Monday, 31 December 2012

Another year over

As those of you who follow me on Twitter or in real life will know, I celebrate New Year. This year I had some very enjoyable festivities with some people, involving a certain well known drinking game.

For those of you who don't know, Ring of Fire is a drinking game, named after a Jonnie Cash song made famous by Ben. The rules are simple: every card in the ring carries a rule. As in a standard deck there are thirteen cards in a suit. One rule for each card. For anyone who can instantly remember 13 rules it's simple. For everyone else it's like having to play Star Wars Risk without being able to refer to the manual. There are more restrictions than the Labour government imposed on civil liberties. It makes drinking into work.

Basically, making numerous rules that no-one can keep track of to force alcohol on those who don't want it and deprive alcohol from those who do is good for no-one. People even had to read instructions on their phones every time a card was drawn, much to the emboringment of proceedings.Of course, I may just be bitter because I kept getting the "make a new rule" card and couldn't think of anything, making me the boring twat of the group but mleh!

This was swiftly followed by a game of "never have I ever..." in which the player names something they have never done and anyone who has done that thing has to drink. As someone who has never done anything of any interest, I drank very little. The irony of all this is that had I been simply drinking of my own accord I would have emerged significantly more inebriated at the other end than I did in this case.

All being said, I had a good night. Being out of the house was an improvement on my expectations.

After a while we went to a club which wasn't too packed or expensive. There I met a guy I had a dance off with during my last night out before I returned to uni in second year, a year and a half ago. We recognized one another and paid tribute to each others' dance moves. Much to my shame, he revealed he is in his thirties, at least a decade my senior. Any of you who knows anything about the way I dance or the state of my physical fitness will understand that there's no way I'll be winning dance offs in ten year's time. Any way, the chat was amicable, considering our past death match (of dancing).

Now on to music. I don't believe any kind of music is demonstrably better than any other in any relevant sense. Even in film I think it will probably be agreed upon in most societies in most times that, say, Anthony Hopkins, is a better actor than Megan Fox, but I think music is entirely contingent on society and circumstances. Popular music is only so because of the context in which it is born. This being so, the pop song "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana makes my laugh, as so often its fans act as if they subscribe to some kind of alternative or act as if it is in some way better than mainstream music. When it came on this evening I realized it's just a single repetitive hook. Bo bo bo boooo ba ba ba baaaa bo bo bo boooo ba ba ba baaa. This is the same as any pop song by Rihanna or One fucking Direction. People can like whatever music they like as far as I'm concerned, but when people like music full of repetitive hooks then condemn other pop music for that same reason they need to shut their faces. I just hate people who pretend to be alternative. At lease other pop singers can hold a note rather than just shout *cough* Kurt Cobain *cough* Rant over.

2012 was a year that was built up to for a long time. "The Olympics" they cried, since 2005. "The Apocalypse" they cried, "The Jubilee" they cried. 2012! The year that was hailed from afar! But when it came it was pretty much the same as any other year. Except for the fucking Olympics and Jubilee. There was a bit of a recession, but not enough of a recession to be interesting.

But for me it was a good year, one of the best in fact, and will be remembered fondly. Any way, these are my reflections at this moment in time, sorry it's not more interesting. Headline of the Year 2012 is on its way later this week. Thank you for following me this year, my dear reader (singular). I think I will be boring you with sub-par writing for years to come.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

"So tell us, Alex, was the Hobbit the Tokien Phantom Menace?"

As those of you who follow me on Twitter or in real life will know, I love to say "I told you so". With the release of the Hobbit, I have decided that in the spirit of inferior additions to popular franchises, I will write a follow up to my popular 2011 blog post "The Hobbit: Tolkien Phantom Menance?".

Firstly, I have to say this: The Hobbit is nothing like The Phantom Menace. Beautifully rendered, well acted, solidly entertaining and consistently enjoyable, The Hobbit is a good, well made film. Yet it suffers from a couple of the same problems. 

I don't want to blow my own trumpet (if I could I'd never leave the house), but everything I predicted about The Hobbit has come true.

Upon writing, on April 4th 2011, I bemoaned the decision to slice the Hobbit in two. That sounds like what would happen if there was a Lord of the Rings/Saw crossover, but that may have actually been less horrific than this decision. What I didn't know at the time is that Jackson and team would be sharpening their swords once again to chop it into three. This remains the biggest problem with An Unexpected Journey in that there's just not enough going on.

The fact that the Hobbit was never going to reach the heights of Lord of the Rings was true from the start, and is down to the source material. The lighter tone (perfectly captured, I might add) detracts from its epicness, but this is necessary. Basically, they should have made the films the other way round to avoid anticlimax. As I said previously "How is seeing Sir Ian take Tim from The Office to steal some treasure going to compare with the epic battle with the Balrog, or the painstaking crawl up the slopes of Mount Doom?" If you want to add grandeur to a story, hiring that bloke who played various nondescript, interchangeable characters in various things is probably a mistake. Also, having a Goblin King that resembles Boss Nass? You would have thought Star Wars Episode 1 imagery would be avoided at all costs.

The modest source material is comparable to Star Wars prequels being tied down by their explanatory duties, but contrary to Star Wars, the Hobbit turns its prequel nature to its advantage to explain aspects of the Lord of the Rings in a way that wasn't done in the book due to it being written first. Also, the fact that the book was written first means it's a good story in its own right, rather than just a path to what follows.

I also complained about the number of Lord of the Rings actors who were signed on for the Hobbit, whose characters don't appear in the book. I stand by this, and since writing my original blog more were announced such as Christopher Lee and Orlando Bloom. The things in part one that were additional to the book were brief and felt peripheral to the main story, but I still believe they might pay off more substantially in part two and three. But as a standalone film, the scenes in part one with Galadriel, Radagast and Saruman felt irrelevant and didn't go anywhere. (Although as a huge fan I still enjoyed seeing these event put to screen)

So while there are some points on which the Hobbit was like the Phantom Menace, to brand it a failure in the same way is innaccurate and unfair. Its lighter tone is to be expected, and its only real failing is the fact that not enough happens due to being split in three to make more money, slightly akin to the Phantom Menace.

The final point on which I was right was that the Dark Knight Rises would be awesome. I told you so.

Thanks for listening to how right I was. For more accurate future predictions keep reading my blog.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Equality in succession

No sooner had the dust settled on Kate Middleton's uterus than it was announced that the long-awaited change to royal succession laws has been approved by all 16 “realms of the commonwealth.”

This long awaited change marked a crucial step in the liberalisation of the UK, as the position of head of state is no longer granted to the oldest male child of the current monarch, with no election or debate, to rule over us until death. Now, the monarchy is granted to the oldest child regardless of sex...with no election or debate, to rule over us until death.

It's claimed the bill “ends the discrimination of women in royal succession”, but this isn't strictly accurate. 99.9percent of women in the UK are still discriminated when it comes to the monarchy, so are 99.9percent of men. The long process of changing the rules of succession was embarked upon for the benefit of no living person. In nine months we will see whether or not it will become relevant after the death of William, but there's a 50percent chance it won't.

With the royal pregnancy marking the inevitable next step in the world's most upmarket soap opera, it almost feels like these archaic sponges are spawning offspring for the purpose of pissing off republicans, and keeping their personal lives in the media for a few minutes longer. Soon there will be the messy divorce, and the inevitable appearance on I'm a Celebrity... I'm dreading the live birth, with military parade and tedious Huw Edwards commentary.

If you're going to defend an institution like the monarchy, it's probably because of tradition. If you're going to tinker with it and change the rules, you're acknowledging that we can alter the way we choose our head of state to suit our times. With this in mind, it seems like now is the time to put an end to the monarchy. People argue it creates unity and patriotism, but perhaps people would feel greater allegiance to their country if it recognised their eligibility to be head of state. This change makes no difference to anyone who is currently alive. If the government cares about equal opportunities, it should abolish the monarchy so anyone has the chance to be head of state, regardless of gender, race, social class, religion, sexual orientation or political views, so we can proudly say we have more chance of being king or queen than a foetus.