Arrested Development is my favourite TV show ever made and fifteen new episodes will be available from 10:01am BST on the 26th of May – set yourself a reminder. If you haven’t seen any of the first three series I feel pretty safe recommending them to you. Although people’s taste in comedy varies a lot, I don’t think I have ever met someone who doesn’t like this American sitcom. It is absolutely packed with call-backs and running jokes, but is accessible and hilarious even if the first episode you see is the last one of the third series. It’s the story of the dysfunctional Bluth family struggling to return their real estate development firm to profitability, but it’s much funnier than I have just made it sound.
Airing between 2003 and 2006, Arrested Development suffered from poor viewing figures straight away, and this got worse with each successive series, forcing the third series to be cut from 22 episodes to 13. It was critically acclaimed, being listed as one of Time magazine’s “100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME”, and has had a passionate fan base since early days. Some people have said that it might have been too clever to really take off and David Cross (who stars in it) has argued that weak marketing ruined their chances (see below). I won’t bother explaining his outfit here. Creator Mitch Hurwitz may also have wanted to stop it before the standard dropped, but I am sure that the Bluth family have a lot more to give.
The show has been picked up by Netflix, who will be making the new episodes available to stream online for customers paying £5.99 a month. Where companies like Netflix and LoveFilm used to just take shows that were popular on TV and make them available online, the production of new shows by streaming companies marks a change in the industry that should hopefully prevent under-performing but great shows being cancelled, as well as bypass the revenue losses that come from online piracy.
The fifteen new episodes will be made available simultaneously and can be watched in any order, with each episode following a different character over the same period of time, with crossovers at various points, like series 3 of The League of Gentlemen, I imagine. This will inform new viewers enough about the Bluths that a film can be made eventually. I have held off from becoming a member of Netflix so as to be certain that they know I am doing so to support the Bluths.
Hopefully the show will have the impact it deserves this time – it seems like Netflix are doing a pretty good job with the marketing, so Mrs Fingerbottom should be happy. There are some great easter eggs hidden in their US and UK sites that fans of the show should enjoy, including TV shows, blue handprints and others. I am particularly impressed with the blue handprints linking you directly to the relevant scene in The One Where Michael Leaves.
Why is it so great?
One of the really fun aspects of the show is the amount of effort that goes into things that appear very briefly. For example, in the Motherboy XXX episode (full of great references to the show’s legal battle with the band Arrested Development), the band Motherboy appear in a couple of photos and are actually cast members in heavy metal makeup. This must have taken ages!
The music is similarly brilliant. So many songs were written for tiny segments of the show and are sadly not available as full tracks. Many were written by David Schwartz and are available here to stream or download, including classics such as Big Yellow Joint, All You Need Is Smile, Hot Cops, Motherboy, Yellow Boat and New Daddy in Town.
Entertainment Weekly has an exclusive sneak peek of one of the new episodes of Arrested Development, available here.
I have probably seen every episode at least three or four times now and I am still finding new things each time I watch it. If you want to try it out you’ll get one month free with Netflix before the £5.99 charge kicks in, so no major loss. If you like it, please say what your favourite scene from the show is in the comments section!
I have made three playlists with the music from the three seasons of Eastbound and Down. If you don’t know the show, I really recommend it. It’s a comedy about Kenny Powers, a baseball pitcher who loses his throwing speed and is cut from his team, but is determined to bounce back. Here’s the intro to episode one (lots of swearing, not suitable for kids)…
He is the most selfish man I have ever seen, and uses friends and family in any way he can, while pursuing his agenda of heavy substance abuse, woman-chasing, and riding on his jet-ski. Like Alan Partidge, he almost never doubts his own abilities and popularity. Will Ferrell turns up in, I think, his funniest role (although I’m not a massive fan anyway).
This article about the music in Eastbound and Down is good. The soundtrack is so varied and songs appear at such unlikely times that they are part of the humour. I think it’s the best use of music in a tv show that I have ever seen. Anyway, definitely give the show a try if you aren’t easily offended, then enjoy these playlists. Unfortunately, all three are missing some songs, partly because of rights issues with Spotify. Lots to enjoy though!
Remember when adverts for the trams started going up around Edinburgh? Some of them said things like ‘Taking you to work in 2011′ or ‘Taking you to the shops in 2011′. Judging by my current employment situation and the number of vacant buildings along Shandwick Place, it seems that the time frame was not the only optimistic part of that campaign.
Initially I didn’t think a network of trams covering the same routes as Lothian Bus services, but a couple of metres to the right, would be necessary. However, with the speed of road degradation and pothole creation that we are experiencing, I am actually really looking forward to gliding along smooth rails soon.
I read recently that in 1968 the Saturn V rocket cost $255 million, which equates to around a billion pounds now when you take inflation into account. That means that, for the amount that we are paying to get trams in Edinburgh, we could instead have become the first local authority to put a man on the moon. I think that there are three reasons that we didn’t go for this. Firstly, it’s ridiculous and impractical. Secondly, we didn’t realise that the budget would grow this much and that it was therefore an option to create commuter links going perpendicular to the current bus routes, rather than parallel to them. Thirdly, and most importantly, mankind has put people on the moon and the thought of doing it again doesn’t inspire us.
So where are we getting our inspiration from now? What new challenges will excite us? Panda breeding. A lot of people say that the Giant Panda is a useless animal, so hopelessly evolved for survival that we should stop wasting our time and money and just let them die out: they could be omnivorous, but choose to get most of their nutrition from a single plant; female pandas can mate for only two days a year; this year experts are carefully controlling light levels on the assumption that only under ideal lighting conditions will mating occur. At first glance, yes, they are useless, but doesn’t this provide us with the most incredible challenge?
I’m pretty sure that, if we wanted to, we could extract semen from Yang Guang and artificially inseminate Tian Tian. Job done. I don’t know about this, because I don’t have the Internet right now, but it sounds realistic. But we don’t do this, because they have to show willing. I mean, we have Tiglons and Ligers. These are animals created by the cross-species mating of truly impressive beasts – creatures that put pandas’ willingness to pass on their genetic code to shame.
It would be a cheap victory if we could do a test tube panda, because it would be taking the easy option, as well as not being a story that really captures the public’s imagination. There’s a reason Jane Austen didn’t make Emma a story about a young woman going round matchmaking armed only with some laudanum and a turkey baster, and it’s not because turkey basters weren’t invented yet .
But that doesn’t explain why pandas have been so popular for so long, and how it is that they are the posterbears for the WWF logo, rather than oiled and muscular thesps. I have thought about it and decided that there are three factors that determine how generously we will donate to the protection of an animal…
Humans give most generously to animals that they think are similar to themselves. Although I don’t have the figures, I can confidently say that we donate more money to Humans in need than to any other animal, plant or fungus – excellent news.
We also give generously to mammals that look a bit like us, because we find it easy to relate to creatures that we have something in common with. Apes benefit from this the most. People wouldn’t care if there were a kind of bacteria that was critically endangered.
Domestic cats and dogs may not look like us, but thousands of years of ruthless eugenics mean that as pets they are almost tailored to our needs. They either have, or we wrongly ascribe to them, human characters. To refuse them welfare handouts would be to admit to either the capriciousness or the cruelty of our own species.
Some animals have a form of intelligence that we can recognise, so we are kind to them too. This is why people care about dolphins, despite them being so different to us. They have been shown to be capable of using iPads (probably first generation). Their intelligence seems intimidating, but I take solace in the knowledge that no dolphin will ever master the four-fingered swipe, and so they must eventually float belly up having wasted hours of their lives using the home button to close apps in order to access other ones.
Humans give to animals that they consider to be in need, as long as their inferiority to us and harmlessness is obvious. This is why, no matter how endangered the Amur leopard gets, it will never be the recipient of such warm feelings as a sloth: people struggle to to find a parental, nurturing instinct for any creature that can climb a tree backwards while carrying prey that weighs more than itself in its razor-sharp teeth.
Some animals that are totally different to us and are not cute still receive aid from mankind because their continued existence offers us a reward – financial or otherwise. This is why we campaign against the use of neonicotinoid pesticides to protect the honey bee. Apparently, if we do kill off all of earth’s natural pollinators, we would then have to spend trillions each year doing their job ourselves. (Still, can’t put a price on peace of mind during those summer months when you want to sip from a can of lemonade without getting a nasty surprise.) I think I read that they decided against a ban on neonicotinoids so, while we recognise the important role that bees have in pollination, we don’t value it quite enough to stop them dying a horrible neurotoxin death. Anyway, the point is that there are huge financial benefits to keeping bees alive.
Horses, like domestic cats and dogs, have undergone countless generations of selective breeding, but their receipt of charitable donations is not because of a similarity to humans. Instead, we donate to protect them because they offer us a free ride. Come the apocalypse, the reward of old-fashioned horse power will be enormous. Whether by our eugenics programmes or happy chance, horses seem so well adapted for human transport that they have probably been used as an argument for intelligent design. Not a strong one though because even if you generously give god the premiss that human intelligence allowed for the invention of saddles, stirrups, horseshoes and reins, the problem of suspension remains – horses are just not very comfy. Hardcore Christians might say that human quadriceps solve this, at which point the argument would have to end.
A creationist would have a stronger position arguing that the weird horses in Avatar were designed for Na’vi use. It does seem strange though that the organ by which people connected with those six-legged horses was the same one used in sexual intercourse.
Anyway, I seem to have rambled. As you can see from the list above, pandas are lucky enough to tick all three boxes for human charity. Firstly, they are like us (arms, legs, faces etc). Secondly, they are pretty harmless despite their size and claws. They are also one of the most looked at things on YouTube, mainly because they enjoy the same bodily reaction to nasal irritants as humans do, which is really cute. Thirdly, there are big bucks in panda bears. We are renting them from China at vast expense, but the boost in zoo tickets probably made up for this quite quickly.
If we can convince Tian Tian and Yang Guang to engage in full, consensual sex, the rewards will be phenomenal, and will go beyond a mere cash injection – we will have made what will be looked back on as one of the greatest human achievements of the 21st century, having enforced the survival of a totally useless animal. A whole nation will be inspired. Salmond should really be channeling all his resources into this project, because Scotland’s confidence would rocket and we’d surely vote for independence if a baby panda were born. More than that, a generation of children would grow up with the belief that, if you put your mind to it and work hard enough, you can convince anything to mate.
An aspiring young manual labourer diligently carries out his small Asian mentor’s martial arts training regime, while harbouring doubts as to how the techniques learned will aid him in the impending car-washing and fence-painting tournament.
That’s a little movie-pitch to keep you interested. I am working on a pretty long short story, which is why I haven’t done many posts recently. I think it will be called ‘The Wall’. I also plan to draw a picture for it, which will delay me even more. Stay tuned!
Actually, if anyone likes doing pencil sketches and is good at drawing faces in extreme agony, please get in touch, as I would quite like to not bother doing it myself. More information available on request. I won’t pay you.
I’m going to assume that you haven’t played as much Call of Duty: Modern Warfare as me. A few years ago I spent hours trying to win an achievement in Modern Warfare that was ridiculously difficult. In about a minute and a half you have to make your way through a passenger jet full of terrorists, shooting and stabbing them all as you go. You have to do it on Veteran difficulty (hardest setting) and I must have died several hundred times trying to get this award. I put hours into it and had to restart from the beginning each time I was killed.
Every time you died in Modern Warfare they gave you a little quotation from a military tactician or philosopher. A lot of these were surprisingly thoughtful, when you might imagine that they would just pitch a load of ‘glory of war’ slogans at their teenage-boy fan base. One line that popped up loads was:
‘All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing’
They attribute this to Edmund Burke, although the actual origin of the quotation is not known. This pop-philosophy has always interested and annoyed me.
There are two things that I think are wrong with it. The first is that it suggests that a sin of inaction is the same as a sin of action in terms of responsibility. The second thing is that in many instances of its usage it suggests that, left unchecked, all human impulses will tend towards evil. My first thought concerning the second point is that the aphorism could be flipped and make just as much sense: ‘All that is necessary for good to succeed is for evil men to do nothing.’ Some film bad-guy should use that.
It’s the ‘all’ that I have a problem with, I think. It would be ok if it was ‘All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for people do evil things and nobody do anything to stop them,’ or ‘One of the requirements for the success of evil is for good men to do nothing,’ but I suppose these aren’t as catchy.
Returning to the first point, I went to see Red Dawn at the cinema yesterday, which I quite liked. It has an exciting start, when our hero wakes up to the sound of hundreds of planes flying over small town America. He goes outside and sees the sky dotted with parachutes as far as the eye can see. It’s all confusion and dangerous driving while they try to escape. Later they find out it’s the Reds – North Korean troops are invading, and almost from the moment they touch the ground the film goes downhill. They embark on the most incompetent and reluctant land invasion imaginable. They walk around imposing pathetic checks on the locals, and converting them to their way of thinking just involves playing some loudspeaker anti-western propaganda. They make up for their lack of commitment by at one point using a triple exclamation mark in the subtitles.
Eventually, in one of the most efficient montages I have ever seen, our hero and his friends have to learn to fight and hide from the invaders. They are massively outnumbered and outgunned, but all that is necessary for North Korea to succeed is for them to do nothing. The quotation suggests that, even with the odds stacked against them, they must do something, or the consequences will rest entirely on their shoulders.
I get the point of the line: it’s supposed to encourage participation. It’s been used to tempt people to become vocal in the prohibition debate and increase their involvement in public affairs. It’s a 100-year old equivalent of P. Diddy’s ‘Vote or Die!’ campaign, although doesn’t involve that movement’s threatening and censuring tone about inactivity. It’s perhaps more socially responsible as a result because, when you’re talking about politics, it might be truer to say ‘All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for people to be coerced into voting without knowing what for.’ To pitch such a strong emphasis on the act of voting to people who don’t vote is pretty irresponsible. If it was ‘Research Candidate Policies Thoroughly Before Voting!’ I wouldn’t have a problem. Again, not catchy.
I am reading ‘Enduring Love’ by Ian McEwan. It starts with a brilliant and suspenseful account of a hot air balloon that can’t be controlled and raises all sorts of questions about responsibility and action/inaction. I haven’t finished it yet but would recommend it just for that – it could be used as a thought experiment in morality.
To return to the quotation, the part about human nature is a huge topic, and this post has already become too long for me to start writing about whether our animal instincts can be controlled, or whether they will always lead us to evil. I will mention briefly the argument that women who wear revealing clothes are ‘asking for it.’ This argument is similar to the quotation because it somehow transfers the responsibility for a rape to a woman wearing a particular skirt or top, rather than being with the rapist (who represents North Korea, to continue the comparison to Red Dawn). To say that, when choosing their wardrobe, women ought to consider the animal urges of men is to miss the point.
If someone uses the ‘she was asking for it’ argument in front of you, I think you can just do something completely unacceptable, like slapping them in the face. Afterwards, argue that it is a natural human reaction to respond with aggression to anyone who expresses a disagreeable opinion, making it no more preventable for you than rape is to a rapist, and putting the responsibility for the event with them. How depressing and weak that anyone could expect humans not to be capable of overcoming these most basic impulses.
To summarise, Red Dawn is pretty good, Enduring Love looks like it will be great, I eventually overcame evil and am now a member of the ‘Mile High Club’ in Call of Duty, and don’t be too quick to tolerate barbaric behaviour and write it off as human instinct – we’re better than that.
I thought I might share with you a good deal to get free cinema tickets as a member of BAFTA Scotland. I have been a member now for a few years and think that it’s a bargain; it’s just that most people don’t know that buying membership is an option.
The different levels of BAFTA membership vary in price quite a lot and the submission deadlines for a membership request stretch from 31st March to 1st June, so you have a while to sort out your application. I have a ‘Scotland Branch (Associate) Membership’, which costs £105 if you pay by direct debit before June.
BENEFITS OF MEMBERSHIP
The membership fee sounds like a lot, but you can make your money back pretty quickly with all the perks involved:
- Attend weekly preview screenings on Tuesdays in Glasgow (twice a month on Mondays in Edinburgh).
- Attend all the events and special screenings held in Scotland.
- Voting rights with BAFTA in Scotland.
- Members offers which currently include free admission to any film at any time in Cineworld, Monday-Thursday.
- All Scottish-based benefits to be offered either at reduced rates or free of charge.
There’s more though – I have really tested the limits of this, being a penny-pincher. The Cineworld deal mentioned above allows you one cinema ticket on showing your BAFTA membership card (you can’t bring a guest, even during Orange Wednesdays). You do NOT pay any extra for 3d films, which you would if you had a Cineworld Unlimited membership. You are NOT allowed free tickets to the IMAX though, apparently because IMAX is Canadian. I have pushed for a discount for IMAX, but I don’t think they were meant to give me one.
If you like the Vue, I have used my BAFTA card at Edinburgh’s Omni Centre Vue to get free tickets for me and a guest. I did this for a 3d film as well, so Vue are great for BAFTA.
If you like the Odeon, the BAFTA card can get you in there, but the deal is not so good there as they have ‘free list suspended’, which means that press tickets and BAFTA people aren’t allowed freebies until a film has been on release for at least 2 weeks (or it might have been 3, I can’t remember).
Now here’s the crazy deal – If you are a student you can get membership for £35! When I joined as a student I must have broken even on this investment within about a week, with the insane prices cinemas are charging these days. I honestly had no shame – I was using my BAFTA membership to see things like ‘Saw 7’ and ‘Final Destination Whatever’.
WHY AM I TELLING YOU?
I have kept pretty quiet about this great deal because I like the cinema quiet, so encouraging new members was against my interests, but I now want to build up membership. When I first joined we had a film in Edinburgh every Wednesday. This has now changed to every other Monday in Edinburgh, and the screenings often have very poor attendance. I think BAFTA will be tempted to close the Edinburgh branch and just have Glasgow if membership doesn’t grow. Anyway, check out the different deals for BAFTA membership and think about it.
REQUIREMENTS FOR MEMBERSHIP
If you were considering Cineworld Unlimited membership and wouldn’t care about not being able to go to the cinema on Friday, Saturday or Sunday (so busy on those days that I like to avoid it), then this deal could be good for you. The only conditions for membership are that, for student membership, you must be a student of film, television, or computer games. I was none of these when I joined, but was doing a publishing course. I just phoned to see if it would be ok, and they said yes.
Technically, to be a ‘Scotland Branch (Associate) Member’, you need to have a minimum of 3 years professional experience in the film, television or video games industries or in any field directly related to them (e.g. research, acting or teaching). Again, this may not be a strict condition. Just call them/email and find out.
I also met Sir Patrick Stewart because of my BAFTA membership. During the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2011 he did a Q&A that I got free tickets to before they were made available to the public. The interview was excellent, and he seemed really happy to talk about all his roles, even going overtime I think, with some great anecdotes. Afterwards we were all put in air-conditioned buses and taken to a bar 3 minutes away where we were fed Tiger beer and delicious nibbles. The Captain mingled while my girlfriend and I stood back, not wanting to pester him. Eventually it was time for him to leave and we hadn’t had the nerve to say hello yet! We chased after him shouting ‘Sir Patrick!’ and caught him on the stairs, where he smiled warmly at us and signed the DVD boxset cover of series 1 of TNG. A great day.
I do not know much about BAFTA in England, but I imagine the deals are similar to the Scottish ones (Edit: England only offers full membership, starting at £280). I also don’t know much about the voting process, which I have not really gone in for because I normally haven’t seen most of the nominees for BAFTA awards. If you are wondering what BAFTA has screened in Edinburgh, here are some films that spring to mind:
Flight, Les Miserables, Black Death, The Road, Submarine, Of Gods and Men, Pirates of the Carribean 4, Machete and Seven Psychopaths
A lot of highbrow films are also screened, but they don’t jump to mind in the same way that films featuring: alcohol, prostitution, buboes, cannibalism, humour, projection problems, McShane, breasts and guns do.
Check out the BAFTA website for other things included in membership, and share this with anyone you think might be interested!
I have tried to rewrite a few famous knock knock jokes to make them funny. Here you go:
Dr Smith, the door to door proctologist.
Great, please come in, but you’ll have to use the other door.
I mean Everything Everywhere. There has been some disgusting, illegal activity on the broadband account at this address. Could I please come in?
Sorry, I should have been more specific. It’s WPC Isabelle Jones. I’m afraid there has been a terrible accident. May I come in?