Archive for June, 2009

Teacher In Training

June 18, 2009

Fate did not give me a push so much as a friendly slap on the shoulder… I got the PGCE place!

Much beer, celebration, and Tekken Tournaments are taking place to celebrate this most awesome of developments 😀

Edit: I’ve no idea how beer can ‘take place’, but there you go. We managed it somehow…

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Sea, Screens And Screams

June 17, 2009

BPSurf

If ever I needed convincing that High-Definition was worth something, the series South Pacific provides that assurance. A nature documentary filmed exclusively in HD with cameras capable of super-slow mo about life in and around the South Pacific Ocean, in the first episode alone is the most stunning documentary footage I’ve ever seen. Makes me finally really appreciate the money I spent on this widescreen monitor back in 2007 ¬_¬

I’m playing about with the Blog Pages thing at the moment, going to stick some writing pieces up there when I have the time to get it sorted out. Tonight is 2-for-1 wednesday at the cinema, and another horror on the cards this week, this time the remake of notorious seventies video nasty, The Last House On The Left.

Edit: Ahem, forgot to mention the name of the series!

Update: The Last House On The Left was pretty much the polar opposite experience of Drag Me To Hell. Save a couple of over-the-top-erring-on-slapstick death scenes, it’s a grim film indeed, with a very, very slim amount of humour to be found amongst the murk. It’s solidly made in terms of camerawork,  though the scoring could have been tweaked to make certain scenes more effective, and delivers its message well. Biggest gripe though? My fellow human beings. It was hard not to feel slightly envious of the on-screen characters’ vengeance as the audience around me chattered, laughed innapropriately and otherwise abused my ears. I know I’m probably overly anal about noise in the cinema, but there was even laughter during a nasty sexual abuse scene, which just makes me despair.

I look forward to the day someone makes a film called The Cinema Down The Road From Mecca Bingo, about a group of abused cinemagoers who finally get fed up of the people talking in their screening and turn on them, shutting them up in various devious and inventive ways.

Given the choice, definitely go for Drag Me To Hell, unless you really want to sombre your mood. I’m going to go and stare at the happy elephant for a while…

Ahh, I’m feeling better already!

Be This Guy —> :D

June 16, 2009

Despite the nerves waiting to hear back about the PGCE, I’m feeling really happy today for some reason. Just damn pleased to be alive.

When things are rough, think back to all the miniscule odds that say you shouldn’t even exist at all, and that they were overcome to produce the unique consciousness that is you.

Then remember all the amazing experiences you’ve had since that moment, and have a good ol’ grin!

Unexpected Messages

June 15, 2009

#1

I went back up to York this weekend for my uncle’s fiftieth birthday. A surprise party had been planned for him with all the caution and guile of a nuclear fallout strategy, and it managed to remain completely unsuspected right until the party-poppin’, curtain-swishing “SURPRISE!” reveal! Following this, barbarian levels of booze, barbeque ribs and Batman cake were consumed for my part, and it was great catching up with family and friends that I’d not seen in a good while due to my being holed up here, writing away.

#2

On my way back to rainy old Leicester, wedged into a salt ‘n’ vinegar flavoured corner of the train, I had a bash at some stream-of-consciousness writing and came up with a strange sort of mini-plot that I’m currently tidying up into something a bit more presentable. While doing this, I also had an idea for expanding the short piece I did for the ‘Ten sentence’ competition’ a couple of weeks back, in which a coastguard and a lighthouse keeper find that the sea has disappeared overnight. I wrote a rough scene of them finding a small canister out in the newly-formed desert that has been left as a ‘thank you gift’ by the aliens that drained our environment of all excess moisture, and contains the only water left in the world.

#3

A slightly disconcerting thing happened while I was in the middle of this brain-spillage. Typing away, eyes closed, I heard the announcement speaker on the train crackle on, and out of it came the words:

“Cuckoo… Cuckoo…”

Then it fell back into silence.

I suspected briefly that it might have been a message sent directly from my concerned subconscious. Opening my eyes, however, revealed the other passengers engaged in chuckles and giving each other very English ‘I say, that was odd‘ looks.

#4

Sunday Night. 2:30 AM – I am incredibly drunk and relaxed. I am also eating a ham, cheese and ketchup sandwich, as a drunk, relaxed chap is wont to do at such times.

An email appears in my inbox. It is from my ex, and it is the first time I’ve heard anything from her since our break-up last year.

This raises an eyebrow. The other follows suit, to form a symmetry of surprise, as I read the subject title. I proceed to open the email itself, and find myself met with words that would chill the warmth out of anyone’s soul. That no-one would ever expect to hear from a former loved one.

Here’s your Golden Opportunity to experience the finest online casino in the world today, GoldenCasino!”

Recovering from the horror, I gather myself, snatch up a sandwich, and do a bit of quick internet detective work to discover that this is a virus/spyware thing which sends itself out from people’s contact lists.

To be honest, for a few minutes I wasn’t sure whether or not to just maintain the stoic levels of silence and go on my way. But that’s not me, and I mashed an email together explaining what had happened, how to sort it, and sent it off to her, feeling doubtful towards the GoldenCasino’s cheerful claims that I had, in fact, ‘struck gold!‘.

Shaving Foam

June 12, 2009

is something I may need, seeing as I now dance a merry jig upon the razor’s edge. On one side of the blade lies PGCE and teacher training, and remaining in Leicester. On the other, a return to York, and getting a job while doing assistant teaching volunteer work in to improve my chances for next year. All that remains is for Fate to give me a push.

Bloggish melodramatics aside, yesterday wasn’t actually as intense as I was expecting. Most of the other candidates seemed to be fairly taciturn, which surprised me as the last interview day I went to was for a sales company, and all the other candidates there were stone sharks, who would happily compare how many family members they’d sold for a raise in commissions bonuses.

I was also quite surprised to find myself almost the youngest there, with only one exception, another bloke called Alex. He was how pretty much how I expected myself to be; twitchy, shambolic and mumbling. Five minutes in and his name-sticker was tattered and falling off, and within ten he had lost it, and there were no stickers left. Apparently he’d also only gotten three hours sleep the night before – it really wasn’t the poor guy’s day!

As for my assessments, yeah the spoken part of the interview might not have been the best part of the day, but aside from that I think it went great overall. The first part was a group exercise in which we had to sort through thirty or so cards and put, in order, the top five most important aspects of being a teacher. Most of the rest of my group were rubbish, and it was I who got them sorted out, so I’m hoping that stood me in good stead.

The actual interview part lasted half an hour, and seemed to fly by, and all in all it was actually a pretty enjoyable day. Let’s see what Fate makes of it, because I’ve done everything I can on my part.

Also,  I did actually get round to shaving my beard off,  so am currently in mourning over losing it. I miss having something to stroke pensively.

(Get your mind out of the gutter, Jaym! What would your family think…)

Short and Sweet

June 9, 2009

Just like my ex, ohoho. Anyway, feeling stupidly superstitious this evening. If I talk about the PGCE, I might jinx it. If I don’t talk about it, I might jinx it. Also nervous that because I have no formal teaching experience I won’t get it. Trying to get my French back up to scratch. Feels like too much of a rush trying to compensate for my applying with such short notice. Short sentences are lazy. Gah.

The Blog Of The Beast

June 8, 2009

Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of visits, for it is a human number…

Its number… is six hundred and sixty-six.

———–

*Thumbs up*

I’ve been feeding the digital metaphor for a month now, and I suppose it means I’ve fully completed my devolution into the subhuman entity known as the ‘blogger’ that I find myself looking at the pageview charts and getting excited when the little lines go higher than the previous day, then stabs of disappointment as they then plummet back down again. Aye, navigating the fickle swells of the Light Blogtastic is a heart-skipping affair. Okay, and just a tiny bit sad.

Anyway, been pretty much normal routine the past couple of days; writing, preparing for the interview, job searching, giving DC artists ideas for their upcoming characters…

Perhaps that last one’s  a bit out of the norm. It came about as a result of recently dipping my toes into the swirling eddy of oddity that is Twitter. One of the people I’m following is artist Dan Luvisi, and he mentioned wanting some kind of flamethrower character in his upcoming sci-fi comic Last Man Standing, so I suggested having a bloke who chainsmokes a special brand of cigarettes that double as said flamethrowers.

‘You’re hired’, he said.

Well, it’s nice to hear those words coming from bloody someone! 😉

—-

My Twitter Account: http://twitter.com/Al_Masterson

The Top E3

June 7, 2009

Project Natal1

Had a very enjoyable afternoon today being treated to good conversation, spicy pizza and Jack Daniels cocktails, which is definitely my kind of afternoon! Thanks Liz 😉

So, the 2009 E3 computer games expo finished the other day, and there was some absolutely mind-blowing stuff on display, out of which I present, to you, the three most impressive gems:

1) Project Natal / ‘Milo’

Hardware-wise, Microsoft and Sony were eager to surpass Nintendo’s now famous Wii motion tech, and both demonstrated amazing examples of face /emotion recognition and motion sensor technology.

Arguably the most impressive overall came in the form of Microsoft’s ‘Project Natal‘, which does away with a controller altogether, instead mapping and tracking the user’s entire body in real-time through a simple, small set-top device. And alongside it, British games industry legend Peter Molyneux revealed something which has the potential to a) revolutionise user interaction and AI in software, or  b) become self-aware and wipe out humanity. It’s a virtual human, and his name is Milo.

Project Natal2

Here’s a link to the demonstration of Milo interacting with a person. It is astounding, potentially groundbreaking, and also slightly unnerving:

‘Milo’ recognises the person standing in front of him, what emotion they are expressing, what they’re wearing, and reacts to their speech. One journalist tried telling him an on-the-spot  joke, and he laughed. Tell me that’s not a little creepy… Of course, there are a lot of clever tricks and reactions going on too, to give the illusion of comprehension, such as Milo recognising the tone of voice but not the content, and reacting appropriately. That said, that the tech has only just been revealed, and is even now only 50% complete, so there’s still aways to go.

Personally, while the ‘tamagotchi-esque’ game that Molyneux has in mind for this particular piece of software might be entertaining for some, I’m more excited about the possibilities it holds for the more active, story-led games. Say in the game you’re looking for a secret cult and asking townsfolk about its location, and you’re frowning or asking aggressively. Some characters might react negatively, while others might be more susceptible to intimidation. Enemies could react to your cursing and exclamations while taking them on, or you could rally people to help you in whatever your cause is, so long as you sound enthusiastic enough…  there are endless possibilities, and you have to wonder what it will be like when it reaches full potential.

2) The Last Guardian

TLG

The trailer for Sony Computer Entertainment’s upcoming game, ‘The Last Guardian‘. I’m not ashamed to say I almost shed a tear watching it; the emotion and haunting beauty of it is just out of this world, and those animations and graphics are using the actual  game engine. I urge you to watch it, especially if you aren’t into computer games, or see them as a low-brow medium. This is art, pure and simple. Watch it here.

Last, but certainly not least:

3) Star Wars: The Old Republic

SWTOR

A four-minute masterpiece that is better than most of the last three Star Wars films combined.

Action-packed, CGI brilliance. The game itself promises to be quite something; an online, open-world game that developers Bioware are saying will bring a new meaning to story-telling on a massive scale. They have an impressive enough track record for that claim to be proven correct, so high hopes for this one.

That’s just a small snippet of the amazing things on show this year; it really was a cracker. The games industry is beginning to gather pace, and it’s an exciting time for the concept of storytelling, which could soon mean something different to anything that we imagine today. Characters that recognise and interact with us on an emotional level, stories that span and effect millions of people, and that we can actively affect the unfolding of… I find it hard to imagine not being stirred by the potential of these things.

Roll on the interactive revolution!

Vlad To Meet You

June 4, 2009

Seeing as I’ve mentioned it a couple of times, it’s what seems to be swallowing most of my writing time at the moment, and I’m feeling too tired to do an interesting blog post, here’s an extract. It’s the beginning of my comedy The Director’s Vamp, in which we find a washed-up Dracula stuck in America and trying to make ends meet acting in a low-budget horror film, which I was going to name ‘The Bloodening’, until I found out this morning that The Simpsons already came up with that one. Curses… Anyway, I hope you like it! 😀

————–

Vlad looked down at himself and sighed. His eyes, the crimson devils that had seduced dozens of maidens over as many centuries, were creased with anxiety as they came to rest upon a stocky, bearded man in a bright green parka.

“You know, I am not so sure about zis one, Mike.”

“Trust me; it’ll look great on camera! This is gonna be the best way to do it.”

Vlad raised a thin eyebrow. “You mean ze cheapest…”

The director waved his megaphone dismissively. “Sure, that too. But hey, good luck finding another movie that’s willing to take on a-”

“Yes yes, alright. I vill do the thing.”

“You the man. Are all the effects in place?”

Vlad surveyed himself once more, narrowly avoiding having a sparkler shoved up his nose as he examined the “effects”. Wrapped around the entirety of his figure was a motley collection of Catherine wheels, Roman candles and a wide assortment of other fireworks.

“It chafes a little,” he complained, shuffling the strap between his legs. Everyone else moved back behind the safety marker, which was Mike’s ‘DIRECTOR’ cap on a stick.

“Vampires can’t have children, right?”

Vlad did not reply, and the director seemed to take this as a positive sign.

“Okay, let’s make some magic happen! Now remember Vlad: you’re in the sunlight, burning up. Try and make it look convincing.”

Vlad patted the arsenal of gunpowder-based entertainment strapped to his body with a grimace. “I vill do my best.”

One of the techies nodded, giving a thumbs up.

“Okay. Aaaand… action!”

A lone man sprinted towards Vlad like the runner of Marathon, lit taper in his hand, and the vampire closed his eyes. A loud sputtering sound filled the darkness.

Here we go…

Dragged To Hell

June 3, 2009

And enjoyed every second of it!

Just got back from seeing Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell and gotta say, I haven’t had as much fun watching a film at the cinema in a long while 😀 We  were sitting right at the front, so it was wham-bam-shocks-and-gristle-in-your-face close, and Hell take me, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film where quite so many things were spewed. Maggots, blood, slime, eyeballs, flies; you name it, this film spews it.

But it does so with a Raimi grin on its face – there’s some brilliantly sick humour poking its charred fingers through the cracks in the floor (though more subtle shades are also present), and everyone in the cinema was shrieking, cringing and laughing. It was, as Tom Cruise would say, a blast – one of the few kinds of movies where audience ‘participation’ is actually bearable, as it’s usually a real pet peeve of mine – and there was applause at the climax which is always heartening.

And every single one of us came out of the film having learned two extremely valuable life lessons: Never piss off a gypsy. And keep track of your envelopes…

drag-me-to-hell