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I would just like to draw your attention to the fact that it is cofax7's birthday right now. I think it only proper that she be showered with greetings, good wishes, raucous yells of congratulation and such, because she is, honestly, one of the finest people I have ever met.

* * *

It is now seven days since I last went rubbernecking at A Certain Website With Carcrash Fascination In The Fandom That Remains My First Love. Hallelujah, praise the lord, I think I am cured.

* * *

My holiday plans are not going well. Please imagine your own tirade of eccentric swearing, as I am a bit knackered right now.

* * *

Sky is running Angel season three at the moment. I had forgotten it was so very good. Full of pain, suffering and betrayal. Mind you, I am easily pleased when it comes to Angel. So far, only Waiting In The Wings is more tedious than I remember.

Tonight was Sleep Tight, a fantastic episode for Wesley with some meaty exchanges for Gunn, Justine and Lilah too. I wonder though whether anyone could tell me whether Sahjahn's motives were ever explained more fully.

Did he, in fact, have some kind of motive for hating Angel, or was he a walking demon ex machina? (I seem to remember some pleasing speculation that he was Connor from the future which was jossed, but I don't recall any definitive answer)

I was even pleased by the Pylea arc when they reran that. I also noticed how very ethereal-looking Amy Acker is in that and grow ever more puzzled by the people who call her ugly and twiglike. The government is obviously ordering their opticians to put the funny lenses in their glasses, because they're not seeing straight. A stout helmet of tinfoil for all concerned should sort that out pronto.

There is a downside to re-viewing the best of season two and three Angel, and that is that the treatment of Cordelia in season five becomes even more inexplicable and upsetting. I understand why they only managed one mention of her but it doesn't sit right somehow. In season three, Angel would have walked through fire for Connor and Cordelia both, yet now there's scarce a mention.

Yes, Cordy came back as not-Cordy, but this way of dealing with it, in the sense of *not*, isn't working for me. It's as distracting as the mindwipe. I can't watch an episode without wanting them to deal with it, so that I end up more interested in the story they're not telling than the story that they are

* * *

Tonight's MI5/Spooks rerun was the one with the EERIE exercise. What a fabulous hour of TV that was. My bulletproof TV kink would appear to be bottle shows and this was one, par excellence. Oh, how I loved the end, my poor, pretty suffering Tom, Danny and Zoe.

* * *

Tonight was also the first run on E4 of The West Wing: Life On Mars, which was one of my favourite episodes of season four. It's odd, downloading season five and watching season four, because the differences in style become readily apparent.

Firstly, I should state that I could probably watch S1 and S2 of The West Wing every night for a month and still not be bored.

My flatmate likes TWW too, but she cannot understand the urge to watch an episode more than once. I am a total fangirl for my S1 and S2 DVDs and she really is the anti-fangirl. It's a wonder that we don't explode and render the universe into nothingness when we meet in the kitchen.

My sole riposte is this: Would you only listen to an album once? How could you possibly understand it properly if you did? How could you *know* the music? Sometimes, you're listening for the harmonies, sometimes for the bassline and sometimes you just want to dance. How can you do that if you listen to it once then put it away?

Because to me, Sorkin's plotting and dialogue in those first two seasons is the nearest that television will ever come to big band swing music. Each character is a particular instrument, the actors playing at the top of their game, and Sorkin is both composer and conductor, setting up an irresistible, syncopated rhythm. I will resist assigning instruments to each of the characters.

Oh wait, I lied... Josh is the horn section all by himself. Leo is the drums, keeping everyone together. Toby's the trombones, setting a foundation, a bassline. CJ is the sax, sweetly sexy and sinuous. Donna is a clarinet. Charlie and Jed are two trumpets, one spare but leading, the other winding around it. Mandy is sometimes a pleasing blare of tenor sax, and sometimes an elderly tomcat being fed bollocks-first through my granny's mangle

Life On Mars</i>, it all comes together beautifully one last time. Matthew Perry as Joe Quincy could be a great addition to the cast for while he's a rerun of Ainsley without her quirkiness, the fact that he's smart and stolid and decent and *not* irritatingly eccentric makes him a welcome break.

Will and the interns remain *just* on the right side of annoying, and the bird shenanigans are mercifully brief. The meat of the episode is in that stunning wordless reveal, where the background chatter of the inane gossip columnist is incidental music to Joe uncovering the vice-president's affair with the socialite.

An excellent episode all round, save for the irritating West Wing law which states that all Moments of High Drama Must Happen In Dramatically Appropriate Weather Conditions. Every time something big happens, it pees down.

Compare this to the new West Wing, which I am enjoying well enough, but it's as though that well-tuned orchestra is playing under a different conductor, who does not yet know its strengths, and whose music is competent rather than charismatic.

The things that made it good still remain, but the sublime swing has gone, that ineffable X-factor is missing.

The West Wing now is a good enough show, it retains enough of the original spark to make it interesting and the characters are still hugely engaging, but if it were an album, I would only need to listen to it once.

* * *

I have been reading the Precious Ramotswe books, which I can get through in two commutes and a bath, which is too swift for me to feel as though the books are anything but literary fast food of a superior kind.

There's something about them which doesn't quite work for me though, something that I cannot put my finger on.

(My cousin lived in Botswana for 10 years. If only my mum hadn't stopped speaking to that side of the family in 1984, I could've asked his opinion. Scarily, he is 50 this year. I am so out of step with the family in every possible way.)

I am pleased to learn that Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack are turning them into a TV series because Minghella has integrity, though I bet that the TV Precious Ramotswe is younger and doesn't have a fat arse.

* * *

I forgot to mention that when my mother was in town, we went to see the House of Commons because she'd never been inside the Palace of Westminster.

It was the debate on the constitutional and home affairs aspects of the Queen's Speech and we arrived just in time to see Glenda Jackson speaking on some of the more despicable aspects of the new asylum legislation.

She was mesmerising, even when speaking about social services in Hampstead and Highgate, and delivered a blistering attack on Blunkett's plan to render illegal immigrants destitute and desperate. One can't help but remember Elizabeth R when she begins speaking on matters of state. She has such a presence and great eloquence and she didn't sell her convictions down the river so that she could climb the greasy pole inside the Blair government.

She even convinced my mother --who is hardline on the point of immigration to the point where I have to ask her to stop talking about it because it makes me intensely incomfortable that she holds such views and won't be persuaded by anything I say -- that Blunkett's legislation was wrong-headed.

If you've got my mother against you on immigration, you're in trouble. Yet, sad to say, Blunkett's hard line probably plays well in the Home Counties. The issue of immigration, more than any other, is forcing the parties to the right. Ten years ago, British National Party was a joke, a bad joke, peopled by skinheads, slimy men in cheap suits with chips on their shoulder and their embittered wives.

Now it's almost a viable electoral force and holds seats on several northern councils in areas where community relations are a flashpoint. The suits are better and the spokesmen much better at delivering the glib, reasonable-sounding soundbite, but the policies are still born of a dangerous kind of hate.

The British Social Attitudes survey came out yesterday, and it discovered that racism is more prevalent in society than it was a decade ago, after years and years of slow and, it was hoped, inexorable decline. They attributed it to a blip caused by September 11 and the way that the rightwing press harps on about asylum seekers.

The trouble is that society is changing very fast and that almost always puts a torque on governments and people alike. In the past 12 years, the number of Britons of ethnic minority origin increased by 53%. Numbers of illegal immigrants are greatly up by most indicators and the rightwing press is playing on the most small-minded fears of the population and getting in the word "swamped" at every possible opportunity.

Yet the problem of how to adapt is not going to be solved by diving desperately to the right and putting people through almost unbearable privation in the hope that news of this will get back to Albania or Somalia or Bangladesh or wherever.

As if that will discourage people who have nothing from making the gamble that they can get in and be allowed to stay. As if it will not empower idiots to worsen the situation for people born here or naturalised here who just want to get on with their lives.

More, it makes me ashamed of my country.

One of the more bonkers plans was to dump illegal asylum seekers on an island somewhere while they were being processed, in the same way that Australia's policy left a boatload of people dumped on Nauru a few years back. In some bizarre version of Survivor, they would be left there until they were voted off the island. Unfortunately, Blunkett couldn't find an island willing to take asylum seekers. (I think they should dump them all on the Isle of Man with the millionaire tax exiles. There's probably plenty of room in the mansions. That's no more stupid than the original idea.)

The far-right's power is increasing in almost every country. Just today a survey found that almost one in four French people would be perfectly happy for Jean Marie Le Pen to run their local government. Jean Marie Le Pen! Good God. Meanwhile, the leader of the party that used to be Benito Mussolini's personal plaything is cuddling up to Sharon in an attempt to rehabilitate itself and Switzerland's far-right is making inroads into that weirdly undemocratic country's system of government.

(Women didn't get the vote in Switzerland until the year I was born, so I feel perfectly happy about scoring cheap points off them whenever possible. Nazi gold! Harry Lime and cuckoo clocks! The bombastic wailings of that irritating slaphead Phil Collins!)

This is a small island and unlimited immigration is not possible. However, firstly, the country is revitalised by immigration, always has been; and secondly, it should be possible for an advanced western country to manage an asylum system which is just, fast and equitable and to have a home secretary who does not crib his policies from the Big Tory Book of Being A Bastard or prejudice the trials of terror suspects. It's not too much to ask.

* * *

And now, I really, *really* should get some sleep.

It remains only to send best wishes to some people:

haphazardmethod for today,
jeviltwin for the card;
se_parsons for listening to me blather on about stuff at great length and being helpful and pragmatic;
lenadances because her Dean joy made me smile today;
denyeverything1 just because
and cofax7 for the birthday and because she is a fine person.

La commedia e finita. Time for an inappropriate icon.



( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 9th, 2003 10:03 pm (UTC)
I love your description of West Wing - it has lost its spark, but I still enjoy the characters enough to hang on in S5.

Did you get the package?
Dec. 10th, 2003 05:56 am (UTC)
No, but I live in a postal black hole, and the outcomes of the Royal Mail are always uncertain. Sometimes it takes two days, sometimes two weeks.

I'm guessing mine isn't there either, though I posted it a bit later than planned.
Dec. 10th, 2003 08:52 am (UTC)
I live in a postal black hole, and the outcomes of the Royal Mail are always uncertain. Sometimes it takes two days, sometimes two weeks.

Urk. I sent it via UPS - 1Z50E1086690242431 is the tracking number, and it says it was signed for.

I really hope someone else didn't get your cds. I hope I had the address right.

I'm guessing mine isn't there either, though I posted it a bit later than planned.

Not yet, but during the holidays, almost nothing arrives in a timely way.
Dec. 10th, 2003 05:37 pm (UTC)
I'll ask my flatmate. Maybe she signed for them and forgot to tell me.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 10th, 2003 06:04 am (UTC)
I would like to add Danny on jazz piano -- a character that can play along (especially with the sax) or play counterpoint, as the situation demands.

Oh yes, that's it exactly. I miss Danny and want him in every episode It's a fun game to play, trying to work out what Mrs Landingham or Zoey or Margaret might be too.

BTW, It was exactly a year ago... yesterday, wasn't it? That you made that horribly early Sunday morning drive to pick me up at the airport? Yikes. A whole year...

It was. A scary thought. You know, if you come back, PMQs could be a good thing to visit. It's a very fun session. It's every Wednesday and I keep meaning to go, but it means a fair bit of queuing I think.

Good luck on the NZ planning. I hope to be able to aid and abet soon.

That has crashed and burned, unfortunately. The air fare was over a thousand pounds. The least I could pay was 927 if I cut the holiday by eight or nine days. A new plan is afoot. (Australia.)
Dec. 9th, 2003 11:36 pm (UTC)
I'm not even going to snip and quote because it'd feel too self-aggrandizing. But I'm blushing madly, and many thanks to you for the kind wishes.

It's been... a pretty good year.

Your immigration issues sound disturbingly like ours, although I haven't heard anyone use the term "swamped" yet. But lots and lots of grumbling about the cost of social services to support illegal immigrants. And Ahnuld just reneged on a deal Davis had cut to allow illegal immigrants to get drivers' licenses. If I thought it was a reasoned policy decision I'd be happier with it, but it feels like knee-jerk politics, and I'm grumpy.

Jean Marie Le Pen! Sacre bleu! What is the world coming to.

{{hugs}} and good home-improvement-karma to you...
Dec. 9th, 2003 11:40 pm (UTC)
My holiday plans are not going well. Please imagine your own tirade of eccentric swearing, as I am a bit knackered right now.

Damn, it's not the same when you don't do it.

...I have been reading the Precious Ramotswe books...

Narida aka sarea_okelani has started an LJ book club thingy called literocracy and they're doing "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" at the moment. If you'd like to join in, feel free, but please know that they're anti-spoiler and are going at the pace of one chapter a week and are now on chapter.... one.
Dec. 10th, 2003 05:39 pm (UTC)
I don't really have anything very illuminating to say about the books. They're very polite and they have charm. The book club thing is an excellent idea though.
Dec. 10th, 2003 07:36 am (UTC)
Mandy is sometimes a pleasing blare of tenor sax, and sometimes an elderly tomcat being fed bollocks-first through my granny's mangle

::peals with laughter::

Oh, my God, you've got that right on. I can't stop chortling. I must prevent myself from re-reading that sentence again because people are starting to look in my office with querious expressions.

And thank you for the wishes. You are lovely. ::hugs::
Dec. 10th, 2003 07:49 am (UTC)
My granny's mangle. I'm going to be laughing for hours over that.

>Did he, in fact, have some kind of motive for hating Angel, or was he a walking demon ex machina? (I seem to remember some pleasing speculation that he was Connor from the future which was jossed, but I don't recall any definitive answer)<

IIRC, he didn't have a motive for hating Angel--it was all about Connor. The original prophecy that he erased said that Connor would grow up to kill him, so he replaced that with the father will kill the son thing.

And then he just sorta disappeared. Don't know if it will be resolved with Connor eventually killing him or what.

Season 3 Angel is just starting on TNT here, and believe me, I can't *wait* to get to the part you all are at. Because the beginning of S3 is just not that great.

Pylea--grr. I don't know. I like Fred better now that I know how she ends up, but the episodes themselves remain a mystery. It's strange, I think of them as light, fluffy, forgettable episodes, but there's so much that goes on: Angel's demon, Fred's introduction, Gunn's choice of the AI crew, Wes' ruthlessness. And there are huge amounts of grace notes, lots of witty dialogue, much poking fun at Angel's hair, the camaraderie, NUMFAR...there are so many good parts in the episodes, and yet I still can't watch without copious fast-forwarding and eye-rolling.

Dec. 10th, 2003 08:26 am (UTC)
Yes -- you're right about the grace notes, but I just rewatched my S1 and S2 DVDs and I loathe Pylea passionately. When it first aired, I was bemused and dismayed but did not dislike it as passionately as I've grown to.
Dec. 10th, 2003 05:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Pylea
Really? Oh dear. I was oddly charmed by it, but then it's the first time I've seen it since it aired and I think I missed one episode then.

It's mightily silly in a world where being that little bit too absurd could undercut the seriousness of all, and the arc was definitely an episode too long, but as minnow says, I should hate to have missed Numfar and crazy Fred.

It beats the current XF rerun, which is the aggressively stupid and odious One Son.
Dec. 10th, 2003 08:28 am (UTC)
Jeff! Steve! Lesbian Spank Inferno!

Sorry. Overcome by my Coupling love for a moment there.

I found Fred fascinating during the Pylea arc (and agree that AA is gorgeous), especially in that evocative scene with Fred and her bloody hand luring the Beast!Angel to the cave. I wish they'd done more with that. I also liked her a lot circa Billy, but the ensuing triangle and the whole pancake kisses nonsense severely tested my patience with the character. But I'm starting to like her again quite a bit this season.

As for Sahjahn--to this date I have no freaking clue what in the blue hazes that was all about. I kind of moosh him together with the Great Asspull of S4 (a la Skip) as something I handwave about in order to enjoy the angsty interpersonal dynamics, which is the real reason I watch the show anyway.

Ahh, "Loyalty" and "Sleep Tight". Those were some good episodes indeed.
Dec. 10th, 2003 05:48 pm (UTC)
Jeff! Steve! Lesbian Spank Inferno!

Random facts: The writer of Coupling is a total fanboy for the TV sci-fi and his previous sitcom, the much-reviled "Chalk"(which I liked because it was just as embarrassing and evil as "Coupling") starred the woman who plays Ruth in MI-5. You see! It's all connected! Everything! That's why we need the tinfoil hats, lest we get caught up in an infinite feedback loop generated by the government! *snerk*

And yes, absolutely about liking Fred now they're letting her be a person in her own right rather than crazy cipher love-interest. I wish the Angel writers were able to write more than one female character on the side of light without having the other one skew way out of character.

Dec. 10th, 2003 09:43 am (UTC)
I'm just dropping by to give you a big hug and tell you yet again how excited I get when I see your entries on my LJ friends page. It's like settling down to a fascinating meander through your thoughts. Thanks for that.

I too have been on a WW tear. On Sunday, in the throes of the blues, I lay on the couch and flipped through 1/2 dozen season 1 eps. They cannot release season 2 fast enough for me.

Dec. 10th, 2003 05:50 pm (UTC)
Hello! Lovely to see you. WW is definitely a cure for the blues. Or at least a means to keep the blues at bay for a while.
Dec. 10th, 2003 04:26 pm (UTC)
Considering most of the "native" population of your country (like ours) is peopled by waves and waves of conquerers, it does make the "keep the nasty foreigners out" thing a mite odd.

We could conquer you, if it would make you feel better. Then you could keep out young Canadian children who wish to be with their families for Christmas, just like us.
Dec. 10th, 2003 07:39 pm (UTC)
Exactly. This country doesn't exactly have a spotless tradition on this by any means but it used to be that victims of persecution could find a home here -- it's why we had Huguenots and so on.

We could conquer you, if it would make you feel better. Then you could keep out young Canadian children who wish to be with their families for Christmas, just like us.

Oh no, our new policy is much smarter than that. We find out that parents and children have got into the country, but cut off their benefits because they're illegal. This renders the family destitute and means that the social services more or less have a legal obligation to take the children into care

Come to Britain and we will take your children away from you. As a slogan it lacks a little something. Humanity, possibly.
Dec. 21st, 2003 04:05 pm (UTC)
Because to me, Sorkin's plotting and dialogue in those first two seasons is the nearest that television will ever come to big band swing music.

This is a great way to put it, and I completely agree with your association of the different characters with instruments. I'm a right-brained thinker, so this is the kind of stuff I love.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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