Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Reid Baron - Evil Satan-blowing Fuck or just a Symptom of the Universe

Facebook can always be relied upon for some well informed debate regarding the state of the country. Today's tidbit to catch my eye revolves around the G4S Olympic debacle. In short large scale security company win enormous contract to run security at the London Olympics and, a few days out from D-Day, it is revealed that they are utterly incapable of fulfilling the contract and have failed to employ even half of the staff required and, of those they have employed, very few have any where near the level of training and competence to fulfill their roles. It's a right proper pig's ear.

Even better G4S were awarded the contract by the the department once headed by Labour government minister John Reid, who not only received honours from the Queen in recognition of his services to the public as an MP and minister but also was awarded an honrary degree by Stirling University for his contribution to public affairs. Reid, like many of his old school Labour contemporaries, comes from a working class background and in the past had at the very least deeply socialist beliefs (Reid in fact was a communist during his twenties). All very admirable, but he also just happens to be a director of G4S. It doesn't take much imagination to call stink on that one and, in addition, label Reid a self-serving pig who makes Squealer look like Itzhak Fucking Stern.

Today's facebook discussion, which began with an expression of righteous indignation at the quite transparently disgusting display of greed and self-interest, took the usual path when the original poster was gently challenged by a friend who offered:
"He's not on the board of directors, bloody conspiracy nuts ;-)"
The original poster retorted with:
"Well, according to the parliament register of interests he is Director of G4S regional management. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, uninformed citizens..."
So, with sources being quoted the next entry cited... Wikipedia.

The parliamentary register of interests is a legal document. Wikipedia is an ancient Klingon play about heart of targ. I know which one I believe.

The following is an extract from the G4S entry on the entertainingly partisan but evidence and research based Corporate Watch website:

"John Reid, Director, G4S Regional Management (UK & Ireland) Limited
John Reid, or Lord Reid of Cardowan, as he prefers to be known, joined G4S in 2009, having previously been Tony Blair's Home Secretary and Secretaries of State for Health and Defence. The £50,000 a year it is giving the New Labour hard man quickly paid off for G4S as it landed a multi-million pound, four-year contract to supply private security guards for around 200 Ministry of Defence and military sites across the UK just three months after it took him on.[14]i Since then he has been diligent in ensuring the hi-tech security used by his employers is a feature of parliamentary debates whenever possible.[15]"

The most amazing thing about all of this is that G4S's record in public contracts (for example prisons, prison health and police custody and healthcare) is absolutely shocking. Nevertheless they won the contract to run outsourcing services for Lincolnshire Police, worth over £200 million over ten years, and this Olympic debacle will not alter any of it. And John Reid will still rake it in. And the former British Ambassador to Lybia who now works for them will hoover up numerous security contracts for them over there. Between Serco and G4S we are about ten years away from seeing the merger of the 21st Century and the formation of OCP, and we all know what that means...

  1. That's right... ED-209s on every corner, which will be kinda cool, but make going to the shop for some Soylent Green very hazardous.
  2. Police forces comprising poorly paid, stupid fools with no fucking idea on Earth how to deal with the underlying cause of crime. It might be easy to suggest that the current police force pretty much matches that description but my previous professional experience indcates otherwise. Obviously there are emotionally stunted, socially inadequate morons in police services but they are in a significant minority. However, reduce their pay to below twenty grand (as is the tory plan) and only idiots, morons and possibly sociopaths will take on a job of such stupifying responsibility for such a comparitive pittance, and for anybody reading this who thinks that the job is easy and such a level of recompense is adequate then YOU are a fucking ill-informed moron. Or an evil Baron.
  3. Vast no-go areas centred upon current areas of poverty and crimespots. There may also be all-dwarf gangs roaming the sewers, living on rats and flushed away sweetcorn, but providing an essential underground railroad to Sanctuary for the escaping last fertile female on the planet.
  4. Fucking abject misery for all but the upper 5%.
I've worked in public services since 1991 and not only watched, but directly experienced their quite deliberate dismantling. Outsourcing has never worked. From the very outset the replacement of in-house catering and cleaning services in our hospitals with services provided by Initial and Sodexo was a disaster. After redundancies we saw a handful of the same staff transferred over to the new company on promises of Christmas bonuses and improved working conditions, but it was all a crock of shit. The food got worse, the hospitals got dirtier and the old staff retired, resigned or moved on to be replaced by minimum wage drones with no sense of belonging or pride in their working environment and consequently zero interest in responding to the needs of the service or even doing a half decent job, because when you're treated like shit you only give 20%. Since then I've seen the same thing occur with the delivery of care to entire patient groups, the delivery of healthcare to entire prisons and. most recently, the running of entire prisons and police custody services by private companies. They all have the same pattern in common as back at the old hospitals. Soon we will see entire hospitals operated by not only Serco (who run everything from catalogue call centres to prisons), but by the ever opportunistic Richard Branson brand VIRGIN!
There are but three ways to take all of this on board.
  1. Revolution
  2. Take some small comfort from the likelihood that when Reid's brain has turned to mush, although too powerful and influential to go to the assisted-suicide clinic, he will end up in a nursing home run by BAe Systems and be used to test ejector seat assemblies.
  3. Acknowledge the nihilistic insiginficance of your fate. Accept that the high and mighty will, no matter how well intentioned they appear, whore themselves out and greedily gobble Satan's cock in return for a slice of the pie the very moment they get a sniff of the green. Bolster yourself against the agonising cold and unfeeling apathy of the universe and wait for your inevitable death at the hands of a 13 year old female burglar high on space dust and moon pie, all within an igloo of Lucio Fulci films and bacon. 
I'm ashamed to say I'm still with the bacon but by golly my swingometer is trembling.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Getcho Ass to Maahs...Total Recall - Ultimate Rekall Edition Review

Yesterday I wrote for The Quietus about the pinnacle of Arnold Schwarzenegger's action film career and one of the best and most thoughtful adaptations of a Philip K Dick story ever committed to screen. All in one article. About the same film. I know right... who'd a thunk it? But it's true.

When Manish (The Films Man at TQ) asked me to write about Total Recall I was very happy, after all I spent the 80s watching cheesy action films starring the muscle-bound, wooden Arnie and his cheaper colleagues both on video and in cinemas. Total Recall was the pinnacle, not only of the Arnie train (which was derailed for me by the child friendly approach of Terminator 2 and his following output), but of the entire 80s action movement. Naturally I was very excited to get my hands on a review copy of the brand new UK blu-ray release courtesy of Studio Canal, unfortunately I only received the DVD so was unable to comment on the quality of the apparently new and director approved transfer. It wasn't the end of the world though, after all TQ is hardly the place where people expect to read technical critiques of digital media and, even if it were, I am probably not the best person to dispense them. Plus the fine folks at Studio Canal also sent me review discs of the super-funky Amicus Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptations from the 1970s; The Land That Time Forgot and At The Earth's Core, as well as Warlords of Atlantis and They Came From Beyond Space. Pure, unadulterated joy was experienced.

Youtube wouldn't let me embed Total Recall the Musical so here is a Sean Connery musical instead.

Still, I remained curious about the new blu-ray edition of Total Recall so I asked and by golly I received and this morning I laid my hands on a review copy of the blu-ray disc.
The film is great, that's a given, but what about the transfer and extras and, most importantly, if you already own the previous Optimum release (as I do) is it worth parting with the extra cash to upgrade?

The extras are excellent and include previous material from the DVD and US blu-ray releases but have an additional brand new interview with director Paul Verhoeven and a featurette on the Academy Award winning SFX. The PV interview is terrific, highlighting both his idiosyncratic but fiercely driven approach to movie making and particularly the subject material but also his relaxed attitude to taking on the A-List behemoth that Schwarzenegger was becoming at the time. The SFX featurette is similarly informative but sadly lacks any input from the mighty Rob Bottin who appears to have vanished off the face of the planet. Bottin's last listed job on IMDB was as make-up artist on the Adam Sandler comedy Mr Deeds in 2002. It's a tragedy that CGI appears to have driven one of the most creative and talented practical effects geniuses the industry has seen out of the business.
The disc also includes the Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger commentary track from the DVD and, if you select the German menu on loading, their is an additional commentary track by the cinematographer Jost Vacano (in German but English subtitles are available). For French speakers there are also a couple of extra featurettes under the French menu (non-subtitled). So, on the whole, a great package for extras.
The film transfer on the other hand failed to display any significant improvement over the previous release on my set up (Sony Bravia KDL-40W5500 and Sony BDP-s350), in fact if I hadn't read the press release claiming a brand new restoration I would assume that they are one in the same. For those however who may have the US release then both UK versions are streets ahead in terms of quality.

So, is it worth the upgrade? If you already have the Optimum release then I would say definitely not, unless you're an extras freak in which case I would say wait until the inevitable price drop. But then of course if you're a steelbook freak then yes, it is. I should point out however that for half the price you can pick up the triple set of Total Recall/Red Heat/Raw Deal on blu-ray. Whilst Raw Deal and Red Heat aren't the greatest Arnie flicks, for the price I reckon that pack is way better value for those who have previously only owned Total Recall on DVD or seen it on the telly.