Monthly Archives: October 2012

Does this pole still work?

When I was not quite ten years old, back in early 1988, we bought our first video recorder.

It was a revelation. No more the slaves of the clock. No more did I have to wait until Christmas to watch Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz. The VHS collection sat on the top shelf of the cabinet (when we eventually got the cabinet; those first few weeks the recorder sat on the floor) and the chunky plastic boxes were pulled in and out at least twice a day as we explored wildlife documentaries and Gerry Anderson creations and sitcom compilations. My younger brother filled up a three-hour tape with Thomas the Tank Engine episodes and wept for an hour when my mother, in order to punish him for some misdemeanour or other, refused to sanction the recording of the Christmas special, rendering his season two collection incomplete.

Access to a video recorder filled up the hours, but it also aided my sense of recall. I would wake early on Saturday mornings and sit down in front of the television, having already calculated the time I would need to start watching Superman in order to finish before I had to leave for the weekly swimming lesson. Terence Stamp’s beautifully performed monologue permeated my consciousness until I could recall every pause and every cadence of his delivery. I watched the TV edit of Back to the Future so many times I memorised it in its entirety, and took the toned-down language of the kid-friendly version to be gospel until many years later, when I heard Doc Brown swear for the first time. I can’t remember most of what I learned in school, but I can still recite the radio announcer’s Toyota commercial in the opening scene.

But it was Ghostbusters that held a special place, because it was the first tape we bought and I more or less wore it out over the years. My friends at school were crazy about it, and it was a bandwagon I couldn’t wait to ride. I can still recall the sense of disappointment when the technician who installed the VHS (yes, we needed such electrical specialists in our house) told us that we would have to leave it to settle for three or four hours before we could use it, to allow time for the machine’s moving parts to adjust to room temperature. Instead we went out, but I spent most of the time looking at my watch.

My family didn’t do Halloween, and trick-or-treaters were politely but firmly turned away. At no point did I feel deprived or embarrassed by my parents’ religious stance (save once, but that’s for another day) because they were happy about us watching Ghostbusters until the cows came home. They would even watch it with us. My mother would always chuckle when Bill Murray – ever the master of understatement, even then – reacted to the sight of a hundred-foot marshmallow man tearing up Fifth Avenue with the words “Well, there’s something you don’t see every day”. Meanwhile, my father howled with laughter every time Rick Moranis emerged from the wreckage of the destroyed penthouse, gazing at the smouldering rubble around him, before remarking “Boy, the superintendent’s gonna be pissed!”.

Years later it is still my favourite line, and I wonder how much of this is a judgement of quality and how much of it is raw nostalgia. Because when I think about it, Ghostbusters united us as a family in a way that no other film before or since – with the possible exception of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – has managed to do. We watched and experienced it together and in a strange sort of way it brought us closer together. And when I think about it now, that oh-so-laborious afternoon that I had to spend before I got to open up the video case for the first time wasn’t so much about seeing the film again as it was about introducing it to my brother, who was yet to experience it. The ability to watch it took second place to the newfound ability to discuss it and play games that were centred around it, and I can still recall the thrill of seeing his face light up the first time he saw Murray get slimed by the onion ghost.

Lately, I’ve wondered how much of this I may have transferred onto my own children. Because Halloween in our house began early – on Saturday evening, to be precise, when Emily had gone out and I elected to begin our celebrations now. We don’t trick-or-treat, but we have a pumpkin and I allow the boys to watch a (reasonably) scary film. Joshua has been asking about Ghostbusters for years, and until this year I’ve denied him, simply because sometimes the gift of a particular film or book isn’t appreciated before you reach a certain age, but lately I’ve felt he was ready. It was supposed to be just the two of us, but an insomniac Thomas wandered in towards the end of the first act and sat with us for the rest of it, as silent and receptive as he is at his best. Joshua, meanwhile, burst into fits of laughter every time a ghost was seen eating or Murray did something funny.

The next day, without any encouragement or help from me, he was busy. Here’s his Ecto-1.

Here’s a rendition of the onion ghost.

And finally, here’s a Lego self-portrait, wearing a Ghostbusters t-shirt.

It also gave me an excuse to play through this again.

I’ve experienced it before – a couple of years back – but it’s better with company. And on this occasion I had Josh sitting with me, watching as we blasted and slammed our way through the Sedgewick and Times Square, drawing in his breath at the fisherman ghost, and then giggling whenever a stray beam touched one of the other players. And, of course, he’s blissfully unaware that – like the film we’ve just watched – this is just an extension of my childhood, a time when I was not much older than he is now, and all those Saturday afternoons round a friend’s house playing the first Ghostbusters game on his Amstrad. It became an excuse for not doing other things, much like many of my gaming habits now. In my bedroom we had a Spectrum, rather than an Amstrad, and the game looked dreadful, but we loved it, and we played it to death.

Times have changed, but I basically haven’t.

 

 

 

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

This only really works pre-1987

This morning on WhoTube…

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flight of the Navigator: Portal 2 / Wheatley Edition

Let’s get this out of the way: Flight of the Navigator is mostly crap.

I don’t mean to urinate all over your eighties memories. Truly I don’t. I’m not one for nostalgia existing for its own sake but I recognise that certain things that have dated badly were very much products of their time, rendering their mockery superfluous. There is no merit in sneering at the apparent sexism in the works of Enid Blyton, for example, simply because (right or wrong) it was how most people thought back then. The same goes for Tintin and The Congo, a work that’s come in for its fair share of controversy over the last few years because it’s a still-very-famous example of the casually accepted racism of its time. Dumping on cultural attitudes or stylistic idiosyncrasies gets you lots of recommends over at the Guardian, but it’s not big or clever. That such attitudes are no longer as widely held ought to be enough without making all sorts of left-wing comments about language too far out from our times to be politically correct.

No, if you’re going to mock Blyton, mock her for her derivative and formulaic storytelling – as Joyce Grenfell memorably did – and look at the content, rather than the style. Because as far as style is concerned, Flight of the Navigator mostly holds up. The CG / stop motion effects used to portray the ship were quite astonishing in their day and still don’t look too bad some twenty-six years later. The puppet aliens are fun and convincing. And Alan Silvestri’s Synclavier-created score is frankly one of the best things he’s ever written, and still gets played in my car from time to time.

But the film itself? Gaah. It’s a third-rate mashup of serious and ‘fun’, where the tense, conspiracy theory first half degenerates into farce once David steps on board the ship. Structurally it’s about as robust as a play centre built by the Challenge Anneka team. There’s far too much preamble, and then once the ship actually takes off, there’s a lot of arguing, heaps of eighties slang (which is fine, really, it’s a product of its time), and dancing to the Beach Boys. That’s not to mention the dialogue – which sounds like it was written by a first-year undergrad on a Film Studies course – along with the frankly woeful performance of Joey Cramer. Paul Reubens does his best, hamming up the performance of Max the Robot with the silliness that the script deserves, but even the presence of Veronica Cartwright couldn’t save this turkey.

None of this matters when you’re a kid, of course, and even if the movie has dated badly, I’ll freely admit that as a boy it was one of my favourites, at least for a while. After wearing out our VHS tape in the late 1980s, I switched off from Flight of the Navigator until 2004, when Emily and I watched it one evening under the influence of a 70cl bottle of gin, which rendered it absolutely hilarious. Then we promptly forgot about it again, along with most of the other things that supposedly happened that night. But it was in the opening quarter of this year, when I was playing through Portal 2 with Joshua, that Disney’s playful romp once more permeated my consciousness. Because it occurred to me, exploring the corridors and test chambers and dark underbelly of Aperture Science, that Wheatley – the imbecilic (but lovable) robot that accompanies you throughout the first part of the game before [WHOPPING GREAT SPOILER] is an absolute dead ringer for Max. Well, sort of.

It’s more convincing when Max is flashing blue instead of red, and to be fair, there are only so many ways you can do spherical robots with big eyes before they all start to look the same, but you get the point. As far as the script is concerned, the presentation and characterisation of Wheatley is arguably Portal 2‘s high spot (along with all those wonderful monologues from Cave Johnson, of course). The humour in the game is about as subtle as a house brick, but if you’re not giggling away at the mashy spike plate, there’s something seriously wrong with you. Anyway, at some point or another – probably while I was driving or eating, that’s usually when I get my ideas – I must have thought “Ooh, Flight of the Navigator would be really interesting with Max’s voice taken out and Wheatley’s put in”.

This was this year’s Darth Gene, in that it took me an entire summer in between weeks away here and there. The longest and most laborious job was sifting through Wheatley’s dialogue – there is a ton of it, and I spent over a week (on and off) listening to over eight hundred voice files. There was a lot of expository narrative that was unsuitable – anything that mentioned GlaDOS or the portal guns had to go – but I wound up with enough usable material to have probably created this from scratch using entirely different dialogue. Because it was all ripped directly from the game it was easy to place, and all I then had to worry about doing was stitching up the audio with various engine sounds and bits of the score, which I was fortunate enough to have on MP3.  So it was a long job, but it hangs together much better than many of my other more recent efforts.

Because you’re all busy people, I should probably let you see the highlights version as well – it’s half the length, and lacks narrative cohesion, but it’s a decent selection of the best bits (of course it is. It wouldn’t be called ‘highlights’ if it wasn’t). Still – the full-length cut embedded above, if you have the time, is the video I originally intended to make (unlike the aforementioned Darth Gene, which is arguably better in its trailer format). I suppose the creation of this was therapy, in a way, in that it enabled me to exorcise a few demons, with some success – sadly it’s still not effective enough to exorcise the ghost of Joey Cramer slumping onto his arse in a hideously-decorated 1980s riverside property wailing “Please…where’s my mom and dad?”. But hey, it’ll do.

Categories: Crossovers, Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

OpTARDIS Prime

I have been thick with recruitment and meetings these past few days and, to be honest, there really hasn’t been a lot to talk about, dear reader, but here’s a little Transformers / Who mashup that I’ve been sent…

More new stuff next week, when things calm down a bit.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Protected: Fish fingers and custard

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Categories: New Who | Tags: , , , , , , , | Enter your password to view comments.

Portrait of the artist as a young boy

Yesterday, my inbox sang of novelty Halloween costumes.

To be fair, they’re not specifically touted as Halloween costumes, but it’s two weeks until the 31st and that’s probably what at least some of you were thinking. Such diversity is to be applauded, I suppose – not every kid wants to be a werewolf or a vampire. On the other hand, why go as a pale-skinned ghoulish freak when you can go as Dracula?

It was the Van Gogh one that stood out, simply because the ear patch is in questionable taste, and therefore exactly the sort of thing I’d love to see Joshua wearing. I mentioned it to Laura, and she said “Plus it has a werewolf beard!”.

“It is amazingly bushy,” I said. “But speaking of, that episode is coming up in a few weeks. And I’m not sure how I’m going to tackle it with Josh. It means talking about things we’ve never discussed before. It’s the whole bipolar thing.”
“It is fairly full-on, isn’t it?”
“It’s my favourite episode in the New Who canon, if you don’t count ‘Blink’. But it was bad enough having to watch ‘Flesh and Stone’ in the hope that he wasn’t going to ask why Amy was flinging herself at the Doctor. Now I’m going to have to talk about Van Gogh fighting the monsters in his head and ultimately killing himself. That’s more frightening, really, than anything that the Doctor has ever faced.”

Laura nodded. “When you think about it, series five went into some pretty dark territory.”
“Talking about Van Gogh and why he was brilliant is relatively simple. I’ve got a book that we’ll look at and I’ll encourage him to spot the paintings. I do think, having watched that episode, that I actually get Van Gogh now. I never really did before.”
“It’s basically a question of comparison,” said Laura. “You look at what he was doing versus what was actually going on around him, and the fact that what he produced was just so different.”
“It’s just the rest of it. Anyway,” I said, “next week we have ‘Amy’s Choice’, which deals primarily with self-loathing. So I suppose that’s a good way in.”
“That’s true.”

There was a mutual pause.

“Plus ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ has a gigantic invisible chicken.”
“Yes, that helps.”

Categories: New Who | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Bantam Menace

You all remember this.

 

Not long after I stuck it on Facebook, I had an adapted version from Gareth. “Since it’s how I read it a moment ago,” he said, “you should read it that way too.”

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Doctor in the House

I still can’t quite decide whether or not I like this – the hair is wrong, making it look like Hugh Laurie’s wearing a particularly dreadful wig – but what the hey, it’s better than anything I could have done…

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Your garden will be deleted

If you remember, some months ago Joshua and I spent a Saturday afternoon designing a Lego garden.

It was the most fun I’ve had with him all year, I think – and just the other week, by sheer coincidence, Josh had the option of designing and building another garden as part of a school project. (Actually it was a competition, but seeing as he’s wont to bursting into tears when he loses at board games we downplayed the competitive element.) And seeing as he and I are fairly au fait with the concept of plastic brick construction, and seeing as I’m hopeless with cardboard and sellotape, and seeing as we’d sort of already done it back in the spring, building another Lego model seemed an obvious choice.

Just to give you an idea, here’s the finished item.

Anyway, that’s not why I popped in this morning. It was decided that photos would serve better than actually trying to take the thing into school, but there was no reason to stop there – we also shot a couple of videos. The first was Joshua talking about the garden and giving a tour in the manner of the design honchos at Lego deconstructing the playsets on the company’s website. I basically let the camera run and prompted him as and when needed, trying to balance the actual content with the footage of him playing with Mr Snail.

Of more interest to Whovians, I hope, is this: we had the idea of the Cybermen stomping all over the place like they did in ‘The Age of Steel’. He also came up with other things he’d like to see on film, which I duly managed to include, but you’ll have to watch the video for that. The first thing we needed was an accompanying mansion, which I built with the help of Thomas and Daniel:

I shot the stills photography over the course of an hour or two – hurried, but we were against a deadline. It was dull and monotonous work but ultimately quite satisfying, even if I had to switch to my mobile towards the end of the process when the camera battery died. Then Josh sat down with me in the afternoon and I talked him through the editing process – the basics of sequencing, the specifics of timing images and then the somewhat laborious job of trawling the web (and my CD collection) for sound effects and music. We put the thing together in a day, which is as fast as I’ve ever produced anything, and while it’s still rough around the edges, it was the first time I’ve ever even attempted a semi-stop-motion / still photostory, so I confess I’m rather pleased with it. And I got to work with my son, and teach him about something I love – and that has to be a good thing.

Categories: Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The eventual death of Rory Williams

Now that this story has been closed, and the Ponds have departed the world of Doctor Who for good, in a final, unambiguous manner that means they’ll never be returning to the show under any circumstances, we can produce a final and definitive list of the many deaths of Rory Pond Williams.

The problem is that such lists are in abundance, all over the web. This one dates from halfway through series six.

It’s quite funny, but the ‘Oh my God! They killed Rory!’ meme has quickly become very tiresome. I really couldn’t figure out what I could possibly bring to the fold that was new, apart from to go through all the spinoff material and list all his non-canonical deaths, which would take more time than I currently have.

So what the hey; you can have it in the form of a puzzle instead. Silly, but at least it’s reasonably Doctor Who Adventures in approach.

Categories: New Who | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: