Archive for June, 2006

For God’s sake, just cancel it already

June 30th, 2006 by Reinder

After this, with Ullrich and Basso out of the running, a dramatically reduced number of contestants on prologue day, and confidence in cycling's integrity presumably at an all-time low, is there any point in even having the Tour de France at all this year?

An unfortunate choice of home page design

June 28th, 2006 by Reinder

The new home page for the Tour de France website has a design that, by itself, isn't particularly disturbing. Nevertheless, it will disturb some, because they'll be reminded of something disturbing.

There are certain things that, when you've seen them, you can never un-see again. (Cropped screenshot below the cut)

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Ringel-S

June 26th, 2006 by Reinder

They're not actually German, and they're not actually time travelers from the year 1982, but Belgian electro-clashers Ringel-S could have fooled me. They have the right sunglasses as well.

I saw Ringel-S at the 4th Heaven & Hell Darkwave mini-festival on Friday. I was there because my friend Danny's band Swansdown were opening, and I was kind of curious about the headliner, veteran Goths Clan of Xymox. Swansdown were pretty good and had the good sense to bring dancers so we'd have something to look at other than their mugs. Xymox turned out to be very similar to Swansdown (probably the other way around, natch) but more seasoned, professional and bombastic. Unfortunately they went onstage at 12, at which point I was already quite knackered and didn't feel like listening to any more music, so I left. If they'd come on two hours earlier I probably would have loved them.

I'm not sure Ringel-S, who came on between the two other bands, properly belonged on the bill as they are a lot lighter in tone. But I loved them instantly. They get that Kraftwerk style and know how to turn it up to eleven. Jeroen and I both bought different editions of their demo CD - so far, my favourite track is "Sex auf DVD" from the blue version.

Fear her (spoilers)

June 25th, 2006 by Reinder

So there is hope.

"Fear Her" was actually quite silly and too much like "The Idiot's Lantern" in basic plot, but at least the ingredients were all there: the episode got a few good frights in, had some funny moments that actually worked, and was at least directed and performed in a way that allowed me to lose myself in the story, rather than what happened last week, when small mistakes of timing and cutting (not to mention some really obvious clichés) broke the illusion for me.
I could have done without the animated child's drawings, and I could have done without the black road construction worker as comic relief - I don't think the team intended to single out a black character for that, after all the central character and her mum were also dark-skinned, but something about him left a bad taste in my mouth. I also could have done with tighter plotting, with less of the coincidence and the convenient plot resolution. So the alien of the week just happened to land in a pot hole that the road worker was pouring hot tarmac over, that just happened to be in the vicinity of a house where a child was feeling lonely, and happened to do that in the year of the London Olympics, and it just happened to need the Olympic Flame and its symbolism to reboot its spacecraft? Give me a break, and in any case that last aspect of it was bloody silly even without the coincidence. I also could have done without Rose's daddy issues, although I now realise that's all been part of the setup.

Nevertheless, for all that didn't work about this episode, it ended up clearing the bar, if only just. By the end, I was happy for the little girl and her mum as well as sympathetic to the Doctor and Rose as they separated themselves from the festivities at the end. I could even put up with them musing portentously in the final 30 seconds.

Next week: Surprise, surprise, the parallel-earth Cybermen will be back!But you know, it could just turn out all right. Though the narrative format may be a bit of a hindrance here, as that sort of stuff makes things heavy-handed.

Some people have been giving out marks out of 10 for these episodes. I haven't, but if I did this one would be 6/10. Delivers the goods, could have been really good if the scriptwriter had tried harder.

Random thought: This episode could be characterised as a bit of a filler, a cheaply-made item to fit between the last epic two-parter and the two-part finale. So could "Love and Monsters" which was set up so it could be filmed simultaneously with another ep. Two fillers in a row can't be good for a series' momentum - but why have fillers at all? There are only 13 episodes in each series! "The Girl in the Fireplace" basically screamed to be expanded into a two-parter, and there were one or two more that would have benefited from a slower pace. No wonder people are getting fed up.

Sony Rootkit update

June 22nd, 2006 by Reinder

Perfect Porridge has a few words to say on the Sony Rootkit settlement. Seems that after selling their customers spyware-infested "CDs", offering a "removal solution" that forced users to jump through hoops to get control of their PCs back and in the end made things worse, and finally being forced to replace the defective products and compensate users, they have found a way to further compound the annoyance they've caused:

Remember in late 2005 when Sony put out CDs that contained malicious rootkit spyware that infiltrated their "paying" customers' computers and left huge gaping holes for hackers?

Remember how the patch they issued actually opened up larger holes? And then remember that the final patch actually used stolen copyrighted code, no less?

Well, we're sorry to say, we fell victim to the Sony scam. And over the past 230 days (as of today, 6/20/06), we've had more than 20 back and forth e-mails with Sony Customer Service, more than 4 hours logged on the phone and still have not had our case settled.

Throughout the course of this, we actually saved other Sony customers many headaches. We single-handedly discovered the toll-free customer support line number on their DRM Web site was disconnected. We single-handedly pointed out they weren't mailing the list of available settlement albums to customers who wanted to use iTunes (not the SonyCONNECT service, which they strongly push- like we'll ever use Sony again, right). We also persisted where many would give up, as countless CSRs transferred us around the country - treating us like we were inconveniencing them.

(Via)

“Our chief weapon is surprise!”

June 22nd, 2006 by Reinder

OK, this, posted at scans_daily , is making me feel better about the Monty Python lifts in my early comics. If DC comics got away with it in one of their flagship titles, so should I.

“Cyberspace for Girls”

June 21st, 2006 by Reinder

I read about this in the Dagblad van het Noorden: A pilot project at six primary schools in Drenthe showed that girls develop better computing skills if they're taught those skills separate from boys. Without boys present, the article claims, girls develop more interest in computing and find out that they can work with computers as well as boys can.

Personally, I find the idea of separating students by gender repulsive. But if that's what it takes to free girls from their own prejudices, and makes them work better in that one area. But what if it applies to all areas of academic achievement? Girls in the 10-12 age range are ahead of boys the same age, physically and mentally, and maybe boys are holding them back in other fields as well. But segregated classes don't seem to me to be a good way to prepare boys or girls for adult life, so... in two minds about this one, definitely.

Re: the title: "Cyberspace for Girls" is what the project is called, which puts me in mind of books like "Gravity Explained for Ladies" that were published in the 19th Century, and also of <blink> tags and the phrase "Information Superhighway".
(untranslated article below the cut, because I'll want to remember this one in case it ends up in a Gang of Four plot)

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Job interview

June 21st, 2006 by Reinder

I'm one of three candidates for a rather well-paid translator's job in Groningen. Today, I had the job interview, my first "proper" job interview in five years, for the first non-comics job I applied for in five years. I'll have to do a trial translation for them, and on the basis of that, the company will decide who gets the job.

It's full-time and likely to be demanding, so it will have an impact on my work in webcomics, or comics in general. Now may be a good time to approach me about doing Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan guest comics - it's actually been a while.

I'm not going to name the company or go into detail about the kind of work or the sort of clients the company has. Let's talk about ties instead! I'm always a bit embarrassed by the fact that I don't know how to tie a tie without detailed instructions including diagrams. But considering that Googling for "How to tie a tie" returns many results from websites specialising in just that, it's probably not rare or something to be ashamed of at all.

I actually sort of like wearing a tie, a couple of times a decade. But I haven't quite found out how to wear one comfortably. Without the tie, my suit would actually be the most comfortable combination of clothing I own - certainly better than jeans. Unfortunately, the tie, so far, spoils the whole deal. But then it may just be my own shameful! incompetence at tieing it.

I found the job interview experience extremely tiring, even though this one wasn't exactly a third degree. It was all very pleasant, with the owner/director doing most of the talking. Nevertheless, the preparation for the interview, and the interview itself have taken it out of me. I'm knackered.

Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan story “The New Sheriff”

June 19th, 2006 by Reinder

A "new" Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan storyline started today: The New Sheriff from 1994. It'll be the last of the 1990s storylines that I will publish on the site. In fact, in my opinion it pretty much represents the final scrape at the bottom of the barrel; there is more unpublished stuff but I think I might just burn it, and this one only just about made the cut, mostly because it introduces the Sheriff as a character. He will play a major part in the revised "King Groy" story and in the short story "Feral" that I've got planned.

Right now, I'm not sure which of those two I'll run first, by the way. For the past few months, it's been my intention to run "King's Drama" first, because that would immediately close the gap that exists in the archives. But the writing on a crucial early scene has proven to be difficult, and it may soon become harder for me to work on a project of that size, because I just might have a 32-hour job soon. "Feral", in any case, is already largely scripted; the script already exists in at least two revisions. And it's a much more manageable story of about 20 pages.

Neither story will run immediately after "The New Sheriff", anyway. I will first rerun some material that has been published here and there on the web, and maybe some of the guest comics that I never fully transfered off the Keenspace server when I switched to using Xepher.net and WillowCMS. Those things together should tide me over through the summer without missing any updates.

Love and Monsters

June 19th, 2006 by Reinder

Well, I'm all out of love. So much potential in the idea of a group of Doctor obsessives. So badly squandered on hackneyed story ideas.
We've known since series 1 episode 1, "Rose" that there were people who have noticed the reoccurrence of the Doctor throughout history and gone a bit nutty over it. In "Love and Monsters", we get five of them. Five people with their own backgrounds and their own reasons,major trauma and loss for some of them, mere curiosity for others, to lose themselves in the quest for the Doctor. They meet, exchange theories, ideas, even fan art, and out of their meetings grows something else, a stronger bond, a purpose in life. I was actually touched by that. I instantly sympathised with the characters, sketchy as they were, and found myself rooting for them. It's a lovely mirror to fandom, or fandoms, the social networks and subcultures they form, and the way fan groups move on beyond what brought them together into real friendships that otherwise would have been prevented by barriers of age, class and location.

Then the monster*) shows up and the whole thing goes to shit. I don't mean for the characters although they do get picked off one at a time**) (and I don't feel bad about spoiling this at all. When this episode comes on in your area, whether you see it on Scifi Channel or Nederland 3 in a year's time, don't waste your time on it - go do something else instead). I mean disastrously bad writing. After the monster appears, the story unfolds in an utterly predictable manner: the monster, in disguise, asks to speak one member of the group after another to speak with him in private, then eats, sorry, absorbs that member while the others walk away from the meeting place, oblivious to the screams (honestly, I'm doing you a favour by spoiling this). The one thing that isn't predictable is the very end when the writer makes the Doctor do something that completely contradicts everything he stood for in the past two series (not to mention what I've seen of the twenty-odd seasons before that): he partly resurrects the love interest and last victim of the episode's hero, trapping her mind and face in a piece of pavement so the hero can go on loving her forever and ever and she can go on giving him blowjobs for all of eternity. Errr... what? Whatever happens to the idea that everything ends?
Don't get me started on the Scooby Doo chase in the beginning of the episode, by the. Just don't. The only things that redeemed the episode somewhat, except for the setup, were the scenes with Jackie Tyler. The writing in those was cheesy too, but at least it succeeded in being funny, and Camille Coduri has grown into the character so much she can make any old rubbish work.
And any old rubbish is exactly what this script was. I'll need to make a note of who the writer was so I can avoid his work in the future. Update: It was Russell T. Davies himself, which means that avoiding his work will be very difficult. On the other hand, he is capable of turning in good stuff. Sometimes.

*) I mean the real monster, not the thing with the teeth that went "RAWR!" at the beginning. The thing with the teeth that went "RAWR!" at the beginning served its purpose well enough.

**) Sort of like Series 2 has been doing until now.