Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Fry, baby, fry!

Rebecca's been frying things (again). Anything and everything.


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Monday, 29 September 2008

What's the Harm?

Also from the NZ Skeptics release:


The What´s The Harm website tracks the damage caused by paranormal and pseudo-science claims, listing reported cases that tally 3,254 people killed, 235,558 injured and over $455,070,000 in economic damages.

In its section on psychics, the website cites 1,315 people who were harmed by someone not thinking critically with regard to psychic claims. This includes the following cases relating to psychics' claims regarding murders or missing people:

When nine-year-old Christine Jessop was abducted, psychics and dowsers flooded the police with tips to her location. Meanwhile a credible eyewitness report of a girl struggling in a car went uninvestigated for weeks. An inquiry concluded the investigation was botched. (Oct 1984)

Psychic Sylvia Browne told Audrey Sanderford that her granddaughter had been abducted into slavery in Japan. In reality, the girl had been murdered and her body was found buried near her home three years after her self-confessed murderer was jailed. (1999-2003)

A paranormal remote viewing company announced that missing girl Elizabeth Smart was dead and the location of her body was being sought psychically. Not only were they wrong about her being dead, they also caused a lot of wasted time for officials searching for the body in the location they had "viewed", and they incorrectly fingered an innocent man. (2002)

Psychics Sylvia Brown and James van Pragh told Pam and Craig Akers that their kidnapped 11-year-old son was dead, giving apparent details of the location of the body and his last moments. He was, in fact, found alive four years later. (2003-2007)

Australian Don Spiers, father of missing Sarah Spiers, said that psychics had been "a huge torment to myself and my family in giving cryptic clues as to where Sarah might be". (February 2004)

"These are the stories that Sensing Murder and the tabloids don´t tell you about because it hurts their own pocketbooks. If these psychics really are able to talk to dead people, it would be the biggest story of the millennium, not merely a basis for cheap nasty exploitainment shows," says Hyde.



In 1978 John Tate turned to psychics for help to find his missing 13-year-old daughter. Here´s his experience:

We clutched at them desperately in the early days ... But the promises of the psychics were all lies. They raised false hopes in us. At times we really believed we were onto something. The suggestions and ideas preyed on our minds ... But always, when it came to the crunch, the so-called leads and ideas led absolutely nowhere but into a pit of despair ...
We soon found that the psychics who came up our garden path were `foot-in-the-door´ types who, once they had wormed their way in, were very reluctant to leave again. They were strong characters who were not afraid to assert themselves. They rode rough-shod over our feelings - which were in a desperate state already. In one week, our emotions and normal grip on life had gone through a wrenching upheaval, and the influence of psychics started to have an unpleasant effect. Even when we didn´t want them they were there, on our doorstep, always expecting to be met with an open door ...
We discovered that the work of the psychics was not just ludicrous and laughable. It was sinister and evil. Once we got into that web of deceit - and that is what it was - we found it very hard to struggle free. None of it ever led anywhere except to despair and disappointment, misery and confusion. We had become enslaved to the
suggestions of the psychics.

From Investigating the Unexplained by Melvin Harris, 1986


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Sunday, 28 September 2008

Bravo Awards

Continuing the NZ Skeptics release:

Kathryn Ryan's interviews with Webber and Levy, as well as other items where she demonstrated critical thinking in covering science and pseudo-science topics, has seen her given a Bravo Award by the NZ Skeptics.

Raybon Kan, known for his lighter approach, also gained plaudits with his Sunday Star-Times column "I see dud people", wherein he stated "I don't want to get in the way of entertainers earning a crust, but it's scummy to pretend to communicate with the dead to take advantage of grieving relatives".

In another area of interest to the Skeptics, a third Bravo Award went to the Royal Society of New Zealand for their 2008 Big Science Adventure video competition focusing on the life and work of Charles Darwin. However, the Skeptics took the unusual step of issuing a brickbat for the same initiative.

"It was great to see such talented work celebrating Darwin and evolution in the run-up to next year´s worldwide celebration of the 200th anniversary of Darwin´s birth," says Hyde. "But many of our members were dismayed to see our pre-eminent science advisory institution commending one video which contained numerous errors of fact in promoting the unscientific ideas of intelligent design and creationism."

The awards will be given telepathically at the NZ Skeptics Conference being held in Hamilton from 26-28 September. The Bent Spoon is named for the well-known parlour trick of psychic showman Uri Geller.


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Saturday, 27 September 2008

Bent Spoons

Since I haven't seen this on any news sites, I'm posting the NZ Skeptics announcements re Bent Spoons and Bravo Awards. First: the Bent Spoons.

Skeptics Give Police Thumbs Down

The NZ Skeptics Bent Spoon for the most irresponsibly gullible statement in the media in the past year goes to Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Levy of the New Zealand Police Force for promoting psychics as "just another tool" in the investigative policing toolbox.

"What's next?" asks Skeptics Chair-entity Vicki Hyde. "Witness testimony from dreams and pre-emptive arrests on the basis of clairvoyant claims? The New Zealand Police Force has had enough credibility problems in recent years without this sort of thing making them look really shonky."

Levy has helped the most recent public relations campaign for "exploitainment" show Sensing Murder, making appearances on television and radio to talk about his interest in seeing what the psychics´ "take" was on an unsolved missing person´s case. It´s the second time he has been involved in the programme and he told Radio New Zealand´s Kathryn Ryan that he didn't see any issue of police credibility in supporting such an approach.

Levy stated that the aim was to "give the investigation as much exposure as possible in the hope of getting information in return". But Hyde says that this cheap exploitative alternative to "Crimewatch" was unlikely to help, adding that the Sensing Murder franchise has not been credited with providing any useful information anywhere in the world. The Whatstheharm.net website, which counts the costs of such claims, lists numerous cases where psychics erroneously told families their loved ones were dead when they weren't and vice versa, causing anguish to the families, wasting police time and sometimes pointing the blame at innocent parties.

"Sensing Murder is simply a marketing vehicle for the psychics and a money-spinner for a television company keen to exploit vulnerable families in the name of shoddy entertainment," says Hyde. Deb Webber now boasts of a five-year waiting list for her consultations and performances. "But it´s even more disturbing to think that the very people we expect to protect us from fraud or false accusations are touting this industry. It doesn´t give you any confidence in the police force if they think this is a reasonable approach to take in solving serious crimes."

Levy did admit that no new information had been provided by the psychics, all material having been previously uncovered by ordinary policing methods. Both Sensing Murder psychics had had previous contact with the family in the case, but Levy had a confident "gut feeling" that they had not elicited any information that way, having their "credibility and integrity to protect".

"I guess he didn´t see the Australian current affairs sting, played here last year on Eating Media Lunch and available on YouTube, showing Deb Webber talking with three dead people who didn't actually exist. Surely that says something very negative about her credibility, but it looks like even basic background checks weren´t done before the Detective Senior Sergeant allowed the Lower Hutt police station to be used as a TV set."


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Friday, 26 September 2008

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Forbiddened Kingdom

At long last, the movie everyone was waiting for since time began, the epic match up on the level of De Niro and Pacino! Well, Chinese kung-fu variants thereof anyway.

Cut to the chase: Forbidden Kingdom is must-see for anyone who likes Jackie Chan, Jet Li, or Hong Kong style action movies with mixes of humour. Or even if you have no particular preference, you should go see it anyway.

Okay, okay, it's nominally about white boy Jason Tripitakas (played by Michael Angarano, who managed to pull off some stunning looking moves) who finds himself in the old Chinese Kingdom, meeting up with ancient kung-fu masters and kicking lots of ass. Also a minor love story, but it's very, very not-subtle.

Not that anyone cares, as it's mainly the audience playing "spot the big star in heavy makeup" until the two big names fully kick onto the big screen. Jackie Chan is playing up the humour as ever, and even Jet Li gets to have a lot of fun. And, yes, there is a big scene involving the two of them facing off and knocking each other about, as there really had to be.

The plot is pretty basic, but I think you can tell by now the plot's not the point. Go enjoy the fu!


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Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The Chronicles of Risan: Part the Eighth

Rather than continue with our task of last week, we instead are called to the island of... can't remember, as the women rulers are having problems with their Elite guards going missing (not to mention some men, but, eh.). While in the city, we spotted some robed dark skinned, white haired chaps wandering around, but didn't immediately get that they were Drow and the ones behind them all. However, those with more knowledge than some of us were all too happy to explain more than we wanted to know.

We ventured into a cave, us wee band of two rangers, warlord, wizard, no warlock, no paladin, but also with new Dwarven fighter. She proved to be very useful, presuming she could actually hit, which did prove rather difficult.

Anyways, after we entered, we saw our first Drow fighters, but they also had with them human men who mindlessly attacked us with clubs. Fortunately, we were able to knock them unconscious with fire magic (!?), leaving us with Drow smackdown, and indeed down was smacked. The men we threw back (to the city, that is).

Presented with four doors, behind door number one was a prize, namely a guard prisoner (but not Elite guard) and she told us that she was captured and her compadres killed, their remains thrown next door. Next door was indeed some remains eating beasties that liked being either spectral or invisible. Damned annoying that. Took us a while, but we got rid of them as well.

That left two doors, with big monsters behind each. Fortunately, we were able to arrange for the two groups of monsters to eat each other first, and then we stepped in and wiped out the remains. A very successful tactic!

Progressing further, we encountered more Drow, including one magic user who was a severe nuisance. More fighting (is there anything else we do), and here the Dwarf really proved useful, either taking out or otherwise occupying the bad guys so we could try more effective routes. However, we were pretty drained by then, and so we await another chance to go in further...


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Tuesday, 23 September 2008

HC Again

Once more unto the breach, this time twice, as I get in not only on Saturday, but also shark in on Sunday. (With one of the main players away, there's a gap open, and my Sunday's are reasonably free, so sharking opportunities arise!)

First up, we check out someone who's gone missing, last seen at his house. What could possibly go wrong? Jello Shooters: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9.

Then, Pete GM's a mod, which goes on and on and... which is why I'm not in the first part of this, but come in around the ten hour mark (I think, haven't gotten that far yet myself). Madam Jack Wax: Part 1, 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, Part 16, Part 17.


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There's a new BBC Wales production on the screen (British screens, at least). You can spot that it's the BBC as it features such luminaries as Anthony Head, Richard Wilson, Eve Myles and John Hurt (and director James Hawes). [Just as well they did have John Hurt, or it would seem to be a list of Doctor Who leftovers...]

It features the adventures of a young man, just coming into his powers, and tasked with saving the day on a weekly basis. No, not Smallville, which there are easily many parallels, not the least of which is the free mixing of continuity. This is the British version, featuring their own superhero of note:

Merlin! (No, there is no ! in the title, but you can tell there should be.)

Aside from the drawcard of it being "magic!", and being yet another version of that old classic, there isn't much yet to see (based on an entire one episode). Looks to be the same old, same old coming of age young adult style series that we've seen before (cf two paragraphs above). Hopefully something exciting will develop, but it's not "must see TV"...


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Monday, 22 September 2008

Get Stupid with Maddy

Can't say that her Lego figure is the most attractive thing ever. Oh well, instead, have a video from her Sticky and Sweet tour, which is not a song but just a couple of lines from different songs stuck together and put over the top of a really, really subtle about the planet. Really.


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Sunday, 21 September 2008

Tomb of the Mummy 3

The franchise continues, and while I'm not saying Mummy 3 is formulaic, I was flashing back to previous Mummy movies. I'm not surprised Rachel Weisz didn't want to be in this movie, and her replacement (Maria Bello) isn't quite up to the snuff.

It's fun enough, but aside from putting it through an Asian prism, it really is more of the same. So much so, that I can't really think of anything I want to say about the plot that wasn't in the first two movies...

I'm guessing that Brendan Fraser and John Hannah are glad their three picture deals are over (not that I have any idea if John Hannah was on a three-picture deal), as while they are in this picture, they really look to be phoning their performances in. Meanwhile, it's good to see Jet Li (didn't he retire from action movies, or something?) and Michelle Yeoh on the screen again (must check out Forbidden Kingdom some time). And we have Luke Ford, who might well be carrying the Mummy franchise movie forward. Not exactly star material, but I'm sure he's cheap and that's what counts.

Fun enough movie, but really isn't anything we've said before. Has this series run out of steam already?


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Saturday, 20 September 2008

Living in The Stranger's Hood

Inspired by true events? (Not really.) I can hear the conversation now... "There was this thing... and this bad thing happen to this person..." "Wow, that's amazing, let's make a movie of it!"

The Strangers is the big Liv Tyler release since Armageddon (I guess, can't remember anything else). She carries most of the movie, but since she was suffering from tonsillitis she is really soft spoken, which makes her calling for help really pathetic.

Another annoying thing is the camera moving. I have no idea what was going though Bryan Bertino's head, but we don't need motion-sickness in every scene (although some scenes are far worse than others). I'm sure I've complained about this before, but it's not slick directing, it just makes you want to leave the theatre. (Note: speaking of, when I saw this movie, I was the only one in the place!)

What it really comes down to is that there is no point to this movie. It's not about the strange people, because it's not told from their point of view. It's not really about people suffering through terrible things, because it's just a big beat up (although from an atmospheric view, it is a good thriller build-up). There's no "amazing human spirit" or anything.

Basically, even if you have nothing better to do, there's no need to see this movie.


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Friday, 19 September 2008

The Chronicles of Risan: Part the Seventh

Us heroes (ha!) were called to the island of Mufu (or whatever it was called) to run a wee errand for the Vizier there. While getting details, we saw that they were a happy people, which made us immediately suspicious, and the people doing menial tasks marked with tattoos ("religious marks") were in no way suggestive of any kind of slave trade...

Turns out there's a necromancer nearby, and we're asked to see to him and his necromancer buddies and beasties. As we get to the island, we come across a fisherman and his fisher-zombie. The populace on the island are also happy, and they've sold themselves to get money now and their bodies become zombies later. Nice work if you can get it. (Zombies and skeletons do all the menial tasks.)

The party attempts to talk with the necromancer and maybe arrange some hiring/buying of zombies for themselves. I ask a probing question or two about where they get the parts from, which is graveyards and raiding other peoples! Small point to raise here: I'm Good, and the rest of the party is Unaligned. However, I still think this doesn't explain enough that when I'm outraged enough to attack, two of my own party turn against me! B*stards!

The necromancer does a runner, activating lots of zombies, and a big fight ensues, and the rest of the party deigns to be on my side in this (although, to be fair, the Warlock was happy to attack the necromancer as well). With the rest of the party doing their own thing, I get knocked out, but manage to stabilise before I die... I mean, before the others get around to coming to my aid. There are yet more zombies though, but we manage to put paid to them, but not before I am once again the damage magnet.

Once through them, we take on the necromancer, and his cleric and wizard buddy. Bashing ensues, and as he dies the necromancer's library goes up in flames, much to our wizard's dismay (hey, he wasn't joining me to begin with, sod him).

With one island annoyed at us for removing their easy zombie living, we set out to go back to the slave island and deal with that...


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Thursday, 18 September 2008

SNS: Zero

Back to the SNS audio series, I already have the next one, and yet am only now reviewing story 3.3: Zero by Steve Lyons.

Gold: So, Silver and Gold have been assigned.
Silver: Indeed.

This adventure does start well, with the concept that only Silver and Gold have been sent to deal with a problem. A nice twist to the series with established characters (always good to have David Collings back, and like Lisa Bowerman, Mark Gatiss enjoys his role as newcomer Gold). The place is a nice isolated space ship in which Strange Things(tm) are happening. It's quite a set-up that is only ruined by two things.

The first is that Sapphire and Steel turn up. This changes the character dynamics immediately, emphasising Gold's outsider status to the old team (which is useful for the plot), and returns the adventure to a more normal S&S one. Certainly the bulk of the work from that point switches over to the main pair, raising the question of why they bothered trying something new.

Which brings us to the second point, which I can't really talk about. At the mid-point of the story there is a twist. A big twist. A fairly dramatic twist. Unfortunately, due to the nature of S&S, it's never really made clear how it came about nor why the twist is... untwisted, for lack of a better term. There has always been an element of confusion surrounding aspects of the story, and the people involved aren't likely to go into huge explanatory speeches, but it would be nice to have something more than "you know why" and "yes, you're right."

Plot aside, the characterisations are full-on, and the cast is joined by Angela "Bambera" Bruce (I even managed to work out who it was before I saw the cast list). The cast is in fine form, although David Warner is beginning to sound a little phlemy. Not a huge distraction, but it's starting to become noticeable. And production-wise, the effects don't get in the way of the talking, which is saying something considering some efforts. (And nice to hear Susannah Harker's breathy voice at the end there.)

A story that starts well, but twists and changes a little too much to try to be something else. Not their best effort.
And here is the rest of it.

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Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Hamilton, city of...

Powhiri, according to the taxi driver I got on the way in from the airport. As I mentioned, I was there for a conference, held at the university. While they have some interesting items around, I was quite taken with this piece.

Although you can't see it, each shell piece was an actual piece (of shell? not sure), that stood out from the mural. Gave it a very nice 3D aspect to it.


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Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Student "Living"

I was up in Hamilton recently, going to a conference. As it the style at the time, I stayed at the local student accommodation (as did a lot of the out-of-town guests). However, what is it with all these places? They all look like... hovels.

And what the picture can't capture is that unique weird (and not pleasant) smell that assaults the nose every time you enter, no matter how much you try to air it out. Eewww.


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Monday, 15 September 2008

HC Again

Last weekend Logan wasn't the GM again... but neither was I! This, of course, means that Terry has to deal with Timmy. Oh, the humanity!

Anyways, we take a slightly longer trek than we needed to through the plot, but with the bad guys doing their own things, at times we could merely try to catch up. Tweed: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9.


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Last Known Photo



(Yeah, I know, permanent 5 o'clock shadow.)

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Sunday, 14 September 2008

HOW MUCH for that doggie in the window?

As I've said before, I play YouPlay games. Heck, I've even become a premier member (and now can earn cash, although won nada yet). Good site, gets me thinking, great stuff.

As part of that site are PopCap games. These are fun games you can play online, and are incredibly addictive. Let me not understand just how much time I've lost trying to get that last Peggle level (and I eventually got all five difficult games), or trying to get just one level higher on Bejeweled 2, or... yeah, big time sinks. (Even Bookworm Adventures is fun, and Mystery PI is so very engaging...)

And now these games can be downloaded. Most likely these are fuller, more extensive games, with extra levels and shiny features (hopefully including the ability to save and thus not need to repeat the first part over and over again...).

I say "most likely" (based on the adverts) as I'm not sure I'm ever going to actually buy any. These (yes fun and addictive) games are available for download for NZ$30 each! Really? I don't buy games, but this seems rather disproportionately high.

That said, just looked at Gamesman and $30 is how much they are charging for their puzzle games (what there are) as well. This might well be the price, but it is rather exorbitant.

Oh well, here's hoping for a sale, as there are a few on their list I'd like.


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Saturday, 13 September 2008

Waka, waka, b*tches!

Good or evil? Relative or absolute? It all depends on what pills you've eaten recently. Sometimes there's nothing left to do but charge and hope for the best...

On the other hand, enjoy one of many Pac-Man movies! (Pair of cherries to Peter for the link.)


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Friday, 12 September 2008

Everyone still here?

Well, they did it, they really went and did it! They dared to switch on the Large Hadron Collider! ...and science happened. Yep, no black holes, no turning the world inside out... frankly, they should have known we were safe as the Mayan calendar still has a few years to run (perhaps a black hole has been made but it'll take a while to kick in?).

Bet all those people with the death threats are now wiping the egg off their faces. Yep, the scientists running the LHC got Death Threats! over this. Over reaction, anyone?

Beside, Torchwood were on the case! As good as it was to hear the crew again, I have to say the story was... meh... Aside despite featuring the LHC, the science suffered a complete failure. SPOILERS: The creature ate neutrons? What? Sounds so amazing to spout off atoms are made of protons and neutrons, but if you remove the neutrons, the repulsive magnetic force overcomes the strong nuclear force, and... well... KABLOOEY! to put it technically. Basic science that. Very bad.

In the meantime, the world marches on, and the LHC does the work it is supposed to do, so let's all ist back and admire the pictures.

EDIT: This is all fun, but there is actual death due to people promoting anti-science rubbish.


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Thursday, 11 September 2008

Hellacious Boy

Sequel time, this one for Hellboy. Normally, this wouldn't be a great idea, but with Guillermo Del Toro at the helm, it's a great thing. I saw Pan's Labyrinth recently so had a lot more understanding of the visual imagination GDT brings to the screen, and this is a visual feast of strange creature ideas (which we only get teasing hints of in the trailers). Lots of gorgeous moments with creature effects, and the movie has a lot of these moments.

Which does mean the plot isn't really much, just an excuse to get to the next big fight scene. What character plot there is is pretty basic, but brings up intriguing possibilities for future movies. (Does make me want to check out the comics.)

Good to see Ron Perlman back, he plays the main role so well, as well as Selma Blair and technically Doug Jones (not that we get to see him sans make-up, and indeed he plays more than one role). Also we get Jeremy Irons, in the form of Seth MacFarlane, doing an extremely accurate rendition (certainly I thought it was Jeremy Irons until I saw the cast credits). But the main stars are the make-up and effects crew for bringing GDT's surreal ideas to life.

Definitely a film to see, even if you don't care about Hellboy himself, as it is a sight for the eyes that needs to be enjoyed on the big screen.


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Wednesday, 10 September 2008

The Chronicles of Risan: Part the Sixth

Apparently they fought an adult white dragon last time. Lots of excitement I'm sure.

When I rejoined the party, we were propositioned. To whit: take some drakes from a previous island we had come across to another island for 900% profit. Sounded like a bad idea, but we got on the railroad and did so anyway. Unfortunately, some of the drakes died on the way, but I still made a tidy profit.

When there, we were approached about another opportunity. We were to go into a crypt and, basically, loot it for stuff to sell to the person hiring us, and we could keep whatever magical tat we found. Yet another train departed with us on, even despite the condition that we weren't allowed to see the city we traveled through (that said, a temporary mage we had did go invisible and saw that this was a city of the Shadowkin).

Inside the crypt, in the first area we got into a fight (as is the style of the time), with spectres and other creatures that could turn invisible. Unfortunately spectres have this "incorporeal" ability which basically doubled their health, which was already fairly buff, and turned the fight into a long grind that eventually ended with them running away.

I finally got to try out my thiefering skills by disabling a trap, although it took more than one go. Fortunately, the next room wasn't an issue, just a set of three mummys (with a fear aura) and regenerating skeletons. It became a slug fest where we targeted one, took it out, then moved on. They helped out by completely failing to hit us.

Another trap awaited us, and then we hit the big baddy in the crypt, with three heads instead of one. Just in case that wasn't fun enough, the spectres we failed to kill turned up again, but we made sure to gank the elite guy first before taking out the other creatures.

Mission accomplished, we got some more gold, an offer of other employment opportunities and magical gear I didn't care about. Just as well I'm in this for the combat, makes a nice break from roleplaying (certainly many members of the party aren't interested in doing much other than getting to the next moment of initiative rolling...)


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Tuesday, 9 September 2008

HC Again

Yep, that ol' Heroic Cthulhu again. Once more, I take up the reigns and GM the module. It was something different to my previous efforts, but it was something that came to mind that I wanted to run. Janet is back, and while I knew Danny wanted to deal with that situation, I didn't want to take her back to Trinity, so instead the crew go on a nice cruise. Ha!

Note: I didn't name this. The Attack of the French: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8.


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Monday, 8 September 2008

It goes on...

Raybon Kan gets in on the 15 seconds of infamy currently being dealt to Sensing Murder. And, from memory, this guy has performed as the NZ Skeptics conference before (as has, IIRC, Te Radar), so you can guess his stance.

He makes very valid points about not just Sensing Murder, but psychics in general. He does recommend some good books, but I would also suggest Ian Rowland's Cold Reading book.

While I would like to see some government organisation get involved in investigating the program, I suspect the company behind it has already covered their butt, and somewhere in the end graphics no-one reads there'll be some fine print about "for entertainment purposes only". Oh well.

Still, no doubt, as time goes by, people will remember this event as the time when the police validated psychic involvement. Sigh. Yes, I am cynical.

(Blink of the third eye to Foo again.)


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Saturday, 6 September 2008

Police "resort" to psychics

I'm sure most people by now have seen the article Police turn to psychics in Kaye Stewart mystery, wherein the police turn to the "psychics" from Sensing Murder for help. And indeed, there was information from one of the psychics, and "[her] revelation "could go down in New Zealand policing history"."

However... "But Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Levy said police who interviewed Webber and fellow psychic Kelvin Cruickshank had already discounted that person, and other publicly unknown information revealed by the pair had failed to produce any fresh leads."

Yeah, once again the psychics have come through with information no-one could know...

Of interest are the comments. Most of them are skeptical, and some claim "I'm open" and "you can't talk about it until you've experienced it" (a line which is used in many places and bugs me... but I might blog that later...). Also claims that psychics have solved cases, although details are not forthcoming.

There was also a poll, about the use of psychics and TV shows. Me, I voted for the "publicity" angle, and while "Yes (useful)" is winning in absolute terms, the rest of the items are all negative to actual ability and so overall that's 70% saying 'no' to psychic ability. We seem to be a largely skeptical country...

EDIT: NZ Skeptics chair entity, Vicky Hyde, speaks up about Sensing Murder's stunning record... of no successes. (Thanks Alden!)


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Friday, 5 September 2008

The Captain of Disillusion

This guy was on the Skeptic's Guide a while ago, and I finally got around to checking out his YouTube videos. Captain Disillusion looks at various YouTube videos, and decomposes them to point out why they are fakes (ghosts and the like are his focus). Quite brief and entertaining (I particularly like his endings). HD versions are available on OpenFilm.

And remember: love with your heart, and use your head for everything else.


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Thursday, 4 September 2008

Cloning the Wars

Despite the efforts of friends and buses, I have finally managed to see Clone Wars. I do think the basic premise, of the event re Jabba, is pretty lame. Frankly, it's just an excuse for one battle after another... which does make it rather like the movies.

Speaking of, it's rather hard to get too worked up about some of what happens here. We know various characters have script immunity, so it doesn't matter what happens to them, they will survive to appear in Revenge. This is probably one reason the "cute kid" character was introduced, to give us someone to worry about (although the other reason would be: to appeal to the kid market).

Animation-wise, yeah, I thought it would be harder to get into than this based on the trailer. A friend of mine said the character models were based on the Thunderbirds, which explains their large eyes and that their bottom lip were the only movement during speaking (which wasn't entirely true). It worked pretty well, actually. Just some close ups don't quite work as we get far too close to the texture maps. Still, the ships work, probably because they were all CG in the first place (presumedly the production team got a hold of the models?).

Vocals work well too. It's more the actual voices that stand out as unusual than the returning guest voices (who probably won't be in the actual series).

Definitely something to see if you have any interest in the Star Wars series, and I did enjoy it more than I thought. But very thin on the plot.


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Wednesday, 3 September 2008

HC Again

Once more we delve into the cubical jungle, find out more about the workings of the cubical tribes (and meet another tastefully PC group), but don't really achieve any major goals. Lots of finding details, but no real huge deals made. Tribal Troubles: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7.


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This things I believe

In the latest Sunday Star Times there were the results of a survey into conspiracy theories and the paranormal and stuff.

Interesting reading, and they spit the Paranormal block into female and males to see who believed in things more. Only in three items did men believe more than females: Evolution (82.4% vs 77.2%), Big Bang Theory (77.1% vs 66.2%), Life on Other Planets (72.4% vs 59.6%)... Um... Paranormal??? Er, they might have just lumped things together for easier printing, but those things are not paranormal items!!! Evolution was the highest item "believed" in, although there is still around 20% of the populace who don't buy it. It's just the biggest scientific theory ever that underpins everything biological...

Otherwise woman believed more than men. Soul existence came in at 65.3% vs 39.7%. God rated 44.5% vs 34.6% (less than half the populace, ha!). Taniwha exist rated lowest at 12% vs 5.7%.

Another group was conspiracy theory. Rating higest (79% likely) was "Iraq was is about oil not democracy". However, the rest were less than 50% likely. Some I've never heard of: All Blacks were poisoned at World Cup (40%) and Political conspiracy to suppress rights of minorities in NZ (9%) [remember: don't ascribe to conspiracy what can be explained by incompetence].

For Urban Myths, they also say if it's true. Highest belief was 64% in "seasons caused by elliptical orbit" (no - axial tilt). That annoying 10% of brain canard rates 58% (not even slightly true). Lowest rated (10%) was "germs won't affect dropped food if you pick it up in 5 seconds" (myth - busted!).

And there's a whole lot more. Worth taking a look at and considering further.


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Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Old School: Quark

Another series from history: Quark, made in 1978. Adam Quark is the head of the garbage collection squad, and has hilarious adventures on the way. And it is clear that it is a comedy, whenever there is a funny line or moment, the laughter track kicks in. (This is one of the hardest angles to get to grips with. The humour seems really forced in places, and the laughter track quite distracting, but towards the end of the show I was getting into it.)

Again, only seen one episode so far May The Source Be With You. Can be taken as a highly religious episode, but unless the rest of the series continues, I'm going to treat this as a source of humour with the whole "oops, the Source made a mistake, I don't believe, unless I don't have a choice". It does take a while to get off, but it does keep up the pace and it extremely watchable.

The main crew is interesting, being a big first I'm thinking in many ways. Aside from Quark, there is a plant-based lifeform (who looks human, strangely enough), a robot, a being that is both man and woman (first duo-sexual being on TV?), and a woman and her clone (that look incredibly hot, of course, just look at the wiki page). Can't say I know of many shows that have mixes like that (well, hot women in starring roles, yes, of course, but aside from that...).

At first I was dubious, but yeah, I can see why people like this. Definitely want to check out more episodes.


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Monday, 1 September 2008

Old School: Wizards and Warriors

Been seeing some older TV series recently. One such is: Wizards and Warriors. Made in 1983... and it definitely shows. However, it was a children's show, so let us not judge it too harshly. Well, except for the fact that it is really bad. So far, I've only seen The Unicorn of Death, and have been informed that the next two episodes are far better. I have them to watch, so may yet say "first episode, they were just starting out, let's move on".

However, I haven't seen them yet. But, I don't want to be too critical. It is watchable in a rather bizarre way, completely over the top fantasy, with very basic characters (sword wielding heroes, annoying princesses, evil dark mage...). It even stars Jeff "Zack Allan" Conaway (no wonder everyone refers to his Grease performance as opposed to this). And many of the episodes are directed by Bill "Hulkster" Bixby. With talent like that, and that it was made by Warner Bros, I am surprised it only lasted eight episodes.

The first episode is not one to challenge the hard of thinking, hopefully the later ones will actual develop potential.


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