Friday, 28 June 2013

Zombies v. Robots Part 1

It is a cold and gloomy day. I was sitting in my room thinking that I really ought to post something on my blog, but feeling a little lazy and a little uninspired. I looked around my room, trying to find something that would make me want to log onto blogger and write something that someone else might want to read. I was going to write a review of The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks, but decided to leave that until I was feeling more awake. I turned my head to the window and saw the robot that lives in my room. (I think, technically, it might be my brothers, but good luck getting that back off me, Ben!) I thought maybe I could waffle a little about how awesome robots are, especially giant robots, and how excited I am about Pacific Rim (roll on July!).

Then it occurred to me that robots would be the perfect way to fight zombies. They could be trained to detect life signals in person shaped objects and if they didn't find any, go for a head shot. The robots themselves couldn't be infected, so that would remove the risk of growing the army of the undead while trying to destroy them.

I realised that this idea was so good that there was no way other people wouldn't have thought of it already, so I googled "zombies versus robots", an act which made me happy in itself. I found so many exciting things, from online strategy games to a movie that seems to be in development, and this awesome picture...
Beautiful! Thank you Chris Ryall and Ashley Wood.

So, in summary, I love robots, I love zombies, and I love the internet from bringing these two loves together. Expect more on this subject as I investigate what's out there, and maybe make my own stuff up.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

World War Z: A Review of the Film

So, because I like to finish on a positive note, I'm going to start with what I believe are the four main problems with the movie version of World War Z.

1) The pacing is all wrong. It starts off really fast, with at least one excellent jump. The fear and confusion that the characters are feeling is palpable. Unfortunately from that point it gradually slows down, until the end is much closer to a 1970's type of film, with characters trying to creep around so the Zombie's don't hear them. By then I just found that pace frustrating.

2)There's a real lack of character development. You barely learn the names of any of the people Brad Pitt's "Gerry" meets as he whizzes around the globe, let alone enough to give a shit when they die, even if they are nobly sacrificing themselves.

3) The film is rated 15 in the UK, which is a better than a 12A, but not as good as an 18. This is a Zombie film. I want gore! There's barely even any blood, and although the Zombie's bite people, that is very clearly part of the virus spreading itself and they never seem to eat anybody. I watched Dark Shadows last night (so much better than the trailer made it look) which is a 12A, and that had more blood in it than World War Z. Mental. I wonder whether the censors were being hyper-sensitive because of the presence of Zombies and actually cutting more than they would in something based on a Gothic soap-opera?

4)I love the book, and I'm assuming the people behind the film love the book, because otherwise, why would they adapt it? However, the film comes across as having been made by someone who has been told about the book by someone with a bit of a dodgy memory. It's almost like, every now and then, they think, "Shit, we really ought to reference the book," and then put in something really clunky that interrupts the flow of the story.

So, that's the bad, now for the good. The beginning is good, really exciting and draws you right into the chaos and fear. Brad Pitt is good and really likeable in the role. I found myself thinking what a good dad he must be, because he takes really good care of people. The acting of the Zombies is good. There are lots of moments that are visually spectacular and I was glad that I saw it on the beauty that is Screen One of the Empire Leicester Square (my second home). I was so excited when I heard they were doing this film, and when I realised how different from the book it was going to be I made a real effort to down-grade my excitement, but I still felt a bit let down. If they'd made a film called Brad Pitt versus The Zombie Hoards, it would have been amazing, really fun, and not messed around with one of the best Zombie books ever written.

My final plea to anyone who's listening is to please not make any sequels, but for HBO, Netflix, or the BBC to get Max Brooks on-board and make a mini-series. Get George Romero to direct an episode and Greg Nicotero to do the special effects. It would be the best thing ever.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Dark Room

The Dark Room

There’s not much longer now. The Guards have bought me into a chamber to wait. There are curtains on the wall to create the illusion of windows, but I checked and there is nothing behind them. I think they’re keeping it deliberately dark in here to keep me calm. I think I’m meant to just sit here and consider what I’ve done, like a naughty child. I suppose I feel like a naughty child, in a way. I told them what I wanted to do, and when they wouldn’t let me, I went and did it anyway.
            And now I am being punished.
            I keep trying to think back to when this all started. I know the judge blamed it on the old books I found; pictures and stories from hundreds of years ago, saying they corrupted me. It was one of the saddest moments of my life when they burned those books. And really all for nothing, because I’m sure I knew what I was before I ever saw those images.
            My name is Beatrice and I am a woman.
            Of course, I came out of the birth-pod in just the same Neutral state as everybody else. My ident was Echo-UK-412. I was a good pupil and kept myself to myself, but I always felt that I was different, that something wasn’t quite right. It was seeing the front cover of that book that made me realise what it was. There were two people in the picture and they were smiling and holding hands. One of them had a lantern jaw, and the other one had all these curves. Then I remembered my biology lessons, about humankind before the Evolution. Our teacher had told us that we were split into different sexes and mated like beasts. Teacher sounded disgusted and made it seem as though humankind back then were little more than monkeys. But if that were true, how could this book have been produced, and why did that couple in the picture look so happy?
            I started to dig. I realised what was obvious, that it was a society with two genders that had invented the technology to create life in the Artificial Womb and to eliminate gender difference. I wonder what the scientist who made such an important breakthrough would have thought if they had known that the Government would rise, and that they would spend hundreds of years supressing human nature to make us little more than genderless drones?
            Now, it’s thoughts like those that got me into this predicament in the first place. Feeling passionately about anything is not encouraged in this world.
            I do just wish they’d turn on some lights. I wonder if they’re trying to depress me? Stop me making a scene? Oh, just you wait.
            I found other people who felt the same way that I did. We felt that our bodies did not reflect the truth of our being. I am meant to be a woman, and amongst this underground set were people who could make that feeling a reality. They could take my neutral body and turn me into the woman I already knew I was. It involved surgery, exercises to build up the correct muscles, but none of that worried me. The only thing that upset me deeply was having to cut myself off from my friends. I couldn’t risk including them in this illegal enterprise, and although I had tentatively broached the subject of my gender identity with a few of them, I doubted whether any of them would really understand.
            I am so proud of what I have done. It doesn’t matter that the underground surgery was raided while I was still in recovery. All that matters was that at my trial I could stand there proudly and identify myself not by the ident the Government gave me, but by the name that I found in that book so long ago.
            My name is Beatrice and I am a woman.
            I think I can hear the Guards outside my room. They will be coming for me soon, throwing open the door to this dingy place. I suppose the light pouring in will hurt my eyes, confuse my senses. I finally understand. They’ve kept me in this dark room to make it easier for them to drag me away to my execution. They are expecting me to fight. I suppose they were also taught that gendered people are like animals. I have been found guilty of Crimes Against the Body, both physical and politic. Who knows what else I am capable of?
            Well, they don’t need to worry about me being violent. I will go with them. I am not ashamed of what I have done. I didn’t just gain breasts and labia in that operation. I gained an identity, and perhaps more importantly at this exact moment, I was fitted with a recording device. Those doctors are so clever. My execution will be recorded and broadcast over the internet. It will be seen across the globe. All those people who have never questioned their neutrality will witness a peaceful woman being murdered by the Government. The survivors of the raid on the surgery will broadcast the trial, show copies of the pictures that awoke my womanhood, and maybe one day an army of sisters and brothers will wipe this repressive regime away.

Humanity isn’t what it once was, but maybe soon, it will be.

Sunday, 16 June 2013


There's a story that goes around universities. It's all about a philosophy exam that poses the question, "What is bravery?" One student boldly writes, "This is" and nothing else on their paper and receives a first. Now I'm fairly certain that this is an urban legend, no matter how much I would love it to be true.

My own personal answer to "What is bravery?" is me, deciding to watch Killer Klowns from Outer Space all by myself.

I'm not afraid to admit that I am scared of clowns, maybe someday I'll write more extensively on the subject, for now let's just remember that they are evil and eat babies. Fact. Right now, we're talking about bravery.

So, there I was, thinking that I wanted to watch something scary, a cult classic, a must see film for horror fans, and I was prepared to jump out of my seat, to hide behind a cushion/kitten and possibly have nightmares, but instead I learned a valuable lesson.

That lesson was that if you pluck up the courage to do something, you often find that it wasn't as bad as you thought it was going to be. Killer Klowns from Outer Space was silly and fun. The Klowns are less scary than the non-alien variety because they are guys in big foamy costumes (I'm so technical) rather than human beings gone all clowny and wrong.

I could also have told the same story about Eight Legged Freaks. Not as scary as an arachnophobe would have imagined. Now someone just has to make a film about Clown-Spiders or Spider-Clowns and we're on for a really challenge.

Oo, and my super-cool fact? Suzanne Snyder, who plays the female lead in Killer Klowns, is also Deb in Weird Science! Now that's a pretty cool career.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Awesomeness That is Sean Pertwee

I realised something about myself today that I guess on some level I had always known, but had never really admitted to myself.

I will watch anything, anything at all, if it has Sean Pertwee in it.
This is more than just an attraction thing. My love of Sean Pertwee has many levels.

1) He's in Blue Juice which I watched at an impressionable age. It's all about surfing and sorting your life out so you're doing what you really want to do rather than what you think you ought to be doing. They may have whacked Ewan McGregor on that weird IMDB cover image, but it's all about Pertwee.

2) His Dad was Doctor Who. I wonder if he gets annoyed with people bringing that up? I hope not, because it's very cool.

3)He's in lots of Neil Marshall films, all of which I love. I had to watch The Descent on my own because my Dad got a migraine and had to leave the cinema. It was terrifying and amazing. Dog Soldiers manages to be scary and funny, my favourite combination of things, and it's got Sean Pertwee in it! Genius.

4) He's got a lovely voice, as heard in many computer games and documentary narration.

5) I honestly can't think of a film with Sean Pertwee in that I haven't enjoyed. I mean, they're not all Oscar worthy, but they're always entertaining, and quite often that is what I am looking for in a film.

Well, I feel I have made my point. I am now off to find another Sean Pertwee film to watch.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Why The Today Programme Shouldn't Talk About Things I Like

Dear The Today Programme,
                                            You know that I love you. You know that only your dulcet, mumbling tones can welcome me into the day in a nice, easy manner. You keep me up-to-date on current events, and are normally the people to inform me if anyone interesting has died or been arrested. But sometimes you really piss me off, and today is a case in point.

Allow me to set the scene. Yesterday I was feeling as though my horrible virus had finally gone. I went for a walk in the park, played with the kittens and watched the rest of Season 5 of Breaking Bad (so good, so very, very good). However, I awoke at 2am, ran to the bathroom and re-enacted a few scenes from The Exorcist (only the puking ones, no crucifixes were involved). Anyway, this morning I was feeling a little sorry for myself and trying to get up the energy to get up and feed Jago, Fitz and Romero.

Then it happened... The Today Programme ended with an article about zombies! Although I do generally think that if a cultural phenomenon has made it onto Radio Four it probably means it's over, I was genuinely pleased... until the article actually started. First (name and shame) Naomi Alderman said that zombies didn't exist before 1968. Bollocks. Not just bollocks because of folk-lore and Haitian tradition, but also bollocks in movie history. There's 1932's White Zombie, to name but one, and not even the earliest zombie film.

However, she's obviously referring to the flesh munching wonders that The Great George Romero so kindly gave to the world in Night of the Living Dead, so I'll let her off. Also, everything else she said was really interesting and spot on. The other guest was Rick Lewis, editor of Philosophy Now Magazine. They talked about the fact that zombies become more popular during times of economic crisis and of the use of zombies in thought experiments. All the while the John Humphries was floundering, getting his facts wrong (Nosferatu is a vampire) and being rude and dismissive about the whole thing. He seemed surprised that people considered zombies as anything more than just a gross comedy turn. I mean, fair enough if you're not a fan, but why have a whole four minutes of air time dedicated to a discussion that you're not going to take seriously? Why bother talking about the fact that zombies are having their moment in the sun if you clearly don't give a shit? The world is a big place with lots of things happening in it, either report on something properly, or talk about something else, maybe the elections in Iran, or the flooding in central Europe.

Anyway, it annoyed me, and now I'm even more annoyed because I've turned into one of those people who rant about people misrepresenting zombies like some kind of nutty fanboy.

Now, I've got kittens demanding  my attention and cuddles, so at least we're ending on a high.

yours sincerely,

M. Maureen

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Homeward Bounders: A Review

I realised quite recently that I don't really like giving things bad reviews. This might prove to be a bit problematic in a blog that partly aims to assess the goodness, or otherwise, of things that I thought I might like and then found that I did/didn't. It's an issue that I will have to address within myself.

But not today.

Homeward Bounders is, without a doubt, one of the best books I have ever read. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I can't quite believe I haven't reviewed it already... hold on, let me check... nope, phew!

I was mainly reading it on the coach on the way down to Plymouth and I'm so glad that I finished it just as we got into the bus station, otherwise I might just have had to stay on there and ended up in Penzance. I've never been to Penzance, but from what I've heard, it's full of pirates, so maybe that would have lead to a life of adventure on the open waves and not been that bad after all, but I digress.

For reasons beyond me, I never read any Diana Wynne Jones as a child, but for Christmas I was given a collection of her essays (thanks Dan) and I enjoyed it so much that I felt like I had to read one of the actual books themselves. I started off with Charmed Life, the first in the Christomanci series. I enjoyed it a lot, but I really wanted to read a book of hers that wasn't part of a series.

Good move! I remembered being recommended Homeward Bounders, and as it was easy to order, I went for it.

I loved it!

I loved the way that, even though it is aimed at younger readers, it doesn't talk down to them. There are references to Greek mythology, and moments that are really quite creepy. The story is really dark and deals with the very nature of reality. I'm not going to ruin the end, but it completely blew me away, and I just really, really want everyone I know, and don't know, to read it.

So please do, I'll even lend you my copy if you promise to give it back.

I've now got Archer's Goon and Howl's Moving Castle so Diana Wynne Jones-fest 2013 can continue!

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Notes from the Plague House

Did you miss me?

I must say that the first day after that week of intense blogging was a little weird. I kept thinking of things that I could write about, things that I wanted to share with the world, but I thought, 'No, Alex, pace yourself.'

And so Wednesday passed and Thursday came and I went to see The Felice Brothers which was brilliant!

Then Friday arrived. Oh, I had so many plans for Friday. I had things to buy, things to pack. I was going to write something on my blog and get an early night. I was going to wake up on Saturday and go to Wales and have a wonderful time.

But no!

Instead I woke up on Friday morning with a horrible virus that, frankly, decorum stops me from describing in any greater detail. This image sums up how I felt...
Oh, the horror!

So, my holiday got cancelled, my blog didn't get written, and I spent a lot of time in bed.

I'm now at the point where I feel well enough to write this. I managed a little walk in the sunshine yesterday and even ate a proper meal.

Health and well-being here I come (just not too quickly, it's exhausting).