Why I Hate Disney Today

Finding Nemo is out this weekend in America. The UK release date? October. Grr. By that time, they’ll have already released the DVD. I suppose it could be worse; it’s coming out on Boxing Day in Iceland. I know, I know, it’s timed to coincide with the October half-term, but couldn’t they put it out in the summer? Just this once?

Well, that was May. Rather quick, wasn't it?

currently playing: Godspeed You Black Emperor - BBF3

FCC And You

On June 2nd, the FCC is expected to relax the American laws restricting companies from owning too much of the media. The current regulations state that that no company can own more than 35% of the US television market. After Monday, that will rise to 45% under the proposed new rules. TV Stations will also no longer be barred from owning newspapers in their local markets.

The legacy of the 1996 radio deregulation, which resulted in Clear Channel owning 1,200 of America's radio stations (now becoming increasingly centralised and providing less local programming) has given rise to serious opposition to the suggested changes. Internet campaigns, members of Congress, the National Rifle Association, and even some media barons have all expressed their concerns.

The FCC believes that the Internet will prevent America from becoming a media monoculture, so consolidation of TV and print channels shouldn't have too much of an impact. Leaving aside a recent study that indicates that as much as half of the population of the USA is not interested in going online, this idea is flawed. The companies that own the Internet connections, for example RoadRunner, are intimately connected with the media empires (RoadRunner is part of AOL/TimeWarner). How is the Internet supposed to be the saviour of the media when the media empires own the communications links, as well as the TV stations and newspapers? How can new companies emerge when the Baby Bells aren't forced to share the fibre connections?

This is the point where we British can get smug, and say "well, that'd never happen here." Possibly not to the same extent, no, but worrying developments are just over the horizon. The Government is currently pursuing a new Communications Bill which would relax foreign ownership and overall percentage restrictions from the UK. ClearChannel has already expressed an interest about buying several UK radio stations after the Bill becomes law. I give you Lowry Mays, head of Clear Channel:

If anyone said we were in the radio business, it wouldn't be someone from our company. We're not in the business of providing news and information. We're not in the business of providing well-researched music. We're simply in the business of selling our customers' products.

Not exactly Reithian, is it?

currently playing: Idlewild - Live In A Hiding Place

This Really Is A One-Line Entry

Honest. Busy, busy, busy.

currently playing: Kenickie - Stay In The Sun

Sky Is Blue

Typical. Britain finally decides that, after a month of solid rain, it might be an idea to have some sunny weather, and I’ve been stuck in the house working on Top Secret Project #1. Happily, it seems to be going well, so I might be able to move outside tomorrow.

While I was away, my family finally caved and bought a Sky satellite dish. My sister controls the TV with an iron fist, hopping through the fifty or so music channels with deft efficiency, only pausing for the Bhangra station and the inevitable Justin Timberlake music videos. Everybody else has now gone to bed, so I've just had a quick look around. For all those who think of Britain as the last bastion of quality TV programming, I give you FriendlyTV. The current programme? Three girls getting drunk and responding to text messages being sent to them by people who also seem to have had a few. It's not exactly Edge of Darkness. So what am I doing watching it? Er, that's a very good point; let's move on.

Okay, RaptureTV seems to be exactly the same, except instead the girls have been replaced by a rave soundtrack. Skipping through the Movies and Sport sections (we only have Sky Prole), and into the news channels. Which blend into one after a while. Except for FOX News, of course. I can only watch it for about five minutes before I want to start throwing things. Today, it was a smug, self-satisfied item on Amnesty International's annual report. I have no objections with them criticising Amnesty; what I have a problem with is their attempt to discredit the report by effectively saying "Saddam's gone. Isn't the world better? Surely you don't support Saddam's Evil Regime, do you? I bet you liked Hitler." If the report has flaws, tell us about them. In a non-hysterical manner, preferably.

Cartoons! Excellent. The world is better for the existence of the Cartoon Network (Roadrunner marathons!). But I'm trying to discover new things, so I'll press on.

Oh. Approximately 175,324 teleshopping channels. Most of which seem to run American infomercials.

Actually, I think I'll go to bed and read a book.

currently playing: The Sundays - Wild Horses

This Could Be A Busy Week

Also, this is one of those one-line entries that only exists so I can say that I wrote something for every day in May. Which is rather sad, I suppose. Hopefully, I will have something to write about in the next few days. But not at the moment, so I’ll go to bed. And yes, it ended up being a little more than one line.

currently playing: Radiohead - Go To Sleep. Hah. See? My computer is sending me subliminal messages…

Safari Ate My Comments

Bah. Anyway, just to make this clear — I don’t want anybody to think that I thought the UK was unfairly treated in Eurovision; it was an abysmal performance, and we deserved what we got.

The Ireland thing: I promise I didn't lift it from Father Ted. However, a brief search through the Internet reveals nothing apart from references to reports that RTE wanted the rules changed so that all the countries shared in the staging costs rather than the winner having to bear all the burden, which might be seen as evidence that they were struggling a little. Mind you, I also found several messages from Irish USENET posters complaining that RTE was using the contest as an excuse to get more funding from the Government. So, er, yes, "throwing" it was a bit strong: "extremely pleased to lose" probably describes it better.

This has been a Bank Holiday Corrections Update.

currently playing: Transvision Vamp - Baby I Don’t Care

Two Weeks

Invade France!

currently playing: The Chemical Brothers - Let Forever Be

Furthering Cultural Exchange

For the benefit of any Americans who may be reading, I give you: The Eurovision Song Contest. The idea, supposedly, is to celebrate the music of Europe by inviting countries to select a band and a song to perform at a massive gala festival, whereupon the countries vote for the one they feel was the best (each country gives points in ascending scale from 1-12). The winner then gets to host the festival next year. Simple, yes?

Well, not exactly. I don't know how it's viewed on the Continent, but in Britain, the Contest is seen as a great opportunity to laugh at the awful music that the rest of Europe makes. We always vote for an abysmal song, and sit back with a smug look on our faces. Meanwhile, all the poor countries of Europe live in fear of actually winning the contest, as the cost of staging the event is rather expensive (many people believe that Ireland once deliberately threw the contest a few years back because they had won three times in a row, and the state broadcaster simply couldn't afford a fourth win). Every year, the UK commentary is provided by a radio DJ called Terry Wogan, who supplies a withering and sarcastic voice to the proceedings, mocking everything from dress sense to the performances. The night has become a popular kitsch event, where we laugh at the silly Europeans.

And then there's the voting. It's supposed to be based solely on the musical merit of the performances, but as you can imagine, this never occurs. Countries which neighbour each other always tend to give the other the top marks, all the Eastern European countries remember to include Russia, and Greece never gives any points to Turkey. It's as entertaining as the music section.

This year will be remembered as a classic Eurovision Night; long-standing enmities were cast aside as the countries in Europe finally united. Unfortunately, the one thing they can agree on is that they aren't particularly happy with the UK. For the first time in the history of the Contest, Britain received no votes, nul points. That'll teach us to side with the Americans.

The eventual winner was Turkey, thus shocking the world by illustrating that combining "teenage" and "lesbians" isn't a guaranteed way of obtaining success after all. The Russian Mafia is said to be returning to the drawing board for next year's contest. Meanwhile, we'll moan a bit for the next few days about how we got no votes, it's all rubbish anyway, and isn't it all political, forgetting of course, that's entirely why we watch the thing in the first place…

currently playing: The Smiths - Panic

Living In The Future

The jacket is designed for women only. Its small size and narrow armholes are intended to prevent men from using it as an offensive weapon. Whiton conceded that women could use it offensively, and that it would be hard for police to arrest anyone wearing one.

It's not a jetpack, but it's a start. Extra hardcore points for the idea of field testing the jacket in Boston. Oh, and for making the sparks visible in the jacket itself, thus giving it a proper 21st century look.

The comic industry in Japan is facing serious problems; apparently manga is not quite as popular with children as it used to be. This is interesting, as the American industry is looking to Japan to rescue it from a serious depression at the moment. While the Japanese market is still vastly bigger than anything in the West, news like this suggests that they don't have all the answers.

Back to the Texan Democrats, I'm afraid. Remember last week, when I mentioned that the Department of Homeland Security was used to locate these "legislative terrorists"? Well, other people noticed, and it appears that Tom Ridge (head of the DHS) is investigating "potentially criminal" use of his agency in respect to the Democrat exodus. Could we possibly be seeing another Senate Majority Leader fall before the year is out?

currently playing: DJ Shadow - Blood On The Motorway

Spoliers Ahead!

If you haven’t seen The Matrix: Reloaded yet, you’ll probably want to skip today’s entry.

Today, I finally discovered the problem I have with The Matrix; it's more interesting to discuss the ideas and concepts it talks about than actually spending two-and-a-half hours sitting in a cinema and watching the film. I love talking about the symbolism, the works it derives from, but I have no desire to see Reloaded ever again.

The freeway scenes are amazing; the end of that section has one of the greatest special effects shots that I've ever seen. But everything else seemed fairly limp: an overlong dance scene at the start which, despite the best efforts of the Wachowski brothers, ends up looking like the Ewok party scene from Return of The Jedi, several scenes where the film grinds to a complete halt while new characters deliver all-important expositional dialogue (with! comedy! evil! French! accents!), and some suspect CGI effects.

And then there's the fight scenes. All of which last about five minutes too long. The vaunted million-Smiths vs. Neo just goes on and on; after about three minutes you begin to get bored, because although it looks fairly impressive, nothing is actually happening — they're just swirling about. Instead of ending it there, the fight continues with Smith reinforcements. The CGI work starts to become obvious at this point (the repeated use of certain effect shots doesn't help either), spoiling the scene further. And then, after what seems like ten minutes, the fight…just ends. After such a long scene, I expect there to be consequences more than "ooh, look what the fuzzy elf guy can do now!"

That's not to say that the film was a total disaster; two twists towards the end made things more interesting, whilst at the same time throwing light on certain plot points from the first film, and I liked Persephone's throwaway line of "it's only a game" (which could be an Invisibles reference, but I'm most likely projecting). I also love the way the entire film is drenched in symbolism, from the pomegranate desert in front of Merovingian and Persephone, to the shattered dreams of Morpheus at the end of the film.

Let's hope that in the next film, the Wachowski brothers rein in some of the excess. Yes, I know that sounds silly considering it's a Hollywood blockbuster, but by excess I mean extending the action scenes to the point where they become irritating.

Feel free to post long, point-by-point annihilations of my review in the comment section. As I said, I enjoy talking about it…

currently playing: R.E.M. - Drive