Monthly Archives: October 2011

Penn Jillette’s Atheist 10 Commandments

Found here, at NeoGaf and at USA Today.

A magician amongst men. Or something.

And, for the most part, we’re talking common sense:  ‘Do unto others’ isn’t exactly a solely religious strategem by which to live one’s life, and so it appears in Penn Jillette’s list.

When it comes to it, getting along together in the only life that we have shouldn’t be too acutely absurd a notion, yet so many people of religious faith and non-believers want to butt heads when the obvious answer is clear –

Hit it boys!




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Fluffrick is now legal…


So, I only went and passed my driving test today.

I know, I know – there was no rolling thunder in the skies, no portents of the last days, no sudden outbreaks of dogs and cats living together, but nonetheless it actually happened.

I can now cruise the streets of Sheffield unfettered by L-plates, and I can even go places on my own. A big deal to a teenager, but it’s curiously enticing to me too.

That said, this is clearly the worst ideas in the history of bad ideas: now that I can drive, I can drive myself to see so many more bloody awful films at the cinema on my own, so that Mrs Rolling Eyeballs doesn’t have to suffer through them – which, come to think of it, is quite cool for her.

Crappy, 3D horror films here I come!

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‘Hijinks Ensue’ breaks down that Whedon Shakespeare movie…

Well, it had to happen – Joel Watson at Hijinks Ensue has a peak into the mind of geek auteur Joss Whedon, on the occasion of his guerilla Shakespeare project, “Much Ado About Nothing”.

Image of Alexis Denisof & Amy Acker via Entertainment Weekly magazine.

The plan is currently for the film to make the festival route in the early part of 2012 before picking up a cinematic release – it would make an intriguing, ‘compare & contrast’ double bill with fellow Marvel director Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 version, wouldn’t it?


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Filed under Books, Films, Geekery

“Ready Player One” is the best book of the year.

The best book of 2011. Please kiss my ass, Booker Prize judges.

Not many novels hold my attention long enough for me to finish reading them.  I used to have a fifty page test, which gave any book that I was reading a reasonable amount of time to get its hooks into me and compel me to finish it.

With not enough time to do all of the stuff that I really want to do, a book/movie/game/album really has to grab me in order for me to keep going with it – there’s always something else out there that I could be enjoying and if I’m not into the world that the artist is creating, I don’t see the point in continuing the charade that I’m enjoying it.

I can honestly say that Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One” is the best thing that I’ve read in a while – Cory Doctorow’s “For the Win” comes a close second – and is certainly the best book that I’ve read this year.

If you grew up in the 1980s, then this book is absolutely and completely for you.  It’s a dynamic, propulsive adventure tale driven by puzzles, nerdy arcana, a dizzying grab bag of pop cultural references (I promise you – at one point in the novel, I found myself thinking “Y’know, it sure would be great if Cline found a way to work  ‘Real Genius‘ into this story”, only for him to do just that, mid-way down the page that I was reading. Spooky).

The plot revolves around a fairly grim future, beset by environmental blight, energy shortages and mass poverty – a world which most people willingly escape from by logging into OASIS, a virtual reality evolution of the Internet which allows users to submerge themselves in an infinite series of user-created worlds, games and quests.

When the reclusive inventor of OASIS James Halliday dies, his last legacy is to leave the users of the OASIS a game whose eventual prize is control of OASIS itself and of Halliday’s vast fortune.

It’s Xbox Live meets Second Life and Facebook on Energy Drinks informed by the pop culture of the 1980s and far more glorious than that pat series of analogies can possibly do justice to.

The novel’s blurb from “True Blood” author Charlaine Harris absolutely says it best – “I loved every page”.  I did too. And she, by her own admission, is not a gamer.

Not that you have to be, because Cline does an excellent job of explaining the likes of “Zork”, “Pac-Man” and “Joust” to people who may never have picked up a controller or jabbed buttons in a furious effort to stave off imminent virtual death.  Similarly, if you’ve never seen an eighties-released fantasy film, this novel will have you seeking out the Jim Henson back catalogue, “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension!” and “Ladyhawke” so that you can see what you’ve been missing.

Given that 80’s pop culture seems to have been directly influencing contemporary music and fashion for at least the last five years (being of a certain age, it’s impossible not to watch Lady Gaga and feel that her stuff’s fine but you preferred it when it was called “True Blue” and by Madonna) it seems like the perfect time for this book to have been written.  If you can’t understand a reference – and there were a few which had me hurtling in the direction of the internet for confirmation – you’ve got a damn good chance of decoding it with a brief diversion to Google on your smartphone.

And how much like science fiction does that last sentence sound to anybody who remembers loading their home computer games from cassette tapes?

I should do some summing up.  This is a wonderful novel.  If you loved the pop culture of the 1980s, consider yourself an unashamed geek and need to read something which will leave you a warm glow for hours after you’ve finished it, you need to pick up this book.

It’s sheer, nerdy undiluted joy.

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“ParaNorman” – from the twisted minds that brought you “Coraline”

Did you enjoy “Coraline”?.  Of course you did. Sympathetically adapting the great Neil Gaiman, Providing another showcase for Henry Selick’s stop-motion animation, lightly handling a blissfully creepy tone and wonderful storytelling in the grand tradition of European fairy tales – what, in a very real sense, is there not to like about “Coraline”?

Like a snapshot from my life this is, let me tell you...

Eager for another slice of off-kilter animation with a ghoulish twist?  Laika and Focus Features are releasing “ParaNorman” in the Autumn of 2012, which pits an outcast child against spooks, spectres and clueless townsfolk in an effort to save his home town from disaster.  It’s not from the pen of Gaiman, but looks wonderful all the same – the hero exploring the haunted house with the light from a mobile phone, his emo sidekick with the distended earlobes, the Donovan song as underscore, the charmingly gruesome toothbrush at the end of the trailer mark this out in some ways as an antidote to the more twee fare which passes for family-friendly animation.

I'm getting a 'Limbo' vibe, peeps. That's a GOOD thing...

Directing the film are Chris Butler and Sam Fell, who’ve worked on the likes of “Corpse Bride”, “Flushed Away” & “The Tale of Despereux” between them, which bodes well.

The Film Stage have more, including the teaser trailer.

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Freddie W – YouTube’s FPS king

Pretty colours looks like ectoplasmz...

I love Freddie W’s YouTube videos.  He and his team make fantastic, frequently game-themed videos which show you just what semi-pro film-makers can do with some readily accessible software, cameras and a lot of talent.

Take a look at his newest, “Battlefield 4 trailer” video, for example.  Or his “Gamers commute” clip.  He’s a real talent and part of the reason that I watch more on-line content these days than traditional telly.

But he’s not alone – I found this “Doctor Who”themed video on Topless Robot this morning which amply illustrates why the Sonic Screwdriver’s multifarious abilities would well and truly break the quasi-realism of most action movies (a slight content warning – if mild gore is not your thing, you might want to avoid the video as it features a somewhat graphic, John Woo-style head shot).

This might help you in a gunfight, but wouldn't the Doctor want to avoid that kind of thing in the first place?

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“Misfits” is back. In related news, the Daily Mail triples itself.

If you like your superheroes not very heroic, mostly without the burden of morality and singularly failing to be role models to anyone but the criminally insane, you’ll be as delighted as I am to see that E4 are showing the third series of “Misfits” from Sunday night.

Alisha and Simon. Ain't young (super-powered, time-travelling) love grand?

This would be a trailer for season three.  With somebody in the gang who certainly isn’t Robert Sheehan.  But I’m sure he’ll be an excellent addition.

After what happened at the end of the Christmas special – as I don’t want to spoiler anybody, let’s just say that shizz hit fans, stuff got mental and nobody’s quite who they once were –  I’m intrigued to see how the third series will play out.

Just how far can they go with the ‘ASBO youth with super-powers’ schtick of previous series, because I thought that the second series did some excellent sci-fi storytelling which might have run the risk of alienating the part of the audience who turned up for gross gags and OMG moments.

More of this fellow, please, and heavy on the 'timey-wimey' gubbins if you don't mind.

Episode One is on E4 at 10:00pm on Sunday and definitely won’t be available by entirely legal, copyright-friendly interweb channels soon thereafter.  Ahem.




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Reports of Nintendo’s death may have been exaggerated…

Oh, Bitter Wallet.  As well as providing me with ample consumer guidance and much in the way of Teh Lolz, you also find time to make with the excellent trolling.

Nifty hand-held or harbinger of corporate doom. Probably more the former, actually...

Witness the latest in their ‘Deathwatch’ series of posts, which seeks to update us on which retailers and organizations are ripe for the chop, in these times of austerity and penury – they’re only calling out chuffing Nintendo.

Yes, the 3DS didn’t set the world alight – is this more down to that market being well-and-truly overrun by smartphone games and tablet titles than shortcomings in Ninty’s platform? – but it’s not quite the White Elephant that many people would wish it to be.

Nintendo were pretty much in the same position when their Gamecube console arrived last gen and failed to win the hearts and minds that the N64 grabbed and they seemed to turn that around with the success of the DS and the Wii.

Nothing to see (yet), please move along…


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“Primeval” spin-off news

Has a show ever fallen faster from my affections than this one?

When it comes to genre telly, I like to believe that I’m not a snob – hence my enthusiasm for ITV’s attempt to purloin the Saturday night family audience with their dino-drama, “Primeval”.  Or should I say, my enthusiasm for the first series.

It didn’t have the budget of an American show – compare the money that Fox spent on the PILOT of “Terra Nova” with the cost of three or four SERIES of “Primeval” and weep at what ITV and Impossible Pictures managed to do with barely any cash at all – and it was very much the plucky wanna-be next to the all-conquering “Doctor Who”.

There was, though, something fun about it.  Was the craven attempt to ape Russell T Davis’ ‘New Who’ by casting a former pop star in a lead role?  Perhaps the presence of Ben Miller as boss-man James Lester, playing the kind of rapier-witted, perfectly-suited, two-fisted manager that the modern civil service could really do with right about now (I speak from a position of some knowledge, much of it hard-won)?

Was it the brave attempt by the writing and producing team to set this caper in present day Britain, with all manner of Jurassic nasties running amok through Asda car parks – product placement or ironic, sub-textual commentary on the bland and mind-numbing juxtaposed with the uncanny and extraordinary?

Whatever it was, for a time I loved it.  My geek crush on the show waned with the somewhat less-engaging second series and by the time that series three rolled around, I was totally out of the loop.  Watching some repeats on the cable and satellite channel Watch recently, I was completely unaware that Jason Flemying had been in season three – and reading through the Wiki summary of the show makes me think that I should be finding an entirely legal, wholly legitimate online stream of the stuff that I’ve missed.

Yep, here's your inevitable Hannah Spearritt picture.

The reason for this post?  Why yes.  SFX today has some more news on the Canadian spin-off for “Primeval”, which series co-creator Tim Haines is likening to “CSI” – does that mean that we’re going to get Callum Keith Rennie doing his best David Caruso impersonation and facing down anomalies armed only with a huge SUV and some Ray-Bans?

Mind. Boggled.

It’s not quite in production yet, but should be in the first part of next year.  And, intriguingly, the prospect of a tv show doesn’t entirely preclude the proposed movie adaptation – which is even now in the hands of “Fringe” writer Jeff Pinkner.

It would appear that you’ll be able to get your dino-fix for a good long while if everyone’s cretaceous ducks are placed in a row..





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A learner driver writes…

No, internet wit, the 'L' doesn't stand for 'Loser'...

I have my second driving test on Monday.  Yes, Halloween.  Not sure what to make of that date, but I didn’t really have much say in it – it was, as they say, available

The first one went mostly well until I completely botched a roundabout and somehow contrived how to deal with lane discipline.  I had no minor errors to speak of – but those major ones did me in.

So, second time around I plan to pass, if only because taking the test is so bloody expensive – each time that I’ve paid for the test I’ve been unable to escape the very real idea that I could have bought a game for that – probably even one of those absurdly overpriced collector’s editions.

I know, I know – the cost of driving only gets more expensive once you actually get your license and have to pay for insurance, MOT’s and all that jazz but I’m going to be splitting the cost with Mrs Rolling Eyeballs, as I really don’t need to own a car myself.  I live in a city and there just isn’t the room to park another vehicle in the area that I live in.  I might be able to park a unicycle – the jury’s out on that.

Am I confident?  I know that I’m a pretty decent driver – something that I suspect which comes with age, experience and a healthy sense of pathological distrust for everybody else on the road – but the actual belief in my ability to pass the test is something else.  Everyone around me – including, thankfully, my long-suffering teacher – is positive that I can do it.  I know that I can do it – I just have to lock to let the glass half-empty side of my personality securely away for a couple of hours on Monday so that my inner Negative Nigel can be wholly and completely usurped.

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