Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Great time waster...

Try this game. Its cool.

I gave up at level 22 - largely because I'd already wasted about 45 minutes on it. I may return later to see if I can get to level 30.

...later. Yippee. I completed level 30! That's it done.

You get to a point, somewhere in the low 20s of levels, where you get the hang of how the guy who wrote it thinks. And then you look for the least obvious route for one colour and find it quite easily.

Torchwood: Episode 3 - 'Ghost machine'

That's more like it! Episode 3 of Torchwood was fab.

This was the episode where the series found its own identity. OK, so it was still Angel-like in style (camera still swooshing), but the plot was a much more British story than anything that Angel or the X-files ever came up with.

No gratuitous sex, no unneccessary bad language, just a decent story with a heart.

Rather interestingly, from a philosophical point of view, the episode echoes my own beliefs on the subject of ghosts (posted here previously) - not that they are the wandering disembodied spirits of dead people, but rather that they are memories of past events which somehow linger in certain places. Of course, this episode took the concept one step further and considered the 'memories' of future events too, but that is what good sci-fi does, takes interesting ideas and stretches them.

So a five star episode, in my opinion. Keep up the good work.

The teaser for next week's episode contains much more Doctor Who content than the first three episodes put together. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not - Torchwood is still finding its own feet at the moment.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Hallowe'en humour

Sunday, October 29, 2006

War of the worlds

"No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space. No one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinized as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets. And yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us."

[Imagine, if you will, Jeff Wayne's 'The Eve of the War' playing. Fantastic, isn't it?]

I'm actually not going to Blog about the classic musical version of the story, but rather the more recent movie version by Steven Speilberg, starring Tom Cruise.

I'd highly recommend this film to anyone (well, anyone old enough to see it). Despite the fact that the story is set in the USA rather than in England, and that it is set contemporarily rather than in Victorian times, the film is surprisingly faithful to the spirit of the book, if not the details.

I truly have never seen a film like it. The effects are great, the acting good, the music appropriate, etc., but what really sets this film apart from every other film I've seen is the emotion it imparts to its audience. I've seen many films where I've been 'on the edge of my seat' at times, but this is the only film I have ever seen where that experience is maintained for the entire film. After the initial 20 minutes or so, which are all setting up the realtionship between the characters, the Martians start attacking and you see the utter hopelessness of the situation Tom Cruise and his family find themselves in. From then on there is a constant sense of dread, mild horror and tension that really does put you on edge, and keeps you there, until the resolution at the end of the film.

I saw the film on DVD but wish that I'd seen it at the cinema. Sharing that emotion with a room full of people would have been quite an experience.

Steven Speilberg, you are a master film maker!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hallowe'en dogs

Words fail me.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Happy Hallowe'en?

What is the point of Hallowe'en?

Why do we 'celebrate' it?

Should we have a 'happy' Hallowe'en?

I've read up a little on Hallowe'en, and it seems that the origins of this 'holiday' go back, a long before Christianity, to a Celtic festival. That festival was Samhain ("sah-win"), celebrated on or about the 1st of November to mark the start of the winter (and the start of the new year). Winter was associated with death, so it was believed that the boundary between this world and the world of the dead was thinnest at the turn of the year - this meant that ghosts were believed to be more abundant and that the druids would have a better than usual chance of divining the future [1]. This was celebrated with lots of bonfires and dressing up as spririts - frequently as animal spirits.

During the Roman occupation of the Celtic lands, the Samhain festival became kind of muddled together with the Roman festival of Feralia, a day (in late October) where the recently departed were commemorated. Another Roman festival to do with fruit and trees may also have been tagged on, hence 'bobbing' for apples.

In the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV (why don't we have bonny-faced popes anymore?) established November 1st as 'All Saints day' - the time to honour deceased saints and martyrs. It was clearly an attempt to Christianise the existing pagan festival. In middle English, the festival was 'All-hallowmas' and the day before became 'All-hallows eve'. A few centuries later, another Pope declared November 2nd to be 'All souls day' - when all the dead (not only the saintly ones) were remembered and honoured. The festival that resulted from all this was much the same as the original Pagan festival in that people had big bonfires and folk dressed up as saints, angels and devils. The three day celebration became known as 'Hallowmas'.

Recently, the contribution of the two Christian additions to the pagan festival has diminished, and so we are, more or less, back to the purely Pagan festival of Samhain - without the animal sacrifices, I hope. In the UK at least, the bonfires have been shifted forward five days to Guy Fawkes night on November 5th, but the dressing up still goes on on Hallowe'en.

Where 'trick or treat' came into it is anybody's guess.

Perhaps I should have some animal entrails on standby next tuesday to divine the future of anybody who comes knocking at the door?

And should we have a 'happy' Hallowe'en? Well, it should be a time of looking to the future (which will hopefully be happy) but also a time for remembering those who have died (which will probably bring with it a whole mixed bag of emotions). So I'm not sure about that one.

[1] I've never understood why dead people are supposed to have knowledge of what will happen to the living in the future - it makes no sense to me. Surely the living are more likely to know?

Torchwood: Episode 2 - 'Day one'

So they threw themselves headlong into 'adult' terriotory with the second episode. Which featured a sex-starved parasitic alien which inhabited a young woman and consumed any man she had sex with at the moment of orgasm. It was unnecessarily explicit in the first sex scene.

But the plot was ok and the episode flowed fairly well, although it was fairly predictable and didn't contain anything new to sci-fi.

This episode was only 30% Angel, but most of the remaining 70% came from a cult 80s sci-fi film called 'Liquid Sky' (in which an alien feeds on sexual energy and consumes people at orgasm).

So nothing new, but I'll watch again next week. At least the banter between characters is fairly entertaining, and the show has huge potential.

And presumably that hand in the jar is the Doctor's hand which was cut off in 'The Christmas Invasion' last year. Presumably there's a story to be explored there before the end of the series.

I saw the teaser for next week, and I have no idea what's going on there at all. But it looks like its still very much in 'adult' territory. I wonder if they'll censor it in any way before it goes to BBC2 on Wednesday night? They did this with Little Britain, even though that was post-watershed. I guess another review will follow next week.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Torchwood: Episode 1 - 'Everything changes'

After about a year of waiting, the Doctor Who spinoff 'Torchwood' finally started on BBC 3 last night.

It was quite good. But I don't think it is really a Doctor Who spinoff.

Going by what I've read over the last few days and having seent he first episode, it seems to me that the idea of Torchwood is almost totally independent of Doctor Who, but references to Torchwood have been shoe-horned into the last series of Doctor Who and no doubt references to events in Doctor Who will continue to be made in Torchwood. But, as far as I can see, the only reason for this is to give Torchwood an instant fanbase. Plot-wise, Torchwood doesn't need Who and Who doesn't need Torchwood.

Episode 1 of Torchwood (I haven't watched Episode 2 yet, I taped it and will watch it tonight) was about 60% 'Angel', 20% 'Men in Black', 15% Welsh and only about 5% Doctor Who. With 'X-Files' vibes here and there. It really looks like an attempt to do a British version of 'Angel' (the 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' spinoff)... lets consider the following:

The main character:
  • In Angel: a brooding, immortal, American bloke with a complex back story, likes black coats. (OK, so Angelus was originally Irish, but Angel seems American most of the time)
  • In Torchwood: an immortal, American bloke with a complex back story, likes black coats. Will probably start to brood soon.
The supporting cast:
  • Angel: a mixed bunch of folk, each with their own unique talents.
  • Torchwood: a mixed bunch of folk, each with their own unique talents.
The action:
  • Angel: mostly at night.
  • Torchwood: mostly at night, in the rain.
The camera work:
  • Angel: lots of aerial views of LA at night, camera swooshes between views.
  • Torchwood: lots of aerial views of Cardiff at night, camera swooshes a bit.
The basic premise:
  • Angel: team of supernatural investigators, keep tabs on Demonic activity in the city.
  • Torchwood: team of extraterrestrial investigators, keep tabs on Alien activity in the city.
The main baddies:
  • Angel: Wolfram & Hart - Evil lawyers.
  • Torchwood: none obvious as yet. But W&H weren't obvious in series one of Angel either.
So I think you'll agree that there are a few similarities.

This isn't a complaint. Torchwood has great potential and I'm really looking forward to seeing where they take it. The first episode was a bit derivative, but once it gets going it could have an interesting life of its own. Here's hoping.


ps just in case you don't know by now, Torchwood is an anagram of Doctor Who...

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Friday, October 13, 2006

What Superhero are you?

My results:
Apparently, I am Superman

"You are mild-mannered, good, strong and you love to help others."

Green Lantern
The Flash
Iron Man
Wonder Woman

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

Thursday, October 05, 2006

All of a sudden I'm excited...

So there I was, sitting on the bus on the way to work this morning, when I saw an advert on the side of a bus. All it said was "Torchwood starts October 22nd". And I got (a little bit) excited.

For those of you not in the know, Torchwood is the Doctor Who spinoff series for grown ups. And it starts in a little over two weeks. Can hardly wait.