I’m disappointed with Little Mix…

Little Mix have a new song coming out, it is called “Black Magic”, with which I have 2 quite separate and specific issues with (besides the genre, I confess they are somewhat of a guilty pleasure). The first with the video, and the second with the song itself.

The bigger issue, with the video, is probably something more people can relate to, and care about. It is in the style of a 90s sitcom based in an American High School, seems harmless enough. The girls play 4 nerd/geek types that get picked on and ignored until they find a book that teaches them magic (more on that, in the second half). The first thing they do? They conform. They change the way they look and dress to match the styles of the ‘cool’ kids, and strut back into school with short skirts and fancy clothes. Everyone looks at them, and they boy they like starts to notice. (See the images at the top for the transformation, also notice the mysterious disappearing glasses) They also start taking revenge on one of the cool girls by magically making her fart in front of everyone.

Is this what they want to tell young girls to do? After spending the early part of their career battling against those that ridiculed one of the band members for her size, and championing the ‘be yourself’ attitude, they release a video telling their target audience (school age girls), that in order to be happy, they must conform. This is something I shall be actively teaching my daughter not to do. (One of my proudest moments with my daughter was coming home to discover that my wife had taught her which of my socks had Wolverine on.) Also, taking revenge makes them no better than those attacking them. Just because they are different, doesn’t mean you can pick on them. Just because they did it to you, doesn’t mean you can do it to them.

Don’t get me wrong, if my little girl grows up loving handbags and shoes and wants to hang around with other girls using ‘whatever’ and ‘like… so… totally’ as every other word, then so be it. As long as she is happy and enjoying herself, and not doing it just to ‘fit in’

Zachary Levi (of Chuck fame) said this: “If someone calls you a nerd, the correct response is thank you.” “Being a nerd means you are excited by something. Jocks are just sports nerds. Girls into hair, makeup and clothes, are just fashion nerds. If we accept them like that, then they can accept us.”

I am so happy that the stuff I am into is becoming cool and accepted. There is a danger within the geek community that we shun those who only like these things because of the films and shows coming out now. I know I was guilty of this. I have a t-shirt with Gambit (an X-Man) on it. I used to enjoy wearing it as a test. It would separate those who knew the X-Men from the books or cartoon, from those who had only seen the films (as Gambit is not in them). This is wrong, we should be embracing those who have only seen the movies and show them the books. ‘Oh, you liked the Avengers movie? Cool… Here are a stack of stories just as fun.’ Or, ‘You know the writer and director of that also did a cool show called Firefly, that was cancelled after one season… DAMN YOU FOX!!!’ *Runs and hides in the corner crying*….

Ahem…. The point is, treat others as you would like to be treated. There is no better way to freak out someone who is being mean to you, by being nice to them, and be yourself. Changing to fit in will not make you happy. You’re friends should be those who share your interests, or at least accepts them as part of you, and like you anyway.

This is already quite a long post, but I want to touch briefly on my second point. Little Mix’s use of magic.

I enjoy stories with magic. I have played a game for years called “Magic: The Gathering”. I watched Buffy when I was younger. I will read stories to my child that involves magic. I am not against ‘magic’. My issue is the blasé attitude to magic in the song, again aimed at suggestible young people. In the stories I enjoy, the magic is used either in very clear fantastical settings and there are consequences. Also, the term ‘black magic’ references the darker, more sinister magics (or a box of chocolates, I know which I’d prefer). I am not saying that as a direct result of watching this video kids will rush out and summon all kinds of creatures and hell beasts. What I am saying is, I do believe there are forces beyond our understanding, and dabbling in such things without any understanding can lead to consequences we may not understand. Also, messing around something like this and seeing what can be perceived as results, can lead to delving deeper into something you shouldn’t.

So there you go. There are lots of artists who have videos and songs that I wouldn’t want my daughter watching and emulating, I never thought Little Mix would be one of them.

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ReVault, the wearable private cloud!!!

In a world of smart watches that all show you notifications and interact with your phone in a variety of ways, is there really room for another contender? Is there anything new that can be brought to it?

In simple terms, yes…. how about internal storage that can be used to sync data between you computer, phone, tablets etc…. regardless of OS…. Think Dropbox on your wrist.

Giving you full control over who has access to your files and allowing access to everything without an internet connection.

Ladies and gentlemen, the ReVault!!

To be honest, this is the first smart watch I have actually been interested in buying, and not because it’s a watch… it can be worn however you like (the adapter from watch to chain comes in the box). It started as just an idea for wearable storage. The watch and notifications were added later after consultation with the Build Group (of which I am a part), which is fine, but the main selling point to me is that I can carry all I need with me, without having to worry about a data connection, and can access it on any device.

If you want more info, the website is here; if you want to try and win one, go here… Good luck!

Kirsty Has Dysentery.

Dysentry

On July 30, 1848, Kirsty caught dysentery as we were traversing the midwest on The Oregon Trail. 

Oh yes, game 1 of 1001. The Oregon Trail from 1990. Played as a series of choices determining how you will travel from the city of Independence, to Oregon. The first step is naming yourself and 4 companions for your trip. Choosing your profession sets your starting budget, you then decide how hard you will travel, and how you ration your food. This effects how fast you travel, and your teams health. The harder you travel, and the more you ration, makes your health decrease, hence Kirsty’s dysentery (she fought valiantly for 3 days, but sadly died). I then lost Katie after a 9 day battle with measles. The rest of us survived, and arrived in Oregon in fairly good health; Benny had a fever, and Emma had caught cholera twice and broke her arm on the way. (I was fine, so yay!)

The point of the game is to plan your journey and your resources. When crossing rivers you have the choice try try and go it alone, by either forging your way across, or making your wagon waterproof; or, if you have the money, you could take the ferry. Food supplies need to be kept up, either buy buying/trading or hunting. Hunting consists of spinning your character and firing in the hopes of hitting a bear or buffalo (or squirrel… damn those critters are quick). This is also a lesson in taking the right shot and making the most of your rounds. I soon learnt that I could only carry 100 pounds of meat back to the wagon, so after shooting one bear (which weighs around 127 pounds) I can stop shooting and preserve my ammo for hunting later.

Hunting

A small confession is needed at this point… In my eagerness I searched for ‘The Oregon Trail’ and dived into the first version I found online. After having completed my first play through after a couple of hours, I realised that I had been playing the 1990 version… not the 1971 version listed in the book. Still it was enjoyable and I shall remain on the lookout for the original, but for now I am counting this as the first completed game off the list…

For those of you wanting to enjoy The Oregon Trail yourself, it can be played for free (legally as it is ‘abandonware’) and many other MSDOS based games at https://archive.org/details/softwarelibrary_msdos_games/v2 I will be using this site often for the older games as they can be played in your web browser with no fuss, and no need for you to download an MSDOS emulator.

Constantine Series Review (Spoiler free)

I don’t generally enjoy on screen horror. I prefer suspense driven/thriller type horror, rather than traditional ‘ooh look there’s a scary thing… it’s going to kill us!’. There are exceptions, Buffy was awesome, I thoroughly enjoy Cabin in the Woods (suspiciously both Joss Whedon… hmmm). As Constantine is a comic book adaptation I decided to start reading Hellblazer before starting to watch Constantine; and I’m glad I did. Not because it let me see glaring errors, but because it showed me how good the show really is. The horror is not on the same scale as ‘American Horror Story’ for example, as I expect the network want to attract enough people to watch; which works for me as, like I said above, horror isn’t really my thing.

The tone is spot on, Matt Ryan is exceptional (the only issue being his accent is Manchester, rather than Scouse). One episode was straight out of the books and was done brilliantly. It fit in just right with very few changes. John Constantine is a character whose real talent is not that he is adept in magic (which he is), it’s that his real talent is lying so convincingly that he doesn’t always need to use magic. The overarching story is that John has been using magic for years, he has a dodgy past in England, and so is now living in America with his mate Chas. He meets a girl with powers to help track down demons, lost souls, or general magic going bad; then goes and sorts out the bad using a mix of magic and shouting. He has no time for people who can’t help him. He is not sympathetic to the victim, he is not doing it out of the goodness of his heart, he cannot help himself. He needs to know what is going on, for his own knowledge and to make up for an incident in his aforementioned dodgy past. Without going in to too much detail and let something slip, that’s basically it. The stories are a great mix of magic as it may be used in modern times; one story involves the Devil’s voice being captured on a record, which drives those who hear it mad. It’s a great idea and is executed brilliantly.

As is the case with most TV series, there was a lot of time between the pilot and episode 2 being filmed, so don’t be surprised when the apparent female lead, from the pilot, completely disappears and is not referred to from episode 2 onwards. The actress left the series and has been replaced by a new female character. The upside to this, is the new character, Zed, is from the books and has an interesting history with John. I will say no more, as her connection seems to be quite different in the show.

Chas has also changed, from just being a Taxi driver and Constantine’s best mate, to being a lot more involved in what is going on. There are one or two other changes, which I wont go into to avoid spoilers, but so far they are small and reasonable.

The only other thing worth mentioning, is the absurd US Network TV rules around showing smoking. A lot was made of the fact that Constantine would not be allowed to be seen smoking. John is a chain smoker, which does become a major plot point in some storylines. There was outcry from the fans, leading the network to say that John will be a smoker and they will get that across as best they can. How do they do this… they show him with a lighter, playing with cigarette cartons, putting out cigarettes at the beginning of scenes. At the end of the latest episode he puts an unlit cigarette in his mouth and lights it. This last one highlights how pointless the rule is… he is not allowed to be seen inhaling from a lit cigarette, but he can be seen putting one in his mouth and lighting it… how is that any different? The reason for the rule is not to glorify smoking and encourage young people to smoke… firstly, those old enough to watch Constantine are old enough to make there own decisions… and secondly, if you are aware of the plot revolving around his smoking, you would see that it is a massive anti-smoking ad. Granted, the show might not use that plot line soon, but hey will need to address it should the show get a second series. Lastly, if the network rules allow the character to be seen as clearly a smoker, and get so far as to show him light a cigarette then they might as well show him puffing…. Rant over!

– TL;DR –

The show is brilliant. Very close to the books. Constantine’s character and tone is spot on. Forget the Keanu Reeves film and watch this…

X-Men: Days of Future Past (Spoilers)

I have only just seen this film; which should not be a surprise to anyone who knows my feelings on the Fox interpretation of the franchise and it’s characters. Those of you who don’t know will soon find out. (Hint: this is labelled as a review and a rant…

I will try to keep this article specific to this film, and not mention my issues with the franchise as a whole. If I can be bothered, that may come later.

The first, and quite significant, issue is Kitty Pryde.  In the comic series this is based on, it is Kitty whose mind is sent back in time. In a nod to this, Fox decided to that Kitty should be the mutant to send Wolverine’s mind back. This is a huge stretch, particularly as there are plenty of mutants with mental powers that could do the job, Prof X anyone…?

The second, and most personal to me, is Bishop. I love Bishop. In the 90’s cartoon version of this story, it was Bishop who was sent back in time. His power is to absorb energy, which he can store and discharge. In the film he absorbs energy and syphons it into his gun!?! I can only reason that Fox made this decision because there were enough generic energy wielding mutants. This issue came to a head when Bishop was killed… Three Sentinels ganged up on him with energy weapons and overloaded him. In the books Bishop would have been able to redirect the energy, out of his hands. In fact, this happened in the books. I forget the exact issue, but Cyclops unleashed his full power into Bishop, nearly overloading him, but Bishop sent the energy straight up. You cannot kill Bishop with energy weapons… simple. Considering most of the other mutants at this point were stabbed, it seemed an odd decision.

In the midst of strange decisions, there was one bright spot… Blink. Blink’s powers were also slightly changed, but I don’t mind in this case. The Blink of the film creates portals. This lead to a couple of great moments, worthy of Portal itself. Including using Colossus’ momentum through three portals to take out a Sentinel. It was very much ‘thinking with Portals’.

It was also good to see Bobby in full Iceman mode. Although it is still odd seeing him decked out in full leathers.

I’m trying hard not to pull apart the entire film (how can cracking a mutants genome make better robots? How can Wolverine by inside both of his heads at the same time), but you get the picture.

TL;DR

I understand filmakers having to change things for the big screen. Storytelling on page and on film is different, there advantages for each medium and you can’t tell exactly the same story in the same way. However, what really grinds my gears is changing things for the sake of change, just to show you’re doing something. Why buy the rights to something when you’re going to rip out everything but the bare essentials, take a look at what Fox are doing with their Fantastic Four reboot to see what I mean.

There are some good moments, amid all the rubbish… same as all the X-Men films so far.

Guardians of the Galaxy Review (Major Spoilers)

This is my favourite of all the Marvel films so far…. there, I’ve said it. The test for me is how soon I can watch it again. Most films I need to wait a bit because I can remember what happens too well. As soon as I left the cinema, I wanted to see it again. I managed to wait until last night to watch it again, and it was as good as I remembered. Little details I had forgotten were fun a second time; and, more importantly, what I remembered was still great.

My only major issue with the film is making Ronan The Accuser a fairly generic one-note villain, oh and killing him (I said spoilers).  In the comic universe, Ronan is a great character. He is noble and devoutly loyal to the Kree Empire. I didn’t recognise any of these traits in the Ronan in this film. They could have used any of the second tier villains that exist the galaxy; particularly as he dies. As they expand the cosmic universe on screen, Ronan would be a great recurring character. His loyalty to his Empire has lead to him to be enemy and ally in different scenarios. It seems particularly odd to kill him off as the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) appears to be getting more heavily involved with the Kree. The strange writings in Marvel’s Agents of SHEILD appear to be Kree in origin. The blue alien kept in T.A.H.I.T.I appears to be Kree. Both the Inhumans and Captain Marvel are heavily linked to the Kree. It’s a shame that Marvel Studios are unable to use the Skrulls as well, as the Kree/Skrull war is the reason both species are particularly interested in Earth.

Apart from Ronan, and possibly underusing Thanos (but now we know he is a major player in the 2nd and 3rd Avengers films), the rest of the film is fantastic. No knowledge of previous Marvel films, or any other Marvel characters is needed. It is a fun, easy going film, full of classic 70’s and 80’s music, plus the best reference to Kevin Bacon I have seen since he started advertising for EE.

Chris Pratt is excellent as Peter Quill, and I am intrigued as to what they do with his father. They have stated it is not the same as the comic books, where his father is the J’Son, the Emperor of the Spartax Empire. They are no different to Earth humans, and so Quill has no powers, and kind of makes the idea a bit pointless.

 

TL;DR

Love it, love it, love it… want to watch it again now… and again, and again.

In The Night Garden… Explained

Having watched In The Night Garden every night with my adorable little girl, I have been confused as to how it makes any sense at all… The characters are clearly bigger than the vehicles, until they want to go inside; at which point they are magically to scale… It is always day time. Everything that goes on seems a bit mad…. until I realised something. It all appears mad, because it is mad. It’s all happening inside the head of someone who has clearly been driven insane… and that person is… Iggle Piggle!

This is Iggle Piggle, in case you didn’t know:

At the beginning and end of each episode we see Iggle Piggle in his boat, floating aimlessly in an unknown sea. This is where, I believe, he stays throughout the whole episode, clearly driven mad by, presumably, hunger, thirst and lack of company. My reasoning is as follows:

  1. The opening voiceover (the wonderful Derek Jacobi) states “Round and round, a little boat no bigger than your hand, out in the ocean, far away from land” – This tells us that IP is lost at sea, with no hope of rescue (as he is very small).
  2. As far as I can tell, the only female is Upsy Daisy, who happens to be IP’s girlfriend. They are frequently seen holding hands and kissing – if you were to create a fantasy with only one member of the opposite gender, wouldn’t you want to be the one in the relationship.
  3. The Garden itself, seems huge. However, they seem to bump into each other very frequently; if you take into account the speed the Ninky Nonk can get up to, it’s a wonder they aren’t scattered all over the place.
  4. The aforementioned size issue, that disregards all manner of laws of physics.
  5. When communication over large distances is required, telephone handsets appear out of the closest object.
  6. Iggle Piggle is the only character who doesn’t speak.
  7. Iggle Piggle is the last to go to sleep. In fact, you don’t see him go to sleep in the Garden, we return to the boat and see him drift off.
  8. Iggle Piggle’s blanket is identical to the boat’s sail. This could be because he can still feel the sail and his mind is incorporating that into the delusion.

So there we are…. In The Night Garden exists purely in the mind of Iggle Piggle, driven mad by loneliness, hunger and thirst.

I am not the only person to have these thoughts, this blogger’s husband had a similar idea.