With many of the TV shows Kirsten and I have been watching drawing to a close, some earlier than expected due to the writers’ strike, a void has been left. Kirsten is watching Bones which I’ve already seen, so I decided to pick up another show I haven’t been watching. It may surprise some of you to hear that it is Doctor Who. In some ways it seems like prime fodder for me (imaginative cult TV but with a decidedly British wit).
The short version is that I watched the first few episodes when the BBC decided to resurrect it but Eccleston’s interpretation of the good Doctor didn’t really gel with me. Arguably it was his appearance as much as anything. Conversely David Tennant seems like exactly how I would have imagined the role, so I always wanted to jump back in but it never happened.
I convinced Kirsten that since she loved Reaper she would enjoy this too (I think the campy monster link holds at least, and all Doctor Who fans ought to give it a whirl) and we are starting from the beginning with Rose. On second viewing I think I may have been overly harsh on Eccleston although he’s still not what I would have chosen. I may post thoughts about episodes that particularly strike me as we go along.
Meanwhile some people have also tried to see whether I can be tempted into seeing the Sex and the City film. The short answer is “no”. While I could comfortably watch an episode or two with Kirsten (who loves it), it was never a series I really enjoyed as such. The film appears quite evidently to be pure fan service — the equivalent of Serenity for us Firefly fans — and it is no surprise that I don’t know a single straight man who actively harbours any desire to see it, though many will be dragged along by their other halves. In fact the suspension of disbelief really requires being a fan in order to ignore the fact these are aging women (however good they may look for their ages), compared to the ludicrously young models they are supposedly dating. The necessary lack of evolution in the characters will further prevent outsider entry, coupled with the “here’s what you’re watching” narration that was already tired by the end of the series. In fact the only way I can see it drawing a wider crowd is if the big reveal is that Samantha is a Decepticon. Actually that would explain everything…
As a pretty hardcore gamer I’ll give almost anything a whirl, but there are definitely genres which have never quite clicked for me. These include flight simulators, racing simulation (as opposed to arcade style racers which I love) and bizarrely Wii boxing. Above all though, rhythm games have always flummoxed me. Given my passion for rock music Guitar Hero is obviously a hugely enticing prospect, but paying £70 for the privilege of sucking seems excessive. Fortunately Zavvi celebrated the hideously overpriced release of Rock Band by dropping the price of Guitar Hero III to just £45 for the bank holiday weekend. For those counting, that means you could buy three wireless guitars for the same price as Rock Band.
“Really?” asked Kirsten with a quizzically raised eyebrow, before proceeding to play for about three times longer than I that night. The easy mode is definitely a cop-out but is well designed enough that many songs are still empowering to play through. Mostly, though, you realise how many notes you are not playing and dread the higher settings. I’m already rocking through medium now, with a couple of 5-star performances under my belt. It’s worth mentioning I find the “boss battles” in GH3 a bit odd. The idea of me beating Tom Morello or Slash in a guitar duel seems wrong on so many levels. I doubt that I’ll ever master expert (five buttons is probably a bit much for my poor four fingers!) but it’s been fun realising I can enjoy this stuff without excelling. Now I need to go find a copy of Guitar Hero II…
The weeks have become something of a blur as law school races towards its inevitable conclusion: revision. The weekends have provided a welcome relief, we’ve been making the most of the fact Irina is around — we’ve seen Andy and her for the last three weekends running. Two weeks ago was what most people would refer to as a “glorious heatwave”. It was actually quite pleasant to lounge around in a sunny Hyde Park, and since they live nearby, Andy and Irina were able to guide us to a relatively uncrowded spot. We were disturbed only by two amusing drunks staggering past shortly after midday, and a strange woman who seemed to be watching people from inside the foliage of a bush. And of course Will who joined us later on.
Will was also around for poker a week later, the Downing heavy crowd certainly bringing back memories. I was sans Kirsten for the evening but it was great fun and the first time I have ever seen a hand of four aces come up, much less have it happen to me! Unfortunately Will had already folded or I might have made some serious money out of that (well, chips at any rate). Being a Sunday, though, night we didn’t party too hard and it was a fairly early night for all.
Finally yesterday Andy and Irina joined us at the flat for a uni-style night of pizza, American Dad! and Family Guy. The Bond-themed Tearjerker episode is highly recommended.
Today was the Christening of my cousin Ro’s baby, Jake. I had not realised quite how difficult Hackney was to get to from West London, and I find myself keener and keener to move further in. The problem is that I don’t really want to compromise on the quality of the flat after finding a place like this. Equally the current housing market isn’t exactly the most stable proposition.
It’s been quite a while since I last raved about tech devices here but I’ve recently picked up two reasonably cheap products that have instantly won my heart. Firstly I’ve somehow been surviving with a USB flash drive that holds a laughable 64MB, though admittedly I tend to use some of the spare memory in my 1GB flash mp3 player which can act as a USB drive.
Deciding to remedy the situation I did some research and picked out the 4GB SanDisk Cruzer Counter. The drive is spectacularly sleek with its curved brushed metal housing and a sliding mechanism that completely hides the connector (not just retracting with a hole). The “cruzer” lettering is illuminated in blue to signify activity. And in line with SanDisk’s reputation for fast thumb drives, the speed is fantastic for both reading and writing.
The Contour supports the U3 system for portable applications but my personal preference is to strip that out and use PortableApps which can be run on any flash drive (and even some better MP3 players). This lets you take around your favourite software wherever you go. Much of it is overkill for the average user, but having Firefox with your personal selection of add-ons is one of those things you swiftly wonder how you lived without. And carting OpenOffice and VLC around isn’t a bad idea either.
There is a lot less to say about the second purchase, except to say that I finally got round to buying my favourite keyboard. Logitech’s Wave is the sort of thing you might ignore for its simplicity but its functionality is perfect while remaining uncluttered: quality keys with exactly the right level of resistance, buttons specifically designed for Vista navigation, and a comfortable wrist-rest. I thought it might take me some time to acclimatise to the board’s subtly curved shape (ergonomic but not “split” like some other designs) but it strangely seems almost to guide your fingers to the correct keys. The “downside” is that to buy it standalone it is only available wired (the wireless version comes with a fairly average logitech mouse) but for a desktop machine there is little reason for the keyboard not to be wired.
Online the SanDisk Cruzer Contour retails for just under £20 and the Logitech Wave (corded) is available for around £35. Neither is the cheapest option, but nor are they outrageously priced, and the combination of excellent functionality and build quality coupled with pleasing design is exactly what I like to see in my tech gear.
Since its release last Tuesday I’ve been playing rather a lot of Grand Theft Auto IV, but I still don’t feel quite equipped to discuss it. The scope of the game is unlike anything you’ve played before with the incredible detail of the living Liberty City, and the sheer volume of things to do. Several hours in it feels like I’ve only scratched the surface. So far I’d say it’s easily one of the best games I have played in some time, but falls shy of the perfect tens with which critics have been lauding it. I’m told things happen further in that suddenly make those scores make sense…
Meanwhile this evening Kirsten and I headed out to see Iron Man. She needed some cajoling despite Robert Downey, Jr.’s presence. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this based on the charisma he exhibited in the trailers, coupled with some smart scriptwriting. What I was not prepared for was the best comicbook superhero film since Spider-man 2.
Maturely written but incredibly fun, it is utter fan service to those who love comicbook stories, while retaining an easy accessibility for the average moviegoer. Largely this is due to the disarming billionaire playboy attitude of Tony Stark, from which we see him emerge as he realises the damage caused by his company’s weapons manufacture. While the story is anti-war, the film avoids excessive preaching (nor will it change attitudes), focusing instead on a single man changing the course of his own life.
The flight sequences are exhilarating, the comedy is ingrained into the story and never feels tacked on. The only downside is that as an origins story the character development provides its own arc, leaving one to wonder about the quality of the inevitable sequel. Stay until the end of the credits and a short scene with a surprising cameo quells any fears about about a sloppy second outing — bring it on!