Random Sanity

Closed until further notice.

  • Blog Stats

    • 2,362 hits
  • Top Clicks

    • None

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A followup

Posted by Steve on June 5, 2009

Wanted to bring this to more attention. I had a particularly hate filled comment turn up on my About page. I disabled comments on this blog a while ago, but had left that on. Some individual became so enraged and full of hate over my post that they went to the trouble of going to my About page and posting there. They posted the following.

Names have been changed to protect the cowardly.

Steve is wonderful and the sexiest man alive wrote:

You’re idiocy amazes me. Fuck you and you’re irrational article. I hope your kids get a disease because you’re too egg-headed to vaccinate them.

Hugs and Kisses

To which I have replied.

Thank you for proving my point. You hide behind anonymity, wish harm on my children, and don’t even have the balls to identify yourself. Classy. Really classy. Just another example of the venomous empty rhetoric from the vocal pro vaccination individuals. So caught up in hatred they can’t see beyond their own petty, blinkered surroundings.

I mean really, you went to all the trouble, but clearly don’t have the courage or integrity to identify yourself, instead choosing to hide behind hatred and poison. If you’re so sure of your opinion, you’d think you’d have the courage of your convictions and identify yourself.

And it’s “your irrational article”. So not only are you an anonymous, ignorant coward, you don’t understand simple grammar and are clearly poorly educated.

Well done for providing more evidence to highlight my point. I appreciate it.

I mean really, this much hatred and venom over an individuals medical decisions. Seriously, you need mental help if an individuals choices and explanation of those choices causes this much anger in you. You are not a well person.

It goes back to the Sherri Tenpenny article I linked too. If I had posted “I believe blood pressure medication is unsafe”, there’d be crickets chirping. Instead, this individual became so enraged and angered by my well written and researched article on why I choose not to vaccinate my kids and posted a venomous screed.

Why? One individuals informed medical decision is not worth this much anger. You don’t know me. You know nothing about me. Yet you felt the need to post such venom and hatred because of what? Because I made an informed decision on my kids medical care. And you respond by wishing ill on them.

You have completely proved the point I was trying to make. Me, someone who spends entirely too much time researching things, posted a well reasoned article, cited references and links, and explained my position. And you, the pro vaccine individual tore into me and wished harm on a 7 year old, a 3 year old and a baby.

I leave it to the reader to decide who’s the bad guy here.

Advertisements

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A followup

Put the Needle on the Record

Posted by Steve on June 4, 2009

I have debated for a long time whether to do this or not. It’s reached the point where I’m sufficiently angry enough to say something. By doing so I will no doubt lose some or most of my followers (since most readers will have seen my link on Twitter). I’ve decided I don’t care, because if anyone actually unfollows me after reading this, it’s more a comment about them than me.

Despite being a writer, after years of disappointment with regards to work I’ve largely lost my passion. Oh sure, if someone asks me to write something, I’ll leap on it and throw myself into the work with gusto and do a damn good job. However, actually writing for myself, I have almost zero enthusiasm for now. Merely reading this blog you can see it’s been a long time since I wrote anything. Mainly because I don’t like to write unless I have something to say. I have never been one for the self involved multiple paragraphs on the chair I bought today type person. Something really needs to get me extremely fired up and passionate to commit pen to paper. Or rather finger to keyboard. Today is one of those days. I have become sufficiently incensed that I’ve reached the point where I’m either going to rip someone’s head off or possibly start buying firearms. I decided that before I lose it completely, I would write my opinions and thoughts out. Sort of set myself off in a controlled explosion.

I might have a dairy allergy. Most of you reading this from Twitter are probably aware that I’ve had a problem with dizziness for some time. It’s been going on for five months now, and while it seems I may be getting somewhere, it’s still here. I’ve been attempting to run experiments on myself. It appears when I eat a large quantity of dairy, I get severe mucus and dizziness. If I asked you if it sounds like dairy causes the problem, if you’re a normal human being, you’d say at the very least that it sounds like it’s plausible.

Along similar lines I once had a car. Actually I’ve had a car more than once, but you get my point. One day I saw a garage selling this fuel additive that supposedly made the car run “better”. Being the sad little boy racer I was (after all I was 19), I bought it. Poured it into the fuel. I started the engine, hoping my somewhat docile Fiat would now exhibit the behaviour of a car from their OTHER company, Ferrari.

Sadly my wonderful but somewhat recalcitrant car started stalling, chugging, running like garbage basically. Once again, the obvious conclusion is that the “additive” (which was probably snake oil) caused it. It’s simply reasonable to, rightly or wrongly, believe that incident A leads to point B, regardless of evidence. It’s human nature.

Yet when someone says their baby or child was injured by a vaccine, in the majority of cases people will say “You can’t prove it”, “It’s just a coincidence” or “There’s no evidence” or some other condescending platitude that shows an utter lack of respect and decency both for the parent’s and child’s suffering and for their beliefs. It is rude. It is crass. It is mean. Dressing it up with “I’m sorry, but…” makes it no nicer and shows an even greater lack of class. It’s reprehensible behaviour from reprehensible people.

I’ve seen this increasingly on the net lately and it’s reached the point where I have had enough of seeing this rude, uninformed vehement opinion from people who are, in most cases, pretty much uneducated in regards to the subject beyond what they’ve read in the paper or what they’ve been told. I see so much venomous rhetoric spewed toward those of us who are anti vaccination, and it amazes and sickens me.

I reached breaking point this week where I could take no more. I am not giving the website any promotion, but there is a website I read which ran a story this week about vaccines, once again defending the vaccine industry. A story like this pops up every few weeks, generates a ton of comments, most of which are bashing people who don’t vaccinate. (The RIAA would KILL for these unpaid publicists!) Now this is a site filled with a lot of self important blowhards who think they know everything. Usually, however, they are fairly even handed. The vaccine issue, however, sends their common decency and logic out the window.

The few voices on there asking for investigations into vaccine safety and the like are shouted down. Those who have had a child who has suffered a vaccine related injury are told “I’m sorry, but…” People who are anti vaccine are accused of being child abusers, and the likes of actress Amanda Peet, a vehement pro vaccine celebrity, call us “parasites”. (We’ll ignore the fact a close relative of Amanda Peet works with one of the most prominent figures in the vaccine industry, Dr. Offit.)

There is absolutely no logic to the arguments and statements these people come up with, despite the simple fact that there is actual literature out there from both government organizations as well as pharmaceutical companies that lend credence to the anti vaccination statements and beliefs. Court cases are quietly hushed up and settled. Information is buried away in official documents and websites, however it IS there if you want to look for it, but because it doesn’t just pop up and go “Here I am!”, most of it receives zero attention from the vast majority of people. Items such as the CDC Pinkbook.

Contains lots of eye opening info. The book is meant for physicians and may make your eyes glaze over, but the information is in there. In a book. From the CDC. A government organization who promotes vaccine usage. Can’t get much more official than that.

Yet people continue to decry the anti vaccine people and think they know better despite clearly spending very little time researching the subject, reading studies etc… They believe what they’ve been told, or what they’ve gotten from a cursory read of the newspaper or Google and think they know better than those of us who have spent years and hundreds of hours researching, reading and studying the issues. In essence they are guilty of exactly what they are condemning the anti vaccination people of.

By far the most horrifying suggestion, the one which got me angry enough to start writing, was people advocating forced vaccinations against the parents wishes. We’ll get onto the issue of Informed Consent later, though any halfwit can see the dangers of forced vaccinations and where letting the government make medical decisions leads. I could paint some horror scenarios, but if you’ve got this far into this I assume you are an intelligent individual and can think of them yourself.

Sadly on the pro vaccine side there seems to be precious little actual thinking beyond a base emotional response. Being anti vaccine causes such a visceral reaction from people that logic and reason go out of the window. If you are against vaccinations, you are condemned because of the lack of easily available evidence that supports your opinion, but the pro vaccination folk can fall on that exact same sword. Oh sure, info on the “safety” is easily available. It’s when you know the flaws in that information and see how the dice are loaded that you start to question the ethics behind the entire industry.

First of all, watch this.

Now I realize there is no point in pointing to anything that doesn’t come with an FDA, CDC or scientific seal of approval, simply because that makes it far too easy for the pro vaccination crowd to ignore it.  I would say read that website and look at the pictures, but the sort of idiot who promotes forced vaccinations will cry “emotional manipulation” and instantly dismiss it all.

The fact is while medication has to carry warnings on inserts and in commercials, vaccines carry no such information. Or rather they DO, on their inserts, which are seldom ever actually shown to parents, but apparently the warnings of seizures, death etc from the vaccine manufacturers are not enough to get people to question vaccines. Nor the information that vaccines have not been tested for carcinogenic or mutagenic properties.

All medication has side effects. One of the most famous of recent medications, Viagra, was originally developed as a blood pressure treatment. Men getting erections was a side effect that became more profitable than what they were trying to treat, so Viagra is now used to treat erectile dysfunction; a problem that effects far more circumcised men than intact ones, but that’s a tale for another day.

Despite the evidence being out there that vaccines are far from 100% safe, people still blindly believe that vaccines are fine.

A link to an article about a CDC study that believes there is a risk of a Shingles epidemic from the use of the vaccine. I found that in under 30 seconds. A study showing a link was suppressed and the author threatened with legal action. That was just a random link I found. I am not denying there is a lot of bad information on the net. Far too many people are trying to sell you snake oil, or just simply repeating bad information. This noise sadly drowns out the actual good, reliable content out there. Verifiable informaton from the CDC, studies and papers from actual legitimate doctors and scientists.

Drug companies lie and wilfully mislead. This is not open to debate of any kind. A few years ago I was prescribed an anti depressant. Paxil. I never take any medication blindly so did research on it, read about the horrific withdrawal side effects (insects crawling under the skin etc…) and said “no thanks”. All this information had been surpressed by the manufacturer.

But according to court documents, an internal GSK memo from 1998 cited the mixed results of the various Paxil studies and set a goal to “effectively manage the dissemination of these data in order to minimize any potential negative commercial impact.”

Yep, those pharamaceutical companies really have our best interests at heart.

More recently there has been the legal action involving Merck and Vioxx. Over the last few months I’ve read of fake peer reviewed journals, suppression of information etc… This is a for profit industry just like any other. They have stockholders to answer to. They do not have your good health in mind. In fact it serves them better for you to stay sick all the time because then you’ll be a better customer. Merck are the company behind the Gardasil vaccine, one of the HPV vaccines being given to teenage girls around the world and being made mandatory in some parts of it.

http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/latestnews/Cervical-cancer-jabs-cast-into.5251796.jp

http://www.sundayexpress.co.uk/posts/view/104443/EXCLUSIVE-Experts-cast-doubt-on-claim-for-wonder-cancer-jabs

Everyone seems to be able to see this with any other industry, that it’s merely out to make money. Yet for some reason, based on no evidence at all other than what they’ve been told by the company and their shills, more and more people are condemning those of us who question vaccines and the seeming rapid increase of vaccine related injuries and deaths.

What is annoying me most about this attitude is people are always pointing toward anti vaccination articles and condemning them, based on zero medical knowledge themselves. I’ve seen celebrities on Twitter (one of whom WAS somewhat of a hero of mine) tweet pro vaccination articles and rant about anti vaccination articles, when they are no more qualified to comment than I am. Actually I’ve invested time in watching lectures, reading etc… Which is a hell of a lot more than any of them have most likely ever done.

I mean even writing this, I realise I’m not going to change any minds. However, if I can make one person question the issue and do some research, then I have achieved what I wanted. If they decided, BASED ON RESEARCH RATHER THEN MEDICAL HEARSAY that vaccines are safe for their children and themselves, then more power to them. You say tomatoe, I say tomato. I have no problem at all with people who vaccinate their children AFTER they’ve researched the issue thoroughly. Do I think they’re wrong? Absolutely. Will I condemn them for their choice? Absolutely not.

This is where we come back to INFORMED CONSENT. Morons like the ones who inhabit the  previously mentioned website and promote a forced vaccination regime are even more stupid than the people who don’t vaccinate based on what their friends have said.

Yes, there are most likely a lot of people who don’t vaccinate purely based on the “MMR causes autism” hype and the likes of Jenny McCarthy; even if McCarthy ISN’T actually promoting that, but is actually promoting safety in vaccines. (But let’s not let facts get in the way when we can bash dear old Jenny.)

This is not about Andrew Wakefield. This is not about whether or not the MMR causes autism. This is about ignorance, pure and simple. If you’re pro vaccination, I have some questions for you.

How much research have you done? How much reading have you done on the subject of vaccines? How much have you studied? Have you seen or attended lectures? Read books on the subject? Please note here I am talking about CDC and FDA documents, as well as books and lectures by actual qualified medical professionals, and not some random blog.

The fact is, we’re all idiots. Both sides. Oh sure, we can look back and laugh at medical treatment and what was considered good for you 100 years ago. Ho-ho, look at the leeches; The laughing stops when you realise leeches have now come back into vogue as a medical treatment to prevent clotting, as well as putting maggots in wounds to remove dead tissue. Look at the drinking of radioactive beverages a hundred years ago. Oh we’re so much smarter now.

Yes, we are. But in a hundred years time, people will be looking back and calling the medical establishment of now barbaric and simple minded. We are not at some pinnacle of research here. We have not achieved medical enlightenment. Only the names of the mysteries have changed.

The vaccine industry have actually been very clever. The recent MMR stuff couldn’t have landed more favourably for them. By making this little crack in the anti vaccine armor, the floodgates open as every pro vaccine person out there lumps all of us who are anti vaccine after actually researching the issue into the same pile as those who are anti vaccine because the Daily Mail told them to be.

The MMR controversy has worked wonders to paint all of us as crackpots. The sad thing is, for a lot of people, this isn’t simply about MMR causing autism. It’s about honest and open research. Honest studies as to efficacy and side effects.

For the record, I was given the measles vaccine when I was young in the mid 70’s. It worked really well. I almost died of the measles six years later.

Unlike the pro vaccine crowd who seem to take great joy in promoting vaccine usage, I am not for one second going to sink to their level. I am not saying “DO NOT VACCINATE YOUR CHILDREN” or “YOU ARE KILLING YOUR CHILDREN” like so many of the pro crowd do. I am saying RESEARCH. Get informed. Not from your Doctor. Certainly not from drug literature by the likes of Merck or Dr. Offit, people who make money from vaccines, but from other doctors who have studied the issue. Everyone approaches a subject with certain biases. Some are more biased than others however, and it’s common sense figuring out who benefits. Like the studies that show the baby sleeping in the same bed as the mom is more dangerous than crib sleeping, which turned out to be financed by a crib manufacturer.

My wife has always been more anti vaccine than I am. This stems back to when we had our oldest, B, vaccinated. We had delayed his first shots until he was 6 months old. At that time  the nurse said she had “caught him up”. To this day we’re not sure if that meant he was given his 2, 4 and 6 month shots at the same time or not. All we do know is our little boy who had started babbling suddenly stopped. For six weeks. Now B is almost eight and has various issues. Anxiety disorders. ADHD. He had exhibited a few of the signs of autism when he was 2, but thankfully isn’t autistic. Our almost four year old, completely unvaccinated, has no such mental issues. Since then, we’ve learned of 3 other families whose baby did the exact same thing after the exact same shot.  Anecdotal? Yes. But no less valid than the validity of “safety” studies of vaccines. (More on that below.)

Despite this incident when B stopped babbling, I wasn’t vehemently anti vaccine but respected my wifes wishes to not have our children vaccinated as I know she’d spent a hell of a lot more time researching the issue than I had and I trust her judgment. My wife has literally spent hundreds of hours reading on the subject. Medical texts, lectures, studies etc… And not just reading someone elses intepretation but reading them for herself. She also read lots of it to me. A lot of it is really heavy, dense medical stuff as you’d expect. Not the sort of reading most people are willing to do.

What swung it for me was the following video. I begrudgingly said I’d watch it when my wife bugged me to do so. I’m glad I did. Sherri Tenpenny is a doctor, and has spent thousands of hours digging through studies, papers from the CDC etc… And it’s all documented in the video. (As someone who has had a fair few Tetanus injections, the segment on Tetanus is eye opening.)

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7018835240451107552&ei=7CgnSsGDCIi0-QHatLWmCQ&q=sherri+tenpenny

Sherri has other videos on Google including this one about Gardasil. (I’ve not actually watched this one myself. I link to it merely because I mentioned Gardasil earlier. I am not endorsing this video.)

Sherri has also written this piece on the belief in vaccines which goes nicely with this and highlights the difference in attitude and discussion between regular medication and vaccines.

For those to lazy to read that, I’ll copy this little bit with full credit to Dr. Sherri Tenpenny.

With only a cursory review of the literature and CDC documents, one will
find the following facts:

1. No vaccine has ever been proven to be completely safe. Safety studies
are small and only include “healthy” children. However, after a study is
completed, vaccines are given to ALL children, regardless of underlying
health conditions or genetic predispositions. We have a “one size fits all”
national vaccination policy; one that does not allow for personal choice or
individualized options; and one that has caused a myriad of health problems
for many.

2. Observations for side effects continue for a maximum of 14 days during a
“safety study”. Complex problems involving the immune system can take weeks
or even months to appear. This arbitrary 14 day cut off set by the FDA and
the pharmaceutical industry stops the observation long before complications
are likely to appear. This is the basis for their “vaccines are safe”
mantra but the long term and relatively unknown complications from vaccines
reveal that no vaccine is safe.

3. A vaccine “safety” study compares a new vaccine to a “placebo” to
determine the safety of the new vaccine. When we examine the study a little
more closely, we discover that the “placebo” is NOT a benign, inert
substance, such as saline or water. The “placebo” is another vaccine with a
“known safety profile.” So if the new vaccine has the same side effects as
the “placebo”, the new vaccine is called “safe.”

4. Vaccines are said to confer protection by causing the development of
antibodies. However, there are many references in CDC documents (the
Highest Authority in the land regarding vaccines) which reveal that
antibodies don’t necessarily protect us from infection. Here are a few
examples from medical journals and CDC documents:

Pertussis: “The findings of efficacy studies have not demonstrated a direct
correlation between antibody response and protection against pertussis
disease.” MMWR March 28, 1997/Vol.46/No. RR-7, p.4

H. Flu (HiB): “The antibody contribution to clinical protection is unknown.”
—HibTITER package insert
“The precise level of antibody required for protection against HiB invasive
disease is not clearly established.”
http://www.cdc.gov/nip/publications/pink/hib.pdf.

Smallpox: “Neutralizing antibodies are reported to reflect levels of
protection, although this has not been validated in the field.” JAMA June
9,1999, Vol. 281, No. 22, p.3132

5. We want to “believe” that if we receive a vaccine, we will be protected
from the infection. Several medical journal articles document that this is
not necessarily so. Here are a few examples:

Pertussis Infection in Fully Vaccinated Children in Day-Care Centers, Israel
(Emerging Infectious Diseases Vol. 6, No. 5; Sep-Oct 2000)

Pertussis in the Highly Vaccinated Population, The Netherlands
(Emerging Infectious Diseases Vol. 6, No. 4 July-Aug 2000)

Pertussis in North-West Western Australia in 1999; all vaccinated.
(Communicable Diseases Intelligence 2000 Vol 2  4 No 12)

The debate surrounding the use of vaccines goes back and forth with “data”
and “studies” used to support both sides. But the bottom line is this:

Vaccination has been “accepted” as safe, effective and protective for
nearly 200 years. It is a “sacred cow” and with all “sacred cows”, people
react with a visceral response, when someone suggests that the “cow” should
be “sacrificed”. There are many examples of this over the centuries:
Copernicus who insisted that the Sun is the Center of the solar system and
Semmelweiss who showed that doctors performing hand washing saved women’s
lives. Both men were ridiculed in their day. It is heresy to suggest that
the “status quo” is wrong.

That last line says it all. We mock those a hundred years ago for their medical treatments. Let’s not forget antibiotics didn’t exist then, and now, a hundred years later, we’re seeing increasing numbers of antibiotic resistant bacteria infecting people putting us in a worse situation than we were before.

So really, what I’m saying is this:

Why are you being free marketers and publicists for the vaccine industry? Why are you bashing those who are anti vaccination? There is clear proof the pharmaceutical industry lies. There’s clear evidence that vaccines are not 100% safe. Why do you feel the need to be so vehemently pro vaccine? It seems in many cases that the pro vaccine crowd who gleefully tweet and post pro vaccination articles have done the same amount of research as the worst of the anti vaccine crowd. That being none.

It’s down to education. The information on the risks is out there, and it’s not that hard to start finding it. It’s on the damn inserts with the vaccines for god’s sake.

So, one final time to all the pro vaccination people: Exactly how much research into the subject have you done? How informed are you? Because if you’ve done almost none as I strongly suspect, stop promoting a product you really know nothing about.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Put the Needle on the Record

Top Five Movies of 2008 – Honorable Mentions

Posted by Steve on January 20, 2009

While I’ll be writing about my top five individually, eventually (the second part of my TV rant is coming soon, I swear!), there are some movies I need to give an honorable mention to. This is not a list where I show how obscure I am. Nor do I choose stuff because it makes me look clever. Nope, this is a list simply to choose what I think were the best movies I saw in 2008.

Honorable Mention 1: Cloverfieldcloverfield

I like monster movies. I enjoy watching cities destroyed by monsters who seem to have no specific agenda other than “Look at that building. I think I’ll smash it.” Cloverfield‘s gimmick was, of course, that it was shot in the first person. Now had this movie been shot normally, I feel I would not have enjoyed it as much. Sure, the movie came with an innovative promotional campaign, and an original take on monster design, but it could have easily become just another monster movie. As it is, the first person vantage point adds to the immersion and the sense of urgency. Throw in the spectacular opening attack by the monster, with the Statue of Liberty being decapitated and her head being thrown across Manhattan. Spectacular stuff. One of the few movies I’ve watched and then immediately watched again. Then watched a third time with the commentary track. It was only on the fourth viewing I realised I had this movie all wrong. Sure, it has a monster in it, but it isn’t a monster movie. Cloverfield is a love story. Rob treks all through the city during the attack to rescue Beth. The movie ends with them declaring their love for each other. That’s a love story set against a backdrop of a giant monster attack.

Special mention must go to Michael Giacchino and his score for the film. “What score?”, I hear you say. “There’s no music other than music that plays at Rob’s party at the beginning.” Oh, but you are wrong my friend. Yes, the movie itself has no score. After all that would ruin the first person gimmick. Like somehow military types found the camera and, for a laugh, added a score to the video. (Though everything is improved when “Yakkety Sax” is added to it.)

No, there is music. If you left before the end titles start rolling, that was very foolish of you. Now go stand in the corner and think about what you’ve done. What is it you did? You missed one of the most epic, fantastic movie themes ever, that’s what!

Simply called Roar!, and available on iTunes (or you could do what I did, and rip it from the end of the DVD.) Giacchino, who is probably best known for his work on the TV show Lost, delivers a truly epic piece. It starts out quiet, then builds, over the course of more than ten minutes, to an epic conclusion. If you have the movie and have never listened to it, and you have any appreciation at all for movie music, go and listen to it, right now. On my iPod I only have music from three movies. I have the soundtrack from The Dark Knight (I find the Joker related pieces intriguing), I have Roar!, and Giacchino’s other big score of the year, Speed Racer. Speaking of which…

Honorable Mention 2: Speed Racer

speed_racerNow right now, you’re either going “This guy is insane!” or “Okay, interesting choice…” Or you’re one of the chosen few who “get” this movie, see it for what it is, and are nodding your head and quietly cheering to yourself. In which case, hello brother or sister.

Let’s deal with the negative nellies first. Go away. Right now. You will not be appeased by anything I am about to write. You have now instantly dismissed me as any sort of writer about movies. It’d be best for both of us if we move on and see other people, pretend this never happened.

Still with me? Excellent. First of all, a minor grammatical thing. This movie is by The Wachowski Brothers. Now for the Matrix movies, this was correct. However, since then, Larry has, as far as I’m aware, had “the operation” and become Linda. So it should, technically, be The Wachowski Siblings. But then that has no kudos built up like their original partnership name. Yes this is the kind of tedious level of trivia I sit and ponder so you don’t have to.

Right, the movie. Let’s start out by saying I am no fan of the anime the movie is based on. I’ve seen a few episodes, mainly when Speed TV aired it in the slot prior to their Formula One coverage. It was fun and, given Schumacher was dominating at the time, a lot more interesting than the races I was waiting for were. When the movie was announced I wasn’t really interested. The Wachowski Brothers/Siblings being involved intrigued me. I am one of the seven people who enjoyed the Matrix trilogy and I was curious what they would do, then I totally forgot all about it.

Then the first trailer popped up. The visuals blew me away. I was still sceptical though. After all Hollywood had taken a childhood favourite of mine, Thunderbirds, and ripped the very heart out of it, turning it into a pathetic “kids rescue the adults” vehicle that had very little to do with the show I loved. It would have been very easy for the Wachowski’s to phone in a parody, make fun of the thing, and rake in a big pile of cash. In fact, under any other stewardship, I am sure that is exactly what would have happened.

Well slam them all you wish for the Matrix sequels (and even as a fan, I agree with a lot of the criticism, or at least understand it), but they stuck to their guns here. They did not take the easy route. They played the movie completely straight, never once going for the tedious “Isn’t this silly?” type of nonsense that infects so many other big screen adaptations of old shows. People complain about the characters not being fleshed out enough, the visuals being garish… This is supposed to be a live action cartoon, and the Wachowski’s smash the ball so far out the park they’ll have to use satellite tracking to find it.

Let’s start with the story. As a hardcore racing fan, I have to believe that somewhere in the mix, someone involved in this movie is also as big a racing fan as me. This movie has a racers heart. Yes, the racing sequences are crazy (in a good way), but the soul of racing is represented in this movie. The purity of Speed, wanting to be the best, but to do it the right way, away from the corporate corruption. From the start I felt this was a movie that had a racing heart. What had me falling head over heels entirely is the Vanderbilt Cup being mentioned. Couple that with the old racing footage shown, and I knew that this was a movie that loved racing.

Then there’s the visuals. I firmly believe that in five years time, once the taint of box office failure has worn off and time has passed, this movie will be seen as pioneering and visionary. Sure, we’ve had movies on virtual sets before like 300 and Sin City, but Speed Racer elevated the process far beyond what had come before. The movie’s visuals are jaw dropping, end of story. Like they did with The Matrix, the Wachowski’s have upped the ante when it comes to visual effects and let’s face it, that movie was spectacular until endless parody and ripoff rendered the effects used worthless. I find it hard not to act like a kid and cheer my lungs out when Racer X leaps his car in the air to punch out another racer in midair, then lands and gives a smug grin.

This movie is uplifting, and made me feel like a kid. I’m eight years old and watching a cartoon on a Saturday morning. As a fan of real racing, which has seen it’s share of corruption and depravity in recent times, to see a fictional racing series where good guys are striving to get the sport clean, perhaps it’s a symptom of the times we live in, but I find this movie to be more than a little wish fulfillment. The racing sequences themselves are simply breathtaking, especially the Casa Cristo Rally.

Then there’s the performances. This is a not movie in which people will win Oscars for acting. It’s not supposed to be. It’s cartoon characters bought to life and it succeeds admirably at what it tries to do. Every performance is played entirely straight and the story which is of course cartoon nonsense is taken completely seriously. It would have been so easy to make fun of names like Inspector Detector, but it’s played 100% straight and the movie soars because of that fact. All the cast are enjoyable, but my three favourites, in order are.

Christina Ricci as Trixie: Ricci is an actress who has never achieved the massive fame she richly deserves. She’s exceptionally talented and beautiful. Here she plays her part perfectly. She’s sexy, but in a safe way.

Kick Gurry as Sparky: I wish he’d been in the film more as I loved the character. I’ve been a fan of Gurry since seeing him in the criminally underrated Garage Days which is my favourite Australian movie. Seriously, if you’ve not seen it, you must! It has Celeborn from Lord of the Rings in it (the actor Marton Csokas, playing a sleazy record label exec), some of the most awesome drug experiences ever put on film, and possibly the finest closing credit sequence I’ve ever seen. Oh yes, and the gorgeous, lovely Pia Miranda, who I would walk over hot coals and broken glass for just to kiss her hand.

Matthew Fox as Racer X: A lot of people whined about his performance in this film. They’re wrong, and missing the point entirely. The reason his character comes across as cold and unemotional and flat is because HE IS, and he’s a cartoon character. Without venturing into spoiler territory, the guy is a masked hero who shows almost no emotion. That’s the point. I am a big fan of Fox from Lost (even if Jack is a bit whiny these days), and love his work in this film. Given bloody Keanu Reeves was almost cast in the role, all I can say is thank God for Matthew Fox!

Then we get to the Giacchino connection. Yep, the same guy who wrote the epic Cloverfield closing theme wrote the score for Speed Racer. Throughout the score you can hear elements of the original music from the anime, but Giacchino makes it his own and doesn’t overuse it. Rather than ramble on though, Scorekeeper at AICN has that covered here. Why reinvent the wheel?

In the end, Speed Racer is a polarizing movie. You either love it or hate it. There seems to be no middle ground. It was only when the movie appeared on some worst film lists that I realised how many people seem to inexplicably hate this wonderful, fun, visionary film.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Television: Part 1: The Dumbening

Posted by Steve on October 23, 2008

Remember when television used to be good? No, neither do I. Actually I do, but for me it was so long ago. Thing is, it’s NOT just looking at the past with a rose tinted brain. I can revisit stuff I remember as being good, and it genuinely IS. And there used to be so much more of it. (I went to a lot of trouble digging up the links in this post. I hope, dear reader, you at least click some.)

I grew up in the UK watching the BBC. I see a lot of people these days complaining about the TV license fee. (It goes to fund the BBC for those who don’t know.) They say it’s not fair, that the BBC should be forced to compete blah blah blah. To them I say SHUT UP! YOU KNOW NOTHING! Seriously, you don’t realize what you’ll miss until you lose it. The mere fact alone that you’re paying for 365 days of two channels with NO COMMERCIAL INTERRUPTIONS makes it the bargain of the century. I should be so damn lucky! Seriously, if I could pay such a small amount of money a year to get two commercial free channels, I would! (And PBS doesn’t count. Begging for money, “This show funded in part by…” and “This show sponsored by…” count as advertising.)

I am in the rare position of having lived BOTH sides of the Atlantic, experiencing TV from both sides, and can categorically say that I would gladly pay $300 to have access to BBC1 and BBC2 for a year, than not pay a thing, and have access to what passes for network TV here.

I mean sure, the BBC has dumbed down, I make no argument about that, but this is still the network that airs QI, Top Gear, Doctor Who among many, many others, as well as numerous documentaries, and has produced far too many classic TV shows to mention. Yes, they’ve produced some bad shows, especially comedies, but all the time the likes of Mitchell and Webb are given air time, I’d gladly pay! In the UK, you pay your license fee, throw up an antenna, and VOILA! You have some of the best TV on the planet, and the people who say otherwise are clearly “glass half empty” blithering idiots.

Then there’s TV THIS side of the Atlantic. Sure, it’s free, no license fee, but the cost is one of quality programming, and I’m sorry, that cost is too much. Sure, there’s the occasional good show, I myself am a Lost addict for example (though I often ask myself why), but really, how many CSI shows do we need? Or Law and Order? I’m not saying any of them are bad as such, just that it highlights the absolute lack of creativity and imagination in the people responsible for putting shows on the air. Instead of coming up with new, intelligent concepts, we get CSI: Little Rock and Law and Order: Lost Property Unit.

Then we head to comedy. I am sorry, but all the time Life According to Jim is allowed to thrive, nobody is allowed to say anything positive about American network comedy. Ever. Why? It’s like having a giant, juicy steak on your plate. It smells divine, looks fantastic, and has a giant cancerous tumor hanging off one end. It doesn’t matter how awesome the steak is, because the fact it’s got a giant ugly growth on it renders it pointless.

That is what Life According to Jim is. A show so crushingly unfunny that it’s mere existence renders everything else within the genre irrelevant. Like a giant comedy black hole which destroys anything in near orbit, sucking into the black, soulless void. People can hold up The Office as an example of great American TV comedy (one of the few shows to transfer from the UK that didn’t fail miserably), but all the time someone can counter with Life According to Jim, the argument can never be won, because the fact people exist who find this insipid, violently awful show watchable means that American TV comedy is doomed. Cream may rise to the top, but so does scum.

So let’s move onto educational, or let us call it non-fiction TV. In the UK on the BBC you get fantastic nature documentaries and other shows you can actually learn from. Planet Earth for example. On US TV, what is there? Shows like To Catch a Predator, which is fueled by the media powered neverending paedogeddon, and of course 37 different kinds of sensationalist scaremongering “news” shows, and I use the word “news” in its loosest sense there.

Now I know the BBC does have its share of pandering lowbrow garbage, I’m not trying to say the BBC is immume from producing crap, because it’s not. However the ratio of good to bad is far greater than anything this side of the pond.

Thing is, it’s all about ratings, and, sorry to say, the majority of people are easily amused low attention span morons. I would add “or are at least perceived that way” but the fact is ratings bear this assumption out. Unintelligent, vacuous shows that require very little of the viewer other than to sit there drooling are the greatest successes. (I am starting to sound like Charlie Brooker here…)

A friend and I were talking about this the other day, and he is appalled that so many of his friends and family love reality TV like X-Factor (see Charlie Brooker link above), Pop Idol etc… Then he went on to rant about some of the garbage that passes for comedy on the BBC. While Mitchell and Webb are comedy gods in my book (that link is to a different sketch, one of their best I feel, and it would be wrong to not mention Peep Show), despite loving her as Donna in Doctor Who, I found Catherine Tates sketch show, which is ridiculously popular in the UK, horrifically unfunny.

But then there ARE signs of hope on the west side of the Atlantic. While network TV is largely out the window, and the once educational channels on cable are in freefall due to ratings pandering, there IS quality TV out there. It’s on cable, and you have to pay for it, but there is TV out there that gives me hope that the little square box isn’t totally doomed. TV that requires the viewer to pay attention, doesn’t look down on the viewers intelligence, and rewards those who put the effort in to follow along and passively, by its very nature, punishes those who aren’t. That is what is lacking these days, television that demands something of the viewer, and I will be covering this good TV in part 2.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Movies seen this year

Posted by Steve on September 16, 2008

This post will be largely pointless for the time being. It’s mainly a list I’m trying to write of movies I’ve seen this year, because I’ve seen some truly great movies. So ignore it for now, unless you want to comment on some of the movies. As I remember stuff, I’ll edit the post and, if all goes well, write about each movie by the end of the year. Note: These are not all movies that came OUT this year. Merely movies I’ve SEEN this year for the first time. Yes, it’s true. Despite being a movie geek, I had never seen “Apocalypse Now” until about 3 weeks ago. One of those movies I’ve been meaning to see but had never gotten around to. (And it was worth the wait.) I’ve not seen “The Godfather” either.

There Will Be Blood

Cutie Honey

Machine Girl

[REC]

The Dark Knight

Iron Man

Hulk

Speed Racer

Cloverfield

Tropic Thunder/Rain of Madness (The latter part, a “Hearts of Darkness” spoof, was FREE on iTunes last I saw.)

The X-Files

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

The greatest thing I have seen today

Posted by Steve on August 26, 2008

Or possibly the last month.

Those WERE the Droids I was looking for...

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | 4 Comments »