Hmm, The Original Cuts You Say?

Han Solo shoots Greedo.

All this talk of the original Star Wars trilogy being released on Blu-ray makes me think Disney might have a plan. A cunning plan.

Clearly, unbounded by ego, Disney feel that there’s profit to be made in giving the fans what they want, a bizarre concept I know, but Disney have long since proven to me that they know what they’re doing with valuable franchises.

Is that the only reason though? Is it simply profit or is there a deeper motive at play here? I think there might be!

Call me mad but I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Disney’s ulterior motive might not simply be to increase their profits but also test the waters for a reset of the franchise.

Consider these facts:

The Expanded Universe is gone, consigned to the dustbin of history. Disney may choose to cherry pick material from it that they want or feel has value but ostensibly they’re starting from scratch.

The new movies are now in the hands of a capable director who prefers shooting on film and is clearly intending to put a stake in the ground when it comes to practical effects. He’s doing everything Lucas eschewed in his making of the prequel trilogy.

And now the unaltered original trilogy’s release on Blu-ray is being touted as a possibility.

What does all this point to? Well, in my mind, it points to the Blu-ray release of Episode IV, V and VI acting as a barometer for the movie going public’s love of the original trilogy. If they were to sell well it could influence the future direction the franchise takes.

How so you ask? Well I’ll tell you.

There are only three more movies that Disney can make in the original, nine movie sequence, right? Although they’ve commited to making a “back story” movie for a selection of fan favourite characters, to fill in the gaps between the larger “episode” movies, that’s still only a schedule of around six years worth of movies without doing something drastic (like, shudder, a reboot).

Disney have proven with their Marvel franchises that a six year plan isn’t something they trifle with.

So what could they do?

Well the easiest and most lucrative approach (considering original trilogy fans are now well into their forties and fifties and in possession of sizeable chunks of disposable income) would be to excise the prequel trilogy from Star Wars history, like the EU, and start again.

Think about it, no Jar Jar Binks, no trade dispute bullshit, no stiff teen queen, no Darth Vader as a kid, no pod racing, no Jar Jar Binks, no bizarre virgin birth nonsense, no midichlorians, no piss poor green screen sets, no awkward romance, in short none of the bollocks original Star Wars fans hated about Lucas’ money grabbing exercise in cynicism, just a true set of Star Wars prequels that show the fall of Anakin Skywalker (already a great pilot!) and the rise of Darth Vader the way we really wanted it to be shown in the first place.

It would also pave the way for a Boba Fett movie that didn’t need to unpick the nonsense that Episode II injected into his mythos before it could continue with the badassery that we’d come to expect from Boba Fett prior to the prequels.

Put simply, it would be a brilliant move.

 

Do You Know SID?

Commodore 64's command prompt.

The Commodore 64 was an outstanding machine, its abilities were pretty amazing for the time and whilst its graphical abilities were good, they were matched by other 8-bit machines of the time. Its sound though? Well that’s another story altogether.

The Commodore 64 was home to one of the most powerful sound processors of the time; the SID.

The SID, or Sound Interface Device, was the sound controller that was used in the Commodore 64, essentially it was an analogue synth on a chip and the range of sounds it could produce were streets ahead of anything else at the time.

 The guys that managed to coax the sounds from this chip are legendary in retro gaming circles, the most well-known proponent of the art – Rob Hubbard – is a genius. To this day he remains practically unknown, he truly deserves more recognition for the part he played in the foundation of digital music.

Even now though the SID is still used, primarily in a MIDI sound module – the SIDStation – and the sounds it makes have been very popular with the rap and R&B communities, with many tracks sporting SID arpeggios.

Some producers have been less than honest though. Timbaland in particular. He infamously lifted the entire melody from the Commodore 64 arrangement of an Amiga tune; Acidjazzed Evening and used it in the Nelly Furtado song Do It.

The original composer was given no credit. The whole thing sucked.

Regardless of all that the SID’s sound remains unique and is instantly recognisable to any retro gaming fan or 8-bit afficianado.

It’s good that SID music is still being listened to, and that it’s so easy to get, regardless of the rather dishonest use of those tunes by some.

Jon’s Top Ten SID Tunes

If you’ve never heard the SID belt out a tune on its own – without an overpaid half wit babbling all over it – you’ve really missed a great experience. That’s why I’ve put together my top ten favourite SID tunes for you to listen to. I’m kind like that.

Tetris – Wally Beben

The closest the Commodore 64 got to prog rock was this awesome twenty-five minute epic that accompanied – in hindsight – one of the worst versions of Tetris I’ve ever played.

Of course I didn’t know that back then, it was pure puzzle perfection at that point and – despite only being able to rotate blocks one way and not having the option to speed the block down the well – it felt like fantastic fun.

At the time I seem to recall feeling that Tetris was life changing (it certainly was for Nintendo) but I was only thirteen and it was a cold winter. Nevertheless listening to Tetris’ music and resetting the line counter twice (it reset at 255) was my idea of a great achievement back then.

Actually, it still is.

Wizball – Martin Galway

Good grief Wizball was an amazing game and it was made by the music. This is the high score theme which is all wobbly and mellow, it would often round off a session nicely.

It’s relaxing and spacey and jolly all at the same time. I love it!

The Last Ninja – Ben Daglish & Anthony Lees

Every single tune in The Last Ninja was a corker. In the end I plumped for this one, no particular reason as they are all mini-masterpieces in their own right.

The Last Ninja was as close as you got to a blockbuster back then and in comparison to today’s games it does look incredibly simplistic, though when I first played it in the summer of 1987 it literally left me speechless.

How times have changed.

Firefly – Fred Gray

Tidy little game, nothing special but the music was ace! That said it was quite nicely designed, it just didn’t really offering anything new.

Zamzara – Charles Deenen

A scrolling Contra style affair without the delicate control that Contra afforded you. Given that it was a budget title (£2.99, bargain!) the graphics and music were amazing!

Quedex – Matt Gray

Quedex, or to give it its full title; The Quest For Ultimate Dexterity! I spent about two hours failing the first level because I hadn’t read the instructions.

The only thing that kept me going was the music, my reasoning being that if the music was this good the game must be pretty special. That and the fact that it had got a Zzap! Sizzler.

In the end though it wasn’t really all that amazing. Shame, shame.

Sanxion – Rob Hubbard

Ooh! Sanxion! What a belter this is. Loading a game took ages back in the mid-eighties, so it was always good when you got a rocking piece of music like this to distract you. Mind you I didn’t think that much of Sanxion as a game, it never really did it for me. I suspect I’m in the minority there though.

Cybernoid II – Jeroen Tel

This came slightly later in the Commodore 64′s life and is altogether a bit more full on. That’s not to say it’s not great, because it is, it’s just a bit stronger.

Hunter’s Moon – Matt Gray

Another loading screen tune and what a stunner it is. A driving tune with a slow militaristic beat accompanied by a brilliant loading screen once again really got you in the mood for the game to come. Which, I’m please to report, was corking.

As I recall it was also fairly easy to cheat and rack up a whole host of extra lives because of the regenerating nature of the game world. You just had to point your ship at an alien structure, pop a book on your fire button then nip off and have your tea, safe in the knowledge you were racking up big points, as the computer controlled drones went around rebuilding the scenery you were racking up the points for destroying! Happy days.

Parallax – Martin Galway

This piece of music comes from the part of Parallax where you’re running around the deserted cities, usually attempting to find scientists to drug.

In lieu of the ability of graphics to convey the isolation of being in a practically empty alien city, the music did a bang up job of conjuring those feelings up.

Just me then?

2014, Year Of Change!

Cumbria.

So! It’s day two of my new and improved life.

Well, I say day two but really it’s day one as I didn’t actually post anything yesterday, regardless though today’s the day that I’m going to list my new year’s resolutions. Exciting stuff. huh? Hmm, well.

My first resolution is to lose weight and get fitter. I used to be 13 stone something and could run up three flights of stairs without losing breath. Now I’m almost seventeen stone and can barely make it to the stairs.

The aim is to be fourteen stone exactly by the beginning of August, with will power that is achievable.

My second wish, er, resolution is to do more of what I’m doing right now; blogging. Also vlogging is something I’m intrigued by so I’ll be making a vlog of this too, although when I’ll have the nerve to publish it I don’t know. Soon though my pretties, soon.

Resolution number three is to record an EP. When I were a lad EP’s were always four tracks long, so that’s the goal, four songs of joy and merriment, written, performed and recorded by me. With maybe one cover too. A bonus track if you will.

My final goal for the year is to write a screenplay. I’ve got a few ideas for movies kicking around in my noggin, one about an alien scientist that saves the world from invasion, one about a werewolf in the wild west and of course I’ve still got all my ideas for a Doctor Who origin movie.

That last one will be familiar to a lot of people as it’s my favourite method of boring people when they’re trapped on trains or in elevators or meetings with me.

Whatever it is I want to get a 120 page screenplay finished in 2014.

There is a fifth and final aim for the year but I can’t really talk about that yet, suffice to say though when it happens things are going to be mighty exciting at Douglas Towers.

Is Hazel And Daley’s Big Brother Incident Clear Cut?

Daley and Hazel.

Having just watched the Big Brother Hazel and Daley debacle I have this to say; Big Brother should have thrown them both out.

Daley was out of order for what he did, he was aggressive and physical, and he shouldn’t have been; drunk or not. Additionally his behaviour the following day was that of an abusive partner. Very scary.

That said, Hazel’s constant game playing and behaviour was obviously going to lead to some adverse reaction at some point. She was very clearly attempting to manipulate him. It’s also interesting that on his exit Daley’s comments about Hazel’s devious nature were the first vocalisation of his feelings about her, and also the first time we got confirmation that he knew she was playing him.

What’s worse is that he was right she is a devious woman, she’s a dangerous woman and above all else she’s a manipulative woman. It must have been a successful tactic for her up to this point in her life, and Daley’s ejection will see her given an additional angle with which to manipulate others, which she will take.

Big Brother's Hazel O'Sullivan, victim.

Hazel O’Sullivan, victim.

We’ve already seen her confide in the only gay man in the house. She knows how to deal with men. Women don’t buy it. Men do, gay or otherwise. Whilst in no way did she deserve it, Hazel is now playing the victim in an incident that she both started and fueled.

She has managed to give the impression of being open and honest by telling Dan what happened, in a rapid, machine gun manner, quickly adding, after her revelation about her sexual assault on Daley; “I got a warning because they have to be fair.”. Not that she got a warning because she too did something wrong but because it was a matter of balance? Curious idea that.

Not only that but she also managed – by way of her uncharacteristic coyness about telling the house what happened – to contrive a means of the story being retold to the house by someone who is generally trusted and without an axe to grind, someone who will be seen as beyond the reach of her manipulation by dint of his sexuality, someone who is thought to be wise, shrewd and capable of seeing through people.

Yet more manipulation.

Big Brother's Daley Ojuederie, victim of a different kind.

Daley Ojuederie, victim of a different kind.

It’s interesting to see that although it has been mentioned on the show, very little mention is now being made of Hazel’s sexual assault on Daley elsewhere? She pulled down his pants. Had he done that to her there would have been an intervention straight away, not afterwards.

What I would say about Daley is that – according to his Big Brother biography – he grew up in care, I would imagine that would colour his behaviour when people threaten him – in whatever manner. What happens when you’re young imprints on your entire personality.

Not that I am in anyway trying to excuse his behaviour but Daley’s probably had to fight for a lot in his life. By which I mean fight not struggle.

Ultimately though the producers of Big Brother have generated this situation. They should have known this sort of thing could happen if they were both put into the safe house. They are culpable for stoking the tensions that lead to this.

Where In The World?
Well, Not PC World

Currys PC Word. Doh.

So people think that the high street is on its arse. I wonder why that is?

Well, it could be because of shit like this.

Having decided that the Surface Pro is the next laptop/tablet for me I – rather rashly – decided that it might be a good idea to go and see one. Unfortunately I thought PC World might be my best bet. What a mistake.

Arriving at PC World with my little daughter in tow I was approached by an earnest young man.

“Can I help you.”, he said without a trace of irony.

“Do you have the Surface Pro?”, I said, dooming myself to disappointment.

“No. We don’t stock it.”, there was a brief pause. “We’ve got the regular Surface though!”. Clearly this was an inspired after thought.

“Er, no, I want the Pro thanks.”.

“Right. Ok.”, and with that he was gone.

So as disappointed as I was to find out that the Surface Pro would not be fondled with today I thought I’d take a look around anyway. On making my way to the bright yellow reduced section, I passed a gaggle of assistants. “Are you alright sir?”, their leader chimed.

In for a penny in for a pound. “I don’t suppose you’ve got the Surface Pro do you?”, a look of confusion shot across their faces. “The Microsoft Surface Pro? The MIcrosoft Tablet?”, I helpfully added.

“Ah right, no. It’s online only.”, two answers down. How many more to go I wondered. I didn’t need to wait long for the answer.

A third genius piped up, ” No, we’re out of stock, we usually have one in stock.”, I could tell when he said one, he meant one, singular. That was the maximum stock level. One.

“Nah, er, we’ve got one out the back, innit.”, said one of the lackeys. Yes, he actually said innit.

“Great! Can I see it?”, I enthusiastically blurted.

The leader’s face contorted with concern. “Is it opened?!”. Clearly an opened unit wouldn’t do, not at all.

The young upstart was quick. “We’ve got to open it for display anyway.”, he revealingly said.

An interesting one this. Their last unit – or as I later discovered, only unit – was to be opened and put on display. Gosh. I’m lucky. I thought. So off he traipsed to the out back and I merrily waited by the monitors.

And waited.

And waited.

Then after noting to myself the lack of 21:9 ratio monitors – my next purchase after a Surface Pro -I rationalised there was little point in asking any of the sales assistants why this was lest I get a blank yet withering stare, I decided to wait a bit more.

Eventually my enthusiastic young defender arrived. “Sorry. We sold it this morning.”. Great.

“Really?”, my incredulity at their stock management system’s lack of tracking, audible in my voice. “It’s gone?”

“Yeah.”, he was deeply concerned. “We’ve got the Surface RT though?”. As impressed as I was that he knew it was called the Surface RT I wasn’t prepared to be squeezed down that particular line.

“I’m sure you do. You’ll have them for a long time to come too!”, the gag whizzed past his right ear, impacting against a reduced stock display basket full of bright pink JVC earphones.

“I can show you them. We’ve got a few of them in stock.”, I chanced my arm with my next comment.

“Yep, and that’s where they’ll stay.”

“No, they’re just over here.”, he motioned me towards an anemic looking Surface RT, chained to the counter by not one but two alarms.

“I. Don’t. Want. A. Surface RT.”, I enunciated clearly. “I want a Surface Pro.”

“Right. Well, what we can do is”, deep breath here guys, “if you buy a Surface Pro today, we’ll have it here by Tuesday or Wednesday and you can come back in and have a look at it and if you don’t like it we can get you a refund.”. Not a hint of irony. Not a smirk. That was a serious suggestion.

That. That. That. That was his solution to my problem.

I could buy one today. Come back on Tuesday or Wednesday and if I didn’t like it, I could go through the hassle of a refund. Brilliant.

“No. I don’t think so. Thanks.”, and with that I left.

PC World next time you wring your hands and moan about Internet retailers stealing your trade, remember this tale. This is your only advantage and you’re fucking it up by maintaining appalling stock levels and, worse, charging a premium for it.

Let’s look at this catalogue of disaster shall we PC World? In one thirty minute period you told me:

  • You don’t stock the Surface Pro.
  • The Surface Pro is online only.
  • You only ever have one Surface Pro stock.
  • You have a Surface Pro out the back.
  • The one Surface Pro you stock has been sold.

Realistically I give you five years. Ten at the most. Then you’re gone. It’s not quite suicide but at the very least it’s death by misadventure.

If you want to survive get your act together. Seriously. Get your act together. You’re an embarrassment to retail.

Is PRISM The Darker Side Of The NSA?

The NSA's badge.

Broadly speaking the adage that if you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to be afraid of, is something I agree with. That said what I’ve been reading about PRISM is more than a little worrying.

The collection and collation of data from almost every major provider on the web, by a foreign power, is terrifying in the extreme. Not because of anything I’ve said or done but because of the potential for the rules to change, for the data they’ve already collected to retrospectively become suspect, for my life to be turned upside down by a change in the rules.

President Obama has of course addressed the good people – or folks as he would no doubt have it – of the United States of America to stress that PRISM – which is one of the most far-reaching internet spy programs ever seen, a program that sucks data from Google, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo and other monolithic US technology companies – is nothing to worry about. Yay! He said:

With respect to internet and emails, this does not apply to US citizens and it does not apply to people living in the United States.

Well, that’s a comfort. Right? Oh, hang on no, no it’s not, it’s no comfort whatsoever, seeing as I’m a British citizen I’m one of them there people that this applies to. Great, I’m being spied on.

With effort I can almost understand why access to this volume of data might be necessary in certain situations but they are so very extreme and exceptional that I can’t honestly believe the efforts that have been made into the creation of this system have been made with simply the protection of the people of the USA from foreign powers in mind.

To my mind PRISM’s ability to monitor, what appears to be the world’s communications, will be – or perhaps already has been – too much of a temptation to the US government not to be used for its corporate associates. That’s more of a worry than anything else.

Whichever way you cut it though, PRISM’s existence is worrying but not entirely unexpected. We should watch for any further revelations, as I have a feeling things are only going to get more uncomfortable the more we find out.

Man Of Steel. Now I’m Interested!

It means hope.

A while back I wrote about the upcoming Superman reboot; Man Of Steel. Essentially I made the point that fan service was dead and that it was about time the die hard comic book fans realised that. I may have been wrong about the lack of fan service in this movie though.

In this latest trailer, it appears Zack Snyder may just have snuck in a whole heap of fan service and with it, done everything right. It even looks like the rebooted Zod – the only thing I thought might be too far removed from the traditional image of Zod, even for non-fans – could be a worthy opponent for young Supes and potentially, a classic villain

Still, there’s plenty of time for me to be proved wrong, this could end up being be the worst super hero movie of all time.

It’s unlikely though. Warner Brother’s have too much riding on the back of this, I would imagine it’s had massive amounts of time and money spent on it. It will have been finely honed before a single scene was even shot.

After all, if Man Of Steel fails it’s doubtful we’d see another Superman film for ten years and that would mean Warner’s plan for a Justice League franchise to rival Marvel’s Avengers, would be destroyed. This movie is literally a property that – for them – is too big to fail.

Roll on June the 14th, only then will we know exactly what they’ve done to the caped crusader.

Lisa Williams: Life Among The Dim

Lisa Williams: fraud.

Lisa Williams is self-styled clairvoyant who parades around on a show called Lisa Williams: Life Among The Dead, solving people’s spirit problems and helping them communicate with the departed. She’s a piece of work and no mistaking, watch that clip to hear all about her amazing, ahem, gift.

She never wanted a TV series. Yeah, right.

As a clairvoyant it is Lisa’s unique gift, wink, wink, to be able to feel the dead around her. Of course when we say feel we mean react theatrically to unseen hands and make vague statements regarding the probable cause of death or the location that a body was found in.

Make no mistake this is a genuine and unique psychic ability she’s displaying, in no way is it prior research. No sir.

Ok, yes, clearly it’s research. There is no afterlife.

The reason it’s so convincing to the poor stooges though, is because – in the case of murders and deaths where the bodies are left at the crime scene – you can get all the juicy details you require for your act from the police and/or coroner’s reports, thereby appearing astoundingly, dare I say, spookily, accurate! On the other hand in those cases where a body was never found or the, ahem, spirit is from long ago, who’s going to be able to dispute what you say? Nice scam!

What really makes this so horrible though, is that after describing horrendous deaths, making lots of weird concentration faces and generally putting the wind up the poor gullible people she’s supposed to be helping, she’ll do a piece to camera where she makes glib comments like, ‘I don’t know how they’re going to sleep here tonight.’ before grinning to camera like the Cheshire fucking cat. Quite honestly by the time she’s finished winding someone up I’d be surprised if they ever slept again.

Simply put she’s praying on people like some sort of psychic cowboy builder, look at the exchange below. This is a verbatim transcript of her response to someone that has just described how guests freak out after hearing knocking and scraping noises in her hotel.

You would need someone like myself to come in and totally cleanse it and clear that person over, help them pass themselves over. That is not a five minute job.

Hotelier nods.

[Room] 307? The one with the decapatation and everything? The problem is that you’re dealing with a very reluctant and strong willed spirit so it would take a while.

I half expected her to suck air through her teeth and ask for a tea with eight sugars. Ironically if they actually did want to get rid of the knocking and scraping noises a plumber would probably be a better bet than Lisa Williams.

Look folks sorry to break it to you once again but when you die you’re dead. There’s no nondescript ethereal place where you will play with all your other dead friends in perfect harmony. Though if you choose to believe there is that’s fine, if it makes you happy great, just don’t get taken in by charlatans like this, they’re scum.

Sunshine (2007)

Sunshine (2007).

Set fifty years in the future Sunshine is the story of eight brave astronauts’ attempts to restart the failing sun. With a nuclear bomb. The size of Manhattan. In a big space ship.

The plucky bunch set off for the sun in their flying space bomb and everything’s going great guns, we learn that Icarus I – the previous mission – failed and that we are now watching the crew of Icarus II, we also learn that no one knows why Icarus I failed its mission. I smell a set up!

As they jet through space we watch them do the usual futuristic space ship things, look at screens, check dials, eat space-food and bicker. Boilerplate space trucker activity that infects every film since Alien in 1979 and also my first problem with Sunshine. I take great exception to the lazy, hackneyed notion of a bickering crew. Whilst it might be believable on a merchant ship or a mining vessel crewed by roughnecks earning their money by putting their lives at risk, this isn’t what the Icarus II is. It’s a scientific vessel, with a vitally important mission.

Before anyone would have been let on board that ship they would have been put through a battery of test to evaluate their psychological suitability for a mission of such immense import. They would have been screened again and again and again, not one trace of susceptibility would have been allowed on that ship or for that matter its forebear; Icarus I. Can you imagine what a disaster Apollo 11′s mission to the moon would have been if Collin’s, Aldrin and Armstrong had been bickering the entire way?

Yet still we see the same predictable nonsense happening here; the crew fight about trivialities, mistakes happen and they tear themselves apart. Hands up who didn’t see that one coming?

This is not the only sci-fi stereotype to be exploited. We have the brave, selfless, stoic captain; the military career man, whose sole priority is the mission; the emotional, tear ridden woman that’s perpetually one step away from a nervous breakdown; the cowardly second in command; the guilt ridden, neurotic, mistake maker; the friendly biologist, who loves plants and loves people; the wacky ship’s doctor and our hero, the mild mannered scientist who discovers a part of himself he didn’t know existed to save the day. All bases are covered, all I think we were missing was a wise cracking robot.

Putting predictability of characterisation to one side, the overriding problem with the film is that it says nothing, either in itself or about the human condition. It plods along, stretching out its 147 minutes into an eternity, yet manages to make no point about anything. Worse still entire chunks of the movie happen for no reason and for no purpose. As an example, in the final reel we learn that there was perhaps a survivor from the Icarus I, yet we are given no idea how they survived and, looking at them, how they continue to survive, nor are we given any clue as to how they managed to move around undetected on board the Icarus II up to this point.

The only reason this villain seems to exist is to create dramatic tension in the dragging final act. Admittedly it’s something the film desperately needed but I can’t help feeling the drama of a dying sun should have been enough to move everything along at a tidy clip.

On a positive note the special effects throughout are outstanding and the acting is decent, if a little stilted, although that could be because of the appalling dialogue. Still, the cast manage to plough on through and pull off believable – if out of place – camaraderie in the first reel but just don’t inject anything extra into the limited material to make you believe they’re on a magnificently important mission or care about them as individuals in any significant way.

All of which leads to a film that’s pleasing to the eyes but not to the intellect, which is a great shame as the eye’s really do get a treat.

As a footnote; no self respecting space agency would ever dream of calling a spaceship, thats sole purpose was to rescue a dying sun, Icarus. Unless of course all these people on board were on a suicide mission and were aware they were on a suicide mission. So doing it in a film is just crass and pointless, simply there to telegraph to the audience the inevitability of the crew’s failure.