Friday, December 30, 2005

A bit Nippy

After nearly killing myself cycling to work the other day (2 ice induced falls (most notable was the skateboard near the pikies camp, covered in snow), 2 punctures (different wheels), some serious skating rink back wheel shenanigans, snapping a £35 hand pump, freezing cold (-4, which is below the opperating temperature of my breaks (hmmm, watch em turn to powder)), riding in a gutter full of all the peaks and troughs of black ice that the cars aren’t driving on, bike locker door frozen solid at work etc.) I’m not riskin’ it today.

I’m gonna huggle up in a few layers of sweaters, light a fire, and try and get some SEO stuff done from the boat.

Sod this for a lark.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Quantum Physics: The Musical

92% of our reality is unseen. It's Dark Matter - heavier than, well, Heavy Metal - download the mp3 sampler and check the blog.

On its last mission, quantum ship Lollipop experienced a collision between parallel universes. Crew member Ensign Percy was exchanged for the Ensign Percy of the universe next door. Now the Lollipop must make it again through the quantum foam, switch back their crew members, and be the first to reach the mythical Dimension of Lost Quarters.

Why does Quantum Physics and cheese go so well hand in hand? Secretly, I have always dreamed of owning my own Hadron Accelerator and I keep a permanent search in eBay...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Best Christmas Viral

I get a load of old jodpers in my inbox.

Standing out this year was an offering from our Flash Seattle chumbs (and fellow
Webby winners) at Creature.

Check out, and pass on,
Pimp My Nutcracker.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Back to Redhill

After doing the first stage basics done prior to sellin' Andromeda, we got up early this morning and toddled through the locks and back up the Trent to Redhill.

We've outstanding issues, most notably a corroded bulkhead that didn't show on the initial exterior survey. We'll be at Mills again at the end of February for more light engineering. Joy.

We've found some interesting history on Andromeda of late, 36 year old photos and every damn thing, and I'll post it here when we get round to putting it all in one doc.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

DVD Review - Land of the Dead

The king of the shambling dead finally returns to the genre he invented.

As with his other undead movies, Land of the Dead works on another level. This is almost a social political study of man and humanity, which happens to have some serious zombie action. The social commentary isn't subtle, some may say almost dated, but
Romero delivers his iconic African American hero and a lesson in consumerism with such aplomb that most viewers simply won't notice.

Taking a step back, and hiding the cultural commentary under a blanket of prosthesis and gore, this is a film of classic FX and the product of a master craftsman. Zombies, a million of them, sliced, crushed, diced, kebabed, detonated, fried, quartered, chopped, squashed, flambéed, disembowelled, fricasseed and chowing down on an unwilling banquet of human body parts. Do look out for some prime cameos from the genre,
Tom Savini, Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, and the stunning and underrated Asia Argento co-stars.

The movie has slight air of 70’s about it. Perhaps it’s the genre, or perhaps it’s because the story picks up some 2 decades after the mysterious supernatural apocalypse that spawned this series. Now the living dead have taken over the world, and the last humans live in the self imprisonment of a walled city, partying against the darkness, as they deal with the new world around them. But all's not well. Outside the electric fences and beyond the no-mans land, the zombies are steadily evolving. Inside, a revolution plans to overthrow the cities corrupt ruling forces (the excellent Dennis Hopper in a subtle Bush parody), and the walking dead are walking into town with ideas of their own. It’s time the corpses got even.

Okay, the dialogue isn’t brilliant, but this movie can do things and get away with stuff that no other movie ever could. Embrace the cheese while its there, there’s not a lot of it. It made this old sceptic jump and made me gasp at the wonder of real stunt performers, make-up artists and FX people showing us the pinnacle of their craft.

This is a George A Romero film, simple as that. It’s ‘Mad Max’ meets ‘Evil Dead’ meets ‘Escape from New York’ meets ‘Day of the Dead’. This is the master at work. This is proper film making. Hail to the King.

Movie: 4.5 out of 5
Extras: 3.5 out of 5

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Shining 2005

The Shining is scariest damn film ever, ever, ever. Twins still give me goosebumps, even those that live in the Playboy Mansion, and you can sod right off if you think I'd ever stay in a remote hotel iif there was the slightest chance of snow.

Inspired by a contest between editing assistants, a young chap named Robert Ryang has created this trailer, turning "The Shining," Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror film, into a 'very-special-motion-picture'.

This is a trim bit of advertising for Roberts editing skills (see the email at the end) that'll no doupt keep him in work for as long as the server keeps streaming.

Go see The Shining.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

High and Dry

Yesterday, we trundled up the Erewash to Mills Dockyard and sat Andromeda in dry dock.

It’s that time again. It’s time for the ultra-sound part of her boat safety, and to black the hull once more. Pig and I spent most of the day wire brushing rust off her and wallowing in bitumen.

She needs a few bits doing according to the man. A bit of welding that we were pretty much expecting and Steve at Mills can sort for us. A bow plate port and starboard were it's pitted into the 6mm (Andromeda being mainly, and surprisingly, a hardcore working boat standard 8mm). Nothing drastic.

There’s a couple of things were going to get done that don’t really need doing immediately, gas locker seals etc., but if we’re sellin’ her to buy this house then I don’t want to be floggin’ 25 tonnes of Bernard Matthews finest.

She’s a hell of a slab of steel when she’s out of the water. Plenty to do. It’s funny watching the other guys in dock pussy-footing around with there fibreglass cruisers while we grind and weld.

We’ll be in dock about a week.

Friday, December 09, 2005

"They're coming to get you, Barbra"

Check out UrbanDead, an excellent post apocalypse MUD I found, by Keven Davies. This is now a quick daily multi-player zombie jam at work. I do like my shambling corpses, just ask the wife, she'll tell you. Mung is sweet.

AndyR got eaten outside the library (they were like drunks on a kebab). Choppa had to jump out of a window after missing one with a fire axe and doing sod all to it. I healed up a Merc in an abandoned hotel and found a 'DNA Extractor'. NicH found a book (having got 'a bit lost' in 'somewhere about as exciting as Stoke') and wandered round in circles getting nibbled at. I now sleep the sleep of the just.

Also, in related undead news, BMA toys (who are, admitedly, a bit pants) have acquired the rights to
Vince Lockes seriously excellent Deadworld comics. They haven't announced the range yet, but (allegedly) work has already begun on a King Zombie figure.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

DVD Review - Quincy, M.E.: Seasons 1 & 2 (1976-1977)

Way back when all I cared about was Star Wars figures and what was for tea, before CSI Miami (or wherever), there was Quincy M.E.

Quincy was the first show using medical know-how, with crazy ‘futuristic’ notions like DNA testing, to solve the crime. This was a show with episodes well ahead of their time. A show that paved the way for many a contemporary series, with their staggering budgets, that use far more advanced forensic methods to catch their criminal.

Jack Klugman (remember him from The Odd Couple?) plays the thoroughly 3 dimensional Quincy. A crusading busy-body Los Angeles Medical Examiner, he’s an expert in his field who always finds something that everyone else has missed. There’s always some tiny clue that goes against all the other evidence and leads him, like some unstoppable terrier, to run foul of his world-weary boss Astin and blustering police LT Monahan. Quincy must have been a nightmare to work with. I pity poor Sam (the excellent Robert Ito), his assistant. But he’s got a truth to find, a crime to solve, and a narrow-minded system to fight.

Awash with 70’s nostalgia, this once primetime American import has dated gracefully. Still steeped in the same values, Quincy was just a straightforward crime series with a difference; here was a pathologist doing the legwork, and not some police officer or private eye. The world is very 70’s and lacking grey areas. Here were well-written and well-balanced crime stories from that classic 70’s mould.

This new DVD set could have been made just to fill in those gaps on Sunday afternoons where TV gets a bit pants and there’s not enough time for a movie before Eastenders. So grab a mug of tea, light a decent fire, curl up on the sofa away from the winter chills, and revel in how it used to be done.

I wonder what’s for tea?

Movie: 3.5 out of 5
Extras: 1.5 of 5

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Frappin' Larpers

A-Team Banqeting Club Cambridge Treasure Trap Banquet last weekend.

This got me thinking. Where DO these people come from? Who are they-that-eat-our-food?

Set-up a UK Larpers Frappr to see if it'd attract owt. Only took 10 minutes (inc. pants logo). Bit of a marketing execise to be honest, to see if Frappr is getting any attention. Less than 2 hours later, 25 members! Crawing in Pagga bods.

Nice tool, hope they find it useful...

Friday, December 02, 2005

New Desk Toy?

Toy News has the latest Minimate offering on show, a monsterous Sentinel that looks like it's just hatched from a Kinder egg.

I laughed so hard I spat coffee all over my monitor (on which sits a Minimates Magneto, and no Captain Depper, you smart arse, he doesn't "make the screen go all wobbly").

They do a Galactus too, but I've
always had a soft spot for The Sentinels and, additionally, it would stop that Homo-Superior scum from nickin' off with my stapler...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

"...biggest spotty dog you ever did see."

Another Banqueting Club weekend this weekend, cooking for our mates at Grimm Tales.

Just Ellen and me this time. Pig was on his works do, getting off his face in Amsterdam.

Well received as ever, but knackered after this one due to a thick cold, only 2 of us, and a heavy social with Dickie and a bottle of Jameson’s on the Friday night.

Slept in a cold Frankenstein’s laboratory, of Dave Trolls making. Didn’t see much of what was going on plot-wise but there was a lot of scrappin’ outside the kitchen window and our serving girl got eaten.

Best dishes of the weekend? Everyone frothed about the pasties, but I rated the Spotted Dog.

Spotted Dog Recipe

  • 8 oz Self-Raising Flour
  • 1 tspn Salt
  • 4 oz Shredded Suet
  • 1 oz Sugar
  • 8 oz Currants or Raisins
  • 150 ml Cold Water
Stir together the flour, salt, sugar, suet and dried fruit. Mix to a firm dough with water. Form into a cylinder about 8 inches long, and put on a pudding cloth that has been wrung out in boiling water and sprinkled with flour. Roll the pudding in the cloth and tie the ends tightly, but leave room for expansion (alternativly, use a good covered pudding bowl). Put into a pan of boiling water, cover, and boil for 2+ hours, adding more boiling water if necessary to prevent it boiling dry (which it will as soon as your back is turned). Turn the pudding onto a hot dish and serve with shed loads of custard.


Friday, November 25, 2005

DVD Review - Hamlet ('90)

Franco Zeffirelli is a director who has already given the world a pair of excellent Shakespearean dramas, in the form of "Romeo and Juliet" and "The Taming of the Shrew," back in the late '60s.

Mel Gibson (yes, Mad Max, Lethal Weapon, Mel ‘William Wallace’ Gibson) takes the lead as The Dane himself and he is good, surprisingly excellent in fact. A fine supporting cast ably backs him in the form of Glenn Close as Gertrude, Alan Bates on fine form as the usurper Claudius, Paul Scofield as the revenge hungry ghost of Hamlet's father, Ian Holm ably rounding out the meddling advisor Polonius and even Helena Bonham-Carter waddles, somewhat underused, through the piece as the ill-fated Ophelia.

This 1990 version strives for a sense
of realism, with both its stunning and remarkably accurate medieval sets and with its thoughtful and truthful costumes. Hamlet intentionally supports itself with very little in the way of a musical score, and this adds to the atmosphere and to the loneliness of the young Prince behind his cloak of self enforced madness.

On it’s release, hackneyed purists quibbled with some of the liberties Zeffirelli had taken. The 80-year-old Italian director had swapped some scenes and lost others, and they objected still loader to the ‘less brooding’ tone of the overall production and to the 'flipancy' of the lead character. But then, if memory serves, there were complaints about his "Romeo and Juliet" and his "Taming of the Shrew", though these are now generally regarded as two of the finest translations to celluloid.

Hamlet deserves a place by their side.

Movie: 4 out of 5
Extras: Alas none available on my VHS review version...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The End of 'Time'.

The new era of 'liberalised drinking' began in England and Wales last night, with more than 1,000 pubs, clubs and shops leaping like salmon at the opportunity to sell alcohol around the clock.

Is it just me, or is this a remarkably retarded move so close to Christmas and New Year? A totally unprepared police force will no doubt have to contend with thousands of bloody students and seasonal revellers, at all hours of the night and day, at their busiest time of year.

It’s not gonna affect us here on the river, but we’re a different kind of drinker, we have ‘lock-in’s’ for such things where a select few have our bar stools mopped around and “sorry I’m late dear, I had to wait to leave ‘till the floor dried”. This is a public service providing essential winter warmth and a bastion of real ale and (god fordid) morris dancing. Not a mobile office party of ratted yule revellers throwing their guts up into city centre doorways at 3am.

Today the drink industry spends more than £800m a year encouraging people, especially young people, to quaff. With the state of our National Health Service, perhaps the government should put effort into abolishing such advertising instead of making addictive and harmful substances available 24 hours, thus encouraging the George Best in all of us.

I like my Jameson’s and a decent drop of red as much as the next bloke, but this is surely gonna end in tears.

Late night drink driving anyone?

The Truth!

Last night we finally finished watching ALL the X-Files. That’s 201 episodes and a movie. We set out to do this back in June, ignorant of what this’d involve and wide-eyed to the ways of the worlds most famous FBI agents.

The first 5 seasons, (with but a few exceptions), are superb. The rest is detritus made to line
Fox's pockets (with a few exceptions).

The premise is simple. Fox (the believer) Mulder and Dana (the skeptic) Scully, doggedly investigate Fortean Times plotlines in search of ‘the truth’ while hidden Machiavellian government forces pull their strings and impede their efforts. There are aliens, there is religion, there is mystery, there are grotesquely malformed peanut butter loving rapists obsessed with Cher.

FHM loved Gillian Anderson (and I get it now, especially when she had the bob). Poor Dogget never really got a chance to shine, and Robert Patrick is such a damn good (and alas underrated) actor. Annabeth Gish is flawed and 'librarian' cute. They never truly filled the shoes of Mulder, played by David Duchovny, who was fired with irrepressible zeal for his personal mission and led the narrative to start, but swanned through his final performances without even the pretence of passion nor enthusiasm.

There are some truly fantastic episodes. Let’s dwell on the good stuff and ignore the later detritus. Lets remember the good times, like Tooms, Humbug (with the Jim Rose Circus), the hilarious War of the Coprophages, the surprisingly lyrical Musings Of A Cigarette Smoking Man, Post-Modern Prometheus and the warming How The Ghosts Stole Christmas. Let us not speak of the disappointing excrement in the last season, leading to the biggest anti-climax of my entire life (the last episode). Let’s just blame Fox and preserve the integrity of Chris Carter and his stalwart crew.

I now see the benefit in carrying a Maglite at all times.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

This Week @ 'The Plex'

I don't know about you, but I'm loosing track of what's going in Google world of late. Anyone would think they were trying to compete with Microsoft or something.

Google Adwords
  • Now lets you make separate bids for ads that appear on their content network.
  • Allows you target a geographical area using Google maps interface, which might be useful for some of our regional stuff.
  • Now beta testing 'a click-to-call' thingy, which is pointless for us.

Google Sitemaps

  • Now gives more useful info about on how Google "sees" sites, including the top search queries that return pages to a site as well as the top queries that caused users to click on a link.

Google Adsense/Adwords

  • Has a feature inviting advertisers to place ads directly on individual content sites displaying adwords via an 'advertise on this site' link. Sites within Google's content network are automatically opted in to this feature unless you opt out, which is a right royal pain in the butt.

Google Analytics

  • Closed to new accounts, which is just as well as reporting is lagging by at least 24 hours. It may be free, it may (allegedly) be powerful, but right now it's as much use as a fart in a space suit for real-time stats.

Google Base

  • Is looking for data. Kinda like classifieds with poke. Might last. Might not.

…and still no Google browser. It’s getting’ full time keepin’ up with them.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Can’t get wood.

We were outbid on our wood, alas.

Unfortunately, with having to pay for a house now, it may not be financially viable for
Jem and me to carry on looking. There’s going to be so much to do at the cottage, and I now have my own dry stone walls to worry about.

Monday, November 14, 2005


We’ve put an offer in on a house and had it accepted.

It’s a 250 year old grade 2 listed two/three bedroom end terraced cottage in Makeney, near Milford, in the Amber Valley.

5 years on
Andromeda has taught us a lot about condensation, weather patterns, mould, 12v electrical systems and how to light a coal fire without wood or firelighters. It’s also taught us when it’s time to move on. We love her, but we’ve outgrown her. We’ll miss her, but a house’ll be a different kind of challenge (especially one that needs as much work as this one) and a challenge is good.

All hands on deck now to get into dry dock before winter for an ultra-sound hull survey on
Andromeda before we sell her.

Crazy. I never thought I’d see the day…

Saturday, November 12, 2005

"What is thy bidding my master?"

In reply to my posting of the dog dressed as Yoda, I was sent this today.

I want one.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Thing Of Beauty

Zombie Infection Products

It's Christmas time in New York City. A strange virus has appeared in the city, turning seemingly normal people into insane, violent Infected. Let's rock!

The new PSP title, Infected, has a fun viral online campaign.

As well as the complulsory third-person splatterfest (huragh), Infected lets PSP owners connect wirelessly with other PSP's
(in multiplayer), where they can then "infect" their opponents with their own zombie virus. Tasteful.

Check out these ads. They start off promoting seemingly benign products like Stalker Perfume, Diversion Bras and So So Soda -
but have a click around. A little too short with not enough 'grey-matter consumption', but some nice PhotoShopped catalogued models morphing into undead.

Shambling into stores on the 15th of this month.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Who at Space Centre

"Dr Who's Grotto" is coming to the National Space Centre in Leicester, the weekend of the 10 and 11 December '05.

The advert on the Space Centre Website claims Daleks, and a "space themed Christmas shopping market".

Looks like it's the full exhibition that was on Brighton Pier, so it'll probably be mostly the new stuff. The BBC ran a story on it a while ago.

There's also a Star Wars weekend at the NSC, this weekend coming, with loads of signings and stuff.

After Disney, that'll probably be lame though...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Be Afraid. Very Afraid.

These people are in my head and messing with my brain.

I haven’t felt so psychologically violated since my first marriage.

Go to Magic Tricks and try the Mind Reader..

It will give you the fear.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bill Gates v's Steve Jobs: PowerPoint 101.

I loathe, with a passion, really bad PowerPoint.

It's right up there with bad clip-art and motivational posters.

I'm either patronised by some speaker who insists on proudly 'reading the slides out load’ to me (often in full sentences instead of bullet points) or dazzled by graphical incompetence when the text is so damn small you have to squint to read the damn thing and through ruinous colour choice (dark blue and fuchsia, I was there, honestly).

Johova spare us from tasteless flying text and moving graphics (this is not soddin’ Quantel and we are not in 1982). Deliver us from bobbo sounds and mingin’ music. Protect us from overly complex diagrams or poorly conceived pie-charts. The list goes on…

I had to do a presentation to our sales and marketing team last week, on SEO and how we go about doing a "Seraphim Proudleduck" on our Northcliffe and commercial sites, and I played and fine tuned my PowerPoint (over a period of days) to make sure I was going to get message across clearly and with the minimum of crud.

On the whole, everyone else presenting had done this too…

Either way, Gates, Jobs, & the Zen Aesthetic (Bill Gates v's Steve Jobs: a lessons in contrasts), on the Presentation Zen blog takes this a step further.

I'd say it offers a vital and essential warning sign to anyone who has ever considered standing up in front of their colleagues and justifying their existence.

Continuing the moan, companies should take measures to train their managers and staff in the use of PowerPoint to present information in meetings. PowerPoint is a valuable tool, it's the use of that tool that's the problem. Too many folk use PowerPoint as a 'substitute for themselves' and seem to think that the slides are the presentation instead of the slides supporting the presentation that they should be delivering.

Audiences should be issued with automatic weapons.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Joey Goes Psyco - Internet to Blame?

I was over at Something Awful today, getting in my usual fix of Photoshop Friday, when Pig pointed me in the direction of: THIS.

Basically, a bunch of Something Awful forumites took the Mickey out of an autistic kid on their guns an’ ammo forum, they told him where to buy some heavy duty buckshot, the kid then buys the buckshot and goes on a psycho crazy killing spree, culminating with him splattering his own head all over a neighbours house.

The guys from the forum must be brickin' it, but come on, it's the web. Nobody beieves anything they read on the web. He told everybody what he was going to do, and he had the rip taken out of him for it (as ya would).

I can't wait to see the repercussions on this one. More 'internet is evil', I'll put cash on it.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Paid to Search?

Bill (the) Gates was letting off gas in Computing this week, and he mentioned the subject of people getting gill from using different search aps.

He seems to think (and, annoyingly, he’s probably right) that engi
nes will have to bid for users as programmes and services move more fully online.

Gates ‘respects’ Google, but basically he’s not scared (yeah, right). While Billy acknowledges Google as ‘a fine company, a serious competitor' (hmmm, they're so good cos they've poached all your best staff mate, ask Stevie Ballmer), he is somewhat derisory of any great threat from the king of SEs.

"Google is great, they are smart people, the press should continue to feed their arrogance as much as possible…" said the arrogant rich tosser...

Billy thinks Google makes round £30 a user per year from the searches they do. Being top dog on the search pile means there's no competition, and Google’s highly relevant results have kept it there. Once competition does really begin, and one has to believe Gates means "once we figure out how to out-Google Google with MSN," (ROTHFL) users will benefit as he said in the interview:

"As search becomes competitive and people realize that other offerings are as good, or are even significantly better, there will be price competition."

"You will get some free content or a check, or some incentive to use a different search engine. Competition for users has not even kicked in. I can assure you it will not stay that way.”

"We are going to run some experiments on that in the next year."

Bill gates may be richer than Captain Kirk’ but shareholders have always wanted the company to give some of the cash back, and Microsoft did finally start doing a bit of this in the last few years.

Microsoft is more than capable of bankrolling the effort to get users to switch search engines. They can afford it. Look what they did with the games market and the X-Box. That said, and mirroring his own words:

"Which Google products are you talking about? Seriously? Other than search, which are you talking about? Google Talk? Wow. A total "me too" product. Even Gmail - what is the unique thing?”

Er, having the best search and most efficient search tool in the world doesn’t count for anything then? Er, Google Earth ring any bells? Wait ‘till they get their own browser smuggo. They don't oftern do it first, that much is true, but they invariably do it better...

Come on Billy Boy, this is nowt new! Hoisted by your own pertard matey. Faithful old Amazon gives a weeny little discount for users of its search engine and toolbar (poor buggers, they deserve it). After a few searches go through A9, you’re eligible for a 1.57 percent discount on your purchases (yipsee).

Admittedly, that could be peanuts compared to what Microsoft can offer, and the Gates does have a way of predicting the market, so who knows. Soon, we could be paid to search.

Potentially, you can get paid for looking for porn.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

PSP Review - The Day After Tomorrow

"Irwin Allen, on the little screen"

The Day After Tomorrow sees our unworthy little species pitted against the scariest woman since Baroness Thatcher: Mother Nature.

Producer Roland Emmerich has always fancied himself as the new (70s disaster king) Irwin Allen, and he went all out to bring us an apocalyptic cinema blockbuster that is visually stunning, somewhat hammy, and horrifying in equal measures.

Earthquakes, Hurricanes, huge, city-engulfing tidal waves and the onset of the new ice age, all with a human (if a tad shallow and American-centric) story, and all in
124 minutes.

It’s a disaster movie, and disaster movies always work best on the big screen. This film has a level of effects enduced visuals that I was in doubt would translate to the small screen of the PSP. Strangely they do. With the level and quality of the digital effects it appears almost seamless on the LCD screen and, holding it by hand as close as one does, it must have touched some personal chord when I found myself saying “Ohhh”, “Ahhh” and “Unlucky!” out load, to the amusement of my fellow commuters. It is what it is, and it works just great on the PSP.

The plot is simple, as truly this film is about the effects. Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), scientist and environmental naysayer, finds the world falling apart around him. Hail stones the size of house bricks smash Japan, typhoons obliterate Los Angeles and a new Ice Age crosses the northern hemisphere. Jack must improbably yomp from Washington to New York, to be with his son and a small group of survivors who desperately try to fend off the cold as our planet flexes its climatic muscles.

In light of the American attitude to the Kyoto Accord and Global Warming, one can’t help but notice the irony, and gaze out of the window where tornados, these days, are even seen in Birmingham.

Is it getting cold? Or is it just me?

Movie: 3.5 out of 5

Unemployed Undead?

Life for monsters after Halloween can be, well, frankly terrifying...

Lucky for them, good old Coors Light is there to bring these poor tortured souls under the company's caring wing, as part of their Monster Outreach Program.

A series of nice little streaming movs give us the tale of Frank, and his shaky transition into the heady world of office drone.

A harmless mini campaign that appeared this morning, being the day after Halloween, courtesy of Coors Light. I do like to see good viral marketing.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Durham Treasure Trap Reunion Banquet

Another well received weekend for our catering shenanigans, this time for the Durham Treasure Trap Reunion Banquet.

The usual A-Team: Ellen (the boss, plus organisational and all round catering genius), Pig (breakfast eggmeister and ‘the griddle’), me (breads and veggie guff), Adam (general and pot boy) and Catt (fancy girlie desert stuff and t-towel goddess). This is our 5th or 6th banquet now, not allowing for hog roasts and stuff, and we've got it truly sussed.

Golden Apple played (spot on lads, cheers for the kitchen serenade) and everyone had a fab time. Muchos cleaning. Muchos alcohol. Nada sleep (despite the clocks going back). Righteous graft.

Best dishes of the weekend? It’s hard to pick out of the 30 or so, but a fella has to have his favourites: the Pigeon Breast En Croute, the Chestnut Carbonarde and (predictably) the Tansy Cakes with Peppermint Cream (also Chaucer’s favourite, which makes them officially ' the daddy').

There were some priceless costumes, with people digging out kit they hadn't worn in a decade. Special mention to Phil 'Prog Rock' Todd.

For more info on other stuff Ellen is doin', keep an eye on the best in banqueting and catering services, The Banqueting Club.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Let's See Who Measures Up

Strangly fascinating. Check this out: Jeff Russell's Starship Dimensions.

Basically, you can see the sizes of starships, creatures etc. from shed loads of different sci-fi films, books etc. next to each other and against 'real world objects'.

If you are using Internet Explorer you can drag the ships on top of each other for better comparisons
and prat about putting The Hindenburg next to The Tantive IV and stuff. Mr. Stay Puft looks awsome attacking the Eiffel Tower...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

DVD Review - Star Woids

“A long time ago, in queue far, far away…”

Remember when we were all looking forward to Phantom Menace? Back in the days before Jar Jar and before George Lucas made the longest toy advert in history? The buzz? The hype? No? Well, some of us do.

My name is Lactose, and I like Star Wars. I like Star Wars a lot. Back in ’77 Mr. Lucas put stars in the eyes of us generation x’ers and changed my movie going world forever. I was looking forward to Phantom Menace, but not looking forward to it enough to queue outside a cinema for 42 days with a sleeping bag to satisfy my curiosity. That would be madness.

This documentary is about a queue. An epic queue like no other...

We are taken through the experience of the obsessives fans who are wrapped in this staggering cultural phenomenon. We meet the likes of Daniel Alter, the schoolboy zealot holding the prestigious number one in the line, and the chaps from Star Wars: The Musical (I jest you not) and the girl who drives round town in an x-wing. This is a window into the lives of hundreds of people, from all walks of life, all of them waiting to see the most eagerly anticipated motion picture in cinema history.

Documentary filmmaker Dennis Przywara joins these intrepid young fans, and the result is funny, somewhat sobering, coherent, oddly sympathetic and sometimes a bit darn sad and cringe-worthy.

There is heart-warming sacrifice. There is fellowship. There is charity. There is a lot of doughnuts and pizza.

The end result is a warm and compelling documentary that probably deservers wider support than the niche audience it will get.

Regarding the subject matter; I agree with Kevin Smith (see the extras) and
I am happy to note that while these people were queuing, they weren’t breeding.

Movie: 3.5 out of 5
Extras: 3 out of 5

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Nicely Stoned

Spent this weekend building a dry stone wall. Captain Depper and I went on the Dry Stone Walling Association beginner’s course under the watchful eye of Trevor Wragg. Trev is an outstanding master craftsman, former national champion, and a seriously skilled taskmaster.

We took down and laid out a broken 10m stretch. We rebuilt all the foundations and learnt how to measure up for leveling and 'batter'. We laid, pinned and filled her from both sides. We put her back together (including couping) in two days and the pair of us had a great time. With the help of our own weight in coffee and biscuits, we built a bit of Derbyshire scenery that’s likely to still be there in 300 years.

We're both now members of the Dry Stone Walling Association and will be going back to finish the rest of the boundary, under Trevor’s watchful eye, next year.

This, admitedly somewhat unusual way to spend a weekend, was prompted by the
plot of woodland we've had our eye on that's surrounded by 4' walling.

A few bits of stone furniture and a decent fire pit will probably be the first place we practice our weekends lessons.

Honest toil. Bits of me are aching, but not too badly.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Google Corn

This is well cool.

Another use for Google Maps.

Check it out: HERE.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Aurora Over Redhill

Jema took this photo last night, from the side hatch.

As you probably know, we live on a narrow boat in the sticks and there’s very little light interference down here on the marina. This is looking over the opposite bank at around 22:45.

I’ve never seen a proper aurora this far south (we live in The Midlands now, on the junction of the Soar and Trent, which is the Nottingham/Leicester/Derbyshire kinda area).

Back in the days when I lived up north it was fairly common this time of year, but you had to get out of the city and sit on a hill somewhere to see it.

Makes it feel like Winter’s coming, time to sweep the chimney and batten down some hatches…

NB: You can get info on daily northern hemisphere auroral activity from the Space Environment Centre in Boulder, Colorado.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

DVD Review - Journey to the Centre of the Earth 1976

“Get it before the flies do!”

When this film arrived on the desk I begged our editor, hoping I could do the review. I presumed that this was the 1959 movie with the same title, starring James Mason. I should have looked at that cover closer.

So, on Sunday afternoon, I sat down hoping for nostalgia born of that Doug McClure era. I was geared up for my own private matinee of tat fantasy and cheesy dinosaurs, comparable with ‘The Land That Time Forgot’ and ‘At the Earth's Core’. But no, this was the 1976 version. I must have been blind and as mad as bag of cats. This film was probably the worst adaptation of a Jules Verne novel that I’ve ever seen (and that’s saying something). I was sadly disappointed.

The casting is abysmal and the performances weak. Poor Kenneth Moore (as Prof. Otto Lindenbrock) has to drag the others along, feeding them dialogue like some brood of screen hungry cuckoos. How on gods green earth did Pep Munné (playing Axel, the military love interest) ever work again?

Not that this version of ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ is particularly untrue to the story, well, not until the time travelling bearded clones turn up (I jest you not). Basically, one Professor Lindenbrock and his niece Glauben (Ivonne Sentis) discover a map in the back of an old geological journal, and set off with her fiancé to Iceland. Picking up an ovine obsessed muscle-man along the way (Frank Braña, used here in his usual role as a caricature) they discover an entrance into the earth in an inactive polystyrene volcano. Following the old journal, inevitably, they find themselves trapped under the earth with prehistoric gribblies, forests of giant mushrooms, and a vast underground sea (of which we never see the ceiling). For me, the highlight of suspense was surely the moment when they were chased by recently woken tortoises…

While many films of this era can look somewhat worn nowadays, this looks threadbare. Overall, the movie was a poor substitute for genuine nostalgia. Even if I’d been expecting what it was offering it has aged so poorly it has begun to turn up at the edges.

Movie: 2 out of 5
Extras: 1.5 out of 5

Motivational Tosh

I seriously hate motivational posters; we had a couple in the lobby when I was at PNL.

They're all, like, a basket of kittens or a sunset over a canyon with some half-baked misquote of self affirming mung in that characteristic corporate type face - I always preferred the alternative versions from and the ones in the Photoshop Phridays at Something Awful.

However, check these out: Marvel Superhero Motivational Posters.

Arguably, the coolest being - Magneto - Possibilities

“Within me lies infinite power... before me, endless possibilities... Decisions... Decisions... Decisions.”

Though perhaps, instead - Magneto - Possibilities

"Nature has made us superior! We are the living future of this mighty planet, this world is our world now, take it! It has begun!"

- would be better. It's probably a good thing I'm not still self-employed…

Monday, October 10, 2005

DVD Review - Alone in the Dark

“Things mortal man was not meant to watch”

The only positive thing I can find to say is that it's a marginal improvement on the directors debut flick, the truly abysmally cringe-worthy and flop-tastic "House of the Dead".

In 'Alone in the Dark', the director (Uwe Boll, and how the name should instil terror in the hearts of film lovers everywhere) has adapted yet another video game (you’d have thought he’d have learnt the first time) in another impressively botched attempt to produce a workable movie. The end result is no more than an ultra-low budget, wooden and rather amateurish, low brow, somewhat sad, clone of the 1997's (far, far, far superior) museum gribblie thriller "The Relic". Add to this the occasional “Starship Troopers” action sequence, presumably thrown in to distract from the distinct lack of any meat upon this movies somewhat cadaverous bones. Lovecraft must be, somewhat appropriately, spinning in his grave.

There are no characters, just a few tired role-play stereotypes wandering around getting themselves eviscerated or narrating exposition. Character development is achieved by giving people a name and an occupation, that's about it. Even the overtly long opening text crawl was added after test audiences reported that the plot confused the b’jesus out of them. Er, what plot?

The action scenes, occasionally passable as they were, begin randomly on their own, coming from nowhere with a pounding track of hardcore Amsterdam techno. I found that I was asking myself questions such as "Where is this happening? What's going on? How did they know about that? If I commit ritual seppuku will it be worth it so that I don’t have to sit here for another 95 minutes of this unspeakable tosh?"

Even the synopsis is excrement beyond belief, and I quote: ”Edward Carnby (Christian Slater, of all the people who should be wise to toilet paper in script form), detective of the paranormal, unexplained and supernatural, investigates a mystery (the recent death of a friend) comes face to face with bizarre horrors that prove both psychologically disturbing and lethal, as he discovers that evil demons worshiped by an ancient culture called the Abskani are planning on coming back to life in the 21st century to once again take over the world... "

For heavens sake. If you are offered the chance to view this movie, I humbly suggest that you gouge out your own eyes with a pencil.
It’s rubbish without kitsch value. This is so poor that it’ll never even be hip for being bad. It saddens me that the medium of DVD has given such films a refuge instead of going 'straight-to-video'.

Movie: 0.5 of 5
Extras: 2 of 5

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Google & Sun Microsystems - Tooling Around

Now, I'm a big fan of Google, hell I'm sat in their London office drinking their coffee and petting the dog on a weekly basis, but the comments on Lauren Weinstein's Blog regarding the recent Sun Microsystems deal make for intersting read and raise privacy issues that make Microsoft look part-time.

"Under the agreement, Sun will include the Google Toolbar as an option in its consumer downloads of the Java Runtime Environment on" - Sun's CEO, Scott McNealy

Check out
Laurens blog, nuff said.

Only in America

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

DVD Review - Escape From New York (Special Ed)

”… the definitive version of a classic.”

In the twenty-four years since it was released, John Carpenter’s ‘Escape From New York’ has grown a well-deserved following. Back in 1981, it was a ambitious action story, brought to the big screen with a gob-smacking level of ingenuity, a seriously solid cast (including the likes of Harry Dean Stanton, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef and Adrienne Barbeau), and all on a shirt-button budget. It’s dark, dirty, and pulls few punches, earning it weapons-grade cult status.

Manhattan Island has been converted into a self-contained maximum-security prison. Cut off from the mainland US by water, land mined bridges, 30’ walls and shoot-to-kill police patrols. New York City has become a dangerous and lawless hell-hole filled with scavenging murder gangs and misfits where precious petroleum and the lives of the inmates are controlled by ‘The Duke’ (Isaac Hayes, “he’s A number 1”).

Recently convicted former Special Forces operative Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell, in this career-changing and iconically cool role) is about to be locked away for the rest of his life, but he’s offered a pardon if he can rescue the stranded President (Donald Pleasence), from Manhattan Island, in less than twenty-four hours.

As a sizable John Carpenter fan, I’ve always liked ‘Escape From New York’ and this Special Ed version is the icing on the cake. Considering when the movie was made (look out for Snake landing his glider on the top of the Twin Towers), the DVD extras and the revamped audio and video are nothing short of excellent.

The DVD is chock-full of extras, including some good informative and personal directors/actors/producers commentaries, documentaries and a whole Missing Reel, which is the film’s original opening sequence that was cut prior to release, comic books, Snake Plissken montage videos, galleries of production photos and lobby cards, interviews and plenty to keep fans and newcomers glued to their remote control.

This is the definitive version of a classic.

Movie: 4.5 out of 5
Extras: 4 out of 5

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Whacked out on Evo

I've got a few days left to take before the end of the holiday year, so I went for a prowl 'round Nottingham yesterday and to pay homage at the Walsall Diner and at Page 45.

I popped into Promotional Props and Costumes to see the guys and scab a coffee, and came away whacked out of my gourd on Evo. I'm always amazed by the contrast between this place, a full blown props workshop, and the news/media office where I work.

They are doing some cool stuff right now and I’ll update the site in the next week or so. Top quality gear with cooling systems and stuff. Some of it is ‘top secret’; in the way that only marketing people can insist that brightly coloured 8’ mascots are.

Anyway, additional most excellent news. For all who know her, Liz is preggers and is going to have a baby (and thank the lord, cos we thought she had yuppie flu). I enclose a picture of the father, Ade.

Massive congrats babes, to you and your monkey…

Friday, September 30, 2005

Got Wood?

Me, Captain Depper, Phatboyian and Leslie went to look at some woods this evening. Doesn’t sound blog worthy I grant you, but we’re thinkin’ of buying them.

Captain Depper and I are doing a
dry stone walling course in a few weeks, something I’ve always fancied, and it’d make a good place to practice my budding craft, roast the odd pig, do small scale LRP stuff, camp and to use as a bit of a base and as a chill spot to partake of the hong.

We’re lookin’ at a co-op arrangement between a few of us. £250 a share. The location’s a bit hush-hush at the moment as it’s going for auction (closed bids) and we don’t want no competition. It’s Derbyshire anyway and local to loads of walking, biking and sites we already use for the likes of
Grimm Tales.

It needs some TLC, notably a bit of drainage and a brush cutter, but at 1.6 hecters it could be a winner…

Thursday, September 22, 2005

In Matrimony, the one Eyed man is King

The wife and I were watching X-Men and X2 (back to back) the other night with friends, a dinner, booze and DVDs kinda thing, when the whole 'Wolverine's a hunk' thing came up amongst the ladies.

Fair enough says I, I'm more than happy ogling Famke Janssen, especially with the far improved and shorter haircut.

Then the wife says to her mate "Yeah, but Wolverines too dangerous, women fancy him but you wouldn't marry him would you" and gives my hand a squeeze in an allegedly supportive 'I prefare you my dearest honey-bunny' kinda way. The other ladies in the room nodded sagely.

So that makes me Cyclops then? All married men can be swiftly categorised by the single, universally recognised, lamest darn character in the Marvel Universe (well, okay, slight exaggeration, there was the likes of 'Maggot', 'Amphibius' and 'Strong Guy'). But we should see this as a compliment? Is this how the opposite sex sees us? Really? Truly?

They see us as Scott Summers, poster boy for 'goody-two-shoes' and the 'safe bet'? Scott Summers, the all round squeaky-clean self-righteous little snot who plays it clean and hasn't even got his own catch phrase?

What, my dear lady wife, in our long history together, would possibly make you think that I would think that being a school prefect and wearing shades indoors is 'cool'? An adamantium skeleton, now that’s cool.

I tried to draw a comparison by saying it was like "I got Jubilee when I was after Scarlet Witch", but she didn't get the analogy.

By this blasé comparison of my spouse I somehow feel that marriage makes one less of a man and, while I got my Jean Grey in the end, I worry for a world were Logan could be considered a potential wife beater and the one eyed boy scout a 'catch'.

Seen the cast for X3 yet? Vinnie Jones as Juggernaut and Kelsey Grammer as Hank McCoy. Totally inspired...

(life is shit)