The Token White Guy

The interview was an hour late but went okay. Normally I avoid agencies like the plague, but in this case they offer a good package - with reimbursed flight fees and provided accommodation - farming out native speakers to Chinese secondary schools which run English courses. Even if it does have the terrible name of "East Meets West".

The interviewer was quite refreshingly honest, admitting:

  • Pretty much all schools don't teach English to a particularly high level, or teach it well.

  • Pretty much all English teachers are no good at grammar, and many are actually afraid of it.

  • Pretty much all schools are run by incompetents with about as much forward planning ability as a blind goldfish with amnesia.

  • Pretty much all schools want the kudos of a "token westerner" to help the kids practice.

  • The specific vacancy is a vacancy because the previous teacher walked out.

  • No one goes through all the correct paperwork, because anyone who did would do nothing but paperwork.

So, how do I feel about being a Token Westerner - one with my own office and freedom to officially ignore all the useless textbooks. I reckon I can live with it, no problem.

No guarantee I'll get to go, but it's an interesting prospect.

EPIK Snail

To get an interview for a Korean language school I have to do the following:

  • Contact two referees (trainers or former employers) and get them to send me two copies of complete character snailmail.

    These references must include the referees full contact details, my work history, their comments on my "Work Ethic", their evaluation of my "Personal Character", and their personal recommendation.

  • Open one of each, scan it, and email the scans to the school.

  • Send the two unopened copies to the school, overseas by snailmail. I'm instantly disqualified if either letter is opened before it arrives.

  • Fill out the three separate emailed forms, and email them back.

And the acronym of this whole process? I kid you not: EPIK.

Remember this is not to get the job, this is just to get an interview. For a school that's given no indication of work hours, class size, student type, employment package or wages.

So that's why I won't be working in Korea, because these cretinoid bureaucrats can shove their pointless paperwork and imperious demands up their collective arse.

The Book of Job (Chapter 3)

50 CVs sent out.

2 acknowledgements.

2 rejections.

1 unconditional offer to do vaguely specified work in a place I didn't apply for.

1 email that they're thinking about thinking about considering me to teach bloody Business English in Seville.

1 organiser of Spanish summer camps who, in typical summer camp fashion, will tell me where and when the summer camps are when they know themselves.

1 employer desperate for someone (anyone) to work in the United Arab Emirates.

1 school saying "We've only got one part-time temp working in the office and she doesn't really know what she's doing so could you please wait a few weeks (and maybe a few more weeks) for us to get ourselves sorted out and not accept work for anyone else in the meantime". Paraphrasing slightly

2 emails from a Korean school saying Seoul's completely full but do I fancy working in a small town?

1 employer really desperate for someone (any-anyone) to teach tots in Turkey.

1 page of code from a wordprocessed document:
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1...interview with a Chinese school! Looks like a good one too. At, erm, 5am tomorrow.

Where Now?

On Saturday I sent off 30+ job applications, complete with CV and scans of passport and certificates. So far in response I've had:

  • An offer of a job in Cameroon.

    The position is to teach "the aforementioned course", which is interesting as no course has been mentioned. They also need to see copies of my CV, passport and certificates...again.

    I didn't apply to anywhere in Africa, but I did apply to a French school, and Cameroon has French connections, so maybe that's it.

  • An offer to sell me a list of 100 schools in Peru, or set up five guaranteed interviews for USD300. They can fuck right off.

  • An unconditional offer to work in Turkey.

    Anyone who offers you unconditional work without even the pretence of an interview is ripping you off. Either that or no one else wants to work for them and they're really desperate. Either way, avoid. It doesn't help when they send you four emails in 24 hours, even if two of them are in Turkish.

  • A chain of Spanish schools that only want part-time teachers. Useless.

  • The "Camp Department".

    Yes, that's what I thought. But it's not that - they run summer camps around Spain.

  • A professional, polite, provisional non-rip-off-offer for...Johlava, in the Czech Republic.

    Jihlava (Iglau in German) has 52 million people, a website, and a brilliant coat of arms:

Double, the Trouble

My laptop has a 64bit processor, and is dual-core. Most of my software is 32bit, and designed for single core processors.

Not just my software - most software. Even people running 64bit operating systems on quad-core computers tend to be running 32bit software that hogs one of the cores and leaves the others feeling unloved. Windows 7 is supposed to change that...but Vista was supposed to change it too. So, we'll see.

I mention this because I spent most of the day installing 64bit XP and, well, trying to make it work.

I should mention in passing that 64bit Windows is labeled "x64", but 32bit Windows is labeled..."x32"? No, "X86". Perhaps a reference to the old 8086 processor, the granddaddy of modern PC chips, born an eternity ago in 1978. Though actually it was 8bit and derived from the 808...8.

You see? I'm not entirely self taught - I went to college too. Well, four of them actually, but mostly not for long.

Anyway, 64bit XP installs cleanly, has slightly different Services from it's 32bit cousin, and has, shall we say, strong likes and dislikes.

The video and audio drivers only installed after a reboot each, others worked despite mysterious error messages, and the drivers for my beloved crappy MIDI keyboard wouldn't install at all.

It seems the keyboard manufacturers have decided that everyone will soon be using Windows 7, so there's no point in developing 64bit support for those using Vista or XP. From which I can only conclude their heads are in the clouds - or some similarly dark place. There's a reason I'm still using XP - Vista was unbelievably crap, and knowing Microsoft's track record, Windows 7 won't be worth the upgrade till it's on its second service pack.

Now, 64bit Windows can of course run 32bit programs - in the same way a soccer stadium can host a 5-a-side cub scouts match, in a tent, in the middle of the pitch. It's inconvenient, awkward and a bit silly - just necessary if there's no alternative.

The point of 64bit architecture is that it runs faster and more efficiently than 32bit architecture. Except when it's running 32bit software, in which case it'll often run slower and less efficiently. In the case of my music software, that's a lot slower.

And seeing as the only reason I tried 64bit Windows was to try to run my processor intensive sound processing software faster - in something closer to real time when a delay of ten milliseconds can make a difference - I was not too impressed.

So here I am, back on 32bit XP after a whole day trying to get the computer to work as it was designed to.

Today's lesson, then, is: The software industry is several years behind the hardware industry. The black box in front of you is physically capable of performing much better - if only someone could figure out how.

After three days of headaches and swearing at computers, I'm back online. And so exhausted I'm going offline for twelve hours.

An alien anthropologist might think computers invented humans to be their slaves.


If you want prune juice in Cyprus, do you go to the health-food shop or the supermarket? In Dubai, do you buy table lamps from the same shops which sell teapots? In Budapest, can you buy newspapers from a bookshop?

In England you buy axes from the same places which sell toasters - namely hardware shops. Axes are used mostly for heavy gardening, but other heavy gardening equipment (shears, secateurs, trimmers) is in gardening shops. So do you get chainsaws from there? No - you probably rent them from the same businesses where you rent skips and incinerators.

Shoes and sandals are in the footwear department of a clothing store, but socks are probably in the underwear department. So are the socks near the lingerie? Um, no.

Soap, suntan lotion, pregnancy test kits and prozac all come from the apothecary, but not washing powder, which is in a different shop, near the toilet paper. Some shops sell nothing but printer ink cartridges - not even printers or paper.

Josticks, essential oils and scented candles are in the new age shop - all ways to make air smell nice. But air freshener is next to fly killer and carpet cleaner in shops that would never sell aromatherapy stuff. Electric hair trimmers, scissors and safety razors seem never to be together under the same roof. Cut throat razors are in the army surplus store.

If I want a replacement power lead for my tower computer, I probably get it from the domestic electrical shop. They don't stock computer parts, but they have power leads for kettles, which have a plug that, to my knowledge, is used only for kettles...and computers.

But not laptops. The lead connecting my laptop to the power converter also has a plug found in one other place - domestic cassette recorders.

MP3 players are next to disco lights in the music technology shop - which also sells USB cables and SCART leads for video recorders. But synthesisers are sold in the same places which sell pianos.

Why? I don't know. Some of it makes a kind of sense, but you can always think of more sensible alternatives.

Okay, so different cultures have different semi-arbitrary ways to decide which products are grouped together in which kinds of shop. But we all know our own culture pretty well, don't we?

Well I'm rather unsure where I'd pick up these items:

  • Pumice
  • Keyrings
  • Coathangers
  • Posh specialist cutlery - salad forks, pastry forks, spaghetti forks etc
  • Chopsticks
  • Piano wire - not seen it in music shops
  • Video/Audio tape splicing equipment - used to be in consumer electronics next to the walkmans.
  • School chalk (gypsum)

No voy a Ibiza

Okay, it looks like I'm not going to Spain, so I'll try going to Spain.

Um. What I mean is, the teaching position in Spain has probably fallen through...but I'm assured there's plenty more.

I'd avoided applying for posts in Spain because:

(a) there's bound to be too much competition from other teachers who want to work in a country with nice people, nice weather, nice food, cheap travel and progressive culture, and

(b) There's already an insane number of Brits over there already. The worst parts of the country (Benidorm, Costa del Sol) are overrun with the worst British people - package tourists, and emigrés so dementedly racist they'd rather live in an artificial "pure" English village than the real England.

But it seems there's still a shortage of qualified English teachers. And there's always a mad scrabble near the start of term because some newly contracted teachers just don't turn up.

I've taught Spanish teens before, and they were great. There's no way my Arabian students would've read William Burroughs, or quoted Trotsky.

Living Knowledge

Wikipedia actually has a category of "Living People". About 2200 of them. Next to categories of "Possibly Living People", "Disappeared People" and..."Dead People.

An index of people with nothing in common other than (a) they're on wikipedia and (b) if they've died yet, wikipedia hasn't been updated about it.

Though one of the names is the philosopher Anthony Flew, who I thought was dead.

One day someone's going to ask me how many people with wikipedia entries have died of accidental causes in France. And I'll be able to tell them: 23.

Even the CIA World Factbook can't tell me that.

I might be going to Spain in a week. To teach, for a year. Or I might not.

The job's there, but the person who's my link to it is about as reliable as an election promise. So if I get it I'm leaving immediately in a great panic, and if not I may never get out of this godforsaken place.

The Twittering Classes

AethelreadTheUnread - who is not named Ethel and is not unread - wrote some very nice things about this humble blog, in particular my post about Twitter, and wrote a much more detailed response. It's good, have a read.

I started on a comment, but it grew somewhat and only got around to addressing one point - celebrity twitterers.

Celebrity twittering - it's a marketing exercise.

It may not start out that way and the celebrity may not want it to turn out like that, but I think the nature of modern celebrity is such that any public exposure of someone already well known becomes marketing.

This does raise the question of whether anyone has become famous through their twitter account - or facebook or myspace. Some former celebrities have revived their careers somewhat, but I can't think of a single case of new celebrity being created from nothing using only social media.

There's been a few bands already signed to record labels, who pretended to be unsigned and just starting out, posting improbably polished performances on youtube - paying to be featured videos. But this was just viral marketing - advertising created by the usual advertising consultants, for the usual sky high fees, but pretending not to be advertising. I think we're savvy enough about this now to enjoy the quirky video...and ignore the product.

Brent Spiner and Wil Wheaton have turned out to be unexpectedly witty and smart on their social media. Their careers are kept ticking over and their fans are kept interested by these droplets of public visibility.

Wheaton in particular probably wouldn't have a career as a writer if his eloquent (and cynical) blog writing hadn't simultaneously built on and destroyed the hate figure image he got portraying that boy genius in that dated sci-fi show.

Some tweets from Spiner:
Please don't toy with anti-semitism. Would never engage in racism.

@mrspuy: What's the first thing you wanted to be when you grew up? -- An adult. It never happened.

@damashita: My 11 year old is a published author w 2nd story up for pub. Any advice 4 him? -- I think the question is, does have any for me?

And some tweets from Wheaton (WheatyTweets?):
Look, all you people who think torture is just great and is *ever* justified? You sicken me. Go watch 24 and leave me alone.

@BarackObama "It should never be controversial to ask our students to stay in school." Great minds think alike, Mr. President.

It's hard to convince kids that the world is flat and is orbited by the sun when they understand science.

Compare with Jonahthan Frakes, who seems to have an empty twitter feed and a job presenting crappy paranormal shows.

Sarah Palin's near-incomprehensible tweets gave her herd of deluded supporters a little injection of Palin every day to keep them going. But they also helped to finish off her career when recited verbatim as psychedelic poetry by...another Star Trek alumnus, Bill Shatner.

So it's a double edged sword. Which is why Sarah Palin's facebook posts are mostly no longer written by Sarah Palin. And celebrity tweets are increasingly being written by ad men, with no input from the artist themselves.

It's the usual pattern. Technology gives us a new way of doing things, and new things to do. It's good for a while, then the new ways and the new activities get assimilated into the old and we're back where we started. Same shit, different packaging.

Incidentally, while doing spot research for this post, I came across an advert with flashing text:

Get More Twitter Followers Fast More Followers = $ More Money $

And just how can you make these dollars? How about by selling twitter accounts to cybersquatters!

I Wish to Register a Complaint

It used to take me two hours a day to read email, look at Twitter and check a dozen or so blogs.

Now with my rationalised super-duper all-in-one email/twitter/blog feed it takes 45 minutes. On the one hand, I never realised how much surfing time was spent just clicking and waiting - often to find there's no new updates.

On the other hand...I want to spent two hours a day reading blogs! Because I like it! I need more blogs!

Gah. Damn technology.


Lyrics I wrote months ago, then completely forgot about. What do you think - any good?

Verse 1:
It's not right but I
Feel okay.
Nod yes no matter
What you say.
So what I'm leaving
Anyway, come

Phone call says that you're
Working late
Wish you luck on your
Secret date
No rush now I can
Stand to wait, till

Did you
Think I don't know what you
Did you
Think I don't use all the
Same tricks too? I don't
Mind when you find other
Guys, but it's
Part of the game that you
Tell me lies

Tomorrow never comes if you
Wait for the sun but not
Today, not today.

Tomorrow is a dream so it
Always seems so not
Today, not today.

Verse 2:
Love you less and
Forgive you more.
Question what am I
Waiting for?
One last look and walk
Out the door, it's

Feed Me

Non-computer people often ask me questions like:

  • "Why do I need a separate program to read PDFs?"

  • "Why can't I publish directly from my word processor to my blog?"

  • "Why can't I edit video in Photoshop?"

These tend to be the same people who ask things like:

  • "Why can't all the oil companies get together to develop wind/wave/nuclear power?"

  • "Why can't everyone just join my church and bring peace to the world?"

  • "Why can't the newspapers tell us the truth?"

In other words:

  • "Why don't politicians fight against the corruption which benefits them?"

  • "Why don't all the capitalists meet up to replace capitalism with something more sensible?"

  • "Why can't we just redesign the whole world from the ground up?"

I tend to treat questions like these on a par with:

  • "Why can't my car also be a washing machine?"

  • "Why doesn't someone invent a time machine to go into the future and bring back a time machine?"

  • "Why can't my computer telepathically know what I want and just do it?"

People accept that, when they want to do something, the technology they have available has an effect on how they do it. If you want to make a fried-egg-on-toast, the toaster can't cook the egg, and won't butter the toast for you. No one thinks this is outrageous or bad design.

But they seem to think computers are exempt from this rule - that software should be written to exactly match their personal ideal way of working. So I've learned to ignore complaints that a video player won't recognise every single video format ever invented, or the mail reader doesn't have exactly the same buttons as the browser.

Except today...I tried RSS! Or rather tried it for the third time and finally got it to work properly.

RSS - Really Simple Syndication - a way to get you notified of updates to blogs and newsfeeds, without you having to go to each blog and newsfeed to check.

Or, if you've got a smart email reader like Thunderbird, a protocol to get new posts on blogs you follow posted essentially as emails. Without having to check the blog site itself.

Oh, and to my particular delight, it works for Twitter too. So now I can follow and manage tweets in a simple, sensible way, instead of logging on to Twitter and scrolling through several pages of jumbled updates.

Now I can actually keep up with the blogs I'm supposed to be keeping up with. And now I have an answer to the computer question:

  • "Why do I need separate programs to read blogs and email?

Update: Okay, actually the NewsFox (as opposed to Fox News) Firefox plugin is easier to use. And I only had to try three other plugins first to find it.

100 Things About Kapitano, Part 8: Things Which Irritate Me

Some people think I'm angry and passionate. In fact I just spend most of my life being mildly irritated. So here's some things that annoy me.

35) People who ask your advice on a subject you know a lot about, not so they can make an informed decision, but so they can pretend they've considered all the alternatives before doing what they'd already decided to do.

And then blame you when they realise they've fucked up.

36) Getting interested in a band on the basis of one song, tracking down the album...and discovering that one song is the only good one they've got.

And it's a remix anyway.

37) People whose method of arguing is to nitpick a minor point...with great care and extensive knowledge that would be admirable if it were relevant. Going on at length until you've forgotten what the major point was.

38) The following lines of reasoning:

"You're gay, and he's gay, so you two must be compatible."

"There's an age difference of more than ten years between those two friends, so the older one must be fucking the younger one. And that's wrong."

"He was once accused of looking at someone in a funny way, so obviously now he's been accused of an actual crime, he must be guilty."

"I don't know anything about science or religion, but science is just another religion."

"Don't you want to be normal? Everyone wants to be normal. It's the normal thing to want."

39) People who think that because they've been doing something for forty years, they've been doing it right for forty years.

Tweetie My

A blog comment that grew into a blog post, as they sometimes do.

I'm ambiguous about Twitter. The basic idea of microblogging seems to me a good one - where you have a thought or an insight, or you stumble on a quote or a URL you'd like to share, but there's not enough to make a full blogpost. So you tweet it.

The problem is when people use it to tell you they're standing in line at the deli for a cheese sandwich. Even if I were deeply infatuated with someone, I don't think I'd be that interested in what they were doing.

There are words for someone you've never met who cares about the minutiae of your life enough to watch you eat out. Psycho, stalker, creepy, crazy....

I use Twitter as a discipline. I try to have some idea, some tiny revelation every day. And then I try to compress it into the 140 character limit. It's a way to reduce a thought or argument down to its essentials, into an aphorism.

But having said all's my blog, and if I want to write just a URL or a single sentence of inspiration as a post, there's no reason why I shouldn't.

Or I could tell you what I'm about to eat. For the record:

I've just woken up at 4pm, and I'm thinking about having a poached egg on toast with a cup of tea for breakfast.

What Motivates Me

Two possibilities:

1) I tweeted something so profound and insightful, that within two hours five experts in business and economics were following me, providing valuable advice on how to manage my lifestyle.

2) I tweeted something containing the word "motivation", and within two hours five spambots were using twitter to sell me bullshit get-rich-quick scams.

Samples of their wisdom:

  • Self-Development & Making Money- Online Network Marketing

  • 6 Ways to cultivate confidence – Quantum Learning

  • Unlocking My Potential in Six Easy Steps

  • Why I Like to Hire Ugly People

  • Do you need good advertising? I did until I found a source that works AND it pays me money every week!

  • Want to know how to get a huge following on Twitter and make residual monthly income at the same time?

  • they say that science has a formula to get rich

  • here's PROOF: the Science to Getting Rich

  • Iam really excited about my new website. Check it out just for fun.

  • Give a teenager the gift of leadership

  • "Imagination is more important than knowledge" - Albert Einstein

If I hear that last quote one more time I'll...think of something really nasty to do about it.

In the meantime, the most polite reply I could come up with to these helpful people:

Fuck off spam. Fuck off bullshit ripoffs. Fuck off marketing vulture scum. Just FUCK. RIGHT. OFF.

100 Things About Kapitano, Part 7: What Was I Doing I When....?

31) May 5th 1980 1725GMT - SAS storms Iran embassy

I was 8 years old. I know exactly what I was doing at the time because half the UK population was doing the same thing - watching it happen on live TV.

For the past 5 days, the news had been full of 5 men keeping 23 hostages in the embassy, demanding the release of 91 political prisoners.

Listening to the journalists, I understood the 91 were imprisoned on trumped up charges because they were inconvenient to the man who ran Iran. The man was apparently a mad tyrant and Iran a horrible place because of it. But Iran was an ally of the UK, which made it a good country.

I didn't understand how both could be true. Like I say, I was 8 years old.

The next day at school, the teacher gathered the class around her and told us the SAS had done a truely wonderful thing, and we should all be grateful these brave men were working in secret to protect us against bad people. She got quite emotional.

I wanted to know why it was bad to want innocent prisoners freed, but didn't ask.

32) January 28th 1986 c1800GMT - Space Shuttle Challenger Explodes

I was just barely 14 years old, and preparing to go with my mother to the Computer Studies evening class we'd signed up to. I'd had to lie about my age to be eligible.

We sat around the kitchen table, rushing an evening meal and watching the explosion played again and again on TV - feeling an odd combination of shock at what had happened, and creeping boredom at the endlessly repeated non-news that no one knew why it had happened. Father couldn't see what all the fuss was about.

At the class a TV had been wheeled in, and the dozen students and teacher spent 10 minutes watching the continued replays, before getting on with the lesson.

33) January 17th 1991 - Operation Desert Storm begins

It was my 19th birthday. Marked with a celebratory cake and cup of tea with parents, and a present - possibly a new dressing gown.

Kuwait had been in the news, or rather Iraq's invasion of it had been in the news. The only thing I remember hearing about the Kuwaiti people was something about its royal family being in hiding.

The TV pundits were all jumping between two themes - how evil Saddam Hussein was, and how important Kuwait's oil was for the British economy, but they never mentioned a connection between the two.

The run up to Desert Storm was high profile, and it was virtually certain it would start on that day, but mother still climbed four flights of stairs at midnight just to tell me it had started. We had a brief "the world's going to hell and there's nothing anyone can do about it" conversation before I went to sleep.

The next day, the DJs on my bedside radio were all unusually subdued and tense. The normally chirpy and cheerful morning show presenter played a just-released song by Seal called "Crazy", remarking that it seemed more appropriate than ever.

That would never happen now.

34) August 31st 1997 c0200GMT - Diana Spencer dies in a car crash

I was...asleep.

There had been an advert on TV for a tabloid newspaper, urging everyone to buy the next edition because it contained exclusive photos of "Di and Dodi". The gist was that the princess had found another new boyfriend, this time the son of some arab millionaire.

The last two boyfriends - a rugby player and a fighter pilot - had been a bit disastrous, but this one apparently was a sizzling romance. They'd tried to get away from the intrusive press for a romantic holiday in Paris, but the paparazzi had cleverly tracked her down to bring exclusive pictures to her loyal British fans. This was a selling point.

It later turned out Diana's last phone call had been to the press, telling them her itinerary for the next day.

My boyfriend thought the name "Dodi" was hilarious. I shrugged at the whole thing and went to bed early. He came up later to tell me that Diana and that man she was with had been in a car crash. We both shrugged and got some sleep.

The next morning he made us breakfast in bed - fried eggs, fried bacon, fried sausages, fried mushrooms and probably more. He'd taught me to cook and we'd both been steadily gaining weight.

We chatting over our fry-up with the radio on in the background. A newsreader's voice broke through saying "...on the tragic death of Diana, princess of Wales".

My first thought was: That's the next month's TV schedules buggered up. It'll be wall to wall biography and tribute. I hope it doesn't push out Star Trek.

35) September 11th 2001 C0200GMT - The Twin Towers attacked

I was trying to synthesise a snare drum. Specifically I was trying to recreate the snare of the Roland TR808 drum machine - but I couldn't get the noise part right.

An email came through on a music technology discussion email list, reading "Are you alright?". I didn't know what to make of it.

I took a break and went downstairs to make a cup of tea. On the kitchen TV was the image of a skyscraper with thick smoke billowing out of a large hole in the side.

My first thought was: It's a bit early in the day to be showing a disaster movie. They're usually shown at night.

My second thought was: Oh shit, there's going to be a war.

My third thought was: I wonder which country they'll blame?

Star Dreck

Hey everybody, I've been watching Star Trek!

Yes, I realise this may not seem notable in itself. Seeing as I can, with current TV schedules, watch Deep Space Nine with breakfast, a Voyager double bill with lunch - or switch to The Next Generation on a different channel - and even catch up with the original series before bed.

Enterprise is on too, but I do have some standards.

No, this is Star Trek: Phase II, also known as the New Voyages. It's a fan made series on the web - meticulously, accurately and lovingly recreating the sets, uniforms and special effects of the original series. Yes, and the characters too.

William Shatner's brand of camp overacting is recreated by James Cawley with a Fonz hairstyle - or at least, the overacting's there. James Doohan's American-Irish version of a Scottish accent gets reincarnated as something that migrates between Glasgow and Texas by way of Mars. Uhura's black and has nothing to do, which is certainly faithful to the original.

And best of all, lots of actors from the original series get to recreate their original roles - hence the plots about age viruses and time travel. Some original writers are on board too.

The result of all this goodness is...crap. Not crap in a harmless fun way, not crap in a way you can watch ironically, not so-bad-it's-good. Just a bit crap. So why? What's gone wrong?

In a word, politics. If you're going to shoehorn politics into your plot, make it implicit with no preaching, and try to have a basic grasp of the issues.

If the only politics you've got are idiot politics, leave them out, and you can still be a good writer. Just look at Orson Scott Card. Or Robert bloody Heinlein.

These shows were made at the height of Bush's War on Terror, and the insipid sugar-coated imperialism infects the script, together with the xenophobic paranoia. You know the kind of thing - the white man's burden, civilising the natives, spreading christianity, sneaky foreigners, the enemy within, your neighbour could be a communist spy homegrown terrorist.

In an early scene, Kirk explains to Spock how the hymn Amazing Grace is about the ideals of the federation - "extending compassion to those in need, saving the lost, helping those who can't help themselves and asking nothing in return".

Religious framing, paternalism, crusading theme, claiming noble motives - sound familiar?

Later we get a stream of silly foreigners aliens too prideful and blind to do the sensible thing - which is always what's convenient for the federation. We also get ominous warnings of enemies inside the federation - disloyal and subversive groups.

The original series had something of the same undertones. Gene Roddenberry may have been big on civil rights and a kind of internationalism - hence the multiracial and multinational crew - but in his universe every planet apart from Earth had strayed from the one true path, and needed to be set right. Usually with fists and guns phasers.

Oh, and he was a foaming homophobe, which caused problems in the production of The Next Generation.

But...this is much worse. Which is a great shame, because it turns what should have been an innocent and fun slice of nostalgic entertainment made with affection and care...into something painful and embarrassing.