Interesting juxtaposition in the US Presidential Election of Sarah Palin’s derogatory statements about science vs. Obama getting the endorsement of high profile scientists.

Palin, in that ‘loveable’ folksy way of hers (see also: George W Bush), decided to ridicule ‘wasteful’ scientific research on things like fruit flies: “You’ve heard about some of these pet projects – they really don’t make a whole lot of sense – and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit-fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not.” Since my own wife’s degree project focused on drosophila melanogaster, I’m well-versed in how incredibly useful these little insects are to science, but here’s a fairly scathing rebuttal to Palin.

Meanwhile 76 Nobel prize winners have written a letter endorsing Obama as “a visionary leader” and condemning Bush’s policies.

Also, as if Obama could become any more like Jed Bartlet, here’s a really fascinating speech of his about the role of religion in modern America. I hadn’t previously been aware of this speech but it looks like it was made back in 2006. I can’t help but be reminded of President Bartlet’s rant from The West Wing episode The Midterms (itself gacked from the interwebs) about selective adherence to the Bible to support bigotry. Obama’s speech (in selectively edited form) been seized on to argue that Obama ‘hates’ God, but it’s actually a very even-handed and astonishingly brave thing for a US politician to do. Brave even though he’s not claiming to be an atheist, merely arguing very cogently for separation of Church and State; a fairy uncontroversial view, you’d think1.

Speaking of YouTube, this video of Palin set to piano improv is deeply unfair, but very funny.

1 Bartlet is of course portrayed as a devout Catholic and his rant is not seen as coming into conflict with his beliefs, and there’s no reason Obama could not be a Christian and still make this speech.


The moment I started my holidays last Saturday I started coming down with the lurgy. Funny how often that happens. So even though I’m on holiday this week I’m also bunged up and feeling like the back of my throat has been sandpapered (or, occasionally, chiselled). Since I’m not up to much therefore, here are a few things that, in my delirium, I mentally logged as worth telling someone. You be the judge.

The saga of Tom McRae’s website continues. It’s now in Australia. No really.

This story about the MMR vaccine scare on Bad Science is actually an excerpt from Ben Goldacre’s new book. It’s also a fantastically rational account of how irrational the media can be in their quest to sensationalise a story.

Frost/Nixon is a movie that wasn’t on my radar. What were the chances that anyone, let alone Ron Howard, would make a Hollywood movie out of David Frost interviewing Richard Nixon? It’s hard to know what to make of it. The trailer paints the film as a mixture of political drama and David vs Goliath feel-good story, in the general neighbourhood of Charlie Wilson’s War. Michael Sheen looks great as Frost, and Frank Langella seems okayish as Nixon. Other eclectic cast members include Oliver Platt (White House Counsel Oliver Babish on The West Wing) and Matthew “Tom from Spooks” McFadyen. (Plus it has Kevin Bacon in it, so given how ubiquitous Michael Sheen is this should blow the Kevin Bacon game wide open.)

No Heroics is a new sitcom centred around off-duty UK Superheroes. The trailer looks surprisingly okay, albeit sex-obsessed, particularly given that this is airing on that great sitcom purgatory, ITV.

Lastly, what is up with those camera zooms that punctuate Evan Davis’s every sentence at the start of Dragon’s Den? It’s like the camera operator just ate an entire keg of Smarties and can’t calm down.

Golden Globes

Heroes has been nominated for Golden Globe in the BEST TELEVISION SERIES – DRAMA category along with 24 and Lost. I hope it wins, and that’s not just because I’m no longer watching 24 and Lost. (Non-genre contenders are Grey’s Anatomy and Big Love.)

Sadly Veronica Mars is nowhere to be seen, and perhaps surprisingly neither is the higher profile Studio 60, although Sarah Paulson gets a deserved nod in the BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION WHICH AIRS ON A MONDAY EVENING AND GETS MIDDLING REVIEWS. I’m also pleased to see a drama nomination for Hugh Laurie who deserves to win something for House before it inevitably jumps the shark, and for Kiefer Sutherland (hey, I’m no longer watching but Kiefer gives good angst). And in the mini-series category clearly Masi Oka should win for playing Hiro Nakamura. I mean, why not just give it to him now and get it over with? Between him and Jeremy Irons I know who I’d pick.

Meanwhile the Writer’s Guild Awards spurn Heroes in favour of a Deadwood nomination, which I have to say is fine by me, too, especially since they give a nod to Heroes in the Best New Series category. A certain Studio 60 also finally gets recognised, and for best episodic drama we have quite a line up including Election Day, Part II (The West Wing), Occupation/Precipice (Battlestar Galactica), Two for the Road (Lost), and Pilot (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip).

And, buried right at the end, is something at last for Veronica Mars. A nomination in the “Best on-air promotion category”. Seriously. It’s both welcome and depressing at the same time.

EDIT: LJ have tarted up their Update Journal page. Shiny.

The Idiot’s Lantern

Studio 60 near cancellation. Sorkin’s frustratingly misfiring series is seeing a massive ratings drop-off from Heroes, and looks to be not long for this world. As the article says: “There’s nothing wrong with the acting, directing, or dialogue writing. But the premise is faulty. No one cares whether a bunch of over caffeinated, well off yuppies, some with expensive drug habits, put on a weekly comedy sketch show from Los Angeles.” Disappointing, but true.

Spoilers for Heroes Episodes 1 to 5


Day 34. Internet connection still crappy. PlusNet finally agree to move us back to the BT network at no charge to us – which will take at least 7 days since they basically have to ask Tiscali for the MAC code to move us. This is no different to the situation if we were moving ISPs. How crazy is it that they would put us on a product that’s essentially with a different supplier, which makes it significantly more problematic to troubleshoot problems or indeed to leave?

Still, they’re actually moving us back, which means that either the connection returns to the lovely stable 2MB one we used to have – win – or we can now up-sticks and move to any other ISP as normal – win! Here in the customer trade we call that… well, we call it a month of hellishly poor service followed by an achingly slow resolution with the prospect of further disruption to come. But we’d probably try to work the word “win” in there at least once.

Changing tacks and slipping gracefully below the spoiler space we’ve now seen episode 2 of Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip…


West Wing viewers may be interested to read a recent entry on World Wide Words concerning the origins of the acronym POTUS. Fascinating.

(The site is run by Michael Quinion, whose book Port Out, Starboard Home I’ve mentioned before and would whole-heartedly recommend to anyone with an interest in the origin of words and phrases; not least because it devotes a lot of time to satisfyingly debunking the urban myths that grow up around words and phrases. This makes it feel a great deal more authoritative than other similar books which still trot out these myths as if they were fact.)

To DNA or not to DNA

There’s a new Police poster around Sunderland (and possibly elsewhere) warning of the potential penalties for keying a car. Apparently you could be “DNA’d”. Yes, “To DNA” is now a verb. As is “To key” now I come to think of it. Not sure about that apostrophe either, although “DNAd” would look even stranger.

Other random things I have failed to mention recently:

The new Snow Patrol album is quite alarmingly anthemic, but has quite a few strong tracks amidst its blatant commercialism. I’m still making up my mind about it.

Pearl Jam’s new album cements in my mind that I really don’t like a good 50% of their material, and am unclear why I continue buying their stuff.

Bones is getting increasingly enteraining as the snark levels increase between the regulars. The opening credits are really annoying though, since they randomly fling actors names at you accompanied by images of entirely different actors. You’d be forgiven for thinking David Boreanaz was actually called Jonathan Adams.

The West Wing is really hard to watch with a 3 second lip-synch delay, but this week’s US episode was still very entertaining. I think it’s the series finale next week.

Speaking of which, I’ve obtained (via the pixies, don’t you know) the Veronica Mars S2 finale but we haven’t got round to watching it yet. I’ve been enjoying this show a lot recently, despite the stop-start vagueness of the season arc.

Woo! Kingdom of Heaven Director’s Cut. 50 minutes of extra footage and apparently a good deal more coherent from a character standpoint, this is Ridley Scott’s original cut of the film, not some cobbled together kitchen-sink-for-the-sake-of-it version. I liked the theatrical cut so we’re definitely after this. It’s due September 11th in the UK, a memorable date if nothing else, but it’s out on 23rd May in the US, and the UK art is not a patch on the US art.

In Scotland? Visit the scenic Torchwood House and its famous observatory. More information at www.visittorchwood.co.uk. Nicely done.

Useful dates for the diary

US TV seasons are about to resume…

Battlestar Galactica (Season 2) – Fri 6th Jan
(Also S2 starts on Sky One on Tue 10th Jan at 9 p.m.)
Stargate: SG-1 (Season 9) – Fri 6th Jan
Stargate Atlantis (Season 2) – Fri 6th Jan
The West Wing (Season 7) – Sun 8th Jan
House, M.D. (Season 2) – Tue 10th Jan
Lost (Season 2) – Wed 11th Jan
Veronica Mars (Season 2) – Wed 18th Jan (Woo!)

We’re waiting for House to show up on UK telly, and we’ve given up on Lost. Who knows why we’re still watching Stargate Atlantis. Meanwhile on UK TV, Sky One are airing the new CSI-tinged show with David Boreanaz in it, Bones, on Thur 12th Jan at 10 p.m.

The West Wing – 6×03 – Third-Day Story

It came from the depths…

Here, dredged up from when I first viewed this week’s More4 episode of The West Wing, are my thoughts. I can no longer remember this in enough detail to debate it, so you’re reliant on the slim hope that I knew what the hell I was talking about at the time. Walk with me now, back, back through the mists of time to the heady days of November 2004, a time when Israel still occupied the Gaza strip and George W Bush was somehow winning a second term in office…

Spoilers for The West Wing – 6×03 – Third-Day Story

Another new show

Courtesy of uk.media.tv.west-wing:

ABC’s new TV series Commander in Chief starring Geena Davis as the first female US President, and also featuring Donald Sutherland and Kyle “Homicide / Veronica Mars” Secor. Premiering on 27th Sept.

Potentially interesting, but potentially crap. Interesting that they felt the need to come up with an extraordinary reason why a woman would succeed to the Presidency, and depressing that the First Husband angle sounds so cheesy, but this will all depend on the quality of the writing. It’s hard to gauge the tone of the series at this stage.

Aaron Sorkin interview

For those who haven’t seen this link on uk.media.tv.west-wing there’s a decent interview with Aaron Sorkin, post-leaving the show, here. One allusion to the plot of a late season 5 episode, but otherwise no spoilers.

It’s fascinating that he hasn’t watched the show at all since leaving. Had I done the same, would my feelings towards the show be different, I wonder? I don’t think so. I find the current incarnation of the programme increasingly leaden, but still enjoyable1, and it hasn’t soured me on the show’s superlative early years.

1Never let it be said I don’t know how to damn with faint praise!

Televisual musings

Gather ye round, fans of Tim Minear. I’m intrigued to see on Ain’t It Cool News that Tim Minear’s new show “The Inside“, in which I previously had not the slightest interest, actually sounds quite interesting. More details here. What originally sounded like a dodgy cross between Alias and The OC now sounds like a far more interesting and far darker show. Okay, the premise of criminal profiling is hardly innovative, but gritty police procedurals with a bit of character resonance certainly push a few of my buttons. Promising….

This leads me on to thinking that I haven’t had a decent discussion about the Tee Vee in ages. At the moment I be mostly watching: Battlestar Galactica, The West Wing, Lost, Law & Order: Lift InspectorsCriminal Intent, Carnivale, Alias, Stargate (both the good flavour and the bland one), and Enterprise. Here follows my spoiler-free commentary on a few of them – should anyone, y’know, care. 🙂

Battlestar Galactica – 1×01 to 1×11