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Sugoll the Deformed
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Date:2015-05-16 22:49
Subject:I are'nt ded

While this thing still works, it seems that I have not much clue about how to operate it anymore. LJ seem to have been determinedly moving ahead with New Stuff, while I quite liked the old things, thanks, and that was a few years ago. Or "forever", in computing terms. Oh well.

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Date:2014-08-25 22:56

Luc Besson! Scarlett Johansson! Morgan Freeman! Kick-butt! What's not to like?

Well, the godawful dialogue, for a start. The plot and direction aren't up to much, either.

The short version of the plot: Johansson gets forced into service as a drug mule, unintentionally gets ingests ridiculously large quantities of it, and turns into a god. Meanwhile, Morgan Freeman lectures drivel about using more cerebral capacity, and how that'll unlock magic powers. Uh, why? Johansson decides she needs more of the drug, and to see Freeman. I've no idea why. Korean gangsters want their drug back, but come a cropper when facing Neo Carrie Johansson.

(I mean, for crying out loud: if you're becoming all-powerful and gaining understanding of advanced mathematics and quantum mechanics and so on, can't you pick up just a little bit of art and lit along the way, and come out with some less-cliched dialogue? Flowers for Algernon this is not.)

The whole thing is just meh. Desperately disappointing, since Besson's been responsible for some fantastic actioners of late. I was hoping this would give us a sort-of Black Widow under the radar, while Marvel's being too mysogynistic to make one.

No. Really not.


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Date:2014-08-23 23:22
Subject:Captain America: The Winter Soldier

This was a lot better than I expected.

I found the first Cap film to be....okay. Heartfelt, but a little sentimental, and Hydra/Red Skull seemed silly. This film still has the silliness of Hydra infiltrating SHIELD (not a spoiler - its pretty much out there early on in the film), but has a much firmer basis for its position: the war on terror. As with the Civil War comic book, this film takes the approach that the cost of "winning" that war is too high, in terms of civil liberties, and that SHIELD is as much a problem as Hydra. Bravo.

Evans does a fantastic job, evoking Christopher Reeve in his wholesome, earnest, but not cheesy idealist. Johansson gets a much bigger role here than she does in any previous Marvel film, and that's good to see. She does deadpan well, but there's too much where Cap gets to be the rescuer, compared to the Avengers Assemble, where each shone equally.

Jackson also gets plenty to do as Fury, and newcomer Mackie does well as Falcon, a character entirely new to me.

I just rented this, but I liked it enough that I'll probably fork out for a copy.

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Date:2014-08-23 23:13
Subject:The Raid 2

The Raid was a surprise smash-hit, helped considerably by the simplicity of its plot: A police captain leads a squad of rookies in a raid on a tower block in a Jakartan ghetto, to capture the gangster that rules the whole block. It goes wrong, and the rookies have to fight their way up, to win. A low-budget concept that could continually re-use sets, it won through on the inventive and visceral fight sequences.

Its sequel takes the Die Hard With a Vengence approach, getting way too much budget and freedom, and produces a poorer film as a result. Picking up almost immediately afterwards, it contrives a scenario where protagonist Rama goes undercover in one gang, who are in an uneasy truce with a second, while a third gang plots to undermine both. There are varied locations, tense moments, double-crosses and shifting loyalties and - god forbid - a car chase. There are some ace fight sequences, and Rama continues to be a force to reckon with, but this film is spread too wide and too thin.

There were some weird things that suggested script re-writes: Yayan Ruhian's character appears in both films, but I thought the character died in the first, and his involvement in the second doesn't go anywhere. Similarly, Rama makes a mistake in his fieldcraft which suggests his cover will be blown, but nothing comes of it.

Overall, a disappointment.

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Date:2014-06-23 23:01
Subject:Olympus Has Fallen

I watched this on the flight out to Vegas. It had been lurking on the iPad after being downloaded for a previous trip.

The plot: Gerard Butler is a secret service agent on the President's detail who gets into the doghouse by doing his job properly, with unfortunate consequences. Some time later, Koreans storm the Whitehouse in a cunning plan, and Butler - now exiled to the Treasury Dept across the street - is the only one who is in a position to fight back.

Oh, basically it's Die Hard in the Whitehouse.

I have no idea whether it's any good, since I only made out a handful of lines of dialogue, despite the iPad being on full volume, and Apple's dreadful movie app didn't appear to have subtitles for this film. So mainly I was working out the plot based on the facial features.

So, meh.

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Date:2013-05-12 22:39
Subject:Star Trek Into Darkness

Well, that was fun in a total-bobbins things-go-boom sort of way.

No intentional spoilers, but enter at your own risk anyway...Collapse )

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Date:2013-05-12 22:22

For watervole: maypole dancing spotted, at 1:19 in on this 1920 video from Belgium.

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Date:2013-01-23 21:59
Subject:iOS Twitter clients

I have a wifi-only iPad. I often use it to read Stuff when I'm out of wifi spots - travelling to/from work, say. I download a bunch off new stuff while I'm in range, for various apps: mail, webpages, twitter.

The default twitter app sucks, for this purpose.

First: I want to fetch all the new tweets. All of them. Not just a few, and I certainly don't want to have to scroll through looking for the gap bars so that I can get more. Give me every single tweet since the last time I downloaded.

(It can't be just me that reads tweets in chronological order, I.e. bottom to top. So why does the app always show the most recent of the downloaded chunk, making it even harder to find where to start reading? Or, more likely, to download the next chunk.)

Also: I want to say "refresh now" without having to scroll to the top.

Next: I really don't want the app to spontaneously decide that, perhaps, I didn't want to go to all that effort, and to discard all but the most recent.

Finally: I frequently want to follow a link, but since I'm off the net, I can't. Nor do I want to lose the tweet. At the moment, I mail the tweet to myself, which takes a ridiculous amount of finger actions. Why isn't there a "save for later" option?

Suggestions for a not-so-broken client?

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Date:2012-12-30 00:10
Subject:The Amazing Spider-Man

Well, it's just asking for it, with a title like that, isn't it?

I was underwhelmed, to be honest. Full disclosure: I didn't really go into this with open arms. Metaphorically speaking, I was leaning back, arms folded, feet up, glaring at the screen and daring it to be any good, so perhaps it's not too surprising that it fell short of the hype, if not my expectations.

I dunno. I just wasn't grabbed by Garfield as Peter Parker, nor Stone as Gwen Stacey, and there seemed to be way too much going on in the school that would give the game away.

Martin Sheen was awesome as Uncle Ben, but then, c'mon, Martin Sheen. Obviously, he'll be amazing. But Spider-Man wasn't. It was just...meh. It was either by the numbers, or trying to hit the origin story beats while dodging around the earlier trilogy's dialogue, or diverting somewhat (which may be entirely canonical; I'm unfamiliar with the Ultimate reboots, and just about everything imaginable is canonical somewhere in the DC/Marvel multiverses).

How to tell your movie is in trouble: the best bit, the most imaginative bit of writing, is the Stan Lee cameo.

Tobey and Raimi still reign, in this particular franchise.

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Date:2012-12-27 13:59
Subject:Latin translation needed

Hello, Lazyweb.

A friend of mine is looking for a latin translation of "Helsinki Liechtenauer Academy". (Liechtenauer was a Medaeval German fencing master who wrote one of the earliest known treatises.) My friend writes:

I'm kind of hoping to get some form of a fencing group going at some point, so I was wondering how something like "Helsinki Liechtenauer Academy" would translate to Latin. Apparently Academy translates as Academia, or Academiae - I'm not sure which one would be correct, but I'm also equally unsure of whether or not the words Helsinki and Liechtenauer should be "latinised" some how. If you can find someone with an answer this that, it would super.

Any suggestions?

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Date:2012-12-22 11:43
Subject:Father of Invention

I've written about Professor Elemental before, the short version being: The Indifference Engine is cracking stuff, while More Tea? is something of a rip-off.

The Professor's been busy lately, with a comic and a crowd-funded TV show, but more importantly, he has a new album: Father of Invention. Thankfully, this is a return to form and value, with everything here being newly-released.

Read more...Collapse )

Overall, a good follow-up to The Indifference Engine.

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Date:2012-12-22 10:24

I've just finished watching the fifth season of Nikita. Well, no, actually, it was the second season, but so much has happened that it feels like several seasons must have gone by.
Wibbling (minor spoilers)Collapse )

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Date:2012-12-20 07:42
Subject:Skip limit?

No more skip > 100? Bah. Lost three days worth of Friends pages.

(Haven't had time to look at LJ for sixteen days. Sigh.)

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Date:2012-10-25 22:19

So, my expectation for this week's episode of Homeland:

Thing A occursCollapse )

Which will be a pity, because it'll feel massively forced. On the other hand, what should happen is that:

Thing B occursCollapse )

Which falls naturally out of the situation they've established.

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Date:2012-09-02 10:38
Subject:The Bourne Legacy

Again, not a fringe show, but since I was out and about anyway, and I wanted to see this, I thought I may as well take the opportunity.

Things got off to a comically bad start, with siggav running late, and then going to the wrong cinema, but one dramatic taxi-in-traffic montage later, we were in the auditorium in time for the trailers to start.

The film itself?

Oh dearCollapse )

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Date:2012-07-06 22:14
Subject:Merchant Princes

I haven't read much new prose fiction lately, but the trip to Malta did give me sufficient travelling time to finally finish off the six-volume Merchant Princes series by Charles Stross.

Short version: good story, let down by the ending.

The set-up is a good one: Boston-based tech journalist Miriam accidentally discovers that she is one of a small clan of people with an unusual genetic quirk which allows them to "world-walk" - i.e. hop to another universe in the multi-verse. That other universe happens to be considerably less developed than ours, being basically feudal, and Miriam's clan have made themselves wealthy and powerful in both worlds by some cunning exploitation of this talent, to achieve things that others in the respective worlds cannot.

I'm not going to give away what, exactly, but it's not entirely legal in this world.

Miriam drops into this misogynistic, backwards world like a match into gunpower, refusing to fit the social norms, shaking up carefully-balanced political alliances and generally causing trouble.

Meanwhile, one of the clan has defected, in this world, and the authorities are becoming aware that there's something weird going on and start trying to reassert control.

All of that, by the way, is the basic set-up at the start of the first book.

Stross handles a reasonably large cast of characters in several feuding families and governmental organisations quite well, and several of the novels end with major upsets in the respective worlds, but unfortunately I don't think the ending meets the build-up.

There are several problems.

First, the last book seems to lose entire factions, by focusing on others. It might be that they're taken out of the game in the previous book and I've just forgotten, but I'm not sure about that.

Secondly, some of it's emotionally flat, and rushed. The Bad Guys don't all get their just desserts in satisfying ways. What happens to them makes sense, but I want more from the author.

Worst of all, Miriam and co come up with a solution to the epic problem facing them at the end of the tale, but it's unbelievably callous, and it's completely out of character for Miriam to not even raise this as a problem.

It's a shame, because up to the last book, it was great. In blog posts, Stross has described Miriam as being the equivalent of the Dark Lord, in standard fantasy. Despite being a (sort of) Lost Heir, she's not there to re-establish the status quo, but to blow it away completely. Some of what she gets up to is a lovely extrapolation of what world-walking would mean.

Oh well. Still looking forward to Rule 34 and The Apocalypse Codex, which are from different series.

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Date:2012-04-29 22:19
Subject:Avengers Assemble

(In the UK, this is actually titled Marvel Avengers Assemble. That's not just a company logo in there. They must have finally twigged just how much Steed and Mrs Peel are hardwired into the collective British subconscious. And then panicked.)

This is a pretty long film, and also fairly linear, but surprisingly enjoyable. Short version of the plot: Loki, the Asgard God, is after The Tesseract, a mcguffin that has ended up in SHIELD's hands on earth, so he decides to turn up and claim it. Earth, that is. Nick Fury assembles the Avengers, and punching happens.

The script's a work of art. The lead characters - Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark (Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth's Thor, Chris Evan's Steve Rogers (Captain America), Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner (The Hulk), Jeremy Renner's Clint Barton (Hawkeye) and Tom Hiddleston's Loki - are juggled sufficiently well to both get things to do and rub each other up the wrong way, as befits their characters. Plus, there's Clark Gregg's Agent Coulsen, Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts and Colbie Smulders' Agent Hill all getting a word in as secondary characters.

Favorite bit: Rogers, Stark and Banner all reflecting on different things they find baffling/wrong with the situation, whether they're being manipulated, and by whom.

There's some very funny bits in here, too. And for one of them, the audience applauded. I honestly can't remember the last time a cinema audience did that. Hats off to Joss Whedon and Zak Penn.

Now, can we please have a Black Widow movie? Preferably two, instead of the inevitable sequels to either Captain America or Thor.

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Date:2012-04-29 21:58
Subject:The Cabin in the Woods

So, the Joss Whedon horror movie finally made it into the wild. It's been so long in coming that I've kept confusing it with Tucker and Dale vs Evil. But anyway: seen it now.

It's hard to say a lot about this film without spoilers, and apparently some reviewers have been very spoilery - James Moran mentioned one review that spoiled the closing frame of the film in the opening sentence of the review; that's just mean, people. In light of that, I've avoided reading anything about the film, so went knowing only that it was Joss' take on the sort of film that Evil Dead and its kin spawned: teenagers go for a break to said cabin in woods, and very bad things happen.

In terms of the story, I'm not going to say any more than that. Nope.

There are other things that I can mention, without giving things away. For at start, it's very funny. There's Whedon's trademark under-cutting of portent. You know the kind of thing I mean: like in Angel, where a demon would be going through the process of conducting a ritual, full of ancient language and moody overtones, then would get a cell-phone call part-way through. From its mom. There's Whedon's trademark recycling of other actors ("ooh, ooh, it's whatsisface! Y'know! From thingy!"). And it has Something To Say about tropes in horror movies. These kind of horror movies, especially.

The other important thing to say about this Whedon film is that it's not just a Whedon film. Drew Goddard directed it, and co-wrote it. Credit is due.

So: fun.

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Date:2012-04-12 21:58
Subject:Olympus 2012

I had a great time at Olympus 2012, which appears to have been an amazingly successful Eastercon - my hearty congratulations to all involved. Olympus wasn't perfect (no con ever is), but  it was pretty damn fantastic. From what I saw, the good far outweighed the bad.

Read more...Collapse )

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Date:2012-01-30 21:20
Subject:Girl Genius

I've been reading Girl Genius[1] in the gym lately, thanks to the rather wonderful discovery that it's awesomeness is enough to keep me wanting to read just one more page, rather than thinking "can I just stop this exercise and die now, please?" So by restricting my GG reading to the gym, there's an incentive to go…

I downloaded volumes 1-9 just before the holiday break (I've read them all on the web before), and in my re-read, I'd gotten to, oh, volume 5 or 6 before making this discovery.

Recently, disaster struck! Only ten minutes into the gym session, I finished volume 7 and… volume 8 wasn't on the iPad. Oh noes! Since I've read them all before, I could just continue with 9, but still - eak!

Luckily, it turned out that the download just came with a different filename, so I missed it when importing them all into iTunes. Problem solved! Phew.

1 If you're not familiar with the multi-Hugo-winning Girl Genius, it's a web comic that is released one full-colour page at a time, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It's a "Gaslight Fantasy" with the tagline "Adventure, Romance, Mad Science!" It's top-notch, cracking stuff, with a great list in characters and a witty turn of phrase. And lots of slapstick in a manner I find reminiscent of the better Xena comedy episodes. If you like comics, just go read it. Now.

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