The Ice Planet

April 24, 2014

Nick Cohen

“No one does as much damage to a country as the patriots who profess to love it”

article-2383156-1B1CF30F000005DC-573_634x493No cause is as dead as the campaign to provide an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Far-sighted politicians once found it intolerable that criminals could abuse and exploit the half a million among us who were living beyond the minimum wage, the tax system and the rule of law.

Carry on reading


by Nick Cohen at April 24, 2014 09:01 AM

The Thoughts of a Mind

Rum Doings Episode 160: There’s Nothing Wrong With Eugenics

In our 160th ever Rum Doings, our topic is, videogames!

We begin with discussions of the abacus and hopscotch. Which inexorably takes us toward discussing the Mozilla and Brendan Eich matter. And Moses.

We ponder the Downs Syndrome test during pregnancy, and then the abstract nature of pregnancy. Then things move on to Stephen King, whereupon Nick feels the need to ruin the end of 11.22.63, because John was just about to start it. Want to miss the spoiler? Skip from 21:00 to 22:00. And 26:00 to 27:00. Nick is a dick.

We answer a few Twitter questions (at last), and then come upon an idea. Make sure to respond regarding a live show. And we once more repeat our plea for someone listening to give us at least £100,000. Then we break all the rules and talk about bloody videogames.

Finally, Nick attempts to explain the inexplicable Bitcoin.

You are of course required to leave a review on iTunes. Thank you to everyone who has – there are some extremely generous comments up there.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @rumdoings. If you want to email us, you can do that here. If you want to be a “fan” of ours on Facebook, which apparently people still do, you can do that here.

To get this episode directly, right click and save here. To subscribe to Rum Doings click here, or you can find it in iTunes here.

Or you can listen to it right here:

by John Walker at April 24, 2014 08:32 AM

April 18, 2014

The Thoughts of a Mind

Rum Doings Episode 159: I Missed The Bit Where We Said What Should Be The Title Someone Tell Me

In our 159th ever Rum Doings, our topic is, what is it with those flamingos?

It’s Rum Doings in person! We unite in the echoey halls of Posi Castle We begin with our listener’s all-time highlights of Rum Doings. Then we begin our LCHF picnic, of home-baked not-bread and chocolate brownies. Mmmmmmmm. With our mouths full, we explore the ways of Nigel Ferage, which inevitably leads us to discussing abortion.

And then we move on to a very special letter. Typed on a manual typewriter, what begins as a sympathy message about the disappearance of Dexter, quickly becomes… very strange. Whatever you do, make sure you listen to the final excerpt.

You are of course required to leave a review on iTunes. Thank you to everyone who has – there are some extremely generous comments up there.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @rumdoings. If you want to email us, you can do that here. If you want to be a “fan” of ours on Facebook, which apparently people still do, you can do that here.

To get this episode directly, right click and save here. To subscribe to Rum Doings click here, or you can find it in iTunes here.

Or you can listen to it right here:

by John Walker at April 18, 2014 10:00 AM

April 14, 2014

Nick Cohen

Poverty amid plenty; food banks in property bubbles

What image will social historians use to capture our times? Last week, after frenzied bidding, a drab garage next to a Camberwell industrial estate in what was once a cheap part of south London, sold for £550,000. That might do. No one who sniffs the air can fail to notice that London in the Osborne bubble has a whiff of Weimar Germany – but without the art or indeed the sex.

Yet alongside oligarchs buying the capital’s streets, and the Bank of England and Treasury pumping asset prices, we also have poverty that those of us who remember the recessions of the 1970s and 80s have not seen before.

Carry on reading


by Nick Cohen at April 14, 2014 11:21 AM

April 10, 2014

The Thoughts of a Mind

Rum Doings Episode 158: You’re A Poopy Pants, You’ve Got Big Poopy Pants On

In our 158th ever Rum Doings, our topic is, isn’t it about time we trusted MPs to manage their own business?

We begin with Nick criticising some videos he’s never seen, based on his own mad assumptions. This somewhat leads us to discussing internet abuse, then eventually John’s deserved privilege.

We discover that the holy spirit is a God fart, and have a few guesses at who’s going to die next. We then conclude that all people aged 73 are paedophiles unless proven otherwise.

You are of course required to leave a review on iTunes. Thank you to everyone who has – there are some extremely generous comments up there.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @rumdoings. If you want to email us, you can do that here. If you want to be a “fan” of ours on Facebook, which apparently people still do, you can do that here.

To get this episode directly, right click and save here. To subscribe to Rum Doings click here, or you can find it in iTunes here.

Or you can listen to it right here:

by John Walker at April 10, 2014 11:15 AM

Nick Cohen

You sexist/racist/liberal/elitist bastard! How dare you?

Terror arrests aftermath

While he was dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease, Tony Judt found the breath to educate those who believe they could ameliorate pain with soft words and bans on ‘inappropriate’ language.

“You describe everyone as having the same chances when actually some people have more chances than others. And with this cheating language of equality deep inequality is allowed to happen much more easily.”

Carry on reading


by Nick Cohen at April 10, 2014 10:56 AM

April 02, 2014

The Thoughts of a Mind

Rum Doings Episode 157: Lucy Went Outside And Now She’s Come Back In Again!

In our 157th ever Rum Doings, our topic is, is anyone going to be brave enough finally to confront the menace of rollerblades?

Today we’re here to tell you about how to get fat while pregnant. Inspired by an NHS booklet, we learn why the key way to get as fat as possible is to cram carbs into your face while eschewing the likes of saturated fats that might endanger an expectant mother with providing their developing child with substances it needs.

We also discuss… (“we”, ha) Nick also discusses which supplements you should take, in what ends up being an almost exclusively dietary edition. Oh, and Lucy went outside, and now she’s come back in again!

You are of course required to leave a review on iTunes. Thank you to everyone who has – there are some extremely generous comments up there.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @rumdoings. If you want to email us, you can do that here. If you want to be a “fan” of ours on Facebook, which apparently people still do, you can do that here.

To get this episode directly, right click and save here. To subscribe to Rum Doings click here, or you can find it in iTunes here.

Or you can listen to it right here:

by John Walker at April 02, 2014 02:09 PM

March 27, 2014

The Thoughts of a Mind

Rum Doings Episode 156: I’m Too Tired, And Perhaps Faithful

In our 156th ever Rum Doings, our topic is isn’t it about time we went to war with Russia?

Recorded across the Atlantic, on an overly-loud laptop mic in San Francisco, and Nick’s echo chamber in London, Nick naturally insists on talking about bloody videogames. John was at GDC at the time of recording, so despite wanting to talk about anything else, Nick must be obeyed. There’s also talk about San Francisco itself – a peculiar and unsettling mix of opulence and horrendous poverty.

As John struggles through his cold, Nick expresses his hatred of women, and we give the latest news on the death penalty. And hash browns. Mmmmmmm, hash browns.

You are of course required to leave a review on iTunes. Thank you to everyone who has – there are some extremely generous comments up there.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @rumdoings. If you want to email us, you can do that here. If you want to be a “fan” of ours on Facebook, which apparently people still do, you can do that here.

To get this episode directly, right click and save here. To subscribe to Rum Doings click here, or you can find it in iTunes here.

Or you can listen to it right here:

by John Walker at March 27, 2014 02:55 PM

March 24, 2014

Nick Cohen

The climate change deniers have won

The Amazon rainforest is burnt to clear land for agriculture near Novo Progresso

All of which is a long way of saying that the global warming deniers have won. And please, can I have no emails from bed-wetting kidults blubbing that you can’t call us “global warming deniers ” because “denier” makes us sound like “Holocaust deniers”, and that means you are comparing us to Nazis? The evidence for man-made global warming is as final as the evidence of Auschwitz. No other word will do.

Read the whole thing


by Nick Cohen at March 24, 2014 03:10 PM

March 10, 2014

The Thoughts of a Mind

Rum Doings Episode 155: A Banana Fits In The Palm Of Your Hands And You Can Juggle Leeks

In our 155th ever Rum Doings, our topic is why don’t they just build the aeroplane out of the same thing they build the black box out of.

We start by wondering where that plane might be, before leaping forward to discuss John’s having impregnated Laura, then nipping to Ukraine to deal with that. And then begins a mighty section on You & Yours and the audiophiles. With diversions into the magical powers of ethernet cables.

There’s talk of the power of fat, and what excellent weapons leeks make. And then more vital ethernet cable coverage.

You are of course required to leave a review on iTunes. Thank you to everyone who has – there are some extremely generous comments up there.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @rumdoings. If you want to email us, you can do that here. If you want to be a “fan” of ours on Facebook, which apparently people still do, you can do that here.

To get this episode directly, right click and save here. To subscribe to Rum Doings click here, or you can find it in iTunes here.

Or you can listen to it right here:

by John Walker at March 10, 2014 01:42 PM

March 08, 2014

Nick Cohen

‘Homely’ Boots treats its staff like red revolutionaries

No child dreams of growing up to become a pharmacist. They are never romantic leads or action heroes in films. As far as a search of my bookshelves and the web can tell, they are not the heroes and heroines of novels either. Doctors, detectives and spies are everywhere, while the ignored pharmacist is nowhere to be seen.

To become a chemist is to choose a comfortable existence. At Boots they make around £38,000 on average. This money buys the kind of life the rich and the bohemian have always derided: the semi in suburbia with the spare room for the children; the annual holiday and the car on HP. It can sound dull until hard times fall on you or your society and you learn that ordinary achievements are not to be derided.

Carry on reading


by Nick Cohen at March 08, 2014 01:08 PM

March 07, 2014

Nick Cohen

No room to breathe

all that is solid dorlingReview of All that is solid
By Danny Dorling

Shelter, like food, is essential for life. Without a home you have no place to lay your head and no place in the world to call your own. Even in rich countries, where they were once secure, homes have become precarious, as if sinkholes were opening under them.

A few figures from Danny Dorling’s brilliantly original study of our national obsession and national malaise explain why. No one can pretend now that we are moving towards a property-owning democracy. For the first time in a century, the share of homes rented privately has risen – up 6% between 2001 and 2011. In London and the south-east – and many cities outside – rents are extortionate.

Carry on reading


by Nick Cohen at March 07, 2014 12:39 PM

March 06, 2014

The Thoughts of a Mind

You & Yours And Its Gloriously Failed Attempt To Promote Audiophile Woo

Oh glorious day!

One of my favourite worst things is BBC Radio 4′s You & Yours. On when I get my lunch, each weekday I get to hear a portion of this most daft of consumer shows, as they spread fear and concern about whatever was in yesterday’s Daily Mail. That’s not to say they don’t sometimes do some good – I believe they were pivotal in ending the banking scam over taking five days to process cheques, and they often do a good job of airing scams to make people aware of what to avoid. But this is always scattered with main host Winifred Robinson’s scaremongering and personal vendettas, as she ceaselessly attempts to campaign against things she’s been proven wrong about, most recently her deranged fury about DAB radio.

Today though, something wonderful happened. The end of the episode featured a segment in which two music engineers came on to explain about the wonders of “high resolution music”. This, we were told by straight faces, was the same as increasing the pixel count of a picture, enabling more detail to be heard. Incredibly at one point one of them acknowledges that previous recording qualities already matched what the human ear could detect, but no no! Despite this, the “harmonics” were more clear if there was a new way to have to buy lots more expensive equipment!

I’m not a sound engineer, and I’ve no idea if there’s genuinely any measurable improvement in the quality of the recording, but I certainly do know that no human would be able to tell.

As they were given air time on this national radio station to make their ridiculous claims entirely unchallenged, unquestioned, and only excitedly enthused about, they played in clips of recordings in “low res” and “high res”, so these experts could explain the difference. And it was pure woo bullshit from start to finish. Brilliantly they made it clear that no one listening would be able to tell any difference between the two because radio waves would take the magics away. But then played them anyway. They would be able to tell, in the studio, listening on a “high definition Sony Walkman” through their £90 billion headphones. They played Ella Fitzgerald twice, explaining which was low and which was high. Winifred declared she could “almost” hear Ella’s breathing on the second, opening the door for some wonderfully silly explanations about the guests’ surprise at how noticeable it was, how it was a “mellower, warmer sound” and “more dynamic”. “It actually started off slightly quieter,” the second expert explains, “and that’s one of the great things of higher resolution, whereas a CD if you like levels it out a bit just by the nature of the delivery, so you’re right, I think it was more noticeable than I thought, and I think we are losing dynamics on a lot of CDs.”

We’re told that people might not appreciate the musical differences without the right equipment, and that the headphones they’re using allow them to hear what mere mortals may not. “We’re sitting here listening on our headphones, and it’s a good test because they are so clear and they have a great level of definition to them.”

For the second clip, Pinball Wizard, once again it’s explained which version is which. At this point I’m shouting at my radio, begging someone on the show to have swapped them over, tricked them in some way, but of course not. Even though this is a consumer programme, a radio broadcast with a remit to catch conmen and prevent the spreading of misleading information to consumers, instead they were apparently taking part in a commercial for this new technology gibberish. This time even Winifred couldn’t bring herself to pretend she could tell the difference, but not so our audio wizards. “I thought the differences were subtle,” explains Expert A, because he’d not been given such an open door by the presenter. Like a cold reader’s mark, this time she wasn’t emphatically nodding that it was a name beginning with G, so bets would need to be hedged. “More subtle than the first example, and I think it’s got something to do with the extra bits between the 16-bit recording and the 24-bit recording. When I listen to that recording there’s a lot of tails of reverb going on, and they seem far more realistic to me.”

I’m promising that’s what he said. You can check.

We then get some madness about megapixels in cameras, and how “audio is exactly the same” as photographs. My poor mind. And then it happened. Then they played a third pair of clips, but this time didn’t say which was which. I clapped! Yes! There was a mighty fifty percent chance they’d be able to guess right here. And they obviously weren’t going to do anything so reasonable or scientific as make each expert write their answer down without telling the other first. So whoever guessed first, the other would follow. Two ostensibly identical pieces of music were going to be played, and they were going to have a 50:50 chance. But so was I. And this was really unusual. Usually people in such positions won’t subject themselves to tests like these. Why they agreed to it I’m not sure. While I’d thought the only hope was for this CONSUMER PROGRAMME to deliberately trick them by playing the same clip twice, or lying about which way around they were playing them, instead we were getting a true blind test. Amazing.

The clip chosen was the BBC Philharmonic playing Elgar’s Pomp & Circumstance March No. 1. A clip, joyfully, recorded by one of the two wizards in the studio. For reasons I can’t quite fathom, Winifred – who didn’t know which was which – thought it would help things along to make her guess too. She thought it was the first clip. Expert A makes his venture, and for some reason is suddenly MASSIVELY less confident about the difference between the two than in the previous examples. Before it was so abundantly clear! This time, a lot closer. How strange. But without giving any reasons, and pointing out that he recorded it, he plumps for “the first recording”. Expert B tentatively follows on saying, “Well I would agree, because the second one immediately sounded louder. And that to me is the give-away.”

For reasons that will become clear, let’s have a quick reprise of a couple of the statements:

“It actually started off slightly quieter,” we’re told of the high resolution recordings, “and that’s one of the great things of higher resolution, whereas a CD if you like levels it out a bit just by the nature of the delivery.”

And

“Well I would agree, because the second one immediately sounded louder. And that to me is the give-away.”

Expert B even says the he’ll “lay his reputation” in giving his guess. A guess based on its sounding “louder”. That’s literally the only distinction identified by these two musical supremos, here to extol the wonders of high resolution music, and how vital it is that the differences are appreciated. The differences are that low res music is “louder”. Now, like I say, I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty sure that can be corrected with a volume knob, rather than a £10,000 stereo.

Anyway, the results!

Winifred hands over to the episode’s producer to let us know which was which.

“I’m so sorry, you’re all wrong! It was the second one!”

Winifred laughs. The experts do not. I jump and dance around the kitchen, clapping and whooping, so utterly delighted that the coin flip landed this way. On another day they’d have fluked the right identical recording, and their points would be left proven to themselves, and truth would have been stabbed in the chest. But not today. But it gets better.

Winifred’s laughter is cut off when one of the experts steps in with the most hilarious bullshit defence you could hope for. With a rehearsed conviction he states,

“And that is down to the Fletcher-Munson curve, for those that know, because that is one thing that when things are louder they are perceived differently. You have to be very careful when you do listen to things you listen them at the same level.”

Uh-huh.

This section was pre-recorded, and it cuts back to Winifred live, who goes on to say that because they were different volumes it wasn’t a fair test.

Right, let’s review. First of all, we were told that one of the ways to tell the difference between the two resolutions was that one sounded louder. We were also told that a quieter start meant a more “dynamic” recording. It was on this utter gibberish that the wild guess was made. And then when wrong, we were told this was because the high resolution clip was louder, so it wasn’t fair.

So obviously the excuse is hilariously poor. But even better – I’ve tested the recording, and the volumes are absolutely identical. So not only were the so-called experts utterly unable to tell the difference between the two clips, but they couldn’t even tell that they were the same volume, and even further used this imagined difference as an excuse, despite having used it as the proposed proof! Winifred’s ridiculous disclaimer after is even more remarkable, since they’d be easily able to have checked that the two recordings were played at identical volumes.

It’s pretty enormously crap that a programme that’s intended to protect listeners from falling for cons was so blindly promoting this rubbish, and even worse that when they accidentally prove that it was all utter bullshit, they make nonsense excuses for it to cover it up!

You can listen to the whole fantastic thing here.

by John Walker at March 06, 2014 02:22 PM

Nick Cohen

Chomsky and the Crimea: The malign double standards of the “anti-imperialist” left

Russia-troops-Crimea-ukrain

Go to London or of any other Western capital and here is what you will not see. You will not see mass demonstrations against the Russian invasion of the Ukraine swaying down the same streets in which the liberal-left marched against the invasion of Iraq. You will not hear prominent left-wing voices emphasizing that Putin is attempting more than an invasion; that the Russian Federation – and what a benign word ‘federation’ is for a revived Tsarist autocracy – is the last of the European empires, and is seeking to expand its borders, as empires always do.

In short, the activist left will not tell its followers that we are witnessing imperialism: not ‘cultural imperialism’ or ‘neo-colonialism’ or any of those other catchall, thought-forbidding phrases, but the real thing

Carry on reading


by Nick Cohen at March 06, 2014 11:29 AM

February 27, 2014

Nick Cohen

TV in the Web age: Don’t stop to think for a second

sherlock

The most popular and critically acclaimed drama British television produces lacks drama’s basic component: a coherent plot. Few care. Commissioning editors and the viewing public acclaim Sherlock’s creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. The press loves them so much it covered their last series as if it were breaking news.

To give you an idea of how slapdash and infantile their writing is, consider one episode of the BBC programme, The Empty Hearse.

Carry on reading


by Nick Cohen at February 27, 2014 09:53 AM

February 25, 2014

Nick Cohen

How to stop the oligarchy’s terrorists: seize their assets

The guards who tortured Sergei Magnitsky at Moscow’s Matrosskaya Tishina prison, and refused to allow doctors to treat the pancreatitis that eventually killed him did not understand that they had fashioned a weapon for democracies to wield against dictatorships.

Carry on reading


by Nick Cohen at February 25, 2014 01:09 PM

February 18, 2014

The Thoughts of a Mind

Rum Doings Episode 154: Aren’t Opinions Great? Now Imagine If Other People Have Them Too

In our 154th ever Rum Doings, our topic is whether term time holidays should be met with the death penalty.

We begin with some wonderful news about John’s financial windfall, then move on to our expert discussion on primary schools, about which we both know nothing. John has a good moan about his painful arm, and then for some godforsaken reason Nick insists on going on and on about Scottish independence. We abuse more idiots on Twitter, and then introduce a new law that all new immigrants must go to key parties.

You are of course required to leave a review on iTunes. Thank you to everyone who has – there are some extremely generous comments up there.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @rumdoings. If you want to email us, you can do that here. If you want to be a “fan” of ours on Facebook, which apparently people still do, you can do that here.

To get this episode directly, right click and save here. To subscribe to Rum Doings click here, or you can find it in iTunes here.

Or you can listen to it right here:

by John Walker at February 18, 2014 03:28 PM

Nick Cohen

If you treat homosexuality as a genetic phenomenon, don’t be surprise if your enemies try to “cure it”

Gay-rights Russian embassy

After Sochi, we can dispense with the notion that sportsmen and women are “role models” we should encourage our children to emulate. All the young would receive would-be masterclasses in cowardice and selfishness if they were foolish enough to take lessons from athletes.

At the time of going to press, not one competitor had raised a rainbow flag on the slopes of Sochi or a clenched fist on the medal podium.

Carry on reading


by Nick Cohen at February 18, 2014 09:44 AM

February 05, 2014

The Thoughts of a Mind

Rum Doings Episode 153: The Ghost Of Jimmy Saville Up Your Bum

In our 153rd ever Rum Doings, our topic is how they should concrete over the rivers to prevent flooding.

This episode is pretty much one topic: copyright and the public domain. But somehow we still manage to be offensive throughout. This is inspired by an article John wrote on games entering the public domain, and the RAGE AND FURY that ensued. We also celebrate one of the best people ever, Lord Camden.

You are of course required to leave a review on iTunes. Thank you to everyone who has – there are some extremely generous comments up there.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @rumdoings. If you want to email us, you can do that here. If you want to be a “fan” of ours on Facebook, which apparently people still do, you can do that here.

To get this episode directly, right click and save here. To subscribe to Rum Doings click here, or you can find it in iTunes here.

Or you can listen to it right here:

by John Walker at February 05, 2014 10:59 AM

January 30, 2014

The Thoughts of a Mind

Rum Doings Episode 152: OOoaaaRRaaaAAArgghhh SCHOOL

In our 152nd ever Rum Doings, our topic is: Cuh, still raining!

We begin lamenting the use of vowels in foreign, and then dissertate and expatiate on our favourite words. This somehow leads on to Christian-funded TV movies, which inevitably takes us to further discussions of Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish, comics, and movies.

Then comes the saga of the utter fruitcakes who try to talk to John on Twitter. There’s the idle nature of threats from publishers to gaming outlets, and John lists the reasons he hates Nick.

You are of course required to leave a review on iTunes. Thank you to everyone who has – there are some extremely generous comments up there.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @rumdoings. If you want to email us, you can do that here. If you want to be a “fan” of ours on Facebook, which apparently people still do, you can do that here.

To get this episode directly, right click and save here. To subscribe to Rum Doings click here, or you can find it in iTunes here.

Or you can listen to it right here:

by John Walker at January 30, 2014 11:33 AM

November 14, 2013

Mad Mel's Liquid Finale

The Middleman

&lt;div style=&quot;text-align: justify;&quot;&gt;&lt;b&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;This TV review first posted June 10, 2008.&lt;/span&gt;&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;b&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;Edited to remove a waffly first paragraph.&lt;/span&gt;&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;i&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;/i&gt;&lt;i&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;&quot;Fighting evil, so you don&#39;t have to.&quot;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;/i&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;ABC Family&#39;s &lt;a href=&quot;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Middleman_(TV_series)&quot; target=&quot;_blank&quot;&gt;&lt;i&gt;The Middleman&lt;/i&gt;&lt;/a&gt;&amp;nbsp;seems destined—indeed, designed—to be a&amp;nbsp;cult favourite. Too goofy for the mainstream, it&#39;s also hampered by a budget that the most basic of basic cable hour-longs might be ashamed of. But what it has in spades is charm and a lack of preciousness that lifts it above the unoriginal premise and similar, more self-consciously offbeat fare. Enough, at least, to ensure it finds a niche populated by kids &lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;looking for a clever actioner that doesn&#39;t speak down to them, and older kids&amp;nbsp;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;adults charmed by pop culture references familiar enough to evoke&amp;nbsp;&lt;a href=&quot;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffy_the_Vampire_Slayer&quot; target=&quot;_blank&quot;&gt;&lt;i&gt;Buffy&lt;/i&gt;&lt;/a&gt;&amp;nbsp;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;and its contemporaries, yet&amp;nbsp;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;obscure enough to make them feel smart.&lt;/span&gt;&lt;/div&gt;&lt;div style=&quot;text-align: justify;&quot;&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;On paper&amp;nbsp;&lt;i&gt;The Middleman&lt;/i&gt;&amp;nbsp;holds little promise: &quot;A young woman is recruited by a secret agency to fight against evil forces.&quot; More&amp;nbsp;&lt;a href=&quot;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_in_Black_(film)&quot; target=&quot;_blank&quot;&gt;&lt;i&gt;Men in Black&lt;/i&gt;&lt;/a&gt;&amp;nbsp;than&amp;nbsp;&lt;i&gt;Buffy,&lt;/i&gt; it &lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;offers little variation from the age-old trope: a world of aliens and monsters (&lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;and&amp;nbsp;super-intelligent, genetically-engineered primates) coexisting alongside the world of men. Sometimes peacefully, other times less so. When someone from the outside discovers this secret world,&amp;nbsp;&lt;a href=&quot;http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BrokenMasquerade&quot; target=&quot;_blank&quot;&gt;they must become part of it, or join those who fight or police it&lt;/a&gt;.&amp;nbsp;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;And that&#39;s pretty much what we have here. Wendy (Natalie Morales) is a geeky temp secretary who during one posting is attacked by what she describes as a &quot;hentai tentacle monster&quot;. The beast is dealt with by an implacable stranger, the eponymous &quot;Middleman&quot; (Matt Keeslar), who fights evil using an array of whizzy gadgets supplied by an unknown power. Impressed by Wendy&#39;s poise in unusual circumstances (&lt;i&gt;&quot;95% of people would fill their shorts and be eaten&quot;&lt;/i&gt;), he offers her a job as his apprentice/sidekick.&lt;/span&gt;&lt;/div&gt;&lt;div style=&quot;text-align: justify;&quot;&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;/div&gt;&lt;div class=&quot;separator&quot; style=&quot;clear: both; text-align: justify;&quot;&gt;&lt;a href=&quot;http://i120.photobucket.com/albums/o164/wilkinsonswords/middleman1.jpg&quot; imageanchor=&quot;1&quot; style=&quot;margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;&quot;&gt;&lt;img border=&quot;0&quot; src=&quot;http://i120.photobucket.com/albums/o164/wilkinsonswords/middleman1.jpg&quot; height=&quot;271&quot; width=&quot;400&quot; /&gt;&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/div&gt;&lt;div style=&quot;text-align: justify;&quot;&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;/div&gt;&lt;div style=&quot;text-align: justify;&quot;&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;&lt;i&gt;The Middleman&lt;/i&gt; doesn&#39;t wear its influences on its sleeve so much as have them tattooed on its face. &quot;The Pilot Episode Sanction&quot;&amp;nbsp;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;is a Frankenstein&#39;s Monster of someone else&#39;s ideas. But what judicious employment of familiar concepts allows is room for the dialogue and characters to breathe, without having to spend too long explaining the set-up. And while it doesn&#39;t subvert the trope&amp;nbsp;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;entirely, it does undermine it with clever digs at both its own and the genre&#39;s preposterousness (&quot;that belonged to my father, who disappeared in mysterious and as-yet-unexplained circumstances&quot;) and via the fourth wall-breaking captions.&lt;/span&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;The dialogue is equally sly, assaulting the viewer with pop culture references and screwball sparring. Morales&#39; delivery is perfect: rapid-fire and deadpan, she&#39;s more Garofolo than Gellar, though hotter and geekier than both. Keeslar, channelling&amp;nbsp;&lt;a href=&quot;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benton_Fraser&quot; target=&quot;_blank&quot;&gt;Constable Benton Fraser&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;—shit, how good would Paul Gross be in this part?—isn&#39;t&amp;nbsp;quite so confident, but his might be the harder role: a former Navy Seal, the character is written as an endearing throwback to a more innocent time, ruthless, intelligent and maybe a little dim—all at the same time. And all the while spouting goshdang-it-to-heck aphorisms (he never swears, except when he does).&lt;/span&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;/div&gt;&lt;div style=&quot;text-align: justify;&quot;&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;If the show seldom pauses long enough to allow appreciation the more delicious lines, nor does it allow reflection on its weaker moments. In any event, o&lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;nly a few spoil the party: a series of gangster film quotes that not once stray from the obvious (&lt;i&gt;The Godfather&lt;/i&gt;, &lt;i&gt;Scarface&lt;/i&gt;),&lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;&amp;nbsp;and a &lt;i&gt;Planet of the Apes&lt;/i&gt;&amp;nbsp;reference which I&#39;m surprised didn&#39;t get left on &lt;i&gt;The Simpsons&lt;/i&gt;&#39; cutting-&lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;room floor where they found it. The pilot also seems to run out of breath&amp;nbsp;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;halfway through when Wendy&#39;s boyfriend appears, a boring dick undeserving of both his screen time and Wendy&#39;s forgiveness. But it gets its second wind as it approaches a denouement marred only by the obvious deficiencies in the budget.&lt;/span&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;/div&gt;&lt;div style=&quot;text-align: justify;&quot;&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;So ignore that, throw in a&amp;nbsp;&lt;a href=&quot;http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RidiculouslyHumanRobots&quot; target=&quot;_blank&quot;&gt;ridiculously human robot&lt;/a&gt;&amp;nbsp;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;with a prickly demeanour, and a black-and-white aside that ends with an image of the Middleman holding an umbrella and Wendy wearing a scuba mask, and you&#39;re left with what has the potential to be one of the oddest and smartest shows you&#39;ll see this summer.&lt;/span&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;/div&gt;&lt;div class=&quot;separator&quot; style=&quot;clear: both; text-align: justify;&quot;&gt;&lt;a href=&quot;http://i120.photobucket.com/albums/o164/wilkinsonswords/vlcsnap-150171.png&quot; imageanchor=&quot;1&quot; style=&quot;margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;&quot;&gt;&lt;img border=&quot;0&quot; src=&quot;http://i120.photobucket.com/albums/o164/wilkinsonswords/vlcsnap-150171.png&quot; height=&quot;225&quot; width=&quot;400&quot; /&gt;&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/div&gt;&lt;div class=&quot;separator&quot; style=&quot;clear: both; text-align: justify;&quot;&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;/div&gt;&lt;div class=&quot;separator&quot; style=&quot;clear: both; text-align: justify;&quot;&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;&lt;b&gt;Notes from the future:&lt;/b&gt;&lt;/span&gt;&lt;/div&gt;&lt;div class=&quot;separator&quot; style=&quot;clear: both; text-align: justify;&quot;&gt;&lt;/div&gt;&lt;ul&gt;&lt;li&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;The second episode isn&#39;t very good, but it all picks up from there.&lt;/span&gt;&lt;/li&gt;&lt;li&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;I&#39;m not sure how I got through this review without mentioning Nu-Who, which in hindsight seems an obvious influence.&lt;/span&gt;&lt;/li&gt;&lt;li&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;&lt;a href=&quot;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Sheppard&quot; target=&quot;_blank&quot;&gt;Mark Sheppard&lt;/a&gt;&amp;nbsp;shows up in episodes 11 and 12, back when he was being good in stuff.&lt;/span&gt;&lt;/li&gt;&lt;/ul&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;span style=&quot;font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;&quot;&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;/span&gt;</content>

by scwilko at November 14, 2013 10:13 PM

March 16, 2013

Paging Mr. Driftwood

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by levine at March 16, 2013 09:59 PM