Saturday, 29 October 2011

Press Darlings

My costume choice for this year - 'flyboy' from the
original Dawn of the Dead. If I'm lucky, one person will
know who I'm going as 
You may be a Christian, a Buddhist, a Sikh, or a Rangers supporter. But even if you don't believe in something, there always seems to be the nagging feeling that there are forces at work. The bus always seems to be pulling away from the stop, the one day it rains is the one day that you put a great deal of effort into some zombie make-up, and the day you suddenly decide your lifelong ambition is to bring back 'Jim'll Fix It', you click on the BBC news page and bawl your little eyes out. For me it's a case of everything being pushed into next week. Two friends are celebrating their birthdays, my second news day (complete with an 8 o' clock start) is on, it's Halloween, where I want to take another stab at a decent costume, I'm request collecting for the hospital radio, I have an interview with a local paper regarding a 6 week placement, and I have another early start in the form of advanced media law, which also requires a fair amount of preparation. I'm not complaining though. It's better to have too much on your plate than to be clawing at scraps and procrastinating.

I'm not going to claim to be a full blown journalist. That's why I'm eager to get out on placement - I want to be under proper pressure in a news room, I want to find people's stories, I want to see some of my words printed out and sold to hundreds. But my course really has allowed me to dip my toe into the whole thing. I've not just been sitting in a darkened room typing up essays on the theory of journalism. Dealing with real people and real problems is excellent. I've had a problem in the past, being sensitive to anything people say. But when I had a councillor flaring up and shouting about how only junkies visited the local park, I smiled inside, thinking about how great the footage was. I have political opinions, but these days it's harder for me to reach a conclusion. There are very few cases where we have the hero on one hand, and the classic villain stroking his cat and flexing his scar on the other. When you properly listen to everyone's opinions it's hard not to repeatedly fall off the fence onto one side, get back on, fall on to the other side and repeat. But that's the beauty of it - letting people decide for themselves.

Paperboy got points and bonuses, I got a roll and
square sausage and £30 a week
I can't remember the exact moment where I said to myself  "I want to be a journalist" but it was probably when I was doing my paper round at half past 7 in the morning. It wasn't a particularly fun or eventful job, but it meant that by the time I dragged myself into school at 9 o' clock I was well versed on the day's headlines. People say print journalism is dying, and people also say there will be those who want the day's news in their ink-stained hands. It doesn't make much of a difference to me either way, it will all simply move online. I will be slightly sad to see newspapers go, I think. If an average joe makes the paper, they may proudly stick the newsprint page onto the wall where it will remain for years. Clicking your way through an online archive is arguably not as satisfying. It'll be the end of an icon. But I don't even know if I'm going to go into newspapers. Radio and TV journalism is also on the table (and I might not be employed at all). But regardless of the format, the honest and slightly cheesy desire to get out a story and uncover the truth, educate, or warm people's hearts will remain. Twitter is never going to take over from journalists, thank god.

50 posts, 70 followers, which is some sort of an achievement. Don't know why y'all keep coming back, but you do so...

[What I'm currently listening to > \Talking Heads - Fear of Music/]

...thanks for reading!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Someone's pinched me winkles

When I went to Belgium a few years back, my family and I went to a brewery, and had a tour around the place. I remember the guide describing 3 ways of storing alcohol. The glass bottle. The keg/barrel. And the can, where he winced a little and described it as a "sorry excuse for storing beer". He probably would have fainted if he'd seen the dirt cheap 2 litre plastic bottles I usually purchase when guzzling cider. It's not the most attractive thing to drink, and some would say that isn't exactly milk from an angel's tit, but it goes down easy and fucking hell it's cheap. So naturally, cider has become a good friend in my student years. But sometimes I like to treat myself. The treat is still cider, but the taste is a little more refined. The other day I noticed that my local supermarket was selling some toffee apple cider, my favourite alcoholic beverage. When I went today however, it was out of stock. So instead I came home with three different quirky ciders, all brewed by Magners.

They look lovely, but quite frankly, they
don't kill enough brain cells
Right here I have a 'Spiced Apple and Rhubarb' one, a 'Pear and Ginger' one, and a 'Spiced Apple and Honey' one. And tonight, I'm going finish them off and give each a review whilst playing some outdated but nevertheless fun PS2 games. If you are expecting a proper review, turn away now. I won't be 'detecting any hints of blueberry and pinewood', and nor will I be swilling the stuff around in my mouth pulling quizzical faces. I have no idea how to properly review booze, so we'll just see how this goes.

First up; Spiced Apple and Rhubarb accompanied by some 'smart price' chocolate digestives and Max Payne. I can't find my proper PS2 controller, so I have to use the tiny substitute that the last person in the room gets if I'm playing multiplayer. Bit of an awkward start trying to get the cap off, but what a lovely smell. A bit like a combination of mulled wine and rhubarb & custard sweets. The taste isn't very strong at all. Like a weak mulled wine. But it's nice to not be overpowered. It ain't too sickly. I could probably drink this all night. Max Payne's voice actor is as monotonous and shitty as always. And seriously, how did anyone ever think these graphics were cutting edge? His face looks like it was drawn while riding a bicycle, with the resulting artwork being stapled onto a head by a one eyed gorilla. Cider verdict - pleasant, but not outstanding. 7.5/10

Looks like he's holding in a particularly awful shit.
Which is probably why they got Mark Wahlberg
to play him in the film.
Pear and ginger now. I hate pears generally. They're pretty much like skanky, shitty apples. The cider they produce is generally alright, but not quite in the same league as apples. Let's see what going posh does for it. Ohhhh, what a lovely ginger fragrance. Nice one, the ginger overtakes the pear, rendering it pointless. I'm not complaining. Max is running through some medical lab that's about to blow up. Save a scientist, shoot a roomful of people in the face, rinse and repeat. I'm having fun for now, but I may put on a new game soon. Alright, what the fuck you piece of shit. I think the game has glitched. I'm stuck on top of a poorly rendered lift with a metal grate floating above my head, with no means of escape. Right. Timesplitters 2. Again this cider is nice, but inoffensive, so I suppose it's the Michael McIntyre of drink. It's pretty great, but there's that little voice in the back of your head that wants a little kick, maybe the occasional dead baby joke. Another 7.5. Surprise me, Spiced Apple and Honey.

First impressions of the last bottle aren't great, because I spilled some of it and cut my hand trying to open the fucker. I taste a little bit of the spices, but where the fuck is the honey? Ahhh, there's a tiny, tiny little aftertaste of it. Same as the others in terms of inoffensiveness. It's still nice, and because it isn't sickly I can down it at a fair rate. Moved onto Timesplitters: Future Perfect now because TS2 is insane. Really. I've never tried cocaine before, but I imagine that it gets you a little bit close to the pace of that game. Future Perfect is essentially a slightly dumbed down version (but still just as fun) so it's the better option in my current state. So yeah, the cider. Nice, but lacking in punch. Same as the others. Won't be wasting £7 on that garbage again.

What I'm currently playing > \Timesplitters: Future Perfect - Gladiator mode/

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Self Prrrrrromotion

If you've ever been to university, then you'll know how quickly deadlines come up. You tend to ignore the lecturers warnings about the importance of completing assignments in good time. Hell, it's a month away, that's forever! And then abrafuckingkadabra you have to pull an all-nighter to start and finish that 3,000 word essay, fuelled by little more than reheated pasta, an icy grip of pure panic, and the nastiest coffee your local 24 hour supermarket provides. I'm not quite at that stage yet, but I do have the feeling that the previous sentence will give me a fair amount of deja vu in the coming months. Me and a partner have to find a local story in a designated area of the city, and prepare TV and radio news based on it. I always feel guilty waving about a massive camera, but at the end of the day it's completely legal to film and photograph in a public place unless children are involved. Some act as if the camera is loaded with 50 caliber rounds, others can't stop trying to get their toothless grins in plain view. It's pretty fun though. I'm also being kept on my toes with an essay, some advanced law media law research, my CV for my 6 week placement next year, and my voluntary work at the hospital radio. With the occasional break to drunkenly swear at the TV as Rayman drowns in swamp water.

This what I imagined a 'trip' to be like when I was
first given the drug talk in school
If you approach different people that are acquainted with me and ask them what I am like, you'll get a fairly wide spectrum of answers. Some will say I'm a 'nice, funny guy'. Others will remember me as an anti-social creep that draws willies and violent cartoons over his work. But like it or not, it's the opinion of your educators and potential employers that really count. Right now I'm looking at my first ever school report. I was 4 years old.
Duncan tends to have a very short concentration span during listening activities 
This is still a problem for me today
Duncan shows good understanding of numbers 1 to 10
That's about as good as it got in terms of my mathematical ability
Duncan has poor body control
Anyone that has seen me dance will know this is also still relevant. Lets move forward a couple of years.
Duncan's imaginative stories are super with a lovely turn of phrase. He engages the reader and makes them eager to read on. 
I've always loved writing. But it's always lovely to see that your enthusiasm for something goes waaaaaaay back. I feel warm inside now.

I wouldn't complain about self promotion
if all bands had posters as cool as this
I've actually wasted a substantial amount of time looking at my school reports. People do change and mature as they grow up. But it's pretty surprising how relevant the recoccuring points are. Throughout the years all my reports rarely seem to stray from
'Good attendance, well behaved generally but with a short concentration span. An imaginative writer, not bad in art, okay at everything else.'
I really didn't know my concentration span was so awful, I seriously think I had some form of ADHD while I was growing up. Anyway. I'm currently working on my CV, and I'm trying to compress my achievements and skills into a form that's easily digestible and attractive to a potential employer for a job or a placement. I'm not very good at self promotion at all. If someone asks for my strengths, it feels like I'm bragging or lying, even when I'm plainly stating facts. People often frown upon promotion of any kind. If someone spams their blog link on a forum or if someone puts a ton of posters up for their band's show and harasses everyone and their dog to attend, then regardless of how annoying they are being, people will come. Word of mouth doesn't always cut it. Sometimes you have to be a knob end and tell the world about how great you are.

This was a little shorter compared to my other entries, I know, but I have work and you have that art project/inflatable bed/mathematics work/beer in the shower/daily sentence/tv show review/phat beat/cello to work on. So hop to it. And yes, Duncan is my name, just in case you know nothing about me other than what I write on here.

What I'm currently listening to > \Tears for Fears - Songs from the big chair/

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Yet another unexpected turn of events

Like a lot of you, I spent a reasonable amount of time in front of the TV when I was young. I didn't exactly plaster myself in front of the glowing box 24 hours a day, but nevertheless I seem to remember a huge number of shows. Power Rangers for example. I loved that as a child. But looking back, it's plain awful. The action is pathetic, the costumes are silly and garish, and the dialogue would make a wheel of Gouda blush. Not to mention the questionable costume colour choices (the Asian ranger gets the yellow suit, and the African-American ranger gets the black suit. Come on now, really?) And there are countless others. X-men, Dragonball Z, Pokemon - some stand up well to the test of time, others fall like Gordon Brown's political career. And even with the shit ones, it's hard for me to criticize when the familiar theme tune plays and nostalgia runs up my legs like a bad case of rickets.

So what I've decided to do is look at a show I'd never so much as heard of in my childhood. An opportunity like this came up recently in the form of 'Road Rovers'. Airing for one season in 1996-1997, it would have caught me in my cartoon watching prime, had I heard of it. The way I found out about it is decidedly dodgy, so we won't go into that, but the important thing is that the hesitant calamari is geared up for a no holes barred, non biased review.

Had to always turn the volume down really low when
 watching this while my parents were asleep, Goku and co
always spent half the episode screaming 
So we'll start with a brief overview of what the show is actually about. Road Rovers follows the adventures of six crime fighting anthropomorphic dogs (one is technically feral but let's not get fussy) that go out and save the world, following orders from a scientist know as 'Master' a la Charlie from Charlie's Angels.

The introductory theme song is made up of maniacal xylophone and a chorus of voices giving sung descriptions of the characters. Very similar to other Warner Brothers cartoons of the time, but nowhere near as good. Taz-Mania had a wonderfully upbeat and entertaining theme song, as did the likes of Animaniacs and Freakazoid. But the Road Rover's one is just instantly forgettable. It may seem harsh to judge the theme song so critically, but where would the likes of Inspector Gadget be without it's fantastic theme? Regardless. In the first episode we are introduced to dastardly villain General Parvo, who tricks a scientist into handing over a formula or something that transforms traditional dogs into 'cano-sapiens' (essentially an anthropormorphic dog with superpowers). The scientist expects his dog back in return for the formula. But instead he gets a bomb, lol. The show fast forwards 1 year (or 7 in dog years, har har) where we find that the scientist is still alive. He uses the formula to create the Road Rovers, while the mean old General uses the formula for more evil purposes.

His balls finally dropped/looks like he loves his balls
pick one
The concept doesn't seem too awful until the dogs transform and open their mouths. Some characters, particularly Blitz, the Doberman, have both irritating voice-actors and a weak script. Many of the reasonable jokes are lazily turned into running gags throughout the series. A good example is Hunter, the leader of the Rovers who often proclaims "I could not have predicted this!" whenever there is a plot twist of sorts. Rather than using it as a clever, self aware one-off joke, it is milked constantly, usually multiple times in one episode. That said, Hunter is one of the more likeable characters in the show. His witty lines often break the fourth wall and are usually pretty amusing. He also has a decent voice actor behind him him, and his friendly personality makes the show a little more watchable. The only other saving grace for the show is Colleen, who is voiced by the talented Tress MacNeille (Mom in Futurama being one of the hundreds of characters she has given her voice to), and Muzzle. Muzzle doesn't have any dialogue, which is probably partly why he is one of the better characters. The only feral dog out of the six, muzzle is muzzled, wrapped up in a strait jacket and attached to a trolley, much like Hannibal Lecter. It's always amusing to see him bounce from place to place in his little trolley like a demented kangaroo trapped inside a tent. But even 'unleashing muzzle' eventually turns into a running gag, which is sad, but not unexpected.

Road Rovers had an 'adult' moment similar to the Animaniac's
fingerprints/finger-Prince joke, where a song featuring
'sonofabitch' was cut from the show. Nowhere near as
good as Animaniacs though.
The show has to get by on the few decent moments it has. Joke after joke is unleashed, and only about 20% of them are original or humorous in any way. There are many plot holes, continuity errors, and any kind of emotional moments in the episodes are quickly killed off with cheesy music and a running gag. There's no point in dwelling on things like why the dogs risk their lives for practically nothing, how 'Master' has the means to supply these dogs with multi-billion dollar aircraft, or why dogs were even chosen to sort out the world's problems, because it's a kids show at the end of the day.

Still, that's no reason to give it too much slack. Watership Down, Batman: The Animated Series and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? are all classed by most as 'kids' stuff, but none of them get worse as you grow up. I didn't expect too much from Road Rovers though, and I have seen worse. Hell, I'd rather watch it than Family Guy. Fart jokes, half arsed political rants, and 'remember that time when I...' jokes that go on for 10 minutes annoy me more than a Siberian husky impatiently saying "Quit Russian me".

I'm so inconsistent with this blog now, but I'm blaming it on my 'muse'. I write when I feel like it. And can someone let me know what they prefer me writing about? A couple of people have complained that the review parts of my blog are boring, which is worrying because it takes up about 80% of the blog. So yeah, let me know.

What I'm currently watching > \Watership Down, forgot how good it was/

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Let me put ya in the pitcha'

Aftershave is really fantastic, isn't it? In the past I've never really take shaving seriously, since my facial hair doesn't really grow terribly fast. Whenever my hair has become noticeable, I've really just hacked at my face with cheap and nasty disposable razors seconds before rushing out the door. I still use the cheap and nasty razors, but I am now equipped with some lovely aftershave balm which now ensures that blood doesn't dribble from my chin and also that my face doesn't reek of dry pus and stale sweat*. I've also finally got 90% of my stuff now thanks to a generous friend who held onto my things for a couple of months and delivered them right to my door. Making do without all my shit has made me a little more less materialistic, and it's odd having everything back again. Nevertheless it's nice to have important documents at arms length. I've also got a whole load of essays and research to do, and I'm happy to get into the swing of doing things again. I'm riding on the wave of my newly found organisation skills so I'm actually getting some of this stuff done in advance. I'm really hoping things stay that way.

Ah, what rutgered, sorry, rugged good looks
Music to me, is what films are to my boyfriend. He has a few CDs. I have a few DVDs. I have a shit ton of CDs, he has a shit ton of DVDs. Recently he leant me a few films, and I've watched all of them except one. So on my blog tonight, I've decided to step outside my comfort zone (music) and attempt to review the 1986 version of 'The Hitcher'. Reviewing this film isn't *that* relevant to anything going on at the moment. But the antagonist is played by none other than Rutger Hauer, who starred as the Hobo in Hobo with a Shotgun (released earlier this year). So if nothing else, it'll be interesting to see the man clean shaven and in his prime. Here we go.

An awkwardly worded description on the back doesn't leave a good first impression-
'However, his nightmare has only just begun as a terrifying and psychotic game of cat and mouse ensues with all who pass on the road becoming unwitting victims of The Hitcher'
Throughout the film I kept getting reminded of this
Hitcher. Fortunately Rutger Hauer wasn't green, so
there was minimum confusion.
although the DVD cover itself looks pretty swish. Borrowing from classic horrors such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills of Eyes, the film's protagonist, Jim Halsey, finds himself travelling through rural Texas. He picks up the Hitcher (I doubt the film would be as exciting if the camera simply followed the teenager through Texas for 1 and a half hours as he wordlessly listened to the radio, occasionally picking his nose or overtaking other cars) and finds that he isn't the nicest of individuals pretty quickly.

Hauer is fantastic as the Hitcher. His calm yet intense stare is a more than a little unnerving at the best of times, and gets the very best out of a slightly clich├ęd script. C.Thomas Howell  fits well into the role of the eighties adolescent protagonist. At times he's irritating in his flaws, at times his actions seem far too heroic for such a normal teenager, but it works. We share his fear, we share his anxiety, we share his relief. I'm surprised that director, Robert Harmon, hasn't worked on anything really noteworthy aside from the Hitcher. He's no Stanley Kubrick, but he did a great job creating a tense atmosphere in many of the scenes.
The plot was inspired by Doors classic 'Riders on the Storm'

I'm a little annoyed, because I wanted to do a negative review for something for a change. But the Hitcher, unfortunately, is excellent. It's more of a thriller/action sort of film in the end, but it borrows enough from from horror to appeal to fans of the genre. Hauer is by far the real star, and if you were impressed by him in the likes of Blade Runner (or even Hobo with a Shotgun) it's definitely worth checking out his performance in this.

It's been a while since I've updated this, again. I was going to post this a week ago but I got heavily distracted with a few things. I won't bore you with all the university work I have. Oh. And a quick clap for Steve Jobs, my walks home would be a little less eventful without my malfunctioning ipod. We could bring up the suicidal Chinese workers that manufacture Mr Job's products, but we'll keep quiet about that. Respect for the dead and all that. Dead Steve Jobs I mean. Not the workers, obviously.

What I'm currently listening to > \The Modern Dance - Pere Ubu/

*I am a very hygienic person, but you all come onto my blog for the vile imagery, don't ya