Sunday, 12 October 2014

Upcoming: IMITATION GAME by Andrew Hodges (Vintage/Princeton)

The Imitation Game, a movie based on Andrew Hodges’s Alan Turing: The Enigma received rave reviews and a ton of press coverage around the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). I’ve never read the book, sadly, but my interest has never been higher. Recently, the UK and US publishers unveiled their tie-in covers:

HodgesA-AlanTuringTheEnigmaTIG

I find it kind of amusing that the publishers have chosen to pose Benedict Cumberbatch facing different ways. (Although, given his international popularity and stature, I can’t help but think the UK cover will be more likely to shift copies to the actor’s massive fanbase…)

Here’s the book’s synopsis:

Based on the real life story of legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing, this is the official film tie-in for The Imitation Game, a the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II.

This film tie-in tells the true story behind the nail-biting race against time following Alan Turing (pioneer of modern-day computing and credited with cracking the German Enigma code) and his brilliant team at Britain’s top-secret code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II. Turing, whose contributions and genius significantly shortened the war, saving thousands of lives, was the eventual victim of an unenlightened British establishment, but his work and legacy live on.

1954, aged 41, Alan Turing committed suicide and one of Britain’s greatest scientific minds was lost.

Alan Turing: The Enigma is published in the UK by Vintage Books and in the US by Princeton University Press. These editions will be out in November 2014, around the time the movie hits general release.

Here’s the latest trailer for the movie:

John Oliver Nails it…

RS-20140923-JohnOliver… in his Rolling Stone cover feature (October 9th, 2014 issue, p.41):

Digging into bleak corners of the American experience – payday loans, income inequality, the prison system – isn’t exactly leavening Oliver’s natural pessimism. “The more in-depth we go to things here, the darker you start to feel about it,” he says. “When you start following the money in politics, that’s where you start to think, ‘Holy shit, is this thing broken beyond repair?’ When we started looking at stories, even the Dr. Oz dietary-supplement stuff – you start to see how corrupted, at root, things have become. And the fact that there’s this revolving door – that 50 percent of the people that leave the Senate go straight to lobbying positions, that one statistic alone is a dead canary in a coal mine. That is not good. There is something profoundly wrong at the heart of American politics.”

If you haven’t been watching Oliver’s HBO series, Last Week Tonight, I really can’t recommend it enough. It is absolutely superb. Here are a couple of sample clips for you to check out…

… on Ferguson, Missouri and Police Militarization:

… on student debt:

… and the Miss America Pageant:

Jorge Cham’s Piled Higher & Deeper on the Netflix Effect…

Sad to say, I’ve experienced this change on occasion (House of Cards)…

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Wednesday, 8 October 2014

John Oliver Nails it on Civil Asset Forfeiture (HBO)

This is a great segment from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Civil Asset Forefeiture – how a number of US police forces line their department pockets to buy… well, in the words of one captain, “toys”…

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Review: THINKING ABOUT IT ONLY MAKES IT WORSE by David Mitchell (Faber)

MitchellD-ThinkingAboutItOnlyMakesItWorseA superb collection of Mitchell’s Observer columns

Why is my jumper depreciating? What’s wrong with calling a burglar brave? Why are people so f***ing hung up about swearing? Why do the asterisks in that sentence make it okay? Why do so many people want to stop other people doing things, and how can they be stopped from stopping them? Why is every film and TV programme a sequel or a remake? Why are we so reliant on perpetual diversion that someone has created chocolate toothpaste? Is there anything to be done about the Internet?

These and many other questions trouble David Mitchell as he delights us with a tour of the absurdities of modern life – from Ryanair to Downton Abbey, sports day to smoking, nuclear weapons to phone etiquette, UKIP to hotdogs made of cats. Funny, provocative and shot through with refreshing amounts of common sense, Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse celebrates and commiserates on the state of things in our not entirely glorious nation.

David Mitchell is a comedian, actor, writer and the polysyllabic member of Mitchell and Webb. He won BAFTAs for Peep Show and That Mitchell and Webb Look, and has also starred in Jam and Jerusalem, The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff and Ambassadors. He writes for the Observer, chairs TheUnbelievable Truth, is a team captain on Would I Lie To You? and has been in two films, neither of which made a profit.

I have long been a fan of David Mitchell’s television work – That Mitchell & Webb Look, Peep Show (which I was actually didn’t love at first), the all-too-short Ambassadors mini-series, and his frequent guest spots on QI and Have I Got News For You being my favourites. After I listened to the audio edition of his superb memoir, Back Story, my respect for him grew even more (it’s among my top ten ‘reads’ of the year, easily). I didn’t know how frequently he had been writing for the Observer, however, so I was pleasantly surprised when I received a review copy of Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse. This is a great read.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Upcoming: THE CHINA MIRAGE by James Bradley (Little, Brown)

BradleyJ-ChinaMirageI stumbled across this book recently, and I’m quite looking forward to it. It focuses on a period of history that I’m also researching and writing about, and one I’ve long thought is over-looked for post-World War II US-China relations.

I’m cautiously optimistic, though – I had mixed feelings about Bradley’s The Imperial Cruise, which I found to be a little too strident, to the point of overlooking certain elements of context. The China Mirage is due out in the US in April 2015, published by Little, Brown. Here’s the synopsis:

A spellbinding history of turbulent U.S.-China relations from the 19th century to World War II and Mao’s ascent.

In each of his books, James Bradley has exposed the hidden truths behind America’s engagement in Asia. Now comes his most engrossing work yet. Beginning in the 1850s, Bradley introduces us to the prominent Americans who made their fortunes in the China opium trade. As they – good Christians all – profitably addicted millions, American missionaries arrived, promising salvation for those who adopted Western ways.

And that was just the beginning.

From drug dealer Warren Delano to his grandson Franklin Delano Roosevelt, from the port of Hong Kong to the towers of Princeton University, from the era of Appomattox to the age of the A-Bomb, THE CHINA MIRAGE explores a difficult century that defines U.S.-Chinese relations to this day.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

A Truly Surreal Maddow Segment

I’m just catching up on some of my news programs, and I came across this segment from The Rachel Maddow Show’s August 21st segment. It begins with the story about the man shot in Missouri, after apparently stealing two sodas from a convenience store, placing them on the side of the curb, and then waiting for the cops to arrive. As Maddow mentions – and is clearly visible on the video – “The officers have their guns drawn from the get-go”, and one can just hear the man shout something along the lines of “shoot me!” at the cops; and, within 23 seconds of their arrival, they do just that (nine times).

This whole segment is disturbing and frightening on a number of levels – irrespective of the fact that a fair number of people seemed to know something was about to go down and just watched. The police exited their vehicles, guns-drawn, and the police report/press conference after the fact is not confirmed by this video. I can’t help but echo John Oliver’s sentiment of, “What the f*ck is wrong with your cops?”

Coupled with everything else going on in Missouri (and the States in general, really), the USA is becoming an ever-more frightening, broken state. The militarization of the country has been escalating for years, moving on overdrive since 9/11. It’s becoming dystopian.

It’s very difficult to put into words the impression this video had. Confusion, anger, stunned disbelief (which is probably na├»ve)…

Speaking of John Oliver, I thought I’d share his brilliant – acerbic, intelligent, spot-on segment from his August 17th episode of Last Week Tonight: