Monday, November 05, 2012

S03E03 - Things I would have done differently in The Walking Dead this week

Nothing. Although the viewer is aware the Governor is a wrong 'un, Andrea has no reasons to be any more cautious than she is being. She knows that Merle is dangerous, but as far as she has seen, even he seems to have changed. Michonne's suspicions about him and his Woodbury militia are not really supported by evidence, even though she will be proved correct.

Monday, October 29, 2012

S03E02 - Things I would have done differently in The Walking Dead this week

Having discovered four prisoners that had survived for ten months locked in a cafeteria, Andrew Lincoln-Biscuit and his gang proceed to get into a frankly pathetic row about who owns the prison. Even allowing for the tension that would inevitably be present, the situation was poorly handled. At times, it felt like watching the Beach survivors meeting the Others in Lost and speaking entirely in cryptic sentences, to the deep frustration of the viewing public. At this point, I would have thought a more productive approach would have been to ask the prisoners why they'd been incarcerated. "You're a dope fiend? Cool - welcome aboard. What's that? You're a serial killer and rapist? You're on your own." Instead, they come up with the idea of helping the prisoners gain control of one wing of the prison as long as they split their food supplies 50:50.

Meanwhile, Hershel's leg has been amputated with a view to stopping the infection spreading and turning him into a walker. Andrew Lincoln-Biscuit advises, sensibly, that Hershel should be hand cuffed to his bed in case he dies and reanimates. Some while later, Hershel stops respiring, but Lori Lincoln-Biscuit gives mouth-to-mouth and revives him. Now, while her compassion is admirable, giving mouth-to-mouth to someone who is potentially infected with a disease that is known to transmit via sputum strikes me as very daft. Admittedly, she's got a greater need for Hershel to survive, given she's nearly at term, but it's still very stupid.

Carol instructs Glenn to accompany her outside and provide a fresh cadaver for her to practise a C-section, in anticipation of having to do the same with Lori. Why? Fresh is meaningless when you're talking about animated corpses, and they'd already killed female walkers. As an aside, that this is possible rather conflicts with T-Dog's later advice to the convicts to take the bodies out of the cell block and burn them. After all, the survivor's bit of the prison is littered with zombie corpses left where they fell. Why not do your own cleaning before advising others how to do theirs?

Finally, when assisting the convicts in clearing a new cell block, Andrew Lincoln-Biscuit kills Tomas, a convict. While this was quite brutally done, it was probably pragmatic as Tomas had twice demonstrated he was psychopathic. A second prisoner, Andrew, flees the scene for reasons not apparently obvious (he was Tomas's sideman, but hadn't been responsible for the psychopathic episodes) and goes running deeper into the complex. Lincoln-Biscuit then runs after him, eventually locking Andrew into a small compound full of walkers, presumably to die. Running into a completely uncleared section of the cell block was flat out stupid. Lincoln-Biscuit exposed himself to considerable potential danger. Andrew should have been left. The chances were that he'd have met a sticky end anyway.

Yet another catalogue of daft mistakes.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

S03E01 - Things I would have done differently in The Walking Dead this week

Stumbling across a large prison complex in the middle of the countryside, Andrew Lincoln-Biscuit and his band of survivors conclude that the fact the zombies are either prisoners or guards means the complex most likely fell early in the zombie apocalypse. It's not entirely clear why they believe this to be sound logic, however. However, if it is true, they reason that there are likely to be good stockpiles of food and ammo within, and that it would be a secure and easily defendable place to be based. Given Lori Lincoln-Biscuit's advanced state of pregnancy, this could be just what they need.

The prison appeared to consist of an outer grassed area separated by chain link fence on either side, with regularly spaced guard towers. There were fenced corridors, like spokes between the outermost perimeter and the inner where there were access points. Inside this was the concrete prison, consisting of a number of cell blocks and ancillary areas.

The survivors went into an access spoke and took out the zombies on the other side of the wire by attracting them to it and killing them, most commonly by shoving a spike through the eye socket. Andrew Lincoln-Biscuit and Daryl and a couple of the others entered guard towers and started picking off the walkers further away from the wire. This seemed like a needless waste of ammo to me. Why not just make a commotion at the wire and rely on it for protection and use a non-depleting iron spike? Yeah, it would take a little longer but where was the urgency to get it done in five minutes? I suppose I can understand Daryl going up there since his supply of arrows never seems to diminish, but the rest were needlessly wasting ammunition.

Having cleared the outer compound of zombies, the group cut through into the outer section then closed it up behind 'em. Now, I appreciate it was getting late but I would have then repeated the fence kill with the zombies on the innermost chain link fence. Instead, the group did a bit of Kumbyaya then went to sleep with zombies wandering about just feet away.

Later on, the group was clearing a part of a cell block. Hershel was stepping over a walker that had slumped at the base of the wall. As he did so, it sat up and took a bite out of his leg, necessitating an emergency amputation. Now this is just basic; the group knows that you have to go for the brain to be sure of death. When clearing an area, it should be standard procedure that every walker encountered is assumed to be a threat and the brain destroyed.

All in all, tthe group has had quite a lot of time toward how to function as a unit but keeps making basic errors that endanger them needlessly. While it is impossible to pre-empt everything that will occur during a zombie apocalypse, a level of organisation when it comes to tasks that will have to be carried out reasonably frequently.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

John Mayall – De Montfort Hall

One of the nice things about doing reviews for a paper is that you get the opportunity to exerience things that you might not have gone to see otherwise. Other than his more famous bandmates, and his reputation as a leading light in the British Blues Boom, I knew precious little about Mayall before going to see him. This was one of those occasions when I was well rewarded.

John Mayall may have been overshadowed by some of the guitarists that passed through his Bluesbreakers band (Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor) but he certainly held centre stage at De Montfort Hall on Tuesday night. The singer and multi-instrumentalist seemed a fraction of his 77 years as he lead his band through a blistering set of blues rock numbers.

Mayall began solo, alternating between harmonica and vocals with aplomb, finishing the song with one hand playing piano and his harmonica held to his mouth by the other. Once the band emerged, they had opportunities aplenty to shine during the blues jams and standards and all were virtuoso talents. Bassist Greg Rzab pulled off a solo that sounded like noted Primus four-stringer Les Claypole, while Rocky Athas on guitar was pulling out fluid solos with sweet vibrato and chunky riffs that underscored where more recent bands such as Audioslave had been plundering.

Star of the show was Mayall himself. His voice was strong and distinctive, and his blues piano, harmonica and guitar playing were all phenomenal. It was a shame that the hall wasn't more full to hear numbers like the breakneck Parchment Farm and Chicago Line, with its blues harp evocation of speeding trains.

Mayall remarked on how quiet the crowd was on several occasions. It certainly wasn't that they weren't enjoying themselves, as their enthusiastic applause demonstrated, just that there were slightly too few to see a hero of British blues and his band put in a bravura performance.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Paul Foot - Curve, Leicester

If Paul Foot looked unconventional in his kipper tie and with the haircut of Dave Hill from Slade, then his stand up show at the Curve on Tuesday night was too. He begin by announcing his imminent arrival onto the stage over the PA and then deciding that he liked doing the announcements so much that he kept us - literally - in the dark for another five minutes. Once he finally came out, he spent another ten minutes clambering over the audience as he explained exactly what was going to happen once he came out to start the show for 'real'.

There was a similar absurdist streak running through the show; not much really made sense and there was little recognisable as a conventional joke. Nevertheless, Foot had the audience gasping with laughter from early on, no mean feat for a comedian who has something of a reputation for polarising audience opinion. At one point, he was able to sustain the laughter from a preposterous anecdote for minutes, without saying a word, but virtually conducting the crowd with a raised eyebrow and a nod. Not everything worked quite so well. A bit where a hobby horse was swung to change the conversation between gibberish and English was slightly long for its slim premise, but even that got big laughs at times.

He ended the show in equally bizarre manner, simply laying out his merchandise on a table, sitting on a chair and waiting to see if people would twig the show was actually over.

Paul Foot is possibly a genuis.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

App Review - Camera Art FX 1.01

I thought I'd start doing some iPhone app reviews. I download plenty of the things, so why not?

This review is for iPhone 3Gs.

Camera Art FX (Version 1.01) is an ad-supported iPhone App developed by Audacity Software. At the time of downloading (20/06/2011) it was free from the App Store. A paid-for version removes the ads, but these are unobtrusive and limitations with the program mean that I doubt many will bother at this stage of the product's life.

The application provides stylised filters that can be added to photographs or video during capture. One really nice touch is that the effect can be viewed in real time, so you know exactly what it's going to look like when it's captured. Impressively, this feature is available even in video mode. If only more developers would include such a feature, we'd all be happier!

Monday, June 20, 2011

In Which I Become the Missing Link Between the Female Kidnapper of a Mormon Missionary, and Marillion.

OK, this is weird. It's sort of funny, but it's sort of not. It's definitely weird.

Call me a good two shoes, if you like, but I don't associate with many criminally-inclined people. I don't not associate with them out of any sense of moral superiority particularly. I just don't know any. I guess I move in the wrong circles. If I planned to associate with any criminally-inclined people, I could have pretty much guaranteed that they wouldn't be the female kidnapper/rapist of a Mormon missionary.

Yesterday, I received an email:

"We read on your column on the internet about a song called "Holloway Girl" which is on an album called "Seasons End". It did not say the name of the group who sang it. Could you please call us and let us know where we can get a copy of the album, as I am a screenwriter and I would like to use it as underscoring for a screenplay I am writing about Joyce McKinney, a beautiful American girl who was falsely arrested in England in 1977 when she went there to find her missing fiancé,  and found him under brainwashing of the dangerous Mormon Cult. She tried to do a CULT RESCUE to get him out but the powerful Mormons and their tabloid connections paid off people to have her falsely imprisoned even though she was innocent. And she was illegally held in black Holloway Women's prison until she got out on bail and became a celebrity. She had her life destroyed by the tabloids who pretend a PRESS HOAX for 34 years that she "kidnapped and raped" him, and he was 300 pounds and 6'5" tall.

This poor women suffered so much due to this tabloid press hoax and now we are writing a movie to clear her name, especially in light of the fact that a defamatory trashy film distributed by Mormons just came out to discredit her again.

We want to do a TRUTHFUL script telling HER side of the story and tell the story BEHIND the headlines.  Could you tell us how to order or hear the song "Holloway Girl"?

Our phone number is XXXXXXXXXXXXX. THANKS."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I've Had An Eiffel

On the morning of my 40th, I was confused when K___ told the children to grab their teddies to bring to Grandma's. They never take their teddies outside of the house because of the trauma that would ensue should they get lost. Being slow on the uptake, I didn't work out this meant they would be staying overnight with Grandma until it was explicitly spelled out. For someone who leans towards skepticism, I can be astonishingly guileless at times. Then K___ pulled out a small suitcase from the dinning room, all packed up.

I learned we were going to 'That London'. It wasn't until we were at Victoria Station that K___ handed me revealed we were to be travelling on the Orient Express to Paris for four days. I was genuinely gobsmacked, not having got close to imagining anything so grand!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mark Thomas: Walking The Wall – Extreme Rambling - The Y

In 2010, comedian-activist Mark Thomas decided to walk the 750 km long wall that separates the West Bank from Israel “to see what it was about”. Ostensibly in place to ensure Israel's security from suicide bombers, the 'separation barrier' also enabled a land-grab by sectioning off Palestinian land from its people.

Given the subject material, Thomas's show was frequently serious. Through the minutiae of what he experienced as a self-confessed naïve Englishman abroad (“a bit like Hugh Grant”), he was able to illuminate the effect the wall has had on both communities.

While many of the tales were bleak - children being forced to crawl through sewers to get to school, workers queuing for four hours at checkpoints that didn't open until 6am - Thomas rang big laughs from the material too. A Python-quoting Israeli guide, a British diplomat from the pages of Evelyn Waugh, and a hippy cameraman were on hand to puncture the tension of an arrest from the militarised zone, a stoning and a tear-gassing with a well-delivered quip.

Thomas’s storytelling was suspenseful and evocative, and the audience was alternately rapt then guffawing loudly. While his sympathies clearly lay with the Palestinians, Thomas was careful not to present a completely one-sided view of the situation. While some people he encountered were so bigoted they were virtually parodies, he admitted to greatly liking an Israeli responsible for granting Palestinian land to settlers.

He acknowledged that there were no easy answers. There were, however, an unexpected number of laughs.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Milton Jones – De Montfort Hall

Despite winning the 1996 Perrier comedy award for best newcomer, and various shows on Radio 4, Milton Jones has only become a household name since he started appearing on panel shows like Mock The Week.

Clearly the television experience has boosted his profile, yet panel shows are not the best environment to experience Jones's comedy, which tends towards tightly constructed one liners. Very few performers - Stephen Wright comes to mind - can manage to do an entire show of just one liners, and Jones was no exception, adding little bits audience interaction and using props to give some structure to the show.

Initially, he came on in character as his own grandfather performing some of Milton's gags. Later, in his trademark Hawaiian shirt, he used a slide projector to tie together some vaguely geography-related gags. What was often apparent, despite their fleeting nature, was the level of intelligence at work. One liners had sub-text that had you admiring their cleverness even as the next one was arriving to bust your guts. One liners also suffer from the fact that they are easy to remember and so get repeated down the pub or on Twitter, yet Jones’s delivery is so unique and integral, that it’s hard to imagine too many getting lost in this way.

The audience was hugely appreciative, and the large size of the venue didn't appear to phase him at all. A tour de force of puns and whimsy, Milton Jones seemed simply unstoppable.