young White and an Asian man had been also been murdered into two different unprovoked racial attacks. And the Met had behaved in exactly the same way, steadfastly refusing to do anything to investigate the murders and prosecute the perps responsible.

Unlike Stephen Lawrence, these murders garnered no coverage and no media or public outrage. They were forgotten.

And the real elephant in the room here is the Rotherham Asian grooming gang scandal. For well over a decade, a gang of taxi drivers of mostly Pakistani origin had been grooming, raping and exploiting as prostitutes White girls from a care home. The police and local authority had been repeatedly told about it, but had refused to take action. Instead, at least one of the girls had been offered Urdu lessons to somehow help her. One of the cops responsible for this debacle stated that they didn’t act because they didn’t want to start a riot. This scandal has naturally provoked even more outrage, and since then more grooming gangs have been uncovered. It’s been a gift to the racist right, and Tommy Robinson was running up and down the country exploiting the trials by posting his own highly prejudiced take on them on the internet, thus risking a mistrial. He was thus hauled up before the beak himself on contempt of court charges after he filmed himself commenting on the trial of one of these gangs outside the court, and trying to interview them as they were being ushered in.

Academics and anti-racists have stressed that these gangs are not representative of the Asian community. One academic specialising in these issues posted a piece on the Net showing that Asians are no more likely to be predatory paedophiles than Whites. The point has also been made that Islam was not a motive in the crimes. They were simply a case of sick people abusing messed-up, vulnerable children. One Asian journo or celebrity was also outraged by the cops’ attitude in fearing that their arrest would spark riots. He maintained that British Asians wouldn’t have objected to the arrest of the offenders and would not have rioted. He may well be right, but as quoted by the papers, the cop in question made no mention of who would be doing the rioting. He just said they would start. He might have felt it would give White bigots an excuse to attack Asians.

The point here is that the police and authorities refused to take action because they feared a breakdown in what may be described as ‘community cohesion’ because of the races of the attackers and the victims. The girls didn’t matter, because they were White.

Although these crimes have been revealed and other similar gangs uncovered, arrested and tried since then, the Rotherham scandal remains. According to right-wing commenters, there is supposed to be a report on the grooming gang that has not been published. I don’t know if that is the case, but if so, it’s a scandal in itself. I doubt such a report would show that racial and religious motives were behind the assaults, as the islamophobes claim. They suggest that the decision not to prosecute or take action went all the way up to Blair’s or Gordon Brown’s government. If that’s the case, then its suppression – if that has happened – is almost certainly due to the authorities trying to protect their rear ends.

Now I certainly don’t begrudge the Lawrences the attention they managed to focus on their son’s murder and the disgusting conduct of the Met police. I am simply trying to make the point that sometimes the police and authorities also won’t take action against the abusers and killers of people of other ethnicities. The Black Lives Matter protests in some areas, like Cheltenham, have extended to include other ethnic minorities. But they all seem to believe that crimes against Whites are universally and automatically investigated to a higher standard than those against people of ethnic minorities. But this doesn’t seem to be the case.

There should be outrage when the police fail to prosecute perps in crimes where race is a factor, regardless of the ethnic background of the victim. It shouldn’t matter if the victim is Black, White, Brown or whatever, no-one should die from racist attacks and their murderers go Scot free, or young people repeatedly abused and assaulted with impunity.

If the victim of a racist attack is White or Asian, then people should unite across the racial divide to condemn the attacks, just as they should if the victim were Black. As the Black Lives Matter protesters stress, the movement does not mean that White lives don’t matter.

But unfortunately, sometimes White lives are ignored because of their race. And that should cause every bit of outrage as the culpably negligent attitude towards Black.

 

Grimes and Starkey Now Feeling Heat for Racist Comments in Slavery Video

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 04/07/2020 - 2:36am in

This is a kind of update to my last post. This followed a great piece from Zelo Street reporting that Darren Grimes, another former inmate of the Paul Staines massive, and the TV historian Dr David Starkey had appeared in a video in which Starkey had definitely made a racist comment about Blacks. The video had been about Black Lives Matter supposedly aiming to delegitimise British history. Grimes and Starkey had been agreed that the British empire had been a good thing. Grimes had also asked the A.J.P. Taylor of TV programmes about the Tudors if slavery was a genocide. It’s a reasonable question, as although the enslavement of Africans by Europeans wasn’t intended to exterminate them, it led to the devastation and abandonment of whole communities due to slave raiding. Starkey denied that it was a genocide, because of the subsequent increase in the Black population, which he expressed in very racist terms. He said it wasn’t, because ‘otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn Blacks in Britain and Africa, would there?’ (my emphasis). This naturally upset many people, and had led to strong criticism of both of them. Grimes should have stopped Starkey making any such comment, but instead sat there nodding in agreement at what his hero said. So one of the peeps on Twitter put up a video of him nodding along to one of Hitler’s speeches.

In my piece about this sordid episode, I quoted Zelo Street’s conclusion that this should effectively end both Starkey’s and Grimes’ careers. But I felt that it wouldn’t harm them at all. Starkey appeared to me to be far too established as a popular historian, while for some reason it doesn’t seem to matter what they do, Grimes and the other members and former members of Guido Fawkes are still invited on TV programmes and treated as regular journalists.

But events this morning show I was wrong. Starkey and Grimes are both feeling the public’s disapproval, and it does threaten to harm their careers. 

Zelo Street has put up another video discussing the effects of Grimes’ video. Starkey has resigned from his position at the Mary Rose Museum, which said that it was appalled at his conduct. Dan Snow, another presenter of TV history programmes, most of which have been about the two World Wars, has said that his channel, History Hit, has never made any original programmes with Starkey. He appears in one programme, which the channel has on license from a third party, and which they have now taken down. And next week Cambridge University’s Fitzwilliam College will review Starkey’s honorary fellowship.

As for Grimes, he has issued a long, kind-of apology for his failure to stop or correct Starkey’s comments. He’s tweeted the following:

“Hand on heart, I wasn’t engaged enough in this interview as I should’ve been. It goes without saying that Reasoned UK does not support or condone Dr David Starkey’s words … I am very new to being the interviewer rather than the interviewee and I should have robustly questioned Dr Starkey about his comments”.

“However, whether it’s on the BBC, ITV, Sky News or on YouTube, no interviewer is responsible for the views expressed by their guests”.

This last remark isn’t entirely correct. Zelo Street also comments that Grimes could have cut Starkey’s offensive remark, and asked him to rephrase it. He didn’t. Grimes fouled up.

He then goes on to give a lame excuse for regarding Starkey as a hero. It was because he really appreciated Starkey’s history programmes when he was growing up, because he had gone to a ‘crap state school which did little in the way of history’. This was untrue. Others, like James Wilson pointed out that his old school had been rated ‘good’ by Ofsted, and its curriculum ‘excellent’ while he was there. Michael Dunn had also gone to the same school, Tanfield, and had made a career in history. He said “I went to the same school, same teachers, I’ve made a career out of my history education, have a degree in history and work in a museum with a collection of national significance, he’s lying again”.

And Miffy Buckley added further that the episode reflected very badly on the current state of the media:  “The fact that such a frankly stupid and out-of-his-depth ninny like Darren Grimes can segue from failed trainee hairdresser to pundit on prime time Sky News programming must surely tell us something about the state of our media, and of our political & civil discourse”.

The Street concurred, and concluded:

‘Broadcasters keep inviting them on their shows, and they keep showing the world the true extent of their expertise – or lack of it. Grimes and Starkey should not be the only ones repenting at leisure this morning. Hello all you gullible media bookers.’

Absolutely. It has surprised me that they are facing criticism and censure for Starkey’s comments. I didn’t think this would happen. I’m not sure it will result in either disappearing from our screens for good. The broadcasters are desperate to find a popular voice for right-wing politics, which means that they have valued personality and opinion over informed content and the bounds of decent speech. It’s why Hatie Katie Hopkins was given a platform by so many newspapers and websites before she proved too toxic even for the Scum and the Heil. Grimes may yet escape her fate, but even if he doesn’t, it’s likely the media will just find another ignorant loudmouth from the extreme right to replace him.

And that also shows how grotty our national media really is.

See also: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/07/darren-grimes-repents-at-leisure.html

 

Boris’ Lockdown Delay Killed 30,000 People

Nonessential shops reopened on Monday, and the Beeb news was all about hordes of people queuing outside Primark. This will no doubt boost the spirits of Boris and the Tories, who care more about the economy than human lives. Boris’ lead in the polls has collapsed over his mishandling of the Coronavirus epidemic. The last time I heard anything about it, he was at -2 and Starmer was way ahead of him. And after the scandals of the government’s failure to provide adequate supplies of PPE, of deaths from the disease now having reached 40,000 and still climbing, of the massive increase in the deaths of the elderly and vulnerable in care homes there have been the additional scandals of Dominic Cummings breaking the lockdown rules to drive 240 miles to Durham and Robert Jenrick approving the development of Westferry in London after Richard Desmond sent the Tories a £12,000 donation. And then there’s the mass BLM anti-racism protests. BoJob is therefore going to be looking for some good news to distract attention away from the real problems his vile government is in. He’s no doubt hoping that people will be so delighted at the partial lifting of the lockdown and being able to get out and spend their cash again, that they’ll forget all about the deaths, misery and corruption.

So let’s remind them. Last Thursday Zelo Street posted a devastating piece about the news from Channel 4, the Financial Times and the Groaniad that Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College had estimated that if Johnson had imposed the lockdown a week earlier, the death toll from the disease could have been halved. This is the real death toll from the disease, which is believed to be above 60,000 instead of the government’s figure of 40,000. Prof. Ferguson believes that if this had been done, 30,000 lives could have been saved. Despite Matt Hancock appearing on Andrew Marr’s show telling everyone that he was sure that lives wouldn’t have been saved if this had happened, Newsnight’s Lewis Goodall considered otherwise. Zelo Street’s article quotes him thus:  “Neither Vallance nor Whitty directly demur from Neil Ferguson’s assertion that the death toll could have been halved if lockdown measures were introduced earlier. They both say, in various forms, that lessons will have to be learned. PM chooses not to answer”.

Paul Waugh on Twitter also noted that Whitty, one of Boris’ advisers, had said that we were not at the end of the epidemic, but in the middle of it. He also reminded everyone that Boris had also said, nearly 12 weeks ago, that in 112 weeks’ time Britain would have beaten the virus and sent it packing. Well, we haven’t. It’s still there and killing people. Then Channel 4 announced that it had seen a leaked paper from one of the government’s advisory committees calling for a lockdown two weeks earlier than when Boris finally bothered to do it. The paper was by Dr. Steven Riley, also at Imperial College London, who believed that the policy Boris was then following of mitigation would lead to 1.7 million deaths. He therefore called for the government to turn to the strategies adopted by Hong Kong, Japan and Italy of ‘successful ongoing control’ – in other words, lockdown. Prof. Ferguson said that the epidemic had been doubling every three to four days before the lockdown had been imposed. If it had been done a week early, the death toll could have been reduced by at least half. And on ITV’s Good Morning, the former government chief scientific adviser Sir David King said that if the country had gone into lockdown a week earlier, the final death toll would only have been less than 10,000.

Zelo Street quotes a Tweet by Tom Hatfield, who declared that the government didn’t impose the lockdown when it should because Boris and the Tories were more concerned about the economy than keeping people alive. They failed at both, because it’s ‘bollocks’ that any one country can come up with a trick in today’s globalised economy to prevent a global economic crisis. ‘They killed people for nothing’, he concluded.

The response of the Tory press was predictable. They poured scorn on the estimate, and carried on their personal attacks against Prof. Ferguson, despite the fact that he was supported in his beliefs by the other scientists Anthony Costello and David King.

Zelo Street concluded its article with

‘The deflection, pushback and whataboutery confirm this is news that cannot be merely swatted away. Alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson got it horribly wrong; he and his ministers misled the public deliberately and shamefully. And as a result, tens of thousands died needlessly. That is the reality of the situation.

The families of the 30,000 should get an explanation. But they probably won’t.’

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/boris-legacy-30000-more-deaths.html

Absolutely. And governments, the WHO and other international health organisations have known that something like Coronavirus was coming for a very long time. Meera Senthilingam in her book Outbreaks and Epidemics: Battling Infection from Measles to Coronavirus (London: Icon Books 2020) quotes Mike Ryan, executive director of the Health Emergencies Programme at the World Health Organisation, said that an airborne version of Ebola or a form of SARS that was even slightly more transmissible would be enough ‘to bring our society to a halt’. And she observes that this prediction has been confirmed with the emergence of the Coronavirus and the subsequent national lockdowns, the border and school closures and the cancellation of events and their disastrous consequences for business.

Mike, Zelo Street and other left-wing bloggers and news sites have posted endless reports revealing how the Tories cut the preparations the Labour government had put in place to guard against an emergency like the Coronavirus. They’ve also revealed that Dominic Cummings and other senior Tories were so taken with the eugenicist doctrine of the survival of the fittest and the desire to protect the economy, that they were determined not to impose a lockdown. And if that meant a few old people dying, ‘too bad’.

Well old people have died, along with the disabled, children, and even those, who were in otherwise excellent health. It’s also carried off the dedicated, heroic doctors, nurses, carers and other vital workers, who have been doing their level best to treat the sick and keep the country running. We’ve all been impressed by their immense dedication and how they’ve worked long hours at great personal risk.

The opposite has been true of Johnson. Not only was he murderously complacent, he was personally idle. The Tories have been trying to portray him as a heroic leader, who has himself worked long hours to combat the disease. But this is a myth, a conscious piece of propaganda, like the way Mussolini put a light in his window at night to convince Italians that he never slept. Boris didn’t bother attending the first five Cobra meetings, and doesn’t like working weekends.

Deaths were unavoidable. But if Boris had acted sooner, if we hadn’t had ten years of Tory misgovernment, during which the NHS has been run down and privatised, poverty massively increased and government preparedness decimated, all in the name of austerity and giving tax cuts to the rich, 30,000 people would still be alive.

Boris Johnson and the Tories are definitely hoping that the reopening of the High Street will bring good news from now on, and that everyone will forget this horrendous death toll.

So let’s keep on reminding him and them.

Boris has killed 30,000 people. And that doesn’t count the hundreds of thousands already murdered by austerity.

Yay! Farage Sacked from LBC for Racism Comments

It isn’t just statues to Europe’s and America’s racist and imperialist past that are being toppled by the BLM movement. Nigel Farage, former Fuhrer of UKIP and now Fuhrer and owner of the Brexit Party Ltd, has also been removed from a public platform. A few days ago LBC radio announced that they were not renewing his contract.

The station’s announcement of his departure was anodyne, and gave no hint of the supposed reasons for it. LBC simply tweeted “Nigel Farage’s contract with LBC is up very shortly and, following discussions with him, Nigel is stepping down from LBC with immediate effect. We thank Nigel for the enormous contribution he has made to LBC and wish him well”. As the mighty Zelo Street, it means he’s been sacked.

Part of the reason for it was that many people, including Black and Asian employees within LBC itself, were unhappy that the station was employing him because of the inflammatory comments the Fuhrage had made about the BLM movement itself. These were in clear conflict with the station, which had endorsed the movements and its battle against racism sparked by the murder of George Floyd. Farage had released a series of tweets condemning the attack on Churchill’s statue – which is fair enough – but had denounced the protests as a form of anarchy. He declared he was going to tell some home truths about BLM on his LBC show, before going way over the top and comparing the movement to the Taliban. “A new form of the Taliban was born in the UK today. Unless we get moral leadership quickly our cities won’t be worth living in … If Boris Johnson won’t lead and stand up for the country, as its symbols are trashed, then people will start taking it into their own hands. Full on race riots are now possible. Show leadership and fast”.

At one level, it’s a fair comment. Others, like the anti-trans feminist activist Posie Parker, have made the same prediction. She too condemned the undemocratic way the statues were removed, and feared that the same disenfranchised Whites that voted for Brexit would rise up in their turn in a tide of Fascism. And yesterday the Democratic Football Lads’ Alliance did stage a violent protest against BLM and attacked the police. But coming from Farage, the prediction also looks very much like dog whistle racism. Many people thought Farage was actually calling for such White racist violence while appearing to fear and condemn it.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/lawless-reckless-nige-is-your-man.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/nigel-farage-sacked-by-lbc.html

Friday’s edition of the I, for 12th June 2020, also carried an article about the affair. Titled ‘Farage ‘dropped’ from radio show after BLM row’, the article by Benjamin Butterworth, ran

Nigel Farage has been dropped from his nightly radio show at LBC amid anger among some staff over his opposition to Black Lives Matter.

Sections of production and presenting staff were “furious” that the station was publicly claiming to honour the questions raised by the movement while still employing Mr Farage as a host.

One insider said disquiet intensified after Mr Farage compared the anti-racism campaign to the Taliban during an appearance on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday.

LBC has denied any complaints among staff and says the decision not renew his contract had long been in discussion.

Yesterday black members of the staff at Global Media, which owns LBC, spoke to the website Huffpost to air concerns about Mr Farage’s ongoing employment. Shortly after the concerns were put to Global, the company announced that Mr Farage had been axed “with immediate effect”.

LBC said this claim is “wholly untrue” and told I: “Mr Farage had been in discussion with LBC about the natural end to his contract.” Last week, two of the company’s high-profile presenters, Capital Xtra breakfast hosts Yinka Bokkini and Shayna Maria Birch-Campbell, accused Global Media of failing when it comes to responding to the anti-racism movement.

Editors spoke with staff during recent days about the complaints about Mr Farage. One employee said management was told “they either stand with him [Farage] or against him.”

A source told I: “everyone across the board was furious. The mood was not great. Both production and presenters made our feelings know to the bosses.

“Lot of chats have been going on this week. It’s not like we haven’t said this before but this time it was finally taken seriously as people were not happy the minute silence was being honoured while he was on air spouting hate.”

The Brexit Party leader has hosted a phone-in programme five days a week since 2017, with his show being heavily promoted on billboards and adverts. In an official statement the station said: “Following discussions with him, Nigel is stepping down from LBC.”

All things considered, it looks very much like staff dissatisfaction with Farage and his racism was responsible for him getting the heave-ho. Good! It’s about time. Farage isn’t a friend of this country’s working people, whether they’re Black, White, Brown or whatever. He’s a far-right Conservative who wants more privatisation, more welfare cuts and the NHS to be sold off. He’s extremely pro-American, which means that any deal with America he supports will be to their advantage, not ours. He won’t be missed.

It’s just too bad that other extreme right-wing hacks and Tory shills like Nick Ferrari and Julia Harley-Brewer still have jobs. 

 

 

 

 

Bristol Police Were Right Not To Stop Colston Statue Being Toppled

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 10/06/2020 - 12:02am in

The police were present at the Black Lives Matter demo on Sunday at which the statue of the slaver, Edward Colston, was pulled down, hauled to the harbour and thrown in. They did not try stop it, and are now being questioned and taken to task about their refusal to interfere. ITN interviewed their chief on the 6 O’clock news last night. I can’t remember what he said exactly, but it was that the demonstration was peaceful and non-violent. Zelo Street has reported that ITN weren’t the only people, who wanted a word with the rozzers about that. According to the Times, Home Secretary Priti Patel has called in the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police, Andy Marsh, to demand and explanation. She has also said that she wants those responsible to face prosecution.

There are several aspects to this. Zelo Street quotes the Secret Barrister, who makes the point that Patel has no business telling anyone whom the state should prosecute. That’s the role of the Crown Prosecution Service. She is interfering with the independent prosecutorial process. Which is yet more proof that she doesn’t understand and respect the independent of the judicial system and is unfit to be Home Secretary.

Zelo Street also argues that the story is another piece of misdirection on the part of the Tory media. Patel has imposed a fortnight’s quarantine period for those entering the country. But the Metro today claimed that this wouldn’t do anything to stop the spread of Covid-19 but would just harm business. So the Times tries getting people to look the other way at what she’s doing about all those dreadful protesters.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/priti-patel-says-look-over-there.html

I actually think Marsh was quite right for the police not to try to stop the demonstrators attacking the statue. The statue is extremely controversial and people have been campaigning for its removal for years. Unlike some of the protests elsewhere, there doesn’t appear to have been any attacks on the police themselves. No-one appears to have been hurt, and no shops or businesses were attacked and looted. As for the statue, it is only a statue. Obviously it’s going to cost the council taxpayer for the authorities to haul it out of the harbour, but it isn’t a person or someone’s home or business.

That could so easily have changed if the police had got involved. The crowd would have resisted or tried to fight back. What was a peaceful demonstration would have become a riot. People could have been killed or injured, and the businesses around the Centre attacked and trashed. And also it wouldn’t look good for the police themselves. The cops everywhere have got a reputation for racism. Having them defend the statue of a slaver would have added to it. I can image it causing more angry denunciations of the police and more protests about police brutality and Bristolian racism.

Any attempt to interfere on the cops’ part would have led to violence and further unrest. The police were right to try to preserve order and the safety of people and their livelihoods by stopping the attack on the statue. Patel is wrong to tell them that they should.

80s Space Comedy From Two of the Goodies

Astronauts, written by Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, 13 episodes of 25 minutes in length. First Broadcast ITV 1981 and 1983.

I hope everyone had a great Bank Holiday Monday yesterday, and Dominic Cummings’ hypocritical refusal to resign after repeatedly and flagrantly breaking the lockdown rules aren’t getting everyone too down. And now, for the SF fans, is something completely different as Monty Python used to say.

Astronauts was a low budget ITV sitcom from the very early ’80s. It was written by the two Goodies responsible for writing the scripts for their show, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, and based on the personal conflicts and squabbling of the American astronauts on the Skylab programme six years earlier. It was about three British astronauts, RAF officer, mission commander and pilot Malcolm Mattocks, chippy, left-wing working-class engineer David Ackroyd, coolly intellectual biologist Gentian Fraser,and their dog, Bimbo,  who are launched into space as the crew of the first all-British space station. Overseeing the mission is their American ground controller Lloyd Beadle. Although now largely forgotten, the show lasted two seasons, and there must have been some continuing demand for it, because it’s been released nearly forty years later as a DVD. Though not in such demand that I didn’t find it in DVD/CD bargain catalogue.

Low Budget

The show’s very low budget. Lower than the Beeb’s Blake’s 7, which often cited as an example of low budget British science fiction. There’s only one model used, that of their space station, which is very much like the factual Skylab. The shots of their spacecraft taking off are stock footage of a Saturn V launch, the giant rockets used in the Moon landings and for Skylab. There also seems to be only one special effects sequence in the show’s entire run, apart from outside shots. That’s when an accident causes the station to move disastrously out of its orbit, losing gravity as it does so. Cheap matte/ Chromakey effects are used to show Mattocks rising horizontally from his bunk, where he’s been lying, while Bimbo floats through the bedroom door.

Class in Astronauts and Red Dwarf

It’s hard not to compare it with the later, rather more spectacular Red Dwarf, which appeared in 1986, three years after Astronaut’s last season. Both shows centre around a restricted regular cast. In Red Dwarf this was initially just Lister, Holly and the Cat before the appearance of Kryten. Much of the comedy in Red Dwarf is also driven by their similar situation to their counterparts in Astronauts – personality clashes in the cramped, isolated environment of a spacecraft. The two shows are also similar in that part of this conflict from class and a Conservative military type versus working class cynic/ liberal. In Red Dwarf it’s Rimmer as the Conservative militarist, while Lister is the working class rebel. In Astronauts the military man is Mattocks, a patriotic RAF pilot, while Ackroyd, the engineer, is left-wing, Green, and affects to be working class. The three Astronauts also debate the class issue, accusing each other of being posh before establishing each other’s place in the class hierarchy. Mattocks is posh, but not as posh as Foster. Foster’s working class credentials are, however, destroyed during an on-air phone call with his mother, who is very definitely middle or upper class, and talks about going to the Conservative club. In this conflict, it’s hard not to see a similarity with the Goodies and the conflict there between the Conservative screen persona of Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie’s left-wing, working class character.

Class, however, plays a much smaller role in Red Dwarf. Lister is more underclass than working class, and the show, set further in the future, has less overt references to contemporary class divisions and politics. The humour in Red Dwarf is also somewhat bleaker. The crew are alone three million years in the future, with the human race vanished or extinct with the exception of Lister. Rimmer is an ambitious failure. For all he dreams of being an officer, he has failed the exam multiple times and the B.Sc he claims is Batchelor of Science is really BSC – Bronze Swimming Certificate. Both he and Lister are at the lowest peg of the ship’s hierarchy in Red Dwarf. They’re maintenance engineers, whose chief duties is unblocking the nozzles of vending machines. Lister’s background is rough. Very rough. While others went scrumping for apples, he and his friends went scrumping for cars. The only famous person in his class was a man who ate his wife. The three heroes of Astronauts, however, are all competent, intelligent professionals despite their bickering. Another difference is that while both series have characters riddled with self-loathing, in Red Dwarf it’s the would-be officer Rimmer, while in Astronauts is working class engineer Ackroyd.

Britain Lagging Behind in Space

Other issues in Astronauts include Britain’s low status as a space power. In a speech in the first episode, the crew express their pride at being the first British mission, while paying tribute to their American predecessors in the Apollo missions. The Ealing comedy The Mouse on the Moon did something similar. And yet Britain at the time had been the third space power. Only a few years before, the British rocket Black Arrow had been successfully launched from Woomera in Australia, successfully taking a British satellite into orbit.

Personal Conflicts

There are also conflicts over the cleaning and ship maintenance duties, personal taste in music – Mattocks irritates Ackroyd by playing Tubular Bells, publicity or lack of it – in one episode, the crew are annoyed because it seems the media back on Earth have forgotten them – and disgust at the limited menu. Mattocks is also shocked to find that Foster has been killing and dissecting the mice he’s been playing with, and is afraid that she’ll do it to the dog. Sexism and sexual tension also rear their heads. Mattocks fancies Foster, but Ackroyd doesn’t, leading to further conflict between them and her. Foster, who naturally wants to be seen as an equal and ‘one of the boys’ tries to stop this by embarrassing them. She cuts her crew uniform into a bikini and then dances erotically in front of the two men, before jumping on them both crying ‘I’ll have both of you!’ This does the job, and shames them, but Beadle, watching them gets a bit too taken with the display, shouting ‘Work it! Work it! Boy! I wish I was up there with you boys!’ Foster also objects to Mattocks because he doesn’t help his wife, Valerie, out with the domestic chores at home. Mattocks also suspects that his wife is having an affair, which she is, in a sort-of relationship with Beadle. There’s also a dig at the attitudes of some magazines. In the press conference before the three go on their mission, Foster is asked by Woman’s Own if she’s going to do any cooking and cleaning in space. Beadle and his team reply that she’s a highly trained specialist no different from the men. The joke’s interesting because in this case the butt of the humour is the sexism in a certain type of women’s magazine, rather than chauvinist male attitudes.

Cold War Espionage

Other subjects include the tense geopolitical situation of the time. Mattocks is revealed to have been running a secret espionage programme, photographing Russian bases as the station flies over them in its orbit. The others object, and Ackroyd is finally able to persuade Beadle to allow them to use the technology to photograph illegal Russian whaling in the Pacific. This is used to embarrass the Russians at an international summit, but the questions about the origin of the photos leads to the espionage programme being abandoned. The crew also catch sight of a mysterious spacecraft in the same orbit, and start receiving communications in a strange language. After initially considering that it just might be UFOs, it’s revealed that they do, in fact, come from a lonely Russian cosmonaut. Foster speaks Russian, and starts up a friendship. When Mattocks finds out, he is first very suspicious, but then after speaking to the Russian in English, he too becomes friends. He’s the most affected when the Russian is killed after his craft’s orbit decays and burns up re-entering the atmosphere.

Soft Drink Sponsorship

There are also digs at commercial sponsorship. The mission is sponsored by Ribozade, whose name is a portmanteau of the British drinks Ribeena and Lucozade. Ribozade tastes foul, but the crew nevertheless have it on board and must keep drinking it. This is not Science Fiction. One of the American missions was sponsored by Coca Cola, I believe, and so one of the space stations had a Coke machine on board. And when Helen Sharman went into space later in the decade aboard a Russian rocket to the space station Mir, she was originally to be sponsored by Mars and other British companies.

God, Philosophy and Nicholas Parsons

The show also includes arguments over the existence or not of the Almighty. Mattocks believes He exists, and has shown His special favour to them by guiding his hand in an earlier crisis. Mattocks was able to save them, despite having no idea what he was doing. Ackroyd, the sceptic, replies that he can’t say the Lord doesn’t exist, but can’t see how God could possibly create Nicholas Parsons and Sale of the Century, one of the popular game shows on ITV at the time, if He did. As Mattocks is supposed to be guiding them down from orbit, his admission that he really didn’t know what he was doing to rescue the station naturally alarms Foster and Ackroyd so that they don’t trust his ability to get them down intact.

Red Dwarf also has its jokes about contemporary issues and politics. Two of the most memorable are about the hole in the Earth’s ozone layer being covered with a gigantic toupee, and the despair squid, whose ink causes its prey to become suicidal and which has thus destroyed all other life on its world in the episode ‘Back to Reality’. Other jokes include everyone knowing where they were when Cliff Richard got shot. Red Dwarf, however, is much more fantastic and goes further in dealing with philosophical issues, such as when Rimmer is incarcerated in a space prison where justice is definitely retributive. If you do something illegal, it comes back to happen to you. This is demonstrated when Lister follows Rimmer’s instruction and tries to set his sheets alight. He shortly finds that his own black leather jacket has caught fire.

Conclusion

Red Dwarf is able to go much further in exploring these and other bizarre scenarios as it’s definitely Science Fiction. Astronauts is, I would argue, space fiction without the SF. It’s fictional, but based solidly on fact, including generating gravity through centrifugal force. But critically for any comedy is the question whether its funny. Everyone’s taste is different, but in my opinion, yes, Astronauts is. It’s dated and very much of its time, but the humour still stands up four decades later. It had me laughing at any rate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC World Service Programme Next Tuesday on Scientists Generating Electricity from Leaves

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/05/2020 - 2:49am in

This sounds completely bonkers, like the academy discussing ways to generate sunlight from cucumbers in Swift’s great satire, Gulliver’s Travels, but apparently is real science. According to the Radio Times again, next Tuesday, 19th May 2020, the BBC World Service programme, People Fixing the World, is about how scientists have found a way to generate electricity from leaves. The blurb about the programme by Tom Goulding on page 120 of the Radio Times runs

Money might not grow on trees, but scientists in Italy might have discovered the next best thing: leaves that generate electricity when they touch one another on a windy day. This process, enough to power 150 LED lights, is one of several remarkably simple ways of producing energy that scientists are just beginning to understand. In this optimistic documentary, reporter Daniel Gordon investigates some age-old ideas that could finally become viable renewable energy sources with new technology, such as the interaction between fresh and salt water at estuaries and a 5 km well being dug to extract untapped heat in Iceland.

The programme is on at 3.05 in the afternoon.

This sound really awesome, though it reminds me a little of the ‘treeborg’, a cyborg tree aboard a spaceship in a Matt Smith Dr. Who story, and also somewhat of the Matrix films, in which the robots have risen up and enslaved humanity. Unable to use sunlight after humanity wrecked the planet’s whether and created permanently overcast skies, the machines turned instead to growing us all in bottles and using the electricity generated from our bodies. Fortunately, I don’t think that’s a viable option. After the movie came out, people naturally wondered whether that could actually work. And the answer is, that it doesn’t. The amount of electricity generated by the human body is way too small. Nevertheless, reading this in the Radio Times makes you wonder if someone couldn’t harness it to provide useful power, nonetheless. Should the producers of this programme be giving them ideas?

Going on to geothermal power, I can remember in the 1970s watching items about it in Iceland on the popular science programmes’ Tomorrow’s World on the Beeb and Don’t Ask Me on ITV. That was the programme that gave the viewing public the great science broadcasters Magnus Pike and David ‘Botanic Man’ Bellamy.

I haven’t heard of electricity being generated by the interaction between fresh and salt water before, but I was amazed at how long ago tidal power has been around as a possible power source. Turbine wheels were put in the Thames estuary in the 16th century to provide power for mills. George Bernard Shaw also mentions tidal power in his book, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism. As an example of the type of wrangling that goes on in parliamentary democracy, he asks the reader to imagine the type of fierce debate that would occur if someone suggested putting up a tidal barrage in one of Britain’s great rivers. There would be a fiery contingent from Wales arguing that it should be on the Severn, and an equally fierce body of proud Scots declaring it should be on one of their rivers. I don’t think he need have worried. There have been debates about building a barrage on the Severn since I was at secondary school, and it’s no nearer being built because of concerns over its ecological effects.

But this programme sound amazing. I thinks there’s a simple science experiment for children, in which electrodes are stuck into a lemon or potato, and connected together to turn on an electric lightbulb. Will we be doing something similar in our gardens in a few years’ time, just as people are now putting solar panels on their rooves?