Friday, March 25, 2005

Going tramping. Back in a week.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Jon Tells You What to Think Installment 1

Yeah I know I said I'd post this on Saturday, but uh, I was busy, with important stuff, definitely not just lying around in bed all day! In the future I guess it's probably a good idea not to believe me if I say I'm going to post anything during the weekend.

So what's this all about then? Well in the expected absence of anything else to talk about for the next wee while, I'm going to be posting a list my top twenty-five favorite albums of all time. Unoriginal I know, but you probably guessed I was going to do this at some stage anyway.

So here's numbers 25 to 21:

25: Hullabaloo - Muse

I feel a bit weird starting out with a live/b-sides album, but that's how it worked out. Even though it misses out the big singles 'New Born', 'Plug In Baby' and 'Bliss', the live disc has got almost everything else from 'Origin of Symmetry', and the erratic style of that album works better live than in the studio. Every song has at least a little bit of reworking and improvisation to improve it from the original version. Plus it has the awesome new song 'Dead Star'.

The b-sides disc is excellent too, easily ranking up there with their a-sides albums. It mainly displays their more eerie ambient side, which I guess is the sort of song that didn't fit very well on the frenetic 'Origin of Symmetry'.

24: King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime - Faith No More

'Angel Dust' is very good (and also nicely quirky and strange), but listening to the whole album can be a bit repetitive. 'Album of the Year' has some truly awesome songs, but also a few stinkers. 'King for a Day' is excellent almost from beginning to end (track 5, 'Star AD', is a bit crap). Mike Patton shows off his best Tomahawk style gibbering on 'Ugly in the Morning' and 'Cookoo for Caca'. The lyrics are mostly about drinking and partying too much, a subject I can identify with quite well. It's much more straight ahead rock than their other albums, which made it seem a bit boring to me for the first couple of listens, but given a chance the songwriting really shines.

23: White Pony - Deftones

Rap metal gone goth. It's very heavy, but with a sad moody undercurrent somewhat reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails. Chino Moreno's tortured howling fits the style perfectly, and he sings a brilliant duet with Maynard from Tool on Passenger.

22: The Final Cut - Pink Floyd

I don't think I've ever met anyone else who rates this album at all. In fact it's probably easily Pink Floyd's least popular album. I didn't like it much either at first, but after a few listens on my headphones I started to appreciate it. It has much the same story as The Wall, but told a lot more succinctly and with a stronger political interpretation. You can tell that Dave Gilmour and Nick Mason's hearts aren't really in it any more, but Dave still pulls out some pretty good solos. Roger Waters cleverly supports them with a lot of orchestration, which is very nicely composed by Michael Kamen.

21: Aenima - Tool

What else to say other than that Tool just kick arse. This is probably their most conventional album, with song structures hewing towards having actual choruses, but that's only a relative judgment. Maynard's lyrics are probably at their best here too, taking what would be very pretentious philosophical and occult concepts and shrouding them with symbolism and allegory (and anal sex references). Danny Carey's drumming is off the meter, but then again it always was. Even the throw away shorts between songs ('Intermission', 'De Eier Von Satan' and 'Message to Harry Manbeck') are excellent, even if a little jokey. And of course we end with the epic triad of 'Pushit', 'Aenema' and 'Third Eye'. On this album they put aside the weed long enough to write songs that are both concise and powerful, and managed to achieve a number of charting singles, so this is by far their most popular album. You might not be amiss to guess however, that since this one has come in at a relatively low ranking Tool might be making another appearance further up the list...

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Tickman Live!

Mark Knopfler - Live in Christchurch March 21

No photos again! I bought my camera this time, but it poked itself and I couldn't diagnose the problem in the dark theatre.

I won't post a detailed review of this one, for two reasons. First I don't actually own any albums by this guy, even (I'm ashamed to admit) any Dire Straits albums, so I could only put names to less than half of the songs. What I can say is that he played pretty much everything that a casual fan such as myself would expect. Secondly, I arrived late! I think I missed about half an hour. Luckily he began with mostly new stuff, so I didn't miss anything I'd really be kicking myself about.

It did kind of fuck me off though. I've never been to a rock concert before when the main act started within half an hour of the time on the ticket. Then again, I've never been to a rock concert before where the security guards were polite and friendly, everyone stayed seated for the whole show, and I didn't get patted down before I was let in the door.

A few notes:

First, drunk old people at rock concerts are scary. If you ever see me standing up out of my seat when I'm 50 to do some strange little dance thing and clap out of time, you have my permission to shoot me dead, because I'd obviously be in some kind of vegetative state.

The sound was amazing. Maybe I'm just used to heavy metal concerts where it sounds like the band is playing in a washing machine at the bottom of the ocean, but I thought the sound setup was phenomenally clear. You could really hear every note by everyone onstage.

Mark didn't talk much to the audience, but when he did he was very relaxed and friendly. Before he played the song 'Donny's Gone' he told a story about how Lonnie Donegan (I've no idea who he is) was his favorite musician when he was six, and that was when he started on the path to become a musician. I felt like jumping out of my seat and yelling "Mark! You were my favorite musician when I was six!" but I didn't want to make him feel old.

Everyone in the band was a very impressive musician, and they pulled out a few unusual instruments, like the accordion and the bazouki (a Greek stringed instrument a bit like a lute). I don't know if Mark literally played a different guitar for every song like I've read he does, but he certainly had at least half a dozen. If I was a bit more of a guitar geek I could probably talk about the different models he used, but I'm not.

So as for the set itself, I arrived during 'Romeo and Juliet', and by the time I sat down he was just going into 'Sultans of Swing', reworked with extra time for wank solos. It was an excellent chance for him to show off his technical guitar playing prowess, and I hung on every note.

After that he went through a few lesser known songs, before finishing the main set with an awesome rendition of 'The Telegraph Pole'. This is a bit of a special song for me, since I used to love it when I was a wee kid, and according to my parents I'd run around and round in circles listening to it over and over. I used to call it Tickman because of the solitary percussive beat going through the quiet patches, hence the title of the post. It's a real long epic song which moves between quiet sad parts to huge bombastic ones, and they really pulled it all out for this performance. It was exactly what I wanted to hear, and by the time they reached the climax of the song, which included some awesome guitar and piano parts, and more hard out drumming than a classic rock band has any right to, I was almost ready to jump up and start screaming with the middle aged women. Almost.

For the first encore he pulled out the huge crowd pleasers 'Brothers in Arms' and 'Money for Nothing'. The former was good, but I felt it was a little overworked. It's a song that benefits from a 'less is more' approach. I might be misremembering, but I think they cut out that cool drum solo at the intro of 'Money for Nothing', what were they thinking? They made up for it with an extended outro though. I was surprised how many people got up to leave before the encore. Did they think he just forgot to play his most popular songs?

The second encore began with 'So Far Away' a nice sad one, and ended with a pair of instrumental songs, that I recognised but couldn't name.

A very cool concert, Dire Straits gets moved way up the 'to buy' list!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Friday Half Assed Blogging

Assorted links for you today!

How to destroy the Earth. (via I can't remember where.)

Haunted NES console available on eBay. (via Game Girl Advance). Oooh, spooky... a real life ghost story!

New Scientist: 13 things that do not make sense. (Makes my inner science geek's skin crawl) (via Grumpy Gamer).

And a note about the site: I'm trying to save up for a new car at the moment, so that means I've got to limit my irrational spending, and that means no new CDs, no new comics, no new DVDs, and so on. So if you see me posting about anything like that, it means I've been bad and you should tell me off. So what am I going to write about instead? Starting tomorrow, the first in an exciting new series I've called 'Jon Tells You What to Think'!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Independent Games

So the Game Developers Conference (GDC, I may have mangled my de-acronymisation there) was on recently in California, and the game blogs have been buzzing about it. It sounds like it's the more mature thoughtful brother of E3, where all the biggest names in the games design business (guys like Will Wright and Warren Spector, if those names mean anything to you) get together talk about what they're working on, and lament the sad state of the video game industry today.

This has given the game blogs another opportunity to tackle their favorite subject: What can be done to stop the domination of the games industry by big stupid blockbusters like Halo, and make sure the little guy (most commonly exemplified by Katamari Damancy) can get published and find a niche market. I read this post on These Damned Machines are Killing Me and it touched off a few ideas in my head.

It's well known that the industry has grown massively in the last few years, and consequently the cost of developing a game now runs into the millions. This is providing a significant hurdle to smaller developers who have in mind games that may not appeal to the mainstream market. At the same time, we've also seen gaming as a medium break out of the geek ghetto and become accepted by a broader market. Every flat full of ruggers and munters has a PS2 with Grand Theft Auto. The broadening market goes hand in hand with the growth of the industry, and many games blogs bemoan this fact, as it means more games starring 50 Cent and fewer about the old school gamer's favorite sci-fi and fantasy settings.

I actually think the broader audience will end up working in the favour of those of us who aren't just interested in flasher graphics and more realistic breasts in our games. One thing I've noticed is that casual gamers aren't going to rush out and by the new console or the new GTA sequel immediately, they're more concerned with good gameplay than with the latest bells and whistles that the hardcore gamer crowd have traditionally beaten off to. Most gamers nowadays could care less about Doom3's super realistic graphics. They'd rather buy San Andreas (which looks pretty much the same as the original Grand Theft Auto that came out over two years ago). I hope that in the next few years we'll see developers cotton on to this fact, and instead of trying to make the hardware bleed more profusely with each sequel, they'll focus on developing gameplay and content, and license or re-use an older engine that has been already proven to work.

If you look around on sourceforge, there are numerous projects recreating game engines of long ago and allowing people to make their own games using them. (I've been considering starting work on one myself.) Maybe in a few years free or cheap engines will be decent and respectable enough for an independent games company to use one, produce a clever game (or at least a demo with which to market to a big company) without a huge investment and find a niche market, much the way independent films do today. Alien Hominid is an example of a successful game that did something similar to this just recently.

But then again, maybe I'm just an irredeemable optimist.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Cricketers Being Naughty

Three Point Turn have a good post about the Tuffey sex video business. What I want to know is who the hell decided this is a big deal, and what kind of freaky puritan parallel universe do they live in where they think that the general public of New Zealand is going to be concerned or even surprised that some of our sports people may be having casual sex?

Articles of Note

McSweeeny's was particularly funny this week. Especially this one.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Beyond Good and Evil

By Friedrich Nietzsche

So we've all heard of this crazy bastard Nietzsche , with all the cool quotes like “when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you”, and those of us who have done first year philosophy papers know the wacky stories about him, the syphilis, his bad luck with the ladies and so on. He's certainly a colourful character, and when I decided it was past time I checked out some grate litratcha, he was the first thing I grabbed off the shelf in the classics section.

I haven't written about anything quite so intellectually weighty as this here before and I doubt anything I could say about it is at all insightful or original, so I'm just going to plow ahead and say what I thought of each section.

  1. The introduction. This is written by some guy with a PhD in philosophy, and it was easily the hardest part of the book to read. It's just an analysis of the book, focusing on the most ambiguous bits. These kind of things always seem to be intended for the people who are already familiar with what they're about to read (even the introductions to the Sandman collections suffered from this) and if I was the editor, I'd put this stuff at the end rather than the beginning.

  1. The preface. (Written by Nietzsche ) Uh... pass?

  1. Part 1 – On the Prejudices of Philosophers. Probably my favorite part of the book, Nietzsche complaining about, criticising and mocking other philosophers, from his contemporaries back to Plato. I found many (but not all) of his points to be pretty much on target, despite being doused in a liberal amount of bile (he sure does hate Kant...) At any rate, it's quite fun to read. If Nietzsche was alive today, I think he'd make a good rapper.

  1. Part 2 – The Free Spirit. Here he starts to get into the beyond good and evil stuff, describing that rare group of people, the Free Spirit's, who are capable of transcending conventional morality. Naturally, he assumes the reader is one of them...

  1. Part 3 – The Religious Nature. Another fun chapter, wherein Nietzsche gives religion a sound beating. Not quite as fun as part 1, since he takes the threat to society of religion far more seriously than that of philosophers.

  1. Part 4 – Maxims and Interludes. A collection of short sayings and slogans, and the place where you can find the cool quote about the abyss. Unfortunately that's pretty much the highlight of the chapter, some of the other ones are OK, but there's a large number of them dealing with Nietzsche's very antiquated views of woman, which you probably don't want to get caught repeating anywhere nowadays...

  1. Part 5 – On the Natural History of Morals. Getting stuck into the rejection of morality again here. This is where I started to have problems with what Nietzsche is saying. Some of it rings true, I particularly liked the part where he points out that many people claim to derive their morality from some higher authority (God, Libertarianism, Auntie Helen, Slipknot), but with such a plethora of choices available, all we're really doing is picking the one that suits our pre-existing beliefs best and then invoking it to give ourselves credibility. In the end we're all making up our own morality anyway. Now that I think about it, that's probably not what his point actually was. Anyway, as I was saying, Nietzsche says that some of us are just inherently superior (intellectually) to the rest of the 'slaves', and that these people will not feel bound by what everyone else thinks is good or evil, and they will decide what is right and wrong for themselves. Nietzsche would almost certainly been appalled by the Nazis, but the fact remains that we already have enough maniacs in the world today running around thinking they're the sole arbiter of good and evil without needing to encourage them.

  1. Part 6 – We Scholars. Nietzsche now takes on scientists (and the philosophers again). He doesn't like science because it's too democratic, (it encourages us all to think that we are all made equal) and while scientists are very clever, they are weak willed and are really only useful as tools in the hands of a 'master'. As an engineer, I don't really know where to start pointing out the problems I have with all that.

  1. Part 7 – Our Virtues. Nietzsche finally gets around to describing what a Master's morality will actually be like. He definitely doesn't think pity will be a part of it. I guess being frail and sickly all his life left him with a severe dislike of being pitied. He also starts on the emancipation of women here again, which doesn't go down well with him. I'm tempted to describe him as misogynist, but he doesn't seem to actually hate women, just be very upset by the idea of one being considered his equal. One thing that bothered me in this chapter was his point that we shouldn't regard suffering as evil, as it's the only way we grow and learn. I've always figured that I'm trying to live with as little suffering in my life as possible, (and hopefully not inflicting any on anyone else either!), so I don't like this idea much. But I'm at a loss to refute it! Gosh darned alternate view points!

  2. Part 8 – Peoples and Fatherlands. Time to engage in a bit of old fashioned racism and national stereotyping. Everyone gets mocked pretty solidly (especially the British), the Jews not quite so much as the anti-Semites. Did everyone really have such a narrow view of nationalities back then? I thought nationalism was only about a century old when this was written.

  3. Part 9 – What is Noble? Nietzsche sums it all up. I'll take another pass on this one...

  4. From High Mountains: Epode. And we finish with a nice poem. I liked it, but I'm buggered if I know what it's about.

So there we have it. To be honest I found tough to read and understand, and I know that a lot of it went right over my head, but it did make me think, and that's good. He's certainly a witty and fun writer (I kept thinking 'How boozed was he when he wrote this?') and there'll definitely be a bit more philosophical writing in my reading list. But maybe not for a while...

Monday, March 14, 2005

Are You Sure You're OK to Drive Mitch?

First up, forgive my lack of posting over the weekend. I blame the alcohol fueled debauchery.

The Getaway: Black Monday

My obnoxious hipster contrarianism, which most noticeably manifests itself in my musical tastes, permeates even to my choices of Playstation games to buy. I was a fan of the original Grand Theft Auto, way back in the day when it was a minor success on the PC, but when GTA3 became a big hit on the consoles, the commercial crassness of it's success kept me away from it. Fortunately for snobs like me there's The Getaway, which uses the GTA game engine, but replaces the bourgeois gangsta trappings with quirky British coolness.

Not having played the more recent GTAs or the original Getaway, I'm not sure how the gameplay (or anything else) compares, but I imagine it's not much different. There are two different gameplay modes, on foot, in which it's a relatively standard 3rd person shooter, and in vehicles, in which you careen around the streets of London, running people over, blowing stuff up, and sowing general mayhem. I found the controls for the on foot parts quite hard to use, but I eventually got competent enough with them to get through the game. This might just be my unfamiliarity with console action games showing through again though.

In the beginning you play Mitch, a police officer, and about half-way through you switch to Eddie (and occasionally his sidekick Sam) who are rough but good hearted crims caught in the middle of things. Gameplay wise there's little difference between Mitch and Eddie, Mitch doesn't have to worry about attracting the attention of the police while causing havoc on the roads, and Eddie has all sorts of hand-to-hand combat moves, which you'll almost never use because you'll pick up a gun as soon as you can. Sam's missions are all stealth and no fighting. They're a nice change of pace, but the levels are very linear and really don't compare well to the likes of Thief.

Vehicle missions are the specialty of the GTA engine, and this is easily the best part of the game. Many a gleeful cackle was heard to escape my lips while hooning the wrong way down a one way street with the police in hot pursuit, the gangsters I'm chasing firing back at me with their uzis, and rows of pedestrians getting mowed down in all the carnage. There are a wide variety of cars to drive, although probably not as many as in GTA, since this game is a little more concerned with gritty realism, but you can still steal a big red double decker bus! Yay!

The on foot missions make up the bulk of the playing time, which is unfortunate, because they're not nearly as fun. The lack of a free camera means that every time you go through a doorway you're going to get nailed a couple of times by any enemies who aren't standing right in front of you when you enter the room. It's frustrating and just bad game design.

The level design on the other hand is very well done. The annoying on foot levels kept me persevering despite their flaws because I wanted to see what came next. There's nothing too exotic about the locations, it's your usual Warehouse Level, Boat Level, Sewers Level (you've always got to have a level themed after the sewers!), although a porn studio level is quite unique and memorable. But they change the settings and style of the action enough to keep you interested right up until the end. The vehicle missions all take place in the same impressive replica of central London. There's a lot of detail here (although I don't know how accurate it is) and it's nice just to drive around and look at it. You can even go sightseeing and see St. Paul's Cathedral, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and other famous landmarks.

After you've finished the story mode, there are a few other bonus gameplay modes (with additional levels opened up by obtaining trinkets in the story mode) which offer a bit more longevity for the game. There's plain old racing mode, police chase mode, and black cab mode. In the latter you have to drive a cab around town and make a certain amount of money within the time limit. These Londoner's are a strange lot, they'll give you just enough time to get to their destination but only if you drive at 100kph down all the one way streets in the wrong direction, and then complain about your driving just because you ran over half a dozen people on the way.

There's also free roaming mode, which just allows you to drive around the city with no set objective or restraints. It's a good way to go sightseeing and appreciate the setting's design without worrying about anyone shooting at you. Until of course you give in to the destructive urges, steal a bus and run down a bunch of pedestrians, then the police start chasing you, you kill a few of them and take their weapons, hey, it's just like GTA...

The plot is fairly generic, just your usual nonsense about feuding gangs, evil corporations and a couple of plucky heroes stuck in the middle of it all. It starts out pretty good, like an unusually violent and profane version of The Bill, (which I reckon would make for an interesting game), but it pretty soon devolves into cliché. On the other hand, the cut-scenes are pretty entertaining, just for the earthy Englishness of it all. (I think this is the first time I've heard the word 'cunt' used in a video game.) They're pretty much the only reason I persevered through the first few levels while I was struggling with the controls.

Graphics are very good (for a console), and while it's all a bit grainy the vistas of the cityscape and the Thames are impressive nonetheless. Sound is nothing special, except for the voice acting, which is all top notch, something very rare in the cheesy video game industry.

This is a pretty cool game in a lot of ways but I often found the gameplay to be frustrating and not much fun. In the future I think I'll stick to playing action games on the PC, and use the PS2 for RPGs. Which brings up a pet peeve, why do we not get any console RPGs over here? Sure we get Final Fantasy and most of the big ones, but I've read about loads of cool sounding games that are released in the States and never make it over here. Do they get them in Australia? Europe? If I put a modchip in my PS2 will it be easy to order these games from overseas? If it wasn't for the stupid fucking region locking I would have bought a shitload of them while I was in Singapore.

Friday, March 11, 2005

It's Been Ages Since I Had a Good Comshok

Angel Season 2 Part 2

So when we left off in part 1, we were watching Angel slowly lose it and turn to the dark side. Part 2 is unusually structured, since the big climax of the 'Angel going bad' plot thread comes only a few episodes in, rather than at the end of the season as you would expect.

I've noticed that both Buffy and Angel have similar structures for the seasonal story arc. There's always a big climax shortly into the second half of the season, for example in Buffy season 5 it was the death of Buffy's mum. In that case it was something that wasn't related to the main arc, but which altered the direction of the story thereafter. Angel season 2 kind of reverses this scenario, as the main story arc is actually ended in the mid-season climax, and they start a whole new 4-episode arc for the end of season climax. This confused me the first time around (when I was watching it on TV), but this time I think I understood a bit more what the writers were up to.

I never quite bought Angel's decision to turn away from the path he was on and go back to his friends in 'Epiphany'. Even though it makes sense that having sex with Darla didn't turn him evil (since she didn't make him 'truly happy') his emotional about-turn is a bit too sudden and convenient for me. What I'm saying is that while I buy the reason behind it, I think they rushed the execution a bit and they should have spent a bit more time on his decision not to give in to despair. Instead we see several episodes of Angel trying to earn back the trust and friendship of his former allies, which is OK but I thought it missed the real point.

The last few episodes are plot-wise unrelated to the rest of the season. The characters discover portals to another dimension and travel there, where they confront a host of demons both metaphorical and physical. As this was the second time I'd watched this stuff, I saw how what happened to Angel there reflects what was going on in the earlier episodes thematically. His demon and human aspects are more clearly separated in the other dimension than they were on Earth, so when he goes demon his evil side is well and truly exposed for all to see. However despite this, Fred (a new character who has 'innocence' written all over her) recognises the hero in him and judges him "a good man", tidily answering the unresolved issues left over from the earlier story arc.

They also try and do similar things with the other three characters. Wesley and Gunn's stories (Wesley learns to be a leader, Gunn accepts that he's left his former crew behind) are a bit thin and uninteresting. Cordelia's is entertaining enough, but seems to me to be one last attempt to completely separate her current strong-willed competent character from the self-centred ditz she was back on Buffy.

While I think they dropped the ball a bit when it came to the character development, the writing is still pretty good and this collection of episodes marks the occasion when I could finally say that Angel attained the honour of being almost as good as Buffy.

Best episodes: 'Disharmony' - definitely the funniest of the collection, with both Harmony the bimbo vampire cameoing from Buffy, and the baddies being a gang of vampires led by a pyramid scheme promoter/ self-improvement guru.
'Reprise' - the last episode of Angel in crazed vigilante mode, has cool climactic encounters with both Darla and the evil lawyers, and some very sad scenes involving Detective Lochley, who I think leaves the show shortly after this, which is a pity because she was one of my favorite characters. Her relationship with Angel was convoluted, but still always logically consistent. There were many characters who disliked and mistrusted Angel, but she was one of the only ones whose motivations really made sense.

Bad episodes: 'Happy Anniversary' - a scientist is in danger of involuntarily ending the world with his time freezing machine. Yawn. Although I did find the scene where the demons surreptitiously help him with his physics equations quite interesting, it gave me all sorts of cool ideas about scientific knowledge among demons.

DVD extras: Again, I haven't listened to the commentaries, but the rest is very average.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Oh Spike, You're the Big Bad!

Buffy Season 5 Part 2

I was a little lukewarm on part 1, but the show definitely picked up the pace a lot for the second half. There are three things that I really liked about the shows in this set. First, the funny. The two robot episodes are some of the funniest Buffy episodes ever, especially the second ('Intervention'), where Spike builds a robot Buffy to be his sex slave, and wackiness ensues when her friends confuse the robot for the real thing. The first ('I Was Made to Love You'), is not quite as funny, but they do something quite clever, as it is one of the more light-hearted whimsical episodes but it ends with Buffy coming home to find her mum dead on the couch, which brings us to...

Second, the impressive. 'The Body' focuses on Buffy and everyone else dealing with her mum's death. It follows their process of grief in grim and unrelenting detail. There's no incidental music, and minimal supernatural or fantastic elements to break the believability. It's a very grim and affecting hour of television. Not very pleasant but I've never let that stop me from appreciating an artistic achievement.

Third, the big finale. The last episode, 'The Gift' was at one stage expected to be the last episode ever, so naturally they killed Buffy off. In a series that's known for it's exciting and dramatic season finales, this one is only middling, but it's still very very good. The final fight scene is pretty awesome, and the manner in which Glory, the big bad, meets her demise is both memorable and unexpected. And it ends with Buffy's big sacrifice (and obligatory speech to her little sister), I'm not normally a fan of drama but I found it to be one of the most emotional things I've ever seen on TV. Even though I knew she's getting resurrected.

The DVD extras were sparse, but good. I haven't listened to any of the commentaries yet, but the featurettes are quite enlightening. I was surprised to learn that they really had planned to add Dawn's character (and placed hints about her arrival in the show) right back at the end of season 3. And I thought I was just reading too much into things.

I have a few minor criticisms though, my main one being that they could have explored the similarity between Glory and Buffy a bit more. They're both hot blondes with superpowers, and I get the impression that she was supposed to represent how Buffy would have turned out if she wasn't the Slayer (i.e. the shallow Buffy we see back in the original movie).

In the end this season ended up holding up a lot better than I remembered from when it was on TV. It starts out a little shaky and without much direction, but builds up to a climax that combines the physical and emotional story arcs superbly. It's a lot more cohesive than season 4, and while I think the writing dips a little in quality, it's just because they'd been doing it for five years and the style is starting to get a little worn out. They revive it a bit in the next season by changing things a bit, but that's a post for another day.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Those Wacky Googlers

Many months ago I wondered how long it would be before people started coming across this site by searching for very strange things. Well, that day is more or less here. Today I got 'whip the horses eyes meaning' and 'wildebeest live for how long?'.

Hmm, there were a few other interesting ones but my visitor tracker no longer remembers them.

Anyway, there's a proper post on it's way tomorrow, featuring everyone's favorite subject, Buffy!

Not So Short Story

Mike the Corpuscle has posted a short science fiction novel he wrote ten years or so ago. I haven't read the last few chapters yet, but it's pretty good as far as I've gotten. A good way to spend a dull day at work.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Wot I Done Did in My Weekend

So I'm back.

Had a good time in Auckland. Went to see the Bleeders the night I got there, and they were pretty good, despite the fact that it was an AUT orientation show and the audience was full of giggly eighteen year olds.

Then I did four days of Aikido. Even though I bought my camera I didn't take any photos since I was training for most of it. The first day was kind of overwhelming, but after I got used to it I ended up enjoying myself and learning a lot.

The reason for the seminar was the visit of Doshu, the current head of Aikido and the grandson of the art's founder. He only taught for an hour every day but he bought along a swag of 7th and 8th degree black belts to fill in the rest of the day. One of these guys had been doing Aikido for fifty years, and had trained under the founder (he was pretty awesome).

The demonstration at the end was kind of interesting. There were a bunch of MPs there, including Don Brash and Rodney Hide, as well as the Japanese Consulate-General, and they were all given the chance to bore us to death with some pointless tedious speeches. At least Rodney Hide was mildly entertaining. As for the actual demonstration, most of the New Zealanders were kind of uninteresting for me, but it might not have seemed that way to a non-practitioner. It was interesting to see the difference between the different nationalities though, the Australian guy was chucking people all over the mat, while the Japanese sensei's tended to be concentrating more on showing the graceful side of their technique.

Anyway, it was pretty awesome getting to train with some of these guys. I got to practice with one of the top guys in Australia, and also one of the Shihans (like a sensei, but better) from Japan, who I believe was a 7th degree black belt. Now none shall stand against my Gung-Fu!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Emergency Blogcast Warning

I'm off to the Big A in about an hour, so there'll be no new posts for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Oh the Humanity

(via Paul Musgrave, again...)

This guy has written a very long essay analyzing the 60s British TV show 'The Prisoner', the 80s Polish TV show 'Decalogue' and the 90s Japanese TV show 'Neon Genesis Evangelion'. There's a lot of interesting stuff there, although I do think he goes of the deep end fairly often, however I was struck by the difficulty of reading this lit-crit type stuff. For example:

The historical event functions, in essence, very much like Adorno’s notion of the constellation, effectively mediating between the objective set of social relations and symbolic capitals (what Bourdieu terms the field), and the subjective set of positions, position-taking and strategic maneuvers in that field (the Bourdieusian habitus).
It does make more sense in context, but it seems to me that it could quite easily be rewritten in a much more accessible manner. Here's another one:

[...] video culture draws on a much larger library of mediatic narratives, which circulate across the length and breadth of the world-system.
If the terms 'world-system' and 'mediatic narrative' don't make your inner hard science snob roll it's eyes, I don't know what will.

I've always thought that the humanities often get unfairly maligned by science and engineering types, but I think if they want to get more respect they should make an effort to talk like normal people.

My own snobbish theory is that other disciplines, including the humanities but the worst offender is definitely management, see that every scientific discipline has its own set of jargon and exotic words that renders it incomprehensible to the lay person, so they decided to make up their own in order to achieve the same aura of esoteric knowledge.

The difference is that obscure scientific terms are invented for things that there were genuinely no words for previously. 'Bosons', 'relativity' and even 'gravity' are all concepts that no existing term could describe when they were discovered. I don't think you can say the same for 'leveraging' or 'world-system'.

It's All Over

So FAWM finished today. My hard work over the last month produced a grand total of three songs (I finally managed to squeeze one more out last night), which puts me 21% of the way to finishing.

In my opinion the first two are a bit average, but I'm relatively happy with the way the third turned out.

I'm not feeling too bad about my meager output, I've never tried to record actual proper music before so even though I didn't get anywhere near the goal it was a good excuse to stop procrastinating and learn how to use the software and how to put a song together, all formal like. I intend to keep writing new stuff even though FAWM is over, so hopefully by the time it rolls around next year my songwriting and recording skills will have improved a whole lot.

And as well as this the D&D game I was running is on hiatus, I don't know what I'm going to do with all this free time...