Friday, December 24, 2004

But, wasn't he born in July or something?


Happy Christmas everybody. Be good, be safe, be happy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

What this film needs is...


The Flight Of The Phoenix is a film about survival, cooperation and ingenuity starring Jimmy Stewart and Richard Attenborough.
The Flight Of The Phoenix is a film about explosions, starring a bunch of machinegun-wielding blokes on motorbikes.

So, the challenge is this: name another classic film which really could do with more machinegun-wielding blokes on motorbikes. My vote is for The Wizard Of Oz. Now that's a movie desperately in need of some Mad Max type action! Vroom!

That'll Do Pig...That'll Do.


We were rubbish last year. We failed to get presents off in time, and completely ballsed up on the Christmas cards, getting only a handful out. We've done a lot better this time around. All the presents have been bought, and those that needed to be sent have been. About 98% of the cards are in the "capable" hands of the US Postal Service or are already where they should be. So, it's looking good for a stress-free Christmas.

Which means it's probably time for Emperor Bush The Second to bomb something.

To get you in the proper Christmassy mood, here's a lovely festive story for all my friends:

It is three thousand light years to the Vatican. Once, I believed that space could have no power over faith, just as I believed that the heavens declared the glory of God's handiwork. Now I have seen that handiwork, and my faith is sorely troubled. I stare at the crucifix that hangs on the cabin wall above the Mark VI Computer, and for the first time in my life I wonder if it is no more than an empty symbol.

I have told no one yet, but the truth cannot be concealed. The facts are there for all to read, recorded on the countless miles of magnetic tape and the thousands of photographs we are carrying back to Earth. Other scientists can interpret them as easily as I can, and I am not one who would condone that tampering with the truth which often gave my order a bad name in the olden days.


Read the rest of the story (don't worry, it's a short one) here. And because there's been a certain amount of confusion over these things in the past, I want to make it clear that I didn't write this story. Okay.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Springtime For Hitler...


One of the local radio stations was reporting today on Nicole Kidman's departure from the currently-filming movie The Producers. The reporter closed the item by musing on how well the hit Broadway stage show would translate to the screen...

Saturday, December 04, 2004

In Space, No One Can hear You Scream...


Go on then. Best movie taglines ever. That's my choice up there. Put yours in the Comments, and you might want to name the film too, for those of us who don't have encyclopedic levels of film trivia locked away in our bonces.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Woodshed!


There's going to be a new Evil Dead movie!

Yay!

Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi are involved!

Double-yay!

It's going to be a remake, and Raimi and Campbell are only producing.

Bugger...

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Behold My Mighty Nutsack!


My Mighty Nutsack!


Thanks to Lori and Casey for our bag o' nuts...

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Chuffed By The Darksiders


Darkside Records is now up and running! They're an online record shop specialising in drum'n'bass, and I designed their logo. This has been a public service announcement...

Friday, November 12, 2004

Eye Of The Beholder


One of the things that saddens me about the current videogames industry is how it seems to br ruled by an attitude that good graphics are the most important thing in a game. I remember the last time that this idiotic idea held sway back in the old days, and then, gameplay seemed to win out in most cases. Which is as it should be, because these are games, not graphical demos. Monopoly is not better than Scrabble because the pieces are more visually interesting.
But nowadays, it seems that the graphics-are-good crowd are in control. It's the reason, for example, that the X-Brick is so popular. The games all look pretty, but there are only about two or three of them that are actually playable. It's also the reason why Katamari Damacy is less popular than Halo, and why a game that everyone pretty much agrees is going to be one of the most fun games in a long time, Alien Hominid, is stuffed among the games aimed at children on most shop websites. Alien Hominid has two dimensional graphics like the games of my youth (and doesn't that make me sound, if not actually old, of the opinion that I am?), albeit all sparkly and jazzy for the modern world, but those 2D graphics have consigned it to the kiddies' corner. It looks less advanced than the 3D norm, and so it must be more primitve, and if it's more primitive, it must be for kids.
The fact is that it looks gorgeous, but it greatly annoys me that so many gamers will be blind to that because of a perceived primitiveness in the visual style.
(On a related note, this is apparently part of the reasoning behind Disney's move away from 2D animation. They're of the opinion that the reason why Pixar's films have been more popular than their own of late is down to kids no longer liking 2D animation...)
Still, the kiddies' corner aspect does mean that it's been slapped with a kiddies' corner price, which is fine by me...

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Call Of Cthulhu!


Giant squid take over the world! And to see why that might be a particularly bad thing, click here, and/or here.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Oh Canada...


Are you a disenfranchised American voter looking to leave your crazy fundamentalist theocracy?
Are you too lazy and/or frightened to go anywhere truly different?
Do you have a sense of humour?

Well, why not try Canada?
And to make it easier to move there, you could marry a Canadian!

Friday, November 05, 2004

Two Links


Before it all went tits-up, Hunter S Thompson talked about the election:

"I would tell [the American electorate] that, if George W Bush wins again, the United States faces utter disaster. That the question facing voters is no longer whether or not George W Bush is a pathetic fascist stooge. The question is whether Bush having already demonstrated himself to be a fascist stooge the American people like it that way, and see that as their future."

Update your atlases in light of recent world events!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

And The Winner Is...





Well, I would have voted for him in a shot.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Strange Thing About Jonathan Strange...



The picture on the left is of Susanna Clarke, author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and is from the American edition of the book. The picture on the right is also of Susanna Clarke, author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and is from the British edition. I don't know what, if anything, this says about America and Americans, or indeed the British, but I'm sure it says something.
The British edition of the book is a good inch thicker than its cousin, although the page count is the same, and the exact same text appears on all pages. We have dubbed this puzzling phenomena "fat pages". The British edition was also cheaper than the US edition, even taking shipping into account, and is blissfully devoid of the inane and all-too-common "A Novel" subtitle on the cover.

Oh, and it's quite a good read too...

Monday, October 18, 2004

For Some Reason, The Shit Won't Stick


George Bush cheated to get into office. After getting in, he almost started World War III twice, and allowed the worst terrorist attack in US history to occur so that he could use it as an excuse to start two illegal and immoral wars (with more on the way, true believers!). He crippled the economy, education, and healthcare, and through his Patriot Act, made a mockery of America as the "land of the free."

He cheated (again) in the presidential debates, and somehow still managed to lose to John Kerry. This doesn't exactly help to dispel the popular idea that he's just an idiotic puppet for Cheney and his corporate allies.

And yet, Bush is still ahead in the polls, with two weeks to go until election day. Not far ahead, admittedly, but he shouldn't be ahead at all. He should be in a jail cell. For the next forty or so years. Instead, he's on course to be president for another four years.

And Americans wonder why they have a reputation for stupidity. It seems to be because around 48% of them actually are...

Saturday, October 16, 2004

We are moved to tears by the size of this thing.


I have been spending an inordinate amount of time playing the wonderful Katamari Damacy. It's great fun, horribly addictive, and should be played by everyone immediately.

Except Meg, who got motion sickness playing it.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Listen Up You Primitive Screwheads!


Look America, it's official, the rest of the world thinks you're a bit dim because you voted for a retarded monkey who can't even wipe his own arse without help. Do everyone a favour and vote for the one with a brain this time. If you let Curious George screw the rest of us over for another four years, then don't blame us if you consistently get put in the "cockroach room" in every hotel you visit on your next international holiday...

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

I Have The Power!


John Woo is to direct a live-action "He-Man" film!

Presumably, we should expect John Travolta to turn up as Skeletor...

For a look at what else to expect from John Woo's version of the franchise, click on the image below.

John Woo's He-Man!

















He-Man and all related characters are probably © and ® Mattel. This is a work of satire, so don't sue me!

More Tales Of Blood


I've got two new pages up at Brad The Vampire. Latest pages are here and here.
Previous pages in the storyline: 1 2 3 4
My storyline is now starting to intersect with the main plot, so you might not get much out of it by reading just my half. If you start with the first of the above pages and read through both plotlines, you should get a more rewarding story.
The newest pages are a mixed bag again. I really like some aspects, but hate others. Yet again, I'm my own harshest critic.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Buried Pyramid


I'm not at all familiar with Jane Lindskold, I must confess, but she's apparently quite popular, as this book was a challenge to get from the local library, and moreover was impossible to renew. I was put on its trail by a very favourable description on Alan Robson's book reviews page, a site I thoroughly recommend for readers of scifi and other genre fiction.
And I can see why Robson enjoyed The Buried Pyramid. It's a very fun, exciting book. The first three quarters are a rip-roaring adventure in the Haggard or Burroughs (or, if you must, the Indiana Jones) style, a travelogue across exotic lands with dashes of adventure and intrigue along the way. Apart from some niggling editorial glitches like disappearing punctuation, this is a wonderful read. Well, there is another problem which soured my enjoyment of this part of the book, but we'll get to that in a bit.

The last quarter involves an audacious plot twist that changes the tone and the very concept of the book. This in itself, I don't have a problem with, and it is handled very well here, with the breakneck pace and sense of fun from earlier on left intact. It is the details that led to my frustration, with many questions left unanswered. Sadly these weren't questions of the "ooh, isn't this intriguing, I wonder what it means?" sort, but of the "why did this happen?", "what was the point of doing that?" and "how does that serve the story?" sort. The most frustrating thing about these problems is that a more careful proofreading could have caught them and led to them being sorted out.

This editorial blindness also perhaps accounts for the problem that distracts from the otherwise excellent first, pre-twist, part of the book. The heroes are occasionally sent messages by a mysterious ally who warns them about the perils that surround the party. Of course, as is the tradition of these things, the messages are written in code, and whenever the heroes receive one, we're treated to delicious passages of them sitting around with pencils and paper, trying to work out the key to unlocking the codes. The problem with this ongoing plot thread is that it's quite clear from the beginning who the mysterious benefactor is. It's certainly arguable that Lindskold is making no atempt to hide this person's identity, and that it's supposed to be obvious, but all evidence points to the contrary, especially the climax of the novel in which the revelation is treated as being one last, quite important, loose end that needs tying up. Adding to the frustration is the fact that editorial laxness leads to one character correctly working out the identity of the message writer both at the climax and earlier on, around the point at which the plot takes its interesting turn. I've read and re-read the bit in question, thinking perhaps I've missed or mininterpreted something, but it's quite clear that the hero discovers the identity of her ally 117 pages before she, er, discovers the identity of her ally...Surely that's something an editor should pick up?

All that said, The Buried Pyramid is a good fun read. I think it's perfect for the younger reader, who'd be sophisticated enough to follow the subtleties, but perhaps not so on-the-ball that they'd pick up on the klunky bits that led to me not enjoying it as much as I could have. Still, well worth a read, especially if your literary diet has been devoid of fun of late.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Religious Conflict


Think that monks are cuddly, benevolent fellows, who wouldn't hurt anyone? That's not true of these ascetics...

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Disappointing Side Of The Force


That title alone is going to earn nasty comments from some people, I'd imagine...
Well, I had no intention of buying the new Star Wars dvd set, but I did decide to rent my favourite of the films, (The?) Return Of The Jedi.
(Pause for more ridicule, as everyone knows that The Empire Strikes Back is the best one...)
Anyway, it was fun to see the film again. I don't think I've seen it since about 1999. But...

Much has been made of the changes and additions that Lucas and his cronies have made to these films for the dvd release. I have no real problem with changes generally, although I do think that Lucas should perhaps divert this creative energy to making the new Star Wars films watchable, rather than faffing about with films we already like.
My problem here was that the cleaning up seemed very half-hearted. I only rented the third (sixth?) film, so it may have been that the cgi boys at Lucasfilm got bored by the time they got to this one and just gave up. Who knows? The much-publicised enhancement of the lightsaber effects stumble because they're too enhanced, looking like the lightsabers are floating above the film, rather than being part of it. This is a common problem with Lucas' cgi effects, turning up in the new trilogy quite often too. A similarly big fuss was made over how Jabba's cgi model in Star Wars was tweaked and improved, and we didn't rent the first (fourth?) film, so I don't know how well it worked. The rest of the Special Edition additions seem to have been left as is, however, so there's a lot of 1997-era cgi in there, which hasn't aged well at all. The Sarlacc pit sequence looks especially bad when presented through dvd picture quality.
I was also informed that all the Stormtroopers in the original trilogy were going to have their voices dubbed over by the chap who played Jango Fett in Episode II: The Really Important (Honestly) Story Of Boba Fett, but if that's the case, they again didn't get as far as ROTJ. You could make an (unconvincing) argument that the oh-so-cool bike-riding troopers aren't clones like their rank-and-file cousins, but when the actual troopers turn up later, they sound exactly like they always did. Odd.
What's frustrating about this isn't that they were done, or not done, but that it seems entirely random as to which bits got touched up. Jabba gets improved. The Rancor pit sequence is tidied up considerably, and for the first time in twenty years the beast actually looks like it's in the same scene as Mark Hamill. The space battles look to have been improved a bit, too. But then there are other bits that look or sound really ropey, and you begin to wonder how they decided on what to improve, and whether anyone actually checked the product before it got released.
On that note, the sound quality is really badly screwed in places. Of course Lucasfilm deny a problem, because the recall would cost a bomb, but it's definitely there. Sound drops out or amplifies at apparently random moments. The opening titles are the worst offender in ROTJ, with the sound jumping about all over the place. What this means is that the dvds are a waste. Yes, the picture quality is much improved over the vhs versions, but the sound quality isn't even up to vhs standards. A terrible shame.
As I noted at the top, I had no intention of picking up the set anyway, but after seeing some of it, I'm even more convinced. Perhaps the (apparently) final set in 2007 wil fix these problems, and be a better purchase, but I'm not enough of a fan to pick this current set up.
Worth a rental, though, especially since there's a preview of the next (and hopefully final) film on there. It will most likely be a big pile of Bantha shit, but Vader's back for the first time ever (or is that introduced for the second time?), and that's got to be worth the ticket price...

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Meeeeeeeeeeeoooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwww........


Proving that you can in fact find anything and everything on the internet (or perhaps just that there's a lot of strange people out there), behold The Infinite Cat Project, pictures of cats looking at pictures of cats looking at pictures of cats looking at pictures of cats looking at...

Well, That Was A Weird One


I dreamed last night that I was a member of the team on ITV's short-lived video games show Bad Influence, and oddly enough, the only one who actually was on friendly terms with Violet Berlin, rather than being a swooning sycophant at the feet of Andy Crane. Nam Rood was conspicuously absent.
Where does that come from? Surely I couldn't have been subconsciously, randomly, thinking about Bad Influence before I went to bed?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Good Point, Well Made/It's Tiny!!!


I've seen it made as a joke a number of times, but here's a semi serious argument for the rest of the world voting in America's elections.

Rare bit of video game commentary here. Apparently, just as there was a streamlined version of the original Playstation released some years after the original, so too will there be a mini PS2! It puts the X-Brick's exaggerated vastness to shame, doesn't it?
Of course, the downside is that this most likely means that it's about time to start saving up for the PS3...

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Arboreal Confusion


The trees think it's autumn, so they're shedding their leaves with abandon, and yet it's 29°C/84°F outside and the sun is blazing away like a bastard. Weird. Still, strange as it is, it's at least safe. No hurricanes up here, luckily.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Avengers Assemble!



Taking my lead (i.e. nicking the idea) from Dan, here's the Micro Héros version of my ideal Avengers team.


WaspThorPhotonBeastQuasarShe-Hulk

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Bad Timing?


I can't tell whether it's bad timing or just sheer blind optimism, but there are an awful lot of adverts on TV here at the moment encouraging people to holiday in Florida...

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

More On That "Liberal Bias In The Media"


Democratic Convention: Shown live on PBS.
Republican Convention: Shown live on NBC, FOX, CBS, ABC, etc.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

You Command Me To What?


Stolen shamelessly from the fine fellows at Areyougoingtoeatthat?:

Subliminal messages in comics?

Friday, August 27, 2004

Local Boy In The Photograph


Liam has just uploaded some pictures that he took during his recent visit to Blighty. Never one to be outdone by the likes of him, I've now uploaded some pictures from a trip I took...er, several weeks ago. Not only are they weeks late, but they're also fairly low resolution, and are presented through a clunky interface I coded myself five minutes ago, but I'm in some of them, and therefore they're by default superior to Liam's efforts, which are unforgivably Kelvin-deficient.

There's a link in the menu to the right there, or you could just click here.

Operation: Galactic Storm



I almost forgot! Well, actually I did forget. Anyway. My somewhat pretentious review of Marvel's epic Operation: Galactic Storm Avengers storyline is online here. It's good to be writing again.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Oh No!


All hope, or at least all free time, is now lost. Lemmings Online is here! Now someone needs to get working on an online version of Worms.

Brainsplurge! is not responsible for time lost through, or marriages ruined by, excessive Lemmings Online play. You have been warned...

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Non-Playable Demo


When did these things start to be called "trailers" instead of "non-playable demos"? I must be getting old...
Anyway, here's the "trailer" for the new Grand Theft Auto game, San Andreas. Have fun!

Saturday, August 21, 2004

It's Not The Winning...


I don't like the medals table. It's very existence implies that it's possible to "win" the Olympics as a whole, which is surely missing the point of the entire exercise.
It's strange watching the games in a different country, with different regional biases, but even so, I have to say that the NBC coverage is terrible. I'm told that it's better than last time, because at least they're showing events that have no American entrants, but that just makes me very glad indeed that I missed it last time. NBC's coverage is a good indicator for my British readers of what ITV's Olympic coverage would be like...
(Except my British readers can't watch NBC, so it's not such a good indicator after all...)

There was a letter in the newspaper today claiming that the reason that the world (especially Europe) hates America right now is because everyone else is jealous of America's unique political achievements. I can't speak for the rest of Europe, but since the position of British head of state is an unelected and hereditary one held by an inbred individual, why would we jealous of America doing the same thing?

Sunday, August 15, 2004

"But when Eric eats a banana..."


Sometimes an idea gets into my head, and gets stuck there unless I write it down or draw it or whatever. So here's a sketch of popular British superhero Bananaman in the style of comics superstar Jim Lee!
I never said they were good ideas...

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah... Wow!


As good as the two Spider-Man movies were, how much better would the next movie be if they included aspects of this incarnation of the character?

Supaida-Man!
[Right-click and Save As... to download, or just left-click to watch it in some cancerous addition to your browser. See if I bloody care.]

I Have A LiveJournal!
(In Which The Author Discusses The Weather)


Actually, no I don't. I just set up an account so that I could comment on friends' LiveJournals without skulking behind an Anonymous tag.
Would it be too much to ask to have these competing blogging systems/companies be compatible at least at the level of comments, so I wouldn't have to have done this?
Probably, eh?

I've been reading a lot on various blogs and so on about how oppressively hot is back in Blighty right now. Well, at least it hasn't suddenly dropped into sub-zero temperatures like it has here! Of course, this is an exaggeration, and it makes me wonder if I've become acclimatised to the...er...climate here. My American friends, despite coming from regions where it literally gets into sub-zero temperatures in winter, often complained about how "cold" Britain was. I wonder if I'd feel that too, after being here for a while? I hope not. It's only after living here through the extreme differences in the seasons that I appreciate how comfortably mild my home climate is.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster


The first h2g2 teaser trailer is up here. It's only a teaser, so there's no footage to alleviate my fears over some of the casting, but the sense of humour's right. Go see it. Go on.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Bored Of The USA


Bruce Springsteen's in trouble for speaking out and daring to have a political opinion. He, REM, and others are touring the States, celebrating the good things about America, and questioning where those things have been for the past few years. Of course, this is deemed unacceptable and offensive, because how dare entertainers step beyond their boundaries and get into the serious world of politics?
For Pete's sake, this is Springsteen. I'm no fan of his, but you can't be surprised that he's doing this. Of course, the people complaining about how inappropriate this whole thing is are the same kind of people who criticised Kerry choosing Edwards as his running mate for being a "political" move...
Springsteen writes about what he's doing and why here.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Too Big For Boots


Uckfield is the very definition of crap. It's not an unpleasant town, by any means, but it just has very little to recommend it. When the most exciting things to happen in the town's centuries-long history were a flood and a McDonald's opening (okay, and the Piltdown Man), you know that there's not much going on.
Except now our "lovely" little town has a radio station. If you know Uckfield at all, you know that this is a very strange thing indeed.

On a probably unrelated note, I see that the American music industry has decided to raid 90's British music for inspiration. I'm no Oasis fan (more of a Blur man myself), but even I found Ryan Adams' cover of "Wonderwall" to be execrable, and I hoped that it was just a one-off. Sadly not.
Again, I'm no big Robbie Williams supporter, but I can't help but feel offended by Jessica Simpson's rather vicious violation of "Angels".

What next? Nickleback attempting "Country House"? Maroon 5 ripping off Jamiroquai? (oh wait...)

Friday, July 30, 2004

"Beg Broother Dyeh Fooer"


I'm not the biggest (ha!) fan of the British version of Big Brother, and I know it's not the original version of the show either, but after seeing a couple of episodes of the American version (by accident, of course), I've come to realise that it doesn't matter how good your production values are, or how entertaining your housemates are, because your particular version of Big Brother is ultimately worthless if it doesn't have Marcus Bentley doing the narration...
Of course, Big Brother is by default shite, but we're talking in relative terms here.
Trip photos will be uploaded at some point soon, but I'm going to stick them on a webpage rather than put them here, so I'm spending some time getting reacquainted with HTML.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Out Of Office Reply


We're going away for a few days. It's Meg's birthday on the 24th, and so we're zipping up north to some spooky cabin in the woods for a little holiday. Blogger seems to be adding new features every day, so there's probably some function to have automatic postings while you're away, but I can't be bothered to find it. Instead, I'll leave you with this.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Take Me Out To The (Foot)Ball Game


Tickets of the free variety.I got hold of some free tickets to go and see the local footie team playing at the Metrodome, and never one to pass up a freebie, we went along to see how the Americans play The Beautiful Game. It was a fourth round cup match between our lot and the LA Galaxy, who are a proper Major League Soccer (euch) team, and thus technically superior to the Thunder, who are in the next division down (the approximate equivalent of the first division...sorry, the "Championship"). The Minnesotans have proven to be quite handy (well, not literally, obviously) at football and were the runners-up in the league last season, so it shouldn't have been a total rout.

But it was. Just not in the direction we'd expected.

Minnesota were all over the Californians in the first half, and held them to a stalemate in the second. It was in that first half that Minnesota scored the only goal of the game, but the one that gave them their first victory ever over a Major League (euch) team, and that puts them through to the next round. Minnesota were firmly in control, much to the obvious frustration of the Californians, as they began a series of dirty fouls, even punching the Minnesotan goalie in the throat at one point. It didn't help that the referee was completely incompetent, veering from oversensitivity to apparent blindness at random. But at the end of the day, Minnesota were the better team and they deserved to win.I could certainly do without the music played throughout the game, however. It may be necessary during the suicidal tedium that is baseball, but it's a bit intrusive when there's actually stuff going on. Less of the music thanks. And drop that national anthem rubbish too. For international games, it's fine, but it's getting in the way here.

Brent or Paddy?The strangest part of the evening came when I glanced through the match programme, looking at the player profiles, only to find this image. Allegedly, this is Minnesota Thunder player Brent Jacquette, but it looks more to me like a certain Mr Patrick Booth of the city of London. I'd been told that he'd moved to Liverpool to study archaeology, but on the basis of this evidence, I'm not so sure that that's the truth after all...

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Vampiric Comicery

Two new comic pages up at Skimble's fine Brad The Vampire site here and here. They're part of an ongoing storyline that I'm doing for Skimble, the first two parts of which can be seen here and here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

IKEAn't Believe It!


An enormous new Ikea superstore opens tomorrow opposite the Mall Of America. Meg had heard on the news today that people had been camping out since yesterday, so we went to have a look:

Freak or Unique?

These people are camping outside the store to try and get the chance to be one of the first one hundred customers, all of whom will win a chair worth around $80.

They're taking at least two days off of work in order to get an $80 chair.
The minimum hourly wage in the US is $5.15.
You work it out.

Monday, July 12, 2004

The Lovely Sir Ian McKellen


"What people often forget, of course, is that Magneto, unlike the lovely Sir Ian McKellen, is a mad old terrorist twat. No matter how he justifies his stupid, brutal behaviour, or how anyone else tries to justify it, in the end he's just an old bastard with daft, old ideas based on violence and coercion. I really wanted to make that clear at this time."

Great interview with magician and comics writer Grant Morrison here. The interviewer comes across as a pretentious wanker in his attempt to make Morrison like him, but Morrison's responses make up for it.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Brainiversary!


Brainsplurge! is a year old today. I wish I had something more interesting to report, but that's it!

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Knee High By The Fourth Of July


A patriotic bagel, yesterday.


Happy Birthday America! Now if only you'd act your age...

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Ominously, The Cat Leaped Out Of The Bag


I've been hinting about it for a while, but now the news is official. I'm contributing to an anthology of stories based on and around Martin Eden's excellent comic The O Men, to be released in October.

And, to be perfectly honest, I'm terrified.

I've had work published before. I drew a story for the first issue of The Girly Comic, which was well-received, but wasn't my best work. I've also contributed pieces to the odd fanzine here and there. So it's not the act of publishing that's got me all nervous. I think it's more to do with the fact that The O Men is a popular and relatively well-known title, and there are popular and relatively well-known people working on the other stories. The Girly Comic was new and untested, and had little to prove. If it had failed, no one would have batted an eyelid. That's not the case now, of course, as it's become a popular part of the British small press scene. Just like The O Men, in fact. Were I to return to the pages of The Girly Comic now, I might be similarly nervous.

So I'll try my best, and see what happens. Hopefully I won't embarrass myself.

Oh, and Liam will be pleased to know that the anthology is named after one of his favourite porn films...

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

If You're Fond Of Sand Dunes And Salty Air...


There's a really strong smell of the sea blowing in on the breeze. You know, that mild salty scent that you get just before you round that last hill and see the beach there before you. It keeps making me have flashbacks to all the times I've been to the seaside.
The funny thing is that I'm thousands of miles inland...

Oh, and I've added syndication to the blog, because Rob moaned at me to do so. Never let it be said that Brainsplurge! does not heed its readers' requests. Unless you start demanding that I post nude pictures of myself or something. Then all you get is abuse. Anyway, I'm not sure how it all works, but it has something to do with that Atom link you should see on the right there.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Bugger That For A Game Of Soldiers


I got my selective service registration card the other day. Bollocks to that. Now, I don't think there'll be a draft anytime soon, for a number of reasons, not least that Bush wouldn't dare try it before an election. If he gets in for a second term though, I wouldn't be surprised if he calls for conscription. And he'd get it too, because this "government" is a bunch of cowards and won't stand against Bush if he has "public opinion" (or vote-rigging) behind him.
So I'm especially glad that I'm just a "resident alien" here, and not an actual citizen, as I can just bugger off home if conscription comes up. I doubt I'd fight a war for my own country (although I do see the benefits of military service, as long as there's no killing involved, which is only slightly paradoxical...), so I'm certainly not going to fight for someone else's. I think I'd be ineligible anyway on the basis that I have flat feet, but you can't be too careful with these things.

This is a great little site, which I found while looking for a copy of the BBC's "Rush Hour" ident. And why was I looking for that? Firstly, because it's brilliant, and secondly because I've just got hold of (and read) all twelve issues of Global Frequency, which is handy, because it's going to be a television show soon. I hope they adapt issue six at some point, because it would look amazing (even if they don't set it in London, which is likely). A lot like that BBC spot actually...

Saw Dodgeball today, and I haven't laughed so much in ages, even though I saw it in one of those cinemas that thinks it's a jolly good idea to make people's ears bleed. There's some great jokes in there, and there's a surprising amount of subtlety to the film. Is it a good film? Probably not. Is it funny? Too bloody right it is.

Oh, and you can read the first two pages of my hijacking of Brad The Vampire right now. They're numbered as #316 and #317. They don't make much sense if you haven't read the first 315 pages, and probably don't make much sense even if you have, but the latter is sort of the point...

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Only In America


See if you can spot what's so odd about this drive-through cash machine...

Friday, June 11, 2004

Liberal Bias In The Media


Of course there is. That's why a bloke whose main contribution to the world was starving thousands of Russians to death gets his funeral televised on every channel for three days running. If such a thing was done for a Democratic president, they'd be going on about that "liberal bias" until they were blue in the face.
And don't get me started on Bush using this as a re-election boost. Tosser.

Two Sides Of America


Here's one horrible story that just makes me want to pack up and go home, and here's something that makes me smile and give a little quizzical frown. Quite clearly, this country is insane, but it's not always a bad thing, it seems.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I can't stand Harry Potter in either print form or on the cinema screen. So I've obviously not been to see the new film, even if it's all dark and gritty. Normally, I respond to the Potterites by telling them to go and read Roald Dahl and then come back and tell me that the Potter books are good kids' books. But that's a bit like comparing oranges and apples. Dahl's books are much, much better, but they're not the same kind of thing. Rob introduced me to The Bartimaeus Trilogy, the first book of which is a much better attempt at a Harry Potter style kids' book than any of the Potters themselves. I love Northern Lights/The Golden Compass and it's sequel, although I'm not as fond of the third book. But the one I'd forgotten about, because I hadn't read it for years, is Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising. A great little story, with lots of depth, my only real criticism is that its setting is rather restrictive, being based around a couple of small locations. That said, since it features time travel quite heavily, it really has more than two or three locations. It's a wonderfully atmospheric book with some great ideas, mostly drawn from "British" mythology.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Remember, Remember, the...er...31st of May? (or Long Films and Furniture Sales)


Steak and Guinnes pie as cooked by Meg, from a recipe from fat-tounged Essex lad Jamie OliverAs millions of Americans remembered the lost and the fallen* by...um...having barbecues, Meg and I decided to instead spend the day as if we were back in Blighty. Seeing as it was a Bank Holiday back there, we did the proper thing and slapped Lawrence Of Arabia into the dvd player (disappointed to note that it wasn't on back home; plenty of Bank Holidays to go though, and there's always Christmas!) as we tucked into steak and Guinness pies.
We didn't to go to a sale at a furniture superstore, however, and due to the fact that the rather dull Tomorrow Never Dies was on last night, we won't be finishing off our British Bank Holiday with the traditional Bond movie. Still, it was a nice lazy day, exactly as a Bank Holiday should be.

* This site has some excellent historical information on Memorial Day, then goes a bit loony and right-wing towards the end. Oh well.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Not Very Convincing...


...but it's the result that counts. Let's hope they stay in the First Division for longer this time around.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Face...Off!


Life imitates John Woo.

I'm not sure whether thanking Jeremy for this is appropriate, as it creeps the heck out of me, but behold The Subservient Chicken. Now I'm going to have to have a very long shower and possibly lobotomise myself to recover...
I'm also a little creeped out by that Blogger button at the bottom of the page. Since when did it go from "Powered by Blogger" to "I Power Blogger", and do I really want to be powering Blogger? Do I have any choice? Should I just return to my bath of pink jelly and pretend nothing's changed?

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Goggle Box


I've been looking through the upcoming television season here in the States, to see if there's anything worth watching, and specifically, anything worth watching that we can get in on the old rabbit ears. Here are some highlights:

Gunther (NBC)
You know him as Friends' mild-mannered coffee shop server, but now he's going solo! Join Gunther (James Michael Tyler) as he travels to California to start his new life as a crime scene investigator in this spin-off from the classic sitcom Friends.

CSI: Law & Order (CBS)
See how things are done in one of New York's toughest crime scene investigation units.

Law & Order: CSI (NBC)
See how things are done in one of New York's toughest crime scene investigation units.

American President (FOX)
Join host Ryan Seacrest and judges Simon Cowell, Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney as they pick the next Commander-in-Chief from hundreds of hopeful industrialists from all over the South. Sponsored by Haliburton.

The Vicar Of Dibley (NBC)
In the fine tradition of Coupling and The Office: An American Workplace, this faithful update of the British classic stars Matthew Perry (Friends) as John Vicar, a New York crime scene investigator who quits his job to become a lawyer/doctor in Dibley, Wisconsin. As his big city values clash with small town tradition, hilarity ensues.

American Countdown (ABC)
From the people that brought you Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Dog Eat Dog and The Weakest Link comes the latest smash hit game show from the UK. Join Jessica Simpson and America's smartest wordsmiths as contestants jumble letters and numbers in an attempt to win ONE MILLION DOLLARS!

Survivor: Abu Ghraib (CBS)
Sixteen people from all walks of life undergo electrocution, beatings, mutilation and humiliation at the hands of America's finest experts on "abuse", all for a chance to win ONE MILLION DOLLARS!

Evertree Hill Creek (WB)
Dysfunctional New York teen Joey Blaine finds out about a brother he never knew he had, and travels to Evertree Hill Creek, Wisconsin where he learns a number of lessons in life and love. Also starring Greg Evigan as Joey's estranged father, crime scene investigator John Blaine.

Extreme Makeover: Nation Edition (ABC)
Join Ty Pennington and the US military as each week they drop in on an unsuspecting nation and give it a makeover fit for the 21st Century! In the first show, Kim Jong II is surprised at home in North Korea by the team!

Friday, May 21, 2004

Losing Face And Blasting Frenchies


I wonder, does it really look worse in the eyes of the general populace to say "Yes, we bombed an innocent wedding party, and we're very very sorry. We make mistakes, and we'll try not to make them again." rather than "How many people go to the middle of the desert to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilisation? These were more than two dozen military-age males. Let's not be naive...I don't have to apologise for the conduct of my men"? The current administration here in the US obviously doesn't really care about how the world views them, but do they really think that the average American will approve of this John Wayne attitude?

Sorry for all the recent posts about America's Atrocities Abroad, by the way. I haven't really felt like commenting on anything else. I've been busy behind the scenes here at Brainsplurge, but not doing anything of public interest as yet. I should have a couple of interesting things to report pretty soon, but we'll see.

One thing worth mentioning, sad as it is, is that a number of hours have been wasted this week blasting away at (mostly French) terrorists in Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain. It's one of those "special forces" games that seem to be everywhere nowadays, and that I normally don't have much time for, but I've really been enjoying this one. Well worth a rental at least. And not just for the Frenchie-blasting, either. :)

Monday, May 17, 2004

More Military Doublespeak


I'm either very naive or highly optimistic, but whenever I heard about "civilian contractors" getting into trouble in Iraq, I assumed that they were builders and technicians, the kind of people that you'd expect to be there during the rebuilding of a nation. I really didn't think that "civilian contractors" actually meant "mercenaries".
Is it just me that finds the idea of America hiring mercenaries to fight its wars a little odd?

Thursday, May 13, 2004

A Question Of Morals and Meanings


How come when they do it to us, it's "barbaric torture", but when we do it to them it's only "abuse"?

Monday, May 10, 2004

Friday, May 07, 2004

It's Just Rounders For Fat Blokes, Innit?


There are many very very good reasons to deride baseball, but this story highlights surely one of the most damning aspects of the game: apparently, exactly 79.4% of its fans are complete knob-ends.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Liam Won't Be Pleased...


We finally saw 13 Going On 30, and you know what? It's actually pretty good. It's a good solid romantic comedy that does what it sets out to do and does it well. Cynical viewers have said that all it is is an unacknowledged remake of Big, which is quite true, but it's actually better than that film, largely because the performances are so much better. That's not something I thought I'd ever say of Jennifer Garner, and is probably a sign of the Apocalypse...

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Apologies To The Bloggers


I've not been commenting at your blogs because I've had little to say, to be honest, so sorry about that. But I've still been visiting your blogs and reading your words. If your trackers show visits to your sites that start from this one, then it's most likely me.

The lentil burgers were pretty successful. I learned some tricks during the making that I'll use next time to make them even better (for instance, leaving the shaped mixture to stand for ten minutes makes it much easier to cook the burgers). I'll also try flavouring them next time, to see how well I can fake a beef or chicken burger.

Talking of burgers, I had an absolutely scrumptious curried turkey burger at this restaurant yesterday. If you're ever in the Minneapolis-St Paul area, give me a shout, and I'll take you out to dinner there. That's a genuine, no expiration, Brainsplurge offer!

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

"I Am The Punisher/And I Ride And I Ride..."


Sorry. Couldn't resist it.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Punisher. It was a very well made film, although I do have some reservations about its moral outlook. Go here to read my in-depth review of the film.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Bicycle-riding psychopaths, birthday parties, and Lovecraftian Horror


Baby in a tube! So convenient!This past weekend was surprisingly packed. On Saturday, Meg's Dad came up and helped us sort out our PC overheating problems by installing two fans into the beast. Now it's so chilled we could store ice cream in it. Later on, we went to a birthday party for our nephew Jack, which was a great deal more fun than I expected it to be. Perhaps I was just in a very good mood, but I wasn't expecting to enjoy sitting around a children's playground while hordes of toddlers enjoyed themselves. But I did, so that's good. It's also very selfish, since it was Jack's day. I think he enjoyed himself too, but I didn't think to ask him.
On Sunday, Meg and I took a drive out to Stillwater to visit a renowned spice shop in order to perhaps find some curry leaves. Alas, they didn't have any, but we stocked up on a variety of other herbs and spices, then took a walk around the town. Stillwater appears to be a renovated industrial town, and would seem to have been a port at some point in its past. It reminded me a lot of the mining villages I grew up in in Wales. It's a strange mix of old and new, and while obviously very tourist-ey, it was still a pleasant little place.
That said, I found it exceptionally creepy. If you've read any of Lovecraft's stories, you've read about towns like this. It had a sinister feel to it, as if there were inhuman cults practising barbaric rites behind closed doors not ten feet from where you were walking. Or perhaps it was just me.

Now, let's see what's in the mailbag. A Patrick Booth of Liverpool writes in to Brainsplurge to ask "have you been to see 13 Going On 30 yet?" Well Patrick, we haven't. We're trying to restrict ourselves to one cinema visit a week during these busy summer months (which is going to be tricky), and it's become a bit of a tradition for us to go and see something on a Monday night. Tonight though, it's The Punisher. 13 Going On 30 will have to wait until next week. I hope that answers your question.
The dangers of eating emaciated crow bits - be careful or this could happen to YOU!

On the other hand, we've been frequenting our local Blockbuster a lot in recent days. My interest has been due to someone deciding to stock a wide range of Japanese films that I thought I'd not get to see over here. So on Sunday morning, while Meg went off to eat emaciated crow bits with her sister Amanda, I sat down to watch Ichi The Killer. And frankly I'm baffled. It had a very dull opening section, a brilliant half an hour in the middle then a bizarre final act. As such, I'm not sure whether I liked it or not. Very strange film, and I'm not sure exactly why it has such a good reputation. Blockbuster did not stock the full uncut edition, but I'd suspect that the cuts are due to violence than essential plot points. I'd be very happy to have the film explained to me, if any readers are so inclined.

Tonight, I'm being a tree-hugging hippie in the kitchen and I'll be making red lentil burgers. I've been looking for a lentil burger recipe for a while, so with any luck, this'll be what I'm after. Depending on the level of success/failure, this project's results will be reported here at some point.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Arseburgers


Orbital are splitting up. And what's more, they're doing their final farewell gig at Glastonbury this year, closing the festival.

Buggeration.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Thwap! Crack! Slash! Awww!


We saw Kill Bill 2 the other day, and I have to say that while it's less inventive and certainly less violent than the first, it's probably the better film. Of course, I'm fully aware that technically it's not "Kill Bill 2" and that it's not a separate film to the first, but I care not for pedantry. At least not tonight. It's far more standalone than the first half too, and could probably be watched on its own without confusion. In fact, taken as a whole, it's rather lopsided, with all the craziness in the first half and all the drama in the second half. It makes me wonder what Kill Bill will look like in a few months when it inevitably turns up in a special edition two-volume boxed-set. I wonder if it'll be recut to balance the halves out a bit more?
I'm also trying to work out whether the film(s) is feminist or not, and if it is, whether it's feminist in the way Aliens is, or whether there's something else going on. Either way, I find it funny that Quentin Tarantino, surely a bloke's film-maker (although I doubt he would want to be thought as such), does a kung fu revenge thriller that turns out to have a feminist message.
I think that the very last word of the film is the C-word (don't worry, that link doesn't go to a porn site). What I found interesting about that was that the last line of the film was greeted with a stunned silence, apart from myself and a woman somewhere behind us, who both laughed. We laughed not because of the taboo word, but because it was a genuinely funny line (well that's why I laughed - I don't know about the mysterious unseen woman). I just found it interesting that this was an audience who'd sat through countless "f***s" and "s***s", and even more violence, but were visibly disturbed by one instance of "c***". I'm not sure whether British audiences would be so stunned, and I'm even less sure of what it means in terms of cultural differences, but it struck me as intriguing.
The final oddity occurred during the trailers. There was a trailer for the Jet Li film Hero, which returns him to his proper brand of martial arts cinema. Trust me, if all you've seen of him is the stuff he's done in the West, then take a look at The Legend Of Fong Sai Yuk. Anyway. This trailer wasn't notable because Miramax have sat on the film for two years, although that is cause for concern. What made me raise an eyebrow was that suddenly, Hero is "presented by Quentin Tarantino". Obviously the success of Kill Bill means that Tarantino's going to get his name slapped on every martial arts film released for the next ten years, and if that gets what are some very good films to a wider audience, then that's good. But I just hope that it doesn't go the way of "Wes Craven Presents" and be a brand name for a sub-genre of absolutely terrible films. That would be terribly unfair to both Tarantino and martial arts cinema.
On a related note, here's a fascinating IMDb Board discussion concerning the political commentary in Hero. It's fascinating not only because of the content, but because it's a rare case of the IMDb Boards not being used by morons to call each other morons.

Right, I'm off to find recipes for General Tso's Chicken. Yum!

Monday, April 19, 2004

Stormy Weather


We had the first of the big summer storms last night. It lasted a good four or five hours, from about five in the afternoon. I've seen bigger storms. I've seen longer storms. I've seen more impressive storms. But this was a big one. At about six in the evening, visibility here was down to zero. It was pitch-black outside, as if there was nothing outside the flat but a void. The only time I saw anything outside was when the lightning lit the sky and I could see that the rain was coming in sideways.
Like I said, it wasn't the biggest storm I've ever seen, but it was probably the most sinister. It really did seem evil in intent.

Friday, April 16, 2004

23


Inventiveness is at a minimum, so it's time for a questionnaire. What's even better is that some of the questions are time-sensitive, and yet I've had this stored on the computer since Monday, which would explain the odd references to bedroom attire and the strange time differences. I can't be bothered to update it. So there.


1: Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4. Write down what it says:

"...more magic items. Your character's maximum item points rise..."
(Neverwinter Nights manual)

2: Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What do you touch first?

The monitor screen, exactly at the point where I'm typing this, in some kind of weird coincidence.

3: What is the last thing you watched on TV?

Thirty seconds of something about enormous Zambian lizards on National Geographic at the in-laws' house this morning.

4: WITHOUT LOOKING, guess what the time is:

12:10am.

5: Now look at the clock; what is the actual time?

11:33pm, which means that I'm mentally in tomorrow.

6: With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?

The fan in the bedroom, and what we think might be a treadmill rumbling in the flat upstairs.

7: When did you last step outside? What were you doing?

Sometime around nine tonight, getting out of the car and coming into the flat. After dinner.

8: Before you came to this website, what did you look at?

I got this from Snowball, and I got to her site from my own. Which is this one.

9: What are you wearing?

A green flannel dressing gown, greenish-black-framed glasses of a fairly high prescription, a slightly-too-small UEA long-sleeved t-shirt, orange, white and red...tartan I suppose pyjama bottoms from Old Navy, and...let me check...plain white boxers. And a pair of fluffy Guinness slippers that are supposed to look like pints of the lovely brew but really don't.

10: Did you dream last night?

Most likely, although I don't remember what my dreams were about, if I had any.

11: When did you last laugh?

Don't remember. These days, most of my "laughs" are snorts of derision.

12: What is on the walls of the room you are in?

East wall, left-to-right. A clock, two postcards [hallway to bathroom and bedroom], a list of things I would like bought for me, a framed photo looking down from the University of Kent to the cathedral, some arty french poster of Meg's, and an oriental rug-type-thing which is being used as a wall-hanging and is stuck behind a cluttered bookshelf.
South wall, l-r. A big window, running the length of the wall, and a cast iron candle sconce.
West wall, l-r. I call this a "breakfast bar", even though we don't use it as such, but Americans call it a "theatre kitchen" or something. Serving hole. Whatever. Magnetic dartboard, Spider-Man action figure stuck to the wall to make it look like he's climbing it [kitchen "doorway" (there is no door)], Welsh love spoon (incidentally, I lived in Wales for over nine years and never once saw or heard of one of these things) [hallway to front door], intercom to outside door, another iron sconce.
North wall, l-r. An abstract print, a framed photo of my in-laws, another abstract print (I can read this one from here-it's Mark Rothko's "No 6 - Violet, Green and Red"), a framed photo of more in-laws, a framed photo of a church in Venice (one of the famous ones), a framed photo of Jack (our nephew), a framed photo of Kira (our neice), a combination thermostat and thermometer.

13: Seen anything weird lately?

I'm English and I live in America. Everything here is overwhelmingly odd to me.

14: What do you think of this quiz?

It's quite useful, since I might not be able to do much blogging this week, and this quiz will help to keep me posting even if nothing happens that's worth mentioning.

15: What is the last film you saw?

Last new film was Hellboy, which was great fun. I probably caught something while channel-hopping at the in-laws' house this past weekend, but if so, I don't remember it.
Oh wait, we watched Pieces Of April on dvd for the second time. Lovely film that.

16: If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy first?

Tickets home and a house there.

17: Tell me something about you that I don't know.

I don't know what you know about me, so how can I answer that? In fact, I don't even know who "you" are, since I got this from Snowball, and she didn't seem to mention a source. And frankly, even if I did know who "you" were, how could I know enough about what you knew about me to answer the question? This question is epistemologically dishonest, and as such I refuse to answer.

18: If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?

Make everyone more considerate. That should cover most of the problems.

19: Do you like to dance?

Ha ha ha. I'm English. We don't dance or run. We play cricket.

20: George Bush: is he a power-crazy nutcase or some one who is finally doing something that has needed to be done for years?

I'm not that fond of the human race as a whole, and George is doing his best to wipe us all out, so I'd lean towards the latter. If I were less cynical, which given my mood swings, could be within the next few minutes, I'd say he's a lunatic that needs to be removed from power as soon as possible.

21: Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?

I think we're leaning towards Lucy or Eva.

22: Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him?

Sam. But not as in "short for Samuel". Just good honest working-class Sam. Since Meg is in love with Samwise Gamgee, this dovetails nicely with her plans. Sadly, "Stumpy" was deemed inappropriate.

23: Would you ever consider living abroad?

Er...technically, I do. So...yes?

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Kevin Grows Up


Explain something to me. How come the doors for disabled users in public places (for instance, the Mall Of America) are harder to open than the standard doors? Is it because they require high-speed impact with a wheelchair before they open? Do wheelchair users have super-developed arms that can open these doors with ease?
And how about this one. If vanilla is the basic, no-frills ice cream flavour, how come it comes in so many varieties? Vanilla, traditional vanilla, homestyle vanilla, New York vanilla, vanilla custard, egg bacon and vanilla, egg bacon sausage and vanilla...

13 Going On 30 isn't out yet ("Foul!" I don't hear you cry), so we went to see Kevin Smith's latest, Jersey Girl, instead. And a fine film it is too. There are a couple of clunky moments, which come as a surprise because they're clunky because of the dialogue and one thing Smith excels at is dialogue. Aside from that, it was a well-made, exceptionally well-written and surprisingly well-acted film. It was somewhat predictable, but it was so genuine that this really wasn't an issue. There was no sense of an artificially manipulated scenario. It was a good simple tale of a man bonding with his daughter, and worked wonderfully. Liv Tyler impresses me more and more each time I see her, and Ben Affleck did a great job. He gets a lot of criticism, which has always baffled me, as I've seen him in bad films but I don't think I've ever seen him give a bad performance, or at least no worse than more respected actors have given.

Which reminds me that I must find out when Paycheck comes out on dvd.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Did You See...





Sorry about the delay. We went down to Rochester to help out Meg's mum (who's not well), stayed for Easter, and stayed a bit longer still because the car broke down...
Meg's grandpa is doing okay, and my uncle seems to be doing quite well.
We got to see Hellboy down there, and we both loved it. It has its flaws, but none are significant. Good fun, and much better than I expected it to be.
Next up is 13 Going On 30 (I know...), then a double-bill (ha!) of ultraviolence with The Punisher and Kill Bill Vol 2. We're nothing if not eclectic...

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Broken Relatives


My uncle is still in critical condition, but recovering. Meg's grandfather had a heart attack a couple of days ago, but also seems to be recovering. And Meg's mum has just developed a condition which may need some kind of gruesome surgery to fix.
On the whole, I think that I would have preferred for this past week to have had a different theme, actually.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Inappropriately Titled


A few days ago, my uncle Peter had an aneurism while celebrating his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in Las Vegas. That would be a textbook definition of "shitty luck". So the past few days have been a bit crazy. I'm not particularly close to him, having not seen him for at least ten years, but even so, the news affected me a great deal. I've found it hard to concentrate on anything, including finding things to blog about, which is why the only post I've done for a week was about a film I didn't particularly like.

Peter's getting better. He's conscious, and he's aware of what's going on. He can't talk because he's on a breathing machine, but he's been communicating with his hands, so there's a very good chance that if there is brain damage, it's quite minimal. Peter's mother, my grandmother, recently had a stroke and pnuemonia, and recovered seemingly through sheer willpower. Obviously such tenacity runs in the family.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Spotless


It's Sliding Doors without the middle-class smugness. It's Vanilla Sky without the general lack of redeeming features whatsoever. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind was a beautiful and clever film with a good script and superb performances from the whole cast (expect the same shocked proclamations of "Egad! Jim Carrey can act!" that we got after The Truman Show and The Cable Guy). But I didn't like it. It wallowed in its cleverness, it wasn't nearly as funny as it thought it was, and like so many films today (especially of the "independent" sort) it quite obviously subscribed to the Happy Endings Are Bad school of thought as it dragged the plot kicking and screaming not to its logical end, but to a more cynical climax more acceptable to goatee-stroking film students.
It was a romantic comedy that didn't have the courage to be a romantic comedy.

After that disappointment I'm looking forward even more to Hellboy, which should offer a refreshing lack of pretentiousness as well as big monsters smashing stuff up.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Ah! Spring!


The sun is shining, animals are becoming more active, and people seem more cheerful. The air is full of bird song, the trees are starting to bud, and as the ice melts, all around is the scent of slowly-defrosting dog poop.

Lovely.

(I take no credit for this observation. Meg is the one who pointed it out.)

With Apologies To The INS


Yesterday, I described the INS as "Bush's Keep The Darkies Out Department". Well, I do think that most of the Bush policies have been racially, religously and socially bigotted, including the creation of the sinisterly-named Department of Homeland Security, and that the system is still stacked against the non-white, non-English speaking applicant. All that said, the "officer" who interviewed us was less of a quasi-Nazi stormtrooper, and much more of a kindly aunt. From criticising the government and the country during a videotaped interview, to allowing us to leave to get a missing piece of paperwork and then return to finish the interview, she was a pleasant and helpful person. So, the government and its policies may bring to mind the actions of jackbooted lunatics with funny mustaches, but the people working within the system aren't necessarily of the same mould.
That missing bit of paperwork was the only hitch in what was indeed a formality. Yet again, the lurching bureaucratic monster that is immigration failed to tell us about something important we'd need later on, and we were lucky to be able to work around it this time.

So I have a green card, which is neither green nor a card, and a splitting headache due to a lack of sleep and a sudden and unexpected heatwave in these parts. It is so strange to walk around in the beating sun and see the lakes still frozen over.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Wish Me Luck (II)


Tomorrow morning, we have our Green Card interview. This is where Meg and I sit with an official from Bush's Keep The Darkies Out Department*, and are videotaped as we try and convince said official that we are indeed married and that I did not marry Meg just so I could live in the United States (hahahahahaha!).
This is the last time we'll have to do this. From now on, there'll be periodical check-ups, but those are a formality. This will likely be a formality too, but this is the last time that things could conceivably go wrong.


*This is not a view held by Brainsplurge. Rather this is what Brainsplurge sees as the general message given out by Bush administration policies over the past few years.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Doctor Look Out!


So, Christopher Eccleston will be Doctor Number Eight. A good choice, I think.
They have a bunch of good writers on the show, and it looks like they're taking it seriously. Should be good.
I'm just hoping that (1) an American network picks it up, and (2) that they get Orbital to do, at the very least, the theme.

And if you click on the Orbital link up there, you'll see that the boys have a new album coming out this year. More good news!

I'm reading Jack Staff right now. Well, actually, right now, I'm downloading Discworld from here and typing this, but once I've finished typing this, I'll go back to Jack Staff. Discworld will continue to download happily in the background for the next, ooh, five hours, two minutes and six seconds. That's the curse of dial-up.
And of course, what I'm doing right now, depends entirely on when you're reading this. I think. Einstein would know.
I'd heard wonderful things about Jack Staff over the past couple of years, not least that it kept edging The O Men, one of my favourite comics, out of awards. I started getting it with issue four of the second volume, published by Image. I'd also downloaded the first issues of both volumes from the Image site. Of course, this left me rather confused in terms of storyline, but I liked what I had read enough to get the (expensive but well worth it) collection of the first volume as well as the first three issues of the Image series.
The titular hero is a sort of alternate universe version of Marvel's Union Jack with a bit of Gambit thrown in. He operates in a world populated by versions of classic British comic characters, most of whom are not superheroes because Brits Don't Do Superheroes. It even features Steptoe and Son (American translation: Sanford and Son) as a vampire-slaying father and son team. The art's stripped down and simplistic, but in a good way. The writing is superb, mainly because writer/artist Paul Grist really knows how to structure a story. The narrative jumps forwards and backwards in time, and multiple story threads almost always start off in disarray before coming together in an elegant finish. This is most evident in the way that each issue is presented as a mock-anthology (again because in terms of comics, Brits Only Do Anthologies) with each of the characters appearing in their own "strips" which are nonetheless all part of the same plot. It's hard to describe, but it's very impressively done. So if you read comics and aren't getting Jack Staff, then you should go out and buy it.

And Martin will kill me if I don't also say "buy The O Men too!" but I was going to say that anyway, because if you like superhero comics at all, you really should. He's one man with a bunch of pens and a photocopier, but Martin frankly puts most of the professionals to shame.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Bugging


I was rudely awoken yesterday morning by someone tromping about in our flat. Don't know who it was, as I only just got a brief glimpse of him as he turned around and left after seeing me in bed. He would appear to have been someone official, as he locked the door behind him, but he didn't appear to be the normal maintenance bloke...
Later, we got in a panic as Meg found a cockroach in her water by the side of the bed. We have a dread of the little buggers because the flat was infested when we moved in. They were all killed off, but whenever we see an insect in the flat now, we fear the worst. Luckily, it wasn't a cockroach this time, but one of these. Still ugly as heck, but not an infestation-level crisis. Oh, and the one we have in a glass is as big as the one in the picture. ;)

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Finally


After an ebarrassingly long delay (which was all my fault, no excuses), page seventeen of the comic is done! It'll go up as soon as Spooky has the time to upload it, but it'll most likely be in a week or so, by which time I'll probably have at least one more page done. Once again, I was quite proud of it at first, but within minutes of finishing it, I started to dislike it.

Oh, and I just stole this from biLly. It's very very rude, but very very funny. If anyone knows how I can save it (it's a Flash presentation), let me know.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Prograpirents


The highlight of the week's telly (not that I watch a lot of it, as the combination of poor reception and even poorer programming puts me off) has undoubtedly been last night's episode of espionage-soap-opera Alias. This is down to a number of factors. Pretty much the entire length of the episode was focused on the main plot involving interrogating a terrorist in order to find out how to disarm a bomb on an aeroplane. It's been done countless times before, not least every single week on the 90's Superman show, where it went a bit stale, but it was done very well here. The tension was cranked up and the decision to have one of the heroes and the main villain both on the plane at the same time and have them collaborate to disarm the bomb was very clever. The episode wasn't ambitious as Alias is at its peak, but told a good solid action/espionage story, and as such was better than almost all of this third season, which has focused mostly on the soap opera element of the show, something which due to the cast's general incompetence regarding actual acting has never really worked. There was a bit of this at the end of the episode, as Jennifer Garner had a good cry accompanied by whatever coffee-shop-music the production company was plugging this week, but it lasted less than two minutes, and didn't interrupt the action, so that was acceptable.
The other factor which made this a very watchable episode was the utterly bizarre casting of Ricky Gervais as the bomb-making terrorist. After the terribly clichéd opening in Belfast (Heavy drinking? Check. People dressed like nineteenth-century peasants? Check. Jolly dancing music? Check. They stopped short of wandering bands of Catholic priests and horses running wild in the streets, but only just.), I was dreading Gervais appearing with some awful Oirish accent, but he was allowed to use his own accent. In fact, he was allowed to be himself, as it seemed like Ricky Gervais had, rather than play a character, simply walked onto the Alias set and they'd just carried on filming. It reminded me a lot of those things they do at awards shows over here where they splice the host into currently-popular films. He just sat there taking the piss out of it all, including Garner's hair. I suspect he was given a bit of leeway with his script, as Alias is never funny. So he was funny, and it was certainly fun to see him turn up in what is usually such a po-faced programme, but the most striking thing was that towards the end of the episode, he dropped the cheeky English chappie characterisation, and gave us a surprisingly chilling look at the murderous aspect of his character. You know when, in the Hannibal Lecter films, Anthony Hopkins stopped overacting for just a bit and just sat there silently and stared? It was just like that, except without Hopkins' cartoonish japery. Very creepy. Meg pointed out that The Office isn't exactly a jolly laugh-fest and is actually quite dark, so it shouldn't be surprising that Gervais could pull off such an effectively evil performance, and I suppose that's true.
The next Alias looks to consist of Jennifer Garner blowing stuff up and shooting the heck out of everything else, which should be fun, as long as there's none of the embarrassing soap opera antics. But what I'm really rooting for is a return appearance by Gervais' character, and the ending of this episode was left open enough for that to happen.

On a related note, the upcoming American remake of The Office is apparently going to be called The Office: An American Workplace. I've never understood the tendency to tack one's nation's name onto everything it produces. I suspect that every nation does it, but I've only noticed it in the move over here. It's "American" this, and "American" that. The cynic in me says that it's the American tendency to think "American is better" that's at work here. The absurdist in me says that Americans often forget where they are and need reminding. It would explain all the flags...

Not much else to report, other than the fact that we went down to visit the in-laws over the weekend, and so I've completely failed to get page seventeen of the comic finished by the end of the week as I'd hoped. May I be thrice-damned to Heck for my crimes against productivity.

Finally, it looks like I might, for the first time ever, start getting an X-Men comic on a regular basis. Usually I'm of the opinion that X-Men comics are a bit...well...naff, but there's something special about this one. More on that exciting news story as it happens. Bet you can't wait!

And that's me done, because that's the longest post I've done in ages, and it's about nothing of importance. Goodnight all.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

An Almighty Cock-Up


Meg's just bought Bruce Almighty on DVD. Upon starting it up, we found that before the menu loads up, we are shown a bunch of trailers that we can't skip through at all. We can't jump straight to the menu, we can't skip past them, we can't even pause them.

They're not even good trailers, or even bad trailers for good films. Bollocks.

Friday, March 12, 2004

"Chicken Tikka, tell me what's wrong..."


Well, it wasn't a disaster...as such. Oliver's "fifteen-minute" curry recipe actually takes an hour and a half to cook, and I'm sure that our inability to find curry leaves and fenugreek didn't help. I thought it tasted like a spicy tomato sauce, whereas Meg tries to bolster my confidence by saying that it definitely tasted like the mild tikka masala that "comes in the bottles with the picture of a man's head on them". The important thing, I suppose, is that it tasted good, and I'm no longer apprehensive about making curries.
So a success on that front then. Now I need to sit down and digest, which might be less successful...

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Wish Me Luck (I)


Tomorrow, I shall be attempting to cook a curry for the first time since a disasterous chicken tikka incident in 2001 that dented my confidence somewhat. I've been craving curry for ages (after all, I am English...), and while Liam helped abate that a bit earlier this year (or was it late last year?) with a lovely curry-flavoured-chicken dish, the craving never went away. So tomorrow, a real curry will be prepared, following a recipe designed by some gimp from Essex, modified in places due to the fact that we live in a predominantly Jewish area of St Paul, where traditional Indian ingredients are a tad difficult to find. It will probably be inedible filth.

On a completely unrelated note, my writer's block concerning page seventeen of the Spooky's Dungeon comic strip has disappeared, which is a great relief. Since the later pages are scripted and laid out, I should be able to get a page or two done by the end of the week. For some reason, I'm really enthused about the strip at the moment, and it's both an excellent way to keep practising my drawing and to showcase my skills, although the early pages are atrocious and I keep finding faults with the later ones!

And on a completely, completely unrelated note, I'd like to mention that Ogre Battle is a superb game, and I'm astonished that I missed it the first time around.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

On Homosexuals, Apocalypse, Numb Appendages And Blokes Twiddling Their Knobs


Mark Morford in San Fransisco asks why gay marriage hasn't led to the end of civilisation, apparently unaware that on the very same day half a world away in Somerset, the signs of apocalypse have begun to appear.

And yes, I did steal the latter link from Nagl. Despite his visual similarity to various nefarious evil-doers, he seems to be a decent bloke, so I'm sure he won't mind...

My arm is feeling a lot better now. The pain has gone, but now it just feels tired or strained or something. But I can use it again, which is the important thing, so it's literally back to the drawing board for me, to see if I can get a couple of Spooky's Dungeon pages done by the end of the week. Actually, it should be quite easy to do, as I've got the next few pages planned out and scripted, but page seventeen (the very next page) is proving problematic. I've drawn it all out in pencil, and I know how the plot moves through the page, but I'm having a real trouble in scripting it. It's been sat on the desk for a week, unfinished. Bah.
I received a package full of CDs from my brother yesterday, so perhaps the likes of Boards Of Canada and The Crystal Method will inspire me!

Brainsplurge's Comic Reviews!
(Part 2 of an interminably dull series)


Actually, it's Part Nothing, because I've joined Silver Bullet Comics' reviews team, so if you want to see just how crap this month's Avengers is, go here. You'll find another review here, and a third here.
On a completely unrelated note, it's offical, God exists!. Wow.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Owie!


My entire lower right arm is currently exploding in a cavalcade of pain and hot tingly feelings even at rest. Meg thinks I might have developed tennis elbow, but I think it's unlikely both because my symptoms don't seem to match those of tennis elbow and because I haven't been doing anything particularly strenuous with said arm (hello Rad!). Yes, I've been doing a fair bit of drawing, but I've done more drawing in a shorter time before, so unless I'm getting old, I don't think it's tennis elbow. Oh well.

Talking, as it were, of my drawing, Spooky has uploaded the two new pages of the webcomic. The more I look at them, the less I like them. I don't think I can look at them any more, so you'll have to go instead... As soon as my arm stops doing whatever it's doing, I'll get some more pages up there. If Richard and Fred can get two or three pages up a week, then so can I. I may have to have a word with Spooky about changing it from an "e-comic" to a "webcomic". When I started the thing back in 1999 (16 pages in five years! Wow!), I was so pleased with the term "e-comic"...

Here's some bloke I've never heard of who claims to have a "reputation" asking Alan Moore, a man I have heard of, five questions. There are actually more than five questions, mainly because the bloke apparently worships Moore, and because Moore is an erudite fellow not accustomed to pithy answers, but that's no problem, because Moore is...er...an erudite fellow, and crikey my arm hurts.

Taking that into account, the sensible among you are no doubt questioning my decision to choose tonight of all nights to write my longest blog post in months. I am beginning to see your point of view...