Tuesday, 20 October 2009
And recently, with the start of the new US TV Season, I've been going back to old favourites, and I also thought I'd try a new series, Flash Forward, which is currently airing here on the cultural wilderness known as Five. (On reflection, I'm being too hard on the poor channel, it does occasionally show good things - the current exception to it's "if it's not a procedural or a film, it has to be a rubbish documentary" rule is Ross Noble's Australian Trip, which IS a documentary, but not one of their usual ones with titles such as "The Giraffe that taught English as a Second Language in an obscure Antarctican Village", or "My Mother, the Top Hat". Whoops, I appear to have digressed a little, back to the point)
So, having sat through a few Flash Forward episodes, I'm sure you are all wondering what I thought of it. Is it, as some say, the new Lost?
Well no. Because there's no island, polar bear, obscure scientific research organisation or (so far anyway) Jim from Neighbours. (But it probably won't be long, he does turn up in just about every U.S. Drama Series at some point). But it's also not that because, unlike Lost, which started with an event that was unexplained, and has at every turn thrown up new events to be explained, Flash Forward's event was documented. And that is (for now, anyway) the ballgame. The event happened, this is the aftermath.
Except.... it just doesn't grip me. I tried my best, I sat through all the standard character types, assuming that at least one of them would develop, or that the plot might take an interesting turn, but I ended up actively switching off mid-way through episode 3 (I think), because I had completely stopped paying attention. I have no desire to watch it, and unless anyone that I know tells me that it gets better (as many people did with Heroes when I originally gave up a similar number of episodes in), then I probably won't give it a second shot. Although I will want to know the explanation behind the event and, more importantly, if it gets re-comissioned for a second season, I will want to know how they're going to continue as they will have passed the flash forward date by that point...
So for the moment, that's off my schedule. Which leaves me down to just two US shows that I am regularly watching as soon as I can after they air (being as Lost and Chuck don't re-start till after Christmas), one of which is the aforementioned Heroes.
Heroes and I have a intricately weaved past. Every time I try to give up on it, something happens to pull me back in. In the first season I watched a few episodes, and gave up until, towards the end of the season, a friend advised me to watch, and I did, watching the vast majority of season one in one sitting. At which point I grew excited for the finale, and then disappointed when I actually saw it. Still, a show that good must get better in Season Two, right?
Wrong. Season Two was just messy, lazy, and to be honest, only had enough plot (yes, I said plot, people travelling to see someone else for 8 episodes is NOT plot!) for about 4 or 5 episodes, and introduced some of the most annoying characters. Ever.
So Season Three? Tim Kring, creator, stated they'd learnt from the mess of Season Two, and had a new plan...and it sort of worked. In bits. But we got ANOTHER dystopian future (the third in three seasons) that needed to be stopped, we got characters completely changing their minds on things just for the sake of the plot, we got convulted Time Travel plots, Ali Larter playing a different crazy blond woman, Peter and Sylar both becoming way too powerful.... And Nathan being an ass. As always.
And I'm now a few episodes into Season Four, and I still don't know whether I want to stick with it. Of course, I will, because I'm hooked. And I have to know what happens. And its almost as if the writers know that, and are just twisting us along. For every good moment (Peter/HRG team-ups and Matt/Sylar mind battles), we get multiple bad ones (Sylar with Amnesia, A random selection of carnival villains, ANOTHER potential love interest for Peter (who has a frankly useless power), HRG moping, Claire entering a bisexual relationship (and that wasn't done for ratings at all was it??) and Angela Petrelli - just generally being as useless as she has been for three years). But this is where Heroes has got me, and Flash Forward hasn't. I cared about them at the start. And I'll therefore take all the crap, just to see how it ends. But Flash Forward? I'll just read about what happened.
"But Brawny, what's the other show you are regularly watching?" I hear you all yell. (Well I don't. But I can imagine that might be what you're yelling. Or at least that you might be gently mumbling under your breath as you peruse this blog. Or maybe you don't care. Well stuff it. It's my blog, and I'll tell you). It is, of course, the wonder that is House M.D.
By all rights I shouldn't particularly like this show. I'm a big fan of high-concept TV, which it isn't. I'm a big fan of sci-fi, which it isn't. And I usually can't stand procedural shows. Which it is. But it's just so damn good. Hugh Laurie is outstanding, and flanked by a superb support cast. And the writing is good, and funny. And it breaks with procedure JUST enough that it feels different, and you do often feel that an episode could not follow the schedule of
Mysterious illness - Ideas - Patient gets worse - More Ideas - Patient nearly dies - House has random thought that he connects to Patient - Patient saved - Interspersed with a subplot either involving Cuddy or Wilson, depending on who is less involved in the actual medical case.
And this season particularly (Season 6) has been outstanding, causing genuine changes in the Status Quo, (and yes, I'm aware I've capitalised that as if it was the band, but I like it. And as I pointed out in an earlier set of brackets, it's my blog. So if you don't like it, tough!) and I have no knowledge whether they are permanent changes, but it's a show that's never been afraid to do that before, so who knows?
To conclude : Watch House - Avoid Flash Forward - Put up with Heroes.
Saturday, 17 October 2009
After the two kind of serious blogs I posted on Friday, I thought I'd just casually ask you wonderful people (some of whom I know are writers) if any of you are taking part in NaNoWriMo this year?
For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, and is basically a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. I've often considered doing it, and I've decided that this year, I'm going to do it.
Writing 50,000 words a month equates to about 2000 words a day, with 5 days off... so basically, you may get less blogs from me over the month of November (and also in the last week of October too, because I'm heading back to Poole for a well-deserved break :P)
I did consider starting a seperate blog to keep track of how the novel is going, but then I realised that's just adding more writing work to my month, and that'd be silly!
So basically, if you are doing NaNoWriMo - feel free to add me as a buddy on their website, if you're not but you are thinking about it, then go for it, and if you aren't interested at all, then just bear in mind that you will probably hear less from me over the next month or so!
Peace out, my homies.
Friday, 16 October 2009
Another example - A good friend of mine often goes out to Romania to work with orphans, he has done for several years now, and I'm sure a lot of good comes from it. However, when he returned, he was very enthusiastic that I, and various other friends, should go out to Romania with him next time, so that we could all work with the orphans and make everything nice and wonderful. Lots of our mutual friends said yes, but I instantly said no.
It's not because I think orphans aren't a deserving cause for charity work, it's just that I don't want to go out there and work with them, when there are so many factions of my life that are not, as yet, in order. Also, if you start doing things like that, where do you draw the line? If it was me, I'd be consumed with guilt for only helping the orphans and not the lame dogs of Germany, or some other charity work.
Don't get me wrong, I'd donate money to charity (and indeed, i have done before) if I had a suitable disposable income, but I don't. So I guess I value my own life and well-being (and that of family, friends and people I know) over that of good causes. But do other people feel differently? Do people genuinely rank charity causes above their own comfort? Or are they just racked with guilt at not being able to do enough?
I'm well aware that this post makes me sound like a selfish, idiotic asshole... but I do genuinely worry about it.
Am I a heartless bastard?
For those of you who don't know what this is about, today in the Daily Mail, a piece was published by their columnist Jan Moir, both in print and online, entitled "A Strange, Lonely and Troubling death..." which is about the death of Stephen Gately.
Now, just to be clear, I'm not a mad Boyzone fan, and nor did I have any particular affection for Mr Gately himself, except for that affection one affords to all human beings (excluding those who have done something to cause that affection to be terminated). I read of his death a couple of days ago, and my brain simply registered "Oh, that's sad." Then, this morning, I started to see people posting on Facebook and other such outlets about Ms Moir's article. So I decided to have a read and see what all the fuss was about.
Where do I start? At the beginning I guess... (Please bear in mind that I shall not be reproducing the ENTIRE article here, just sections...)
"The news of Stephen Gately's death was deeply shocking. It was not just that another young star had died pointlessly"
Well yes, it was that another young star had died pointlessly. In fact, I would say it was more shocking than those who die from fast living, drug overdoses and the like...
"Through the recent travails and sad ends of Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger and many others, fans know to expect the unexpected of their heroes - particularly if those idols live a life that is shadowed by dark appetites or fractured by private vice."
Thursday, 15 October 2009
Which game was it? Why none other than the perennial N64 Favourite Goldeneye!
Now, either I've got a lot worse at the game (which is possible, I was never particularly good at it before), or I've been spoiled by other FPS that have existed more recently. I'm not a massive FPS player, being of the opinion that Doom II on the PC is the best FPS of all time, and not owning a PS3 or XBOX360 (the platforms of choice for Nazi/Zombie/Other general bad guy shooting fun), but I do know what I like, and I have played various modern FPS's, usually in 2 player mode round other peoples houses.
But what spoils me? The map. The fact that you can, at a glance, see where you are in relation to other things. Even Doom had an in-game map (accessed by pressing TAB I seem to remember), but Goldeneye doesn't have one (certainly not one that I can find - feel free to correct me if I'm being an idiot).
On early levels this is fine (and, incidentally, I have played the early levels so often I know exactly where I'm going and what I'm doing), but last night I dropped into my saved game, onto a level I have absolutely no memory of (The Statue level). And boy, was I rubbish. I got lost, I shot my contact, I shot the guy I was meant to be unmasking, I blew up the helicopter and the girl I was supposed to be saving died....
So, whoops there :P
But are things easier now? I don't know. In regards to a completely different type of game, New Super Mario Bros Wii is coming out on November 20th (YAY) and apparently has "Super Guide" - which means "players will be able to pause the game, let the game complete the level for them, and resume play at any time by unpausing. This is only available in single player when a player has failed to complete a level eight times."
Now, when I heard about this, I despaired slightly, because frankly, that sounds like another step towards making games easier. However, it may have had the opposite effect as, according to Russ Frushtick from MTV Multiplayer ""New Super Mario Bros." on the Wii is going to teach you a lesson in humility. It's really hard. ... Nintendo was showing off some of the new levels from the game. The first they dropped me in was level 8-7 and very near the end of the game .... I went in expecting instant success, I left with zero lives and a lower sense of self worth... It's because of the Super Guide that the developers were able to crank up the difficulty, knowing that they no longer needed to make the game for the lowest-skilled player. So you're left with what's arguably the most hardcore Mario game you've ever played."
So, is the Super Guide a new way of allowing casual gamers and hardcore games to both play the game without complaining? Is it the new version of a difficulty level?
I hope so. I could do with a Mario game that's hard... :)
I'll let you all know once I get it!
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
So, there's been a great influx of news and events regarding some of my favourite programs and books recently, and every time I see it, I think about blogging about it. So I thought I'd go for a complete, all-encompassing post...
This has, unsurprisingly, caused a massive amount of discussion amongst fans, particularly on forums such as Gallifrey Base (where yes, I admit, I am a member, mostly a lurker it has to be said, but I do post occasionally). But this is my blog, so I'll say what I think about it.
After looking at it for a few days, I've come to the conclusion that I like it. Mostly. The DW tardis shape (or DWardis as someone on Gallifrey Base named it, which I love) is apparently an "insignia" so the assumption is that it won't appear in the title sequence, instead being used on merchandise etc., which I think will work well. The Logo I like because it FEELS right.. as opposed to the current one, which, lets be honest, does look like it belongs on the front of a London Taxi! Yes, there is too much lens flare on it, and yes the R looks a bit strange, but other than that, I think it's good, (plus, the lens flare will vary when it is animated, so my issues there might go away.. they could get worse I suppose, but I'm thinking positive) and I especially like the little serifs bend away to add a slight air of difference to it...
Also, there's been various set reports, photos and other spoilery type information slowly leaking, just enough to get me excited, not enough to annoy me.. which is good. If you want to find any of this info I recommend signing up for the Gallifrey Base forum and having a good nose around. :)
So, on from Dr Who, to Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I went to HitchCon '09 on Sunday (with Neety, Gav and Helen) and it was GREAT! :) Saw the "Douglas Adams Chat Show" hosted by Clive Anderson, where a selection of people from the world of Douglas/Hitch-hiker's sat around and talked about him, and answered questions from the audience. Also saw Eoin Colfer who gave us a reading of small bits of his new Hitch-Hiker's book "And Another Thing..." and again answered questions, before we got to witness the radio cast coming back together to read a specially adapted radio show which zoomed through elements of all of the novels, telling the same old story in a slightly different way. And then I got a copy of "And Another Thing.." signed by the author himself.
Then I took it home and read it. Do you want to know what I thought?
*Waits for answer*
You do? Well OK then. Here I shall attempt to write a mostly non-spoilerific review...
"And Another Thing..." is the sixth book in the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. And the first to be written by someone other than Douglas Adams. The previous book "Mostly Harmless" had ended on something of a downbeat note (if you can classify the destruction of the Earth (again) and the apparent deaths of pretty much all the major characters as "downbeat") and, for many years, fans such as I thought that this would be where it ended, especially as Adams died in 2001. However, such trivialities have not stopped the franchise, being as we have seen three radio series' and a film since Adams' death. However, these were all adaptations of existing works, and Adams himself had contributed however much or little to all of these. This is the first attempt to further the story without the man himself.
So, is it succesful? Let me start by saying that yes, it is a good read. It takes the characters and, mostly, stays true to their characteristics whilst going off on a whole new plot. The writing, whilst pretty quirky and verbose, is not the wonderfully surreal prose of Douglas's, but Eoin Colfer does a fine job of creating at least the overall feel of a Hitch-Hiker's book, and in many ways makes the book feel much more like the first two than Adams' subsequent, slightly more depressing (but still brilliant) volumes. We have all our main characters;
Arthur Dent-Not in a dressing gown anymore, but still craving Tea
Ford Prefect-Still researching for the Guide and generally relaxing as much as possible
Zaphod Beeblebrox-Still Mad as a box of Frogs and still in posession of three arms and two heads (kind of...)
Trillian-Still conflicted between her career as a journalist and her responsibilities as a mother
Random Dent-Still a moody teenager (mostly)
We also have a new selection of characters, some returnees from the previous books, and some brand new, which is all well and good.
The issue with this, for me, is that Arthur Dent is, and has always been, the heart and soul of Hitch-Hikers, it's his story. And in "And Another Thing.." Arthur is sidelined for a good proportion of the plot. It is a good book, it just seems a bit, you know, sensible, for a Hitch-Hiker's book. Adams always complained that because he had created feckless characters, that it was always hard to involve them in a plot (the first time he had this problem was Life, The Universe and Everything, where he was trying to integrate the characters into an already exisiting plotline), whereas "And Another Thing..." ends up treating everyone a bit more like normal characters, who will actually do things to advance the plot.
But that's a minor complaint, because it's not like you can expect it to read like it's by Douglas Adams, because it's not by Douglas Adams.
The other minor issue for me is the ending. I like the very end (which is Arthur's story), but, not giving anything away for those of you who haven't read it, everyone's story is wrapped up pretty neatly, and it feels a bit too happy and optimistic for the end of a Hitch-Hiker's book.
As a novel on its own, I'd rate it 8 out of 10.
As a Hitch-hiker's book - 7 out of 10.
I've just realised how long this post is, so just as a wrap up for more geeky news
Red Dwarf is returning with a new series!! Those of you who know me, will be aware of how much of a big deal this is, and how excited I am
Chuck may be returning in October (in the US) instead of March! For those of you who have never watched Chuck (and I know it's only on Virgin1 in this country) you really should do it. It's horrendously well-written and entertaining. You can buy Season 1 on DVD now, and I suggest you do!
That's all for now, my next post will probably be another rant or discussion...
Monday, 12 October 2009
Well, no it won't. It'll be like all the others, it'll have bits that make you laugh (hopefully) and bits that make you think "You're not as intelligent as you think you are Brawny..."
But seriously. Over the weekend, which I spent once again with the wonderful Neety, we ended up having a conversation as to whether her new blog entry "MEN: Your Best Feature (Part 1/5)" was too long. Now just to clarify, we weren't wondering whether the 5 parts would be too long, this discussion was about part one (although, how impressive is it that she PLANS blogs in 5 parts? I barely plan mine at all before I start rambling!)
And it got me to thinking. As a fast reader (And I'm not kidding, when I was about 10 I did the whole of the Chronicles of Narnia in a day, when the last Harry Potter book came out I read it in two and a half hours), I'm a big fan of long blogs. Because if they're interesting (or at least semi-interesting at least) then I read them and they occupy a few minutes of my time, as opposed to a few seconds.
And I'm the same for other forms of entertainment. Put two DVDs in front of me, both films I want to watch equally, both priced the same, and tell me to choose one, it'll be whichever is longer / has the most special features. Anything that adds value for money to it. I originally balked at the idea of buying the Family Guy: Blue Harvest DVD when it was originally announced it'd be selling as an individual DVD - Pay for a DVD with only 43 minutes of episode?? What a rip-off! But of course it's not. If you want to see it. Which I did. Now they did bulk it up with special features so that I didn't feel quite so ripped off, but it seems to be an in-built part of me, that things generally can't be too long.
Many people moaned in reviews about Funny People, which I saw in the cinema a couple of months ago, that it was too long. Not a problem for me at all, it held my attention and I laughed throughout it. Which underlines my point. What is too long? Is Bigger always Better?
Well no. Not always. On Thursday night I had the wonderful (mis-)fortune to have to see a film that had been shot by a "professional" with some of the students from one of the courses at work. (Apologies for being quite so vague, but with recent stories about people getting sacked for posting innapropriate tweets/blogs about sensitive workplaces, I am not taking any chances!). The original brief for this film was that it should be a promotional film to highlight what the students do on the course. What we ended up with was a half hour documentary, which, frankly, could easily have had 10 minutes cut from it, and not been any worse, in fact, it probably would have been better.
Going back to my opening story, my response to Neety was that I thought that it was a good length and that she shouldn't worry about it. Because I enjoy reading long, well-written blogs, just as I enjoy reading books, magazine articles, graphic novels etc...
So do I think everything should be longer? Bigger? Well no. If the film last Thursday had been bigger I might have gone on a mad rampage and torn up the screen, if the extended film of "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" was any longer, I'd have fallen asleep in it more times than I already have, and if all Books had to be at least 1000 pages or more, a lot of books would be full of filler and bad writing. (A bit like this blog, I apologise for that, my defence is it's a Monday morning).
In my eyes, things have an ideal length. And that length should be obvious. For example, if I had an album of music which I enjoyed casually in a background noise kind of way, but was only 30 minutes long, I'd probably think was too short. However, the Wildhearts album "The Wildhearts must be Destroyed" (which is excellent) is only about 30 minutes, but it feels complete when you listen to it.
I myself fell victim to this trend when making "Norwich and Saggers: Smarter than the Average Bear" (to watch it on Youtube - CLICK HERE) I had written the script, and it felt the right length, and when I edited it, it mostly felt the right length, except for the improvised "Gruntfuttock" sequences, which seem to me now to be obvious padding....
So all of you writers / creators of artistic events/items/recordings/etc... my suggestion? Be aware of how long your final product FEELS like it should be. And make it that length. Don't try to pad out a 60 minute film to 90 minutes just because that's how long you think a film should be. Don't write a 10 chapter story and then add another 6 of extraneous rubbish just because you want it to look more impressive. When you've reached the end, it's the end.
And I promise, on my part, that I'll stop worrying so much about how long things are, and just enjoy the ride.
(Oh, and be impressed, I made it all the way through a blog entitled "Is Bigger Better?" without making ANY innuendos. :D )
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
I'm currently sitting in my office, furious, because there are various things I need to be doing, but the idiocy of people is precluding me from doing any of them...
For example - the most pressing thing I have to do today is do multiple copies of a DVD. This is an essential thing that needs to be done by Thursday. Before I can run the copies, however, my boss needs to sit down and watch it, and before I can give her a copy to do that with, I have to have the original disc.
Which, so far, I don't have.
Oh and also, if my boss doesn't like any of it, or deems anything to be inappropriate, I will then be asked to re-edit the DVD...with no source materials, and no time...
So I ring the person who's supposed be giving me the original disc, and speak to the administrator, who tells me she'll be in by half nine and she'll ring me back. So she doesn't. So I ring her again at about ten, and get the administrator again, who says that she is currently teaching but will ring me when she's on a break.
OK... but this is the woman who was panicking about getting the copies done not three days ago... she couldn't spare 30 seconds to ring me? Or indeed, to drop the disc off early this morning as she had previously agreed to do?
Because of this, I have to sit in my office, waiting for the phone to ring. So I can't, for example, head downstairs and sort out a room that I need to clear, which I am getting hassled over, and I can't start any of the multiple-copy DVD runs I have in the queue to do in my office, because I will have to cancel them as soon as the urgent disc turns up.
Is it just me, or is this course of action about as productive as a fish attempting to crap out a diamond so that it can pay for it's adopted monkey baby's university tuition?
And I know this isnt funny or exciting. But I had to say something somewhere or I would explode.
Apologies for this rubbish blog, go back about your business.
Friday, 2 October 2009
For me, as someone who has friends (and indeed, a girlfriend) living in different areas of the country to myself, it is incredibly useful, providing an easy method of contacting people who I don't see often. However, it does lead to some slightly wierd occurances. One that happened to me today was as follows:
A colleague at work (who I know has read this occasionally, so hi Sarah if you're reading, and hi John if you're reading over her shoulder) was having a casual conversation with me and happened to ask if the T-Shirt I was wearing was the one that I had got Sharpie on the other day. Which confused me, as I didn't remember having a conversation with her about it. Then I realised - I'd written a facebook status about it!
So it's good, because people can be kept up to speed with other peoples lives (and if you're a stalker, it's brilliant! Apparently... I wouldn't know... honest... I'm no stalker .. (runs off to hide restraining order within multiple sets of brackets (is it here? (Or here? (Too late, you'll never find it) No it wasn't ) Nope) - That confused you didn't it? Back to the rambling) but there's a flip side to this. For one thing, it means that all of those people on your friends list can see what you are in the mood to write, so I do occasionally find I have to self-censor, so that I don't have to deal with peoples objections to my opinions of things... Also, as I have mentioned before, facebook can lead to people getting the wrong idea about your life...However, none of this is as bad as that most awkward of things, the Facebook meeting...
I have (as I am sure many others of you who have facebook) a lot of friends who are people I have known and who I have, for one reason or another, lost touch with. Not that I dislike them, just that I last saw them ten years ago and our lives have taken us in completely different ways... So last summer (08, not the one just gone) I bumped into one of these people in a queue in a shop. Now, if I hadn't seen a picture of her on her facebook profile, I would never have recognised her, but recognise her I did, and she recognised me. So we opened with conversation "Oh hi, haven't seen you in ages! How are you?" ....
Approximately 90 seconds in, I realised our mistake. We had nothing to talk about (we never really had much in common 10 years ago!) and we were stuck in a queue which seemed to be never-ending and moving at a pace that would not trouble an arthritic snail who was getting on a bit and hadn't been out for a week... So we attempted to have casual conversation.. and it was horrendous. I'm not good with conversation at the best of times.. let alone casual conversation in a queue!
The flipside of all of this, of course, is those people who DON'T have facebook, who end up feeling left out of conversations, events and general tomfoolery because everyone contacts each other through the magical interweb nowadays...
So I don't particularly think that Facebook and social networking in general is a revolution, it's simply a different way of communicating, and does some things better (geographical location for example is unimportant, you can let everyone know what's going on at once) and does some things worse (still ends up forming cliques and groups (especially the have-Facebookers and have-not-Facebookers), and the fact that you can let everyone know what's going on at once!)
What do you lot think? Essential website? Or superfluous rubbish? Draw your own conclusion. I know for me, that I would have trouble doing without it... but is that just me?
(And we'll ignore for a moment the fact that for the last couple of weeks, it's been acting up incredibly badly, crashing, showing multiple chat windows etc..)