Frag Party

You should de-fragment your hard drives regularly. I'm easily distracted though, and my good intentions stay intentions. I transferred a ton of downloads to The Speedboat (so called because it has the same aerodynamic design as my last external hard drive but this one is big enough to drive to France in) which helped my speed but not as much as when I finally de-fragged. Please learn from my mistake.

A good free tool for spring cleaning is Crap Cleaner. It flushes out your temp and cache files in seconds so you don't have to go digging around in different folders and programs. Though remember to keep your cookie for any site that gives you a hard time logging in, like bastard Flickr.com.

This seems an appropriate time to share how much I'm enjoying "middle clicking" in Internet Explorer 7. Say a Hail Mary if you can't control the urge to tell me to change to Firefox!

Before you log off, you might wanna grab the latest tunes to get me to work awake and on time. This time there's a tracklist so you can decide up-front if they're worth the jail time:

Where Everybody Knows Your Name ~ Gary Portnoy
Song With A Mission ~ The Sounds
Three Or Four ~ The New Pornographers
Chills ~ Peter, Bjorn & John
Low Happening ~ Howling Bells
I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor ~ The Sugababes
The Safety Dance ~ Men Without Hats
War Of Confusion ~ Edwin Starr/Genesis (arr. The Kleptones)
Snow Flower ~ Ananda Shankar
Fidelity ~ Regina Spektor
Waiting To Know You ~ The Fiery Furnaces
Eleanor Rigby ~ The Handsome Family with The Rivet Gang
Lady Madonna (Love version) ~ The Beatles (arr. George & Giles Martin)
Bennie & The Jets ~ Elton John
You Know My Name ~ Chris Cornell & David Arnold
Horsemen ~ The Bees
She's Not There ~ The Zombies
Devil's Answer ~ Atomic Rooster
Wishing Well ~ Free


S3E05: Evolution Of The Daleks

Part Two is where a Doctor Who story either surpasses the previous week's set-up or descends into an action-packed mess where the good guys win by exploiting dissention in the bad guys' ranks or by blowing a lot of things up. The first is dissatisfying because the established threat is reduced and our heroes don't face the enemy at full strength like you thought they would, and the second is just lazy writing. What kind of Part Two will it be? That's the real suspense of a cliffhanger ending.

Tired of staircases foiling all their plans for world domination, the Daleks installed anti-grav technology. So now everyone escapes up manholes and the Daleks are investigating slimming technology.

Dalek Jast looked over his shoulder to make sure no-one would hear him badmouth Dalek Sec. I think he's got the Human Factor already.

Glasses! Shot glasses.

What have lightning, solar flares and gamma radiation got in common? Search me, but for the purposes of this story they're all the same thing. Throw in some D.N.A. splicing and the science gets muddier from there. It's fiction so I'm not saying it's wrong per se but it IS a big bag of bollocks.

People with different accents speaking in unison sounds odd. Try it.

The companion just killed a bunch of people. Yay for getting your hands dirty! Somebody should have smelled bacon.

Did the Daleks blast through the roof of the sewer to get into the theatre? It looked like they appeared in a puff of stage smoke.

So dissent did do the Daleks in in the end. But there were no deus ex machinae so my storytelling sensibilities haven't been offended. Despite a rubber-masked villain and Darth Vader getting away for a sequel I'm a reasonably happy camper. The extra story time could have been spent on something more original but there are more two-parters coming up. And I'm really glad the Daleks didn't "evolve" into something that the B.B.C. wouldn't have to pay royalties on next year (as I thought would happen).

Next week: Tennant in a tux.

Next Christmas: Kylie freakin' Minogue!

Bad Memory

My bed is the most comfortable sleep in the world (claimed Ford, reasoning that, in a Berkeleyan sense, we all perceive our own personal worlds. In his, he knew no better sleep). Anyone doubting this hard fact should email me for an appointment.

My mattress has no springs. (A rusty spring under a college dorm bed scarred me for life aged sixteen, but that's a story for another day.) It has little compartments of memory foam so you can move around and your cup o' Java sitting one foot away won't spill. The "memory" part describes how the mattress moulds to the contours of your body over time, like the memory cloth from Batman Begins.

The downside is that I sleep alone at least five nights a week so there's a me-shaped groove down the middle of the bed that I can't turn off when I have company. Two people trying to sleep on either side of this valley will inevitably end up rolling together in the centre. On second thoughts, it's not really a downside at all.


Ford Bunks Off, Skives And Thoroughly Plays Hooky

It's been a while since my last confession. (Guess I have less of a guilty conscience these days. I assure you I'm still having buckets of fun.)

Today I woke up sweating following a nightmare where my nose wouldn't stop running and my mother told me off for looking at pornography when it never bothered her before. I cancelled a 0930 meeting in London and went back to bed. After lunch, I rigged a duvet cover up to my blinds so I can play Playstation during the daytime. A game is loaded but I haven't touched the controller because I even skive half-assed.

Lest someone from work should find this, never to confuse a good story with the truth. This is a somewhat-sanitised, occasionally-entertaining version of what the truth might look like. As viewed through a prism. In a dark room. If you're wearing a bag on your head and facing the wrong way. Beware Of The Leopard and all that.


S3E04: Daleks In Manhattan

Daleks are B-movie villains par excellence so I dig the hokey episode name and wish it had an exclamation mark. The city is an island, however, so wouldn't Daleks On Manhattan be more accurate?

He's changed suit again but She has nothing else to wear. I assume there's a T.A.R.D.I.S. laundry room or the bad guys will smell Her approaching.

I realise I have a strong preference for historical stories: the production values on any B.B.C. period drama are sharp enough for the writer not to have to hard-sell the setting. Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue and the gorgeous Chrysler buidling place you in mere seconds. As a bonus, I learned about Hoovervilles and Alice learned about the Mole People.

Captain Panaka from Star Wars: Episode I isn't crap in this.

The typo in the newspaper headline has changed... to a different typo.

Last week's episode ended with a fast pan up from street level through several floors of a building to the busy skyline of New New York. This week we pan up from the sewers to a schematic of the unfinished Empire State Building, coming to rest near the top. The camera then pulls back to reveal the next scene (in a room near the top of the building) where this diagram is being discussed. Style, baby. Pure style.

"He's into musical theatre, huh? What a waste."
Dalek Sec tells Diagoras to shut up. Daleks mean so much business, they don't even have time to be ass-kissed by their underlings.

A brain is one of the more unusual things He's ever put in His pockets.

She name-dropped meeting Shakespeare. Everybody drink a ladies' drink!

The Cult Of Skaro was created to think "outside of the box" so it's no surprise that their brilliant plan is for Daleks to live outside of their boxes! Points for the best ever realisation of a Dalek mutant, using C.G.I. instead of rubber. The lashing tentacles even make a cliffhanger from Genesis Of The Daleks seem less naff in retrospect.

"They survived. They always survive while I lose everything."
A musical number! Note to other writers: you can get away with murder if you're telling a compelling story in the first place.

I have issues with the catchphrase "I'm so sorry" being used by other people. The coincidence tests my suspension of disbelief unnecessarily.

This episode had two things stacked against it before it began though neither was the fault of the production team. The B.B.C.'s own Radio Times magazine spoiled the ending on its cover, killing any shock and surprise stone dead. And the earlier start time for the episode meant that sunshine washed out the picture being projected on my living room wall. Despite that, I found the episode hard to fault. The story is far-fetched and they used That Jaws Shot to make the ending as O.T.T. as possible but the characters behaved as if the danger was serious and real, which is precisely how I like my escapism.


The Wisdom Of Clowns

I spend enough time on Wikipedia even though one if its founders thinks the whole "wisdom of crowds" concept is broken beyond repair. Half the things I Google return Wikipedia results anyway.

Searching for an Oscar Wilde quote today, I found Uncyclopedia - the "content-free" encyclopedia with a potato for its emblem. What is it with root vegetables and satire?


S3E03: Gridlock

Two unknowns die (pre-credits) and their television plays on. It could happen to me!

Points to whoever put seats in the T.A.R.D.I.S. control room when they revamped it for the new series. Tennant makes such a good show out of flying it short-handed that he deserves to sit down once in a while.

Whenever He dipped into Time Lord folklore/mythology with Rose, He told it mostly straight so a new audience could learn it with her. With Martha, there's a nice ambiguity: we know His planet is gone now (if it ever actually existed following the Time War) but, this time, He uses the opportunity to reminisce and leaves Her in the dark re: the truth.

Ol' Rubber Face is back. Why is there such a gap between the quality of the digital effects and the quality of the prosthetics on new Doctor Who?

A distraught woman ignores His advice and takes an anmnesia drug to forget about her missing parents. So He asks her again about her missing parents. That's cold.

Ardal O'Hanlan's doing his Father Dougal routine but that's grand, so it is.

Allow me to rephrase: why is there such a gap between the excellent cats and all the other prosthetics in the series?

I like this Motorway concept but if you knew you'd get five miles in twelve years wouldn't you walk instead? The streets are deserted. It would be more ironic if it was called The Freeway but this is a rare case of pandering to British viewers.

The grain cake made of recycled waste looks like wholewheat...

"We've got contact with [the other cars]. Well, some of them anyway. They've got to be on your Friends List."
Over on Heimlich Maneuvers, the good Dr. plays a drinking game during his 24 reviews. He takes a shot whenever anyone sets up a "perimeter", goes "data mining" or when Jack says, "dammit!" I feel the catchphrases and motifs on new Who ought to be similarly recognised. Support for alternative lifestyles has been a motif of the new series so we take a shot for the old gay couple and another for the woman who mated with a cat.

He name-dropped meeting Janis Joplin. Drink! And I'll buy a drink for the first person to explain the link between her and a long brown coat.

The vertical sequence (climbing down the cars) just zipped by. Encore! It's funnier when you know they redressed the same set for each interior. The nudist car was, predictably, my favourite. God love the gay man in charge for remembering all the dads watching.

The Macra are here! They're doing nothing any brainless monster couldn't do! The Macra are gone! That was pointless.

He's wearing glasses. Is that drink-worthy?

"I've invented a sport!"
I promise I won't be this big a killjoy every week but wasted potential really gets my goat. The first twenty minutes tonight introduced clear parameters for the story: a contained world, characters with believable motivation, danger, a rescue-quest and some neat S.F. ideas worthy of Philip K. Dick (whose dystopian futures are imitated here). On its own it would've made a strong Part One in the old four-part format.

In the second half, the Doctor was transported to the resolution of the story where someone else explained what was going on and provided a push-button solution to it all in the very same room. He pushed the button and, instead of rescuing Her, sent Her a flight path home. It's like the middle act (where our hero works out what's really going on and uses elements of the story that have already been introduced in His ingenious solution) was just absent. Why/when/how did the Macra come to New Earth and set up shop in a man-made structure? What happens if you wear two conflicting mood patches at once? Who's the villain of the piece and how will they be brought to justice? Without an opposing force, it's yet another tale about technology run amok with the ending from THX1138.

My brain gave up on this episode when the writers gave up on telling me a good story. The little I know about next week has me giddy though.

Nice Weather For Lizards

or Here Comes The Sun Hing

Not so long ago, I was getting strategic with the timer on my swanky underfloor heating system because the days were too cold to leave it to chance. March brought slight respite from the rain and wind but you still wouldn't have set your watch by it. Then, suddenly, yesterday was balls-out hot. I literally undressed at one point and let the breeze blow across me before it escaped upstairs and out of the skylight.

Contrast this with Thursday, when I left the window open overnight and woke up with a headache... or Friday, when I left the towel rail on in the bathroom to dry laundry (but the door was closed, creating a 'hot box' beneath the bedroom) and I sweated all night. Do I need mothering or what?

Yesterday was great weather for an F.A. Cup semi-final though the vibe in my house was less about Watford beating Manchester and more about either side winning quickly, or else! When the crisis was averted, I celebrated with duck chow mein from Sun Hing on Stapleton Road. On a day so hot, the last thing I'd do at home is switch on an oven.


Invasive Procedures

A friend of mine has been in his job for years but recently the company was bought by an American firm. Now it's introduced random drug and alcohol testing. This appears to be legal in the U.S. but here there's controversy because it probably contradicts the 1998 Human Rights Act. (Europeans have rights, you know. Rights feel good.)

This really is about a friend of mine and not me, by the way. Though I think I'm more outraged by it than he is. It's obviously not a good idea to show up to work drunk or hungover but, beyond that, if your private life isn't affecting your output, it shouldn't be any of your employer's business. Your performance reviews have always been tip-top and your supervisor is totally happy with you but they won't call you loyal until they can take something out your body to prove it? I don't want to live in a world where this is considered normal. For our children's sake, resist!

Of course, in certain judgmental circles, objecting to being tested on moral grounds is an admission of being a filthy drug-using scumbag yourself and you'll be branded before anyone else gets their results back from the lab. There are safer ways to "fight the pee-sniffers".

My local hypermarket sells divorce paperwork packs now, near the A/V section. They should do Request To Test forms next - though don't buy one in Bristol or the first question is likely to be, What's the big deal stealing my tetrahydracannabinol (T.H.C.) when I paid for it? Rasklaat.


Hefty Surcharge Brings Controversy

The H.S.B.C. is in the news again. One week ago, it announced record profits of $22 billion. Now one British branch won't serve customers unless they have $100,000 in savings or pay a monthly subscription.

I wish this came as more of a surprise. When I worked for the bank (eight years ago) I saw no such discrimination but the trend has become apparent recently. The neighbourhood I live in is not an affluent one and there isn't a branch of any bank nearby. Why open one only to have it be your worst-performing branch? Everybody's got targets, people, even when we expect them to provide a darned service first and foremost. More "premier branches" are surely on the way.

There are three private A.T.M.s in the vicinity that I can use. The nearest is in the foyer of a massage parlour (so if you see me ducking out of there, I didn't just get the lunch hour special). So the banks back off from low-income areas, the independent contractors move in and charge you a fee for accessing your own money, and the locals just get poorer!

Have you seen the dollar exchange rate lately? Let's all go to America! Or somewhere fun that uses greenbacks, like East Timor.


Top Five Heroes

5. Matt Parkman, mind reading
4. Micah Sanders, influence over electronics
3. Eden McCain, power of persuasion
2. Peter Petrelli, absorption of other super powers
1. Hiro Nakamura, manipulation of space/time

That would be my Top Five Characters From Heroes, my current favourite bit of escapism (yes, better even than that thing with the Time Lord) rather than my Top Five Heroes Of All Time or From Marvel Or D.C. Comics. Influenced ever-so-slightly by which super-power I'd most like to have! We've been having some lovely Spring weather lately and I've noticed most of it through the window to my left as I watch television.

So what's so great about Heroes?

5. Each episode looks the proverbial million dollars, with sumptous colours and daring comicky compositions.
4. It's made up of several mini-arcs for each character which resolve/evolve every three or four episodes, rather than leaving you dangling unsatisfied for years like Lost or confused with irrelevancies like 24. In related news, you are absolutely rewarded for making the effort to see every episode.
3. Mr. Bennet (played by Jack Coleman).
2. The subtitles in scenes with Hiro and Ando have a habit of drifting up near the characters' mouths where speech bubbles are normally drawn. They play with the font size for shouting and whispering too!
1. For all of the above reasons and more, it feels more like a modern Marvel comic brought to life than any big screen outing save the universally-acclaimed Spider-Man films.

Heroes will be on the B.B.C. in a few months when Sci-Fi Channel here finishes the U.K. first run.

Update 2007-04-10: The original prop painting of the eclipse above by Tim Sale was auctioned by N.B.C. for $7,650. The series' core painting (the cheerleader on the steps) went for $25,000.


S3E02: The Shakespeare Code

Let's start with a correction: this was the first script outing for Gareth Roberts, who wrote The Sarah Jane Adventures pilot, and it was pretty solid.

He says Martha's not replacing Rose but Her first two trips are into history to meet a famous writer and the furthest into the future that the Doctor has ever been - the exact same moves He put on Rose two years ago. Smooth.

Elizabethan England looks fab but I'm glad we don't have Smell-O-Vision.

Never mind what the natives will make of a black woman in 1599... what do they think about a blue box materialising in a busy street? Is it supposed to be cloaked like the elevator in Torchwood?

"No autographs, no, you can't have yourself sketched with me and please don't ask where I get my ideas from."
Martha knows about the grandfather paradox and the butterfly effect but She's never heard of Bedlam? Methinks that line was written for Rose.

Super Hans from Peep Show is the architect of The Globe! Is that mead a bit more-ish?

I could have slapped Him for hurting Her feelings in the bedroom scene. But it rang true that He was completely oblivious to the intimacy of the situation and all the consummation going on around Him because He had more important things on His mind.

If the flying C.G.I. things are what the Carrionites really look like and they can disguise as human if they want to, what's the deal with choosing to half-transform into witches?

"How to explain the mechanics of the infinite temporal flux? I know: Back To The Future. It's like Back To The Future."
Letting Shakespeare use "Sycorax" in his work after the writing team borrowed it from The Tempest for an alien race in 2005 was a nice touch. There was dialogue fun all episode for anyone clued up on Shakey.

The deliberately unresolved ending with Queen Elizabeth was reminiscent of Queen Victoria last year. That came back to bite Him in the ass and I expect this will too. At least, it (along with last week's little stunt) is whetting the appetite for more time paradox malarkey by season's end.

Next week it's a Fifth Element-style future New York with Ardal O'Hanlan and the rumoured return of a monster last seen in 1967. No flipping!


Music From Earth

With spoilers for the Battlestar Galactica third season finale (which you really don't want spoiled) a couple of paragraphs down.

My Mars music mission is going well: I bought the soundtrack album and downloaded forty other tracks from the first series. Then I asked myself why I bothered with four by Hawkwind. I cut the modern music and stuff that was already old when they played it in the Seventies. I cut the Bowie and the Rolling Stones because I have those songs elsewhere and I cut bad pop like Wizzard to fit it on one sixteen-track rock 'n' reggae bonus disc. The final episode of Life On Mars airs Tuesday. Gimme til the weekend to make a Series 2 bonus disc.

Music's a funny thing. I associate it with good times. When I was unhappy living in Virginia I didn't feel like putting a record on very often. And I'd turn them off halfway through, dissatisfied with something intangible. My mood was actually spoiling new albums. Now my hunger is back and there's usually something playing at home. Read into that what you will!

The winner of the Even More Integral Use Of Music In A Serialised Drama Than Life On Mars award goes to Battlestar Galactica. Drunk Colonel Tigh was hearing music that no-one else could hear and mumbling how there was too much confusion and he needed to find some kind of way out of there. Then three other characters started hearing it... and reciting other lyrics from All Along The Watchtower. It turns out, the cylons were transmitting the signal into the heads of four of their agents. Transmitting Earth music! By implication, the bad guys have reached Earth before us and it's at least 1967 (when the song was written) there in the show.

There are many questions still to be answered but I adored how they communicated huge conceptual changes using more than plain dialogue.


S3E01: Smith And Jones

For the next twelve weeks I'll be doing a Heimlich on the new series of Doctor Who. It goes without saying that it'll be i) laden with juicy spoilers and ii) lost on the incognoscenti. Saturday nights being what they are, I'll usually post on a Sunday. Here goes!

Odd not to have a pre-titles scene but I like that they play with the format. That Music alone gets the episode off to a thumping start. How the hell do you pronounce new girl Freema Agyeman's last name?

Black people only listen to urban music, you know. If it's diegetic then this whole family listens to the same radio station.

Nice incongruous entrance for The Lone Doctor. Must be a time travel thing. Two minutes in and we have ourselves a fun little mystery! Russell T. Davies wrote this one so I'm apprehensive going in but he has improved over time. Fingers crossed, the trend will continue.

He's wearing Jackie's boyfriend's pajamas again and using an old alias. Fanboys everywhere touch themselves. "Alias Smith" meet Jones.

The rain's going up; the building's going up; nobody's wearing a skirt.

Martha's bright and brave. Let her be a modern Sarah Jane. Let her be a modern Sarah Jane. Let her be a modern Sarah Jane. She won't stop asking intelligent questions! I like Her.

Red Herring Bad Guy is doing a good amount of ambiguous actions. The evil old lady now sucking his blood out with a straw is more scary than silly.

"I thought, 'Two more years and retire to Florida.' But there's Florida in the sky. I can see it."
If the stormtroopers had parked closer to the building they couldn't have marched across the moon in foreboding formation.

Martha looks and acts different enough from her retcon cousin (played by the same actor two episodes ago) that, if The Doctor doesn't recognise Her then, hell, I buy that it's not the same person too.

These Judoon only have one vowel! They don't kill; they put an X on your hand with permanent marker. Now we can't get served at the bar.

If their guns take that long to charge, you'd think they'd be used to their targets escaping. Stupid aliens.

Alice was excited when He was wearing her Converse. Now that He's barefoot, she's spasming.

When will He run out of technobabble excuses to kiss people?

"'No sign of a non-human. We must increase our scans up to Setting 2.'"
The Doctor mouthing "it's bigger on the inside" - because everybody says that when they first see it - was to die for.

Two bits of undercover work, two costume changes, a bit of manipulating people, Plasmavores, the original version of what T.A.R.D.I.S. stands for (even though it makes less sense)... you can tell the lead actor, writer, script editor and the man who does the funny voices were all fans first.

In every department this was a stronger story than the Christmas Special and the introduction of the pevious two companions. The only flaw was that I bet my mate Shig that Martha's family would all die horribly right off the bat, to contrast with Rose and give Her less motivation to pop home all the darned time, and it didn't happen.

Next week it's another R.T.D. script and the same director. Bodes well.