Oliver Postgate

Very sad to hear about the passing of Oliver Postgate; Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine, the Clangers, Bagpuss, all wonderful pieces of hand-made animation put together in an old cowshed in the finest tradition of the great British eccentric. And all lovely parts of that half imagined, half remembered childhood memory, part of the good childhood memories along with other rose tinted nostalgic memories which tell you that when you were young summers were always long and sunny, winters always came with deep snow to sledge on. Basic animation to be sure, but in the long ago time before multi channeled TV, the web or digital animation these were as essential to generations of British kids as their copy of the Beano. Another little piece of my childhood tumbles away…

Cool Doctor Who figures

I’m seriously liking the latest Doctor Who action figures range. You have no idea how hard it is to resist the urge to buy more of them when I see them at work! I couldn’t resist adding a Tom Baker figure (complete with his manic grin) from the Classic Who range to stand next to my David Tennant figure on my desk though. Yes, I know, I’m a big kid, so what? One of the best things about being grown up is being able to buy yourself some fun toys from time to time. And I know my friend’s wee boys will go mad for these too, think I know what to buy for at least two of my Christmas presents this year…

Magnum, PI

Can anyone enlighten me as to why I imagined a thrash metal version of the theme to old heavily moustached cult show Magnum PI? Its not like I’ve seen it anywhere recently, I don’t know where it came from, but for some reason when one of my colleagues shoved on some very loud rock after closing time while they were tidying the store I suddenly imagined the growling singer and thrash rock they had on covering the theme from Magnum PI.

New Mythbusters!!

Yay, new series of Mythbusters on Discovery!!! BBC2 showed a cut down version for a while but it never seemed to get going there, which is a shame as Beeb 2 is usually good with cult shows, but luckily it is available in the UK on Discovery. It has to be one of the best geek-friendly shows around, its fun, interesting, main presenters Jamie and Adam are a great straight guy/funny guy double act and as a bonus we get Kari Byron, the thinking geek’s pinup. Everything from rude myths like does a lit match get rid of the fart smell (leading Adam to have to build a rig to capture his bottom trumpets) to refloating a sunken boat using ping pong balls or trying out Archimede’s infamous ‘death ray’. Brilliant stuff. The only thing that could be better is if they did a motor myths special in conjunction with Top Gear.

Rockford

Can anyone tell me why I spent all day yesterday with the theme from the Rockford Files stuck in my head? I was humming in the shower first thing and realised it was the Rockford Files; thereafter it was in my head all day long. I haven’t seen it repeated anywhere recently or seen any old film on TV with James Garner, so gods know why it suddenly leapt out of the murky depths of my brain (I don’t care to look down into the recesses too much, I’m not sure what I’d find in there).

Heroes

If like me you’ve been following Heroes and thinking it is one of the best things on TV right now (whether you are a comics fan or not) you’ve probably been wondering when they might start creating some tie-in material to go with it. Well, DC has a graphic novel collection coming up soon which collects the comics material created online to go along with the series, available in two different cover editions, one by Jim Lee and one by Alex Ross, so if you’re trying to think on something for a Heroes fan for a present, here’s a big, fat, superpowered hint!

The ads I’d like to see

Adverts – some are funny, some are stupid, rarely do they make me want to buy something but boy, how often do some of them grate so much you dive for the remote to change channels? Except when you’re in the cinema and stuck with them. When I can’t get away from them in situations like that I stay sane by amusing myself with the version I’d like to see. Top of the annoying list has to be that little shouting twat Barry Arsehead who does the Cillit Bang ads. Cleaning product ads are often the lamest of all (especially since they often use the same footage across Europe and dub in appropriate language voice over which doesn’t match mouth movements), but the Cillit one is made even more annoying as this wee arse struts onto camera and bellows. It’s TV, you twonk, we can hear you perfectly alright without shouting. Quite why a short man shouting is supposed to make a product attractive to us is beyond me. I long to see a Cillit Bang ad where they strap that eejit down, force feed him five bottle of Cillit Bang, insert a fuse down his throat, light and run away – Bang! And the dirt is gone! Now there’s an ad I’d watch.

The mobile phone ‘flex’ adverts too bug me, especially the one that starts with the guy chattering away on his cell phone as he gets ready to go out, then gee, take the stairs or lift, no he goes out the balcony of his block and drops to the plaza below which becomes like a trampoline, flexing to allow him to land safely. I understand the ad is trying to say, look, we make our service flexible to suit you (which is bollocks, as we all know) but I can’t help but see it as a sign of the lazy and selfish attitude of many today: get everything out of my way, I want it my way, right now, sod off, me, me, me (the other phone ad where buildings and vehicles are all folded down flat to get out of the way of the hip young things illustrates this perfectly too – visually funny image, but if you think about it what happens to the people in those buildings???). The oh-so-cool guy doesn’t even look before he leaps; what if he landed on someone? Or even if he missed them what if someone was walking nearby when he makes the ground ripple, causing them to fall over and get hurt?

Yeah, I know, you’re thinking, Joe, don’t take is so seriously, its just an ad, which is true on one level but how often have you been bumped into by some twonk who is constantly talking on their phone and ignoring everything and everyone around them as they do, walking into them, knocking things over, not even pausing in their conversation even when dealing with someone like a sales assistant in a shop or the driver when boarding a bus (so bloody ignorant). A general symptom of the increasing selfishness and rudeness we see everyday in society. So I want to see this ad where the numpty jumps out of his window, plummets earthwards and suddenly he runs out of credit and hits the hard, stone plaza and does an impression of a giant pizza. Or he loses signal as he falls with a similar result. Or he lands safely again but the rippling, elastic flex of he ground as he lands caused someone to fall over and get hurt, then they sue him and the cell phone company for damages. And I have to admit there is a perverse part of me that almost wants to see some stupid idiot trying to replicate this ad in real life, be a great one for the Darwin Awards.

And while we’re at it, what the hell is with the constant use of faded-out colours and clothes styles which are used to try and create a 1970s film footage effect in so many ads? Cell phone ads are the worst for this. Once or twice is fine, but so many now do it I find I hate even the appearance of this stylistic.

Citroen, alive with technology as the French car suddenly becomes a Transformer robot and runs down the street. What happened to the driver when this happened? Don’t you just want to see this ad where the car transforms and there’s a wet scrunching sound as the driver find out what its like to become pate? Actually I don’t mind the Citroen ad too much, it looks quite cool, but what does annoy me is that lack of internal logic to the idea: I can suspend disbelief and go with a car which transforms into a robot for an ad, but really, what do the ad makers think happens to the occupants of the vehicle? If they ain’t horribly crushed they will at least be terrified and probably terrified of all motor vehicles for life after that.

And then there’s the ads that do what ads do best, try and pray on our fears of things not being quite right with our bodies. Don’t let diarrhoea ruin your day, take these pills. Then the other way round, don’t feel constipated, take this! Talk about being full of shit… Tell ya what, instead of popping an instant-fix pill as our modern, super-fast society demands and try actually eating right you stupid bastard! Got the runs? Eat decent, balanced foods and wash your hands before cooking rather than pop pills. Bound up? Again eat some decent food you numpty. Decent fibre or if all else fails a good curry and Guinness.

Truth and lies and videotape

The BBC admits a trailer for a programme on the queen was re-edited to give the wrong impression, TV phone in quizzes turn out to be falsified and fraudulent, Discovery has admitted that Bear Grylls’ survival programmes aren’t as authentic as they seem, he often sleeps in a nice motel and not under some desert rock with a lizard as we thought (personally I was more pissed off with seeing him killing a frog by biting its head off to then eat it. Survival trick maybe, but killing an animal like that isn’t necessary for a bloody TV programme, is it?)

… Gee, guess what? TV isn’t real! Even reality shows aren’t real. So why are we surprised? Yes, they were attempted to create a misleading impression, but all texts, every single text any person creates, from a simple photograph to a TV programme or film is informed by choices about how it is structured to give a particular impression, consciously or unconsciously; in media studies it is referred to as the paradigmatic and syntagmatic elements of the text, the selection and combination of elements desired to give a certain effect. The big surprise here is that anyone is really surprised that even factual programmes aren’t the solid, objective, truthful beam of light we might like to think. Everything is edited, everything even before being edited was decided to be shot in a certain way with certain light with certain people, places… What you see is only half the story at best and if a lot of folks have forgotten that – as it seems from the surprise – then it is a good lesson to relearn. Mind you, it does make you think about how we decide to base our opinions on anything and also consider just what is truth and what is real?

Blue Peter

What is the world coming to when you can’t even trust Blue Peter to play straight and true with viewers? With the other recent scandals over TV premium rate phone-in shows I’ve mostly been of the opinion that, yeah, TV companies are blatantly ripping off viewers, but anyone stupid enough to keep calling at those rates frankly is a fecking idiot and deserves to be ripped off. But Blue Peter? Okay, they weren’t making tons of money from a premium rate number, but they did lie to millions of kids. They have now apologised for an ‘error of judgement’ but I think the fact they kept quiet about this since November until a member of the public exposed it means an apology is pretty weak and rather insincere – only apologising after not only lying to kids but keeping your mouth shut about it like it never happened for months until you are caught out is something else again and an apology doesn’t cut it. I think the only way Blue Peter can make it up to a traumatised nation is to have presenter Konnie Huq in the tiniest bikini in the world doing an episode on jello-wrestling.

New Babylon 5

Came across some news that J M Straczynski is going to be making some new Babylon 5 tales for the direct to DVD market, using some of the original actors (alas not Richard Biggs or Andreas Katsulas since they have passed on, Biggs , who played the doctor, shockingly young). I’m cautiously optimistic – I want to see them because it was such an exceptional series, building an incredible, connected story arc over years, but I’m a little worried because earlier sequels to the main five-year series all proved disappointing. This ongoing story approach influenced Trek to produce the much better later seasons (notably the Dominion War arc) which were more satisfying than the normal standalone episodes; arguably the fine new Battlestar Galactica also owes some debt to Bab 5.

Robin Hoodie

I was quite underwhelmed by the new Robin Hood’s debut last weekend (as were most people I knew) but thought, give it a chance, Paul Cornell was so enthusiastic about it (he is one of the writers) at EasterCon, perhaps it will get better. So the second episode this evening and no, it didn’t get any better. The Silvereel lambasts it too; like me he was really wanting it to be a good show (being a fellow swashbuckler) but its been a great disappointment, splashing style instead of building substance and believable characters we can follow and empathise with. Trying this modern style on a piece set back in the time of the Crusades is jarring and destroys any feel for the reality of the period. The costume department, as my mate Ariel observed, are also quite guilty of destroying any feel of period: Guy of Gisborne is wearing a leather duster coat for goodness sake and Robin looks like a modern hoodie while his manservant wears a top which looks rather modern and the Sheriff tonight was seen in bed wearing black silk pyjamas! Do the costume department even know what era this is set in? Does the producer, director or writers? In fact I haven’t seen such innapropriate costumes since Coppola’s Dracula, although at least in that case the many non-Victorian garments were at least stylish and cool.

The story… Well, so far there hasn’t been much in the way of story development in these first two episodes. And despite the pretensions to bring 21st century sensiblities to the tale (because obviously a fokloric tale which has survived for centuries needs to be tampered with by modern writers – go read Joseph Campbell then try tackling this you illiterate idiots) much of Robin Hood is pure, old-fashioned and very cheesy pantomime. That arrow twang every time a location name is flashed on screen became very, very irritating – presumably someone thought it was amusing, but repeated several times an episodes it is just grating (and why does a dram need location names flashed up repeatedly? Talk about destroying any chance of buying into the events). And since archery (of the most ridiculous sort, all very bad speed shots) is a mainstay of Robin Hood using an arrow twang when the place names appear is also quite confusing – did someone fire at someone? Oh, no its just a place name going up. Twang! Ah, ignore it, just another place name… Nope, he did actually fire another arrow; well, actually waste another arrow since Robin fires dozens of them impossibly quick (what happened to the 21st century sense of realism they were going for?) but doesn’t usually hit anyone, even the bad guys – the damned thing is bloodless and so watered down it destroys any energy in the fights or any sense of peril.

The pantomime continues; the Sheriff is made to look like a villain from some dreadful East End gangster flick, all shaved head and mono-expression while the jailer/tortuter is, of course, ugly and almost deformed looking. That’s just so damned predictable and frankly lazy on the part of the makers, but since everyone else in this mediocre offering is equally dull and lame it probably doesn’t matter. It’s a shame, I was looking forward to this for some time and the BBC has spent a lot of our money on what turns out to be an attempt to do a serious and stylish HBO-type series but come up instead with a bland and innacurate MTV piece of gloss with no substance. I think I’ll stick to my main man, Errol Flynn. Yes, that old technicolor Flynn and Rathbone movie is very silly but it is vastly enjoyable; I don’t think I’ll bother sticking around for the third episode, I’ve given it two goes and it failed to grip me. And coming off after reading the first two magnificent Captain Alatriste novels by Spanish author Arturo Perez-Reverte I was so looking forward to more swashbuckling; in fact, if you too are disappointed in this expensive piece of awfulness that is Robon Hood then do yourself a favour -forget it and go and read Alatriste.

Still on the TV front though and I heard about an upcoming TV series based around the Dresden Files novel by Jim Butcher starting in the New Year in the US. If you’re not familiar with them, they centre around Harry Dresden, down at heels Chicago PI who also happens to be a wizard (the only one in the phone book “people found, enchantments broken, no love spells”). I knew sod all about them when Orbit released them here last year (several had been out in the US for a while); to catch up with the US Orbit released two a month over three months last autumn. I thought I’d give the first one a go and was damned well hooked so quickly I ended up reading all six back to back and with the outstanding reading list I have waiting for me to get into I don’t often just stop everything else to do that. Nice mix of noir mysteries with fantasy and genuine horror in each book but as you go along you realise that not only is Jim building up the other characters and details he is creating an overarching series of linked events in the background which will have consequences as the books evolve. Obviously no idea how the series will pan out, but Jim is said to be happy with what he has seen (then again Paul Cornell seemed happy about the upcoming Robin Hood).

Vamping it up in Toronto – Forever Knight

Sooo busy lately, working with my colleagues on the latest version of the web site for FPI. It’s a much more flexible site bringing everything under one virtual roof. It’s a lot of work to get the thousands of graphic novels ready and moved over of course. Still running the existing site but I’ve got a good chunk of stuff up on the new site now and I’m pretty pleased with the way it is shaping up, I think its well worth all our efforts.Still, I’ve been spending so much time relentlessly entering graphic novels onto it that I started hallucinating a couple of dwarves on my screen, one dressed as Adolf Hitler and one a miniature Winston Churchill. Both were juggling kiwi fruit for some reason, while behind them a chorus of penguins in blond wigs sang Lily Marlene… At least I think it was a hallucination, perhaps my colleague buried a bizarre screensaver into his code for the site.

So I was pretty pleased when a DVD box set arrived from America for me to relax with a bit. The whole first series of Forever Knight on 5 discs. Anyone else remember Forever Knight? Used to be hidden away on the midnight showing (appropriately enough) on Sky back in the 90s. It was about an 800 year old former Crusader knight called Nicholas who was trying to make amends for his evil vampiric life by serving humanity – in this century he had become a homicide detective (working the night shift, naturally) in downtown Toronto.

forever knight

It ran for three seasons and stories varied from some which were very much cop-crime tales to some which drew more on the vampire mythos (which I enjoyed more). Like the rather good Highlander TV series which was running at a similar time (FK’s leading man Geraint Wynne Davies was a guest star in one episode) many of the events in each week’s story would trigger memories from the lifetime of past centuries. FK was also one of the first shows I can recall being the subject of an internet campaign to keep it going – the Kick-start the Knight campaign and had quite a number of websites back in the Olde Days of the Web (the 90s, when we had to wind up the telephone crank similar to those seen in U-Boat movies to make astonishingly fast connections of 28.8KBS, less broadband more rubber band).

Despite that I’ve hardly ever met anyone who knows of the show – a chum at my old work watched it and a couple of friends in the States and that was it. Never saw it mentioned in any of the UK SF magazines either, which is why I had no idea it had ever been released on DVD, even if only in the US. Since I picked up a nifty multi-region player recently I thought I’d treat myself to it and it arrived for a decent price reasonably quickly.

forever knight season 1 cast

The only sting was that HM Customs and Excise stung me for import tax – fair enough, it was over their £18 threshold for personal imports, but if the government is serious about pushing internet commerce in the UK they need to look at this – but this tax was doubled by the bloody post office who charged me a handling charge even higher than the import tax. Handling charge??? They’re the sodding post office!! Handling goods is their business!!! They’ve been paid postage then charge you even more to finish delivering it? Is this some scam between Customs and the GPO? What a rip. Certainly something I’ll have to consider before ordering the second volume.

Well, that’s given me something to relax with after a hard day of adding new graphic novels to the site and I’m really enjoying it, especially as I haven’t seen Forever Knight in years. I also got out for a few hours at the weekend to go the RoyalMuseum with Mel, who wanted to see an exhibition on Scottish textiles and design. Not bad, but not really my cup of tea, but it did afford me the spectacle of a pair of Harris Tweed Nike trainers and pink cashmere hot pants! Now there’s something you don’t see everyday…