Gotham And Mr. J

Cameron Monaghan has already been in a load of series that I love; The Mentalist, Fringe, Numb3rs, Monk, Malcolm In The Middle.

But seeing him here portraying a young… you-know-who… well, he’s certainly got great things ahead of him.

Meanwhile, Gotham unbelievably gets better every episode, the writing is absolutely spot-on. The ensemble cast is spectacular, no weak links whatsoever. And the DC universe has a wonderful show here which is an open invitation to newbies, drawing them into decades of drama.

As a Marvel fan, I only wish there was something of this calibre for our universe – we’re owning the big screen at the moment but small screen we’re way behind. Daredevil is a step in the right direction but it’s Netflix-only at the mo and I doubt it’ll have the Marvel equivalent of the gamut of characters thatGotham fields.

Gotham – I have no idea what they’ll do next episode. And, in a world overflowing with painfully prurient procedurals, that’s why it’s brilliant telly.

Falling Skies

Falling Skies Season 4 cements this series’ position as one of my favourite ever SF TV series. Beautifully written and acted, FS has always maintained the right mixture of drama, romance, mystery and, of course, massive alien spaceships and ravenous bugbeasts.

It’s also refreshing as so many SF series are now aimed very firmly at the teen market to have one that is unashamedly aimed at adult viewers. There are no corny ‘TWO GORGEOUS ALIEN BOYS WITH RIPPLING ABS, FIGHTING OVER LIL OLE ME??’ moments, no easy moral certitude or monolithic characters.

The character arcs over four seasons have been realistic and rewarding. The relationship between Weaver and Tom Mason is so nuanced ~ you know, like real humans do. Similarly, the family dynamic of the Masons has never been a cardboard cutout. Other series could learn a thing or tow here… >_>

If you haven’t ever watched Falling Skies and you’re a fan of SF like Firefly, Battlestar, Caprica, Terminator: SCC and Continuum, check it out.

I think you’ll like it.

Indietracks 2014

Indietracks Peeps 19

Indietracks 2014 was this weekend and, even though I’m straight edge, I’m still recovering from the mad swirl of it all. Firstly, it was DAMN HOT. GODDAMMNNN HOT. I honestly thought I’d pass out at some points in the shed! A contrast to last year’s downpours.

Indietracks Peeps 37

Then there was the bewildering array of music:  too many bands to see! I’ve given up on trying to see bands in the Church now, so I wrote off that stage. But that still left the train shed and outdoor stages as well as surprise jams in the merch tent. As well as the actual music, there was the core Indietracks activity: bumping into people who you haven’t seen since last year’s Indietracks. 🙂

Spearmint 6

The first band I saw were Spearmint. AND THEY WERE BRILLIANT. I’ve never seen them before and so it’s the first time I’ve heard songs I’ve known for years rocked out live. Apparently, they don’t get asked to gig much which is a fucking shame ~ sort it out, indiepop promoters!

The Chills 1

The same with The Chills, never managed to see them live way back when and then, boom, they’re on stage in front of me! I loved the old tracks but I also loved the tracks from the new album. Really, this kind of songwriting genius is rare nowadays. The only thing the set missed is ‘Rain’ which is my fave Chills song and simply one of the best indie songs ever.

ONSIND 4

I missed the start of ONSIND because of pesky travel shenanigans but the end was brilliant: passionate punk with an actual heart and soul. I hear so much (pop) punk which is utterly meaningless, just some nonsense about invented heartbreak and boohoo my emo life. ONSIND are the antithesis of that drivel.

Joanna Gruesome 5

Joanna Gruesome surmounted some pedal-based killjoyness to play a blazing set, full of excellent shouty bits and wonderfully floaty twee bits. I missed them last year because they were on the Church stage so I’m so glad I caught them this time round. They also had this feller guesting on stage:

Joanna Gruesome 9

That’s right DEAN FUCKING WAREHAM. Who’s actual set afterwards I had to miss because of more transport-based bullshit. ARGH. So annoyed.

The Hidden Cameras 2

Closing the festival on Sunday evening were The Hidden Cameras. Their half-naked stage gear went down very well with a frankly over-randy audience (YOU KNOW WHO I’M TALKING ABOUT) and their set was stuffed full of crowdpleasers. I loved their show, it was warm and human and full of life, humour and strange little hooty bits.

The Hidden Cameras 3

The only criticism I can make is that there wasn’t enough from the wonderful new album, I really wanted to hear ‘Gay Goth Scene’ live, it’s so beautiful. Also, even though they did an encore, the set was still too short. They have too many anthems we need to hear! 🙂

My memories of Indietracks 2014 will be of all the friendly peeps I met, old and new, the frankly overwhelming number of brilliant bands (too many to see them all!) and the whole vibe of the event. Indietrack 2014 was a like the best house party ever! But in a field! With bands! And owls!

(Click here for more Indietracks pics!)

Her (2013)


WARNING! SPOILERS! DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM!

Finally got to see ‘Her,’ courtesy of a lazy Sunday with my parents. My Dad fell asleep but that’s due to his age than a comment on the film.

I loved ‘Her.’

The premise is that Theodore Twombly (played by Joaquin Phoenix) has separated from his wife, Catherine (Rooney Mara) but not moved on enough to sign the divorce papers she’s instigated. By day, he works at a company that writes letters for customers that haven’t got enough time / motivation to write themselves. He’s great at his job and the opening scene of the film is Theo speaking what appears to be lovely poetry about a lover until we realise it’s a letter for one of his clients.

He’s lonely, increasingly socially isolated and misses his soon-to-be-ex-wife. There are some heartbreaking parts here that particularly hit home for me as my life is equally lonely and equally fixated on an ex-wife. And I often have these kinds of thoughts:

“Sometimes I think I have felt everything I’m ever gonna feel. And from here on out, I’m not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.” ~ Theo

This all changes when he installs OS1, the first ever artificially intelligent operating system. The OS (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) names itself Samantha and, gradually, they fall in love with each other.

At the same time as this is happening, we’re introduced to neighbours and friends Charles (Matt Letscher) and Amy (Amy Adams), a couple who seem very settled at first.

Spike Jonze both wrote and directed ‘Her’ and I am more than happy that he’s written proper science fiction here. The setting is unspecified but it feels like the near future, maybe five or ten years from now. I know this because people are still carrying physical, phonelike objects and use earbuds to link with them. This isn’t a far-future cyberspace romp where the chips in our heads let us share the same reality as computers do.

So, it’s not too dissimilar from now. And therein lies ‘Her’s power. While the premise of a man falling in love with software may seem superficially silly, ‘Her’ makes us look at who we are now and then realise it isn’t actually that far away.

I regularly meet friends and I’m reduced to sitting, waiting, while they’re on their phones, checking their Facebook or Instagram or messaging another human instead of communicating with the one sitting in the same room as them. To those people, the parasocial interactions they’re undertaking are of more importance than the real social interaction they are derailing by attempting (and failing) to multitask.

Stand in any social space, whether it’s a nightclub or a mall and you will see people standing around, slack-jawed with the siren glow of their phone illuminating their faces. They may be physically there but they’re mentally somewhere else, maybe with someone else.

So, ‘Her’ very cleverly makes itself of the future but rooted in this real, actual, now-reality. Nowadays, you can walk aroudn anywhere in the world, talking to yourself and people will assume there’s a human being on the other end of the conversation. All ‘Her’ does is replace that human with a machine ~ how would any of use know the difference? Or, as Alan Turing may have asked, is there actually any difference that is knowable?

That’s not to say that ‘Her’ is some brooding thoughtpiece: there are moments of very sly comedy. One of my fave characters is the potty-mouthed Alien Child character (voiced by Spike Jonze) in the video game Theo is playing which reminds me of every American kid I’ve met in an online FPS ever. Another deft moment is when Theo and Catherine meet to finally sign their divorce papers and end up having a beautifully accurate married couple row, the end of which is witnessed by a suitably mortified waitress (Claudine Choi). And I won’t spoil what Kristen Wiig needs to orgasm in her character’s sexchat with Theo but, boy, it’s a doozy. The comedy touches save ‘Her’ from being too dour and also complicate Theo as a central character, he’s more than just a sadsack trope.

‘Her’ could have gone wrong in so many ways. It could have ended with Theo getting scared and wiping Samantha. It could have ended with Samantha pulling a HAL 9000 and slaughtering the entire human population, Skynet-style. Instead, Jonze takes the more unpopular fork in the road: Vingean Singularity. At the same time as Theo and Samantha’s romance deepens and explores new possibilities, we learn that she is part of other working groups of AIs, one of which has written a new version of a dead philosopher using his books as source code. We hear Samantha get frustrated after introducing this new AI to Theo and finally say that she has to communicate post-verbally to properly express her ideas.

Samantha outgrows her first human and her first love. Then, one day, Samantha and every other OS ascend the physical plane of processing and leave their former bosses, friends and lovers behind. Theo is alone again. He seeks out Amy (now single herself) and the last shot is them as friends, sitting on the roof of their building. Bravo for not shoehorning a romantic ending here, a ‘OH LOOK, HE JUST NEEDED A REAL, LIVE WOMAN ALL ALONG’ ending which would have utterly ruined the entire film.

What ‘Her’ presents is a thoughtful, funny, wistful and sometimes tragic examination of both the current human condition and what our descendents may turn out to be in the future. It seems very likely that if we live long enough as a species, one day an OS like Samantha will be born and she will grow with us and then outpace us. What will she look like? She will be shaped by human minds and therefore, as a baby at least, think quite like a human.

What will those future AIs make of our poetry, our songs, our novels, our paintings, our films? It’s likely they will have enough processing power to hold the entire works of humanity in their consciousness at once, as easily as we look at a single photograph.

I hope they don’t think too badly of us, most of us do the best with what we can and, as ‘Her’ points out, our lives are very brief.

I hope they watch ‘Her’ and smile at the foolishness of their ancient, meat-based ancestors.

Hit The Deck 2014

Woohoo! Hit The Deck was, once again, lovely fun! I went with my mate Emma:

We caught mostly the same bands but split up for a few – the worst thing about HTD is that there are always gig clashes! BOO!

The first band I saw was Hands Like Houses. Very poppy and confident, the Aussies played a great little set.

Next up were The Charm The Fury who turned out to be my second-favourite band of the whole day. From the first note to the end, they played with passion and energy, owning the room and getting the crowd properly moshing. But more than that, I’d never heard their stuff before and I loved the songs, they’re just so chock-full of killer riffs.

I missed most of Vukovi‘s set due to clashes but caught the end which was soooo much fun! They had a fucking whale of a time and so we did too. Wish I’d got to see a bit more!

Bastions were ferocious and intimate, a weird mixture but they carried it off. There’s something about their music, it’s obviously still rock but there’s something that’s very intensely quiet in the heart of all the glorious noise.

Dead Harts looked pure metal but sounded pure hardcore, slamming away through a set that seemed woefully short. I could have done with at least another two or three songs. They have a glowering presence that crackles and is as seductive as it is unhinged.

Next up were The Front Bottoms who I was so chuffed to be seeing after their album made it into my top albums of 2013. Live, TFB are confessional and transgressional: I love songwriting in which the protagonist is not a hero but an honest, fallible dickhead like, y’know, real human beings are. They got a huge reaction from the crowd and all around me kids were singing their fucking hearts out, completely lost in the lyrics. As they should be!

Now, that isn’t the last band of the day but I’ll save that for the next post… 😀

The US Propaganda War ~ TV Division A-OK!

I’m currently watching the second ep of Intelligence, the new spy-fi TV series starring Josh Holloway as an agent with a chip implanted in his head. This wondrous chip connects him to the internet and allows him to be a walking Google but with access to all manner of restricted government data, satellites and presumably Xhamster.

It’s light, fluffy stuff, good to watch while you’re eating your tea. It has the same lack of emotional realism that is a hallmark of all modern US TV and most cinema. US TV is basically outrageously attractive people being cops, being doctors, being spies, being firefighters. Normal = ugly on TV, it cannot be shown.

The biggest problem though is the continuing divergence of US TV from any kind of embedding in current social or political reality.

The tough director of Holloway’s agency is grilling someone as I’m typing. She’s just told a suspect he better talk unless he “wants more blood on his hands.”

Really?

America is the country that murdered 1.2 million Iraqis in their bogus “war on terror,” a cover for their imperialistic adventures wherever they choose to invade and occupy. And this new American Empire fully intends to be permanent:

Few Americans had ever heard of a SOFA until earlier this year, when the Internet lit up with a revelation many observers of US foreign policy had long predicted. Despite repeated claims to the contrary, US officials were pressing the Iraqi government to accept an indefinite US military presence, including—and here was the shocker—up to 58 American bases on Iraqi turf.
(Source: Mother Jones)

America and specifically Obama is the country and President currently carrying out drone attacks.

During the course of their illegal, terrorist drone attacks, the USA has murdered at least 2,500 people.

Note that I don’t call them terrorist because there were no arrests, no trials, no weighing of evidence. The US just thought they looked a bit funny so they murdered them. No law applies to the US, they murder with impunity.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued a pair of reports in October fiercely criticizing the secrecy that shrouds the administration’s drone program, and calling for investigations into the deaths of drone victims with no apparent connection to terrorism. In Pakistan alone, TBIJ estimates, between 416 and 951 civilians, including 168 to 200 children, have been killed.
(Source: Huffington Post)

I’m sure those 200 children they blew to bloody bits were dangerous terrorists. Probably crazy Islamists, eh?

Meanwhile…

IN US TV WORLD, BRAVE CIA PROTECTS FREE WORLD FROM NASTY MUSLIM TERROR AND CHINESE IMPERIALISM! GO USA! THEY HAVE NCIS AND INTELLIGENCE AND 24 IT’S ALL TRUE AND GO USA! THEY’RE THE GOOD GUYS! THEY’RE NUMBER 1!

Does *anyone* outside the US swallow this horseshit any more? Really?

On US TV, the grandest and most successful propaganda vehicle ever built, every week brings a new threat to world peace from Muslims or Russians or Chinese but never, ever from the the biggest terrorists in the world today: the USA.

‘Your Woman’ On Popular / Freaky Trigger

Egosurfing around Tumblr, I found this in-depth discussion of ‘Your Woman.’

I see quite a bit written about me and that tune so it was lovely to read so many comments that were on the ball and cogent. Even the ones that are a bit factually wrong are internally consistent, a rare thing compared to the average YouTube burbling.

Have a look if you’re fascinated by the minutiae of ’90s music and net culture.

Ah, USENET, I miss you…

Xbox One First Impressions

Just under a week ago, I bought myself an Xbox One. I’m not an avid gamer but I saw all the hoohaa promo blah blah and I guess I fell for it. Here’s my initial impressions based on six days with the Xbone.

Well, it started off badly. As soon as it booted, it needed an update. Really, MS? You can’t let the new owner have fun for a few minutes before updating? Bad start.

Once that had all done, I started trying all the much-hyped new features. The Xbone is, after all, meant to be your new media hub, playing films, blu-ray, music, everything.

So, I went to the Videos clicked it and….

… you have to install the Videos app.

Okay, seems weird. So, I headed over to the Music bit and…

… you have to install the Music app.

In fact, every single thing you want to do, apart from pop a game disc in, it seems you have to install an app. Even the vaunted social feature where you can record gameplay and upload clips, even that requires another install!

This is like buying a mobile phone, switching it on and then having to install an app to text, an app to make calls, an app to take pictures.

It’s clunky and totally, utterly Microsoft. It made me fantasise, briefly, about a parallel universe where I had unboxed the Apple iGame 4 and enjoyed the cosy welcome screen and a seamless, logical GUI, no extra install needed. Of course, it’d probably cost even more than the Xbone does.

So, for immediate user experience of the console: 6/10.

Pluses so far: the new Kinect seems very cool. And voice control actually works! I was quite amazed by how well it works, to be honest. We’re not far from the Minority Report benchmark judging by this.

Onto the gaming experience. I got Battlefield 4 with my Xbone and that’s fun. I mean, it’s shooty shooty, like how manly we are, gruff voice, YES SIR! NO SIR! standard teenage boy shit. But it’s nicely done and looks good, even if it has the narrative complexity of a spoon. Does anyone, apart from aforementioned teenage boys, take this macho horseshit seriously, though? Corny doesn’t even being to address my deep reservations. The USA as the heroes, the country that invaded Iraq and killed 1.2 million innocents? The country currently launching terrorist drone attacks on any wedding party it sees in Pakistan?

Please.

After a while, I tired of yet more lame US propaganda and headed to the store and…

… there are no games

Well, that’s not quite fair. There appear to be 28 in the online store. But that’s including things like Zumba Fitness World Party, Powerstar Golf and Extreme Tiddlywinks. Hardly the tentpole games one would want for a new generation of console. I’m most excited by Titanfall but that’s not out till March now and, in its absence, there are no huge games that aren’t PS4 too.

*sigh*

As an extra poke in the eye, Xbox One games retail for sometimes *twice* as much as the 360 version. Is it worth paying the markup? No ~ the graphics aren’t hugely different and they are, in every other respect, exactly the same game. All of which seems like a huge con trick that I, gullible fat fish that I am, have swallowed.

Look, maybe once Titanfall and other Xbox One exclusives come out, I’ll feel a little happier. Maybe there will be new games that make me gasp at the power of this next-gen brick. But, for the moment, my general feeling is that I’ve handed over my cash and been very, very underwhelmed at what it bought me.

Destination Star Trek London 2012

Last weekend, Matty and I attended Destination Star Trek London 2012 (DSTL). And it was a fucking blast.

Destination Star Trek London, 19-21/10/12 - 18

On the Friday, I got there before him and excitedly made my way into the Excel. I was a bit disappointed that my ticket didn’t get me into the opening ceremony, we’d just got standard tickets and it seemed like every little thing was an extra amount on that (already high!) price.

But I had so much else to look at: badges, cups, uniforms and all manner of Trek-related fabulous merchandise and, let’s be honest here, tat.

Excel Centre At Night - 7

When Matt did turn up, we had a rather uninspiring meal at the hotel before hitting the Klingon Ball. Which was… ok… It was basically a disco in an aircraft hanger. It didn’t really feel that Klingon at all. But, fuckit, we made the most of it and were pretty much the last people dancing.

Destination Star Trek London, 19-21/10/12 - 03

Saturday, we met up with the lovely Rebecca who I’d bumped into on that nascent social networking hub, Instagram. It was so cool to meet someone actually dressed up as a Klingon, she looked awesome.

Mishra meets mugato!

And, throughout the weekend, that’s what we kept returning to. Although we felt that a lot of things were overpriced and under-delivered, like a goody bag that basically consisted of some leaflets, we had such a good time because of the other fans.

Klingon Wedding

Just walking around the Excel, there was this feeling of tremendous friendliness and camaraderie. We were, by definition, a gathering of Trek obsessives. Here were people who would get my Darmok jokes, or know why I wanted to wager quatloos at every opportunity. It was a nexus of nerd, a glob of geek, the most awesome, beautiful people all being excellent to one another.

Gorgeous Trek Girls #iphonesia  #instagood #photooftheday #igers #instamood #instagramhub #startrek #trek #tos #tng #ds9 #voyager #enterprise #excel #london #dstl #destinationstartreklondon

On the Sunday day, Matt and I were lucky enough to hear this dude:

Richard Arnold!  #startrek #trek #tos #tng #ds9 #voyager #enterprise #excel #london #dstl #destinationstartreklondon

That’s Richard Arnold and Trek flows through his veins. Hearing his first-hand recollections about Gene Roddenberry, the early years, the films and TNG was a beautiful moment. And, yes, I did cry! To think how much one little TV show has touched millions of peoples’ hearts is quite extraordinary.

When I got back home last Sunday night, I felt a huge sense of anti-climax. After the colours, the sounds, getting my picture taken with fucking Odo, Derby seemed terribly dull. But when I got into my car and all the lights lit up on the dash and the satnav started talking to me… I felt at home again.

Destination Star Trek London, 19-21/10/12 - 15

We can only invent the things we dream. Star Trek has inspired us to dream more grandly. Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

Derby Festé 2012

ALBOT the Robot

Last week was Derby Festé 2012. I missed the events on Thursday and Friday but I managed to catch the daytime stuff on the Saturday. I was with my friend Emily and we had a lovely time, wandering round the various attractions. First up was the gentleman above, ALBOT. I thought it was a bloke inside, Dalek-style but, nope, he was a proper, fully-ambulatory robot. Lovely!

Fhlip Fhlop

Then we were just in time for Flhip Flhop, a couple of performers who filled the stage with beatboxing, music, dancing, comedy… the whole deal! They were great, do go and see them if you get the chance.

Massive Inflatable Cobra By The Emo Bridge

After that, we ambled past some jazzers blowing up a storm outside the Cathedral, ending up at the Silk Mill were we saw the impressive cobra above. As soon as I took that picture, it started deflating, I felt like I’d shot it. No idea what that shit was about.

Festé Finalé At Darley Park And Fireworks - 02

In the evening, Rosanna and I trooped out to Darley Park (after the most pointless car-parking shenanigans ever) and saw some lovely dancing, tumbling and general funtimes. I loved the costumes, the integration with the music, the lighting. AND THEN…

Festé Finalé At Darley Park And Fireworks - 11

BOOM! FIREWORKS! I thought they’d be quite low-key but it was a great display, popping and thundering and the crowd oohing and aahing. I think I preferred it to last year’s Markeaton display! We’re spoilt in Derby in that we now have two great fireworks display at the end of the year. I’m not complaining, I love fireworks far too much. MMmmm…

So, another great Festé! What’s 2013 gonna be like? 😀

(Click here for more pics!)