Saturday, 31 May 2008

Can't Budget

What's worse? That this exists, or I have it on my blog?


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Friday, 30 May 2008

Anti-Vitamin or Pro-Corporation?

There is an interesting article in the latest eSkeptic about how a "natural health products" company staged an anti-bill website that would affect their bottom line (regard Canada's Bill C-51).

I recalled a notice I saw recently on a similar topic here in New Zealand, and immediately wondered on the parallels... I managed to find one site on the "Anti-Vitamin Bill" (named HealthFreedomNZ), but the few related news stories I found related back to April 2007 (maybe I spotted a really old notice). Is this really a concern?

The bill relates to New Zealand signing up allow the Australian Therapeutic Goods Agency regulatory control. The main complaint seems to be that this is an Australian agency, not a New Zealand one.

However, skeptical (or cynic) that I am, I do wonder if that is just a smoke screen to protest this bill which might actually force "natural health drug" companies to either prove their products actually do what they say (what an idea!) or just put them out of business for false claims.

But I'm not going to start complaining that an Australian company is doing this. Let's face facts. Even as patriotic as I am, New Zealand just ain't that big, and if it is more effective to have an Australasian agency oversee the drugs in the area, so be it. Someone should. And if they are so against them, how about an NZ branch of said company instead? We've got enough other off-shore owned businesses that we can't complain now. And then we'd really see if this is all the protesting is about... (which is isn't).


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Thursday, 29 May 2008

I have no Ethnicity

I was reading an interesting paper on trying to define "family ethnicity" (yeah, yeah, yeah, so I have eccletic tastes), and realised that ethnicity was one of those many concepts that shouldn't be applied to children, and that I was going to ignore.

Richard Dawkins has often spoken about how children should not be labeled with the religion of their parents, "There is no such thing as a Christian child", just like "There is no such thing as a Secular Humanist child". Children haven't learn what those concepts really mean, and so are given their parents beliefs and we all accept that. (The point being: why should we?) One does not speak of a "Marxist child" or a "Conservative child", we don't ascribe political beliefs to children so why religious ones?

And following on from that, do children really know what it means to be Maori or Pasifika or Pakeha? Hell, I don't even know! (More on that in a moment.) In the paper there was this very telling line (p45) "This suggests that for couples where the ethnicity of both parents is considered, it may not matter so much if only the ethnicity of the parents, or children, is considered." Really? To me, this suggests that the child is simply ascribed the ethnicity of their parents, and belongs in the "doesn't understand" camp with religion and politics.

As for me, my religious views are pretty evident from this blog (hint: a-religious) and I've also mentioned my a-political views. As I say, I don't really know what being "Pakeha" means, or "New Zealander" (beyond being born and living in New Zealand, but that is a geographical objective property, not a subjective one about "culture"), so I'm giving up my ethnic identity now as well. From now on, when asked "what is your ethnicity?", my answer is "none".


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Wednesday, 28 May 2008

HC Again

On the Friday (HC time), I had another game of Heroic Cthulhu... where I GMed! Possibly getting there, although there was something I did out of fairness that frankly undercut the ending. Oh well, now I know better.

This is the sequel I mentioned before that I had to write. Japanese Ghost: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7. (Is there going to be another part some time...?)

However, while I did all that GMing, I didn't get a chance to actually play as a player. At least, not that day of the weekend...


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That Indie Movie

No, obviously not the latest piece of dreck from Lionsgate(*), but Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, of course! As a friend of mine put it "a worthy addition to the Indiana Jones movies". I mostly agree with that, although I'm not going to quickly throw in "worthy".

Certainly there are a lot of set action pieces, interspersed with minor exposition scenes, so that fits in with the other movies. I did flash back a lot to the other movies, and the wanna new Indiana Jones (aka Nick Cage in those National Treasure movies), so can't claim that Steven was being original here. (There are solid continuity links to Raiders and Last Crusade, which was nice, but some times that served the plot, and other times...) Oh, yeah, and standard movie physics were in vogue with everything exploding at the slightest touch. On the "uhhh.." side, there was an obvious revelation, and the ending went into bizarro world. Not sure why...

But we must speak of the main star, of course, one Harrison Ford. Let's be honest, the man has done a lot of work over the years, and being asked to bring back Indiana at age 65... Yeah, I'm going to say it: I think he was too old to be in this movie. He still has incredible screen presence, but... you could see his hands shaking as he held the props! And there were definite stunts that were clearly shot without seeing "Indiana"'s face (although, fair do, there were some stunts with Harrison clearly evident). It was nice to see him, but for him in a fifth movie... (and there were originally five movies planned.)

As for the other stars, Cate Blanchett just looked weird in the short black wig, although her blue eyes were as piercing as ever. John Hurt... amazing actor, not sure he was used to his best here. And Karen Allen returns, although not a name many people would recognise unless they were familiar with the previous Indy movie (that said, I'm not sure this film would work independent of the others with the references made). As for Shia LaBeouf... even after looking at his credits, I can't remember him in other movies...

This is a movie you'll go see whether I say to or not, so instead let me merely say make sure you are comfortable while watching. Either the seats at Readings are getting smaller or... no, it's the seats I'm sure...

(*) I presume there is one.


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Monday, 26 May 2008

In lieu of Doctor Who...

Watch some Doctor Who! The trailer for the rest of the series four that is. Reveals many plot point, but not the context of said plot points. (Folded from the front page as even the preview image from the YouTube clip has SPOILERS!


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Sunday, 25 May 2008

RiffTrax for the time waste

Yep, more YouTube fun. RiffTrax is Mike Nelson (of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fame), occasionally joined by others, riffing (or MSTing) some of the more commercial movies. Since they are only providing a "soundtrack" which can be synced to the movie, they are not in any legal or copyright issues that a full on MSTing would involve.

But you can enjoy some samples for yourself. The RiffTrax channel on YouTube has plenty of moments for you to spend time watching. For example: Casino Royale, The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, Spider-Man, and their many sequels...

And there are also some non-RiffTrax channel videos, but we don't need to talk about them.

So, waste some time away rewatching those great moments with that added extra layer.


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Saturday, 24 May 2008

World Hunger

There is an amazing series of photos by Peter Menzel for the book Hungry Planet that shows families from different places around the world, with all the food they use in a week. There is an amazing range of food amounts from place to place, from the most spent in Germany to the least in Chad. The first two sets below are pictures of such families, the third set is a series of photos of food stores, or the lengths people go to get food.

What The World Eats:
Part I
Part II
Part III

It's truly amazing, the range portrayed, and really makes a point.

But, one is forced to ask, is it a real point? Yes, there are people on different income levels, but this is true of any one country, let alone across the world. The families here, are they the "average family" with the "average eating" pattern? Are they the extremes? Moreover, are they the extremes that drive home the point?

It is said that "a picture is worth a thousand words". Context, however, makes the difference between an essay and a random mishmash of a dictionary. While the photos are interesting, one should check the frame before reading too much into them. (Certainly, the series does work for making me want to read the book, which is probably the best message it can give. Whether or not one should believe the book... is another topic.)


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Friday, 23 May 2008

Being on the other side...

So the Budget is out and there's more money for everyone! Although some get more than others. And some get nothing at all (for very specific cases where families only have income from benefits, and then they get more money every year anyway).

But the reason I bring this up, rather than completely ignore it as is my usual a-political stance, is because I helped work on it. And by 'help', I mean I checked some working another chap at work did. But nevertheless, I was a part of the process. I was on the "special" list of people in the know... That all said, I barely did know even my part of it, and was still finding out important pieces very late in the day.

[Although... one set of numbers in the speech is mostly because of the work I did... but I'm not saying which (mainly because it's not that exciting). More information will be coming out, either through reports or Official Information Act (OIA) requests, about the entire process anyway.]

The point is... I was on the inside. Gives a rather different perspective. I actually even watched the Budget announcement as it happened! And the "debates" afterwards. Very nearly makes me almost interested in thinking about possibly voting...


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Thursday, 22 May 2008

Direct. To the point.

Intelligent Design IS Creationism.


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Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Night of the Proms

It may be one of the few PG13 slasher movies, but one doesn't need blood to be a great horror movie. Unfortunately, whatever one does need, Prom Night doesn't have. I'll bitch more about stuff below the fold, but there will be spoilers.

Amazingly, the cops in this movie were mostly intelligent. As soon as they found events kicking off, they put out a car to protect one place, and checked out the other... and called in back up when they completely checked out the hotel. The only problem was that the detective didn't immediately call for more back up when he found an obvious situation that would have demanded calling in SWAT!

But this wasn't the main problem. Nor were the people who got killed. Yeah, they died (not that messily given the movie rating they were aiming for), but the script put them in stupid situations. Lisa, for some reason, ends up on a construction storey after going down one level... the hell? Next thing you'll know, the main villain can move around without any sound and anyone seeing him... then again that's not entirely new.

The direction was pretty terrible too. Oner shots that just spin around all over the place. Set ups that just make none of the characters worth looking at. Music that tries hard to reach out to the "what's happening" generation. The script barely makes sense and relies on so many co-incidences... then again, that isn't new too.

No, the really stupid moment, and which point I just gave up on the main star, was when the alarm was going off, everyone was leaving the hotel, and she said "I'm going back for my mother's wrap"... Nope. I'm sorry, but no freaking way am I buying that. I don't care how much sentimentality you need to invest in that wrap, but this is just such an obvious forcing of getting the main character in danger that that may as well just bludgeon the audience and skip to the continual running and attacking all horror movies like. Pathetic. Simply pathetic.

Skip this movie. Which isn't even horror, it's a wannabe slasher, but it's not that. I doubt anyone's really hanging out to see this in the first place, but feel free to completely avoid and not feel any guilt over it.


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Tuesday, 20 May 2008

HC Again

One big module this time... never before has "Not Safe For Work" been so appropriate. Do not play this out loud around people of a prudish disposition... Holmes: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7.

And there was also chatting to be had afterwards... Gamer Talk 13: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

However, this was not the end of my involvement. Not speaking, but I wrote a module they played the next day. School: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7. (I'm starting at Part 2 as the first part is just wider campaign stuff. In fact, skip the first 20 minutes of Part 2 to get to the actual adventure.)


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Played Shadowrun again at the recent WARGS, and like as not will be playing it again next time. Now, let me preface this with: I did have fun. It was an enjoyable time.

That said, the game was a little repetitive. I've realise that's it's not so much D&D as it is something very similar: a computer RPG. The main point has been to "get mission from NPC X, go to place Y to kill (depending on how lethal you're trying to be) bunch of people and get item Z (be it a person or package), return Z to X for successful mission completion". Now, yes, many games could be simplified to this level, but last time it was basically this, and this time it was this... twice!

Fine, fine, fine, there can be a larger story arc, and there's lots of stuff we didn't do that we could have looked into (although time was against us, really do need more than a few hours to really get into an adventure), but... my impressions of Shadowrun, fun as they are, are that it isn't very wide in adventure type...

(I played the same pregen character as last time. If I was more committed to developing the character, I'm sure I could come up with something more refined, but, eh... not that worth it at the moment, ultimately, given how infrequently I'm playing the game.)


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Monday, 19 May 2008

DW: Episode 4.7

Oh course it looks gorgeous! It's the BBC doing a period piece!

This episode was almost painful. No, I'm not saying it was a bad story, but... yes, I got the Christie story elements (although the Wasp was new) and even more so picked up on the titles... but this was not a good thing! Gareth, surely you can do better than that? One would have hoped that Shakespeare Code would have gotten it out of your system, but here we are again... (And, no, having Donna hang a lantern on it didn't help.)

Then there's that ending... the whole "confront them all in the library"... really? And of course the Doctor was going to be involved in her disappearance. Then the padding at the end of the Death in the Clouds (don't think I've read that one)... It's all a love letter to Agatha Christie, with the audience looking on from outside.

Recognised a few of the actors too. Aside from Min, there was Felicity Kendal and Christopher Benjamin. Wow! Big names (although of course Christopher was making a return to the Doctor Who set). The characters were pretty one dimensional, but then that's the way Gareth wanted them. The Doctor and Donna were also pretty generic too (the latter in a "generic companion" way).

Next week fortnight: Oh, that looks interesting! Spooky library and people in space suits!


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Sunday, 18 May 2008

Go play a game

Yeah, more time wasters. There's a whole slew of them on Stuff, and I'll be checking them out...

But if you want to feel like you're doing something more substantial, you can contribute to Science! Through the power of games! FoldIt is a puzzle game whereby you twist chemical molecules, representing viruses and cures and the like, trying to make the highest score. And this is a score as given by actual rules of distance of certain parts of the protein chains, how the chemical presents itself to the environment, etc... The main point is is that this is not a subjective function, and the exciting side to it is that you might find the one way to represent the molecule that will be the cure people are looking for!

Previously, this has been done by computer, including screen savers across many computers, but now the power of human guesswork is unleashed, so give it a go! (Or just play those other games. Foldit is a little more productive.)


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Saturday, 17 May 2008

I Am Ionman!

Yes, I finally got around to seeing the movie that every other blogger has already seen.

A rather faithful rendition of the origin story, updated for the modern century... although I don't immediately recall the bigger badder suit being used. Robert Downey Jnr. was very tolerable in the leading role, bringing a nice balance of seriousness and humour to the part. (Although I did foresee the obvious planting of the plot point in regards to the original arc-plant device thingy coming back.)

I didn't pick Jeff Bridges as the actor, it's amazing was a balding job could do, but this did mean I had a niggling sense of familiarity that distracted me from the movie. Also didn't pick Gwyneth Paltrow, but I'm less familiar with her.

Of course, this movie does suffer from being fricking long. Not too bad, but as with origin movies there's a lot of time spent on the full origin story itself before the kick-ass scenes happen (minor question: should Stark have burnt himself alive while in that suit in the desert?). [And, was "Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division" better than "Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division"?] Although one again the ending came down to the battle of the special effects.

Still, time flew by, and entertainment was had. That suffices.

And I also see there's another Hulk movie coming. Did we need another retake on Hulk? It's almost like there's another agenda here... (and yes, I did sit through the credits).


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Friday, 16 May 2008

To HD or Not To HD?

About a year ago I went "Yay! I have a new plasma TV!" However, it's not even slightly HD ready, and I'm not even sure what will happen if I try to shove an HD signal into it (or through my DVD player, come to that). And in today's world, HD is the way to go, so I'm now facing something of a small dilemma. Do I splash out another few thousand dollars and pick up a new set? And what then of my current one?

That all said, there are a few factors to consider:

One, I don't watch TV. Can't stand the ads. So that's one source of HD I don't need to immediately consider. [Still signed up for cable TV for some reason...]

Then there's also Freeview. Which doesn't come through Sky. So I'd need a different piece of electronic equipment to get, or get a TV with Freeview installed (not entirely sure how that works with a Sky/Saturn box. No doubt there's lots of cables involved). Not that there's anything on Freeview that is entirely drawing in my attention (now if they started playing Doctor Who...). Tempting, but not enough.

Now DVDs I do watch. Lots of them. Got a slew more the other day. Like I need that many? (Avoided the Whitcoulls sale.) But, yeah, BluRay is the coming thing, so I need something capable of handling that (which means a new player as well as a new TV). On the other hand, BluRay is uncontested, which means they can hike up the prices and no-one else can cry foul! (Well, they can, but monopolies don't care. Cf Microsoft.)

Yeah. In all, I can see why I don't need a new TV. At least, not right now... but it's lurking in my mind anyway...


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Thursday, 15 May 2008

Instant Heirloom

Yeah, I picked up this. One reason is that it is about half the price through Amazon than over here (and fortunately got charged before the dollar tanked). Even more amazingly, Amazon didn't charge extra for the package, despite the fact that this one item outweighed the rest of the package (which consisted of many large trade paperbacks and other books). The mail person brought it out on a chair, but I didn't have anything to help me carry it. Luckily, bus stops weren't far away...

Still, as items go... the complete set of Calvin and Hobbes comics in hardcover is quite a treasure. I haven't opened it yet, mainly because I have so much else to read, but that it going to take quite a while to read, and it's simpler for now to leave it untouched. (If I was confessing, I would say that I haven't really ever read the C&H comics, but I liked what bits I did come across.)

But yes, this is something that can be passed down through the generations, to be treasured, valued, and, hopefully and more importantly, read and enjoyed. Frankly, I should have picked this up a while ago.


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Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Very sad

I do have an interest in Python code because I use it at work. It is a very nice language, with some wonderfully nice way of doing things, and has many converts.

However, this does not excuse spending over an hour watching the following video on Python introduction by the Bay Area Python Interest Group:

Nor spending another hour watching the video of code snippets and how to use them. (Especially since I'm not doing anything this complex.) But, dangnabbit, it's just interesting to me!


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Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Golfing Perl-style!

Came across something weird yesterday, so of course I immediately thought of sharing it all with you.

The point of golf is to complete the course with as few strokes as possible. So, clearly, this is immediately portable to Perl... yes, the programming language. Perl Golf is all about completing some program in as few keystrokes as possible.

Have to say that it is a rather neat idea, a rather geeky way to show off your Perl ability, to program better than anyone else... and to write a stream of gibberish symbols that actually seems to do something.

There are a number of sites around about Perl Golf competitions, but I can't find anything that is up to date. This site is Jan 2007, but can't immediately find anything in the year since... passing fad has passed?

Oh well. Interesting in a comp-nerd way. Now, if it was Python Golf...


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Monday, 12 May 2008

HC Again

Just one mission this time... but it's a mythos mission! Yep, once again someone has gone in search of strange knowledge, and that never ends well. Watch as Freddy loses buckets of san (I maxed nearly every san loss roll...). And the lives of the members will never be the same again...

Christmas Trees From Hell: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8.


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DW: Episode 4.6

What a cheat! All this build up about how the Doctor can have a daughter... and it's revealed in the teaser! What a cop-out! But then, there's a lot this story is wanting to do without any decent excuse.

Let's see... the TARDIS is drawn to a strange location in the future because... of the daughter apparently. "A strange paradox." Yeah, right. More like "we needed to have this happen but can't find any reason for the Doctor to go there." Notice that neither Martha nor Donna have progeny created from them? Given the big insistence on it being done for the Doctor that's a bad oversight. (I thought the Hath might have gotten Martha cloned to provide a voice for the Hath side, but clearly they weren't complex enough to need one.)

Why is Martha there? Sure she was trapped, but why put her in the episode at all? Is it because, despite all the protesting Donna does about running, Catherine isn't up to the physical side of things, and so Freema was dragged in? Or was it just to show that Doctor Jones is enough of a Doctor in her own right?

And that ending... oh dear me... I hereby predict that we'll be seeing Jenny again near the end of this series... and as for her being the Doctor's daughter... It wasn't until after I saw the cast list that cogs started ticking, but I did work it out before checking the facts online. Yeah, I picked that Georgia Moffett was Peter "Fifth Doctor" Davison (nee Moffett)'s daughter. Oh, how very incestuous this show is getting. Did we need that level to events? Was that all planned or just a happy accident? (I can't quite believe the latter, but no doubt the Confidential (which I'm about to watch) will go into it.)

The whole thing with the ship and the two forces and such was all a cover to create Jenny and set up her relationship with the Doctor, and it's a pretty bad one at that. I think the 45 minute format hinders here, a longer show might have been able to arrange events more naturally, but here everything is forced and it shows too plainly.

In many ways, Jenny is the Doctor's watch, and this is just the setup for something else.

Next week: All I can notice is that Agatha is played by Min from Jekyll.


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Sunday, 11 May 2008

The Other Insider's Guide to Happiness

The key to happiness isn't what people think it is. People think families, ie kids, are what make people happy. This is largely because "Professor Gilbert said the brain was hard-wired to make people reproduce, not necessarily make them happy." Resulting in "people invest so much time and money in their children, and focus on the fleeting moments of joy they bring, rather than on the long periods of boredom and irritation, that most continue to believe children will bring them happiness, Professor Gilbert said."

What is the key? The answer appears to be "giving to others", which they found by studying people who meditated. "More recent research among lay people who had done a two-week course of 30 minutes' meditation a day found a measurable boost in activity in the part of the brain implicated in empathy compared with a control group."

To get happiness, one should meditate apparently... except, I don't think that's quite right. To me, the key sounds like "get some sleep", and then you'll be prepared to cope with the rest of the world.


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Saturday, 10 May 2008

DW: The Many Hands

Finally caught up with the novels. The last one is The Many Hands by Dale Smith, and quite a tale it is.

Yep, same guy as did Heritage. Only, aside from a mention of dolphins, you'd never pick this as that guy. He starts in media res, as the term goes, and doesn't let up, as everyone is on the run from go to whoa. Okay, there is a pause in the middle for a huge exposition dump, but then it's back to the hectic running around.

And good! I wish more did this. He has his creepy hands, and they are everywhere! It's back in Scotland, but this time there's no-one to not be amused, and instead the Doctor and Martha are up again a "mad scientist" type who has got his hands (no pun intended) on some alien technology, and hilarity ensues! Or rather, deadly serious nasty horror ensues. (At least, it would if I wasn't so desentisied.) Yeah, this has definite horror potential, and I can see kids being creeped out by it, so good on him.

Except the ending, which is frankly pants and is up there with other moments of "oh, and the bad guys is dealt with, but let us move on". Oh well, can't have everything.

The Doctor and Martha are well written, and McAllister lasts well as a character that actually makes an impression. There's also Munro, but it's hard to get a handle on him (but at least I remembered his name).

A decent book, worth getting, and don't read with the lights off (because it's bad for your eyes!).

Order: Eh, same again.


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Friday, 9 May 2008

Dark Side of the Rainbow

Recently the topic of Dark Side of the Sun was brought up in connect with the Wizard of Oz, in that if one replaces the audio of the latter with the former, one gets a rather amazing experience. Yes, well... in an effort to find out what it's all about, I thought I would look it up, and voila YouTube came through (this is Part 1 above the fold, links to the other 14 parts below). While there are some moments of synchronicity, I have to agree with the band that it is largely coincidence (let alone that we are talking about a CD that's half the length of the movie!).

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15.


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Thursday, 8 May 2008


I went to see the latest in the range of "comedy ripoffs" with Superhero Movie. It is exactly what you'd expect of the range, with the main attacks being on X-men, Batman Begins and, of course, Spiderman.

But, yes, I laughed. (Yes, even at their Stephen Hawking.) However, as per usual with this series, there are moments where you can see what comedy they were trying for, but didn't quite get it (this brand of American humour (or rather 'humor') being extremely physical and slapstick and that doesn't quite work). And, of course, the toilet humour goes on far too long for anyone's comfort but it's far too late to complain about that now.

One of the best moments is the reveal of Leslie Neilsen. It's great to still see him keeping up the schtick. Unfortunately Marion Ross doesn't quite get the same reaction, and I can't say that going from Happy Days to this is an upwards career spiral...

It is a very short movie, but make sure you stay through the credits for all the extra scenes. So, although we are talking low brow, if you can stand the over-the-top comedy, and know the reference material (which is why I haven't seen some of their efforts), then yes, go see this.


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Wednesday, 7 May 2008

HC Again

Only had time for one mission (well, we could have done another I reckon, but we didn't). It was quite a drawn out affair that could have gone a lot quicker... although the long drawn out part meant we knew what we were looking for when it was important. Featuring an entire crew of Antipodean players! Paint: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.

Then we just sat and chatted and got in a whole slew of people and questions. Gamer Talk: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.


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DW: Snowglobe 7

Is it Alien? Is it Cthulhu? Or is it Snowglobe 7 by Mike Tucker?

Yep, Mike Tucker is back with a special effects dream, set in the snow and ice of the Middle East. (No, not the result of being back in time, but of a heavy handed message about global warming.) I rather liked the Cthulhu aspect of it all, there's always fun to be had when there're tentacles around! The plot is fairly standard "stop the rampaging creature", but Mike manages to stretch it out to 250 pages quite entertainingly. (Except for the whole Rabley subplot which isn't go anyway, and could easily, and preferable, have been excised.)

Mike also introduces a new race, the Flisk, which settle on Earth, but one can't help wondering if the one and only sole reason he did this was to cheat an escape and search attempt towards the end of the book... which is really sad as it has been done dozens of times before and is a long way to go burdening continuity with this extra race of aliens.

Another faux pas by Mike is to name one character, a nurse no less, Marisha. That is just a stupid basic mistake anyone should have been able to point out as a no-no, and yet there's a whole list of people at the end who failed to pick up that this might just possibly confuse readers by having two characters with extremely similar names...

On the whole, it's a decent book, nothing sterling character-wise, but worth reading plot-wise.

Order: No continuity given, so chuck in with previous one.


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Tuesday, 6 May 2008

SNS: Second Sight

Season Three of Sapphire and Steel audios begins with Second Sight by Nigel Fairs.

Steel: You know exactly what I mean, mate. You've always felt threatened by Ruby ever since-
Sapphire: And what about you and Silver? I bet you were grinning like a shocked fox to hear about him.

Season Two ended with Sapphire and Steel trapped on a CD. So how to begin Season Three? The answer: bring in a new Sapphire and a new Steel, raising interesting implications about how easy it is to justify changes in actors, and just what it might mean if David and Joanna ever returned to the series...

But yes, new Sapphire and Steel. And how are they different? Sapphire is a bitch, and Steel is the agreeable friendly one. What? Since when? There's radical interpretation, but that's going too far. Oh yeah, they're also Australian. With very broad, very noticeable Aussie accents.

The plot is a recap of Adventure One with a mix of follow up to The Mystery of the Missing Hour. The innovation of the new S&S is what really this play is about, so the plot is slight, but it is there... but it is rather copying of what went before (then again, that is the point). There is an interesting suggestion of an over-arc idea and there is mention of the Transient War. If Big Finish do develop it, I hope they don't take as long about it as they did with the Tomorrow People arc, or we will literally never hear the end of it.

As for the two new leads... they take a bit of getting used to, but I certainly wouldn't mind repeat appearances. The Aussie-ness is rather... unusual, but as something that only comes up occasionally could be tolerated and possibly even enjoyed. Well done to Anna Skellern and Blair McDonough for stepping up to the challenge. Liza Bowerman is there as Ruby to (I suspect) provide a dash of continuity for the listeners, but again it's hard to get a sense of what her powers are other than something related to music. For the rest of the cast, I'm sure I've heard Patience Tomlinson before, she has a very distinct and recognisable voice, but not sure where. The rest of them... are there.

Interesting start to the season that definitely needs more than one listening. And be sure to stay for the entirely of disc two...


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Monday, 5 May 2008

DW: Episode 4.5

Sontar... HA! Indeed!

The Sarah Jane Adventures continue! Although I do have to admit it is a bit darker than SJA usually gets, what with that ending and all. But there are some points to the plot I am asking about. Like... why bother with Earth? Surely there are easier planets to convert? And given how seen-through the clone was, did we really need that either? Yes, it made for another moment with EXTREME close up on David's face, but... (oh, and his filling is really noticeable when he's yelling.)

[And yes, I caught the moment du Rose. But not of any mention of the Medusa Cascade...]

Of course the best thing about this episode was... Bernard Cribbins! Let's face it, with him as grandpa, it makes the family situation bearable. And I'm glad Freema is sticking around for at least another episode. She should be in every episode! In fact, why not give her her own spin-off series? Martha Jones, Earth Defenders has a lot better ring to it.

Catherine Tate struggles to find a place in this episode. It might be the writer trying to make her more "normal", with being scared, but she's supposed to be a companion, and a feisty one at that, so get on with it woman! Hopefully there will be better writing for her to come (and hoping for more of Donna shows just how much that character has improved).

At the end of the day, it's about how Sontarans are warriors... and that humans can kill them. Isn't that always the real moral?

Next week: Does this count as a three parter then? (No.) But the real question is: is she called Miranda?


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Sunday, 4 May 2008

Lionising #57

TSV #57 is now out and at a NZDWFC site near you. (Although how one measures "nearness" on the internet I'm not sure.)

Anyway, the big piece of publishing this time around is the Pilots of the Deep comic strip, many many years in the making. Indeed, there's a piece all about the making that should be read. (Once again great work by Alden to get these comics online.)

The other major exciting piece of the issue is the Life and Times of Neil Lambess, in which he talks of the fame he garnered for finding The Lion (the latter piece already being something online, so I'm not pointing it out). Very amusing read, as is all of Neil's work.

All that and the usual round of book reviews and comics. Read Alden's view here, and also read Paul's view here.


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Saturday, 3 May 2008

Those in favour of inanity...

The government has finally announced it's going ahead with the vaccine for young girls to vaccinate them against cervical cancer. Good. About time. It's been available for a while now, and makes sense to use it if we can make use of medicine to protect people against diseases.

To go with this story there was a poll on Stuff, to see if people thought it was a good idea, or a bad idea with two options. The thing that troubles me is that only 80% of people said it was a good idea. (Yes, yes, selection bias, and nothing like a previous potential biased poll, but I'm not talking about that one.)

The first 'no' option was "it will encourage early sexual activity". The hell? What kind of thinking are you doing? "If we stop a deadly cancer, people will have more sex." I know what the majority of people who think this are also thinking (hint: highly religious), but this is power-mad feverish thinking of the worst kind.

The other 'no' option was "I don't believe in vaccinations". Right. Yes. Medical science has developed vaccinations, wiped out small pox, protects millions of people against the flu... anyone remember the outbreak at a Porirua school a few years ago because parents were anti-vaccination? And don't even mention autism to me on this topic... Again, mad thinking.

Evidence based reality... why do so few people want to experience it?


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Friday, 2 May 2008

DW: Martha in the Mirror

Ah, this is more like it! The latest set of books: Martha in the Mirror by Justin Richards.

Diplomatic conference (small one, at least), strange mirror, the Doctor arrives and then there's a death... so what could possibly go wrong? Justin has a plot to tell, and gets on with it. Yeah, there's a young kid, but here she's actually more tied into the plot than other books which just happen to have kids in them. However, the eponymous titular event barely happens, but it does give a neat cover picture.

Most of the twists and turns can be predicted before hand, but there are still a few things that aren't obvious... although the need to tie things up doesn't work well and should really be avoided as much as possible in the future (not that anyone will know what I mean until they read this book).

Character-wise, the characters are pretty simplistic and straightforward, which does mean they are easy to keep track of. The Doctor and Martha are also fairly genetic Doctor and Companion. At the moment, I can't fully remember anyone's name, which should how well written they are, but they can be tracked.

A decent tale, worth picking up.

Order: Reference to Family of Blood, so between that and Utopia.


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Thursday, 1 May 2008

On the Campaign path

There will be people who will be able to say more about this than me, but I had a part in bringing of the most... astounding Doctor Who novels that never were to a pdf file near you.

I'm talking about Jim Mortimore's Campaign, of course. It was commissioned for the BBC Books, but then when Jim provided a roller-coaster of a ride no-one was prepared to go with, it was rejected and then provided as a book one could buy and the money went to charity for. (That's when I got my autographed copy.) However, BBC couldn't let that happen, and so it was pulled after too short a run.

Many years later, Paul Scoones approached (I presume, I'll link to his entry if he writes one) Jim about making it an ebook on the NZDWFC website. Jim liked the idea and wrote some essays about the history... but was a little more explicit and email inclusive that Paul felt comfortable with (not wanting to earn any legal problems).

Enter moi. I tidied up his main essay on the actual writing (ie. minor spelling typos fixed) which is nearly as insane writing as the book itself, removed the entire reviews that were quoted (we have extracts now), and extracted and rewrote the problem areas of the "behind the scenes"... and now we have it on the web.

This all said, while this can be gotten free, I do recommend getting in touch with Jim for a physical copy. Nothing like owning something you can hold in your hand, and you can get the unexpurgated essays as well! Hopefully, it will last longer in print than last time...

Anyway, cheers to Campaign!


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