New Year, New Look

With the latest release of WordPress, the Twenty Seventeen theme was also released. And I’ve not only managed to find a bit of time to play around with it, but I’ve also cleaned up some of the sidebar links while I was at it. I’m not entirely sure about the massive header image, but the theme itself seems to work reasonably slickly so I shall see how it goes.

And, as we venture cautiously into 2017, all that remains is for me to with you all the best of luck for the new year.

Congratulations on surviving 2016, here’s hoping we all make it through the next 365 days.

Happy New Year Danbo.
Photo by Leland Francisco. Click image for original.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Now we have a Star Wars film that is not part of the Star Wars saga. Rogue One is a self-contained story that tells of the events leading up to the ebents of the first Star Wars film. This is the story of Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) who steal the plans to the Death Star that eventually end up in the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Along for the ride are a reprogrammed Imperial droid (Alan Tudyk) with a nice line of snark (and who also gets the best line in the film) along with Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) as a Force wielding monk (not a Jedi) who proved to be a real favourite for all three of the boys. Our core crew is rounded out with Chirrut’s companion, Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) and pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed).

It’s a testament to the film that, ny it’s end, I was rooting for each and every one of these characters.

The film does sag a little bit in the middle, and suffers from a bit of a CGI induced uncanny valley moment (it’s done well, but you’ll know it when you see it) but the battle that it all builds up to more than makes up for this and provides some genuine edge of the seat moments.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is not the best science fiction film ever made, and it’s not the best of the Star Wars films. But it’s a damn good film and one that is well worth watching.

As a final note, having just rewatched the trailer, it needs to be noted that the special effects and set design are both superb. Not only do they fit, very effectively, with the aesthetic of the original film but they also work to emphasise the sheer scale of the Empire.

This may not be an epic story, but it does a great job of underlining the epic nature of the universe it inhabits.

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On hacking as an act of aggression

This is probably going to turn out as less of a post and more of a list of links, but the pattern is both worrying and worth pointing out.

First up, The Economist on the increasing sophistication of Putin’s propaganda machine:

The Kremlin’s bet on marginal right-wing parties has paid off as they have moved into the mainstream. It has pumped out disinformation and propaganda both through its official media channels, such as the RT and Sputnik news networks, and through thousands of paid internet trolls. Its cyber-attacks against Western countries produced troves of emails and documents which it dumped into the hands of foreign media, disrupting America’s presidential elections to the benefit of Mr Trump.

And a motivation:

Unlike the Socialists of the 1930s, the Kremlin and its friends today are driven not so much by ideology as by opportunism (and, in Russia’s case, corruption). Mr Putin’s primary goal is not to present an alternative political model but to undermine Western democracies whose models present an existential threat to his rule at home. Having lived through the Soviet collapse, he is well aware that the attraction of the prosperous, value-based West helped defeat communism. The retreat of that liberal democratic idea allows Russian propagandists to claim a victory.

Lithuanian MEP, Petras Austrevicius has seen it all before:

A lot of Europeans think that Russian propaganda does not concern them.

These people are in denial on Russia, whose propaganda has infected European debate like a virus.

We are already late in trying to react. Some are still not ready to start.

And, just to underline the point, Russia’s state-owned RT network will start broadcasting in French next year, just in time for the presidential election. And Germany’s intelligence agency has accused Russia of hacking its politicians and election systems under the guise of online activism.

And for the effectiveness of all this, the BBC notes that:

Despite Donald Trump’s boasts to the contrary, he’s entering the White House with a very tenuous claim to a presidential mandate. He trails Democrat Hillary Clinton in the popular vote by 2.8 million votes, and while he posted a comfortable electoral college win, by historical standards it ranks towards the bottom of victory margins (46th out of 58 presidential contests).

The Kremlin has managed to manipulate the media and is continuing to do so. And the media, often more concerned with ratings than reality, are allowing themselves to be played for idiots.

We should all be very concerned.

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