Saturday, January 10, 2009

I had plans for today

I had actually worked out a very specific programme of things to do today - I was going to clean the place up, do some memory training, all kinds of productive things. Maybe even pay my electic bill, since I've never got round to setting up a direct debit and haven't paid them any money since I moved in. My impression is that EDF haven't even noticed yet, but I think there's a fair chance that even a company as useless as them might start sending me letters soon.

Anyway, in the event, I woke up feeling lazy, took a long time finding a good reason not to stay in bed all day, and then noticed that "The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr T" was on Channel 5, so I just had to watch that, and then that was the whole morning gone, so I decided to spend the day relaxing and doing nothing instead, in preparation for a productive and successful day tomorrow.

But hey, isn't Dr T a wonderful film! The writing is hilarious and clever, the sets are amazing (some uncredited geniuses achieved the impossible and made three-dimensional versions of Dr Seuss designs!), the costumes are fantastic (I might try to make a Dr Terwilliker costume for the next fancy dress party I go to, and I really feel sorry for poor Peter Lind Hayes, who has to spend the entire film in ordinary-working-guy clothes when everybody else gets to dress up in the most awesome creations) and the acting (and singing, and dancing) from the four central actors is sensational! It's another one on my everybody-who-hasn't-seen-it-yet-needs-to-go-and-find-a-DVD-right-this-second list.

Yes, right this second. I don't care if it's 10pm and your local Zavvi store has been shut down by the administrators. Get out there!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Come let us stray our gladsome way and view the charms of nature

Look! Squirrels! A blog dedicated to pictures of red squirrels in Bavaria! It's great. I miss the squirrels who used to hang around my old flat in Derby - they had a regular route across the back yard which involved a section skittering quickly along a vertical wall to get to the roof of the shed in the next door garden. There don't seem to be any squirrels watchable from the windows of this house, although there are plenty of trees, big gardens and hiding-places. Maybe I'll leave some nuts lying around out the back and see what happens.

I'm in a bit of a nature-boy mood tonight, for some reason. I don't normally watch nature documentaries, but I saw an article earlier about a thing about cuckoos tonight, so I decided to watch it. And it was good stuff, too - it's always fun in a weird way to watch a tiny reed warbler feeding a massive screaming cuckoo chick three or four times its size.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

2009 is your unlucky year!

This post has been edited because I just realised the Excel spreadsheet I used to work out the luckiness factors had a mistake in it!

It's true, we are now in what I like to call an Unlucky Year. Let me explain. The weirdness of the calendar means that every year has either one, two or three instances of a Friday The Thirteenth, and this year is one of the ones with three. 2006 and 2007 were Average Years (two Friday 13ths), but if we manage to get through the misfortunes of 2009, the following two years will be Lucky Years (just one Friday 13th)!

Unlucky Years don't happen very often. As any calendar-calculator knows, the days of the week run in 28-year sequences - if you were born on a Thursday, your 28th birthday will also be on a Thursday. If your third birthday is on a Saturday, your 31st birthday will be on a Saturday too. And, as a side note, during any 28-year cycle, each date will land on each day of the week exactly four times. So if you're one of those people who complain that your birthday is never on a weekend, you're lying.

In every 28-year cycle, there are 12 Lucky Years, 12 Average Years and just four Unlucky Years. The last Unlucky Year was 1998, the next will be 2012 (then 2015, then not until 2026). At one extremely boring point in the 28-year cycle, there are four consecutive Average Years - the next one is the dull period from 2017 to 2020 inclusive. The best run of luck you ever get is two Lucky Years in a row.

The three thirteenths to watch out for this year will be in February, March and November, as is the case in three of the four Unlucky Years of the cycle. The other is an Unlucky Leap Year, and has Friday 13ths in January, April and July.

Speaking of leap years, the year 2100 will not be a leap year, which will throw the 28-year sequence out. The upshot of this is that there will be some 28-year periods overlapping the turn of the century which have five or even six Unlucky Years in them! I'm going to spend the entire period from 2078 to 2099 hiding under my bed!

I hope you've enjoyed this fascinating blog entry. If you didn't, make sure to avoid this blog on July 6th, when I and all Excel users around the world will be celebrating Day 40000!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

With a krypton factor of 999!

I missed the relaunch of The Krypton Factor at the weekend, but I caught the repeat tonight (didn't go to the football, sounds like it was a good game, though. Yay Derby!) and it was fantastic!

I always loved KF in the old days, and it was pleasing to see that the new series is exactly the same (except, sadly, without the aeroplane-simulator round). I would love to be a competitor! The obstacle course would literally kill me, of course, but the rest of it would be fun.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Adverts of which I disapprove

I can't believe they're STILL showing that "Colour Catcher" advert with "the proof's on the sheet!" stupidity. I complained about it on my blog MONTHS ago! And they still haven't taken it off the air!

And now there's an advert for some company or other that's changing its name, in which a number of actors and musicians observe that their stage names are better than their real names. Ringo Starr interacts with footage of screaming Beatle fans and asks "Would any of this have happened to me if I was still Richard Starkey?"

Well, yes, Ringo, it would. If you remember, you adopted the stage-name in order to become the drummer for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, who all had silly names, and then your mates in another band asked you to start playing with them instead, and it all got quite big from there. I'm almost certain that the exact same amount of fame and adulation would have come your way if you were still Richard Starkey.

Incidentally, I can't remember what company this advert's for. Like many adverts, it has no idea about how to make something memorable. The new and old names of the company are just flashed up on screen right at the end, entirely disconnected from the preceding celebrity-fest. They must have spent a fortune on the advert, and it doesn't do its job at all. I ask you.

Also, what's with those Renault adverts that operate from the starting point that nobody wants to buy a Renault, and then tries to convince you that the new one is actually quite cool, so maybe you should reconsider your prejudices. I thought Renaults were cool all along! Weren't they? What was wrong with Nicole and Papa? Now that was a good advertising campaign.

Also, and this isn't an advert I'm complaining about, I have a strange urge to go and see Derby play Man Utd in the league cup semi-final first leg tomorrow night. I don't know why, I never once went to see Derby play, even when I was living there and they were in the premier league and playing Man Utd all the time (well, twice in a year, anyway). Still, I feel like going to see this one now. Anyone want to come with me?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Doctor what?

I suppose, seeing as I go on about Doctor Who all the time on this blog, I should jump to conclusions about the new star actor without knowing anything about him or the future plans for the series. I've seen Matt Smith in The Ruby In The Smoke and The Shadow In The North - or at least, I must have seen him in those, since I watched them, and thought they were quite good. And Jim is a great character in the books, so it's a bit disturbing that I don't remember a single thing about Matt Smith's performance. Still, maybe he'll be a better match for the Doctor. There's nothing wrong with having a very young actor playing the part (although he'll be the first younger-than-me Doctor, which is alarming), but they'll need a hairstyle and costume that are timeless rather than trendy for it to work.

That's enough anticipation, though, we're not going to see him until 2010, and by that point we'll all be living on the moon and driving space cars.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Dragon's Claws!

I was thrilled to discover yesterday that the classic comic series Dragon's Claws is now available in graphic novel format. Buy it on Amazon here!

Or, if you need further persuasion, hear the story of a misspent youth first. Picture the scene, it's summer 1988, I'm eleven-going-on-twelve and my favourite weekly reading matter is the Transformers comic, with its thrilling and convoluted tales of time-travelling giant robots (interspersed with American-written, less thrilling and convoluted non-time-travelling stories), which around this point starts to run trailers on its editorial page for a brand new upcoming comic - Dragon's Teeth, written by Simon Furman and drawn by Geoff Senior and involving some kind of fighting in the distant future.

I don't think these editorials managed to give me any kind of impression of what this comic was going to be about, and the names of the creators didn't really intrigue me - at that point, I never paid attention to the identities of the writers and artists, and I really hadn't noticed that all the Transformers stories I really loved were written by Simon Furman, nor that all the ones drawn by a competent artist were drawn by Geoff Senior. But the plugging continued, and just before the all-new comic was due to hit the shelves, that week's Transformers comic gave it one final push, complete with full-page advert and a quick mention that it was now going to be called "Dragon's Claws" instead:

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Forgive the crumpled and stained page, it comes from my own non-mint-condition comic collection. And notice that the change of name was so last-minute that the caption of panel two still refers to "the Teeth" instead of "the Claws". Apparently they'd found out at the last second that "Dragon's Teeth" was already the registered-trademark name of an obscure American comic.

All of which, as I said, didn't excite me in any big way, but when I saw Dragon's Claws #1 in W H Smith's, I decided to check it out, and I loved it from the start. Violence and destruction in the year 8162! Colourful costumes and fascinating characters! And, which I didn't expect, once you got past the action and adventure, there was a lot of intelligent and thought-provoking stuff. Debates about ethics, evil consipracies, dark secrets... I was hooked all the way through. I pestered my parents to buy me a subscription to it, and would eagerly read the new issue when it arrived, occasionally annoying my brother, who of course hadn't had a chance to see it yet, with outbursts like "Stenson's dead!"

Actually, that's sort of a spoiler for anyone who hasn't read it yet, so if you're going to buy it, forget you read that last sentence. Anyway, sadly, the series didn't last long, just ten monthly issues before it was cancelled. It just wasn't popular enough, which was the fault of the format more than anything to do with the stories it told; it was an attempt by Marvel UK to launch a range of American style comics - small size, twenty pages monthly, just one story in a comic - to an audience of British youth used to big weekly comics with four or five six-page stories in them. But it was something special, as everybody who read it at the time remembers, and I hope new people discover it now it's in the book shops.

I read through my old collection today, and it's still as good as I remember. But to get the full effect, you shouldn't read it all at once. Buy the book and read one chapter every month, spending the intervening time re-reading, picking up on the little details, and wondering what's going to happen next.

The book also has a great foreword by Simon Furman, and an afterword by Rich Johnston in which he rightly says that it's a great shame Dragon's Claws came out before the days of the internet, because otherwise the web would be full of fan fictions now. He also urges everyone to write their own Claws #11, and I second that! Go and buy the book now, and relive my childhood!