Friday, 31 October 2008

Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet

Halloween Goodies Safe Halloween

I overheard an undergrad talking earlier about what antics he intended getting up to tonight.  Eggs, flour and alcohol coupled with a vampire fancy dress outfit seemed to be the key ingredients he thought necessary for a good Halloween party.  I think him being scraped up off the pavement at some point by his buddies or the local constabulary was also very much on the cards.  Oh to be an undergrad again!  :-\

Following on from yesterday, I couldn't resist seeing what other goodies Devon and Cornwall police had made available for householders to download this Halloween.  I was particularly interested to read some of the tips they recommended to trick-or-treaters for a 'fun and safe' Halloween:

If you are wearing a mask, make sure that you can see where you are going and are aware of your surroundings.

Carry a torch and a fully charged mobile phone (if you have one). 

Oh the joys of being a modern trick-or-treater, eh?

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Halloween Time

iStock_000007390231Medium As we approach 31st October it seems that this year more than ever Halloween is going to pass me by completely. That said, I do anticipate a little more trouble in the way of trick-or-treaters than we suffered with last year.

As I posted 12 months ago, the police had questionably made a poster available which people could download, print out and display in their front windows in the hope of deterring trick-or-treaters from importuning them. My sentiments at the time were that such a course of action would only encourage trick-or-treaters to unleash their worst on your house and other property, simply making you a greater and more obvious target for attack. So, being the trooper that I am, I couldn’t help making a slight alteration to that poster, making it more reflective or people’s real feelings towards trick-or-treaters. Remember?

Being in a house this time instead of a first floor flat presents me with yet another difficulty, especially as there are quite a few families in the area: Do I answer the door to callers on the 31st and make the most of the opportunity to get rid of the bag of cola cubes that have been sitting in the kitchen cupboard since we moved in or hide shamefully in in the hope that the trick-or-treaters get bored and go away? But let's remember here: the days when kids gracefully accepted sweets when calling on Halloween are long gone.  Nowadays, the only treat they're interested in is the one they can spend in a nearby shop. Worse still, is that if your treat isn't considered up to scratch, they soon let you know about it, usually in a way which needs cleaning up and/or repairing for several hours the next day. My girlfriend is working tomorrow evening, too, so instead of going to see the premiere of Quantum of Solace as per our original plan, I’m going to have the guard the house alone and make these difficult judgement calls on my lonesome. Damn.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Quantum of Solace - The Final Preview

Quantum of Solace - The Final Preview The purpose of this preview is to examine exactly what’s in store for cinema-goers and devoted Bond fans alike in the imminent James Bond film, Quantum of Solace. While I do not examine the plot per se in this preview – that will be saved for my Quantum of Solace – The Review, obviously – I cannot claim there won’t be the odd spoiler. You have been warned. At times, I refer you, faithful reader, to previous articles I have written because I’ve dissected and explored certain content there that would make no sense to completely re-examine here. Hell, this preview has become a lengthy enough beast as it is.

Why is Quantum of Solace such a big deal?

Craig took the world by surprise in his superb debut as Bond in Casino Royale. With the Bond franchise reinvigorated after years, perhaps decades, in the doldrums, the game had suddenly changed. Bond wasn’t cheesy anymore. Gone were the days when 007 could be seen surfing a tsunami or walking on water and his invisible car, go figure, had thankfully permanently disappeared.

With such a sparkling performance last time out, expectations have been raised to a whole new dimension. And, with life being what it is, the following maxim holds invariably true: while rising to glory is tough, staying there is even tougher.

What the production team had, then, was a problem. Whatever form the follow-up film to Casino Royale would take, it had a very hard act to follow; for once, it seemed, the world’s reaction to a Bond film was almost invariably positive as praise for Casino Royale rained in from all quarters. Also, coupled with higher expectations and a new, suddenly alert and hungry audience, there were to be enough changes in respect of key aspects of production between QoS and Casino Royale to give rise to justified concern, a fact I made no bones of pointing out in my Quantum of Solace – Book to Film Preview.


Chief among these, of course, were directorship of the movie and the quantity of original material available. Casino Royale was blessed with having seasoned Bond-director, Martin Campbell on board. Quantum of Solace, on the other hand, is directed by Marc Forster, a director with a slightly more chequered history. Additionally, it has to be said that some of his previous work has been of a rather esoteric nature - with Finding Neverland being a case in point – but that does not necessarily make him unsuited for the role. This new style, back-to-the-future Bond, with the focus on deep and reflective characterisation rather than straightforward gunplay and chase scenes perhaps calls for a new, esoteric approach to directorship.

As I stated in my comprehensive Quantum of Solace Book Review, the story to which the new film owes its name is essentially a short story which hardly involves Bond at all; the majority of the content takes the form a story told to Bond at a dinner party.

Nevertheless, I feel the name, if nothing else, is an inspired choice for the movie and perfect for the direction in which the production team want to take the plot. As I prophesised in my preview:

James Bond’s journey to hell and back hasn’t, of course, come without a cost; he’s left with insidious ill-effects and terrible emotional baggage.   As a character, he's a complex paradox: on the one hand he's a train-wreck of emotions, with his emotional circuitry largely burnt out.  On the other he's gained his first battle-scars and started down the invariably hazardous but often short life as a double 0.  Vesper's death was a crucial lesson in surviving life in his profession; it has tempered him, but the process is still incomplete. And like a piece of semi-hardened steel, he’s now surprisingly brittle and wont to snap. Having his capabilities for conventional and sensitive human emotions ground out of him like a cigarette-end on pavement is a painful yet crucial stage of his career.  Trust no one, believe nothing and fight for survival at all costs are his new maxims.  Now James Bond will take his first steps as a seasoned, well-honed killer.

For one, I'm eager to see that harder, crueller Bond emerge; the natural and logical progression from the one we saw in Casino Royale.  One who's more guarded, untrusting, and suspicious, who carries with him the baggage of a bitter and heartbroken man.

From the opinions I’ve read of those who have been lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the new film, QoS certainly seems to tick the boxes in this department; the emotional turmoil that Bond’s enduring is apparent throughout and explored in some depth. Or in the words of the Wired Blog: Quantum of Solace, is an aggressive, tight, grim and moody thriller that leads directly into the next film in the decades-old series. [Reviews from UK sources] praise the film and the performance of Daniel Craig as 007 for exploring the lead character's depth and motivation in a manner not seen in a previous Bond flick.

On the flip side – and as was largely expected – most reviewers seem to favour Casino Royale over the new film, albeit by a narrow margin. Perhaps that was always inevitable. Be that as it may, it doesn’t necessarily detract from the true quality of the new film or the worthiness of its place in the franchise. A bad Craig film would surely nonetheless go some way in repairing the damage the series suffered in previous years. And let us not forget, here, Casino Royale raised the bar, perhaps to unparalleled heights – a fact that must be continually borne in mind when trying to fairly examine QoS.

Other Mistakes

I’ve long questioned Judi Dench’s suitability for the role as M. What was perhaps a fresh and novel approach to the character back in the mid 1990s by casting her in the 4 Brosnon movies, now even the most die-hard Dench fans can’t deny that any such novelty has long worn off. Quite frankly, I feel her continuation in the role in the last film was a mistake and there seems to be no end to that mistake in sight. Any scene involving Dench really pains me as her fit to the role of M is not a natural one. Her performance feels too scripted, tight and inhuman; it just doesn’t gel somehow and the films have suffered for just that reason. Early reviews of Dench’s latest performance praise her for her ‘deadpan’ demeanour. M has always been the most phlegmatic of characters, allowing himself to show only the occasional fragment of human emotion to others. Earlier on-screen M’s have been equally indifferent and for Dench to be singled out in this regard is bizarrely misguided.

I did concede in an earlier preview, however, that Dench’s performance in Casino Royale was her least offensive outing. I also made mention of the fact that the plot of QoS was to accommodate a greater role for M, the sense of which I questioned:

When she last took on a significant role as the character - in Brosnan’s 3rd film, The World is Not Enough – it was a an unmitigated disaster. M should be sat in his office in London with the weight of the world on his shoulders playing a complex game of chess in which the pieces are his agents in the field. He (or she) should not, suffice to say, be gallivanting around the world playing at Cowboys and Indians.

Irreconcilable Differences

It’s important not to forget that there’s an impossible balancing act going on with Bond. There are irreconcilable differences between what the cinema-going public have come to expect from Bond and what the character was actually like in the books. Casino Royale represented the first time that the two ‘Bonds’ truly converged. For true die-hard Bond fans, the gritty and evil nuances that came through so strongly in the books is what it’s all about. Others – and they’re in the majority - are more interested in light-hearted viewing from a character who plays Bond as a charming jet-setting superstar who can do no wrong and can shoot his way out of any situation, surviving a plethora or death-defying explosions en route. Put another way, that Bond is a mere superficial shell of the character that we’re treated to in the Fleming novels. Naturally, finding a way of bridging the two is no easy task. Casino Royale worked so well for many reasons, but I highlighted a few in my 2006 review:

[Craig] portrayed a Bond full of cold-hearted, ruthless substance, not cheesy, clichéd double-entendres. He delivered the couple of classic one-liners with rough charisma, not manufactured phony ‘charm’ that was Brosnan’s specialty. Gadgetry was kept to a minimum and classic Bond clichés were kicked firmly into touch.

Further, Bond had finally been scripted to be much more like the evil, cold-hearted bastard as found in the books. At long last, Bond was finally portrayed on screen as a real man - not a Hollywood fabrication.

My point, I suppose, is that in the face of such a challenge of irreconcilabilities, Casino Royale did a damn good job. One of the concerns I was left with having watched the official Quantum of Solace trailer, was that the film might resort to using the formula of its weaker predecessors. That formula, for the most part, depended heavily on incorporating a high level of cheesy, hi-tech gadgetry, superficial female characters and why-the-hell-not action sequences. Given that virtually the entire plot has been written specifically for the film and it has little or no basis on an actual Fleming storyline, my concerns over this issue were particularly profound. While I’m reserving judgement until the film premieres, I’ve long recognised that the best case scenario here is that Quantum of Solace mirrors the elements contained within Casino Royale, with the back-to-basics formula permeating throughout.

A break with convention – really, this time?

The general vibes coming from the production team over the last year in respect of what we can expect from the new Bond girl have been clear: she would be a breath of fresh air, having a character like no other we’ve seen before. I know what you’re thinking, though: the production team wheel out such sentiments for nearly every Bond movie and the end results are all invariably disappointing. Well, like you, I’m equally sceptical of their claims. This is hardly the first time that a Bond girl has been tipped as one who can hold her own. Perhaps, ironically, it was Vesper Lynd who has hitherto got the closest to laying claim to that feat. When you stop to examine some of the initially more obvious candidates here, you’ll see they all fall disappointingly flat. Halle Berry, who at the time was slated as being the closest match to Bond of all time, still needed Bond to come to the rescue in a completely conventional way on at least two occasions. And Berry ‘doing’ a poorly executed CGI backwards leap off a cliff does little to detract from that fact. That film was crushingly disappointing.

For what it’s worth, Vesper Lynd, ably played by the gorgeous Eva Green in Casino Royale was an inspired choice and one that worked perfectly. It’s performances like those that help to banish the painful memories of actresses – and I use that term loosely – like Denise Richards who more or less slaughtered the role. The character Green was playing, however, was a very specific one. She was a troubled and flawed character, the examination of which was a key part of both the book and the film (see my comparison). In short, the Bond girl affected Bond in ways we’ve never before seen in the screen incarnation of Bond.

So is this Bond girl going to be really different and are the production team’s claims justified? I hope so. My understanding of the new character, Camille, played by the sultry Olga Kurylenko, is that she is partially used as a proxy through whom some of Bond’s inner turmoil is examined. My take on her character is that she’ll prove a quirky Bond girl. She won’t be sombre and deeply troubled per se, although there might be minor elements of that in her character. Neither will she be light and dippy, akin to the more conventional Bond girl mould. What Camille will be, I believe, is exciting, slightly eccentric and dangerous. She will also be unpredictable, difficult to fathom and, in a classic role-reversal, will come to Bond’s aid in new, unusual ways. Done correctly, I believe, this new-style relationship with Bond will represent a refreshing change and should be welcomed by all.

This change of approach with Bond girls is a good thing for many reasons. Firstly, Bond girls in their traditional mould have been done every which way imaginable – for want of a better phrase. Even the most conservative Bond movie lover must be tired of the same old elements in a Bond girl's character and equally tired with the conventional film conclusions in which Bond almost invariably gets his girl and saves the world without fail. Casino Royale was one of those welcome breaks with convention; QoS should be another. Secondly, it is this aspect of the film that can remain true to the original source material. As I’ve mentioned before, it was essentially a tale told to Bond about the law of the quantum of solace that was the main point of the book. That law examined the interaction between human beings, love affairs, human cruelty, bitter emotions and revenge. Or, as I put it in my book review:

Quantum of Solace stands as a scrutiny of human behaviour, a tale that cuts right to the bone, examining inescapable truths through an uncomfortable aphorism. To some, it might present a grave, and uninviting tale. The Law of the Quantum of Solace is, after all, not concerned with the construction of something positive through love and marriage but rather the way a couple can tear apart each other through the same unity.

Thirdly, let’s remember, Bond is an emotional wreck. The tragedy of what happened to Vesper is weighing on him heavily and Bond desperately needs a means of understanding what has happened to help him come to terms with that tragedy. It is that, in part, which is driving him so tirelessly in his quest to find the truth in Quantum of Solace.

Two for the price of one

In keeping with many other Bond films, with Quantum of Solace you get two for the price of one in the Bond-girl-department, with Gemma Arterton taking an interesting albeit rather limited role as Agent Fields. I’ve no problem with having more than one Bond girl in a movie; in fact, it often proves a successful formula. What I do have more of a problem with is one rather specific element of the film involving Arterton. Fields meets her demise in a rather nostalgic way, in a tip-of-the-hat moment to the Goldfinger film. Just as Jill Masterston in Goldfinder was found dead covered in gold paint on Bond’s bed - having succumbed to the fictitious complaint of ‘skin asphyxiation’ - Fields is left in a similar manner having been drowned in crude oil. While I’m reserving final judgement until I see this scene in context, I’m nonetheless uncertain of this approach. Perhaps giving viewers that ‘a-ha’ moment as they recognise the nostalgic element deliberately woven in, will work; my first reaction, though, was that such a move would be seen as more of a clumsy cliché. While I’m sure many people would relish the opportunity of seeing Gemma Arterton naked and covered with oil, there is surely another equally alluring way for her to meet her maker on-screen without resorting to a cheesy ‘blast-from–the-past’ moment. We’re comfortably into new territory here, so there is surely no need to bring back elements from the past. But who knows? It might work. Maybe.


There’s no doubt that the new Quantum of Solace title song is contentious. Musically, it’s a long way removed from the style previous Bond songs have adopted and naturally, Another Way to Die performed by Jack White and Alicia Keys will not be to everyone’s tastes.

My opinion has changed somewhat, from when I first heard it. On the first listening there is certainly a shock-factor and the scary feeling that we’ve passed into new, uncertain territory. Others, presumably even more aghast, strike back with the oft-mentioned phrase: it doesn’t sound like a Bond song. In short, it’s different from any Bond song you’ve heard before. But that is certainly no reason to criticise it, particularly as we’re well into this ‘new era Bond’ to which I keep referring.

Lyrically, it’s perhaps a touch on the weak side, although, compared against some of the howlers we’ve suffered with over the years, Another Way to Die is highly acceptable.

What’s clear from some very forthright views expressed by certain individuals on the net, some believe it is truly awful. Much of that, I feel, is a knee-jerk reaction. In response to that criticism, I would say it’s truly different and I maintain that that is no bad thing. Since I first heard it several weeks ago, the song has grown on me. But I would go a good way further than that: while some of the lyrics could have been stronger, I feel, the song shows streaks of brilliance and is a perfect fit with the film.

The song itself has a rather unpredictable rhythm, with a generally moody and heavy feeling throughout. There are also more frenzied parts to the song with undertones of desperation and a lack of control. So too is there a rather vengeful and rebellious feeling from some of the heavy, disjointed tones that mirrors perfectly much of what Bond is going through.

When trying to judge the song, it’s important to remember that the previous Bond song, Chris Cornell’s, You Know my Name, was, just like the movie, exceptionally well received and has proved a hard act to follow. Equally important to bear in mind is the fact this film is diverging into new territory for the on-screen incarnation. If the production team have had the guts and foresight to try something different in this new-era, Bond surely the song calls for a similar approach?

Many observers have made much of the fact that there is little natural harmony at times between White and Keys. I would argue that their perhaps unlikely alliance is intentional and that the discordant sounds somehow working is a metaphor for much of what is going on in the film. Not least, that metaphor represents much of what is going on with Bond and Camille, two characters with serious emotional baggage that have been thrown together and are somehow working well in a strange discordant harmony.

In respect of the meaning of the title, Another Way to Die, there are quite obviously intended connotations of the inner turmoil and torment Bond is facing after the death of Vesper. Dodging bullets may be in his job description but he perhaps closed his eyes to the danger of being emotionally killed by getting too close to someone. Perhaps he needed to have much of his emotional circuitry burnt out just to do be able to do his job and that fate had sealed the importance Vesper would play in his life at birth. Another way to die, indeed.

There is another slant on this, too. Having earned his double-o status at the beginning of the previous movie, Bond has transcended into the realms of a seasoned killer by this stage in his career. To do that job and live with the consequences, he must adopt an increasing indifference to killing. Assassinations simply merge into one another and the value of human life drops below any significance in his mind. On top of Vesper’s recent death, Bond must know there will be significant blood spilt as he sets out on his quest for revenge. As the process which Bond has been through has dehumanised the act of killing, the song’s title plays on the idea of that repetition and meaninglessness: another kill for him is just ‘another way to die’ for his enemies.

To the doubters out there, I’d say that the song definitely grows on you, however much you might hate it first time out. While it’s well outside of the normal Bond song territory, I’d argue that it’s a perfect fit for this one. Another point is that we’ve yet to hear it in the context of the opening credits sequence so final judgement should surely be reserved until then. My advice is simple: just give it a chance. Perhaps, contrary to your initial feelings, you’ll find it works... strangely well.

Finishing up

On balance, I truly believe we’re in for a cracking new Bond film. Even if it doesn’t surpass the much revered Casino Royale, that’s no reason to slate the film or consider it a failure. The most important thing for me is that the series doesn’t slip back into its old ways and that it remains faithful the new-style, back-to-basics approach which remains the overwhelming reason why Casino Royale was such an unqualified success. Conversely, going back to a pre-Craig style movie would result simply in the world sadly realising that Casino Royale was a one-hit-wonder and that it’s all downhill again from here.

So while the film represents another break with tradition, I hope that theme is followed through from beginning to end with a refreshing conclusion that doesn’t involve Bond getting his girl and saving the day, for them only to wonder off into the proverbial sunset hand-in-hand. Also, action scenes just like gadgets should be relevant, thoughtfully used and be fairly few in number. This is the new Bond, remember: less is more.

Finally, considering just how well entrenched many of the Bond norms were, the production team should be praised for going out on a limb with the direction the new movie has taken. Exactly quite how well it works remains to be seen. I, like you, cannot wait to find out.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Another Way to Die


It can hardly be described as a secret any longer, nor has it been for some time, actually. In fact, the chances are you’ve already heard the song that will be used to accompany the opening credits in the new Bond film, Quantum of Solace, elsewhere on the web. Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness in my coverage of the new Bond film, it was only right that I post a video of the new song, Another Way to Die, performed by Jack White and Alicia Keys.

I’ve got some fairly deep rooted opinions regarding this new Bond song which I’ll reveal in my imminent ‘Quantum of Solace – The Final Preview’ article that’ll be released in the next couple of days. In the meantime, enjoy.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Quantum of Solace - It's Nearly Here

The tension is palpable, the feeling of expectation is neck-breakingly high and I’m already beginning to break out in cold sweats of excitement just thinking about it. Yes, it can only mean one thing:

The new Bond film has (virtually) arrived.

Premiering next Friday on Halloween – go figure – the 22nd official Bond film, Quantum of Solace, is set to pick up exactly where the story in Casino Royale stopped.

Later this week, I’ll be releasing my final ‘preview’ of the new film before my comprehensive ‘Quantum of Solace – The Michael’s Review’ sometime next weekend.

I know what you’re thinking, readers: I spoil you so.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

ill but not forgotten

Man Flu I've been struggling along with a bad cold this week, my first in over a year.  Hardly a statistic to boast about, I suppose, as before the winter of 2006, I'd gone 3 years without contracting one.  Oh well.

Suffice to say, I've been moping about, spluttering and sneezing and generally feeling very sorry for myself. As proof of the severity of my illness - seriously, despite what you're thinking, it's more than man-flu - I've only made it in for two lectures this week!  Luckily, this was one of my scheduled 'quiet' weeks at uni. 

Sod's law being what it is, I was scheduled for an interview on Wednesday when I was more or less at my roughest.  Given that the odds of my passing the lurgy on to my interviewer were pretty high, coupled with the fact that by the time I'd got there, I was reduced to a snivelling shell of a person, I didn't rate my chances too highly.  Nevertheless, they offered me the job.  I had actually already landed a job which I started last weekend but found it not to my liking. 

Who said that beggars can't be choosers?

Friday, 24 October 2008

When you know Google is getting too powerful!
















Is it just me, or does 'Kevin' look just like the BMW Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld, just with tats?!?

And if I were Kevin, I wouldn't worry about 'Jen'.  His current date is much more preferable!!

Anyhow, it's good stuff!

Friday, 17 October 2008

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Windows 7 is.... Windows 7

Windows 7How's this for a double whammy?!  It's been a long time since I've posted twice in one day.  Wow... sometimes I even surprise myself!

From WinInfo Daily News 14/10/08:

It's official: Microsoft's next Windows version, currently being developed under the codename Windows 7, will use that moniker as its official final name when it hits the market in early 2010. The news, delivered as is so often the case these days via a blog, was widely anticipated.

"Since we began development of the next version of the Windows client operating system we have been referring to it by a codename, 'Windows 7,'" Microsoft Corporate Vice President Mike Nash said. "But now is a good time to announce that we've decided to officially call the next version of Windows, 'Windows 7.'"

As Nash notes in the post, Microsoft has used a variety of naming conventions for its Windows products over the years, including years (Windows 95, 98), version numbers (Windows 3.1), and so-called "aspirational" monikers like Windows XP and Vista. With Windows 7, however, the company felt that the Windows 7 name was simple and appropriate, since this will be the seventh major version of the OS.

Good. Sometimes, I sigh a huge relief when a bit of prudence, sense and sound judgement comes out of Redmond - and, quite frankly, that's not very often.  I was always highly skeptical of the name Windows Vista, though much of that could have been to do with the fact that I'd known that version of the OS as its codename 'Longhorn' for several years before the final name was revealed.  Okay, I get the fact it was meant to be an 'aspirational' name but really, 'Vista' just didn't cut it with me.

Windows 7, of course, started life as the codename 'Blackcomb' and was referred to in passing even before XP has shipped back in 2001.  Internally, it was later referred to as Vienna and Seven.  Whistler, for the record, was the codename for XP with Longhorn and Blackcomb being two other mountains in British Columbia which formed the basis for Microsoft's OS nomenclature. The relative small size of the mountain Longhorn compared to Whistler and Blackcomb was supposed to represent the current thinking of scale when the projects were named: XP and Windows 7 as we now know them were meant to be the big, kitchen sink releases; Vista was originally envisioned as being an interim release between the two.

Quite whether there is reason to get excited about Windows 7 is another matter all together.  The current feeling seems to be that it's going to be very much a 'Vista Second Edition' rather than another radical departure.  Oh well... I'm still itching to get my hands on an early build!  Anyone?!?

Girls Aloud Fantasist Faces the Chop

Darryn Walker - Girls AloudFrom 03/10/08:

A man has been arrested and charged over a blog post detailing the imaginary kidnap, torture and murder of the members of Girls Aloud. He has been charged with the publishing of an obscene article, police said.

Darryn Walker, 35 and of Mowbray Road in South Shields, is accused of writing the web-published fantasy about the members of the pop group. He was arrested in February after reports by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a body which reports potentially obscene material on the internet.

Walker was charged at South Tyneside Magistrates' Court in late July with publishing an obscene article, according to a spokeswoman for London's Metropolitan Police, where the Obscene Publications Unit is based.

The Obscene Publications Act is more usually used to prosecute individuals over images rather than words. It makes it an offence to publish material which might deprave or corrupt those seeing it.

The IWF said that it had passed details to police after being told of the site. Though it was not hosted in the UK, said a spokeswoman, the site did have UK links on it so a report was passed to police.

The IWF spokeswoman said that it reported any material that it came across that fell under the Obscene Publications Act.

According to the Act it is an offence to publish something likely to "deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in" the article.

If for no other reason, this story is interesting simply because it’s the first time since 1991 that the Obscene Publications Act has been used to prosecute someone in respect of written content. Regarding the wider issues at play here, John Ozimek over at The Register makes an interesting observation:

Reading between the lines, this feels like a very tentative “toe in the water” on the part of the Met. After investigating the material in question, they clearly believe that this may at last be enough for a successful prosecution - they put the file before the Crown Prosecution Service, who appear to agree.

And, Ozimek points out, should the case result in a guilty verdict, the impact it has on web content could be considerable. The law relating to the regulation of the internet is going through a seminal phase at the moment with rumblings of discontent coming up from all angles. Still, I think it’s fair to say that some of these issues relating to the internet regulation are being taking more seriously – as evidenced by the Government’s decision to finally back a Police Central E-crime Unit due to become operational in Spring next year, for instance.

While I didn't have the opportunity to read the material in question that Darryn Walker published, the sketchy details that do exist on the story make me think that the IWF and the Metropolitan police are keen to make an example of him. Web liberalists, of course, are crying out that this is a step towards wider web censorship. Be that as it may, I think the consensus of opinion out there is that the net does need policing – at least to some extent. Perhaps Walker’s frenzied ramblings about the kidnap and murder of Girls Aloud was a step too far outside of the accepted comfort zones and that having such content out there is truly dangerous.  Quite honestly, I think there is a lot of material available out there that should be considered much more dangerous and more likely to deprave and corrupt than this.  And, if this type of content is truly egregious enough to warrant legal intervention, is a piece of legislation that was drafted decades before the internet was even in existence the right tool for the job?  I don't know.  What I do suspect, however, that should a guilty verdict be returned, it will likely make us all think a little harder before publishing content on the web.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Sarah Palin 'hacker' is Indicted

Sarah Palin Yahoo Mail From 09/10/08:

The 20 year-old son of Democratic state legislator Mike Kernell has been indicted for hacking into the email account of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

David Kernell was arrested after an FBI investigation into the incident in which the password of Palin's Yahoo account was changed and details of her emails posted online by an individual known as 'rubico'.

If found guilty, Kernell could face five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 (£145,000).

"Cyber-crime is the FBI's top criminal investigative priority," said Richard Lambert, special agent in charge, FBI Knoxville Field Division.

Kernell was released from court without bail but is banned from owning a computer and can only use the internet to check email and complete his class work.

This story has been well documented all over the net in the last few weeks and triggered a lot of debate about certain issues. First and foremost, of course, is the quite why someone like Sarah Palin was using Yahoo Mail in the first place, particularly for work purposes. Poor Sarah has taken a lot of flack recently and I guess the whole troopergate saga has left her with more pressing worries right now. 

On last week’s edition of the TWiT podcast, the security measures that Yahoo Mail have in place for forgotten password retrieval were debated with the consensus of opinion being that the current system was sorely inadequate. I couldn't agree more.  The method used by many other webmail providers requires, inter alia, a secondary email address to be registered when creating the account, allowing a forgotten password to be sent there. Yahoo use a different system whereby to reset the password, the 'user' needs to correctly answer 3 questions, the 'secret' answers to which were originally provided when creating the account. And the not-so-secret questions were: the account holder's Date of Birth, Zip Code and, a touch more tricky, ‘Where did you meet your spouse?’

That fact of the matter is that most high school kids with an ounce of intelligence and an internet connection could have done this; the email address was well known, as were the answers to the security questions to reset Palin’s password. Well, it took Kernell under an hour to gather all of the information from Wikipedia, Google and the US postal service website. In fact, it’s perhaps surprising why it wasn’t ‘hacked’ before.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Enough of the 'Hooey'

Cloud Computing You know those moments you have when you hear someone say something that’s so ignorant, wrong and just plain stupid, you want to take them to one side and systematically explain to them everything that’s wrong with their statement? Come on, I know it isn’t just me who has these experiences! For one, I know that Lois in Family Guy has such a moment with her husband, Peter.

Well, I found an article that produced just this effect on me a couple of days ago. Cue John Naughton’s blurb published on the Guardian’s website:

[T]his hooey was conscientiously relayed by Cellan-Jones, who was too polite to ask why, if Vista is such a success, Ballmer is to unveil its successor, Windows 7, to the Microsoft developers' conference at the end of this month.

Oh John, just go back to sleep.

As if that wasn’t enough, he spurns out another corker trying to explain exactly what ‘cloud computing’ is:

The company's response to cloud computing - the provision of email, word-processing, spreadsheets and presentation software via the browser - is especially interesting.

Oh come on, John. Now you’re just being silly!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Banking Law is Dead

IT Law - it must be love Week one of the academic calendar dawned full of hope and optimism. Not only did the public transport I depend on live up to its promise of a ‘regular and punctual service’ – for both legs of the journey - but the Competition Law lecture was a belter and my module change was approved – for IT law. Yes, faithful blogwatchers: you know this is the stuff which really gets me going in the morning. Well, so to speak.

If you were wondering why this module wasn’t already on my ‘to study’ list, well, it was. Back in April, though, I was advised that I couldn’t take it because I had taken a similar module as an undergraduate and so had to revise my choice. Rather than concerning myself with finger-pointing, I’m just relieved I can take the module after all. So anyway, the long and the short of it is that Banking Law is dead.... long live IT Law!

On the downside, though, it does mean I’m in tomorrow morning and have an incredibly early start the day after. Still, I mustn’t grumble; I only have myself to blame.

Now that I’m settling into my new course, I’ll probably wind up these ‘progress report’ style posts and just give the occasional round-up on how things are going. As my schedule gets busier and my posts grow fewer, I don’t want the content of the posts I do get time to put out to degenerate into some kind of web diary. This is Law Actually after all – not ‘Susie Law School’.

Just kidding Susie... we loved you really.


BTW: I hope you all enjoyed my loved-up graphic!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

End of Week 0

Late Bus Luckily my first week of the LLM – the so-called week zero (go figure) - passed without major incident. I had another very close call with the bus timing on Friday, however, and literally had to run the whole way up to the law school to have my first meeting with my personal tutor. The interview itself was fine and dandy although I could have done without the stress of having to set a new lap record to get there in time. And to those people I bowled over on the street sprinting up there, I apologise.

Luckily my personal tutor seemed a laid back enough guy to not let my 2 minutes of lateness prejudice his opinion of his new pupil. Well, not too much, let’s hope.

Anyway, I need to head in early tomorrow morning for my first lecture on Competition Law which should be a blast. One thing I’ve definitely noticed from the timetabling fiascos which are still plaguing me is just how little class contact there is on LLM courses. That suits me just fine, however, as have never needed to be guided through by the nose as an undergrad.

I still don’t have a definitive answer over my module change yet which has now been compounded by a ‘protocol issue’ and the timetabling foul-up. I’m hoping that’s going to be resolved in the next day or so.

And finally, I have an interview this week for a temporary job running up to Christmas which I’m hoping will help grease the wheels a little during this LLM-year. Fingers crossed for Wednesday, then!!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Timetable Madness

Timetable Great though my new university might be, they clearly aren't above the odd timetable screw-up.  Equally, great as I am I'm not yet up to being in two different places at once!  But I'm working on it!

In fairness to them, some of it might be my fault: I have chopped and changed a little bit in the months leading up to the start of term as far as my unit choices are concerned.  That said, on some documents they've given out to me this week, my module choices were listed correctly.  So as I see it, they've no excuse!

Perhaps I shouldn't grumble - I've had worse, I suppose.  Still, it's yet another headache I need to contend with at the moment. Other headaches include job hunting to help fund this LLM which all of a sudden isn't looking quite as attractive as it did late last year. 

If you're getting a little sick of my sudden bout of frequent postings, fear not: I don't expect it to last.  Once lectures start at the beginning of next week, I've every confidence that Law Actually will fall by the wayside again.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Day 3: The Google Car

The Google Car As promised, faithful readers, I've bounced back on day 3 of the LLM adventure, shrugging off the problems of yesterday.  Luckily I've suffered no transport dramas or weather issues and my programme for today was as painless as it was well-structured.  I particularly liked the fact we were allowed to slink off this afternoon as and when we so wished.  I certainly wasn't going to sit there through all 3 or so hours of info on every LLM module the university offers. 

It's been smooth sailing from the first lap to the last today: even before setting off, I noted with pleasure that my shoes had dried out more or less completely from the soaking they received in the city yesterday!  Still, this kind of luck can't last.  As the back cover of John McCain's book 'Hard Call' alludes to: good luck can be notoriously unreliable.  Fear not, faithful reader - I don't own this title.  I was simply killing time in Waterstones earlier. 

On a less positive note, I've now discovered that I need to head in on Friday after all, albeit briefly.  While it's not a major inconvenience, it's completely blown the prospect of my long weekend out of the water.  Damn!

And finally, on the trip back home I spied 'the' [infamous and elusive] Google [maps] car out and about, turning out of a residential area.  I was somewhat satisfied to see that even the great and majestic Google aren't above getting stuck in traffic!  Anyway, for fear of his cameras being left rolling when negotiating junctions, I refrained from making any obscene gestures out of the window.  Probably a wise decision.