Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sweet!

News just in...

Director Peter Jackson, New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc said on Tuesday they have agreed to make two movies based on the book "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien, ending months of legal wrangling.

Jackson, the director of the smash hit "Lord of the Rings" movies, and producer Fran Walsh will executive produce both a "Hobbit" movie and a sequel, but no decision has been made about who will direct the films, Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, co-chairmen and co-CEOs of New Line told Reuters.


I'd say squee but that would be hideously inappropriate.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Oh Puleeeze God No!!!

Peas and rice! As if Catherine Tate's return wasn't bad enough. One companion too many will be back for the new series of Dr. Who methinks!

Actress Billie Piper is to return to Doctor Who, the BBC has confirmed.

She will star in three episodes of the sci-fi drama, reprising her role as the Doctor's companion, Rose Tyler.

Rose's return will mean the Doctor has three assistants in next year's series - Donna, played by Catherine Tate, and Freema Agyeman as Martha.


And Captain Jack no doubt. The Tardis is going to be crowded - and I suspect this is going to be Tennant's last season.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sci-Fi Reviews

Still recuperating I'm afraid, but enough time for a blog post on some internet TV I've been watching (Yes! I have internet again and can watch TV again for the most part. Yippee!)

Star Trek: New Voyages has released a new episode. It's called "The World Enough and Time". The crux of this is that in a freak transporter accident young Sulu is aged 40 years or so and is then played by George Takei for the remainder of the episode. This is pretty cool, but unfortunately the previous episode featured young Chekov contracting an aging virus and ages into Walter Koenig. Not that the original series didn't rehash concepts in rapid succession, the Menagerie and Court Martial occurred in rapid succession as if suspiciously using the same court set they'd obviously spent some dollar that needed a return.

Anyroads at over 60 minutes this is pretty good -- it's better than the Chekov episode simply because they killed Chekov off with his rapid aging and for some inexplicable reason he's as young as ever and alive in the next episode.

You can watch it here with Flash. I must confess to misgivings over the preview for the next episode.

I've also seen Babylon 5: Lost Tales finally.

The problem with previous Babylon 5 spinoffs is they've had a different feel to the original series (IMHO good in the case of Crusade, bad in the case of the Legend of the Rangers). Even more-so is the fact that each spinoff has from the word go had an "epic" premise. In Crusade it was a 5 year mission for a cure to Earth's plague. In Legend of the Rangers it was the Hand, a race more powerful apparently than the Shadows (who were supposed to be the most powerful and the last of the First Ones). This meant that when Crusade was cancelled and Legend of the Rangers failed to merit a series (quite rightfully, as I recall it was awful) this left a massive unresolved backstory in the B5 universe.

With the Lost Tales JMS has obviously learned from this mistake. The first Lost Tales is unabashedly small-scale in stature, with the first story relating to a demon aboard Babylon 5 while the second story relates to a Dead Zone-esque moral quandry in the vein of the old "if you knew Hitler as a boy and saw his future would you kill him?" Both stories are roughly 35 minutes in length -- shorter than an episode of the B5 series.

Not a lot of money was spent on this project. A lot of the sets are pure CGI. The first story features literally 3 characters - Colonel Lochley, a character introduced in Season 5 of B5 and carried over into Crusade that JMS obviously likes even though she's a poor man's Ivonova (she was left in charge of B5 at the end of the original series though, so her involvement isn't exactly inappropriate), the older gentlemen from "7 Days" as a very convincing and refreshingly wise and witty Catholic priest and a possessed man. The second story has 5 characters - President Sheridan, Galen (a very cool character from Crusade that JMS is taken with), a reporter, a Centauri Prince and Lochley briefly.

Very small scale, but ultimately entertaining. The writing is stellar, the dialogue witty and there are seeds for a larger plotline in there somewhere. There's also tributes to G'Kar and Dr. Franklin's actors who died in recent years.

If Lost Tales goes the way of Legend of the Rangers then I'll be disappointed - I hope there's more of these to come.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dragonlance The Movie Trailer

The trailer for the new Dragonlance movie that's coming out in 2008 is here. If you're not in the know Dragonlance is the Dungeons and Dragons book range answer to the Lord of the Rings. This is the first in what will presumably be 3 animated movies. My impressions are the animation looks akin to the old D&D cartoon, except for the way-too jarringly different CGI for the dragons. But I'll see it - the story is pretty good.

Lucy Lawless (Xena) is playing Goldmoon, a character who largely becomes irrelevant after the first story, while Kiefer Sutherland plays Raistlin, a character who becomes increasingly important in the first books, and the focus of the second trilogy. Michael Rosenbaum is doing Tanis's voice which means, given how he voiced the Flash in JLU, Tanis probably speaks with a strong US accent. Hmmm...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Fear of Girls 2

They've made a sequel to Fear of Girls, which looks very very amusing. There's only a trailer so far...



Needless to say the movie is a bit unrealistic. I mean 3 female roleplayers? A gaming table where there's more girls than men? As if... :)

Oh and here's the first video in case you've no idea what I'm wittering on about

Need Translation Work

This film is a stroke of genius, Like-Fox!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bus Pirates Return

Arr, there be 2 new episodes of Bus Pirates on the fine ship YouTube:-



Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Study in Emerald

Watching TV's been difficult for a while, so I've been listening to a lot of audio drama. I listened recently to a Neil Gaiman short story called "A Study In Emerald". It's part of an anthology of HP Lovecraft meets Sherlock Holmes stories called "Shadows over Baker Street", a book I intend on buying at some point when I start earning money for unnecessary things like books, food and petrol.

Anyroads Neil Gaman made the short story available on his website here. It parallels the original Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, where Holmes meets Watson. Obviously Study in Emerald is somewhat different, but if you don't understand it (and you need to be up on your Holmes-mythos more than your Cthulhu) the Wikipedia page explains everything here.

By the way, does anyone think Neil Gaiman looks like David Schwimmer (Ross from Friends). I just don't see it, but my esteemed colleague, Dr. Steve thinks otherwise... you decide...



More McGann

I've finally got round to listening to the rest of the Paul McGann plays as I rest up. It has to be said that a lot of the radio play blurbs sounded a little dull and out there in the 8th Doctor, Charley and dull-as-dish-water C'Rizz range. I was surprised that they were at worst average.

Time Works - the TARDIS materialises in a place where the people are virtually slaves to a race of clockwork men that exist out of phase with time and effectively eliminate those workers whose usefulness is at and end. The doctor gets puts in prison immediately... something that happens a lot in all these audios... Decidedly meh.

Something Inside - the Tardis materialises in the Cube, a prison for psychics that resembles the Cube from the movie the Cube. They get chased by something called the Brainworm. Surprisingly more compelling that the crap synopsis I have just given - I really expected this to be rubbish, but it wasn't. It's good.

Memory Lane - the TARDIS materialises in a prison that takes the form of a 1980s suburban street that stretches forever, with an ice cream van that swiftly steals the TARDIS and where every house houses an old lady watching the snooker and her inexplicably child-like adult grandson. C'Rizz is actually useful in this one. It's very good.

Absolution - this one is as I expected, bye-bye C'Rizz. Charley accidentally unleashes all the souls C'Rizz has been carrying around with him, hurtling the TARDIS into some sort of purgatory world of lost souls (yup, you could argue it's a prison again). C'Rizz then proceeds to become all-powerful, go bananas (much like he did in a couple of other stories) and kill a lot of people before the Doctor persuades him to stop and commit suicide. And this upsets Charley into leaving. It's okay, and presumably sets up Charley's final story.

As I've said before I think C'Rizz is as dull as dishwater as a chameleonic humanoid in an audio drama. The actor's voice never sounded particularly alien and he had a slight penchant for seeming shifty and untrustworthy. As to Charley, considering she has been a companion for 28 stories, it's also time for her to leave.

It's worth noting another season of McGann stories featuring Sheridan Smith have been commissioned - Dead London, Max Warp, Brave New Town, The Skull of Sobek (sounds like a Dungeons and Dragons module), Grand Theft Cosmos (a brilliant name but doubtless not involve the TARDIS shooting pimps and prostitutes), The Zygon Who Fell To Earth (a sequel to the Horror of Glam Rock) and a 2 parter called Kidnapped / Vengeance. Unlike before they'll be going on to CD before BBC 7 get their hands on them.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Ideas Move at the Speed of Time

This commercial they made on the show is why I love the US version of the Office.



Politically correct it is not. (now fixed to actually play the movie)

Monday, October 29, 2007

And Now A Real Life Post

You're probably wondering why this blog has been so quiet lately?

Well, there's been a few changes. A lot in fact of late. I was diagnosed with a fairly serious debilitating illness. I decided I wasn't going to post on my blog until I was better, but 4 months on I'm still feeling a little poorly, off work, and rather bored. It's not life-threatening, but it is sufficiently serious that I'm still not 100%. To reassure y'all I'm certainly a lot better than I was. If you're really desperate to know more, get in touch, I won't be posting specifics here for a while at least.

I will now try to resume normal bloggage.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

RTD's Latest Brainwave

OH DEAR GOD NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! She was fine for 1 episode, but please no more!!

Catherine Tate accepts proposal to star in fourth series.

Catherine Tate is set to return to the TARDIS for the complete 13 week run of Series Four of Doctor Who.

Award winning comedian Tate will reprise her role as Donna, the runaway bride from last year's Christmas special, despite turning down the Doctor's invitation to travel with him at the end of that adventure.

When Catherine was asked if she would like to become The Doctor's new companion at the press screening of The Runaway Bride, she replied, "I would love to, but no one has asked!" Well, now they have.

"Catherine was an absolute star in The Runaway Bride and we are delighted that one of Britain's greatest talents has agreed to join us for the fourth series," announced Doctor Who's executive producer and head writer, Russell T Davies. "Viewers can expect more ambitious storylines and a whole host of guest stars in 2008."

Catherine Tate added : "I am delighted to be returning to Doctor Who. I had a blast last Christmas and look forward to travelling again through time and space with that nice man from Gallifrey."

Freema Agyeman who has played Martha Jones, The Doctor's companion throughout the critically acclaimed third series, will return to the show to join The Doctor and Donna mid series.

(Martha will appear in Torchwood for 3 episodes, no doubt to "experiment" with her sexuality and possibly even release a mass-murdering monster on the public).

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Vengeance Competition

I appear to have won an autographed DVD of Highlander: Vengeance. This is nice as I don't usually win things in competitions, I don't have this film on DVD and it's actually not that bad a movie.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Dr. Stu on Dr. Who

Blogging at home in Dundee. RL postings to resume this month - honest!

Season 3 of Dr. Who has been amazing, but again the drag factor of having RTD write the end of season finale has lowered the quality of what has been without a doubt the best season so far.

Utopia started out as a so-so episode, slightly better than Gridlock. It seemed to be a loveletter to Captain Jack, who is of course utterly amazing and can charm all species/genders just by saying hello. I've never been that taken with Jack as I've always felt he's pushed a personal agenda in Dr. Who for RTD that really wasn't within the scope of the original show. Plus there really wasn't much for him to do in the 3-parter other than fix an engine, provide the Doctor's hand and transport to 2007.

Not that I object entirely to Jack, I like the character but am not so sure about liking the "message" behind him. He does get some good lines with the Doctor. There were also references to Torchwood (laughably setup by Jack to honour the Doctor, but as we know a club for sexually deviant weirdos). The Master distracted them with a wild goose-chase (probably by simply organising an orgy being held in Cardiff centre).

Utopia was saved by Derek Jacobi rather nicely switching from the wonderfully Cadfaelesque Professor into the Master. Played with a real sinister gleam, Jacobi casually murdered his best friend and stole the Tardis, but not before being forced to regenerate into John Simm.

I was hoping for a mass-murdering Sam Tyler, a silent, lonely renegade. Unfortunately I expected the Mayor from Buffy. John Simm delivered campness, and naturally was forced to travel to London, 2007, to begin his rather mundane plot for world domination, complete with tacky pop music soundtrack. And they complained about the Master in the McGann movie?

Anyroads, part 1 was good (especially the end), part 2 was so-so and could've setup a promising part 3. Part 3 was a mish-mash of as many sci-fi cliches as could be found. To wit I present the following graphical representation of the 3rd part of the Master story I nicked from Outpost Gallifrey:-



(Yes - 1 year later the Master has decided not to kill any of the Joneses or the Doctor)




Originality is not RTD's suit. It might also be nice to have a finale without a reset button of some sort (Rose's powers, the vortex suction thingy, the paradox) some impact - not emotional impact but rather some sort of change to the cozy 2007 Earth we live in where Cybermen, Daleks and starships are all acknowledged by the public but seems to cause little dissimilarity to our own "real world".

Last of the Timelords could've been amazing. It could've been the Master trying to use the paradox machine to rebuild Gallifrey, or a battle starting on Earth and raging across time and space. Instead what we got was entertaining but a whimper compared to the bang of the season.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Epilogues and Interludes

So, long time no blog. There is a reason why. I've been ill.

I've left Leicester Uni now and am now a researcher at DMU. It's a bit of a culture shock (though see below again). The office I share is akin to the one in Leicester - out of the way, away from the academics and a little cluttered. Everyone seems really cool. It is pretty convenient if I need to buy something in town in a rush..

Anyroads, back in late May I had a nice series of leaving events. I spent my last week or so in the Loaded Dog shooting pool with the guys or in the Redfearn when not packing or wrapping things up nicely. The staff at Leicester Uni signed a card and got me a bike as a leaving present - which will be handy for commuting between sites. I shall have a picture of them all assembling it here shortly.

The saddle (still) needs adjusting as no sooner did I triumphantly cycle away from the department than it tried to tilt to a rather odd and uncomfortable wedgee-inducing angle in the middle of Victoria Park. No Stuarts were permenantly harmed or rendered infertile in the making of this anecdote.

As to my arrival at DMU (a day early, I was being paid by Leicester Uni and yet attending this day as it was the last one the expert could attend) I had a fairly intense training session on the code of the package I will be developing, going from 9am-6pm and followed by a curry and drinking, meaning it was 9:30pm by the time I got home.

Unfortunately since then my stomach and various other things have decided to throw a nervous reaction to my change in working environment. I was my usual Jedi-like cool but began to notice that my first week of work was spent half-asleep at best (I even forgot my contract on the first day after having left it out the night before to slip into my bed), going to bed at 11pm and waking up around 5am exhausted. My second week saw me have to take a day off work to try and finally shake this off. I looked so bad the doc gave me sleeping pills, which I'm sure are not actually helping as rather than feeling tired from not sleeping I felt drowsy. For example I had to leave the pub yesterday at 6pm as I was falling asleep.

Not fun. Still haven't really had a decent 8 hours kip since the end of May, but I am starting to feel better.

Anyroads, while all this was going on the nice chaps at Leicester Uni took me for a leaving meal at El Apperativo (which alas Claudia is not as good as La Tosca IMHO). I gleaned several pieces of information on things in Charles Wilson 303 post-Stu.

There's a possibility I will hopefully still be occasionally poking around Leicester Uni next year teaching Information Management (i.e. Word and Excel) part-time.

So other than sucky health problems, a total lack of sleep and generally being a bit irritable things are going well.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Dr. Stu returns from the void to talk about Dr. Who

Expect a deluge of bloggage shortly.

For now I'd like to say Human Nature was without a doubt the best Tennant-story yet for me. From the sketchings of all 10 incarnations of the doctor, the cricket ball, the epic and yet non-violent ways of dealing with the evil-doers and the fact for once the historical period was not white-washed BBC PC-land really worked for me. Finally someone was rather rottenly racist to Martha who gave as good as she got (albeit when said pompous schoolboy had exited scene-left).

I still have a hard time envisioning the original 7th Doctor novel, with Sylvester McCoy playing tongue-hockey to the Jessica Hynes character. McCoy's doctor was not a lady's doctor thankfully. Nonetheless this romance worked far more than the one in the Girl in the Fireplace. Mind you in my book a courtesan is a courtesan, not some glamorous role model.

Overall this season has been an improvement on the last. It's more science-fiction than soap this year. Martha's family (especially her mother) seem more integral to the plot than Jackie, pizza, chips and her quest to grab a bloke ever were. And they're far less irritating - the mother's fear and loathing of the Doctor are pretty understandable. Doubtless they're going to pull out the footage of the Doctor killing a pretty similar looking girl to Martha at some point - according to Martha's myspace account her mother was pretty upset when the cousin died in Doomsday.

This season the Doctor has seemed more vulnerable and the various challenges have taken him to the edge. In short, he's scared, which is good. In Season 2 he and Rose swanned about various places, wise-cracking while people were savaged by werewolves and like, seemingly unphased by anything (except possibly in the Impossible Planet but that contained the cringe-worthy bit at the start where they burst out laughing at the possibility of immediately fleeing in the Tardis) and always getting off scott-free. Let's be honest, Doomsday wasn't really a suitable payback for their cockiness.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

End of Days

So tomorrow is my last day at work for the University of Leicester. It's actually a little sad, especially considering it's been 2 years, 2 months, and 16 days since I started work there. Yes - blogging and B. help you remember the exact dates. Today was the last day I'd see A. as he is off chasing a new job.

One of my coworkers is leaving, his contract coming to an end and bizarrely not being renewed. I'll let you guess which one it isn't (hint: not the one they should get rid of). Even crazier is B. is going to get his own office (damn did I spoil my brain tease), or rather a different office, further away from the students as he might actually snap properly if he interacts with them on a full-time basis and has to come out of his corner.

I've read my papers and though there's plenty I don't understand about water networks I feel somewhat confident about the job, though time will tell. It's going to be weird, but hopefully it's going to be worth it.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Dr. Stu on Dr. Who

All I have to say so far is, this new 2 parter is so cool, and we likesie this...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Movie Round-up #2

So I finally got to see Highlander: The Search For Vengeance, a film with a subtitle even worse than Highlander: The Source. This is the story of another Macleod, Colin, and is in a separate continuity to the movies and TV show. So no Duncan, Connor, Methos, Ramirez or whatever. What we do have is Colin Macleod, an immortal who is a bit grumpy because about 2000 years ago his wife was killed by the head of the invading Romans, Marcus Octavius.

Colin has spent the ensuring 2000 years or so chasing Marcus, always getting close but ultimately failing. His quest for vengeance has taken him to Rome, Feudal Japan, Trafalgar, the Battle of Britain, all of which show his disastrous attempts at chasing after his nemesis. In the meantime Marcus has quested for perfection, mastering art, music and craft. He's still evil, but he's a very refined and cultured type of evil, an opposite to the Kurgan. He even questions whether Macleod has wasted his immortality while he has tried to rebuild and move on. Unfortunately this 3rd dimension to his persona is discarded in the final act.

Colin becomes a highlander eventually when he is adopted by the Macleods when he fights at their side. Octavius was working for the English. The ensuing brief flashback in the Highlands is reminiscent of the original film - bad guy is a black knight on horseback, there's a battle, our hero "dies", comes back from beyond the graves and is banished from the clan by a benevolent elder. The only difference is his girl, Debra, does not hate him for resurrecting and wants to come with him. Debra is in fact the reincarnation of his wife Moya from his first death.

When not flashing back we are in the 22nd century where society has collapsed. There are cannibals (much like in the Source but handled a little more convincingly) and people live in giant walled metal cities patrolled with spider robots, ruled over by tyrants. Marcus is one of those tyrants and he rules by over a virus infested New York that cows down to him in fear. Colin gets the chance to side with the resistance (led by a suspiciously familar prostitute who is the reincarnation of his dead wife again), but it may be his desire for vengeance will work against the resistence.

It doesn't all work - there's a spirit following Colin, Amergan, that talks to him through electrical signals and animals. It works as a Ramirez type figure (explaining the concept of immortals etc.) but there's little explanation for Amergan being around. Was he immortal? Is he there to only guide Colin? Is he setup for a sequel? Who knows Highlander? Who knows?

I haven't watched much anime, except Akira and Ghost in the Shell but neither of those really worked for me. However because of the funkiness of this movie I will most assuredly be checking out Ninja Scrolls.

Next time: More Christopher Lambert

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

An Interesting Find

Trawling through the net I've found a website selling interesting looking Call of Cthulhu movies - Rough Magik, which is an abandoned BBC pilot for a series starring Paul Darrow that sounds like Cthulhu meets Ultraviolet, Out Of Mind (featuring also an adaptation of the story Music of Erich Zann, not the actual music itself which causes insanity and thus not the best choice for a movie soundtrack) and Pickman's Model. They also have Cool Air but I've seen this story adapted already in the movie Necronomicon and it's not one of H.P. Lovecraft's better ones.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Stuff I Like: Turrican 2

Okay, it's well documented on this blog that I owned a Commodore 64 and from it inherited a deathly phobia of giant worms that burrow out of the ground. I should point out I am dealing with this phobia - I now own Forbidden Forest 3D for the PC and there is nary a worm in sight. Ironically it's two giant acid spitting serpents that keep sealing my doom, but that's another story for another day.

My family were fairly loyal to Commodore. We had a VIC-20 in the loft, a C64, and umpteen Amigas because basically my brother and I couldn't share one between the two of us. Of all the games I acquired for the Amiga Turrican 2 is one of the two games that I still dust off and play with WinUAE (the Amiga emulator). I'll post about the other one, but Alex might be able to guess what it is...

The basic plot of all the Turrican is that you are a guy who gets into a powersuit and goes off to kill mutants because they killed your chums. It's a multi-directional 2D platformer in the old school fashion - you kill monsters, grab powerups and choose from an array of weapons to aid you in your quest. Repeat and rinse.

I didn't say it was deep.

Also at about the midway stage of the game you also find a space ship and fly around in a suspiciously R-Type-esque set of stages. Which are amongst the most pretty space levels I've ever seen.

Its fair to say Turrican 2 is a relatively superficial game - indeed what makes it in my mind so great is the graphics and the music which really pushed the envelope in terms of the Amiga's capabilities. I even bought the soundtrack to Turrican on CD a while back.

This review shows the main points of Turrican 2 with some annoying commentary and also in sheer randomness soundbytes of Bruce Campbell in it - which I suppose is worth some bonus points.



Turrican 1 is pretty much more of the same, but just doesn't feel as classicly polished as its sequel. Turrican 3 is a major disappointment and the fact it was developed first for the console makes it

Remakes are available here for the PC but in my not-so humble opinion nothing beats the original.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I Googled Me

Typing "Stuart likes to" into google revealed the following pearls of wisdom:-

1. Stuart likes to consider himself the infra-structure of the band in terms of organisation, decision making, song writing, guitar playing, humour...

2. Stuart likes to mend things, he can gets angry when things don’t go his plans and really hates it when people intervene... (so true!)

3. Clients tend to want finished artwork in ten days, and Stuart likes to take a couple of weeks.

4. Stuart likes to work closely with his clients to understand what they’re looking for and to develop a mutual ... (I have a lot of clients).

5. Stuart likes to twist things around, adding in bluegrass flourishes and hints of mad, twangy rockabilly.

6. Stuart likes to spend as much time as possible on their small farm and enjoys biking, skiing, and horses. (I've a small farm? Cool)

7. Stuart likes to work from photographs, either from magazines or ones taken by himself.

8. Stuart likes to pretend that he is a musician. He plays electric bass and banjo (yes that’s right banjo).

9. Stuart likes to say I’ve known him since he became a Member. of the Bar, and, in fact that is correct. (Go Farmer Lawyer!)

10. Stuart likes to blog about:. stuart has not yet defined her blogs. >> stuart's Blogs. stuart is the (co-)author of the following blogs ...

So much I never knew about nyself.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Movie Roundup #1

Mirrormask was brilliant. Reminiscent of Labyrinth (angst riddled teen girl who was played by a 21 year old actress I found to my relief) this involves an imaginative heroine who wants to escape her life in the circus and is transported to a bizarre realm where everyone wears masks and there is a mirror opposite to everything. She must rescue her mother, who has slipped into a coma, and return to the real world where her "opposite" has taken possession of her life.

Robert Llewellyn (Kryten from Red Dwarf) and Stephen Fry are in the cast (as is Ben Miller's doppleganger Rob Brydon). Very good fun, if a little too stylistic. I should also say that my test audience is very discerning and they liked it.

Day of Wrath was surprisingly good. It did feel like it had been editted with a sledgehammer (there were references to conversations that I must've blinked and missed etc.) but definitely a murder mystery in the vein of Brotherhood of the Wolf (minus the wolf and the kung-fu). Brian Blessed was in it a lot, though Christopher Lambert looked as haggard as he did in Highlander: Endgame. Given that he is a drunken sheriff locked in an unhappy marriage, not an immortal, he can get away with it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Blake's 7 Remake

The new Blake 7 Audio is being streamed on the Sci-Fi website, which is a bit of an odd way to distribute a radio drama on a BBC franchise, but hey-ho. Never really got into B7 - though I watched a reasonable chunk of the first season. Plan on giving this a whirl though.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

You're A Vision

Eurovision. Travesty.

All hail the Prophet Wogan who predicted that the eastern block would all vote for Serbia with a thinly veiled, "And 8/10/12 points to our lords and masters, the almighty Serbia and their masculine girl-singer. Please do not shoot us."

By the end of the night we were all rooting for the Ukraine, with their immensely camp tin-foiled act and Robin Williams lookalike. All except Claudia who was rooting for France. We give her lee-way in these matters.

Judge for yourselves

Ukraine -



Serbia, featuring Jarvis Cocker?



Curiously no live footage from last night exists. I suspect a Serbian coup that spread throughout Europe. Even over here we gave them some points. ARGH!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I'm All Alone, There's No-one Beside Me

So here I am in a very loud echoy lecture hall to give my last class (or rather a class I was jipped into taking).

Only problem - no students. Actually one came by but said they couldn't be bothered staying, but confirmed that the email I'd sent had been read by the 40-something students in the class and did contain the correct time and room. The ironic thing is a week from now the students will be hammering on my door with last minute C++ questions I shall feel a little less inclined to answer.

Q: What do you do when you have a lecture hall for 1 hour?
A: "My Hands Are Bananas" looks good on a big screen. I just wish I'd brought a DVD.

Too Many Films...

This is my DVD viewing list for the rest of the month.

Mirrormask - This must have had the worst distributor in the world, because it never actually seemed to come out in the mainstream cinemas (or if it did I was in a cave at the time).

This is a Neil Gaiman film, though my only exposure to Gaiman was the TV show Neverwhere (which is brilliant BTW). Supposedly this is a film in the vein of Labyrinth and the Dark Crystal (and is sometimes bundled with them despite being 20 years younger).

Pan's Labyrinth - This film is utterly amazing, and I've managed to order it with 2 other films from the director (the only major release he made that crossed the Atlantic was Hellboy, which was not his best film). This is like Labyrinth, the Dark Crystal and other films of this ilk but is utterly dark as well and shares a few themes with Life on Mars and the Thomas Covenant novels.

The Hobbit - Apparently Peter Jackson's The Hobbit will never happen thanks to him suing New Line Cinemas for not giving him the planet in exchange for the Lord of the Rings films. Greed on both ends there methinks, I doubt PJ is short of change for a pair of shorts, and similarly New Line should treat their star act better.

However Rankin Bass made a surprisingly good 77 minute version of the Hobbit which I finally will have on DVD. There's also a cartoon of Return of the King which isn't quite so good designed to vaguely dove-tail into the ending of the Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings animation.

Day of Wrath - A Christopher Lambert film, which might be good. A 16th century murder mystery with Chris as the Sherriff. Also featuring Brian Blessed this cannot fail to be good.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Resigned to my Fate

So what's new now?

I've resigned from my current job finally. Twice in fact, as I forgot to date my resignation letter the first time apparently. This really makes three times if one includes the time I thought I'd resigned in April but apparently my boss had no recollection of me haggling two months notice in June. This was not good as at one point he was intending to hold me here another three months until we pulled out one of his old e-mails agreeing to this. In all fairness I'd not given them anything in writing. I did get a very nice letter back though wishing me well. More on that anon I hope.

I really liked May Day hols. I went to the fun fair on Friday eve. For some reason dinner hadn't been sitting well with me, which is a shame as the rides were -really- good. Really fast. Though the carny humour left a lot to be desired.

Saturday was spent in Burton-on-Trent and watching Doctor Who. Thoughts on this weeks one when I actually get round to rewatching it.

Sunday eve was WFRP time - a long time obsession of mine. It's like Cthulhu meets D&D - regular people (smugglers, boatsmen, guardsmen ) in a Germanic Austro-Hungarian empire type world. It's grim and perilous. Emphasis on the grim. More on that later.

Also, on Monday I discovered the incredible lameness of Who Wants to be a Superhero. So there y'ar.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Superhero Reality TV?

Exactly what this show is supposed to achieve I don't know (unless Heroes is a documentary and people now have superpowers). I hate reality TV but this one is vaguely amusing. Spandex clad contestants go through reality TV ordeals that are vaguely superhero themed, such as rescuing a damsel in distress etc.

Nine tenths of the contestants are actors lured in by the prize of (presumably) starring in a Sci-Fi channel movie of their character and having a comic of their character. They're all thinking that being on the show will raise their profile - the only one I'm vaguely certain is not an actor is a rather large woman who's superhero is (and I kid you not) Fat Mother and gets her power by eating doughnuts to beat up bullies. Not Large Lady, or Big Berta or something less vulgar.

Some of the challenges are so set up (the contestant who decides to be a supervillain and torment the rest of the contestants remarkably well) and Lee is doing a pretty good job of showing them to be a bunch of phonies. For example he sets them a task to change into their costumes without being noticed and run to a certain point. Just before this point there's a kid crying out for help. Roughly 75% of the heroes run right by the girl in a race to be first.

He yells his trademark "Excelsior!" and all the "heroes" yell it back really enthusiastically. He then asks them what "Excelsior" means and everyone is sheepish and evasive, until he has to fill them in on it (apparently it means more or less up, up and away). Another one is that he designs a really duff costume for one of the heroes, asks their opinion and they say it fulfils their ultimate fantasy of being a superhero (or something cheesy), before coming back an hour later to tell Lee they actually really hate it.

Another one is that Lee asks the contestants to each choose a person to vote off. Virtually all the contestants try to vote themselves off, and pass. Stan Lee claims it was a heroic sacrifice and picks off the one guy who voted off another contestant - though it was pretty obvious all the contestants had realised the test and were calling Lee's bluff.

Bizarrely compulsive viewing - have I been hit by the reality TV bug? ARGH!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Board Already

I've bought a lot of games in the last 12 months, some good - like Kill/Save Doctor Lucky or The Totally Renamed Spy Game. Others were a little disappointing like En Garde. It being a long weekend I went through my collection and identified some I've just not played yet.

Devil Bunny Needs A Ham - everyone plays sous-chefs trying to climb a tall building. There's a Devil Bunny on the roof who thinks if you fall of he'll get a ham. I've no idea what this one is about.

Enemy Chocolatier - Overthrow the head chocolatier and create your own world of chocolate. Yum.

The Big Idea - market inventions that are totally whack like the transparent toupee, perforated kilt, electric cat sushi and so on. This sounds fun.

One False Step For Mankind - race to the moon in 1849 in the midst of the California gold rush.

Guillotine - kill French nobility on the guillotine without accidentally killing the people's hero and angering them. This looked a lot of fun in Edinburgh.

Lord of the Fries - zombies try to build fast food meals, but only have 1 brain to pass between them. This is reminiscent of an earlier game called Gimme the Brain I used to play.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Coming in about 5 months



Babylon 5: The Lost Tales- only 75 minutes long, but hopefully there will be more straight to DVD movies, including a conclusion to Crusade. I have to admit I've been enjoying the reruns on the SciFi channel. And Galen's in this one - I really like that Technomage.

Dr. Stu writes Dr. Who





They never should've made that Comic Creator, but here is my epic little creation - Doctor Who and Dumbass Companion go to meet Freddie Mercury. A concept worthy of the master, RTD himself.

I've saved it here as I doubt my comic will survive the moderation process. :)

Now with Episode 2 - I didn't even submit this one. :)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Brief TV Roundup

On the bright side I've caught my fill of daytime TV. Frasier, Family Guy, Freddie (not that good but better than Loose Women), Crusade (very good, darker Star Trek without being unStar Trek) and even 80s flashbacks to watching the Upper Hand with the parents courtesy of Paramount Comedy.

A few more comments:-

Battlestar Galactica - So Season 3 ends on Sky tonight. After discovering they're hearing a Bob Dylan song it turns out some of the main cast are Cylons. Not one of the better finales, Season 2 ended amazingly. Season 3 ended with a bemused WTF.

Heroes - this show really is good and I'm totally getting into it. It does meander at the pace of Lost, but it's infinitely more interesting at the moment, seemingly starting to pick up steam after half a season and it now boasts Christopher Eccleston as a mysterious invisible dude.

Lost - also really enjoying the 3rd season, though it does seem to be even more vague and the castaways seem to no longer bother trying to escape the island. Personally I preferred the show before secret bunkers, villages and modern day townships started springing up all over the island. Why haven't they built a second ship yet?

Doctor Who - wow, nice politically correct rosy-tinted 1930s episodes with all the grit of the first fifteen minutes of Peter Jackson's King Kong. Despite the Depression it appears everyone lives in harmony, be they black, white or pig man. Hugh Quarshie was wasted as a sermonizing proto-Martin Luther character. Roll on better episodes - the Dalek pair are the weakest of Season 3.

The Office (US) - this show is brilliant. I really like the Jan/Michael arc.

Great Sizzling Brains!



Or rather... new glasses, bit dodgy. Not exactly working out well.

On Friday after getting my new glasses I went "Woohoo!", pulled them on at work, worked happily until 15 minutes later when I looked down at my keyboard and felt my breakfast putting on its scarf and hat for a ten o'clock excursion across the function keys. Deciding I'd rather not spend my last month scraping my keyboard clean of second hand shredded wheat I eventually relented and went back to working without said apparel. On Friday evening I put the glasses on to watch some TV but did feel a bit queazy when I tried to do the dishes. Reasoning I didn't need my goggles to do either task I put them away.

On Saturday I went into town to go boating. I wore the sunglasses they'd given me and my eyes felt nice and rested, except for when I took them off in Primark and found the heat, crowds and ugliness of the shop made me unable to focus for about 10 minutes.

During the boating I must've missed the call for sunscreen and didn't bother to wear a pirate hat like the rest of me shipmates so it was no wonder I was the only one who got slightly burned. This burn, combined with a lack of food etc. turned into heatstroke. By about 10pm my eyes were totally unable to focus, in fact the glasses seemed to make things worse.

By about 6pm on Sunday my eyes were barely able to stay open, and I was feeling decidely unwell in the pub. I had to drive back with very, very badly impaired vision. I could barely recognise one of my neighbours walking up the drive. Thankfully Glen was there to make sure I couldn't fall asleep etc. Danny amused me by thinking I was having a heart-attack, I looked so crook.

On Monday the doctor confirmed I had heatstroke, and that combined with the new specs meant that I was feeling really unwell. I had a repeat scary drive to and from the surgery, and bought a ton of food to avoid the Catch-22 of being to ill to drive to the store and needing food to get better to drive to the store.

Today I felt a lot better, but went to the opticians on my GPs orders. They retested me and my glasses. The optician didn't take too well to me calling their experiment of measuring my lenses without referring to the prescription as a "double blind test". Apparently they don't like to use the phrase "double blind" in their profession. As a consequence of this they are altering my prescription, but don't think it'll prove signficiant.

I'm sure a lot of this is psychosomatic. Losing my eyesight is probably my #1 nightmare - actually, my #2 nightmare. Longtime readers will remember my #1 nightmare (and Egor's wonderful psychological diagnosis).

Friday, April 27, 2007

Bespectacled

So, back in Leicester again and things are quiet, way too quiet.

Work has been a pretty tedious - but last Friday I found it near impossible to concentrate, my eyes were really tired and my head was thumping despite the fact I'd been out the night before rather than reading or driving and I'd had a very generous lie-in. So I booked myself into an optician and the net result is all the tiredness and itchiness is because I'm short-sighted, something they diagnosed me with last time but said was not so bad that I needed glasses. Now I do however.

It's a bit weird - the glasses are clearly going to take a bit of getting used to. I'm supposed to wear them for most tasks, though I'm thinking my eyes are working too hard to focus on things at the moment - staring at my monitor is better than fine, but as soon as I stare at my keyboard it gets a little odd and unfocused for now.

Monday, April 23, 2007

New Star Trek Film



They've not quite released Star Trek Of Gods and Men, but the first 3 minutes has been leaked. Someone's going back in time to kill Kirk and cause a split in the timeline (sigh, timetravel again?)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Scotland and Back

Now I've been home and back. Not really much to report other than Inland Empire is a confusing film, Edinburgh is shiny and most of the people seem unchanged.

It was only three weeks ago Danny was telling me at lunch about the amazing ghost walk he and Becca had gone on in Edinburgh. His stories were so eerie I decided I'd like to go on the tour myself. I'd forgotten how fascinating a history Edinburgh and Lothian had, like Sawney Bean (coincidentally I've just watched the Hills Have Eyes for the first time last night and it's based off Sawney Bean's gruesome legend).

We combined our tour with a visit to the National Museum of Scotland and visited the Pixar exhibit (which really wasn't that great in my not-so-humble opinion). The ghost tour was fun and did nothing to dissuade me of the fact that on my triumphant return to Scotland with my millions, I -really- want to live in Edinburgh's old town. However those vaults are really unnerving - not helped by the fact moisture drips onto you from the ceiling. At least I wasn't as daft as Steve who actually entered the stone circle of cursedness that has caused bad stuff to happen to other tour members in the past. However being a humble fellow Stevie boy did it when the guide wasn't looking. We have had no visual confirmation of Steve's existence from this point on - I sure hope it isn't a ghost texting me.

Probably the most scary bit was when some big daftie lept out of the shadows in the outside corridor while we were plunged into darkness inside the vault. Everyone else saw this and screamed some curse. I on the other hand was wondering if Steve was about to play some prank on me in the pitch black and was staring in his general direction rather than the door. Speed of light being faster than speed of sound I was the last person to let out a yelp, which was vaguely amusing.

Other than that and discovering the Green Wing it was a good if uneventful trip home. I'm back at work now, with a harsh regimen of marking broken only by pub lunches, ice-cream and discovering how many uses you can have for traffic cones in the PhD student office.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Doctor Who Witterings 2

I listened to the entire season of Doctor Who that were on BBC 7. Highly recommended. Paul McGann as you may know is my favourite Doctor and Sheridan Smith from Two Pints of Lager is his assistant, and suspiciously similar to her Two Pints character.

It was a long journey from Dundee to Leicester, so here is my thoughts on all of them (except the Dalek 2 parter which I probably wittered on about anyway). If you only listen to 1, make it Immortal Beloved.

Horror of Glam Rock - Not as funny as the clever as the title suggested, this still got a chuckle off me. The Glam Rock version of the Doctor Who theme is on my want list however.

Immortal Beloved - Clever story featuring a group of humans posing as members of the Greek pantheon and effectively living forever via cloning and memory transfer. Sufficiently angsty.

Phobos - Very nice episode about a fear elemental feeding off the extreme sports fanatics using the moon Phobos as a holiday retreat.

No More Lies - Didn't really get this one. I think it tried to be too clever by jumping in mid-story for the Doctor and Lucy. I think if I'd paid more attention to it than the road I would've appreciate it more. However if I'd done that I might not be here to blog this.

Human Resources - Excellent idea and everything the TV show's relatively disappointing finales should be. The Office meets Transformers meets Star Wars. This two parter sees the Doctor trying to rescue his companion only to destroy a warmachine masquerading as a corporate office only to discover it was in fact hired to keep the cybermen in check.

I also listened to Scaredy Cat (very short, not bad, but not fantastic) and Other Lives (steampunk and very, very good if a little contrived). These feature McGann and his companions are jolly-posh Charley Pollard and dull-as-dishwater "whoo I can change colour, oh I'm on radio" C'Rizz, who has not gotten any more likable and is in fact a psychopath. This might get interesting but from the reviews I've read C'Rizz is relatively undeveloped after this point. However the next two audios to come out with McGann are:-

101 Absolution
· October 2007
· 8th Doctor,
Charley, C'rizz

103 The Girl Who Never Was
· December 2007
· 8th Doctor,
Charley

There is no C'Rizz in 103, and the Girl Who Never Was may be a reference to the paradox arc that Charley had in the halcyon days of McGann's Seasons 1 and 2. Charley was supposed to die in the R101 aircrash, but the Doctor saved her.

Seems to me they're "resolving" McGann's old companions in favour of Sheridan Smith. I just hope C'Rizz dies in some heroic and interesting way.

Doctor Who Witterings 1

Gridlock eh?

That was actually pretty darn good for a RTD episode. Admittedly it contained several things about his stories I don't like - like the gay grannies and a disturbing way of producing kittens. I still maintain the year 5 billion is way too far in the future for humanity to look 21st century, though if New Earth was some sort of museum throwback that could explain. It still think by 5 billion humans would be like the Vorlons in Babylon 5.

Also didn't exactly buy it that people would wait years in a traffic queue. People aren't exactly patient these days in traffic.

On the other hand it the Doctor talking about Gallifrey was cool, the SFX were awesome and it was actually quite a nice idea if a little wonky. If it were set on another planet than New Earth in a different time period where people had evolved to a state of waiting for traffic it would've been awesome.

The Face of Boe has finally revealed his secret, although if the Doctor had got a hold of the Doctor Who 2006 annual he'd have already known what Boe was going to say. I hope this means either the Master is back this season, or some Timelord tech is being used by/on Mister Saxon. Preferrably the Master though. Overall Season 3 is much better than Season 2 - but I believe Boe's arc was supposed to kick off in Season 2 but was dereailed by the imminent departure of one Miss Piper.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

New Job: Change, and not a moment too soon.

My time at the University of Leicester is drawing to a close now. Strangely I'm going to miss working there, or rather I'm going to miss a lot of my friends that I've worked with. Not that I'm leaving Leicester, just that I'm not going to be about the campus much.

It's a Research Fellow job, which is nice as I can say I'm a Fellow of DMU, rather than a demonstrator. Too many people think that I wander round with placards for a living. Also it means I'll hopefully get more time to myself without mad swathes of people queuing at my door because they broke their web server/C++ program, and the old "Can I bother you on your lunchbreak, because it's not like the other 100 or so students also feel like they can bother you at this exact time daily." I'm also pretty certain B. doesn't also work at DMU, which is a major plus.

Career wise, all going well, it also means in 2 years time I'll have a pretty major post-doc under my belt and be looking at the coveted lecturer post, the harem, the rock and roll lifestyle, the room full of cash I can swim in with my Scrooge McDuck accent and the fleet of fast cars in the basement. Or one of the above.

But you don't want to know all that! You want to know the story of how I got the job. I was going to blog it in January but I wasn't 100% til the contract landed on my door on career moves are the few things I don't blog in case someone interviewing me googles me.

After being invited to interview I knew B. would be in a foul mood the day before the interview, as his ability to wind me up works on some weird intuitive level. True to form that Thursday B. had a pretty good go at me, and to be honest it was probably the most abusive he'd ever been. He started aggrendizing his own role in the office and calling myself, A. and even G. lazy twats. He swore and yelled, amusingly audible to the students outside who came to me with questions and rather worried looks on their faces. In all fairness I got a few jabs in myself, but without yelling or swearing. By the time he finally shut his proverbial geggy I was resolved to escape the shackles of my current job. I should really thank him - if it weren't for him I'd probably end up a 50 year old demonstrator.

Thanks to his diatribe and latest tantrum I instantly made the decision that instead of going fencing that evening and ending up in the pub afterwards I would go home and have a pretty through read of my notes on the department, do some last minute nip/tuck to my presentation and do some studying.

I was pretty emotionally exhausted when I got home (being verbally abused does that to you) but I was elated when I got an email telling me my 1st journal paper was being accepted - useful when you're applying for a research job. Clearly the stars were aligned correctly for this latest adventure?

I went for the interview on literally the last day of the Christmas term. In addition to a nasty C++ quiz they sprung on me without warning (which I would go on to spend all Xmas silently obsessing about and picking holes in my probably misremembered answers) I had to give a presentation on my research interests. I'd managed to retrofit a PhD presentation to be 10 minutes and include a rather nifty animation that might have been useful if I'd thought of it 5 years ago.

Anyroads, fast forward to the 3rd of January, Dundee and I received a phonecall telling me I hadn't got the job, but that I'd impressed them so much they wanted to 'unofficially' offer me another identical job they had in the offing. I was pretty happy to say the least, as the thought of telling B. to shove his head wherever the sun don't shine in his anatomy.

However after the elation I waited and waited, returned from Xmas hols and went back to work. No sooner had I got back to work than my boss called me into his office and asked me why DMU had interviewed me in December and were currently asking him for a reference in mid-January. He had put 2 and 2 together and got 4 - I was going to jump ship shortly. At this time all I could tell him was more news would be imminent.

Anyroads what emerged from this was a circle of sheer frustration - January became February. February became March. My friends were wondering why I hadn't jumped ship. Some were too polite to ask, while others were a little curious. My bosses were ever so slightly keen to know if/when I was leaving as they asked me about my new job every week or so. My contact at DMU kept telling me everything would fall into place soon. I really wished they'd not bothered with the references until they were ready - I was going to keep the new job under my hat until it was official. By the end of January I think the only person who didn't know at work was B.

Then finally at the end of March I got confirmation - things were moving forwards. Of course while they were happy for me to spend 3 months wondering they aren't too happy if I am kept to my full notice period so I've had to negotiate leaving at the end of the May. Which is not long when you factor in holidays etc.

DMU's Computer Science department is in the really spiffy engineering building. Which is nice as its a modern tower, not a 1970s concrete monstrosity like the Chilly Will building - where the lifts and electric doors fail to work on a windy day, the labs are not waterproof and yet money is spent on refurnishing the 6 or so restaurants on a regular basis. The DMU office block I saw around looks really modern, and it's open plan so no more arguing over having the door open.

I'm a little worried - it's only a 2 year contract, meaning once that's over I'll possibly be needing another new job. 2 years isn't as long as it used to be. On the other hand I didn't have any intention of staying in Leicester for 2 more years in my current job, but on the other hand I'd be sad to leave.

This is probably as big as it gets for a while. As most of you know this blog was set up in 2005 when I moved from Dundee to Leicester to stay in touch with you. Now I'm moving from Leicester to uh... Leicester, but in some ways it feels like a bigger move.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Tolkien's Newest Novel?

I really must fire my intelligence gatherers, because there's a new flipping book by Tolkein coming out called Children of Hurin. Assuming it's not another Silmarillion it'll be bubbling up my list of things to read. Expect a review by 2010.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

I've Got Good News

That TV show I like is going to finally come out on DVD!

Yes, they have released Season 2 of Twin Peaks on DVD in the States finally. They only realised Series 1 five years ago!

Oh, and here's a page of all David Lynch's commercials including the Georgia coffee ads - the man's a true artist who would never
sell out... ah dammit.

Wil Wheaton vs. Wil Shatner

Ever since I started reading WilWheaton.com I've wanted to know the William F. Shatner story, and his book isn't exactly stocked over here in the UK. Thanks to the web here is part one and part two of the ego-master in action.

Dr. Stu on Dr. Who 3

I watched the first episode after returning from Edinburgh and was extremely tired but it didn't seem too bad. Martha at least has some useful skills - being a nearly-qualified doctor means she should be quite an asset to the Doctor, who tends not to be big on repairing the damage he inadvertantly creates. The whole hospital thing was alright - though Martha was perhaps a little too cool with it while everyone else went to pieces. Perhaps she suffers slightly from being a little blazé about danger (this is RTD's way of putting a "Companion Badge" on her perhaps?), but not to the ridiculous extent of Rose in series 2. However she's only been around for about 2 episodes, so I worry about her later wise-cracking. I will rewatch it on my Sky box next week while I'm recording it onto disc.

Also one thing I am most assuredly not waiting for is the Jones family soap opera. Daddy Jones is shacked up with a dolly-bird blondie, who I am sure will inevitably prove to be the most annoying character in the show next to Rose. I imagine she will get quite tiresome and will inevitably end up captured/possessed/whatever.

The second episode, the Shakespeare Code, was very, very good. A lot of work went into getting the period just right, though this seemed a bit wasted since our main characters as usual made no effort to blend in and dress/act appropriately and I felt they give old Tremblestaff too much of the old common touch. At least the humour wasn't as jarringly forced as Tooth and Claw, last year's historical episode. Then again this wasn't an RTD episode.

I liked the villians. Nearly as cool as the Ood. I hope the Carrionates come back at some point - the main witch villainess was disturbingly hot. I worry about me sometimes. Well someone has to. Sadly they probably won't come back - they're not an RTD creation. To wit, next week - we return to New Earth. Because like all RTD's "innovations" it was so good it simply had to be revisited (cue rants about the year 5 billion looking a little too much like 2007). On the other hand if this kickstarts the whole Last of the Timelords plotline it might be worth watching.

Rose seems to be getting namechecked a little too much for me. She wasn't that great. Get over it, Doc.

Otherwise, much better season so far.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Monday, April 02, 2007

Roleplaying Nationals 2007

Yes - it's that time of year again, the Student Nationals (though these days you'll be hard pushed to find a student there), this time in Edinburgh to prevent it from constantly going back and forth from Bradford and Sheffield. See how well that works out in a moment or two...

The journey up was pretty okay except for a major jam outside York - but eventually I was over the border to Jedburgh - which looked cool, epic and misty. About 2 hours later I was working with no directions to get myself booked in and registered, but by 8pm I was all set, and the Pollock Halls in Edinburgh are very, very spiffy. After much reunioning (is that a verb? It is now) I went to sleep, utterly shattered.

A really nice breakfast started off the day well, and I found my game where I was reunited with J... for the 3rd time in 4 years. The first game was run using the Hero system - a system so complicated the rulebook could foil presidential assassination attempts if worn under plain clothes and made Rolemaster seem like a simplistic and common sense rules system.

The premise of this game was that there was a great darkness rising in the north. A band of heroes were to be assembleed to kill it. We were all Greek heroes from myths and legend. Actually it's fairer to say the rest of the party were Greek heroes and I was playing a pathetic Greek tragedy. We went north, found a dark chimera, killed it and stopped the titans making more monsters.

The party consisted of Perseus, an immortal wrestler made of stone who takes his power from Mother Earth, the god Hermes in mortal form for a laugh and Aesipicles - an actor and healer so great he could raise the dead with sheer force of will and persuade titans to commit suicide by eating copious amounts of hemlock.

Then there was me, playing Daedalus of the Daedalus and Icarus double act. I was apparently a genius, having invented flying wings (not so good for Icarus as I'm sure you'll recall) and built the labyrinth for King Minas (something which apparently labelled me as a traitor to the rest of Greece, but hey-ho). Essentially from reading and rereading my superpowers they were:-


  1. Dig 4 inches per second through solid wall. And organise up to 8 people to dig at the same rate.

  2. Raise or lower the ambient temperature of the camp site by 4 degrees. This would turn out to be my greatest offensive power later on in the scenario.

  3. Fly if I had a long runway or cliff. My DM seriously said he thought he had actually removed this power from the sheet, given how overwhelmingly overpowered I clearly was with the other 2 powers.



I also had the Hammer of Haephestus, which given Haeph is the god-armourer I assumed would stack with my inventor abilities to let me build ridiculously fast cool invention things. Sadly it only served to boost my minor combaty abilities.

It's fair to say I was more than a little underwhelmed by the patheticness of my character, particularly as the rest of the party were capable of summoning Zeus, throwing lightning bolts from the sky, creating sacrificial white cows out of the ether and other silliness. I didn't understand the system but an additional couple of facts were slowly explained to me during the game by the DM:-


  1. As I had the lowest Dex score I always went last in combat, that is if there was still a combat after all the god-like heroes launched their powers etc. The DM frequently forgot to remember my character in initiative order so the low Dex was less of an issue at times.

  2. My character, with his amazing strength and god-forged hammer could not actually wound the 1 big creature in the game. We found this out when I spent £2 on rerolls to get 35 on 7 dice and still failed to do anything beyond minor bruising. I renamed the Hammer of Haephaestus "the rubber mallet of the gods" from that point on.



I could however console myself that with my god-given digging powers I would at least be able to dig a hasty grave for anyone who messed with the rest of the party and that nearly everyone in the party was strong enough to throw my character into the air, eliminating the need for a runway.

My most useful moment in the game pretty much went as follows:-

DM: "There are 3 monsters sneaking up on you. Roll to see if you spot them."
SK: "Me? Why, can't they find someone worthwhile to attack? Okay I'll roll." (rolls and fails, pretty much a constant throughout this game)
DM: "The camp suddenly seems to feel colder. What are you doing?"
SK (reading character sheet): "Hey, it says here I can raise the temperature around me by four degrees purely by will. Since I think the night is just getting cooler I walk up to the fire, mutter something and the fire leaps back to life, causing the temperature to go back to something comfortable."
DM: "Er..." (flips through his notes) "The monsters sneaking up on you are some sort of cooled misty air monsters so the temperature change actually damages them." (rolls some dice) "They all die, turning into steam and evaporating."
SK: "But I didn't see this so I probably hear the hissing of steam, turn round and shrug."
DM: "Right. But then 3 more identical monsters turn up and attack - it was the temperature changing that harmed them, not the actual temperature. And as you are completely unaware of killing the first 3 you will not know to change the temperature again. They attack. And go first."
SK: "I hate you and everything you stand for."

(actually I didn't say the last bit, but I was tempted to. It was a pretty funny incident in an utterly pathetic way)

It's pretty accurate to say Game 1 was not my cup of tea. Or even my ideal stool sample. It did however mean I no longer had to worry about ranking in my category, allowing me free to enjoy Sunday's game all the more. But more on that later.

The evening continued with a pretty cool geek pub quiz. I was disowned by DMU Games Soc for playing with DURPS (they only had 3 players at one point) as up until the last utterly random round we were in the lead despite the fact there was a wargames round and our only wargamer left to have dinner. It was a pretty impressive showing though given it was a 6 round pub quiz with 2 additional sheets of questions and we eventually ranked 3rd. Suffice it to say all those Mondays in the Marquis have paid off, as has my knowledge of Dragonlance and Bill Murray's career.

Add to that some drunken mirth until the wee hours of the morning, where I went to bed leaving Six Foot Hobbit more or less sober with Big Bad John from Vague only to find him looking so utterly forlorn and hungover that he thought my cheery cries of "Morning" were some sort of cutting insult.

Sunday's game was Pendragon and the guy running it knew his stuff. The scenario was slightly familiar though - there was a great darkness rising in the north. A band of heroes were to be assembleed to kill it. We were all young knights sent by King Arthur to investigate. I was actually a competent knight with no skill in digging. We went north, found a dark wyrm and killed it.

Way better than the first game despite the suspiciously similar plot. The interplay was better and my character was actually useful for more than carrying the torches. We even had a player versus player joust over the small matter of one of the knights killing peasants after I'd negotiated a truce with the peasants. Add to that an entourage of a possibly gay/disguised female squire, another that was a hypochondriac, a French knight with an outrageous accent, a sneaky git killing after the whistle was clearly blown and a holy relic that I'm convinced came out of Blackadder's "Sacred Appendage Compendium Party Pack" it was a very good game.

And so, after more socialising and Sheffield literally stealing first place in the beginning minutes of prize giving it was a good nationals. And next year it will be in Sheffield... again. Very convenient for me!

Overall good nationals. The only question is who do I play for next year - Dundee or DeMontfort Uni? Well DMU have a free minibus apparently. ;)

Friday, March 30, 2007

In Which Our Hero Loses His Shirt, Regains His Vertigo and Goes North

Much to tell, but as I'm returning to Dundee via Edinburgh today I'm going to have to truncate.

Had a pretty interesting weekend last week. Friday was the Casino Night where once more bedecked in national dress I went to a casino and discovered the dress code was a little more lax than we were expecting. With a whiff of sleaze, smoke and desperation the place was interesting, and the meal we had was very American. I also lost money as usual which put me in a little bit of a foul mood - all too foul for the smart-witted cab driver on the way home who remarked on my kilt. Overall, good night, but I have crap luck even at Blackjack.

On Saturday I went to Stratford-upon-Avon is really nice. Terribly touristy, but very nice. We were shown round Shakespeare's House (pictured). Claudia went round the exhibit at a decent pace while we slow coaches were eventually prompted to go from the exhibit to the actual house by the security man who told us we had 15 minutes left to actually see the real attractions.



Inside the house we fell victim to the eager-guide. All the other guides, realising the lateness of the hour, looked at their watches and gave us minimal information on our surrounding, while eager-guide was all too eager to wax lyrical on the many subtleties of the house. This was great for us, but Claudia, now trapped in the house's gift shop while waiting on us overheard the rest of the staff grumbling about how we'd never leave because eager-guide was talking to us.

After that it was on to the RSC and their vertigo inducing balcony for a most excellent performance of Coriolanus, which was excellent and is very action packed in the first half for one of the Bard's wordy witticisms. It's the first Shakespeare play I've ever seen live and I really enjoyed it.



The rest of the week was equally manic. Work has been excessively hellish this week - it seems to be impossible to get anything done without someone banging on the door and one student even demanded to know my holiday plans so as to know my exact location and availability throughout their 5 week holiday. Needless to say I was not impressed! However I got through it all, though I would describe my mood as ratty at best by the end of it. I need a holiday.

Which is precisely what I will have. I'm off to Edinburgh for the Student Roleplaying Nationals. It's a misnomer as hardly anyone there is a student and I am allegedly represting DeMontfort University even though I am not a member of their society and I think I know exactly 3 people in my team. However the good and great of DURPS will be there, and I guess those loud weirdos from Stirling will be trying to attract as much attention as they can. In previous years it's been fun (though clearly in 2004 I was in a bad mood, thesis writing and no sleep y'know).

More excitement soon I promise!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

My Book Problem

I realised on Friday after I made a mad-dash to the second hand book stores at lunch time and bought some George R.R. Martin books for £1.50 each that I have a problem. I keep buying 2nd hand books. Currently my reading list is as follows:-


  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (three volumes)

  • The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (three volumes)

  • A Song of Fire and Ice: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (thousands of people have recommended this one to me, though the 900 page count is a little off-putting to be honest)

  • A Song of Fire and Ice: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin (I think it's thicker than it's predecessor)

  • Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy (like all of it, the 5 volumes plus some additional material thrown in)

  • Michael Moorcock's Elric

  • Star Trek: The Return (of Shatner) and the one after that

  • The Third Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (four volumes, not three as I reported originally, by the time I finish the 1st and 2nd chronicles)

  • Dune and Dune Messiah (been meaning to read these for a while)

  • Earthsea Quartet Books 3 and 4 (to give you some idea of my pace I read books 1 & 2 on the train when I had my interview at Leicester)



I should point out this only includes the books I have brought down to Leicester - there are all-too numerous musty tomes sitting on my massive bookshelf back in Dundee. However I did read Lord of the Rings in its entirety before I left for the Madlands.

The sad fact is I am a slow reader. On a good day I read about 50 pages per hour - as I insist on digesting every word and rereading everything until the imagery is crystal clear in my head. To wit, so far I am 175 pages into the first book of the first Chronicle of Thomas Covenant. I do really recommend it - particularly if you like Tolkien, which I do. It's really good but I've been reading it for over a month on and off (admittedly I was off for 3 weeks as I was too busy watching TV)! After sitting in front of a monitor the last thing I seem to want to do is wear my eyes out further and read a good book.

I used to read a lot on the bus to work, but then I started driving. I learned very quickly that other drivers on the road consider it to be a little inconsiderate if you read while driving, plus turning the pages is a little difficult. I tried audiobooks on my walkman, but unfortunately I'm a fidget and constantly lose the place when I'm out for a walk. I think I-Pods are more geared towards e-books anyroads.

If I ever read all of the above (I am somewhat dubious I ever will) I also have my eyes on a couple of other titles. There's a lovely black embossed hardback containing all Robert E. Howard's stories in Waterstones these days, and since books seem to have the sole purpose of sitting on my bookshelf I might as well buy this shiny edition. Also a certain overgrown hobbit fellow might be interested in Shadows over Baker's Street - Sherlock Holmes meets the Cthulhu mythos. Bound to be worth a look.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day

In keeping with recent traditions of drinking Guinness, getting blotto and blogging drunkenly in a manner consistent with a certain Irish blogger and chum I'd just like to wish you all a Happy St. Patrick's Day and assure you I practiced my usual brand of temperance.



Stereo-drinking - the way of the future.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Anniversaries and Dancing

This week was the 25th anniversary of the Leicester Uni Computer Science department. It was also my 2nd anniversary of working there. That adds up to the total of my age. Go figure.

Celebrations involved plenty of entertaining lectures and some cakes bearing the likeness of the sundry buildings the department has been based in. However that is only the background for a more amusing tale - I spent most of these lectures trying to stop my anxiously growling stomach from heckling the speakers.

(But first, some cake. I think I wound up eating the student labs - which were a bit crunchy, probably because of the inmates)



You see I'd somehow been persuaded to take up ballroom dancing in preperation for a formal ball that was that evening. Quite how I got myself into that I can't actually remember. My attempts to learn everything the night before I felt I wasn't very good at it - in fact I would describe my first lesson as traumatising, so my stomach was telling the rest of me it was a little scared for some reason.

However everything was moderately okay on the night, and it was a good excuse to try out one of my two newest acquisitons - the kilt outfit that arrived a few weeks back (the other one is a very cheap multiregion DVD recorder, I love ebay). About a month ago I realised since I spend nearly £40 each time I rent a kilt or other formal wear I should really just buy some. I somehow managed to score an entire outfit including shoes, sporran, sghian dhu etc. on ebay for £70, so I was bedecked in National Dress for this soiree (and only narrowly avoided punching some weird accented guy on the road to the Uni for saying I had a nice dress, or 'nice dreeesse' as he seemed to think it was pronounced).

Anyroads my technique needs a lot of work - say about 51 more weeks of lessons - but fortunately my partners were reasonably understanding. In fact Claudia and I seemed to find our little mistakes quite amusing and seemed to just stop for a good laugh at the fact I didn't have much of a clue. For some reason I can't fathom the band took it upon themselves to play the Gay Gordons, an old acquaintance from Scottish country dancing lessons at school and suddenly the situation was reversed and I knew what I was doing (or at least enough to appear that way). Unfortunately most other people didn't and a grand melee of folks crashing ensued. However I think this is a photo of me doing my funky stuff:-



So, interesting times as I continue my whole renaissance man bit.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Uzi-Totting Robots

Yes, now you too can own your own Uzi-Totting Robot (tm) because killing in cold blood still isn't efficient enough these days, it needs to be automated.

JERUSALEM (Reuters) — An Israeli defense firm on Thursday unveiled a portable robot billed as being capable of entering most combat zones alone and engaging enemies with an onboard armory that includes a machine-pistol and grenades.

The VIPeR, roughly the size of a small television, was invented as part of Israel's efforts to develop weaponry that could reduce the risks to its forces from hand-to-hand fighting against Palestinian or Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

2 Years

Today marks the second anniversary of me starting work in Leicester. Yes, a mere 2 years ago I was involved in a life-or-death struggle for a library card, catching the studenty bus into work and living in Manorcroft on Manor Road, Leicester, living off microwave food as TPTB in halls decided I didn't need an oven. That's the wonderful thing about blogs - you can relive all the happy memories.

I'm going to mark the occassion by going home as soon as possible and consuming some microchips or something unpalatable.

Someone please get me out of here... :)

More Highlander Ramblings

And you thought that my obsessive Highlander posting was over right? Well, wrong, 'cos not only did they bring out a new movie (Highlander the Source) which is supposedly being reedited to be less silly and (hopefully) have an ending but they've been doing an anime for quite some time now.

It's called Highlander: The Search for Vengeance and stars Colin Macleod.

That's right, this is apparently a new continuity with a fourth Highlander. So far there's been Connor Macleod (original and best, now roughly 8 inches shorter in the series continuity), Duncan Macleod (made-for-TV goody-goody heart-throb preferred by older women) and Quentin Macleod (animated cartoon series for kids guy with red hair). Now he have the amazingly named Colin.

Actually one trailer's been out for ages:-



But now there's a much longer and slower non-YouTube trailer that looks okay. Here it is, but be prepared to go for coffee while it streams.

As for me, anime's not really my thing. Watched Akira, thought it was alright but not what I expected, watched Ghost in the Shell, thought it was pretentious though some of the stuff I occassionally peered at while living in Casa Al.

Elf Steals Lingerie

The sad thing is I know people who I can believe would do something like this.

A man accused of a stealing underwear from a shop in a knifepoint raid believed he was a female elf at the time, Belfast Crown Court has heard.

Robert Boyd, 45, from Broadlands in Carrickfergus, is accused of holding up staff at the Orchid shop in Belfast disguised in a wig, hat and glasses.

He told the court he had been involved in a role-playing game at the time, and his character was an elf named Beho.

He denies robbery but says he may have blurred reality and fantasy.

He also said it "could be right" that Beho had intended to rob the shop - although he told the jury he could not remember what was going through his mind at the time.

He told defence counsel Anthony Cinnamond that within his small social circle he had been participating in a game known as Shadowrun.


Meh... that's what you get for playing poorly thought out dark future games for far too long. Never really liked Shadowrun myself.

Monday, March 12, 2007

More Wing Commander

I just wanted to post this video as it's so cool - these games put almost as much effort into their losing videos as they did their winning games. There were 2 losing endings in Wing Commander 3 - the grovelling ending and a pretty cool if downbeat ending. Here is both of them:-

New Wing Commander

Yes, believe it or not there is a new Wing Commander coming out of nowhere - Wing Commander Arena. As the name suggests it will be multiplayer geared, and I suspect there won't be much of a plotline. And it's XBox only currently.

In the meantime here's some of the coolest bits of Wing Commander 4, again:-





Friday, March 09, 2007

Badgered

I have returned to work after a few days holed up with the lurgy and am now more powerful that an unimaginative fool could possibly imagine. I am a badge carrying member of staff now - the badge I ordered for UCAS days to identify me as a staff member has arrived, and only a day before the last of my UCAS days.

As a badge carrying member of the Uni I can now stop people in the street . I will now get the best seats in cinemas, be given the "special" table at restaurants and casinos and am able to commandeer vehicles.

Now before you get an image of me on a motorbike riding through the corridors of Leicester Uni Judge Dredd style as an insight into how things work around here I received a phonecall telling me it's the wrong type of badge - it's fastened by a safety pin and would therefore could put holes in my nice shirt. I am therefore getting another badge. Possibly before the UCAS day tomorrow, but probably not as they take 2-6 weeks.

So, don't mess with me. I have 2 badges and one of them controvenes health and safety and is sharp!

I am the Law! Behold the badge of doom!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Serenity Again

I liked Firefly. I really liked Serenity (even if it wrecked the damn Reaver myths dammit). It may be the best thing Joss Whedon ever did, as Buffy went stale for me around Season 3 and got progressively worse, while Angel was always fantastic but started to fade away around Season 5 (though if it had got a Season Six would've been so epic). Firefly never got the chance to go stale because it was cancelled way before it's time. And Serenity was good but I always hoped it'd be the first in a series of movies. Apparently it won't be, which is sad, as the cast are genuinely talented and doubtless have lots of good acting gigs on the go (especially Fillion, aka Mal).


I was in Page 45 in Nottingham (finally remember Dr. Sordid posting it was the "grown-up" shop ages ago and went for a looksie) and I saw a graphic novel of Serenity - Those Left Behind. The original Dark Horse issues went like hotcakes (which makes me wonder just how unprofitable Serenity was given it's comics are worth a mint), and semi-amusingly even Nathan Fillion (Mal) had problems buying issues for his family without being fleeced by some city slicker.

The storyline is set bang between the last episode of the series (one of the weaker ones IMHO) and the movie. It ends with Inara getting off the ship and Book deciding to do the same. I believe I read somewhere that Joss wanted to do an Animatrix type prequel to Serenity The Movie but didn't get funding, and that this was the script (or more likely synopsis the other authors worked with). It certainly does resolve one of the plot-threads from the TV series, the Hands of Blue - who were frequently seen chasing our heroes and killing people with their weird devices but never actually caught up with them in the 13 episodes run.

The comic didn't work for me. It's not bad per-se and I recommend you read it if you like Firefly/Serenity. It was only 3 issues long, and to me needed to be a six issue mini-series.

Maybe Serenity needs to be on a TV to work for me, maybe the plot was too close to the movie (it opens with a raid on a bank, the middle is in a spaceship graveyard and so on). The witty banter was there - but again I think I needed to hear it, not read it.

It could also be the main reason I bought it was to finally see what those god-damn-hands-of-blue fellas were about, and after 2 issues of buildup they last roughly five seconds against Simon, River, Book, Kaylee and Wash, without any revelation of what made them so special, and without them remembering to use their funky nosebleed devices. They basically die hastily so that the Alliance can call the Operative and begin the movie.

The comic also goes to the bother of digging up Lawrence Dobson from the first episode (he was the Alliance agent shot in the eye and apparently if the show had gone on for more than 13 episodes would've popped up pissed at being maimed by Mal - I had to look this up, it's been a while) only to have him decisively killed of by Mal in slightly more time than it takes the secondary characters to kill the Hands of Blue.

So the upshot - buy this book if you're a completist (it's going between the Firefly boxed set once I err... buy it and my Serenity DVD).

Also Wikipedia reckons Dark Horse are doing another miniseries - one that sees the crew of Serenity pulling off a successful job which results in unexpected wealth called Serenity: Better Days. I'll buy the trade no doubt when it comes out. Hopefully it'll be a little better.