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London is a strange place. It’s huge and most of it is just rows of suburban houses with extensions, added levels and all sorts of enlargements to accommodate the still growing population; the interesting parts are actually concentrated within quite a small area of a couple of square miles. (This is going to be a pure rant. I thought it is important to warn people before proceeding.)

The public transport -especially the Tube- reflects this perfectly; you can see that the tunnels, the trains, everything was designed for a much smaller crowd. So what you have now is hundreds of people being crammed into narrow walkways. It’s so dense the crowd would keep you upright even if you tripped and fell.

This is not an ideal situation at all. Enter the “average Londoner” (and I know I’m generalizing, and being unfair to a lot of people), and the situation turns to living hell.

It seems like your average Londoner (see disclaimer above) have no inkling of being surrounded by other human beings, despite of the visual, tactile and olfactory clues that prove otherwise. Just a commute in a busy morning is enough to fill you up with murderous rage if I’m honest. Sure, let’s stand in the opening door, obstructing it, so nobody can get on or off; and let’s be pissed off when people actually try to push past. (But don’t make eye contact.) Let’s stay by the doors, leaving the inside of the train virtually empty so nobody else can get on; after all, I’m good, right? But don’t let the guys in the inside get off at their stations, either. Hey, let’s stand on the platform blocking the door for people trying to get on, because I’m waiting for the next train, and want to wait where its door will open… Oh, but now they can’t get on to their train? Screw them! Wait, is there a two and a half meter wide stairway, and I’m not walking faster than the other two people next to me? Sure, let’s block the whole thing, so other’s can’t walk faster, either. Meanwhile they actively avoid looking at you or engage with you in any way; kind of weird to see this whole passive-aggressive commuting hell.

Quite frankly it’s astonishing how inconsiderate people are in London. And it’s not just the alienating effect of a large city; New York is different. Sure, if you try to stop in the walkway while in a crowd, you will be swept away; however people do not behave in such a rude and inconsiderate manner. And it’s not just the traffic. If you go to Camden to club, you’ll see something similar. People will push you away in the dance floor; even women half your size will try to actively push you over so they can move into your place (and be very wary of their stilettos), so the dance becomes a kind of passive-aggressive mosh pit; except moshing is actually quite a cathartic and communal event where nobody actually is trying to hurt you; here people just want to place an elbow into your kidneys. Everywhere else in the UK (and elsewhere in the world) groups can share the dance-floor peacefully; in London (in my experience) it’s a constant fight to retain your position. Or take my dear neighbour, for example (no, not the loud, drunk and aggressive one; I meant the nice, family living next door). He consistently parks his huge SUV in front of the house on the street where two small cars could (well, used to) park, instead of using his own driveway. Which is empty. I’m sure he’s a swell fellow, his friends love him, and he visits his mother regularly, but in reality it just shows that he is a dick for taking up effectively three car’s places with his one aircraft carrier without even thinking of the others -like yours truly- who need to find parking lots in a busy street.

I honestly don’t know what turns people inside out when they come to this city. Perhaps there’s an ancient Celtic curse on the place. Or there’s really just way too many people are trying to share it.

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Apologies for the rant in advance, but I felt like I needed to share it.

I was really excited when I heard about Gaiman’s book coming to the small screen. It’s definitely not a movie material (although it could be adopted in a LOTR-like three part epic), but the TV looks like a better medium. So I thought.

Upon seeing the first part I realized I forgot most of the book, so I’ve read it before the next episode came up.

The second episode… well, I watched it with my fiancee who did not read the book, and knew nothing of the plot. A couple of observations.

First, the adaptation is needlessly obscene (do we really need the dick-picks and the rant about spitting semen on the unfaithful husband’s grave?) and violent. I know, Gaiman’s work is full of sex and violence, but they are not just there to be there. Here a lot of it seems to be pushed upon the viewer just for the shock value.

Second, the plot is absolutely missing. If you don’t know the book, you have no idea what is going on, even after the end of the second episode. And this is deal breaking. Why would you watch something that’s obscene, violent, and nothing much happens in it, if you don’t know what the main plot is? If you’re a Gaiman fan, you know the story; if you’re not a hard-core Gaiman follower, why would you waste your time on the third episode? I know for sure my fiancee is not going to- and she so furious about how little these first two episodes actually gave her, she lost all interest in the book itself. Not sure how general this sentiment is, but you just lost a potential reader there.

 

Third: nothing happens. There are some characters coming and going, some dialog going on, but unless you’re familiar with the book you don’t know who the characters are (they are, generally, old, forgotten gods, and it’s kind of cool reading up on them, by the way), and why these characters matter. You don’t understand who the guy with the hammer is, and why he likes his hammer so much; you also don’t get why it’s important that he joins with Mr Wednesday and Shadow, so it makes absolutely no sense for Shadow to risk his life for his support. I understand they wanted to stick to the book as much as possible, but the book made a much better job at implying what’s going on -at least-, and the TV series format kind of makes it necessary to cut up the plot, and create tight episodes with proper beginnings and endings. A seven episode cliffhanger is just not going to cut it.

 

Fourth: for the trickster spider god, Anansi, we get a pimp-Malcom X mixture who delivers an angry ham-fisted tirade about how screwed black people are, and then proceeds to get the slaves in the cargo hold of a slaver ship murder everyone, and commit suicide by burning down their ship out in the open sea. This is definitely not insolent, cheeky god who tricked the Tiger to give him his big, hairy Tiger-balls and then shifted the blame to the Monkeys.

 

Anyhow, I’m really disappointed. The camera work is fine, the cast is nice, but the whole thing just falls flat on the major issue: unless you know the book you will have no idea what is going on (something to do with gods, going by the title), and will not be interested to find out.

 

A shame, really.

 

I keep running into people who claim that the whole science of climatology is tainted by government funding: everyone has to say what the government’s agenda is, otherwise they lose their sweet grants. (Never you mind that the science did not change suddenly when W was in power.)

Apparently this argument makes sense for the (mostly) conservative mindset of people who have no clue how the scientific method (and how science in practice) works, and who like to forget the actual timeline of things. (This boggles my mind even more.)

It’s a staggeringly stupid statement. It’s usually followed by the argument that governments do it, because they want to limit your freedom even more. (I guess these fighters for individual freedoms were not much fazed by the whole Patriot Act, NSA, and all that jazz. I would even hazard that these are the very same people who call Snowden a traitor, but I’m getting distracted here.)

Anyhow, here’s the deal. Even if there was a gigantic, transnational conspiracy at work here to fake climate change, in order to allow the US government to add a “carbon tax” to your increasingly heavy tax burden (sorry, but I can hardly keep a straight face writing this), you only need one person who decides that the “sweet government money” is not enough for him, and he’d blow the whistle.

If you look at how much luxury scientists can afford (almost none), and how little they have to work (considerably more than most of the people with white collar jobs), and how much recognition they get (can you name the last recipient of any of the Nobel prices? Can you tell me who Bieber is?) you’d seriously have to question their sanity if they were NOT trying to expose the truth for oil industry money, and for fame en masse.

So that’s about the conspiracy part. As for the first premise –aka the government funding taints the science- let’s just take a look at a different case to see how idiotic it is.

Would you agree that the government funded research of the last 50 years demonstrating the ill effects of tobacco smoke to health were just an insidious method for the Government to impose itself upon you (and limit your freedoms), and to get more money by taxing the tobacco industry more? After all, the industry sponsored research has shown that tobacco is safe in the ‘60s and ‘70s; and most results proving otherwise are the results of research done at academic institutions and hospitals –all of which depend on Government funding.

So if you agree with the first premise (climate change is just a way for the Government to make you pay more, and be less free), you have to give credit to this theory, too. (And a million others.) In this case I know a Nigerian prince who would like to send you money urgently; he’ll just need your bank details.