Archive for January, 2010

A terrible gag

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

I resisted for a week, but I just have to share this.
The following conversation occurred between myself and my friend the Coke Shy Hero in Burger King. It followed an appearance by Ian Paisley on the news the day before.

Me: I thought Paisley was looking well.
Him: Did you? I thought he had a bit of a limp.
Me: Probably from kicking Peter Robinson. He’ll be shouting “Come back Peter and I’ll kick you with the other foot”.
Him: You mean Ian Paisley kicks with the other foot!!

Yes, that’s it. But I thought it was hilarious.

Things I like about the iphone

Friday, January 15th, 2010

I am lacking in moral fibre, and finally got myself an iphone this week. I’ve wanted one for months, but O2 decided that I needed to learn the value of patience, and kept me waiting for my contract to finish.

There are a lot of things to like about it.

  • Bluetooth works nicely – with my little in ear headset for calls, with the stereo headphones for music, and with the car. I had the stereo headphones with me to the gym tonight, and had a carefree wirefree evening. Great!
  • It is a lovely small but functional internet browsing device.
  • In addition to my own music and videos, BBC iplayer streams beautifully on it (using wifi), but even on lesser connections it was happy to stream radio in the gym over the internet.
  • It’s a terribly clever controller for games. There are some where you turn and twist it in your hands to control things, and others where controls get drawn on the smooth surface and can be as complex or simple as the game requires.
  • It has some clever apps, and some useful apps, and some that are both, and some that are neither, but I’ve been impressed so far.
  • It has good taste in shuffling! It picked Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder for me to run too, following by Mark Ronson’s God put a smile on your face. Instrumentals are great to run to, since you don’t have to put any effort into singing along (mainly silently when I’m in public, thank goodness).

Good news and bad news

Friday, January 15th, 2010
  • The good news – I bought some Pepsi Raw today in Tescos. I hadn’t heard about it, but it’s an interesting idea. If you’re familiar with the process of making cola, you’ll know that some of the ingredients in it are not very friendly (there are these sorts of warnings). So Pepsi have launched a back to basics product, with all natural ingredients – so no artificial colouring, flavourings or preservatives. My friend described it best – it had a nice fruity hint to it that was reminiscent of Christmas cake. It has a premium price, but I think it’s very nice. Well worth a try.
  • But the bad news – I haven’t been able to buy a bag of flumps since before Christmas. If you aren’t familiar with the joy of flumps, they are truly wonderful marshmallow sweeties like these. Usually you can get a nice big bag of them in Tescos, or Sainsburys, or any fine sweet shop. But not these days. I worry that the increase in the popularity of Rainbow Drops (more widely available than they were a year ago) is somehow at the expense of flumps in some frightening cosmic balance thing.

The Stand

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

I started reading Stephen King’s The Stand just before Christmas, and finished it at the weekend.

“The end of the world as we know it” is very fashionable just at the minute. Over Christmas, we had the Day of the Triffids on television, and Survivors is just starting up again. In the cinema we had 2012, and we’ve now got The Road and The book of Eli arriving. I don’t know whether this has been caused by environmental concerns, swine flu, or the global recession, but there’s certainly a lot of it about.

So how was The Stand? Well, Stephen King is well known as a master of horror, and so I guess I was expecting this to be gruesome. But the story is a bit more subtle than that. The first third of the book tells the story of the plague, and the tales of the individual survivors. While it didn’t give me bad dreams, it is unsettling, especially in the context of this year’s swine flu. The second part of the book is the story of how the groups come together and form a community. What I found most interesting here was the character of Mother Abigail, and the fact their dreams led the survivors to an old Christian lady. I somehow can’t imagine that being the case in a more contemporary book, and I found her to be a beautifully written character. The final section is then the climax of the story, when the communities of good and evil collide. And there’s lots to like here too. I hope it’s not giving too much away to say that good triumphs over evil not by resorting to evil themselves, but because evil defeats itself. And yet at the end, there is no definitive happy ending – the human race has survived, but what will the society that they build ultimately look like, and will they just create the same problems all over again?

This is a big book, but it’s a real page-turner that’s very easy to get into, and not a difficult read. It’s a little dated now, not surprisingly since it was first published in 1978, but I thought it was a good book, that deserves its reputation as a classic.

Okay, I was wrong

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

In my watching of videos, I’ve finally caught up with the beginning of Stargate Universe.

When I saw a couple of episodes in Dallas last year, I said it hadn’t impressed me a great deal. But when my friends challenged me on this, I did say that I had missed the first episode, with all of the scene-setting and introduction that would have given, and that this may not have helped.

Well, now I’ve watched the first four episodes, and I have to say that I am enjoying it after all. The conflict is much more understandable now, and makes more sense. There’s a part of me that even finds it quite touching that people cross galaxies to tell families that they love them. But best of all, the synthesizer music makes it sound like sci-fi – I really like that.

So I admit I was wrong about it, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of it.

Doctor Who – The End of David Tennant

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

Well, it had to come sooner or later, and it came too soon.

But last night, New Years Day, brought the final episode of Doctor Who as we have known it, with David Tennant, Russell T. Davies, Julie Gardner, and Phil Collinson. The next time we see it, almost everything will be different. So how did it end?

Warning – if you haven’t seen it yet, then stop now – spoilers follow.

What was good:

  • I have to admit that it was a real joy seeing Bernard Cribbins’ name in the titles. He is a legend, and it was cool to see him get a major role. And it worked very well. As a side note, I noticed that the Doctor seldom accepts salutes from anyone, but he accepted them from Wilfred. I liked that too.
  • In some ways, the timing was good – I’d hate to have to wait a year for the next episode.
  • The Master was good. As a crime of opportunity, cloning himself onto the entire human race was very in character, and John Simm was fantastic as all the different copies of himself at the end of part one. In part two, there was less of that comedy, and instead we see the Master as the ultimate survivor, happy to join any side as long as he survived. I’ve always liked the Master, and though I think the character has been all wrong recently, I liked him in this.
  • It was great to see the return of the Time Lords. I’ve been waiting for this. And to have Rassilon as president was a gorgeous touch. The Time Lords, in their desperation, reached back to find a leader of dubious integrity, but unquestioned power. That seems in character for them. And the plan to end the war by ending time itself seemed in character given the mood they were in.

What wasn’t so good:

  • The Time Lords finally return, but leave again. That sucks. The Doctor has always rebelled against authority, and that stemmed from the fact that he was a rebel and an outcast from his own people. When he was the last of his people, he went from poacher to gamekeeper, which I think explained his actions in the Waters of Mars to some extent. I think it would have been better to have kept the Time Lords in place after their return, for the possibilities that it would have given. But it was not to be.
  • How long can we drag out an ending? I was watching it online, so I could see that the plot ends had been tied up, but there was still a lot of time to go. I wondered what kind of plot twist was to come. What I didn’t expect was a farwell tour from the Doctor. I know why Russell wanted to do it, but I didn’t love it. And I don’t like Martha’s new hairstyle.
  • In some ways, the timing was terrible – I complain quite a bit about Eastenders at Christmas, where they put so much effort into making sure that all the characters have the most miserable time possible, which I think is horrible. To be honest, I’d rather have had a Christmas special that was more upbeat, and kept the regeneration until later in the new year. But of course, then the BBC wouldn’t have had the huge ratings, and I suppose that’s what it’s all about (and not the okey cokey, as is so widely sung).

What I’m not sure about:

  • The Doctor’s speech before he saves Wilfred. I can understand it, and it was a very human thing to do. But the Doctor isn’t human, and I’m not sure I like it – I don’t think it’s very in character for him. But I can certainly understand it.
  • The regeneration setting the Tardis on fire. It didn’t do that last time, or any other time, so why should it this time? I believe I know the reason why – I’ve heard that the new series will have a refitted Tardis. But it still doesn’t make sense.
  • There was an opportunity to show the Doctor’s actions in the Great Time War, but once again, it wasn’t done. It’s clear that he was fighting in the war, but not quite on the side of Gallifrey, which I guess we already knew. But it’s still a great untold story, unfortunately.

So there we have it. The end of an era. I said to someone recently that I could now die happy, because after all these years I have been proved right – that Doctor Who really is cool, and extremely important, as shown by the complete media saturation over Christmas. It’s extremely pleasing for those of us who kept the faith through the poor years of Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, and the wilderness years of only books and CDs. It’s been wonderful to see Doctor Who back on top again.

And yet I keep having the same conversation with friends. We are all worried about what will happen next, when a whole new team takes over. But I have some faith in that new team, with Stephen Moffat at its head, and we haven’t too long to wait. In the meantime, in the words of the Doctor himself:

One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.