Nov 30, 2010

Student Protests - Part 3

Today, in England, saw the third wave of nationwide student protests against the plans to triple tuition fees.

Despite freezing weather thousands of university students, sixth formers and even younger secondary school students took to the streets. Unlike the previous two protests today's have been relatively peaceful with only a few minor problems such as the London protest deviating from the route agreed with police, clashes with police as they tried to forcefully clear Trafalgar Square at nightfall, and a number of scuffles at Bristol University. A large number of protests took the form of occupations of certain university rooms or buildings, with up to 32 still being occupied since the second round of protests last week.

There were chaotic scenes in London when 4,000 students marching towards parliament attempted to evade what they believed were police trying to 'kettle' them by dispersing across the city in separate marches, causing trouble for police attempting to control protests. The Met denied intentions to 'kettle' protesters despite the presence of metal barriers and rows of police officers along Whitehall. Instead, they blamed the protesters for all the confusion by beginning the march at an earlier than planned time.

Others marches in the country were more peaceful. In Newcastle students occupying a university building marched through the city centre peacefully with Northumbria police saying they had "nothing but praise" for the protesters with "no arrests and no reports of any trouble of any kind". Similarly peaceful protests took place in Cambridge, Edinburgh, Belfast and Nottingham. There were some troubles in Brighton after 600 protesters marching through the city attempted to force their way into Hove town hall before 100 scaled the roof of a car park and proceeded to throw missiles at police. However, no arrests were made. Students in Liverpool also scaled a roof, with two arrests made. In Birmingham around 40 protesters stormed a council hall building, prompting a stand-off with security and police - Leeds and Oxford saw similar events. Bristol also saw troubles as 1,000 protesters lit flares and marched through the city, ending in ten arrests and the M32 being closed then the march seemed to be heading towards the motorway.

The scale and spread of protests this month has shocked authorities who fear movements against various government cuts could spread. There are further marches planned for the 9th and 11th of December, and again on the day the vote on tuition fees takes place (rumoured to be mid December).

I have strong feelings against the rise in tuition fees but unfortunately have had little chance to take part in any of the protests held so far. I understand that a rise may be necessary but I see tripling them as far too unacceptable even if you don't start repaying the debts until you start earning £21,000. I can only hope that the frequent protests will get to MP's (in particular those slimy Lib Dems) by the time the vote takes place and convince them to vote against the rise.

Nov 29, 2010

WikiLeaks - China prepared to abandon North Korea

One of perhaps the most controversial leaks relates to yesterdays post on the troubles in Korea.

According to leaked US embassy cables China are getting fed up of their North Korean allies, referring to them as a "spoiled child". The comments came from China's vice foreign minister as he told US officials that the April 2009 missile tests were just a way of gaining Washington's attention. China also appear to be readying for the reunification of Korea, with officials assessing that they could cope with 300,000 North Koreans in the event of serious instability before having to use military to reseal the border. A Chinese ambassador also warned that North Korea's nuclear activity was "a threat to the whole world's security".

South Korea's then vice-foreign minister, Chun Yung-woo, has also claimed to have been told by two named senior Chinese officials that they believed Korea should be reunified under Seoul's control, a view which was becoming popular with Beijing, especially from younger Communist Party leaders who no longer feel North Korea is a useful or reliable ally. Chun has said North Korea has already collapsed economically and that a political collapse in inevitable after Kim Jong-il's death despite efforts to obtain Chinese help and secure his son, Kim Jong-un's, succession.

Both Chun and a senior Chinese official have said China's influence over North Korea is over-estimated and they are unable to dissuade them from their self-defeating policies, with public opinion getting increasingly critical of the North's behaviour.

In summary, it would appear the end may be nigh for North Korea and, with it, the division of the Korean Peninsula. Events over the last couple of weeks, perhaps even caused by realisation that their time might be running out, may work as a catalyst towards China's abandonment. However, not everyone is in agreement with the validity of these reports (coming from a South Korean interpretation) or how ready Beijing is to abandon the North.

Personally, I feel the collapse of North Korea and reunification of the peninsula is the best situation, leading me to hope that these reports are true and that we will have a unified Korea within the next few years with minimum bloodshed.

Fall 2010 Mid-Season Impressions

With very little news other than the WikiLeaks release of the US embassy cables, which is far too complicated for a simple little blogger like me to report any more effectively than my previous post, I have decided to build upon the anime aspect of the blog with short little summaries of my feelings for the shows I'm watching this season.
In no particular order:

To Aru Majutsu no Index Season II
There was quite some time between my watching of the first and second seasons despite my plans to re-watch the first before the second began, so I can't fully remember everything about the characters and some seem different. Anyway, this season is just as promising as the first. I wasn't immediately a fan of the first arc, but grew to it as it reached it's conclusion. Since then I've fallen in love with the show all over again. Then again, this has been since the re-introduction of Misaka Mikoto, and in my eyes anything featuring her cannot go wrong. The latest episode did feature quite a number of completely unneeded and rather over the top fanservice moments which annoyed me slightly. In summary the new season looks promising, although my judgement may be clouded by Misaka.

Star Driver
I'm not sure how to feel about this show. I like the characters (oh fish girl <3), I like the soundtrack, I like the animation, and I somewhat like the story. What bothers me though is the same formula used over and over in almost every episode. Introduction of new character -> stuff happens -> find out character is member of Glittering Crux Brigade -> stuff happens -> Zero Time fight -> Tauburn wins after initially struggling -> stuff happens/plot twist. Despite this formulaic approach it keeps dragging me back, perhaps because it's working, or perhaps because I hope each time that it will do it differently. I think I'll enjoy this series until the end but from what I've seen so far it's a long way from being memorable past the end of the season.

On paper I probably wouldn't have had much interest in a story of two guys making a manga together, but due to one of my favoured fansub groups subbing it and some positive reception I gave it a go. I don't know why, but I love it. I enjoy watching two characters through the trials and tribulations of achieving their dream, and I even enjoy the romance elements. I find the characters very likeable and grew to them quickly. Some people call it boring and slow but personally I feel it goes at the perfect pace and manages to somehow keep each episode as entertaining as the last. Despite how much I enjoy this I doubt I'll get the urge to watch it any time soon once it ends but at the moment I'm putting it down as one of the best show's I'm watching right now.

Ore no Imouto
Perhaps the only reason I'm watching this is because my favourite fansub group is subbing it, and their choices are yet to let me down, rather than the story, although it did interest me. This series can be rather hit and miss. Most episodes are fun to watch and can be very relatable, but occasionally it comes out with bouts of completely unneeded fanservice and can get a bit too incesty. Episodes 7 and 8 were a bit off too, where the idea of Kirino suddenly writing a bestselling novel after already being shown to be utter crap at it, and then getting an anime was just too much to let slide. Once again this doesn't seem like a particularly memorable series and I can easily see myself forgetting about it once the next season gets under way.

Shinryaku! Ika Musume
I didn't start watching this show until it was about 5 episodes in but after seeing a video of the mini-Ika short I felt compelled to watch it. Almost immediately it grew on me, being simple fun with likeable characters, especially the eccentric Squid Girl (Ika Musume). Despite being a good bit of fun every week the lack of underlying story limits it for me, as I just adore a good ol' yarn. However, I'm fine with this show being a bit of comedic relief rather than a gripping story, but again don't see myself remembering too much of it a couple of seasons from now.

This seems to be a bit of a case of leaving the best till last. I'm not too experienced with the realm of horror anime, in fact I think this may be my first (Highschool of the Dead doesn't count...). Carrying on from the previous season, it has gripped me weekly despite the somewhat broken up release schedule during the transition between seasons. The fact I'm a sucker for a decent vampire story works in it's favour, especially as it's mainly the traditional view (vulnerable to sunlight, stakes, can only enter when invited etc.). This was another case of starting it once it was a few episodes in after hearing nothing but praise, and boy am I glad I did. It's true that it did start off a little slow but not enough for it to have become a problem. At the time of writing it's on episode 17 and in full swing yet still with plenty of questions left to be answered. I would recommend this to almost anyone, especially if you're into vampires or just horror in general. There's even a werewolf thrown in, but I don't know how much will be built upon that. I can see this going down as one of my all-time favourites.

In case you were interested, the groups I get these from are:
gg fansubs - Star Driver and Bakuman
Mazui Subs - Ore no Imouto and To Aru Majustsu no Index II
Umee fansubs - Shiki
Underwater Subs - Shinryaku! Ika Musume

Nov 28, 2010

WikiLeaks Releases Over 250,000 US Embassy Cables

There is extremely big news currently concerning the leak of over 250,000 secret US Embassy cables to various worldwide newspapers by WikiLeaks.

There is far too much information for me to get into one post and it's getting rather late. So for anyone who for some reason might be reading this (I had 1 view from the US yesterday!) I'll simply link to my personal favourite for online news, The Guardian.

Main Story

Live Updates

EDIT: The WikiLeaks database is up!

Every Anime Opening Ever Made

On my travels around the internet I found this video. It is a compilation of numerous anime opening sequences displaying the repeated imagery used over and over again. It's both interesting and rather humorous when you think of just how cliché most anime openings are. Whilst watching I couldn't helping thinking of several other anime I've watched that have most of the trends shown in this video. I'd recommend clicking on the video to watch it on YouTube rather then embedded as you can get somewhat higher quality.

Tensions Grow In Korea Over US-South Joint Military Exercises

Considering the numerous issues that have been popping up on the Korean peninsula during the week, it must be of little surprise that my first news post is concerning the latest development.

The latest issue on the peninsula is the four day long 'naval war games', starting today in the Yellow Sea, between the US and South Korea. These war games include the use of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington and despite Seoul and the US insisting these exercises are both routine and pre-planned the North has called them an "unpardonable provocation" and threatened a "sea of fire" if any North Korean territory is violated.

As tensions reach an all-time high since the end of the Korean War in 1953 a senior official in Beijing has suggested emergency talks between representatives from Pyongyang and Seoul, China, the US, Russia and Japan, to take place early next month, to discuss major issues between the North And South. However, such talks seem unlikely to take place after North Korea walked out of similar talks two years ago and with Seoul insisting now is not the right time. Despite this, the mere suggestion of these talks from North Korea's only significant ally and the sole outside country with any effect on it's actions are very significant. They also work to highlight how serious the situation is as China has been previously criticised for not doing enough to control the North, more recently from the South's president Lee Myung-Bak who claimed China are not exerting enough pressure on North Korea and called for them to contribute to peace  in a "more objective, responsible" manner.

North Korea has also condemned the South over last weeks artillery fire on the island of Yeonpyeong which killed two soliders and two civilians and injured a further 18. The North has accused the South of using civilians as human shields around the island's military installations. North Korea described the civilian deaths as "regrettable" but blamed the South for placing residents on the island, which Pyongyang insists is North Korean territory. On the South Korean side however, is the view that these attacks, seen as the most serious single military incident since the end of the war, were unprovoked and have put South Korea on a footing for war. This is perhaps most illustrated in the words of the South Korean military commander, Major-General You Nak-jun, at a funeral for the marines killed in Yeonpyeong. The commander insisted "Our marine corps ... will carry out a hundred – or thousand-fold…" in retaliation of any further attacks, adding "We will put our feelings of rage and animosity in our bones and take our revenge on North Korea".

At the same time there were protests in Seoul demanding a tougher response. These protests included a demonstration by around 70 former special forces troops wearing white headbands, who confronted riot police with wooden batons and fire extinguishers in front of the defence ministry. Elsewhere, 1,000 marine veterans chanted slogans like "Time for retaliation. Let's hit the presidential palace in Pyongyang" as they burned North Korean flags and portraits of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il and his son and eventual successor Kim Jong-un.

Unfortunately, these recent developments, along with the unexpected revelation by North Korea of an apparently ultra-modern uranium enrichment facility that could improve its ability to add to its nuclear weapons capability, make it clear that tensions will not decrease for a while, and from the threats being fired from both sides there could perhaps be a reignition of the Korean War after 57 years of somewhat peaceful relations.

Nov 27, 2010

Welcome To My Humble Little Blog!

Welcome internet adventurer!

After a long time of consideration (and thinking of a name which I will likely change several times) I have decided to add to the cornucopia of blogs present on the internet, because my opinions are more special than everyone else's... right?

Anyway, this blog will most likely consist of random pieces of worldwide news (mainly British) because I'm obviously a much better source than all the other newspapers and news sites, a little bit of anime, a little bit of games, a little bit of technology, and finally, the occasional post about absolutely anything that I just happen to be thinking of or want to share.
In short: This blog will contain a little bit of everything (one of many blog names I tried only to be told it was unavailable).

In the assumption that by the time this blog starts getting regular visitors (because that's likely [/sarcasm]) I would like to say "Hi There Reader! What made you look all the way back into the deep dark depths of the archive?".

For tonight I shall bid thee farewell, and tomorrow I shall begin posting... that is if there's any interesting news.