Sunday, December 31, 2006

Last Post of 2006

This being the last post of 2006 I'm likely to make I just thought I'd say Happy New Year to everyone. One of the coolest things about blogging is that you are able to look back on where you were in the previous year, and I can say 2006 has been a fantastic year.

And now the obligatory movie...

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Wesley Crusher Plays Kill Doctor Lucky

Apparently Wesley Crusher plays the awesome Kill Doctor Lucky game. Or rather Wil Wheaton, the actor does. Wil rocks in my book now. But I shall not buy the deluxe edition... until I have The Totally Renamed Spygame (or rather Before I Kill You Mr Bond).

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Flying in the Air

Found on Major Grooves this is an awesome Irn Bru advert using the Snowman:-

Stuff I Like: Wing Commander

Part flight-sim, part interactive movie I would say these games were perhaps the most successful results of the Full Motion Video dalliance of the late 90s.

Mark "Luke Skywalker" Hamill stars as Blair (the hero in Wing Commander 1-4). You might argue that going from being the ace Jedi pilot of the rebellion flying against the Empire to being the ace aging pilot of the Confederation flying against the Kilrathi Empire was not much of a stretch for Mark but the characters were quite different. Tom "That guy who was Biff" Wilson plays the annoying butt-head of a sidekick, Maniac, your oft wingman who never follows orders and only survives by sheer chance. By the way if you haven't seen his Back to the Future song see it here!

Malcolm "Clockwork Orange" MacDowell as Admiral Tolwyn and John "Indy" Rhys-Davies as Paladin also added to the respectable caliber of actors to appear in the games - a particularly good cast for a computer game.

The plot of the first three games was the good Confederation were under attack by the evil Kilrathi Empire, a race of evolved warlike cats. In WC1 and 2 the Confederation were the clear goodies, and beyond what happened in your missions there was no way to influence the plotlines. WC1 had a relatively straightforward plotline, while WC2 was literally crying out to be made into a film:-

As the games moved into Full Motion Video WC3 and WC4 were definitely more shades of greys - feeling like a cross between Top Gun, Babylon 5 and Star Wars. As far back as WC2 your wingmen would die in battle, or as the results of nefarious plots. It was dark stuff - WC3 ends with you blowing up the Kilrathi home world:-

Essentially the game comprised of full-motion segments which would occasionally pause and allow you the player to make a decision as to how Mark Hamill's character reacts to the situation. This would then impact subsequent missions. Also by WC3 Hamill's character, Blair, was a Colonel and thus made command level decisions regarding missions. The actual flight-sim itself contained video segments to handle inter-ship communications but for the most part you just shot things and completed your mission objectives. If you failed enough missions bad stuff happened in the overall storyline, usually leading to you being removed of command, Earth being nuked by the Kilrathi, being shot as a traitor or any other number of bad things. There were so many possible permeatations in the storyline - WC3 even had a choice of 2 love interests affecting the end of the game.

Wing Commander 4 was my favourite of the games however - it is set after the Kilrathi wars (bit difficult to continue a war when your homeland has been nuked). The following clip does a good job of explaining matters:-

It was epic, lavishly filmed. Wing Commander 3 was rather obviously filmed on a blue screen, but for Wing Commander 4 they went to town and spent millions on essentially filming a proper sci-fi movie. Nowhere is this more evident than in the intro:-

Despite being a space-sim the end of WC4 is largely dependant on your choices in the cinematic sequences:-

There was a Wing Commander 5 featuring a new main character and (true to Tolwyn's predictions) a new alien threat, but to be honest it was nowhere near as good as WDC4. Wing Commander: Prophecy was a passing of the torch game, where Hamill's Blair turned up to give the new hero the thumbs up. Despite being the greatest pilot in the galaxy on the two missions he features in as a pilot, he is captured and (presumably) killed:-

Note to self: When on big alien mothership run, not walk, back to your mode of transport.

There was supposed to be a Wing Commander 6 and 7 to tie up the alien threat, but the market fell out of the full motion video market and the line was dropped by Origin Systems.

Wing Commander was ripe to spin off on to TV and cinema. Wing Commander Academy was surprisingly gritty for a Saturday morning cartoon series, featuring the voices of Hamill, Wilson and Macdowell as younger versions of the game characters. It lasted 13 episodes but way very true to the spirit of the games.

There was also a Wing Commander movie, starting Freddie "I took Buffy off the market" Prinze Jnr. as Blair and Matthew "That Bloke From Scream" Lilliard as Maniac. Personally I thought it was a good film despite Prinze's presence, the new quasi-religious Jedi mumbo-jumbo (Blair is the last of the pilgrims, a genetically superior race of spacefaring humans) and the continual WW2 motifs (and the fact that ships launching off the carriers appear to be under the influence of gravity in deep space).

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Who

I'm taking a break from the pressures of mince pie and turkey to post my thoughts on yesterday's TV.

Dr. Who's Xmas Special seemed really disjointed, and while it was entertaining it was nowhere near as good as last year's. This may have been my folks constant moaning, chatter and fiddling with the TV, but it seemed the plot was really disjointed and simplistic, and certainly the science was utterly nonsense. "Drink these particles..." and the hole going to the centre of the Earth in particular made me do a double take. Apparently evil alien spiders from the dawn of time climb holes really, really quickly, either that or a certain villain would have died of terminal velocity long before they became an issue. I also really didn't take to Catherine Tate - she seemed to play to too much like her bovvered alter-ego. Or the robot Santas. I'd assumed that their appearance this Xmas would tie in to their previous appearance, but again it came across as being Santas purely for the sake of it being a Christmas special.

However the Doc was surprisingly dark and vicious for a Christmas special and the ending with the snow and fireworks seemed similar to the McGann TV Movie from 10 years back - right down to asking the companion "D'ya want to come with me?" "No thanks." Only this time the show won't be cancelled.

Speaking of my favourite under-dog Doctor McGann, given this trailer I am looking forward to streaming the BBC7 season starting on New Year's eve on Listen Again.

I also finally caught this week's Torchwood, Combat, and it was really, really good. The script was by the guy that played Mickey in Doctor Who, and while it did seem reminiscent of another Angel episode and Fight Club it was sufficiently dark. I really don't like Owen, but that's a reflection on how well rounded the character is in this show. He's perhaps the most realistic of the Torchwood crew. Though that isn't saying that much.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Back Home

As you might have guessed via the deluge of pointless videos I made it back okay for Xmas.

Somehow I managed to get home by 7pm, which isn't bad for a 10am start given the weather and conditions. This was with the obligatory 3 stops and a little bit of confusion over the concepts of north and south around Carlisle. As expected the mist didn't exactly make for the most pleasant drive, though after Leeds there didn't seem to be much fog until I hit Lanarkshire, so it seems that north of the border was not particularly fog free.

However not getting to bed until 2am meant I was little use the day after beyond dog walking. Today I decided to do some last minute Xmas shopping - literally last minute as all my favourite shops closed just before I arrived, but now I'm fully prepared for tomorrow's festivities.

Dundee seemed mist-free when I first arrived but now we have the worst fog I think I have ever seen. You can see fog gently swirling literally in front of your face. I'm rather glad, for me, ze driving is over.


Happy 24th:-

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Chad Vader Episode 5

I wish Chad would hurry up and get his revenge on Clint:-

Worse than Madness... Uwe Boll

If you have no idea who Uwe Boll is you haven't been paying attention to previous posts. This latest trailer looks suspiciously Lord of the Ringsesque until about 1 min 47 seconds, when the Ninjas turn up. Fortunately our hero Farmer the Farmer knows kung-fu of course.

Here's the trailer (which you can only view on the original post, not the RSS feed)

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Mists Are Closing

I'm off as of today back to good old Dundee. It should be a nice pleasant drive - or rather it would be if the whole of Engerland and that other place they call Wales didn't seem to be covered in thick mists. I'm sure it won't turn out the mists curiously end at the Borders.

Anyroads this week hasn't been totally unproductive. I've wrapped most of my presents, watched Hogfather, watched Knight Rider 2000 (I was bored), watched Eragon (George Lucas called, he wants his plot back) and just generally chilled and hung out.

See you on the flip side of the border.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Highlander 5 - Some Footage Finally

Somehow in this day and age the first few minutes of Highlander 5 seem to have leaked onto the internet (albeit in a very crappy format). Looks cool so far, even if Connor Macleod is now permanently dead and buried...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Stuff I Like: Gabriel Knight

Gabriel Knight 2 was the first full-motion video game I ever played on my brand spanking new PC back in 1996. I think I even got it as a birthday present. It was also the first game to carry a 15 sticker on it, and to be honest for at least one scene in the game.

Gabriel Knight was very much in tune with the X-Files generation. You were descended from the Ritter family, German nobility who functioned as Schattenjaegers, Shadow Hunters. After investigating a voodoo cult, discovering your heritage and avoiding dying in the first game the second game saw you investigating werewolves in Germany, despite your character couldn't speak German:-

The intros were awesome:-

The Beast Within Intro


You also had a female sidekick who did all the legwork, called Grace. Obviously there was sexual tension between the two of them (damn 3rd game cliffhanger!):-

It also saw you in search of Wagner's Lost Opera, and even includes a pretty darn cool opera scene:-

Gabriel Knight 3 I wasn't so fond of. There didn't seem to be many memorable confrontations (the hunt for the werewolf in GK2 has to be played to be believed) and it got a bit Da Vinci Code for my liking (long before that was a gleam in Dan Brown's eye I should add). And as usual Gabriel Knight 3 was the only one of the games to end on a cliffhanger. Naturally no Gabriel Knight 4 is forthcoming from Sierra.

Monkey Island: The Play

Awesomeness personified - someone made a high school play out of Monkey Island. As an ex-playwright myself this is more like what I would've wanted to have done. You know they've got the humour right when the dialogue sparkles with gems like:-

"You know I've learned something from all this."
"What's that?"
"Never spend more than 5 bucks to see a high school play."

There are 9 clips in total. If I had 2 hours I'd watch them all...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The End of Days

I'm on my hols now, having finished up at the University of Leicester for the year. After shopping in Nottingham I'm about to put my feet up and watch Nightmare on Elms Street. Yes, somehow I got through the last 26.8 years without seeing any of the films except New Nightmare.

Compared to the past few days at work I imagine this movie will seem quite chilled out.

Suffice it to say that the fact, or perhaps because of the fact that I had no real work to do beyond helping the students. Friday on the other hand was plain weird. I'll elaborate on this in more detail at another point, beyond saying the chaps and I went to the Landsdowne for an Xmas lunch. It was good though we needed a Mathematician to work the bill out for us! Then after spending the afternoon doing what little work I could do before closing time I caught Happy Feet at the cinema - which was quite amusing, though the graphics on that film must have been a pain to

I've also been playing around with Facebook, which seems to be a strange marriage betwixt MySpace and Photobox. It does have a nice interface for loading photographs, much much nicer than my Buzznet because you can upload an entire directory of images at the click of a button rather than spending all night specifying each inidividual image path. It also has an RSS feed from my blog, though to be honest that sucks as all my YouTube movies don't show up (so if you are viewing this through Facebook go to this link instead and a lot of the posts will make sense). I may retire the RSS feed if it gives me too many problems.

I've got a few albums on Facebook now that I will put on this blog as soon as I remember. The Buzznet account will be retired at some point - it is just too plain slow to browse, or to upload to.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I'm Legit...

Not had the best day, but the good news is, only 18 months after I sat my PhD my first journal paper has been accepted. That'll be useful at, say, Research interviews.

Yes, kids, the review process takes that long on journals.

In Japan they don't let you get your PhD until you have 3 journal papers.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Leaky Labs

Yesterday the heavens opened up over Leicester and it was kind of wet everywhere. As the PTB don't really think my floor of the Charles Wilson is worth improving, our labs are apparently not quite waterproof. I shouldn't complain because after two months of picking up crisp packets we finally got a cleaner last summer, while one floor up they have the builders in installing a wedding room for external events. Nice priorities there.

We have a few problems with our rooms here. So much so that one of our demonstrators (I'm not saying who, but guess) mailed the following urgent email to all of us:-

There has been water coming into the lab by student PC 134. The window cannot shut properly by this pc. Some of the students have smelt burning.

To which he got the (pretty obvious and yet amusing) response of:-

Switch the machine off, and if you have any blue paper towel mop up the water as best you can.

I went through to the lab to make sure everything was okay, I was expecting said fellow to be either electrocuted, or crouched in the fetal position, worrying as he had no blue towels, only white towels. Thankfully we had a student who in the 20 minutes the email exchange took was smart enough to activate the circuit breaker for that part of the room.

And, no, we don't employ this guy:-

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Ordeal of the Three Meals

So, three meals out in a row it was, proving Xmas is just round the corner. Wednesday was spent in the familiar haunt of the Old Horse, eating blue burgers (which I recommend to anyone new to Leicester, either at the Old Horse or at the Blue Point on Evington) and deciding to have a leaving do the next night at the Chinese.

The restaurant on Thursday seemed to be in a takeout place on Highfields Street. We were upstairs in this particular restaraunt, in a room for large parties and visiting Chinese wanting privacy. I even drank Chinese tea, which for those of you who know me well is a remarkable thing in itself. However I didn't just drink tea - there was the particularly tasty Tsingtao beer in plentiful amounts.

However the meal was relatively messy (at least for me) and it seems I really really must learn to use chopsticks. I'm not the most coordinated of fellow's but I plan on learning.

Friday night's meal was a veritable banquet at Poppadom's, though I must confess due to having been drinking straight after work in Babelas (nice pub BTW) I really drank more than I ate, particularly the deadly Cobra beer that I'd be introduced to on a previous expedition to Manchester a few year's back.

I seem to have -far- too many photos of the evening, including a choice one of me I must upload at some point. Suffice it to say what followed on Saturday morning was not good - no baths were harmed, mainly because I haven't got one, nor where there any traumatised rabbits, but also I didn't manage to write the talk I'd planned to and there was the Catch-22 of feeling too miserable to go out but also not having much food in the house, except cereal, since I'd eaten out every evening since Friday. In fact if Claudia hadn't come round I expect I'd still be sat on my couch just now thinking about going to Morrison's. However, despite what certain parties say, after a pizza and some of Claudia's most excellent strudel I was my usual chirpy self.

I am looking forward to a week of eating in and not drinking. Unless anyone knows of a place that sells Cobra or Tsingtao beer wholesale.

Sweet Lord... Noooooooooo!

Just after last week's abysmal Robin Hood I thought things would pick up. Guess again! I hope this is bunk or Tuck will be the "only friar in the village".

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Howdy Y'all

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Northeast
The Midland
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Questionably Unequestrian

This week is shaping up to be tough. Tonight I was down The Old Horse to have a blue burger and celebrate the coming of age of one our teaching assistants from Italy. Tomorrow we are going out for Chinese to mark him leaving for Italy, and on Friday I have to go out to the Fencing Christmas meal. I am thinking of skipping lunch tomorrow.

This week's Torchwood was interesting, though the villain's genius plot was just a little too open to random variables to be believable, and apparently Ianto may be sleeping with Jack (though I think this was deliberately implied but isn't true).

Recently the desire to rewatch some of my old films and look them out for other folk so unfortunate to have never seen such classics as Highlander, Jabberwocky and the Monty Python series caused me to rummage through my DVD collection. One film I'd forgotten I had was Ladyhawke - this is a wonderful film and if you have not seen it you simply must. Rutger Hauer plays a bad-ass good guy, a young Matthew Broderick plays a sidekick who steers dangerously close to becoming annoying but never crosses the line into Jar-Jarland and a young Michelle Pfiefer does okay too.

However what always sticks in my mind with this film is the music - the Alan Parson's Project did the soundtrack and electric guitars and 80s funk do not exactly match the lush landscapes of medieval Italy that are present in the film. However the music is fantastic in its own rights. I downloaded the soundtrack shortly after remembering this. I used to have it but used to be really terrible at backing files up - in fact I gave Alex and Lesley a copy of the mp3s to use during our old Rolemaster and Riddle of Steel campaigns. Any time during the game we rode on horses we made sure to play the funky and totally inappropriate cues from "The Search for Phillipe" (listen to it here). It was a great mood killer, as medieval as a Costner monologue on freedom, and often caused poor Paul, our Evil GM, to watch in utter dismay as we attempted to imitate horse riding in a way that made the coconut banging in Monty Python and the Holy Grail look like Shaft. Mind you Paul seemed to spend a lot of Wednesday's looking quietly dismayed at us, this was but one reason...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

You Were A Most Worthy Adversary

This may be the funniest 5 minutes of TV I ever saw... from my favourite Red Dwarf episode ever:-

Insomnia, I Am Thy Cure

Term is drawing to a close, students are stressed and finally have that permanent flu-state and sadly I'm down to my last couple of lectures of the semester. But as I face being chained to the help desk and increased exposure to the mad one I can at least live with the fact that today, for the first time I sent a student to sleep. In fact I sent two students to the land of nod with only the power of my voice - one in each of my lectures.

The first one was right down at the front and started snoring quite obviously. The rest of the class stopped listening to me and were watching the sleeping student. It was so funny I stopped lecturing and fixed him with a beady eye along with the rest of what was supposed to be my audience. Alas he woke up while I was torn between turning the microphone up to full volume, getting everyone to cover their ears and yelling "WAKE UP!" or running to the bathroom to fetch something wet.

In my second lecture this student came in late and as soon as I saw him I burst into a fit of hysterics, followed by most of the class including this student. I'm not good at self-control, but this was funny. However during the intensity of my revision lecture another student, also at the front slowly began to nod off.

Also, one of our general teaching assistants came into the office today while I was fiddling with this blog and saw the Flibble movie. Said Flibble movie had him in hysterics whilst he was teaching the same group of sleepy students. In fact he seemed to find a video of a grown man he knew wrestling with a puppet penguin a lot more funny than I would've expected.

Lazy Scranton


Monday, December 04, 2006

Mr. Flibble Attacks

Mare gave me the idea for this little early Xmas present proving what you can do with puppets, a webcam and Windows Media Player (it's the music that works best for me).

I do all my own stunts and puppet work. Yes I am sad, why do you ask?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

My Little Eye

While plotting my escape from the funny-farm that is work I've been watching the Office: An American Workplace. I dismissed the first season as an Americanised carbon copy of the UK but watching Season 2 late on ITV4 it becomes clear the show gets a life of it's own once all the UK scripts have been used up. The characters are different, Michael Scott (Brent) is a lot more tragic. Brent always came across as sleazy and self-serving, while Michael is naive and relatively alturistic, if a twit. Dwight (Gareth) is not in the army, as it would be unthinkable for Americans to poke fun at their armed forces. He's a volunteer sheriff deputy, a sci-fi geek and has a love-interest in the form of the uptight christian chick in the office.

I've watched all the way to the latest Season 3 episode (written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Steve Marchent, though I wouldn't have guessed to be honest) and overall its a lot more zany and silly that the UK one, but it's a good laugh. After watching Season 3 in one evening I went to work and when the inevitable craziness occurred I was looking for a camera to stare at akwardly.

Which links to my next point - I have a webcam now finally. This means people on MSN can now see my ugly mug and apartment. It also means the number of people on MSN has dropped. It also shows my hands as being very, very big when held up to the camera, but never ever do the Numa Numa, record it, overwrite another video file you were going to show and... well you get the picture.

I even set it up as a motion detector with FTP access to upload pictures to my web account at work if anyone comes in the apartment while I'm away - useful for watching the workmen who've had to replace all the wood in my bathroom as it's been slowly flooding for the past 6 months and no-one noticed. Finally I might even bring it into work but that would just be too entertaining...

Finally caught Casino Royale this week, which was actually quite good. Very gritty, less cartoony and in places downright nasty. This week's Adventures of Much, Also Featuring a Hobbit Called Hood was pretty good if you can get past the silliness of the Sherriff making Much a lord rather than just quietly killing him and not telling anyone to avoid making him a martyr. This show should count Much as the star, he has far more charisma than Robin and seems to carry the show when the Sheriff and Gisbourne aren't around.