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Black Mirror: White Bear

 

Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror has returned for a second series of three episodes, and White Bear (the second episode) is, to put it mildly, quite a romp.

English: Charlie Brooker at the RTS awards.

English: Charlie Brooker at the RTS awards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whenever you read any reviews of Brooker’s work in this area you’ll frequently see it described as satirical, morally ambiguous, noir, black humour. Undoubtedly all are probably true to one extent or another.

 

If you’ve never caught this or any of his other episodes or shows they’re all Channel 4 On Demand in the UK.

 

Spoilers…

 

White Bear starts as a modern horror where a young woman awakes with no memory of who she is. Slowly she pieces together clues from her surroundings, finding pills around her (suicide?) and a photograph of a young girl (daughter?) as well as a strange icon showing on her TV screen.

 

Soon she notices that the people around her are all filming her with their mobile phones and any attempt to communicate with these voyeurs is to no avail.

Then the terror is ramped a notch for this poor victim when a crazed shotgun-wielding balaclava-headed man appears and stalks her right towards a petrol station.

Here she meets up with another survivor and slowly discovers that society seems to have collapsed with the public brainwashed into being mindless thrill seekers, some watching, some taking a far more hands on approach.

So far, so zombie flick, comment on mindless media consumption, comment on  reality TV.

Then the story is turned on it’s head and frankly leaves a horrible taste in this viewers mouth.

You see, she is actually a child murderer (or at least, accomplice) who filmed the death of a little girl her fiance murdered. She is living through her sentence, in a unique correctional facility that is part game show, part mob rule.

Each day she is tortured in this way, waking, her memories wiped, and playing through the scenario that is already written. And each night, after a final humiliating parade past those who scream and shout (there’s a lot of that in this episode) “Child murderer! Killer! Rot in hell!”

Very morally ambiguous. Very dark, and you’ll be left with the uncomfortable feeling that even someone as heinous as this doesn’t deserve such punishment.

 

 

The ABC of Cinema (and Games)

Here’s some quick fire video tributes to popular cinema hits and video games. All are lovingly animated with great use of sound, from Evan Seitz on Vimeo .

 

ABCinema from Evan Seitz on Vimeo .

123Films | ABCinema Ep.2: Numbers from Evan Seitz on Vimeo .

Alphagames from Evan Seitz on Vimeo .

 

 

Google and the World Brain

Google and the World Brain is a fascinating documentary about the Google Books project, and it’s legal troubles when challenged by copyright holders. It was shown as part of the BBC’s “Storyville” series and can be viewed at the moment on iPlayer (in the UK) .

The World Brain was a concept by the author (and perhaps one of the first futurists) H.G. Wells in which he thought that the technology was available to create something like the library of Alexandria – a repository of the sum of human knowledge, but sorted and indexed in order to make it easily available to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

At first the documentary takes pains to show both sides of the argument. Google is perhaps uniquely positioned with the capabilities to digitise such a large amount of books (even if in the snippets it looks like mind numbingly tedious manual work!) and present it with it’s own search algorithms. However as the naysayers get to speak their piece it becomes an argument between the freedom of information, the potential monopolising of certain sectors of the publishing world, and the tearing away of copyright protection enjoyed by authors.

As usual it boils down to money. As Kevin Kelly (founder of Wired and a well known technology evangelist) says if you don’t agree with these freedoms or are worried about privacy, unplug your internet connection. I guess you can’t say fairer than that.

With a cast of characters including French and German representatives, who no matter what they claim seem to carrying an anti-american point of view more than worrying about a threat to culture, the story eventually ends on the note that perhaps it shouldn’t be commercial entities like Google controlling this mass digitising, it should be governments. And rightly so.

I’m all for freedom of information. Of course information should be available to all. However I feel this perhaps is more relevant to academical works, bodies of research, and perhaps news and current affairs. Knowledge helps further the human race, prevents endless reinventing of the wheel, and empowers, informs, and educates. All modern material of course is now heavily provided in digital form, so there should really be no argument against digitising to preserve and index work that was made before this present level of technology.

In all honesty Google’s current way of showing “snippets” of published work for search queries is of no real use to anyone. And if those snippets provide book sales of out-of-print books I’m sure most would agree this is more about a sale of a lost work than a lost sale for a current work…

The arguments about whether “Google is Evil!” (a twist on it’s motto of Do No Evil ) have long been discussed, and the matter of it’s map-making cars gathering wifi data mentioned in this film. I feel much more damage is done by world governments who love to censor on one hand but have access to all we hold private in the other than ever Google would achieve in it’s side line of profit alongside it’s altruistic endeavours.

“Google and The World Brain” was made by Polar Star Films  and also shown as part of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

Trailer @ Youtube

 

Current Book, Movie, TV and Tech Favorites…

New year, new post.

I’ve just re-uploaded this site (and others) and apart from some dead links, sites that no longer exist, and the ever advancing pace of technology making almost everything obsolete – it kinda works.

So let’s recap on a few new obsessions  interests. If I keep up any kind of enthusiasm I’ll write in more detail in the future.

Television

In among the piles of reality shows, repeats, and knock-offs it seems that quality television is here to stay.

Homeland – joint British/US spy caper based on an Israeli original. Can be slow at times, but I’m ready for season 3.

Dexter – The original “cop (kinda) as a serial killer” hook is long tired, but each season has delivered the goods.

Fringe – I’ve found this last season a little too distracting, it was better with the peril-of-the-week, but still great because of John Bishop.

Breaking Bad – Malcom in the Middle’s dad as a meth cook? Each season has been bigger, badder, and better – bitches.

Warehouse 13 – Another of SyFy’s homegrown efforts and one of their better ones. One more season to come!

Eureka – or, in the UK, a “Town called Eureka” – the atmosphere is similar to Warehouse (comedy/drama). SyFy’s other hit.

Touch – this is where Kiefer went after 24 and Heroes Tim Kring absolved himself.

The Walking Dead – I’m still stuck in season 2 trying to plough through but I’m reliably told the next is much, much better. Started well.

 

Books

 

Since I saw the news about Jack Reacher I delved into Lee Child’s novels, and , erm, read the whole lot in a couple of months. I’m finding these are the kind of pick up and go books you don’t need to put aside a whole lot of time for (Mills and Boon for blokes? 🙂 ) but all in all well written, exciting, quick to read. These are like watching an action movie. Interestingly, Child (a brit) writes of the idealised America we already know from movies.

Same goes for James Patterson. Now a franchise more than an author his Alex Cross books, Private, Michael Bennet, NYPD Red, and the odd standalone, are again quick reads with familiar formats. Some might criticize the way he churns out his books, but for pure entertainment you won’t go far wrong.

I’ve already said I’m a big fan of Orson Scott Card’s Enderverse but I also found the first two “Pathfinder” books excellent, and I started the interesting “Alvin Maker” series. Peter F. Hamiltons Commonwealth and Void sagas are also highly recommended, big tomes, but really didn’t feel like it.

Brett Easton Ellis – famous for American Psycho – probably holds the crown for disillusioned nihilistic youth characters, I saw “Less than Zero” and American Psycho as films, and read Glamorama – excellent. Imperial Bedrooms is next on the list.

Read David Wongs follow up to John Dies at The End called “This Book Is Full Of Spiders”. More of the same I guess. And that’s not a criticism.

It’s always interesting reading the life stories of the rich and famous. Especially when they have a story. So Nikki Sixx’s “Heroin Diaries”, Steven Adler “My Appetite For Destruction: Sex, Drugs and Guns N Roses” (80s rock excess both, got Duff McKagans book next). Howard Mark’s “Senor Nice” (he hails down the road from me, so a local connection), iWoz – Steve Wozniak, Keith Richards “Life”, Frankie Boyles “My Shit Life So Far” (unfinished, I’m finding him has hardcore in his autobiography as he is on stage), and Kevin Mitnick’s “Ghost In The Wires” (currently reading) as well as   “We Are Anonymous” about Lulzsec, Anonymous and the rest – more a kind of sensationalist look at some hacker types and the whole 4chan bunch.

Really, really, like Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series, plus his Frankenstein books. Top quality.

Currently starting the Harry Bosch novels. I like long series. They make it easy to find the thing to read 🙂

… and to make things easier, I read them on Android Tablet these days too…

 

Films

 

Rec 2 and Rec 3 – the spanish “found footage” series, which I enjoyed. I saw the Rec 3 had some mixed reviews, but ignore them.

Seven Psychopaths – I saw this because of the “In Bruges” link but it’s nowhere near as good. Nice to see Christopher Walken can still go through the motions though.

Argo – I enjoyed this but I’m not sure it deserves all the awards recognition it’s getting. The whole CIA-make-a-scifi-movie is really secondary to main story.

John Dies At The End – this has cult hit written all over it, cult director, cult book. It’s pretty good too.

Rock of Ages – Call me naive but I didn’t realize it was a musical. Still enjoyed it though.

The Cabin In The Woods – just watch it. One of the best “genre” films I’ve seen recently.

 

That’ll do for now. Just getting a first post out the way so it isn’t all 2 years old here!

 

 

Still Here…

Oh, how easy it is to let a site go, yet continue with all intentions of starting back up, paying hosting keeping the URL, etc…

And there’s loads I’d like to discuss, movies, books, some excellent new TV series such as Fringe, Eureka, Warehouse 13 etc.

Not to mention the odd game, a ton of interesting sites and services… but the fact is I’ve just been too lazy. That stands for here, plus my Internet Marketing sites that once made money – yet I still let them stall.

Anyway — I mention websites, which brings me to Google and it’s new Google+ Social Network. It’s been both praised and dismissed as a replacement for the ill-fated Wave, or an attempt to take on Facebook. It is of course neither. It’s simply it’s own thing, a very interesting service meant to bring like minded people together, as well as “+1” (vote for) pages, have discussions, share photos, whatever you like. You have complete control over WHAT you share, and WHO you share it with through a very simple concept, yet powerful, “circle” method. It’s easier to see than it is to explain.

So, before I get back into these blogs and sites of mine gathering dust, it’s worth noting my Google+ Profile where’ll you find my posts on that particular service.

I also started a Google Fansite! Well… I figured Google doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. You probably use it every day, like me. May use an Android Smartphone, like me, or Tablet, yep – me again. Google Mail is probably the best in the business, not to mention Google Maps and Streetview, and Google Earth, and even it’s acquisitions like YouTube or Blogger.

Yet it doesn’t really get “fans” as such. Facebook does, as does Linux, even Microsoft, an often demonised corporation. Linux, well, they’re true believers, not fans, and Apple – they’re fanatics 🙂 The point is once in Google’s sphere of influence, you’re likely to stay there. Use it’s start page, it’s e-mail, it’s Calender, perhaps it’s browser Chrome which has morphed into an OS of sorts itself. Throw in Android, which through sheer number of devices is taking over the mobile market fast, and Google can be felt everywhere.

It means people might not like it being that big and powerful. In exchange for these services, which are all free, you are essentially giving them your data. It’s a fair exchange – the data is anonymous, used for advertising (Google’s main revenue) so for Google it’s sole aim is to get as many web users in as many services as it can. But it doesn’t cut corners, or plaster the services with ads – and they’re not really “tracking” you as such though you get the odd creepy moment where you were just shopping for something and it starts popping up in ads… You don’t even have to share this data in the first place, Google is pretty open, and if you took the time, you’d find out how top opt out of, say, search history, or certain cookies often used, even benign ones used by Google Analytics (a free service for webmasters) which are simply used to tell the site owner what kind of visitors they get.

This kind of discussion, as well as product-specific discussions, tips,  advice, and much more can be used on my Google+ Fan Page

 

You’ll also find the link to my personal profile there, since Google+ interestingly treats each page, or person, as it’s own entity. Give it a go – and take a second to think of how much Google has helped you, your life, your internet usage over the years versus any media-overblown negatives. See you there!

Hi … Again :-)

Been a long time folks, almost a year? Yet I still payed the hosting and the domains, convincing myself I’ll be back sometime.

Well here I am, for now. And a lot can change in a year.

My first step is to upgrade this blog, if it’s even possible (wow, WP is at 3.1.3? lol). Then I guess I’ll just keep posting whatever I find interesting.

I’d also like to fix the annoying index.php links problem. Since this blog is actually hosted by sharing the same account as my NetpreneurNow.com blog, I’ve had a lot of problems with setting up WordPress’s “auto-magic-friendly” links. Perhaps the update will help. We’ll see.

I’ve also been a little worried about hackers – either entering via this blog, or by any other site hosted on this account. That means an unenviable look into all the logs 🙁

Anyway, for the future, I’d like to add some tutorials on Linux, on Privacy, Encryption, Android Apps and Phones, and much more. For example, look at the latest Ubuntu – it’s a pretty thing with a new look. And privacy is more and more important in this world where the government would like nothing more than an Internet it had full control of. It goes far beyond the two-tier (or multi-tier) net idea… So – look for tutorials on PGP/GPG (super-safe encryption, and how to use it easily and almost automatically). Safe e-mail accounts, how to browse safely without leaving tracks (far more then just running in “incognito” mode!) or even having your entire OS – Windows/Linux/Whatever on a USB stick or even a SD card, and boot instantly into an encrypted, protected, web-capable environment…

That’s after I learn how to lock down my own sites of course!

Feel free to add comments. It’s all that keeps the lonely blogger going, and the original key themes of this blog – SciFi  and Fantasy (and by extension horror etc) movies and books – as well as interesting sites, images and more, will continue.

Update to WP 3 about to start… if you see another post after this, you know it worked!

Whatever your reason, thanks for the visit, and pop along again some time. Seeya!

PS: I’ll be researching myself, but any wordpress experts out there… that plea for help on securing the blog, fixing the index.php magic-link (if it remains), and general tips and tricks are welcome. Feel free to plug your own articles or sites if they cover this. As always, I can be contacted via the links over there –>

The Internet Guide For The Movie Addict

As we all know the Internet is a treasure trove of information. If you love movies, you’ll find all the information you ever need to know on the net.

MakeUsOf.com have written an Internet Guide for the Movie Addict , which you can read online via Scribd. This covers all the usual aggregation sites and review sites, such as IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, as well as details on watching stuff online, finding show times, finding movie trailers, torrents (uh oh!), and much more. There are also some notes on getting the best playback on your PC.

This is a great one stop shop for the movie buff, which I highly recommend. I daresay you’d already be familiar with some of the sites mentioned but there’s a few gems there you might not know.

One thing we should all do is rate and review everything we can… but who has time for that? Personally, I wish I did more, but thankfully others have.

You can also download the guide as a PDF by the filling in the quick e-mail form here .

PS. I found this guide via Stumbleupon, on this page of guides. Mostly from MakeUseOf.com, they detail everything from video and audio guides through to using iPhones, iTunes, Macs, Linux, Windows Mobile, Bittorrent, and much more. Well worth a visit.

John Dies At The End By David Wong – Review

John Dies At The End is a novel from David Wong, alter-ego of Cracked.com editor Jason Pargin.

Right from the start let me tell you I loved this book, but I can see it being a hit and miss afair with others. If I were to call it a mad mix of David Lynch and H P Lovecraft, mixed in with a dash of American teen comedies, would that interest you?

Comedy novels by their very nature can divide their audience. It’s nothing like my other two favourite SciFi/Fantasy comedy authors Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, and not as clever. However the sheer absurdity and invention carries it along.

David, who works in a video rental store, is the teller of this first person tale as he regails us with his story of strange happenings in the small town of (Undisclosed).

Right from the start he, and his best friend John, are in the midst of the action, taking on a case of an unusual “haunting”. But as the story progresses we discover exactly how David and John got involved in this business.

It starts when a group of kids take a mysterious mind-blitzing new drug called Soy Sauce. This soon results in a race to Vegas as those who used the drug slowly begin to unravel with the exception of our two heroes. This drug opens them to a horrifying alternate universe, where they discover a being known  as Korrok is watching them, with his Shadow People as agents in our world.

Don’t despair, this is no carbon copy horror. The creatures that appear and the ways in which they are dealt with, as well as the alternate plane itself, and nothing you could imagine. If you did, you’d probably be locked up by now 🙂

The bulk of the book is John talking to a reporter – rather like Interview with a Vampire. The story catches up in “real time” near the climax of the story, but up until then we follow David’s adventures as he tells them, including lapses in memory or parts of the stories conveyed to him by John – often highly exaggerated.

For all it’s humorous stylings the story does sometimes give you the chills. The two main characters are well written, with bolshy John and semi-neurotic narrator David perfect foils for each other.  John doesn’t seem to have a nervous bone in his body taking on new dimensions and strange beings in passing, while David – at first a little scared – soon seems to be resigned to his fate and is willing to walk into impending death alongside him..

It’s a real page turner as the story hurtles along so you might find yourself finishing this in a sitting or two if it grabs you. It’s very imaginative and I haven’t read anything else like it – with nothing ever turning out quite as I expected and the creatures… well, I guess you’d have to read it to find out.

One thing I liked is the way the story drags in pop-culture references sometimes. Like when I was thinking about David Lynch a character is given Mulholland Drive to rent. Or the fact that I had just finished Dean Koontz’s “Odd Thomas” and the story mentions the fact that Koontz had written something similar!

Another point that did strike me is that book seems to jump from story to story within the overall plot. Once I read the authors footnote I discovered that this is based on the tales of John and David, written while he was a data input clerk, that had gained a following on the internet. This is a true success story similar to the way recording artists sometimes find a following on MySpace before hitting the big time!

I await further tales with these two characters – if there are any forthcoming – with anticipation.There’s also news that Don Coscarelli (he of Phantasm and other 80’s horror classics as well as Bubba Ho Tep) has optioned the book.

You can find out more on the Internet at www.JohnDiesAtTheEnd.com – including a new short story featuring John and Dave and other fun stuff, such as a video featuring John “ghost hunting”.

You might also like the humor at Cracked.com if you like this story. That is one of my favourite time wasters with a new Top 7 or 10 nearly every day.

Rating : 8.5 / 10 – Unusual, but excellent.

Here’s a “radio adaptation” of part of the novel on YouTube

See this site via “Geocities Emulator”!

Long time net users will remember Geocities. What started out as a way for the masses to create their own free websites soon descended into an anarchic mismatch of garish colors, midi music, animated gifs and worse.

It may be unfair to look on Geocities so badly. After all, pre-facebook and social networks in general this was one of the only ways to easily make a website, or even to show your photographs to the world. Geocities along with many others of its ilk soon fell into disuse as “proper” hosting became available, but it is still fun to look back on the wild earlier days of the web.

See this site as it would look on Geocities 🙂

Yes, I did have a Geocities site at one point. And I did go through the entire roster of hand-coded HTML 1.0 and free advertising-supported hosting.

To see any other site in Comic Sans with dancing babies, simply append any web address to the end of the URL when you click that link above.

Note: There is a Geocities archive , lovingly saved by crawling the entire Geocities site as it was closed down. You might find more at Archive.org and the Wayback machine.

Shutter Island Review

Shutter Island is the new movie from Martin Scorcese, starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Ben Kingsley.

I went in to watch this expecting a horror movie set in an asylum, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it was much more.

In order to keep this quick review spoiler free I will refrain from explaining the plot too much, since it twists and turns.

Set within the grounds of the Ashecliffe Mental Hospital on Shutter Island in the 1950’s Di Caprio plays Teddy Daniels, a US Marshall sent to investigate a missing prisoner. Since everyone on the island is a violent (and insane) criminal, finding her is priority.

The movie jumps from locked-room mystery to questioning the hidden motives of the doctors and staff, with Teddy himself also questioning his sanity. The pace moves from a slow burn to a frenzied final half hour, and although the ending can be seen coming from a mile off it is still genuinely moving with a great payoff.

The film is atmospheric, with the remote island lashed by storms, and creepy patients/prisoners locked in cells in a high security ward set within a civil war era fort. There are flashbacks to Teddy’s experiences liberating Dachau in WW2, and although this is more a thriller than a horror, there are some jump out of your seat moments. What you first think is a straight missing person / escaped convict hunt turns into a personal vendetta for Daniels, and then moves into more cerebral territory.

Although set some 50 years in the past, it is not a period piece, though there are nods to the medical practices of the time and mentions of the recent war. This is essentially a story wound around Daniels, who has much more of a part to play than he at first realises.

This is a film it’s best to go into blind. Thankfully the trailer doesn’t reveal any of the plot.

Di Caprio has worked before with Scorcese, and the partnership works well. Throw in Sir Ben Kingsley who for once doesn’t overract too much, mix in a little Max Von Sydow, and you have a recipe for a great film.

8.5 / 10 – I’m glad Scorcese did this and not M. Knight Shyamalan!