" Madam Miaow Says

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Terminator Genisys review: a tragic thing to do to an old friend


Oh the excitement as the Amazon package containing another 3D blu-ray movie drops through the door. This week it's the fifth in the much-loved Terminator franchise, Terminator Genisys which I've had on order for weeks and which was at long last released on November 2nd.

But yikes ...

After a promising start with Arnie doing a decent job reprising his original role as a craggily Johnny Cashesque aging Terminator, the movie ultimately proves itself a truly godawful stinker.

There's no sense that smug well-fed Jai Courtney as the tragic Kyle Reese is a top trooper who has endured a lifetime of apocalyptic nightmare under the tyranny of Cyberdyne and their Skynet artificial intelligence system. Instead, he looks like a jock goon straight out of a National Lampoons movie, dishonouring the memory of Michael Biehn, who wrung our hearts in the original.

It took me a while to realise that the one-note brat playing Sarah Connor is Emilia Clarke, Danaeris from Game of Thrones. I may have to wait and forget her performance in Genisys before I resume watching GOT season 4 but I fear my viewing may be irreparably harmed by her feisty feistiness. I may even take to referring to her as Her Feistiness. In case you hadn't guessed, I HATE feisty. Too cutesy, and insufficiently endowed with guts to be as truly challenging as demi-goddess Linda Hamilton (all hail).

What happened to Clarke's GOT co-star, Lena Headey, who made such a magnificent Sarah in the TV series The Sarah Connor Chronicles? Did she take one look at the script and scarper?

Both Courtney and Clarke lack sensitivity and depth, and fail to recreate the mythical grandeur of the original movie, not helped by witless lumpen dialogue that a smart 11-year old would find embarrassing.

It says a lot when, aside from Arnie, the best acting comes from the T-800 (Brett Azar with Arnie's CGI'd face) and the T-1000 (Lee Byung-hun doing a great Robert Patrick). Not to mention JK Simmons spanning the years as Detective O'Brien.

The writers should be made to sweep streets for turning out this time-travel mess in which five dates figure: 1984, 1997, 2014, 2017 and 2029, plus the year when Sarah Connor was nine years old and got herself a pet "Pops" — an Ah-nuld Terminator. Got it?

The film opens with the messianic leader of the Resistance, John Connor (played by the decidedly UN-messianic Jason Clarke, meh!), sending his best buddy Kyle back in time from their offensive in 2029 to 1984 to protect his mum. So far, so like the original. However, in this timeline, it's all different and in the new 1984, Sarah is already hardass and familiar with the plot (aren't we all, dear) and now has that (rather emasculated) pet T-800 in tow. The other thing that is different is that Sarah and her cyborg minder have knocked up a little time machine. In 1984. Yeah, right. Never mind protecting Sarah, protect the crock of a plot at all costs.

Anyhow, I digress. The subsequent John Connor twist is severely mishandled, throwing away this key character. And the plot holes ... So if John Connor is transformed into a nanocyte prototype Terminator-3000 and goes back to 2014 in order to develop Genisys, Skynet's global operating system, in time for its deployment in 2017, and also to kill his parents, how can he be born and go back to 2014 in order to ... This conundrum is crudely plugged by nicking directly from the charmingly effective method in the original to the effect that someone says, "a person could go mad working this out". It's meant to work under cover of a witty callback to the first movie but just ends up calling attention to its own ineptitude.

There's not enough emotional pacing to transmit the horror of the situation in which JC and the family finds itself and results in just another over-complicated blah sci-fi movie when I wanted epic SF that explores big themes. In the wake of so much brilliant writing emerging from America, from Buffy to Breaking Bad, this is unforgivable.

I was optimistic about this movie, having seen what a glorious job the makers of the new Mad Max, Fury Road, did with the franchise. Terminator Genisys may have done well at the box office but I wonder how many viewers were pleased with the experience.

The brief presence of Matt Smith as the evuhl T-5000 who turns John Connor into a machine indicates intentions to make another sequel. It'll be back.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

All white at the BBC: South Africa would be proud of Newsnight

I've had the good fortune to be one of the few ethnics who have slipped through the cultural net and been able to make a few good programmes at the BBC, having a great face for the radio. But it's shameful that there's still so much unconscious racism as inadvertently exposed in a recent BBC recruitment film which neglects to mention their Black Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) audience and production staff (absence of). That's how unaware they are in this age of diversity. After all, the Beeb is based in a city that's 44 per cent non-white, so what is their excuse?

"I set the general editorial direction of travel," says Newsnight editor Ian Katz at a meeting rammed with white faces.

I found it useless trying to talk to Katz when he was editor of the Guardian's G2 supplement in 2000. They'd run a controversialist piece by Charlotte Raven about the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which was storming the box offices: " ... Because they were oriental, everyone presumed this was understatement, rather than woodenness. ... In Chinese, delivered inscrutably, it seemed to contain multitudes."

My disappointment wasn't so much that one writer had written this casual othering of a racial group but more that the G2 editors — the Guardian institution — hadn't sounded alarm bells. I can only guess at how richly ethnically diverse they weren't. I was met with hostility for raising the issue, so I'm hardly surprised that Katz now works in an all-white environment at the BBC. (Here's how it panned out.)

When working on my my play for Radio 4, Red Guard, Yellow Submarine, drawn from my memoir of the same name about being brought up by Chinese communists in Hackney, I walked through Broadcasting House with my producer, Pam Fraser-Solomon, who is Black, and it was notable that the only other non-white face at the time was the cleaner.

It's assumed that white folk do everything best and that any person of colour is there as a token.

Every time we stick our heads up the dominant white establishment tries to shoot us down. East Asians actors were give four minuscule roles out of 17 in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Chinese classic, The Orphan of Zhao — which the RSC then had the cheek to market to Chinese audiences. Trevor Nunn wants to produce all-white Shakespeare histories in the interest of verismilitude, minus the bad teeth and buboes, of course.

The latest lazy dismissal in the Guardian of a rare project made by a non-white team, Reggie Yates: Race Riots USA, would indicate that the liberal media are in nightmarish free-fall into some inner apartheid hell zone. I mean, accusing the lovely calm Reggie Yates of the crime of swagger? How submissive must a Black man be to assuage the white writer's fear?

I suggest they seek help. And I said, "seek help", not "sieg heil".

The Independent: Behind the scenes Newsnight new show blows the lid on the lack of racial diversity on the BBC.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Reggie Yates Race Riots USA review: white liberal Guardianista requires smelling salts

Reggie Yates: Race Riots USA review

BBC3 Tuesday 29 Sept 2015

There's a lot of shark-jumping going on down Fleet Street. You may have observed the liberal press laying into the resurgence in progressive politics of late with a hysteria largely missing in action when it comes to the current assault on the poor, about which they are remarkably sanguine. I haven't seen such a screeching mess since the Mogwais were last fed after midnight.

Bankers break the economy and lie about Libor; the top percent double their dosh since the crash while the poor are driven to debt and suicide to better recapitalise the system. However, it's not the brutal transfer of wealth from poor to rich that's driving them to frothing fury, but Jeremy Corbyn's vest. How dare the new Labour leader lack vanity, have principles and, at long last, give hope to the weakest after three and half decades of Thatcherism?

When the oppressed and their champions mount a challenge, the liberal press turn out to be not quite so liberal after all. Just as the French government put their war with Prussia on hold in 1871 to team up with their 'enemy' to massacre the Paris Communards, you can barely squeeze a cigarette paper between the Guardian and their New Statesman stablemates on one side, and the Daily Mail et al on the other when it comes to maintaining the status quo (emphasis on status. And privilege.)

It's crept into every nook and cranny of the culture like the noxious diesel fumes invisibly killing us while someone makes a profit.

And lo, black Londoner Reggie Yates makes a thoughtful piece about the killings of black men by police in America — Race Riots USA — and what is the Guardian's chief concern? "Yates can’t seem to decide if he’s supposed to go with the poker face or let rip with his own opinions." Or as the headline has it, "an impartial observer's indignance leaks through." (Did they mean 'indignation', by any chance?) Uppity Reggie! Heaven forfend that a journalist is able to tell this story from the inside out like a human being, not a robot. What does he think this is? Jezza's vestgate? He's reasonable, puzzled, enquiring and moved rather than the easy-to-dismiss raging black man some of the media might prefer.

In case that didn't convince you to move along, nuthin' to see, the Guardian chips away with the flimsiest justification: ' ... “It could have been me” pronouncement while a driver holding a “Reggie Yates” sign meets him at the airport and takes his bags to the car. It confuses his status: is he the inquisitive everyman, there to guide us through the subject, or a celebrity who doesn’t carry his own bags?'

Perhaps it shows him as an ordinary dude who has booked a cab to meet him at the airport and, as is common practice, the driver's waiting with a hand scrawled sign of his passenger's name. It begins the story with his arrival and makes the point that he is from the outside ... and yet not.

Unarmed men and women are being murdered by white police and will never receive justice because of the colour of their skin, a skin they share with Yates. Some 176 in one year alone. Neither are women and children safe: a pregnant woman thrown to the ground; a bikini-clad adolescent manhandled by a cop at a pool-party; the boy with a toy gun shot dead; the teenager killed in the back of a police van. And still they keep on coming.

It is a scary, distressing and enraging catalogue of horrors. But the author of the Guardian review is most concerned about Yates getting above himself at the airport. Such was her snide hostility that I thought this couldn't possibly be a white writer as any halfway competent editor would have spiked such naked spite by a representative of drearily dominant whiteness, and that this must have been written by one of the house slaves. But no, Julia Raeside is white. And protecting her patch.

It is a bullshit piece. Obtuse, deliberately not understanding the issue. How could a journalist write something so hostile, so blatantly ignoring what Yates has done here? He's taken us into the belly of the beast and introduced us to its ugly complexities so effectively that, despite herself, Raeside almost praises him, but then catches herself and has another snipe in parentheses:
'When the rally is approached by two young black men, one in a Peace & Unity T-shirt, both of them filming with their phones, the unease is palpable. But a quick intervention by Yates (he gets away with a lot here by having a camera crew in tow) begins a dialogue between a blonde woman and the T-shirt pacifist, in which they largely agree on the need for cooperation.'

Yates also performs a fine journalistic function (unlike Raeside) in revealing that filthy lucre, not just blind prejudice, plays a key role in the collective tragedy that is Black America. The police force, which is around 94 per cent white, pays for itself with the fines on the Ferguson community, which is 70per cent black. Some of the people dragged into court owe five thousand dollars in what is an institutional shakedown with menaces. And on the day that Yates visits the court, they are all black. See what happens when you have a service based on profit? Which brings us neatly full circle to Jeremy Corbyn and yet more reason Labour must make the crucial challenge to austerity, exclusion and privatisation.

How often do you see a black person in Yates's position with a VOICE, who isn't a white person's stereotypical creation? The Guardian piece, people of colour, is the slap down you get for doing white folks' job and doing it well. Can't have young black people inspired like this. They might start demanding equal rights and opportunity. By the way, I'm delighted to note that Reggie and I went to the same school: Central Foundation Boys (in Old Street) and Girls (Spitalfields).

One question I would like answered is whether this wave of killings of unarmed black men and women has risen since Obama became President. His ascent to power seems to have driven Republican whites mad and you wonder if, unable to reach the interloper in the Oval office, the grim truth is that any black person will do.

EDIT: even sweeter, this was filmed, directed and produced by Ruhi Hamid and produced by Kandise Abiola, two women of colour aiming to "reflect the mood of Ferguson ten months after the riots and protests that followed the fateful shooting of Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson."

Postscript: Julia Raeside thought it was a good idea to advertise her nasty clickbait piece with this tweet. I looked from Guardian to Daily Mail and back again and already it was impossible to tell which would look better in a cat tray.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Eggheads Against Jeremy Corbyn: right-wing academics phone it in to the FT

It's taken the right wing ages to muster 55 Jeremy Corbyn-bashing academics in the FT. (They include Alastair Milne, Professor of Economics at the University of Loughborough. Any relation to Seumas?)

I hate to mock the afflicted but they really are flailing like punch-drunks and have tacked together an argument most of us can answer in our sleep (hello, railways!).

It should be noted that while JC's People's QE's is far too good for the likes of us, Draghi is promising yet more money printing for the banks.

And I swear to you, the list includes a Ronald MacDonald.

For those of you with FT access, the comments are the best thing about this desperate gesture. For those without, here are the salient bits of the letter:

Corbynomics has not been thought through seriously

We wish to register our opinion that the economic policies sketched by Jeremy Corbyn are likely to be highly damaging, and send this message to counter the impression that might be got from the previous letter of “41 economists” that Mr Corbyn’s policies command widespread support in the mainstream of the discipline.

Renationalising industries is highly unlikely to improve the performance of its targets, and very likely, if history is anything to go by, to make things worse. If compensation is paid, it will be a waste of fiscal space, even unaffordable; in case it is not, it will be extremely damaging to the climate for enterprise in the UK as other companies fear the government would get a taste for it.

“People’s QE” would be a highly damaging threat to fiscal credibility, and unnecessary, since at this time of very low interest rates and tolerable debt/GDP public investment — in many areas much needed — can be financed conventionally. Figures put on money that could be found from ending “corporate welfare” and combating tax evasion are almost unbelievable and add to the sense that Mr Corbyn’s plans have not been seriously thought through.

Paul Levine
Professor of Economics,
University of Surrey
Tony Yates
Professor of Economics,
University of Birmingham
Wouter den Haan
Professor of Economics,
London School of Economics
John van Reenen
Professor of Economics,
London School of Economics
George Magnus
Associate, China Centre,
University of Oxford
Ronald MacDonald
Professor of Economics,
Glasgow University
Cristiano Cantore
Senior Lecturer in Economics and
Deputy Head of School, University of Surrey
Joe Pearlman
Professor of Economics,
City University
Kent Matthews
Professor of Economics,
University of Cardiff
Costas Milas
Professor of Economics,
University of Liverpool
Akos Valentinyi
Professor of Economics,
Cardiff University
Valentina Corradi
Professor of Economics,
University of Surrey
Alex Mandilaras
Senior Lecturer in Economics,
University of Surrey
Cian Twomey
Lecturer in Financial Economics,
National University of Ireland, Galway
Miguel Leon-Ledesma
Professor of Economics,
University of Kent
Alexander Mihailov
Associate Professor of Economics,
University of Reading
Peter Sinclair
Professor of Economics,
University of Birmingham
Christopher Martin
Professor of Economics,
University of Bath
Richard Disney
Professor of Economics,
University of Sussex and Institute for Fiscal Studies
John Fender
Professor of Economics,
University of Birmingham
Chris Florakis
Associate Professor of Finance,
University of Liverpool
Philip Rothman
Professor of Economics,
East Carolina University
James Foreman-Peck
Professor of Economics,
University of Cardiff
Juan Paez-Farrell
Lecturer in Economics,
University of Sheffield
Mike Wickens
Professor of Economics,
University of York
Michael McMahon
Associate Professor of Economics,
University of Warwick
Michael Ben-Gad
Professor of Economics,
City University
George Bratsiotis
Reader in Economics,
University of Manchester
Dr Rebecca Driver
Economist, Analytically Driven
Phillip Booth
Professor of Insurance and Risk Management,
Cass Business School
Theo Panagiotidis
Professor of Economics,
University of Macedonia, Greece
Ali Al Nowahi
Professor of Economics,
University of Leicester
Manthos Delis
Professor of Financial Economics and Banking,
Surrey Business School, University of Surrey
Martin Ellison
Professor of Economics,
University of Oxford
Christopher Spencer
Lecturer in Economics,
University of Loughborough
Alastair Milne
Professor of Economics,
University of Loughborough
Tom Holden
Lecturer in Economics,
University of Surrey
Patrick Minford
Professor of Economics,
University of Cardiff
Mark Koyama
George Mason University,
Washington DC, US
Ettiene Farvaque
Professor of Economics,
University of Lille
Stephen Hall
Professor of Economics,
University of Leicester
Stephen Wright
Professor of Economics,
Birkbeck College, University of London
Ray Barrell
Professor of Economics,
Brunel University
Ben Ferrett
Senior Lecturer in Economics,
University of Loughborough
Roy Zilberman
Lecturer in Economics,
University of Lancaster
Richard Dennis
Professor of Economics,
Glasgow University
Peter Doyle
Former senior manager,
International Monetary Fund
Todd Kaplan
Professor of Economics,
University of Exeter
Bob Rothschild
Emeritus Professor of Economics,
University of Lancaster
James Davidson
Professor of Economics,
University of Exeter
George Kapetanios
Professor of Economics,
Queen Mary College, University of London
William Tayler
Lecturer, University of Lancaster
James Malley
Professor of Economics,
University of Glasgow
Kitty Ussher
Managing Director,
Tooley Street Research
Geraint Johnes
Professor of Economics,
University of Lancaster
Ethan Ilzetzki
Lecturer in Economics,
London School of Economics

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Cat conversation on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership contest

Madam Miaow of Cats for Corbyn translates:

"Waddya think of this leadership contest?"
"It don't half exposes the contradictions in the bourgeois democracy."
"Ya reckon?"
"Just a bit!"
"They really don't want the one with the beard to win, do they?"
"The one with the eyelashes fancies his chances."
"I don't. He's deader than that mouse you found."
"At least the mouse didn't beg for his life the way eyelash boy did."
"The little one looks like she'd confiscate your bikkies given half a chance."
"And the other one would rub your nose in your own poo if you even looked at her funny."
"Better than rubbing it in her poo, for which I hear she has form."
"Beardie would give you the prawns off his own plate. 'Stroo!"
"Let's go and rub ourselves against his legs."
"Okay but try not to trip him up. No point doing their job for them."
"Race ya. Last one on his lap's got fleas!"
'C'mere. You need a wash first. You always show me up."

Monday, 24 August 2015

Poem for Jeremy Corbyn: Labour Pains by Anna Chen

No slouching towards Westminster by JC.

Here's my poem about the current welcome rush to the heart and head. I guess that makes me a Poet for Jeremy Corbyn too.


We snapped on a light
and in the glare all was laid bare.
Suddenly Yvette Cooper wasn’t so super,
Kendall won’t mend anything at all
‘cause Liz fights tooth and claw for biz.
As for principles, Andy says burn ‘em.
But the latecomer nails jelly to the wall,
walks tall among the fallen,
cuts a swathe through those in thrall
to the false gods in the shopping maul.
Looking like Santa, cast as Satan,
working like a dynamo, everybody’s smitten.
Bottle what he’s made of, someone nab the patent,
before the bloody Blairites get their twisted knickers straightened.
Groping in the gloom we’d forgotten how to stand,
the air up here so fresh and clean, the view they tried to ban.
Blinking in the sunlight, nerves and sinews flex,
this is how hope feels, it’s betterer than sex.
A pole star restored, a fiery dawn,
this way something bright is born.

Anna Chen
3rd August 2015

Anna Chen's collection of poetry, Reaching for my Gnu, is published by Aaaargh! Press

Margaret Thatcher Died at the Ritz (2013)