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).