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Pandora November 25th, 2005

Posted by alsotop in Music.

For over a year now, I’ve been using Last.fm, formally Audioscrobbler, to both track what I listen to, and also for it to recommend me new artists to listen to. Recently, I came across a service called Pandora, which also advertises itself as a music recommendation service, built upon the Music Genome Project. The MGP started over five years ago and has since categorised over 10,000 artists and their music based on many factors that uniquely make a song: melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics and much more. When you go to Pandora, you enter an artist or track you like, and it will suggest music which has similar musical properties. As far as me and my friends have been testing it, its been a really cool tool for discovering new music which we will actually enjoy because of how the music fits together. At the moment, the service is free (although soon to be ad-supported) and technically only available to US citizens (because of legal matters), although it is definitely not complicated to sign up with a phony ZIP code to get to Pandora’s brilliant service. If you’re looking for new music, I highly advise you to try out Pandora, as it has definitely given me a lot of new music to get into!


Red Dwarf Series 7 November 11th, 2005

Posted by alsotop in Red Dwarf, Shows.
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Red Dwarf Series 7 DVD coverOn Monday, the seventh series of Red Dwarf was released on DVD by the BBC. Personally, it’s one of my least favourite seasons of the show, but of course, it’s still incredibly enjoyable. This boxset is the biggest one to date, the content and extra features spanning on to three DVDs (the previous six releases were double-discs). For the first time, the BBC commisioned eight episodes (instead of the usual six) and on top of that, the DVD features the original uncut full-length versions of three episodes, Tikka to Ride, Ouroborus and Duct Soup without any laughter tracks. Additionally, Tikka to Ride has been remastered with new special effects (although the original, of course, is still preserved on the DVD) and the lost episode, Identity Within, is presented in storyboard format performed by Chris Barrie. Every episode features Cast Commentaries, there are plenty of deleted scenes and many featurettes. Overall, its packed to the brim with features that will take me absolutely ages to get through. I can assure you, I will have a lot of fun with this DVD!

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Battlestar Galactica 8 – Flesh and Bone November 10th, 2005

Posted by alsotop in Battlestar Galactica, Shows.
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BSG Pic 01 BSG Pic 02 BSG Pic 03 BSG Pic 04 BSG Pic 05 BSG Pic 06

Another brilliant episode of Battlestar Galactica, which sees the return of the cylon Leoben Conoy, who previously showed up in the miniseries when Adama was trapped with him. The episode starts when President Laura Roslin is having a strange dream where she is walking through a forest at night, and suddenly a group of soldiers run past. In the distance, Leoben silently calls to Laura. Slightly reluctantly, she decides to run towards him, where he covers her mouth and hide behind a tree as the soldiers pass by. Afterwards, he lowers his head, before he’s mysteriously sucked away. When he then mentions her name, Laura wakes up in a sweat and goes for her pills. Billy asks if she’s okay, but she doesn’t want to be disturbed, yet he has important news: a Cylon has appeared onboard a ship in the fleet. As it turns out, the Cylon in question is Leobon Conoy, and since he had recently featured in her dreams, the President wants him to be interrogated as he might be able to shed some light on their situation. Adama enlists Starbuck’s help for questioning the Cylon, but warns her that he will desperately seek to get in her head, since he knows of his dastardly mind games. Galactica Boomer is wandering around the Cylon raider, humming to herself when Chief comes in and they share some more awkward small-talk. Boomer admits she’s a Cylon, without even knowing, but he doesn’t believe her and passes it off as a sick joke. On board the Gemini, Starbuck notes how Leoben is sweating, just like a human. As soon as she begins, he already starts playing tricks and refusing to ask any questions, so Starbuck walks out. When he calls out her name, without ever being told, she’s taken back, and returns to the table, somewhat flustered. He tells her that he planted a nuclear warhead upon one of the ships, and without being able to take any risks, she has to believe what he says could be true. After returning, they exchange more heated talk and Leoben explains how the Cylons pray to only one God, the true God, and not the 12 Lords of Kobol. Starbuck has one of the guards to punch Leoben, who feels pain – since the Humano-Cylons are built to feel pain. Her ultimate goal is to get him to realise that he is not a human, since he has the power to turn off his pain or any other negative effect on him. Back on Galactica, Boomer comes to Gaius with the intent of using his Cylon detector to see if she is in actual fact a Cylon. Under Number Six’s guidance, he finally decides to accept her for a beta test. Caprica Boomer leaves Helo after the night they shared, late to her meeting with Number Six and Aaron. They’re beginning to distrust her, since she seems to be falling for Helo, becoming more like a human, but since she is still a Cylon, they have to continue. “We had sex.” “Congratulations.” They talk about how he might now be willing to follow Boomer’s every command since they are now very close. Boomer decides that she and Helo should run away after thinking about what Number Six and Aaron said and the times they’ve shared together, and takes Helo with her. Back to the Gemini, Starbuck continues with what has now become a torture, instead of an interrogation. She makes the guards leave to fetch her something, and Leoben describes in great detail that in the time it would take for them to return, he could get free of his chains, and kill Starbuck. And then he does, breaking his chains with one swift action and throwing the table across the room. He takes Starbuck by the neck and pushes her up against the door, which he locks. He repeats his, “I have a surprise for you” message before the guards take him down – he obviously was not wanting to kill Starbuck right now.

Adama decides to order the ships to spread out, effectively leaving them defenceless but minimising any possible damages if the threats of a nuclear warhead was true. Starbuck starts to use a bucket of ice cold water to get the answer she wants out of Leoben, but he remains true to his game, and says nothing. She threatens that he will drown in his bucket, but he again explains that he can’t die – since his conscious will just transfer to another body. Starbuck thinks she has the upper hand because he must be worried about not being able to transfer because he’s actually speaking to them. Back to Gaius and Boomer, the DNA sample was taken and he is about to begin the test. Number Six says that the results will be very interesting for Gaius. When all the tests return Red, explaining Cylon, he begins to panic, and desperately tries to change everything. Eventually, he sets it all to green, and explains (still worriedly) that she’s not a Cylon, but 100% human, and she goes on her way, much more relieved. Now Gaius faces the dilemma of whether he should tell anyone about the results of Boomer’s test. He didn’t want to tell her because he thought that might activate her Cylon programming, which would be very troublesome for him. Laura once again sees Leoben in a dream, and once again wakes up sweating. She decides that she would like to speak to him herself. She walks in on Starbuck’s supposed-interrogation-turned-torture and demands to know what’s going on. Since Starbuck hasn’t actually found anything about the warhead from Leoben, Laura decides to take a different tactic. He has him cleaned up and unchained. She apologises and explains that there isn’t, in actual fact, a nuclear warhead. He tells her not to be too hard on Starbuck and then he suddenly reaches forward, and the guards get edgy, but she tells them to stand back. He secretly whispers to her, “Laura, I have something to tell you: Adama is a Cylon.” She’s taken back, and then comes to the conclusion that he should be thrown out the airlock. Before he is ejected, Starbuck feels that although he was a Cylon, he may really have had a soul. As he is sucked out through the airlock, Laura realises that this was the same as in her dream.

This was definitely another enjoyable episode of BSG, with a lot of intelligent and psychological context. I thoroughly enjoyed the performances of the characters and the stories, and it’s just continuing to expand my love of the series. The episode was slightly one-sided to just Starbuck and Leoben, and we had barely any mention of any other characters, bar fleeting scenes with Laura, Adam and Tigh. Boomer’s scene with Number Six and Aaron was cool, simply because I love all the Cylon characters! The next episode, Tigh Me Up Tigh Me Down looks interesting – and hopefully I’ll get around to seeing it very soon.

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Battlestar Galactica 7 – Six Degrees of Seperation November 6th, 2005

Posted by alsotop in Battlestar Galactica, Shows.

BSG 7 Pic 1 BSG 7 Pic 2 BSG 7 Pic 3 BSG 7 Pic 4 BSG 7 Pic 5 BSG 7 Pic 6

The show is really getting deep and full of tension now and there’s a lot of interesting things going on. This episode is a Gaius Baltar heavy episode, because he is definitely my favourite character, simply because he’s got a completely non-typical role. You can’t simply define him as good or evil, which is great – that’s certainly my thing. The episode begins with more of Gaius’s delusional dealings with Number Six, when he’s interrupted by Dee, and taken to the CIC. He sees a Number Six clone, and immediately believes her to be the one in his head, when he soon cottons on to the fact that she is different, and everyone esle can, too, see her. She calls her self Miss Godfrey and claims that Gaius was behind the security leak, and gave the Cylons access to the Security Network. Everyone begins to doubt Gaius and he is soon revoked of his rights aboard the ship. Meanwhile, Starbuck is dealing with her broken leg, and Tyrol and Cally are trying to work out how she got the Cylon spaceship to fly. President Laura Roslin suffers an attack while Gaius was trying to persuade her to see that Godfrey could in actual fact be a Cylon agent. When Godfrey starts acting strange in front of Adama, he begins to suspect that she may be questionable. Down on Cylon occupied Caprica, Sharon and Helo are still running from the Cylons and finally manage to give them the slip by hiding by a bridge. Gaius follows Gaeta in to the bathroom to hold a secret conversation with him since he is really concerned about his wellbeing if Gaeta finds Gaius’s face in the picture Godfrey provides, but he escapes before he can be interrogated any more. Godfrey comes into the bathroom and Gaius forces himself into her cubicle to find out more information. The Galictica’s copy of Sharon begins a somewhat awkward conversation with Tyrol (ever since he decided they should no longer be seeing each other) but his edgy questions force her to abruptly leave. Starbuck finally manages to use her crutches to come help Tyrol and Cally to start the Cylon ship, since they still haven’t progressed anywhere. After a few minutes messing within the gooey insides, she manages to get it started like she did when she was trapped on the planet. The President comes to visit Gaius who was taken to the brig after he tried to destroy the incriminating evidence, and she informs him that he doesn’t believe her. When in her room, Sharon finds that her mirror has had “Cylon” scribbled over it in yellow paint, and she begins to worry that she may actually be a Cylon and that someone else might know. On Caprica, Helo admits to the other Sharon that he has always liked her and was jealous of her relationship with Tyrol. Obviously, this Sharon already knows that she is a Cylon – she kisses him, and with some dramatic music (which seemed very different to the score so far) and between the other Sharon’s attempts to remove “Cylon” from her mirror, she and Helo make love, but on her back we see the dodgy red lights like the other Cylons – dun dun dun! We return to Gaius in his cell, who has now begun to resort to praying to “The God” when Number Six finally appears to comfort him, after not showing for some time. Gaeta shows up, and Gaius begins to panic, but soon he discovers that Gaeta has managed to clear him, since the photos were in actual fact fakes. Adama and Tigh learn that Godfrey has somehow managed to escape without anyone noticing and set out a fleet-wide search for her. President Laura Roslin gives Gaius Baltar a public exoneration, and Number Six finally reveals to Baltar the whole scheme was a ploy to make Gaius appear much more trustworthy, since it is very unlikely he will be accused of treason twice. As the episode ends, Gaius begins to question if Godfrey ever existed, or if like the Number Six in his brain, she was just a figment of imagination. This was another brilliant episode, and once again, I cannot wait to watch the next one, Flesh and Bone.

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Webcomics November 2nd, 2005

Posted by alsotop in Internet, Webcomics.
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Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of webcomics, and I thought that I would share just some of the many I read day-to-day. I have no particular order here apart from the way I remember them in my head. Some are, of course, much bigger than others. Some of the webcomics are big enough to be substantial for their creators to work on them alone to support them, and others are independent works created by artists and writers in their spare time.

  • Penny Arcade – This is of course, the biggy – the webcomic following the tales of two gamers, Gabe and Tycho. Running since 1998, this cartoon is one of the longest running of the lot. You can really see the progression of the artwork and writing through the years – especially if you browse through the archives.
  • Ctrl+Alt+Del – Originally, taking on the tried-and-tested formula of two gamer buddies, Ctrl+Alt+Del has been running since late 2002, and has since gained its own unique and lovable characters, now making it one of the most popular webcomics.
  • Building 12 – A manga-style webcomic created by Chris Hazelton beginning in 2002, features the mishaps of the dysfunctional students in Building 12 at Atica College. Over the years, the school has been attacked by a wide range of bizarre groups – including aliens, ex-students and the minions of Hell.
  • Misfile – Another manga-style webcomic also created by Chriz Hazelton in early 2004. Unlike Building 12 which is updated once a week, Misfile regularly has five, on Monday through Friday. The story begins when Ash and Emily’s files in Heaven are misplaced into the wrong cabinets by the angel Rumisiel. Emily loses the last two years of her life, and Ash’s file was moved into the girl drawer, and now everyone believes he/she has always been female.
  • VG Cats – Another gaming-realted webcomic started in 2001 starring a pair of cats, Leo and Aeris, who frequently take the parts of characters in various games. The comic definitely features a twist, and usually sticks to one off gags other than a continuing storyline.
  • MegaTokyo – One of the longest running, influential and controversial manga webcomics on the Internet which originally followed the mishaps of Piro and Largo, two american gamers who get stranded in Tokyo. The story has since changed from regular gags into a long running story with a great deal more characters. (and just for the record, I’m a fan of all the work, even after Caston’s leaving)
  • PvP (acronym for Player vs Player) is one of the most read webcomics that are currently updating. Although it originally featured solely around video gaming and RPGs etc, it now encompasses more technology jokes, office humour and relationship matters. Scott Kurtz made a ruckus in the webcomic world when he announced he would allow any print newspaper to reproduce his webcomic for free.
  • Anime Arcadia – A webcomic that plays on the cliche of many anime storylines along the lines of a cat girl, Kate who appears in the comic’s other star, Eric’s, life. The cartoon is already on its third artist since starting in 2004, but the storyline itself has remained somewhat constant.
  • GU Comics – GU started as a webcomic based around Everquest (“/gu” was the command to send a message to all guild members in Everquest) but has since spread both into other MMORPGs, and more recently even wider genres of video games. The artists persona, Woody and his alter-ego, Ted, often feature in the strips.
  • Questionable Content – I’ve only been reading this one for a couple of months, although I spent several hours going through the archives, spanning from 2003. The story centers around Marten and Faye – indie rock fanatics, who regularly discuss their music. The comic flicks between the romantic drama between Marten and Faye and friends and jokes, often related to the music they listen to.
  • Concerned – Subtitled, The Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman, is a machinima-style webcomic, as the frames are made entirely by the Half-Life 2 engine, and “Garry’s Mod”, which allows manipulation of the game. Gordon Frohman, oft-mistook for Gordon Freeman, is a dimwit learning to survive against all odds in the harsh world in Half-Life.
  • Earthsong – A manga-influenced webcomic, Earthsong starts with a young woman who awakes in a strange world with no memories. She soon discovers she was brought to the planet Earthsong to help defend against the evil and greedy Beluosus.
  • Make with the Funny – A webcomic starring Rex, Zak and Walker, who are all gamers at heart. Since 2003, the plot has centered around the three and their everyday exploits. The comic mixes between gags and a somewhat continuing storyline.
  • Mac Hall – Started in 2000, this popular and long-running webcomic follows a group of slacker college students, drawn with a manga/anime-influenced style. Updates are quite infrequent since there is no planned schedule, but to date there have been over 350 comics.
  • Inverloch – Another manga-style comic which was started in 2003. The story begins with a young da’kor, who unlike the opinion of his race known for their fierce behaviour, befriends an elf Shiara, and vows to journey to find her love, Kayn’dar. Along his journey, he joins with another ousted elf, Lei’ella, a famous thief known as Varden, and a young mage, Neirenn.
  • Rob and Elliot – Rob and Elliot are room mates who move into a new apartment (the block coincedentally is also home to Doctor Doom) and share their life together. Although they have their differences, the pair do get along from time to time. Elliot works as a teacher, and Rob… doesn’t have a job, from what I see!
  • Urban Myth – Uhm… just… random?
  • 9th Elsewhere – As an emotionally fragile writer, Carmen is sent a muse called Eiji. However, Eiji’s bosses only sent him on this difficult case because he was on his last chance, and would be thrown out if he could not handle the case – so it is up to him to show them what he’s worth. This is yet another manga-style webcomic that has made it into my list!
  • The Last Days of FOXHOUND – A parody retelling of what happened to the bad guys from Metal Gear Solid, the FOXHOUND crew. As the author admits, the artwork is somewhat… “different”. He admits he can’t really draw, and uses vector drawings repeatedly copied to lay out his story. Still, aside from that, the long-running story can be really fun – but only if you’re a fan of the games. Otherwise, you won’t have a clue what’s going on!
  • Able and Baker – As testpilots for NASA, Able the monkey and Baker the sheep get up to lots of adventures in space, and around the space center. Just a little factoid for you: the first two animals launched into space were, of course, called Able and Baker.
  • comet 7
  • Alpha-Shade
  • Freex IRL
  • TwoKinds
  • Yosh!
  • Flipside
  • Refried
  • Count Your Sheep

Just so you know, yeah, I chickened out at the end. My head is spinning now, and I need to get some rest and some headache tablets before I explode. Hopefully, I’ll get around to finishing the rest of this post tomorrow. In the mean time, I have linked to the rest of the webcomics I would like to talk about.

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