Games And Fun

London: When working a Saturday isn't a waste.

Have your photo taken with the first family of animation.
I want an X-box.
Breaking news from Space Channel 5.
Say hello to Rosie from London.
These aren't the nerds we're looking for.
Wig out!

I got lost north of the Thames looking for the South Circular. The signs suggested that it and the Woolwich ferry were two different routes when they are, in fact, one and the same. To an out-of-towner armed with only his wits and a map, it wasn't obvious at all.

Brighton: The Paranoid Mod (and Mrs. Mod) showered me with hospitality: coffee, ghoulash, shampoo and improved sleeping arrangements. The Rose Hill is still a fine pub. I didn't want to like Basquiat's new fella but he made it impossible not to.

She and I made a lousy Trivial Pursuit team on Sunday. It was four wedges vs. one when we conceded in a huff at the outdated questions. Much has changed since the Mod got his original copy of the game twenty years ago - not least what passes for acceptable grammar in a board game. We corrected it in biro. Back at Mod Towers, three of us played Rizla Head: with no conferring, we all chose female singers. In round two, again by chance, we were all historical figures... and two of us were Joan of Arc!

Fun And Games

Since Ireland, I've been to Reading, Oxford, London and Brighton. Leaving the house is the new staying in. Next week I go to Holland so I need to share some tales before that part of my brain fills with fresh nonsense!

Reading: Is where I work. No big whoop. Keep READING.

Dublin: My V.I.P. was A.W.O.L. all weekend so I ambled around outside, which is where you must go to smoke now or face a $3000 fine. England goes smoke-free soon and I'm prepared for it following Ireland; I welcome the kind of camaraderie I saw there. I also saw how this city squandered its millennium money (cf. the Millenium Dome/Eye/Square) and the only bridge in Europe that's wider than it is long.

I returned to the internet cafe and met Sophia from France. We got confused over our different pronunciations of "hierarchy" and she theorised that Torchwood had no moral code. (I swear I didn't start it.) We had a drink but, predictably, she had to leave to meet her girlfriend. They're either too married, too young, too into girls or have too many kids - or I don't meet them. It's the rule that makes my love life funny.

I met a colleague in Bruxelles then walked back to The Burlington (i.e. my gaff), stopping to donate to the Anglo-Czech Integration Fund en route. I was pleased to meet Veronika and Iveta. They cheered me up about cancelling a trip to Nottingham with Phil for a work-related wild goose chase. Veronika was the better dancer.

Oxford: Alice chided me for the above then cooked a fine meal.


Top Five Beatles Lyrics

Mmmm. Tonight I had an amazing hot bath with The Beatles' Love album on and the ceiling light was so bright that the pattern of the water reflected back onto the ceiling. The waves made different shapes as I moved and I soon figured out that moving in time to the music produced more synchronized visuals. There it is: I've invented bath dancing.

I didn't buy Love on release because I thought it was a compilation of their love songs, like 1 was a Number 1s anthology. D'oh! It's so good. Paul McCartney allegedly suggested the Martins (the producers) went "further out" with it and I can't help agree, though it's still a grand hour-and-a-bit's listen with many impressive sequences.

I hold my nose and submerge to wash my hair in the bath, and I realised I was playing A Day In The Life too loud when I could still hear it underwater. Sorry, neighbours! We were miles from the crescendo too. But who doesn't like The Beatles, with their three phases and acid-influenced lyrics?

5. A Day In The Life (1967).
A crowd of people turned away/But I just had to look
Having read the book
4. Polythene Pam (1969).
Get a dose of her in jackboots and kilt
She's killer-diller when she's dressed to the hilt
She's the kind of a girl that makes the News of the World
Yes, you could say she was attractively built
3. Norwegian Wood (1965).
I once had a girl/Or should I say she once had me?
2. I Am The Walrus (1967).
Yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog's eye
1. Back In The U.S.S.R. (1968).
Show me round your snow-peaked mountains way down south
Take me to your daddy's farm
Let me hear your balalaikas ringing out
Come and keep your comrade warm

Their worst lyric is the second line of While My Guitar Gently Weeps.


S3E07: 42

Today I suffered the final episodes of the worst series of 24 ever. Let's see what Doctor Who can do with the real time format: a spaceship is falling into a sun and He only has forty-two minutes to save everybody...

There's our digital clock, counting down. There'll be one in every room on this boat.

Why tell the captain what's going on in the med room when you can say something suspenseful instead? So 24.

Glasses! The return of the super-phone! I'd drink except there isn't a quiet moment to pour.

"Any number that reduces to one when you take the sum of the square of its digits and continually treat it until it yields one is a happy number. Any number that doesn't, isn't. A happy prime is a number that's both happy and prime. Now type it in! I don't know... talk about dumbing down. Don't they teach recreational mathematics any more?"
Corwin puts a helmet on so he can do better stunts later.

Martha's phone number is 07711 911905. (It goes straight to voicemail and the mailbox is full. I tried.)

Nobody on this ship is on first name terms - not even the husband and wife!

Remind me to put the controls on the inside of the spaceship next time.

The last ten minutes of countdown was almost precisely ten minutes of screen time, thus robbing me of an easy nit-pick. We're so conditioned to expect a countdown timer to stop with a second or two spare that my brain had to play catch-up when this one reached zero. The crisis was averted but there wasn't time to turn the clock off too.

She's snogging her way around the galaxy like Captain Kirk. Go, girl!

That was better than I expected from the chief writer on Torchwood, which was light on character development and heavy on running around. Flaws like that become virtues under the real time format: things happen without perfect causality under pressure, especially when working out why what's happening is happening is part of the puzzle. You don't have to know the bit-part characters inside out to not want people to die, etc.

Can we have more Sinister Woman from Hollyoaks, please?


Stupid Lyric Of The Month

I like the way you work it/No diggity
I'd like to bag it up

- No Diggity by BLACKstreet. It's bad music but those lines had me coughing smoke out through my nose one moment ago.


Top Five-ish Things Wrong With Spider-Man 3

With great expectation comes great responsibility. No-one's gonna go George Lucas on Sam Raimi's ass because this sequel is far from an embarrassment - in moments it shows more complexity and maturity than its predecessors - but it ultimately disappoints. Here's why:

7. The locket didn't turn to sand when everything else did.
6. According to dialogue, Eddie Brock works at the Daily Bugle in Spider-Man (film one) but here he's trying to get hired. This one could be the son of the former and photography could run in the family but why create confusion for no reason? Why not pay off your set-up?
5. Not enough May or Jonah and no Alex Ross.
4. Ret-conning Ben Parker's death.
3. Peter and Mary-Jane's relationship faltering through a lack of communication like an average soap opera couple when I credit them both with more brains than that.
2. The Osborn butler waiting until now to speak up when he could have done so years ago and saved Harry ALL of his anguish.
1. Telling an even worse version of Venom's story than in the comics!

By featuring two villains (plus whatever Harry's doing this week) and adding only ten minutes to the run time, we can't explore either of them very fully. Sandman first trying to assemble in his new form was surprisingly emotional for an all-C.G.I. scene. They should've concentrated on him and the new suit and had the "creation" of Venom as a cliffhanger leading into Spider-Man 4. Why have the goo arrive by random meteor shower when Mary Jane's ex is an astronaut? Why have Eddie fake pictures of our hero robbing a bank when, in the comics, the suit committed crimes when Peter was unconscious and Spider-Man got the blame that way? Etc.

There was much I liked about the film. I'd rather see something new and imperfect than a re-tread of what's gone before, though that's not a popular view. If "1" scored a 7 and 2 got a 9 then 3 is a 5.


Green And Windy

Greetings from Dublin. I'm here for work though there's no work to do yet because the V.I.P. visitor I was sent here to chaperone has yet to show herself. I can't help my colleagues with what they're doing (different skill sets, innit) so I've had a tasty pub lunch and now I'm in an internet cafe on O'Connell Street. It's 0-0 at halftime in the F.A. Cup Final as I write this.

I forgot to record any T.V. while I'm away so those of you enjoying the respite from Doctor Who - and judging by the number of comments on recent articles, there's a fair few of ya - are safe until at least Tuesday.

This trip was last minute so work approved a four-star hotel because it was all that was available in the city. I was assigned Room 420 (no snickering, please). Unfortunately, it was over a ballroom where a party raged until 0200 and I played Name That Tune for hours using only basslines.

According to the first of two hilarious taxi drivers, the local lasses have the permanent hump with all the Czech and Polish women living here now because the local men think they're exotic. I couldn't possibly comment. The head receptionist, Charlene, is a cutie with rock chick hair and a mixed up accent proving that she worked in the U.S.A. for a year or so, just like me. But what am I going to do about it? Nothing. I'm so over the distance thing and my appetite for the one-night thing has waned too. I don't know why I'm sharing this, but I am!

My hour here is up - more later or Tuesday.


Hitch-Hiking In The Real World

I couldn't get www.fordprefect.blogspot.com as my U.R.L. because it was already taken and, three years later, I find it's not even being used. Ford Prefect is a dick!

Google 'ford prefect' and this site is your 8th result. Pretty neat, huh? (It must be one of the two pages mentioning pornography.) The others are for some guy from The Hitch-hiker's Guide To The Galaxy and the car.

Douglas Adams also named Hotblack Desiato, a rock star in some versions of The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe story, after something in the real world. Alta Vista's Babel Fish translation site (see sidebar), on the other hand, is clearly based on the book and not the other way around.

Blogging under a fictional name is easier than making up your own and an easy way to get hits. Arthur Dent found me, as did Slartibartfast, though I think she goes by a different name these days. Can you blame her? There are Zarniwoops, Tricia McMillans, you name it. It would be quite interesting to see whether distinct types of people in real life identify with the same characters - all the egoists with Zaphod, for example. Blogger itself uses Stavromula Beta as the name of the fictional blog on its How To pages. It's the height of fashion, don't you know?

Listen To Him!

Growing up in Bristol, I found the coarse accent to be a real barrier to finding girls attractive. On the rare occasion that I plucked up the nerve to approach one the fantasy would crumble the moment she spoke.

Bristol is a large city in the otherwise rural South West, so you get the worst of both worlds and sound like a farmer in a hurry. A friend is involved in the commercial redevelopment of central Bristol and, allegedly, several retailers were reluctant to invest because they thought all Bristolians were like Vicki Pollard in Little Britain! The Powers That Be made a promotional video featuring Cliftonites to convince them otherwise.

Beast Clothing in St. Nick's Market sells a nice line of t-shirts celebrating local places and phrases. I understand most of them because I'm native. How many can you decipher?


The Spoiled Life

Paris Hilton is a stupid selfish whore. Oh, be as rude about her as you like! She's famous for having sex on video, taking drugs on video and being racist on video so she can't accuse other people of lowering the tone.

Paris Hilton is going to jail. Probably. Her counsel went with the I-forgot-I-was-banned-from-driving-when-I-drove defence because it's vacuous enough to be true, but she got 45 days of glorious incarcertion anyway. Try showing a paparazzo your coochie from in there. You can't, can you? Where's your rat-dog now?

But Paris Hilton thinks she deserves special treatment and has petitioned Gov. Schwarznegger to intervene. People who think celebrities (and I use the term loosely, like I called her a "woman") should not be above the law are counter-petitioning. Please, Lord, give us this one thing.


S3E06: The Lazarus Experiment

Dig the "fun undies", Martha. An auspicious opening if ever there was!

I blame the parents. If Richard Lazarus were born of, say, Mr. and Mrs. Moses instead then might he have been less obsessed with building a dangerous rejuvenation machine and more into, say, mounting climbing?

Dig the tattoo, Martha. She looks stunning tonight. His pulse must be up too because He ain't pining for Rose any more.

The final taboo on television: young men smooching old women. Tish looks up for a bit of trans-generational action too. I can't watch.

There's a Pertwee-ness about this adventure (and plenty of The Fly, of course) but I'm getting a Davison vibe too, particularly off Mark Gatiss. He's older than me - too old for Davison to be his childhood Doctor - but his is an informed performance. He's written two of the better balanced scripts for the new series and he's pitching this villain just so. Bravo, sir!

I wasn't watching the clock so I thought it was really wrapping up when there was an off-screen crash and another ten minutes of fun to go!

"We need to turn this up to eleven."
He hung out with Beethoven. Everybody drink schnapps.

Well, that was a rollicking ride. You can keep your Face Of Boe intrigue-by-sledge-hammer: mysterious men whispering lies (reminiscent of Our Ten in The Christmas Invasion) is more my cup of tea. Mr. Saxon is finally "in play" and didn't he look psychotic in that trailer? Was he tapping out the theme tune on the table there? The post-modern nerve of him. I know they put the best bits in trailers but I think we're in for some blinders. "Ruuuun!"

The Eurovision Song Contest's next week so geek off until the 19th.


Superhero Comics Are A Lot Like Soap Operas

With mild spoilers for comics fans and wild boredom for escapism-o-phobes.

The Marvel Universe is a sprawling mess of current fan favourites, has-beens and relaunches spanning sixty years of "it seemed like a good idea at the time". Marvel.com recently opened up its hero database (wiki-style) in case the public can remember more than the staffers. Take the picture of the cast of Civil War waiting for a big bus below: I can name twenty heroes with certainty - and me, a fan. Explaining Pat from EastEnders' family tree would take less effort.

Civil War was one of those annual blockbuster events that promised to change the Marvel Universe forever (again) but, for once, it lived up to the hype. Following a televised superhero tussle in Connecticut in which a school full of children becomes collateral damage, the U.S. Government passes the Superhero Registration Act forcing mutants to reveal their identities and undergo training. Many comply but as many refuse, to protect their families and their freedom.

For kids who wonder who would win if Iron Man fought Spider-Man, it's hero vs. hero in knock-down drag-out action. For the politically aware, The Neutral Zone is Abu Ghraib, the S.R.A. is the Patriot Act, and Steve Rogers is Michael Moore. Captain America leads the resistance, standing for the principles upon which the country was founded rather than siding with the current administration out of blind loyalty. Also, each issue of the Civil War: Front Line mini-series ends with a short story comparing the comic's events to real historical conflicts. (#3 reprints Futility by Wilfred Owen.)

Like soaps, comics rarely end. Successes spawn spin-offs (cf. The Colbys). Spider-Man has two or three ongoing titles each month because Marvel really pushes the limits of a Spider-fan's spending ability. "If we put Spidey and Wolverine in The Avengers then do you think it'll sell like hot cakes too?" It did and, somewhere online, a fan is trying to explain how Peter Parker does all these things at once.

A staggering twenty books carry the Civil War banner. The main story is told in bold strokes in one. For insight into why a particluar hero chose the side they did, you need to read that hero's own comic for the duration of the war. (In the soap opera analogy, the main book is a brouhaha in the Queen Vic pub on a Friday night. The other books are the "kitchen sink" scenes where Stacy tells the milkman she's been sleeping with Max and Tanya switches dairies so you know a storm is brewing because it's a bank holiday weekend and everyone will want an extra pint.)

For the full play-by-play, read the first issues of every title before all the second chapters, and so on. But that's expensive. Reckon I'll go about six books deep for now and end up buying The Mighty Avengers (ongoing) on top of The New Avengers because the team split during the war. It was a moral decision and not a strategy to double sales at all.

Internal Chronometer

Good morning, campers. I have an hour to decide if I want to go to Dublin today. Boss Man and I were supposed to go last Thursday but somebody booked the flights for the wrong week. So it's pre-paid and everything. Now I know why airlines over-book.

I've been in bed before midnight twice lately. I slept so much on the weekend that I couldn't sleep overnight on Sunday. I read, gamed, had a nap at 0700 and went to work as normal. I prefer to sleep when I'm tired and eat when I'm hungry (instead of at some pre-approved bed or meal time). It's easy when you're single.

19 times out of 20 in the course of a day I can guess the time to within five minutes. It was freakish at first, never being wrong, but when you're surrounded by clocks like I am it probably just means I'm attentive. The day I glanced at the bottom corner of a book to tell the time was the day I knew I was spending too much time online.