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The Virtues of Secret Ballots

OK, totally not going into THAT just yet. Instead, to cheer myself up (and, dare I hope, someone else) I shall relate an anecdote about one of my favourite historical figures: Admiral Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, Military Maverick and/or Magnificent Bastard, largely depending which side one was on. (It was the French who first dubbed him Sea Wolf.)

At least one of his biographers thinks it's true, and regarding some stories I permit myself not to worry too much about whether they're factually accurate, because dammit, they ought to be.

So, with that caveat:

Aside from his highly successful career in the Navy (partly due to his willingness to completely ignore rules he found inconvenient, which can be a character flaw or a virtue, depending on how one looks at it) Cochrane ran for election in Honiton. This was at a time when votes were declared publicly, and outright bribery of voters quite common.

In June 1805, he refused to promise any payout for votes, while his opponent was offering five guineas. He lost, but then gave everyone who had voted for him ten guineas apiece.

In October 1806, he ran again, and won. The men who had voted for him came along expecting to have their palms crossed with gold.

He told them to get lost. “The former gift was for their disinterested conduct in not taking the bribe of five pounds from the agents of my opponent. For me now to pay them would be a violation of my own previously expressed principles.”

I think this kind of self-righteous bridge-burning behaviour partly demonstrates why he later got convicted (likely framed) for fraud and ended up leaving the country for a time to work as a mercenary. I doubt I'd have liked him very much in person. Yet in many ways – some good, some bad – he was ahead of his time.

Too Bored to be Outraged

So on Tuesday night when the Dance of Death gang were at nyarbaggytep's, Rob said he didn't read the Metro any more because it annoyed him. The conversation moved on before I got to mention my observation that it at least seemed of late to have been making less of an effort to find excuses for printing photos with as much female flesh on display as possible.

Cut to Wednesday morning, when a story about Kim Kardashian publicising two nude shots was illustrated with both the images in question. Plus a bonus one of her in a backless dress with Kanye, which had no apparent relevance. And, below it, a piece about a Mexican weather forecaster's prominent buttocks - also, of course, illustrated; and while in this case she was fully dressed, one suspects this was purely down to what images of her were available. Oh, and today one of the Kardashian pictures was printed again on the letters page.

Contrast with Tuesday, when an article about fans' reactions to Tom Hiddlestone appearing in a swimming costume in The Night Manager had a grainy picture attached that stopped at his mid-chest.

But when it's about a woman appearing in a state of undress, they just have to show us what the fuss is about - as thoroughly as possible.

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Sniping at Snipers

This appeared in my morning Metro:

Any professional marksman will tell you that the high magnification optics used as rifle sights deliver crisper images. Only a novice would load the rifle while using the sight for observation.

Continued...Collapse )

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The Outsider

So, an establishment outsider widely thought to represent the extreme fringe of the party is still the strongest runner in the race.

What's that? No, no, not Jeremy Corbyn, I haven't been under a rock all week. I'm talking about Donald Trump.

Well, it is kind of an interesting parallel, don't you think? Both, in their own way, outsiders, not initially seen as serious candidates, both branded 'unelectable', one more left-wing than the rest of the field and the other... well, if you believe Melissa McEwan he says the things the seasoned politicans don't dare, which I guess comes to a similar thing. And both have energised the relevant section of the electorate like no other.

I'm not the only one to make a connection. Check out the cover story on a recent Money Week:
Barbarians at the gate: Corbyn, Trump and the new populist threat


Then again, there's populist and there's populist. Trump's brand of populism speaks to some of the Republican base's worst instincts - racist, misogynist, homophobic; be part of Us and I'll make your life better by giving Them the screwing they deserve for not being Us too.

The closest I've heard Corbyn get to this kind of rhetoric is in his proposals to raise revenue from rich people and banks. Winning over some of the financially poor and politically mostly-powerless by blaming other poor and powerless people isn't his style.

I can hope that Corbyn will be more successful than Trump in the end. That perhaps he'll shift the Overton Window a bit. Or at the very least, that the mainstream press and the Labour establishment will stop sniping long enough to pay attention to the fact that (as I see it) a quarter of a million people just stood up and yelled, "Stuff austerity!"

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Grimm, again

Warning: spoilers up to 4.15, “Double Date”

Grimm, sadly, has been getting worse. It's not just that the creators seem to honestly expect us to be distracted by the latest sparkly new Wesen species they wheel out – to the point where I have long since ceased tormenting myself with the question of how all these varieties can have breeding populations and still leave room for humans to be both the vast majority and also mostly unaware – it's that sometimes I get the feeling that they just don't give a damn.

Cut to spare your Friends FeedCollapse )

(What's that you say? The election? Pshaw, too depressing.)

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Avengers: Age of Ultron

SpoilersCollapse )

In all – yes, it was fun, enough so that I may yet fork out for it again while it's still in cinemas. But I don't see myself rewatching the DVD as often as its predecessor.

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So, about that election thingy

Another election – and more Nadine Dorries. Remember this? (Updated link to video here.)

Well, this year, Tim Ireland decided to run in Mid-Beds as an Independent; and Dorries refused to attend a hustings because her 'stalker' would be there.

Y'know, normally when a woman says she's being victimised by a man, my instinct is to believe her. When that woman is Dorries, who has a track record of acting as if it's a terrible imposition to ask her to be accountable for her actions or her use of public money... frankly, if she told me it was raining I wouldn't reach for an umbrella until I'd looked out of the window for myself. Even if she genuinely did find the scrutiny distressing, I have difficulty feeling any sympathy and am unconvinced that Ireland has done anything improper or illegal.

Once again I find myself asking how far Dorries is a conscious liar and how far she's just superb at convincing herself of what suits her to be true; once again it doesn't matter all that much. She may indeed remember that Ireland 'totally disrupted' the 2010 Flitwick hustings but the video suggests that she herself was the disruption. Certainly nobody was 'forcing' her to walk out.

And then we have this tripe, which undercuts itself most effectively if one knows to whom it's referring. The pixellated still from a 'terrifying' YouTube video in which Ireland 'brandishes a torch made from a plastic gun' is from this demonstration of how he turned said gun into said torch and it's hard to see how it could be considered threatening; likewise, while Dorries' name frequently appears on Bloggerheads, her claim that, “From about 2008, for several years, he wrote about almost nothing but me on his blog – hundreds of words every day,” is demonstrably untrue. And hell, it's the Daily Mail. Why even bother?

So once again, fuck Dorries for taking advantage of feminism's achievements (stalking being acknowledged as a bad thing, her getting to be an MP in the first place) whilst trash-talking it, sneering at women who don't meet her standards of attractiveness, doing her damndest to curtail abortion rights and generally being a misogynist dirtbag.

Um, right, actual politics. Right to buy, maybe? Not happy with Tory ideas. Here, read this.

So far, I've had several Labour leaflets through the door an absolutely nothing from any other party. Come on, guys, you could at least try.

The World's End

nyarbaggytep kindly lent me The World's End on DVD. SpoilersCollapse )

I guess it's a mark of the show's quality that I'm overthinking a comedy; nevertheless, asked to choose only one Simon Pegg film to see for the rest of my life, I'd still go straight for Shaun of the Dead.

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Clara Oswald: An Intervention

Clara? Clara, my dear, can we talk?

Let me preface by saying I don't mean to judge you. I hadn't figured out some of this stuff when I was your age; there's a lot of very poor socialisation in our, erm, society, and only after years of reading feminist writings am I sufficiently detoxed to see the problem. But, well, that's the point. You're both a teacher and a main character in a massively-watched TV show, and you've been modelling behaviour that is simply not acceptable.

I wouldn't mind if I thought we were supposed to see it as bad, but after years of wondering why Rory ever put up with Amy's shit, I am leaning towards the conclusion that Steven Moffat thinks this is how assertive women behave.

Here's the thing; you're a petite woman, true. You're also in most ways the junior partner. That does not make it cute when you physically abuse the Doctor. It does not make it funny. It certainly does not make it okay.

Yes, you heard me. It's abusive to hit him, which you've done twice in four episodes. It's abusive to insist on hugging him when he has expressed a clear preference that you refrain; again, twice in four episodes. For all it's fresh on, it's his body and he damned well does get a vote. He gets the only vote that counts.

There are some very ugly, dangerous attitudes underlying all this. Trivialising female violence is patronising, for one thing - ha ha, look at the cute little girl hitting, it's funny because she can't possibly do any real damage. And more perniciously, it contributes to the shaming of its victims.

So knock it off already.

Now I'm off to watch Grimm, which has its problems but which has never condescendingly asked us to think it amusing when Juliette belts someone in the face, or that Adalind has now raped her way through over half the male main characters.

Karma... Maybe?

Funny how things work out.

The following is unlikely to make much sense to non-RPGers. You have been warned.

So last week in Pathfinder our intrepid band got caught in a nasty Constitution-draining poison cloud. We made our saves with the exception of Amelia, who ended up on 4 CON. My character, Anca, whose CON is 8, had hurriedly lent her a belt of +2 CON before the cloud dissipated, and decided to let her hang onto it for the time being.

We went our merry way, dispatching various monsters as you do, and aside from our sniper having an effective CON of 6 were still in pretty good shape when a trio of nasties got the drop on us. Amelia and Anca both got horribly stabbed during the surprise round, then rolled poorly enough on initiative for them to get another go at us flat-footed.

The one on Amelia went first, landing another nasty blow. Because she was still up - barely - it followed with its second attack, which took her down to -21. On a CON of 6, that's very dead.

Then it was Anca's turn; the first attack dropped her like a stone and her foe turned its attention elswhere. Funnily enough, had she been wearing her belt she'd still have been standing and taken a second attack... on 2 hit points.

Had Amelia not been wearing the belt, it would likely have been the reverse; the first attack would have knocked her out, while Anca would have been killed by a second.

So my character's act of generosity saved her own life at the expense of Amelia's. Oops.

As Thessaly once pointed out, intent and outcome are rarely coincident. I think we'll have to have to carve that on the headstone...

Such is life.

So here's to Liam/Amelia, our very own homicidal male-halfling-in-a-female-human's-body. (Don't ask.) We'll miss him - too bad the demon didn't.