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20th June, 2015

03:41 pm: Rubbish weather and new TV Shows are a dangerous combination
Catching up on the new season in case anybody is interested.

First a couple of Brit series that are almost through their short runs. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is a pretty faithful telling of the novel of the same name. Like then novel, like the TV series.

Then yet another one of those gritty, brassy, working class Brit cop shows they see to do a lot of. Quality varies, but in the case of No Offence, we have a good one. In fact one of the best in a long time.

Also for Iain Banks fans, there is a two part dramatisation of Stonemouth. Again, read the book, watch the show.

Then there are the new season shows from the states. Lots of them this time around - too many to write about. Of all of them, nothing stands out as great, but quite a few are at least worth a second or third watch and may be good for the long haul.

The Whispers (ABC) is a horror mystery. There have been one or two of these each season in recent years and they all go too hard on the brooding atmosphere. But this one pushes the mystery investigation side and works a lot better for it. The only problem is the mystery paranormal(?) evil works through children. All the kids seem to have been cast from the same big eyed moppet agency and I can't tell them apart.

Do you watch reality dating shows like The Bachelor. Then you need to watch UnReal (Lifetime) to see a fictional view of what happens in the production crew. And if you, like me, does not watch such reality shows then watch it to see your prejudices confirmed. Has a vaguely Sorkinesque quality.

A couple of types of shows are around at the moment. Shows where the dead communicated back to the investigators to catch the killers. Shows where social dysfunction (eg Autism spectrum) is a kind of intellectual superpower. So obviously somebody is going to combine them. The result is Stitchers (ABC Family). Does what it says on the can.

Mr Robot (USA Network) also plays the social dysfunction card. But the storyline is in the field of data security and cyber crime. If that is your thing, then this is so so much better than the turgid CSI:Cyber.

I don't know the underlying agenda of Proof (TNT Drama) but I do know it has one and what way it swings will depend on whether the show is worth persevering with. The theme of the show is investigating life after death. I detect a bit of an X-Files inspiration.

Humans (Channel 4) does look promising. It explores the nature of what makes a human by looking at androids becoming part of society and what happens if an emergent consciousness transforms then from mere machines. These theme hark back to Asimov and Dick and are no less valid for being looked at again.

Do you remember Andromeda? Well Dark Matter (SyFy) has some of the same underlying plot basis. A group of nasty misfits on a space craft find themselves turning into good guys after an incident. They find themselves using their skills and their nifty ship going up against the evil corporations. Actually on second thoughts, perhaps it is more Blakes 7. The production values are high enough that it might have legs.

I'm not so sure about Killjoys (Syfy). It is a similar proposition, but this time it is interplanetary bounty hunters. There is just something about the bounty hunter narrative then seems to lend itself to low budgets and bad acting. That isn't necessarily a problem, but out of the blocks, Dark Matter seems the better proposition from Syfy. Interesting that they are side by side in the schedule.

No sitcoms on the list yet? So many bad ideas made into half hours comedy shows. The best of them is Odd Mom Out (Bravo) because of the talents of the lead. Sin City Saints may also have promise.

Any questions? Didn't think so - you need to make up your own mind.

15th June, 2015

11:04 am: The joys of proper hot water pressure
The hot water pressure at my place has always been pretty poor. From time to time it would drop from poor down to pathetic or non-existent. At those times I'd call a plumber, they would expensively fiddle with (replace) valves and the pressure would return to its previous poor level.

This time when it dropped down to a pathetic dribble, I bit the bullet and arranged for the whole system to be replaced by a new mains pressure hot water system. Oh joy - what a difference that makes. For the first time in this place I can take a shower that delivers a proper blast. I'm sure that the main reason I like staying at hotels when I travel is that they usually have really good pressure in their showers. Finally I can enjoy that every day.

Also generating pleasure was seeing the plumbers in action. They worked hard and more importantly showed a real commitment to doing a really good quality job. This was most obvious when they uncovered yet another bit of shoddy DIY in my house. See, the house was really well built originally, but the previous owners did quite a few renovations, and over the years as I have had cause to look at their changes, they have all turned out to be rubbish. This latest example was hidden from view until the new cylinder went in. The plumbers could have just left the rubbish installation in place and headed off home (it was getting late), but they showed me the issue and explained the options. Then they quickly and efficiently fixed the issue.

A good days work I'd say. Time for a shower.

10th June, 2015

02:46 pm: What passes for sport in Wellington
It is a little breezy in the Wellington region today**. Here in the LH western hills, it is also rubbish collection/recycling day. That means locals get to pay recycling bin roulette. Bet your bin and after collection, watch the stream of empty bins slide, skip and skitter along the road. See if you can retain yours. See how many others turn up. Wonder where all the unclaimed ones end up.

It appears some passing good samaritan passing my place has snagged a nearby bin and secured it in a quiet spot next to my letterbox. Thing is, I have already rescued my bin and it is safe inside. I wonder if the owners have written their street number on it?


**Metservice predicted "severe gale gust 120 km/h" - seems about right.

7th June, 2015

04:39 pm: Contrived workplace fun backfires on bosses
Posting this really so as to keep a link to this article. Just to keep some ammunition ready in case I need it once I get back into the workforce.

I really hate these workplace "fun" or "teambuilding" exercises. But when they come along, you put on a brave face and "show willing". Turns out most people feel the same way - especially if you read the comments in the linked article.

The best workplace fun happens spontaneously, whether it is a coffee trip or an impromptu seminar on (say) where atomic energy comes from. Fun is not something imposed from management or worse from an HR department.

22nd April, 2015

12:13 pm: Daredevil
Have you watched the new Netflix series Daredevil yet? Why not? Are you sick of all that superhero stuff? Do you think that they are all two dimensional characters? Perhaps, based on previous evidence, you think that they are a boys club that treats women as cyphers - victims or prizes.

Well that isn't this rendition of Daredevil. It really is worth the effort. This isn't a silly Hollywood blockbuster style work. This comes from a creator (Drew Goddard) who traces his TV lineage back to Buffy and that heritage shows strongly here.

But be warned, there is pain. Lots and lots of pain - the boring physical sort and all sorts of the mental variety. I have not read many Daredevil comics, but those I have seen always have lots of trauma on show. That is brought through into this series as its driving engine. That pain is transformative for all that suffer it. You see the (properly complex) characters grow and twist as they feel the hurt.

So are you going to watch it now?

16th April, 2015

02:46 pm: Race Track
Out by my mailbox and along comes a late model AMG Merc - heard it way before I saw it as it was being driven very hard. As it comes by my place, the driver is very conspicuously a young guy wearing a mechanics overalls. So many options...

a- Mechanics get paid a lot more than you might think.
b- Somebody practices maintenance on their own car - although on a Merc, you generally do that with a laptop.
c- There are some cool benefits to being a mechanic
d- That is a very thorough road test
e- Do you wonder what is happening to your car while it is being serviced - serious trust issues next time you get it serviced
f- Those AMG built cars make a great noise

But the thought that dominated my mind was how dangerous it was driving that fast on a narrow suburban street with lots of blind corners. Especially in the school holidays when there are kids around. NZ is full of empty roads - why drive somewhere so dangerous to others.

And yes, this rant does make me feel old.

9th April, 2015

05:33 pm: Con Report
I could probably fit this con report into a single tweet, except that I only keep my twitter account open these days for civil defence/disaster alerts.

Basically, I had a good time catching up with people, some I hadn't seen in many years. Also Rotorua has many good restaurants.

I did go to two items. The auction and the con bids for 2017. Happy to see LexiCon win. The overwhelming vote shows that fandom is basically inclusive in nature. There were a couple of very conspicuous exceptions. Nasty bigots are people too - inclusive right????

30th March, 2015

07:51 am: Cricket Reflections
Australia deservedly won the Cricket World Cup last night. A magnificent first innings bowling and fielding display was too much for New Zealand.

But am I down about it? Not a bit. Being a Kiwi cricket fan makes you pretty philosophical about defeat, if not actually masochistic. I've been a cricket fan for a long time. I was in the crowd for the very first ODI in NZ and have followed all the world cups since the first one (Radio of course). Over that time there have been a lot of lost games. Many lost semi-finals. You learn that loss is part of the appreciation of the game here.

But you also learn to appreciate the good time when they turn up. And there were some excellent times in this cup. Not just watching the NZ team, but all of the matches. I have spent a whole lot of time in front of my tv and computer following the action.

So the ICC are to be congratulated for producing a well run tournament where the best teams got to the pointy end. A tournament remarkably free from the sort of politicking and bad taste that some series attract (a bit of juvenile Bangladeshi reaction excepted). But did it have to be so long. I'll add my voice to all those saying it could be more compact. The days with double headers were the best days of all - why not way more of them. I had a look and it would be easy to have two games a day (one day and one d/n) while still giving the teams more recovery time than they would usually get in a series.

So on to the host broadcaster - ESPN-Star. Only a bare pass mark there. On one hand, the camera work and direction were top notch. Then there were the commentators and they were a very mixed bunch. Some of the best and some who could barely string a sentence together. The basic problem being that former great players do not always make the best commentators. There is a lot more that can be said about this, but I'll leave it there because there is also the matter of the on-screen graphics. The obtrusive and garish on-screen graphics that were always an irritation. Perhaps I have been spoiled by Sky and Channel 9 who manage this so much better, but I have to say that this aspect was the biggest failure of the coverage - a constant low level itch. And yes, I understand the needs of the Indian market (which drive all the broadcasting decision) - but I don't care, they deserve better too.

But irritations aside, I derived a lot of pleasure from this iteration of the world cup. Now to get back to real life.

25th March, 2015

05:14 pm: First rule of brain club...
So, I have just watched the second episode of iZombie.

First, a few things you need to know about me:
- Zombies have never worked for me. I've never engaged with them as a proper horror threat. Even the good stuff (Shaun of the Dead)is good despite the undead not because of it.
- I don't do iStuff. In fairness that is to do with the Apple religion and not ascii 105.
- I'm hype averse, so when the NZ Herald did a big write up about the show because the lead is a Kiwi actress, then that is a significant turn off.

Given all that, iZombie I think is very very good indeed. It is clever and sweet and funny and just a little dark. If it helps you place it, it is a kind of mix of Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies with a little Tru Calling thrown in. A post-living medical examiner eats the brains of the corpses in a morgue so as to find their killer.

One note - if you read and love the iZombie comics and expect a literal live action version, then perhaps best that you don't watch. If you haven't read the comics, then give the series a few episodes to sink in first.

And because somebody complained (nicely) that I don't do my regular round up of new season shows any more, a mention of a few recent shows that I am finding worthy of further watching:

Backstrom: Offensive cop show. Imagine if Jeremy Clarkson had worse personal hygiene and was a homicide cop in Portland. Shouldn't work, shouldn't be entertaining and yet is.
Raised by Wolves Dysfunctionally funny family life in low-rent Wolverhampton - The Independent's review covers it nicely.
Powers is a superhero drama available only on the Playstation Network (WTF!). The acting is seriously awful (blame the director I think) and the effects a bit dodgy, but the story/writing is brilliant. It reminds me of my favourite Garth Ennis comics.

22nd March, 2015

02:54 pm: They would probably be religious if they could afford the goats
I have been trying to de-clutter my house a bit. Getting rid of stuff or organising things differently. One thing I looked at very hard was my old stereo system, including turntable and the associated vinyl record collection. It has all been sitting stored in a cupboard for some time now. The philosophy with de-cluttering is "use it or lose it" - if it isn't something that you need then get rid of it. In the case of this old sound gear, so important to me in the past, I decided that perhaps I could still use it - a trial was necessary.

So a month or two back I freed up a couple of wider shelves in the library and set up turntable, amp and speakers as well as all that vinyl. Since then every so often I pull out an old album and have a listen. Usually something I'd never bothered to digitize. I know some people are still enamoured by the whole ritual of putting a vinyl LP on the turntable and love the hiss and crackle of the more "real" sound. To be honest, none of that really works for me. But it has been fun listening to the old music I had been neglecting.

Today I have been listening to an album by Steve Miro and the Eyes called Rude Intrusions. I do like the album and I played it a lot back in the day, but that isn't the reason I first bought it. I purchased it purely because of the album art. I didn't even listen to it before buying. I may have had a vague idea based on the back cover info, but that was it. What I got was an answer to the question - "What would Madness have sounded like if they came from Manchester".

So I don't miss the ritual and sound of vinyl, but I do find that I miss album cover art. Perhaps I should frame a few covers and hang them on the wall.

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