October 26, 2011

REVIEW: The Fades

So I’ve just seen the last episode of the series, and let me start by saying that I loved it. Yes, I know it was contrived, that the Biblical parallels were overblown to the extent of being impossible not to detect at the cost of throwing subtlety completely out of the window, that some of the acting was hammier than… I don’t know, a ham? I’m not good with similes. But I loved it anyway. It was just… well-executed. A little clichéd at times, perhaps, but only to the point that any fantasy or ghost show has to be, given that pretty much every trope in said genre’s been overused to the point of predictability.

That’s the thing, though. It wasn’t predictable. The end was foreshadowed just subtly enough that I forgot about some of the clues right up until the moment – I don’t want to spoil it if you haven’t seen it yet, but Paul’s growing wings is an example of one of these semi-forgotten things that only gets remembered after it becomes relevant again. I have to say, though, a couple of things were unexpected enough to completely shock me, among them (SPOILERS AGAIN, IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT GO AND READ ARTICLES ABOUT ESTATE AGENTS ON WIKIPEDIA) Jay’s death. I mean, that was… bizarrely, it made sense in hindsight, since Paul had foreseen his family dying, albeit not in that place, but I couldn’t believe they’d done it, especially not so quickly and unceremoniously.

Speaking of which, I’m not sure I believe Neil as a character. (I apologise for sort of having assumed you’ve followed the series, but I really don’t fancy ticking down precious notches on the finger arthritis counter, so I’m not going to explain who everyone is.) I found myself sometimes forgetting exactly why it was that he’d gone from cuddly guardian angel (SORT OF A PUN) to magnificent parka-clad bastard in the space of about six and a half minutes, but then I’m just not that observant. As for characters I do like, Mac is surely the greatest human being ever. Not only that, but I actually do sort of believe him as a character. He may be eccentric, but it’s consistent, and it’s probably a testament to the actor’s ability that his oddities are believable and constant, if slightly altered, through a massive range of emotional states. His in-character introductions to each episode, chock-full of obscure references, were weird, but in a kind of camp style that made sense given how he is the rest of the time – and the touch of having the last episode’s intro done from inside the boot of a car, given that that was where Mac was at the end of the last episode, was the kind of detail that made the show a joy to watch, regardless of possible writing flaws – another being the fact that two actors from Skins were in it and therefore I love them unconditionally forever, even if they were kind of both dicks, one rather more than the other since said other ends up with Mac and therefore must be brilliant.

There are probably a lot more things I want to say about The Fades, but see the above for my first impressions of the series as a whole. Annoyingly, I know there were quite a lot of things I noticed in older episodes but immediately forgot, so I might have to go back and watch them all again. Regardless, I accept the flaws of The Fades, but the fact is that it was incredibly entertaining, perhaps even more so for the inherent campness its occasional discrepancies contribute to. You should watch it.

I promise next time I’ll review something shit. I think I’m better at writing about shit things, which probably says something worrying about my writing ability.

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October 24, 2011

OVERHAUL

I’m moving everything. Yes, EVERYTHING.

It’s all going over to my new blog, Absent Conclusion, because I’ve decided that this JUST ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH.

Love and hugs, and follow Absent Conclusion.

October 24, 2011

To do!

Before I go any further, a quick follow-up to the Rome review. Now I’ve finished the series, I kind of feel there are a couple of things I can’t let go unsaid, first and foremost that James Purefoy is, whatever I may think of Mark Antony, a brilliant actor. Seriously. If you’ve seen it, I doubt you’ve forgotten the scene in which he finds out Cleopatra has killed herself without him. (EXCEPT SHE HASN’T spoilers. Another thing the series might be playing up very slightly just for the Romeo and Juliet parallel – their last moments are a lot like the way Shakespeare tells them in Antony and Cleopatra, and less like what historians say. But it’s good drama, and a chance for the actors to do wonderfully, so that’s fine.)
Actually that’s it.

RIGHT! TO DO!
Now, I’ve done lists of stuff I plan to do in the future before, in the hope that I’ll somehow be motivated by the existence of said list to actually do them. This has, invariably, not worked. BUT I’M GOING TO DO IT ANYWAY.
To be honest, the reason I haven’t already done reviews of most of these is because I haven’t finished them yet. That didn’t stop me with Rome, admittedly, but the difference there is that I already knew what would happen at the end, so the plot didn’t really factor into it too much. So, things I plan to review once they’ve finished:
House of Leaves
A Song of Ice and Fire (not that even the author’s finished that yet, maybe I’ll do it in books)
The Fades
Fresh Meat
Derren Brown’s The Experiments
Misfits

Some of those I can probably finish within a couple of weeks. Obviously some of the TV shows won’t finish for a while, so don’t expect them for a fair old long time. I’m considering doing some of them in segments, or doing a sort of halfway review so I can be stupid about the series because I don’t know how it ends.
So… yeah. Hopefully, these should be putting in some appearance soon. Although, of course, what usually happens is that when I say I’ll do something, that is virtually the only thing I don’t do.

Also, you should check out the blogs I Will Grant You and Raspoopin, which are by my two best friends and utterly bizarre.

October 22, 2011

It’s Everywhere

Yes. It is everywhere. We cannot escape it, nor ignore it; as soon as we can understand something about it, we are forced to view it as if it’s the most important thing in the world.

I’m talking about sex.
More specifically, I’m talking about the use of sexuality in advertising. Here’s the thing: I don’t really know anything about actual sex, but I’m sure it’s great. I guess I’d quite like to try it, and I’m sure I’d enjoy it over, say, a mediocre cup of tea. My issue is not with the having of sex, because to be honest I’m kind of jealous of anybody who’s enough of a success to have a chance at… you know. Rumpy-pumpy. My issue is with how it leaks (eurgh) into every aspect of our society; how it is used to sell things to which it is wholly unrelated. (Side note: I’ve seen two perfume adverts today, for different brands, both of which featured either Natalie Portman or somebody who looks very much like her. This is irrelevant, but this is my blog and I can write what I want, so if you don’t like it, you can go and give yourself mild brain freeze. Only mild, though, don’t overdo it.) I mean, perhaps it is related to some things. It would be entirely prudish of me to say that sex shouldn’t even be referenced in condom adverts – although I do have an issue with those, too, namely: they exist. But I don’t think sexuality is related to everything it’s ever been used to sell, nor is it even appropriate to link it to some things that it’s been used to sell.

I think the problem lies in lazy advertising. It must, of course and understandably, be tempting for an advertiser, when thinking how to sell something, to think that perhaps some sort of sexual appeal would be useful in the adverts. Of course it would be. Sexuality is one of the most basic, necessary and – as I understand it from those who aren’t more frigid than a flask of liquid nitrogen, on Pluto, in a fridge – fun human impulses, so of course we would desire anything that someone connects to it, however arbitrarily. And maybe that’s fine, if you are one of said reasonably warm people; maybe the mere silky whisper of sexuality is enough to soften and make beautiful, say, bottled water, when draped around it in a way that tenuously, but memorably, links the two. For me, though, the use of sexuality in advertising is rather like a cushion over the face. Comfortable and maybe a little pleasurable, perhaps, when applied lightly, but being too heavy-handed with it can result in suffocation, particularly if you’re old or infirm. And the latter case, unfortunately, seems to be the more common; this is what happens when an ad exec thinks ‘how can we portray this product, already commendable on its own virtues and properties, so that people will want to buy it even more? I know, let us put some breasts next to it.’ This is what I mean by lazy advertising – it’s what happens when the advertisers fall back on an easily accessible and understandable technique, device, or thing which communicates desirability, which is in most cases sexuality, and in a lot of cases entirely forget that it is the product rather than the object of said sexuality that’s being advertised, or to explain why it is that they’ve decided a semi-naked human would be a relevant and logically following thing to put next to it. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am as drawn to the sexual as much as the next teenage boy, but I, for reasons unclear even and perhaps especially to myself, do like it to be justified. I mean, you wouldn’t use anything else this way, would you? Say… I don’t know, crockery. People would question it if you arbitrarily and without explanation put a lovely china plate next to the thing being advertised, but when it’s a boob or the conspicuous trouser-outline of a (likely padded) crotch, it goes unquestioned.

And so, at last and by way of a rather overcomplicated, meandering road filled with roadblocks and diversions and inexplicable boobies, we come to the point. Sort of. In fact, the point was actually a while back, it was that thing about the cushion. I liked that, it was a good simile.

October 21, 2011

REVIEW: Rome (I AM DAVE ! YOGNAU(GH)T AND I HAVE THE BALLS.)

And that is all I wanted to say, really, which seems more than slightly odd considering I’ve parenthesis-ed it. Suffice to say, check out the Yogscast and the Yogpod, for they are rather excellent.

But, since that doesn’t really constitute an article, I felt I ought to add something else to it, so here’s a review.
The topic of this one wasn’t the easiest of things to choose, since there are a couple of series-eseseses I’d really like to review but would rather wait until I’ve finished them; I might do a sort of interim review once I’m, say, halfway through, or finished on an instalment, and then another at the end. Something like Mark Reads, which again, you really ought to go and have a look at. In fact, I may as well just recommend a bugger-load of things, since there are, to say the least, a lot of good things – and I’m not even exaggerating.
OKAY! THINGS!
I suggest having a look-see at Game of Thrones, both the recent TV series and the book saga A Song of Ice and Fire, for they are both excellent and I’ve been planning to do a review of them, at least up to as far as I’ve got. Should probably point out, though, if you’re not a fan of graphic violence, language, sex, incest etc. then it probably isn’t for you – and nor is Rome, for that matter.
What a link. Incest.
Also, the TV series The Fades, if you’re in the UK – not sure if it’s available in the US – and the blogs Hyperbole and a Half and I Will Grant You; they’re in the same sort of half-webcomic, half-blog, half-so-random-it’s-almost-self-parody, all-hilarious style, and I’ve been considering doing an article in that style myself for a while, just to see how it goes.
OKAY! REVIEW!
So. The series Rome, which, like so many things, I’ve got some way through but haven’t actually finished yet. Actually, I’ve got the seventh episode of the second series playing right now, and attempting to watch it and type at the same time. I think it’s going waljnrs. As a Classics student, it’s pretty interesting to see how the series deals with historical events, sometimes downplaying things considered tasteless or shocking, other times exaggerating or completely fabricating the same. A lot of research has obviously gone into the detail, although sometimes major events are altered slightly in order to better fit with popular conception; two men in particular seem to achieve an awful lot that was attributed to minor or anonymous others, since they’re the ‘viewpoint’ characters. It wouldn’t work quite so well as a series without them; in their absence, we would be watching political manouverings by incscrutable geniuses, but these two ordinary soldiers (whose names were mentioned in Julius Caesar’s records of the Gallic War, but otherwise are entirely made up) give us a bit of an insight into the life of an ordinary Roman, and the impact of the politics on the lives of the people. Not that the show lacks in the big figures, with Caesar, Pompey, Mark Antony, Cleopatra, Cicero, Augustus and countless other names immortalised by Plutarch and Shakespeare, putting in appearances. And it works, in that we can see why it is that they do what they do, and what effect this has on the Roman world as a whole; two sides of the story which form a gestalt tale both understandable and exciting. It’s not even over-fictionalised, pandering exciting, it’s legitimately riveting as a real tale. Maybe more so for its root in truth.
As for the acting, something which I consider pretty important in any production which requires it, the casting is frankly astonishing in places, although at least one major figure (much as I don’t want to bias you towards him, I’m talking about the first person to play Octavian/ Augustus) is played somewhat lacklustrely – fortunately, he’s replaced by the second season, by someone who is not only an excellent actor but bears an uncanny resemblance to what the historical figure is thought to have looked like. Actually, this resemblance pops up in a lot of places, with Cicero’s portrayer in particular looking almost exactly like the statues of the man himself, and where there is little or no physical resemblance, like in the case of James Purefoy’s Mark Antony, who was described as being a massive, bulky brute of a man, the actors do a wonderful job in bringing their characters’ disctinctive traits, as recorded by historians and biographers, to the characters without exaggerating or becoming a one-dimensional, single-mood self-parody.
For those who aren’t familiar with the history, I would recommend checking it out: it’s exciting, interesting, funny and well-paced enough to teach you about what happened without either patronising or over-complicating. For those who are, it’s a good companion to the historical source material, since it does stick in one’s head rather better than lines of text.
I seem to be recommending everything I review. Maybe I ought to review something shit.

Oh, and you should play Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts. It’s brilliantly… brilliant.
TAUTOLOGY YEAH

October 20, 2011

The Plan

I had planned today to do a review of ‘The Fades’, but I feel I can’t really justify having the word ‘news’ in the name without mentioning the death of Muammar Gaddafi. Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t know a lot about the whole Libya situation. At all.  What I do know is that we have to be careful now. A lot of people are probably going to be happy about his death, and I don’t know if I’m comfortable with that. To be glad that a person died, even if it is a person like Gaddafi or Bin Laden, as I said at the time, is something I don’t think I’m capable of. We have to be careful of our hatred, that it doesn’t make us like those we profess to direct it towards, revelling in death. That’s not the way human beings should do things. Since I don’t know anything about the whole situation, and have no wish to offend anybody, I’m going to leave it there for now. In fact, I should probably review The Fades when the series is actually finished, that might make more sense. Maybe I’ll have the opportunity to be dry and witty and the spinner of humorous yarn again. I miss knitting.

October 19, 2011

Lies

I lie a lot.
It took me a lot of tries just to write that sentence.
That’s a lie – rewrote it in my head a hundred times (also a lie) but wrote it down first try.
I don’t know why I lie. Most of the stuff I lie about is absolutely irrelevant to everything. I mean, what could I possibly gain from lying about how long it took to write a sentence? Nothing. But I lied anyway. Sometimes I don’t even notice until after I’ve said it that I lied; it was just a reaction, something I did instinctively, and from which nobody benefited, especially not me.
So let’s start with some things that I know to be true.
My name is Chris Durston. I think, therefore I am. I am an atheist. The name of the person I love the most in the world is Michael, and I acted like a bastard to him earlier for reasons I probably would have lied about if I hadn’t stopped myself.
See, a lot of people have decided lately that the best person to make all of their problems go away is me. Which is fine, until I start caring. Like, really caring. And then when I can’t help them, which this morning I couldn’t, I care about that too. But that’s my fault. That’s my problem, and I was a complete arse to him because I got upset about something with which he has virtually nothing to do. Because I couldn’t help one person, I was a twat to another. That doesn’t even make sense. That makes less than no sense.
A very wise friend of mine said to me that misery is optional. And she’s right, it is. I don’t need to be miserable about any of this, and I definitely don’t need to take it out on other people. I don’t need to put it on the internet for everybody to see – and here’s where the lies start getting complicated. Because I don’t feel like I want to tell everybody this. This is my problem. But obviously I do want to tell everybody this, or I wouldn’t do it. Have I really lied to myself so much that I can actually fool myself? I lie every day, although never about anything important. About stupid stuff that doesn’t mean anything or have any bearing on the world, like what I had for breakfast. The only reason to lie about that is for the sake of the lie itself. So why do it? I DON’T EVEN KNOW. And yeah, that upsets me a bit, too.

I think I only wanted to do this so that I could say sorry to everybody who ever reads this. If it’s the one I want to read it, then… actually, I don’t know if I do want him to. Another weird meta-semi-self-lie, almost conspicuous in its irrelevance.  The point is, and perhaps I just want to write this on the internet so that those I really need to say it to don’t see it, and a bunch of people who’ve never met me might think a little better of me for it:

I’m sorry. For everything.

Including this. Next time I write – if that ever does come around – I’ll try to be a bit more entertaining, although most of what I say will likely be lies.

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October 3, 2011

The Second Return! (the remake, part 4: resurrection)

Having failed entirely and, frankly, spectacularly, at maintaining this blog recently, I’ve decided that I should really put more effort into it.

That’s right, humble and most esteemed reader.

I’m back.

And nobody cares, but I’m doing it anyway.

I’ll be doing a bit of writing for the excellent Day-7 as well, so hopefully that’ll spur me on to actually doing some stuff. Can’t guarantee anything – well, I could, but we all know how that went last time. At least, I do. I’m not sure anybody other than me has ever read anything on this site, but I’m alright with that.

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June 13, 2011

Ahh.

After the astonishment to myself and anybody who might happen to read this that was me actually writing an article this week, I’ve only gone and not done Quote of the Week. Maybe I should just make it so that it’s updated on Monday. Anyhoo, this week’s is:
‘Every mystery ever solved has turned out to be… not magic.’
-Tim Minchin

June 10, 2011

Nothing to do with monkeys

Borderline it may be, but I’ve actually gone and written more than one article this week! (Unless the quote of the week articles don’t count.) Anyway, this exciting new development is about… probability.
Yep. Maths.
I never much liked maths, but I’m not gonna go into fractional and algebraic probabilities, least not today; instead, I want to talk about certain theories, theorems etc. involving probability. And since there’s nobody here to stop me, I’m gonna go ahead and do just that.

The most famous probability-based thought thingy is probably the infinite monkey theorem.
For those not familiar with it, which is probably nobody, but I’ll explain it anyway because I want to, the theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a keyboard, if left for an infinite amount of time, will almost surely type the complete works of William Shakespeare. Alternatively, out of an infinite amount of monkeys on an infinite amount of typewriters, one of them will do this in a finite amount of time. It’s important to realise here that the monkey effectively represents a metaphor for a random-letter generator, rather than an actual monkey, avoiding the issue of it wanting to do something else instead, getting bored, being unable to use a typewriter etc. Apparently, ‘almost surely’ means that the probability of it not happening is smaller than any finite probability and so must be at least analagous to zero, but only has meaning in probabilities involving infinity. What confuses me, though, is what ‘infinity’ is. If it is an inexpressibly large number – infinitely large, indeed – larger than could ever be counted to, then ought not the probability of this happening to be exactly 1? Indeed, ought not the probability of any event occurring, given an infinite amount of time, to be exactly one?
Moving tangentially for a moment, I want to have a quick look at Godwin’s Law. This is relevant, don’t worry. It states that: ‘As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches  1 (100%).’ Basically, given enough time, somebody will inevitably make the comparison between someone and Hitler, Nazi ideals etc. But, and here’s where it becomes relevant, doesn’t it make sense to assume that given an infinite amount of time, someone will inevitably make a comparison to… everything? If the probability of such a comparison starts low as the discussion begins, approaching 1 as it lengthens, then if allowed to approach 1 for an infinite amount of time it ought to eventually become 1, surely. And since there is never a 0% probability of any comparison being made, since people are weird, then the probability of those comparisons being made ought also to increase towards 1 as the length of the discussion increases, and, if allowed to increase infinitely, will eventually become 1. It might take longer given that the initial probability will be smaller, but infinity is… well, infinite. So it’ll happen.
Scooting on back to the infinite monkey theorem, the probability of any possible event happening is above zero, even if only minutely. So over an infinite period of time, assuming that the probability of its occurence approaches 1 over time,  it must eventually hit 1.
There is no point to this. It’s not even that interesting. But I guess that on a wider level, it means that if the universe, the world, the human domination of Earth, lasts for an infinite amount of time – it won’t, of course – then every possible event will eventually have happened. Every single possible event, provided that a mutually exclusive event hasn’t happened first.
That’s kind of cool. Maybe a bit meaningless, inscrutable and probably boring, but to me, that’s kind of cool.