Friday, 29 February 2008

Rouge Assassin

I've now been to War! Or rather, Rogue Assassin as it is known over here. Jet Li, Jason Stratham, it was bound to be good! (And by "good" I mean mindless enough to be entertaining as long as you didn't have to think.)

By and large, it was a success. At the end I was going "nice, I like it!", and there was tons of action to wade through the boring talkie bits for, so that was nice.

However, the director needs a lot more experience yet. Looking at his record, Philip G. Atwell has mainly worked on rapper videos, and it shows. Lots of fast choppy cuts in the action scenes to make sure the audience doesn't know who's where and what's going on, a hallmark to be sure. And I don't know if it was his fault (certainly he should have picked up on it), or the writers', but 20 minutes into the movie, we don't need a flashback scene to the first 10 minutes. We know, we were there, and we are not! that! stupid!

Anyway, enjoyable enough if you can stand the too-quick pace of some scenes. Not exactly "must see" but not "avoid!".


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Thursday, 28 February 2008

Just a little more information, please

It's a common thing: somewhere overseas a list is published of the top 10 whatever, and some journalist over here thinks "Oh, here's easy copy!", and bangs out a piece highlighting the top thing and some of the other entries. But they also completely fail to provide any link to an actual list.

The latest example of this is called, ironically enough, What are the top 25 TV put-downs? Indeed, what are the 25? The article lists seven, but nowhere does it say where one can find out the other 18. (There is a comment about humour in current TV, but that was also probably copied from somewhere else.)

I did find the list, so can save your time and here it is. However... I might question the use of the term "humour". I suspect, for many lines, you had to be there, and I wasn't.


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Wednesday, 27 February 2008

HC Again

First up is a mess of a mission, in which the victim seems to do a Rasputin, to the annoyance of all concerned. Mission Brothel: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.

Then, because time was short that night, we did a quick mission that netted us six poz (which can be used for rerolls and stopping people doing bad things to you). Mission Design: Part One.

But there's more! I wrote another mission and the crew get to run through it, but they never do uncover the deep secrets of why (and technically the bad guys were just made to leave, they weren't destroyed or anything like that, so...). Mission Field: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five.


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<Plays Taps>

Oh, those were the days, heedlessly swinging across the webs, cruising from page to page, checking out sites just because you could...

And, of course, the browser of choice was... Netscape! (Because the alternative was just evil.) Ah yes, from Lynx (which I still use in one of my telnet accounts) to the burst of graphics was a leap not all were ready for, but we made that leap, and damn the consequences! (And hideous page loading times...)

But no more. For Netscape is dead. To be fair, it did die pretty much when Firefox came upon the scene, but now the final notes have played, the flag has been taken down, and the coffin has been sent to the great 404 in the intertubes.

So long, good buddy! You fought Microsoft so well...

(Thanks to Peter A for the heads up.)


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Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Barbigazl: Part One Notes

DM’s Notes [by Peter A. Picture is of Alrick!]

One of the big things I wanted to do with this module was see how a party of PCs would react to being in essence the ‘retainers’ (as in NPCs) of a non-player group. I didn’t want it to be immediately obvious, and I don’t think I’d have got away with it with a less experienced group. I think I sort of got away with it here, but the degree of difference experienced by the players was, I’d say, subtle at best. They weren’t making major decisions, but they were making some (they had to, or the adventure would have been even more of a railroad than it was already). Hurin was a pain in the arse – but to an extent he was supposed to be. He is a Dwarf and a supposed noble, so a degree of arrogance was ensured; and yet the party had to toe the line for two reasons. Firstly, they were outnumbered. This was the plan all along. I knew it would make some things tricky (and it did), but it was to give me at the time a better option than having them equaled or bettered by the NPCs – that’s a good way to ‘give’ your players cannon-fodder with tank armour. So numbers it had to be, and when Paul’s brother Wayne decided he wanted to play three characters, those numbers increased even more to balance them out. Combat took forever (looking back I’d have had Hurin relegate one section of his group to combat and had the others sit it out. It might have irritated the players more, but saved everyone time). To save myself some dice rolling time I ‘gave’ two NPC Dwarves to each player (although some invested more time in them than others) strictly for combat purposes and little other reason. It sort of worked, but they remained ciphers. I’m still trying to think of
their names.

The second means of keeping the PCs in line was the oath. Perhaps it was forgotten in time, but it got a reaction at the time, and most of the players were Lawful enough to stick to it – to a point (and we’ll come to that later). Blood oaths are tricky things and can have consequences, but it seemed as though the guys were either comfortable with it or knew that there were opportunities for an ‘out’ at some stage.

I’m not much of a believer in wandering monsters, preferring to set up encounters that can be used or not as games develop. The Hill Giants were such a deliberate encounter, giving the PCs something a little tougher to flex their muscles with, something challenging that might expend a few spells along the way but early in the piece, and something that might offer the Dwarves in the group a natural advantage with their natural defensive bonuses against giant-sized creatures. Hill Giants are the weakest of the race, but they still gave the party troubles, and I was a little worried to find that my two characters were the most vulnerable – the combat-magic Elf being a near fatality.

The first encounter was also supposed to be an alarm for the wary – the second Gnome encounter to feature a highly inquisitive local asking questions of such a conspicuously large party of Dwarves with, oddly, some various humans and an Elf among them. Once again, the players didn’t blink, and it was up to the NPCs once more to lead the conversation away. Not that it mattered, as Yellowjacket (the name could have been a giveaway, but perhaps I was too clever for my own good) had tamed bees, and a Gnome’s rapport with nature. Did the players put two and two together? Did they bollocks.

Once out of the woods more character moments appeared. I really dug the fact that the PCs checked the bridge for signs of Dwarven influence. I hadn’t put anything in the module to say so, so said no, which was a shame in a way, but didn’t telegraph the location of the lost mines either. The camp at the bottom of the waterfall was notable for two things – Argon’s Pony of Invulnerability which had no name but just wouldn’t die. It carried just about everything you’d want as well – a big tent, provisions for upwards of thirteen people (allegedly). I’d thought scaling a sheer ice waterfall would be a task too far, but no. At some stage I thought this beast of incredible usefulness would have to disappear and planned in the back of my mind a scenario of hungry goblins and a multitude of arrows. What actually happened is that I just forgot it. And so did the players. The final battle of this session with Wargs (Dire Wolves for stats) and Werewolves was notable for two things. First was Oban’s ‘accidental’ flaming of Balinor. I read it at the time as an actual accident that, between two brother players, built into something else. Not sure in retrospect. It would be academic by the end of the next session anyway. The second notable thing was a throwaway comment I made about any demi-humans who caught lycanthropy effectively being served a death sentence. It stopped play and opened up the guide books as everyone checked to see if that was true. It’s true in the early 80s version of the game at least, and it wouldn’t be the first time that me having old rules muddled things when the players were using the later set. As it happened the fight was long and drawn out with no casualties worth noting of the lycanthropy kind. For the first magic-weapons-only encounter, the PCs were ludicrously provided for and made short work of their combatants. But for the tension surrounding Oban’s fireball I actually needn’t have run that event, and it added nothing more to the game save for the reminder that the party was too powerful for that level of encounter. Fortunately I had another encounter lined up that wouldn’t give them the same advantage.


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Monday, 25 February 2008

Barbigazl: Part One

Episode One: The Road from Hermitage [by Peter A]

Hurin bids the heroes rendezvous in the tiny hamlet known as Hermitage, in the Drake Ranges. There the heroes are impelled to swear an oath of service to Hurin:

With every drop of blood within me
Every ounce of breath that’s in me
I swear before these present few
My life to serve, and thus restore
Hurin, son of Harga’s line
To Barbigazl’s ancient throne
Til death or Hurin’s Will release me

The heroes converge at the only bar in town, attracting attention from a small party of Gnomes local to Hermitage. The heroes try to coax potential directions to Barbigazl from the Gnomes but Hurin is suspicious and untrusting and orders his retinue away from the locals. Replenished and fortified for the journey they leave for the foothills of the mountain that towers over Hermitage, the peak the Gnomes call Redbeak.

The foothills are thick with pine trees, and before long the party hears a ruckus and find two hill giants pillaging the remains of a small beehive. Upon seeing the party the hill giants move to attack, and before long the air is thick with thrown axes, arrows and bees. The party learn an early lesson in tactics when another giant emerges and despite their height advantage, the Dwarves and heroes are compromised and nearly lose some men. When the battle is won with no futility they take stock, and the owner of the beehives appears from a hiding space. The bee-herd is a Gnome by the name of Fergyl Yellowjacket, and is, they assume, of the Redhills clan nearby. Rewarding the party with some gratefully received medicinal honey he enquires of the party’s quest, but receives no information from Hurin’s men. His gratitude spent, he bids them farewell in peace, and the party go on their way.

Once out into the daylight the PCs and cast of millions NPCs make their way through the steeper countryside of the Woodreach, the feet of the Mountain. Crossing a bridge and looking for signs of Dwarven design (there are none, making them wonder whether they’re in the right place after all and it’s not just a nasty DM trick), they see their likely stop for the day’s end rest – a frozen waterfall feeding the river leading to Hermitage. Atop the waterfall? They don’t have any idea, but they are tired and in need of rest from giant-bashing, and so pitch Hurin’s giant tent (a yurt) and take turns to stand guard. Balinor is cheered by the company of a bee, which buzzes around him harmlessly wherever he goes.

The standing-guard idea turns out to be a good one, as wolves attack the camp. Dire wolves – big Warg-sized brutes. There is a frenzied battle before the wild dogs are beaten into a retreat and the camp returns to a more fretful sleep. Assuredly, the wolves return, led by werewolves this time, and the battle gets even bloodier. Oban makes an early enemy when by blunder or design, he lets loose a fireball that almost toasts Balinor to a Dwarf-shaped ember. But the fight is ultimately won, and with still no serious casualties (though it’s touch and go with Balinor and Habenath), the rest of the night passes quietly. Even Argon’s pony makes it.

Next time: Up the Waterfall... to pointy Death!


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Sunday, 24 February 2008

They did it! They actually did it!

Damn! The HD war is over! And Blu-Ray is on top!

I don't know if they are the better technology, certainly by all accounts BetaMax was superior to VHS in all ways but marketing, so I'm not in any position to pass judgment there. But I know which company irritated me more. Last time I connected to the video ad it disappeared, but it looks to be around now, so let's try again. Remember, this was played when sitting in a movie theatre waiting ages for the actual movie to begin...

I suppose I'd better start thinking about a Blu-Ray player and wonder if my TV can handle it...


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Saturday, 23 February 2008

TW 207: Dead Man Walking

Oh...evil in the dark...what a let down...

"People died because you brought me back."

That should really be Torchwood's motto. "We do things, and everyone suffers." Jack gets the other resurrection glove (as we suspected - but I'll leave it to Jon to work out if they got the correct hand side) and, boom!, things go terribly wrong. Is this really the conclusion to the "something's moving in the dark" arc? (Which wasn't the big beastie of last series?) 'Cos I have to say: big dark = big pussy. Ooohhh, watching the exciting battle of Burn Gorman trying to pretend he's fighting a CGI skelly! Any build up from daring to kill off a team member? Gone!

Freema makes the opening credits, yay!, but any goodwill towards Marsha has vanished as she quickly becomes "girl in distress" from the Hand of Fear reject. Her suffering is all too easily dismissed with a wave of the hand at the end that no-one mentions, much like the cut from the base to the hospital. I can see the author saying "oh, stuff it, let's just cut to it" and hoping everyone would think it was daring. (And once again we wonder if Matt Jones is RTD's puppet, the similarities to The Impossible Satan Pit Planet are overwhelming.)

This episode does manage to step away somewhat from the character arcs, but then it's hard to do character when one's a dead man and not many people can relate to that. And the heartwarming Tosh/Owen near-date moment of last week is conveniently forgotten and Tosh is back to shy-mouse mode. This episode is, in many ways, a step backwards.

Nice build up, but the Buffy-est ending evah!

Next week: Oh, will you just die already? Owen really has become Spike, dead to the world...


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Friday, 22 February 2008

Fool for more than gold

Ugh. I'm not sure if this was "inspired" by National Treasure, or this was just some crap waiting to be dumped: the premise is a hunt for treasure... with lots of underwater diving. And not exciting chase diving like in those James Bond movies, but instead exciting shots of people looking under the shoal of the sea bottom and finding treasure... or looking in caves and finding treasure. Yeah, that was really hard to find...

I'm talking about Fool's Gold, which I saw because clearly I didn't have anything else better to do like beat my head against a brick wall.

I can't buy Matthew McConaughey as a leading man any more than I buy Malcolm-Jamal Warner as a Jamacian, both lies the movie expects us to believe. Kate Hudson isn't much of a leading lady either, and I don't want to even think about Alexis Dziena (the main "humour" in the movie is keyed off of how stupid her character is). And it's obvious that Donald Sutherland has completely given up on his career.

This movie can be watched if you really want to, but only if you can't find anything more spiritually fulfilling... like a Teletubbies movie...


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Thursday, 21 February 2008

Such a sweet girl

Sarah Silverman and Matt Damon, dueting at last! (Moderately NSFW)

(Jimmy Kemmel is, apparently, famed for going "And for Matt Damon... but I'm afraid we've run out of time", or something, and so Sarah decided for a little payback...)


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Wednesday, 20 February 2008


I had the chance to finally play Shadowrun on Sunday at the WARGS meeting.

In many ways this is just D&D for people who like a more techno setting. We only played a game designed to be one-off, but there was certainly more combat and less role-playing a la D&D.

Which isn't to say we didn't have fun, 'cos we did! I played Grignr (named in "honour" of the Eye or Argon), a troll bounty hunter, one of the few people in the group who wasn't some kind of uber-mage, so I was front and center for any combat. Not that we had that much combat, mostly due to previously mentioned uber-mages and that there were seven of us so we overwhelmed any chance the NPCs really had. In fact, our one main "combat" only lasted a round of us pummeling the crap out of the NPCs! In the end, we got out alive, with a ton of cash, and only ended up with two betrayals... success!

So I'd certainly like to play again, and probably will at future WARGS meetings. Yay!


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Tuesday, 19 February 2008

HC Again

First was a "training mission" I wrote for Logan, just to see how people react. One passed, the other... acted in character. Part One.

Next is Voyeur... which has mostly faded from memory already! Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.

Then was Flowers, which fitted in well with a character arc Pete (Dr Bakwena) set up. We barely managed to complete this one. (One annoying aspect of this is that the others finally realised I had an insanity and NOW started paying attention to it.) Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Four.


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Barbigazl: Part Zero Notes

[Written by Peter A. And illustrated by him too. This here is Hongur.]

Introduction: DM’s notes

When one of my oldest friends announced that he was leaving NZ to live in the UK, and that he would be visiting town soon and wanted to play an old-school D&D game for old time’s sake, I was really pleased. Paul was fun to play alongside, and knowing he had a love for Dwarves (mainly through Warhammer games, as I recall), I looked among my own module notes for something I could fit to a Dwarven scenario. The logical candidate was Gundolar, a mission for a dying Gnome King to reclaim the lower chambers of his kingdom. It was essentially the Hobbit, set in the Mines of Moria, but with Gnomes for Dwarves and a giant moth-creature for the dragon. Unlike Paul I’d not been a Dwarf fan, although in more recent times – certainly since re-reading the Hobbit, I’d discovered what I’d been missing in all those years of dismissing them as short guys with horned hats who mined stuff. So in a real sense the Dwarven Renaisance was mine as well as theirs. Barbigazl, the converted scenario, would be my tribute to them!

The scenario is simple, and the back-story relatively straightforward – the Dwarves have reawakened to claim what they see as theirs, and there’s a hint that they’re starting to fight among themselves again. Barbigazl is like a Dwarven Eldorado – not everyone believes it actually exists, but there’s enough legend attached to the place to make its discovery very profitable. Where I did complicate things was in the size of the contingent – both in Playing characters and Non-Playing Characters.

I had three players lined up for the game with another (Jamas) to join us later. Paul’s brother was another player I’d shared games with, and it was his characters who came to the story last. In hindsight eight PCs of medium to high level (all under level 10) is easily enough, but to temper their influence and outnumber them physically the idea was always to have Hurin’s retinue be larger and more loyal to their king – because I had plans for Hurin and the Dwarven trait of overreaching
one’s self. The back story of Nikulburg actually came from one of the last games I’d played, in which my character (the thief) had been killed ‘off-stage’ by the DM (Paul’s brother). I’d never liked that decision, taking the power out of my hands, but I lived with it, and a subsequent Wish spell in one of Paul’s games offered the opportunity to reintroduce bits of the past into the game. I thought it worked! I didn’t expect Paul’s brother to bring the villains of the last piece into
this game. I hoped it would work out.

We had two nights to play it out in, with the chance of another night in a month’s time. The game wasn’t complete by the time we kicked off, but it didn’t seem to matter, as due to the huge size of the party, play ran very slowly indeed!


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Monday, 18 February 2008

Barbigazl: Part Zero

[Guest blogger time! This is from Peter A, who GMed the mission before the previously chronicled Temple of Death. This will be a series of posts over the next few weeks, in pairs of mission summaries and then GM notes. I joined about half-way, so will reserve me commenting until then.]

Introduction and Scenario: The Return of the Dwarves

Twenty years ago great war was waged across the great Continent. The forces of darkness were destroyed, but in their wake much upheaval was wrought among the allies of man. Many of the Elven kingdoms burned and their people scattered, and Orcs too were rendered extinct, never to be seen again in the Great Continent. Deep in the mountain halls of the Dwarf Lords echoes rang, for they too had been diminished and made homeless and their once mighty kingdoms in the blink of years be forgotten. So would this have remained, but for the chance discovery of the fabled Forge of Nikulburg by a petty thief who was imprisoned and executed by his human masters for the discovery. His friend, using a powerful Wish to know the truth of his disappearance, sped the story of the found Forge; and from this moment Dwarfkind rewoke. Lost kingdoms were sought again by new alliances of Dwarven folk, old grudges were kindled and vengeance sought, and a Dwarven Renaissance was born, inspiring a new generation to dream of reclaiming the power they had yielded to others. As more of their kind joined the movement to rebuild their culture and thrones of power, competition between the remains of their even Kingdoms was a natural product in itself.

From the Dwarf king Hurin Hewstone comes the request for aid in his attempt to recover the last legenday Dwarf kingdom of Barbigazl – home of the Frostbeards. Olbin, a Dwarf Lord in Hurin's service is an old friend of the Pentad, a band of veterans and specialists who once knew the same slain thief and fit the bill required; for Hurin has Dwarf heroes in abundance, but none with the skills of Thievery, Magic or the gift of healing. The Pentad answer the call, and bring with them a few other heroes for good or bad measure. The party consists of the surviving Pentad:

Kogaun the Magic User,
the Elf hero Habenath,
the Cleric Alrick,
the Thief Thaddeus

and outside of the Pentad, the Cleric Panadin Dol Curin Fighter of old Argon Pynsyneedles – under cover for good reason, being of the same kin who vied to hide the secret of Nikulburg from the outside world. Finally there is a further Magic User Oban Dol Asbestos, whose family, like those of the Dol Curins are indeed no friend to Dwarfkind.

Knowing he likely has rivals ahead of him, Hurin has enlisted Dwarfs loyal to his cause, some heroes of great repute, among them Dwarfs once dead and resurrected with the ancient power of neighbouring Dwarven forges. There is grim Honger Once-Dead, and his cousin Findul. The brothers Mufin and Pikulur once fallen and revived are there, and the simple but virtuous Balinor who was drowned long ago but had life breath again as a favour from Hurin's cousins in noble Barak-Kund. Finally, a retinue of ten Dwarves of low level completes the party and no doubt provide ample arrow-fodder from which the noble heroes might hide.

Next Time: The Road from Hermitage.


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Sunday, 17 February 2008

TW 206: Reset

What is this? Novel-to-TV-a-rama? Slow Decay makes it to the screen, and brings with it big events! Definite spoilers below.

A cure for disease that infests the body with an alien insect... yep, it is Slow Decay. The plot is very straight-forward, medical murder mystery that leads to Institute Of EVIL! which is then put out of our misery. (Interesting point: in Meat, Jack was all about setting the large unwieldy Space Whale free. Here, all the creatures are easily mobile, and yet Jack goes 'kill 'em all!'.)

But, frankly, who cares, 'cos look, there's Martha! Yay! The only decent companion the new series produced (unfortunately can't count Sally as a compantion...) crosses over to the other side, and brings a splash of competence with her. And we get to enjoy her for a few more episodes yet. (Phew, fortunate that they had a spare doctor, eh? Although I am looking suspiciously at the box and thinking of the glove...)

Yes, let's talk about it (and this is MEGA SPOILERS): Owen. Finally, the Tosh/Owen relationship moves on, although one wonders if this was incredibly forced given what happens at the end of the episode, a sort of 'let's move this on so we can have more tragedy' move. Owen falls victim to the de-defibrillator death, same as the woman in the hospital did, by which I mean as soon as something terrible happens, the immediate response is to forgo any chance of resuscitation and just pronounce the person death. Can I have a competent medical crew nearby when I suffer my heart attack instead of these fools please? But I am wondering if this will stick, wouldn't be the first time we've had a shock death that was later reversed...

So another character piece under a thinly disguised plot. Can we stand any more of these?

Next Week: Another Life, I'm guessing. But failing that, Death makes an appearance!


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Saturday, 16 February 2008

TW 205: Adam

Is this written by Dan Abnett? Is this Border Princes: The TV episode? No? Could have fooled me... oh, look, it's the story arc!

Adam has been working with Torchwood for several years... well, that's an original start. It's not like Torchwood hasn't done that before... but this is 50 minutes, so Adam proves to be a) evil and b) incompetent extremely quickly so that his nefarious schemes can be defeated... whatever they are. Adam isn't explained, where he came from isn't explained, why he needed to feed on Torchwood is barely explained. Now that's an episode with answers!

But we do get some answers. The story point presented in XX!! (to give it in geek speek) is followed up and we find out about Grey, the little boy who got away. Whom Captain John found... And we find out there's a menacing species that shrieks as it attacks. Doubt it's the Daleks, reminded me of the Reapers but that's not right, now laying bets that Earth will be attacked by that species by the end of the series. (And if you want other talking points, consider: Adam said he was in the Void, and came through the Rift... so the Rift touches the Void? Wonder what else is in there...)

But once again we are presented with a character piece, filling out not just Jack's history, but also Gwen and Rhys, and, of course, Owen and Tosh. Or rather, Tosh and Owen. Have to say that that relationship is still just as annoying even when presented the other way around. Seriously, people, move that sub-plot along please!

The point of this episode is to fill out backstory. How can I say that? Well, allow me to point out that once the villain has done this job, he literally disappears from the scene! As such, the plot is very slight, but the focus is the characters, presenting a new side to them. Pity none of that can now be used to actually develop them.

Next week: So that's what Reset is... it's resetting the series to its parent series and bringing in old companions!


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Friday, 15 February 2008

FP: Newtons Sleep

Finally, here is the review of the latest Faction Paradox book: Newtons Sleep. I started reading it just after my last DW review... which was a month ago. Yep, it's taken me that long to get through it. Not that I've spent a solid month reading the one book. I normally read to and from work, so that's a limited window... and, I have to confess, while reading this, often just staring out the window was a preferable option...

Allow me to present the very first paragraph that one reads:

Impelled as through in sympathy with the earth, a spittle's-worth of dark humour slips from between the high branches of the tree into the mild air. So it plunges from its zenith, drawn by its yearnings for the honest Lincolnshire lime. Thus does base matter descend, while pure spirit rises to join the light.

Oh your gods. I would call this turgid prose, but even that would have some movement to it!

Not to say the entire book is like this, there are indeed some passages worth the reading, but to struggle through the rest of the book to get to them isn't worth your time. I couldn't even work out who the book was supposed to be about (and don't say Newton!), as it seemed to change gears half-way through, which did not impress me (fortunately the book did later get back on track).

I will say I liked the final revelations about who was involved, didn't see them coming, should have (especially given the amount of time I had to contemplate it), so that worked well.

There weren't that many FP books out of Mad Norwegian that I really liked either, so here's hoping the next book from Random Static is more to my tastes.


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Thursday, 14 February 2008

Love is Ashes

Okay, so a little overhyped in the title there, but today is a special day. But what I want to talk about is that spin-off series Ashes to Ashes. (What is it about David Bowie songs that inspire TV series?)

The first episode is called "Deja Vu", and it very much is so. The audience is reintroduced to the idea of a terrible accident sending someone back in time, and have to wait for that person to sort out some rationalisation for staying there and giving us a TV series. The change here is that the person is Keeley Hawes, who I kept seeing as Zoe Reynolds, at least until she changed her hairstyle.

There are plenty of references to Life on Mars, and Alex Drake already knows about Sam Tyler (no reference to Annie Cartwright yet), and we find out what happened to him after the end of the last series as this one is set in 1981. We have some familiar set-ups, in that we know that her parents will be important, as will a time when she's in a red dress and has a balloon. And there will also be clowns (possibly a reference to David Bowie?). If it wasn't that the lead is female, we might wonder if Matthew Graham simply handed in his first script again.

But of course as she is female, there are some immediate thoughts raised: will Alex be sidelined from the action? (She's set up as a psychologist, so clearly are they planning to give her the thinking dialog.) Are they going to continually dismiss her because she's "merely a well-shaped tart"? And, will there be an inevitable romance with Gene Hunt?

Certainly a series I will be watching, but with one eye on checking how much retreading there is.


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Wednesday, 13 February 2008

What people read...

The list for the nominations of the new Sir Julius Vogel awards is now available. These will be presented at the next con, during which the voting will take place.

Uh... I have to admit, I haven't read any of those books. Not that I read widely, but I haven't even heard of them, recognise none of the titles, nothing... Although it looks like the Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine is the place to go for short story fiction around here... hmmm...

Movie-wise (or "Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form" as they call it), those I do know. Never saw The Tattooist (was tempted but didn't get around to it), but I think Black Sheep will easily beat out Perfect Creature.

I note amusingly that two of the "Best Fan Production" were shown as part of the video competition in Conspiracy II (Renaldo and SGA - Promotion). SGA would get my vote, but should at least wait until I see Destination: Earth.

For Fanzine, I predict that Pheonixine will win (mainly due to more of those readers turning up more than TSV readers - although possibly the presence of OrmanBlum might cause a tip in the numbers...), although I hope TSV gets an editor before the final nomination ballot is presented (someone want to tell Adam?).

But I'm only able to talk about those categories. Yeah, I'm no lit-fan...


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Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Reviewing TSV 55

Yep, I'm talking about TSV 55. The reason why I gave this post the title I did is because when I was proof-reading the entries, the overwhelming impression I got was of reviews. Slews of reviews.

Brad Schmidt and Paul Scoones take on the books, but we also have one, two, three, three video reviews, ah-ha ha! Two of which come with extended highlights.

However, I had a slightly biased view as some pieces were already on the web, and some pieces I wouldn't see in the text version. Notes from Who Island is a long piece from Paul about his England experiences which was added long ago, and Chrysalis is a strip from Peter Adamson that takes up many jpeg images.

But there are some non-review stuff to read: a very apt piece of fiction by Brad Schmidt, and some geeky rantings from the Preddle-miester.

This issue comes out only a few weeks after 54, so many not that long to go until 56 with something from me... although there was more exciting stuff in that issue that anything of mine...

(As ever, go read more interesting comments from Paul and Alden.)


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Monday, 11 February 2008

HC Again

First up, a rather unusual situation... just don't look up the term yiffing. Clothing: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Secondly, I think we set new records for arseing up NPCs. Vengence: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.


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I am Savage!

Due to a local RPGer wanting to find out more about the Savage Worlds RPG system, she organised a get-together of a couple of players and a GM to find out by actually playing it (as opposed to reading the book and interpreting).

I was a member of the team, as we played the Solomon Kane version. In particular, I was Oliver Pride, strong willed quasi-leader (he was probably supposed to be the leader, but I was quasi about playing that). Our task was to find out what happened to the son of an acquaintance of mine, who disappeared in a town where there is a local legend about an imp that comes to rampage the town every new moon...

I've heard others play it, but this was my first first-hand experience... and it was a fun game! We did the investigation phase, then the kick-ass phase. In our first combat, we only got through three moves when I ended it by pointing a gun at the leader of the opposing side (he wasn't really the "Bad Guy(tm)"), so we didn't quite get to try out the combat system then, but, hey, I was actually role-playing!

We did do a big kick-ass fight against the aforementioned imp, and thanks to one player coming up with a useful point, we... well, we did kick-ass. I'm not entirely convinced about the damage system (seems very easily to never have to worry about damage), but we won, and that's all that counts... that, as we all enjoyed the game. That counts too.

Certainly a useful system, and there could be a potential on-going game in the offering at the player who set the game up wants to GM herself. We shall see...


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Sunday, 10 February 2008

When ghosts attack!

One news story I spotted the other day made me sigh: Jessica Alba admits to ghost attack. And no, not just because it's another mindless piece about some celebrity.

She says, when she was 17: "I felt this pressure and I couldn't get up, I couldn't scream, I couldn't talk, I couldn't do anything."

Guess what. I can explain this. Also known as the "Old Hag" syndrome (because some believe an old hag is sitting on them) and also to blame for several alien abduction experiences, the words we are looking for is sleep paralysis.

From the page: "The condition is characterized by being unable to move or speak. It is often associated with a feeling that there is some sort of presence, a feeling which often arouses fear but is also accompanied by an inability to cry out. The paralysis may last only a few seconds. The experience may involve visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations."

Sounds like it to me. This is fairly well known to most skeptical researchers because it is such a common phenomena. Perhaps if the reporter had decided to do a "balanced" piece and called their local neighbourhood skeptical group, they could have explained a terrifying experience in Jessica's childhood (and don't doubt that the experience was terribly real for her). But, eh, why let facts get in the way of a story, eh?


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Saturday, 9 February 2008

TW 204: Meat

They keep saying "everything changes", and this is a big change! Oh, and anyone have a steak burger or a turducken handy? I feel hungry...

Whenever Jack and Gwen share a scene together, they always seem to be on the verge of making out, and this no more apparent than in this episode, where the addition of Rhys back into mix highlights the eternal unspoken love triangle. Speaking of Rhys, he so hasn't been in this series that if it wasn't for last weeks trailer I wouldn't have been sure it was him in the opening teaser! But he's come back into the series, and we are treated to the Gwen-Rhys love dynamic at full force, a real "domestic" as Owen says (which is clearly a stupid term RTD should be shot for for bringing up).

The plot is really only an excuse to set up the "boyfriend finds out" storyline, and has many of the classic elements: boyfriend stumbles into girlfriend's work territory, finally finds out the truth about the world, end in a final climax where he gets shot... hang on, which of a hundred shows that have done this am I watching again? It had to happen sometime, I suppose, but it's evident that despite Gwen's outburst at the end, Rhys is still going to come second to Torchwood, so expect many exciting "domestic"s in the future.

Aside from the real reason for the episode, the ostensible one is that "anyone who eats meat is clearly evil and everyone should be a vegetarian". I hereby predict that many talking heads in the Declassified will be either proclaiming to be vegans or saying they were put off meat in this episode. I'm not. We are fairly barbaric in many ways towards our meat, but I'm not going to apologise for that. And besides, my heart doesn't go out to a clearly CGI-creation, despite the many panning shots we get of it and the large eyes it gives (the CGI is particularly off in the last scene when Jack is trying to touch it). You want to say "meat is murder", go ahead, just don't try to dogmatically enforce your views onto me.

So, a story more character important that plot heavy, which works on a basic level, but remains rather superficial.

Next week: looks like the return of the sexual predator! Well, maybe not, but definitely could be a rehash of that episode...


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Friday, 8 February 2008

Seriously, WTF?

I finally decided to catch up on the "badger badger badger" meme, and saw the video below... I do have to ask: what series of drugs was the person on who came up with this? (And, presumably, saw a badger, mushroom and snake when they were high.) I've listened to a lot of weird stuff on Radio Active (I'm expecting any minute now to hear a song comprising of someone's cat meowing for half an hour), but this is a whole level of weird by itself. (And not to mention the drugs you'd need to be on to actually like it...)

(Warning: watching this video may induce uncontrollable periods of suddenly chanting "badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom")


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Thursday, 7 February 2008

I'll add my voice

Just to be clear: I protest!

I'm not the only one. PZ Myers, Skepchick, Daniel Dennett... there's even a petition.

And if you haven't read the above links: Sayed Parwiz Kambakhsh (a journalism student) was sentenced to death for blasphemy for distributing an article from the Internet that was considered an insult to the Prophet Muhammad.

That's right. He read an article on the internet, then distributed it in order to create discussion. And now he's sentenced to death.

Just how far does insanity go?


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Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Another HC post

More of my roleplaying. Two "modules" played.

First is Shooter, in which I do Dramatic Combat! And use lots of poz (which allows for automatic opponent failure (aka no damage) or rerolls). Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

The second is Once. Unfortunately, as Logan bases a lot of mods on TV episodes, I have already "experienced" the mod and thus was on a "no-brainer". Although Freddy does get... action... Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.


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Sweeney Plod

As you've no doubt guessed from the title, I've seen Sweeney Todd. I like musicals. I do. Yes, including Andrew Lloyd Webber (loved Phantom of the Opera). And The Producers was great! And, of course, the musical numbers in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were amazing!

But this... I was not impressed. It might be that this was simply a different style of musical that I hadn't otherwise encountered (haven't really seen any Gilbert and Sullivans), but nearly every line was sung rather than basically spoken, and they segued from singing lines to entire songs and back to lines again. This got rather annoying, and given that this wasn't exactly a high-octane movie, this made the movie move slowly. Really slowly.

I've often heard the name of Sweeney Todd bandied around, and definitely wanted to see it. Now I have, and don't think I'll be checking out the stage version any time soon...


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Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Commentary on commentaries

Continuing to occasionally bitch about DVDs, I want to talk about commentaries. Of course, all DVD should have commentaries on them (indeed, the mission of The Film Crew is to give commentaries to movies that don't have them!), and there are very few DVDs I will consider getting that don't have them (unless they are very cheap).

But some commentaries really aren't worth the effort. Some are just details about the technical details, but I will forgive those as they are still attempting to provide information, just not information I care about.

There are two unforgivable commentary traits, and I have encountered them both.

One: Saying what's happening on screen. We know what's happen, because we can SEE what's happening. Most likely, we watched the thing before we listened to the commentary, so we probably know what's going on better than the commentators do! (As has been the case on a few occasions.) Often a bad sign of a commentary if the people resort to saying "and this person goes here..."

Second: Catching up with their own lives. Is it really the case that commentators haven't seen each other right before been ushered into the booth, even for, say, half an hour before they get started? All too often we have been treated to "so, what happened to you after blah?" or "how's thingy doing?" I'm sure the people concerned are very interested, and some people might be wanting to hear the cosy intimate details... but this isn't what commentaries are about! They want to chat? Fine! Just don't bother to record it for posterity!

I'm sure there are other horrendous commentary faux pas, and feel free to mention them, but those are the worst two for me.


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Monday, 4 February 2008

The real TV shows of yesteryear...

With all the DVDs coming out, one has to ask, where is Automan?

(And then we got to work on Street Hawk!)


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Sunday, 3 February 2008

New kids in town

Mythbusters is a great series, taking the myths and trying them out.

Well, in their view, there's a new series that's recently started: Smash Lab.

The basic premise is: take something that saves lives or otherwise helps in one context, and apply it in another. An example: using truck bed liner paint (which helps protect truck beds against wear and tear) and coat a house in it to see if it can protect the house against an explosion. (Result... largely successful.) Or take an air-bag from a car, and scale it up to protect a car from a train. (Result... largely unsuccessful.)

Similar to Mythbusters, the group of four break up to trackle various things, but currently it's one episode per topic. This does lead to a lot of repetitive narration (which Mythbusters isn't immune to), which really shows up when viewed without ads, but they are getting better production-wise.

The series is still in its infancy, and I would like to see a Smash Lab/Mythbusters cross-over (they are both Discovery Channel shows, so not impossible) some time. There is definite potential there and worth checking out.


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Saturday, 2 February 2008

TW 203: To the Last Man

Torchwood has grown up! A very decent Toshiko episode.

There will be comparisons to two season one episodes. Firstly, for content, to Captain Jack Harkness. Once more the past and the present are getting mixed up, but Helen Raynor doesn't repeat last time with having Toshiko stuck in the past, this time it's the past getting unstuck into the present. The plot is kept light as it is very much a character based episode, but it doesn't need a lot of bangs and whistles because it is so character focused. Call it seemlessly integrated if you will, but I didn't spot any real special effects, other than the odd flash, so I'm sure the production office saved some money on this episode.

But that isn't to say this episode is mere filler. The other S1 episode that this will be compared to is Greek Baring Gifts, as Toshiko is given the meat (oo-er) of the episode. However, unlike that earlier episode, this is very much a grown up Toshiko, far more sure of herself, and a far better character because of it. Finally Helen shows she can write a decent script (unlike a certain two-parter) and delivers great character development that makes 50 minutes effortless slip by as the viewer gets engrossed in what's unfolding on the screen. (Even Owen is treated as an actual adult.) While there isn't humour, this is very much matured Torchwood, and all the better for it.

Is this an episode I actually like, then? Well... Tosh isn't that great a character to completely captivate me, but so far this episode rates highly in the current season.

Next week: Ah, the episode where the boyfriend finds out!


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Friday, 1 February 2008

Madonna of the Money

Amazing news: Madonna has cash! Wads of it!

But, more amazingerly, she's got the most cash of all. Forbes published a list of the top-earning women in music for the June year ending 2007, and Maddy came in at number one! These stats were compiled by examining "concert grosses, merchandising revenue, album sales and additional revenue streams from ancillary businesses: clothing lines, fragrance deals and endorsements" (during the time period, Maddy Confessed and brought out her own line of clothing).

Other top performers are Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion and Shakira... but I can't find the full list anywhere (not even the Forbes article has it). Huh...

I see other sites are promoting their favourite celeb as being on the list, but some of us are backing number one. :)

(Have to say, the Stuff photo is not particularly flattering...)


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