Sunday, 29 July 2007

Springsteen Was Right...

I was looking up programme listings on my cable service e.p.g. (how bored was I?), and noticed that titles are truncated once they exceed a certain character length.

However, if you run a truncated title into the one following, the results can be amusing, for example:

9:00 Real Housewives of

10:00 CSI:Miami

Thus, from today's schedules, tonight's viewing takes on a whole new complexion:

Sky Movies Scifi/Horror offers

The Exorcism of Emily

On Sky Drama we can expect

The Simple Life of Noah
A Good Woman

FilmFour's showing

A Midsummer Night's
Cattle Empire

which probably shouldn't be missed, but RealityTV takes the prize with not one, but two unmissable shows back-to-back:

Incredible Child Rescues
Ghosts Caught On Tape:
Morbidly Obese

followed by

Powers of the
World's Scariest Ghosts

E!, always creative, will be showing

The Life and Death of
Girls of the Playboy
Sunset Tan

QVC undoubtedly has great deals for shoppers with

Hewlett Packard: The
Silver Treasures of India

while, in music, MTV will be showing (somewhat questionably, in my opinion)

Best of My Super Sweet

although on VH1 we can look forward to

Newlyweds: Nick &
J-Lo's Dancelife

Now who wouldn't pay exorbitant cable fees for programming like that?

57 channels...

Friday, 27 July 2007

Unsung Heroes No. 1: Grover

This post marks the first of an occasional series devoted to those characters who do their very best, all the time, often at great peril and personal expense.

I can think of no more deserving candidate for the opening article than Grover from Sesame Street, whose eagerness to help others has been the very cornerstone of his character, and who needs (and probably gets) more physiotherapy than even Gonzo The Great.

Over the years, the indomitable Grover has worked himself to the bone in helping the likes of Kermit the Frog and Herbert Birdsfoot to explain and demonstrate various principles, such as 'Long & Short', Heavy & Light, etc., and has even carried such demonstrations by himself, invariably collapsing from exhaustion at the end with little more than a 'Thanks, Grover,' from the person receiving his invaluable assistance.

His dogged determination in the face of all adversity, coupled with his boundless enthusiasm could, if properly harnessed, solve the world's energy problems.

Grover has been variously:

The world's most put-upon waiter:

A Superhero (and ace doorknob salesman):

A demonstration assistant:

And finally, in perhaps his finest hour:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Grover - Unsung Hero.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

I've been kind of bemused by so-called Pottermania.

Because I don't understand it. I've never seen anything like it before.

I've never seen people queue up for over fourteen hours for any other series of books before - it's uncanny...

(To put it in perspective, the last time anybody queued up here for a book that wasn't being signed by the author, it was for the preliminary findings of a tribunal investigating planning corruption.)

And it's everywhere.

I was watching the British Open last Sunday and the camera managed to find spectators with copies of the book. Several times. The cynic in me might suggest it was a subtle marketing ploy, but Peter Alliss (a revered British golf commentator for those who don't know) wouldn't be party to something like that...

I haven't read any of the books yet. My nephew, who's ten, got 'Deathly Hallows' on Saturday, and started reading it to his mom, which was a switch, she having read the others to him.

One thing that I do find funny, though, is the so-called 'Adult Edition'; exactly the same book, it seems, except with a more sedate cover.

Now that's a marketing ploy...

Movies I Never Get Tired Of: Trancers

You know the way it is - you have time on your hands and it's pissing rain outside, the Galaxy looks like it's gonna be okay for a couple of hours, so you decide to kick back with a beer and a movie, but which one? Which one?

Ordinarily it's be a Sam Adams, but my local store has discontinued it, so it'll have to be something else.

As for the movie...

Today I'm in a shitty sort of humour (never mind why), and the first thing that leapt out at me was Trancers, a 1984 Charles Band production starring Tim Thomerson and Helen Hunt and a supporting cast of Hollywood stalwarts including Richard Herd and Anne Seymour.

The tagline for this movie when it was released on video was

"Jack Deth is back - and he's never even been here before!"

Good enough back then for me to give it a look, and when it finally made it to DVD, I added it to the collection.

In a sort of Terminator meets Blade Runner sort of way, Thomerson plays Jack Deth, a 23rd-Century cop from Angel City who's tasked with hunting down Trancers, zombie-like people influenced by evil mastermind Martin Whistler.

The movie opens with Deth, in voice-over, explaining how he'd finally caught Whistler in January on one of the outer rim planets, and was now mopping up the remnants of his Trancer army.

"It's July now, and I'm tired..."

After some initial action where Deth is attacked by, and 'singes' (code for terminating) a Trancer, he's summoned by the Council of Angel City, who explain that Whistler has escaped, through time, to the 20th Century where, in the body of his ancestor, a police officer, he's hunting and killing the ancestors of the Council members, so that they will never exist. With one down and two to go, Deth is sent 'down the line' to 1985 Los Angeles to find Whistler and return him to 2247.

Before leaving, Deth disintegrates Whistler's body so he'll have no host to return to, then embarks upon his mission.

He's downloaded into the body of an ancestor, Phil (also played by Thomerson) and with the help of a local girl, Lena (Helen Hunt), sets off upon his quest.

Lena: "But Phil - "

Jack: "It's Jack. Phil stepped out."

After some initial setbacks, Jack has to focus upon an alcoholic, washed-up, ex-baseball player as the hope of mankind, and protect him from Whistler's people.

Although low-budget, this is a decent movie with an original central device, ie, the drug-assisted time-travel. At 82 minutes in length, it's bigger than a violin, smaller than a cello, and well worth a look.

It spawned several sequels, each less watchable than the one before. I'd go no further than Trancers II unless you enjoy throwing popcorn at your TV, but that's just me.

I'm off to watch the rest of the golf now, but there'll be more later...

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Oh, The Pain - The Pain Of It All...

Today I lost my wallet, proving that even the most incredible of heroes (me) is fallible.

As a responsible citizen, I did the things you do, like retracing your steps and searching your pockets five times, before calling it and phoning the credit card people to cancel my Visa and Mastercard.

The bank was able to tell me there had been no traffic on my cards, and that replacements would be winging their way to me within days. I can get to Neptune and back 'within days' but wisely said nothing.

After a fruitless search of the area, I resigned myself to the fact that it was gone, along with my credit cards, ATM card, library card, health insurance card and spare ID card. And a stamp for local postage.

And a gift card for HMV I got for my birthday...

Then I got home, and found the damn wallet on my dining table.

Talk about embarrassed...

The thing is, I never forgot my wallet before.

It goes in the back pocket, on the left, while phone and favourite pen go on the right. You could say I'm almost anal about it.

So what's going on? Am I getting old? Am I under stress? Is there deadly Argonite in the vicinity?

Beats me. I'm going for stress, myself, if only so I can organise some sort of vacation (in a deadly Argonite-free environment) for a week or two. Titan sounds remote enough.

Back in a bit...
I'm eagerly awaiting the next episode of Star Trek: New Voyages, "World Enough and Time", due for release on August 23rd and featuring George Takei as Sulu once more.

I've been fascinated by the preceding episodes, "Come What May", "In Harm's Way" and especially "To Serve All My Days", in which Walter Koenig reprised his role as Chekov, and once you get past the fact that no-one can do a 'Scots' accent like James Doohan and also that Shatner never had that much hair, I have to say it's bloody good.

There's even a short feature showing Sulu's return to the Enterprise after Command School, and what happens the first time he takes the "Center Seat"...

I know many people out there will already have seen these or be waiting for the next episode, but if you haven't, don't delay - link's on the bar to the right.

The word must be spread.

The word is given - Warp Speed...

And no, I don't need a tranquiliser.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

So there I was, facing Dr. Magnetic's fiendish death ray, when suddenly - oh, yeah, right, I'm not supposed to tell people about that (sorry Clark)...

I watched Rio Grande the other night on Sky Movies; I never miss one of John Ford's films, no matter how often I've seen it, and the Cavalry trilogy are special favourites.

Anyway, this broadcast was signed for the deaf, with a translator appearing in the lower right corner of the screen.
He would, as unobtrusively as possible, render the sign language for whatever dialogue was taking place, disappearing during action scenes.

So there's this scene where the regimental singers come around to serenade Maureen O'Hara (and let's face it, who wouldn't?), and sing "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen", and the translator appears and signs the lyric for the audience.

No problem.

Later, General Sheridan arrives at camp and is hosted to dinner by Col. Yorke and his wife, and the officers of the regiment. Afterwards, Sgt-Major Quincannon (the always excellent Victor McLaglen) arrives with the singers again, who this time perform "The Bold Fenian Men" for the visiting general, who is visibly moved.

The sign translator, however, stood rigidly, a bland smile on his face, otherwise moving not a muscle.


I was thinking maybe it might be some form of censorship, this being a channel broadcasting mainly to Britain and Ireland - but surely not? Maybe the translator just didn't know the words...

Anyway, it's late and I'm tired - the movie will be repeated so I'll look out for it next time.

Not cynical yet...

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Classic TV - 'Harry O'

One thing about the Seventies was that it produced a good number of cop shows now rightly considered classics.

And because there were so many, the character had to have something to differentiate himself from his brethren in other productions. Something to give him life and dimension.

Columbo always had that raincoat and one more question; Theo Kojak dressed far better than a New York Police lieutenant should have been able to afford; McCloud had his laid-back, country boy manner; Jim Rockford had that car.

Harry Orwell had a boat with a hole in it.

Produced by Warner Bros and initially aired on ABC in the US, 'Harry O' ran for two seasons from 1974-76, and starred David Janssen as an ex-cop, retired on disability, who supplemented his pension by working as a private investigator.

While not without friends, Harry spent a lot of time by himself, working on his boat or running on the beach, which allowed him time to think, shared with the audience by way of voiceover.

Old-fashioned in his attitudes, Orwell's was a character very much in the Marlowe mould, laconic, set in his ways, but human beneath the tough exterior.

He could often be seen taking the bus because his car was off the road more than not, and the hole in his boat never seemed to get any smaller.

For the second season, Orwell relocated to Los Angeles after he was urban-renewed out of his San Diego beach house, taking up similar residence in Santa Monica, where his police contact became Lt. Trench, played by Anthony Zerbe.

The Harry O Page has character and episode information, screencaps and a small gallery, if you're of a mind to visit it...

This is a show I really want to see on DVD, yet there's no sign of an official release.

But I'm nothing if not patient, so I'll just be waiting over here...

Books of the Week

Er, sorry about this...

I was going to share with everyone what I'm reading at the moment, but instead I find myself throwing things at my TV (metaphorically speaking).

Why, you may ask?

Because UKTV Drama is showing a Doctor Who marathon this weekend, the theme being "Who's the best Doctor?"

Being an interplanetary hero without TiVo, I missed the first day, devoted to Doctors Hartnell through Davison. Today seems mostly devoted to the Colin Baker period, with McGann, Eccleston and Tennant later this afternoon. Oh, and a brief shot of Sylvester McCoy's regeneration into Paul McGann.

But six hours of Colin Baker? And Nicola Bryant in pink spandex? That's just wrong.

When I was a kid, Patrick Troughton was The Doctor, but I didn't really understand the character. Then Jon Pertwee came along and things got more interesting.

But for me, Tom Baker was Doctor Who. He brought an eccentricity to the role that made it more compelling - I rarely missed an episode...

After that it was pretty much hit-and-miss until Christopher Eccleston came along, and then it was back to the good stuff. I have a nephew who was eight when the show returned, and he loves it. He was disappointed when Christopher Eccleston left the show, but thinks David Tennant is way better. And I agree.

And while we were both sad when Billie Piper left, hey - that's how it goes, and Freema Agyeman as Martha is every bit as good a foil for the Time Lord...

Okay, it's taken a while to write this - I had to put an episode of Star Trek on ("Shore Leave", if it's important), and by the time it finished, Doctor Baker had defeated the Cybermen in their tinfoil suits and fled the jurisdiction.

Sylvester's regenerating now, so I'm off to watch...

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Hello, world...

One thing I remember from my early college days is that the first output for any new programmer is traditionally "Hello, world".

So, duty done, I open what hopefully will be a regularly-maintained page, although I have no idea what it's going to contain (yet)...

Comments and advice will always be welcome, especially if I trip over the etiquette or, indeed, my cape...

But even a hero has household chores, so I'm up and away for groceries and stuff, to fortify me for the journey ahead.

Until next time,

Hello, world.


(Note: I had planned on posting this last year, but somehow couldn't bring myself to click on "Publish"). My dad passed in...