Crouching Panther, Hidden Cougar

So, Black Panther then.

I loved it.

A complete change of pace after the rollicking fun ride that was Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther is a more serious affair. But it’s still bloody good. And it has the kick-ass women that the MCU has been lacking. In fact, they could probably quite nicely rock their own stand-alone movie – a great fighter, a techowhizz and a spy; what more do you need?

There was a bit that didn’t really work for me – W’Kabi, played by BAFTA’s rising star Daniel Kaluuya, is a little bit odd. His loyalty swings around more than a compass near a magnet. He’s all over the shop. He’s a friend. Then he’s not. Then he’s completely won over by Killmonger purely because of a body in a bag, then he’s alright again. Maybe. It’s hard to tell.

Well, that and the bit at the end that tells us Black Panther will return in Infinity War.

I mean, come on guys, we’ve sat right through to the end of the credits. You don’t need to tell us that. Well, that and the fact that everyone – well, nearly everyone (no Coulson, cruelly) – is in Infinity War. And that the trailer for Infinity War was shown before Black Panther anyway which, in a way, killed off any sense of tension when it came to climactic battle sequences.

But, you know, I suppose they have to stick these things in for some reason. Much like the “James Bond will return” screens at the end of Bond movies, although in the olden days they used to tell you which film was coming up next whereas now they can’t do that because the think tank they’ve employed to generate¬† the next film title by slamming a few unrelated words together hasn’t come up with the goods yet.

But anyway, I digress. Black Panther was great.

And queuing up for Black Panther was great, too. Because in the same way you can go to, say, a Susan Calman gig and enjoy a very Radio 4 audience, you could see two clear groups of people in the cinema tonight.

There were the ones for Black Panther – a diverse mix of ages, races, genders – and there were the ones for Fifty Shades Freed. Possibly the least diverse group of people you’ve ever seen – basically, if you know a white woman who’s 50ish and they weren’t at home tonight then they were in the cinema getting their rocks off to some badly written soft porn.






Father Jack On A Bus

You know what I like to find on a bus, on a Sunday evening?

I like to find myself sitting opposite a drunk man. And not just any drunk man, a drunk Irish man. Saying stereotypical Irish things. As a joke. I think. Maybe. But I’m not sure. Although he didn’t say “feck”. So maybe he wasn’t even really Irish.

I was happily reading my book on my Kindle and pretty much minding my own business and he just looked up from his drunken stupor and went “Is your phone big enough?”

I don’t know if you’ve tried to explain a Kindle to a drunken Irish man before, but it’s not that easy.

I gave up. I started with it not being a phone. I went on from there. A little bit. But there’s only so many times you can reply to “Wha?” before you have to change tack.

I just told him it was a book.

It seemed the easiest thing to do. And it did then shift his attention from me to the black man sitting behind him who – judging from the conversation – he had never met before but was quite happy to tell everyone on the bus what a lovely man he was – something he continued long after the guy had got off the bus – and also that he wished he was his son.

It’s not often you end up on a bus ride where it’s like an episode of Surprise Surprise! and people are discovering sons they didn’t know they had or wanted until they happened to sit next to them on the bus.

When I got off the bus, the stereotypically drunk Irish guy had slipped into some sort of alcohol-based slumber/coma. I’m not sure where he was getting off, or should have got off, as where I get off the bus is practically the end of the circular route. There’s not really anywhere else he could have got off that we hadn’t already gone past.

I know for a fact he must have got off somewhere because I was on the exact same physical bus today and he wasn’t still on it. Which was a shame, really, as there’s something romantic about the idea of him riding a circular route between two points in Huddersfield that really evokes the old days of people riding in boxcars.

Sort of.


There’s No Gunsmoke Without Gunfire

Another week, another mass shooting in the US.

Another week, another rallying cry for guns to be banned, or regulated, or just something – anything – that makes them less likely to end up in the hands of teenagers who bear grudges against schools or whatever other nonsensical reason they come up with to justify their actions.

Another week where everything but guns in blamed for the violence. Mental health, depression, video games, films… all the usual things that are trotted out each and every time. Even though it’s fairly clear that if there wasn’t such ready access to guns then there wouldn’t be quite as many mass shooting incidents.

But hey, what do I know.

Of course, if mental health or video games were mentioned in the constitution of the United States of America things would be different. No blame would be pointed in their direction. But they’re not. So it sucks to be those things. You know what the constitution does uphold though? The right to bear arms. Something which is trotted out each and every time anything like this happens.

It’s an American’s right to bear arms. It’s their right to defend their property… blah blah blah. In each and every instance of a mass shooting, no property is being defended. Childrens lives are being ended. Concert goers lives are being ended. Nothing is being defended. Nothing at all. Except the right to bear arms.

What you have to remember is that this right was given a good few hundred years ago. Back then you could bear arms quite freely – as you can now, of course – but it was different. You’d fire one shot and then have to spend a few minutes titting about with a little packet of black powder, your musket ball and wadding pushing it all down the barrel with a little pokey stick before priming the weapon and firing it.

Yes, mass shootings – if you want to call them that – did occur. But they involved a lot of people all shooting at once because if you brought the same weapon to a school now and tried to shoot everyone, chances are people would bugger off while you were reloading the bloody thing.

And what happens after a school shooting, or any other sort of mass shooting. Hopes and prayers and good wishes are sent, via Twitter or Facebook, to the victims or the families of the victims or anyone else affected by the incident. Hopes and prayers. Because in times of clearly preventable violence, it’s best to turn to God because only She could do anything in these instances.

Take the guns away from people. Just take them all away. And when people piss and moan and wail and cry about the fact that they can’t have their guns anymore, we should all join together and send hopes and prayers their way. After all, if they think that a few prayers are a suitable comfort for people who have lost friends, colleagues, family members or just people they passed in a corridor then surely it’s enough to make up for not having a gun anymore.

“I’m sorry you don’t have access to high powered firearms for no good reason, here are some hopes and prayers #staystrong”

It’s not going to happen though is it. Every disaster changes regulations for things.

After 9/11 cockpit doors on planes were changed so that people could not gain access in order to hijack planes. When that guy tried to blow up a plane with his shoes, security checks were increased. Jane Mansfield was killed when her car went into the back of trailer and since then a bar has been put in place to stop that happening.

When people – innocent people, going about their normal lives – are gunned down nothing is done.

Nothing except thoughts and prayers.

Bus Philosophy

Many of life’s great mysteries can be explored, and even solved at a bus stop. Mainly, for me, mysteries like “what is it about me that makes you think I want to talk to you?” I have not, as yet, found the answer to that particular conundrum.

But I remain ever hopeful.

Quite few years ago, in Leeds, I found myself embroiled in a conversation (unwillingly) about tins and how they are quite heavy. “They’re heavy aren’t they, tins?” is one of my favourite sentences of all time. Because no-one’s brain is prepared with a response for that. It’s too busy going “I mean, yes, but what the….? Why would anyone…? Would you like me to send for help? Release the adrenaline!” to come up with any sort of reply.

And the follow-up, “Until you eat what’s in them…” just leaves you completely destroyed. Your brain has given up. Completely. You are reduced to the level of a gibbering idiot. You can’t respond. But the primal centres of you brain are already looking for escape from the situation you’re on.

The other night it was a very similar thing, although it concerned what you can and can’t hear outside Huddersfield train station because of the sound of the trains. I mean, every now and again you might hear a train. You might hear a muffled announcement. After all, the station is just on the other side – at one point, at least, of a wall. So things do carry over. But let’s make it clear. Conversations and things of that nature are not suspended every time the train to Manchester pulls in to platform 1. It’s not a train made of bells. It’s generally quite quiet.

But the talk of the train then led the woman on to the bus – our bus, I was thrilled to discover – which was coming down the road.

“Is it one of those electric ones? It’s very quiet,” she said.

I had no idea what she was on about. Genuinely no idea. I assumed she meant the bus, but they’re not electric. They’re nowhere near electric. They’ve just got wifi, for chuff’s sake, and we’ve only got that because someone’s worked out a way to do it without only being able to go so far before the plug comes out of the router.

“What? The bus?” I asked. Because I was baffled.

“I don’t know what they call them now they’re electric,” she replied.

This served two purposes. One it left me none the wiser as to whether she meant the bus or not. And two, even if she did mean the bus why does she think it wouldn’t be called a bus if it was electric?

I mean, what?

I did the only thing I could do in the circumstances.

“They’re heavy aren’t they, tins?”


Yakity Yak Don’t You Hack

Sometimes I like to sit and think about what’s happening in the world. Not the big things. Not the disasters and wars and insane school shootings. Just the little things. I like to sit and wonder, for example, what the people of India are up to.

I know what they were doing on Wednesday.

They were going out of their way to access my Steam account.

I have a Steam account. It’s no big deal. I don’t play games on my PC but I have purchased a couple when the time has been right and they have tickled my fancy. So I am the proud owner of a turn-based strategy Shadowrun game and another in which you pretend to be a hacker typing complicated instructions into a console and stealing money and secrets from underhand corporations.

I understand precisely one of these games. The hacking one baffles the crap out of me, and I haven’t played the Shadowrun game since we got a new laptop.

But still, I have Steam installed just so I can see it constantly updating every time I switch it on and so it can annoy the bejesus out of me by telling me constantly that a controller has disconnected if I happen to use the PlayStation Now service on the PC. Or, it can open stealthily in the background of said PS Now games and really fudge up their performance.

But still, it’s my Steam account.

And India wanted it. By jiminy did they ever.

Steam is set up so that it knows where you are. You set your home country and things of that nature. If you move, you have to update these details. This is how it knows where you are, or where you should be. And why it can spend a whole morning sending you emails every few minutes telling you that someone in India is trying to access your account.

They didn’t get in. And, eventually, after I’d made some bread and done some other stuff I got round to the important job of changing my password. Which I’ve done. And it’s really calmed down the Indians as they don’t appear to have had any attempts at accessing my account since.

But I can’t imagine how saddened they’d actually be if they had been able to get into it. They’d have found an almost empty wasteland. A couple of games in my library and no saved card details whatsoever. It’s like the thing about eating celery burning more calories than it gives you. These poor people had spelt all morning trying to hack my account and they’d have got absolutely no reward. Well, they’d have got access to a game about hacking but that’s like working in a bank and coming home and playing monopoly every night.

Part of me feels bad that I have stopped them. Maybe all they wanted was some suggestions of things to play that have been available for several years. Maybe they wanted to look down my wish list and wonder why I have even set up a wish list because I don’t play games on the PC anyway.

Maybe they wanted to steal all my information and get up to all sorts of mischief with it. Although why you’d start with someone’s Steam account is a little bit baffling.

Whatever, I stopped them. I stamped out crime right there and then. Well, after the bread and whatever else. And ten minutes of looking for the link that would let me change my password. And then verifying the email that would then let me change my password. And then…

I went through a lot of hoops to stop them.

Probably more than they were going through to try and get access to my stuff (or lack thereof).

I mean, really I did it because I was fed up of my phone buzzing every five minutes with another email listing another potential attack. It wasn’t so much the thought of identity theft or whatever that spurred me into action. It was just the sporadic vibrating of my phone, distracting me from my day to day business.

It’s true what they say, hackers can ruin lives.