Tag Archives: opinion

Mobile Phone Photography

There is, in my opinion, a degree of snobbishness from people who are into photography about cameras in phones. And while I agree that there are limitations, I actually appreciate having a camera on my person when I don’t have my DSLR  with me, when I’m just off on a short walk for example. Mobile phone photography is a compromise in quality (although a lot of mobile cameras are pretty good these days), and in control (exposure settings are usually pretty basic), but the convenience often means that you’ll get a shot that you wouldn’t have had you not had your phone with you. And I think that’s a good thing, overall.

Anyway, I’ve been collecting pictures on my phone and haven’t done anything with them for a while now, so I thought I would get back into blogging after an extended break  by sharing a few of the shots here.

These are all un-edited, as they came off my phone. The focus is not great on some of them, which is more my fault than the phone’s, but sometimes it’s tricky to tell when you’re a little off using a screen and not a viewfinder (well, at least I find that’s the case). Some of them have come out ok though, and are pictures I would have missed had I not been able to get my phone out to capture the moment. And that’s what photography is all about, really.

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My Top 5 Web Comics

I like web comics… and here’s why:

There are some brilliant comics out there to find and to be read, and masses of different styles – some are beautifully drawn, while others depict simple stick people.

Regardless of  artistic style, the best web comics, in my opinion, are humorous, relatable, slightly disturbing (maybe that’s just me though),  have great characters and tell a ripping yarn or two… or are just funny – to be honest, it depends on your mood!
Anyway – here’s my Top 5 favourites in no particular order:

  • Bear (Jamie Smart)*

Bear Comic SampleBear is full of wrongness – but it’s just brilliant.
It began as a proper comic made from actual paper, and is drawn by the fantastic Jamie Smart. Now available on the web, it’s still as mental as ever, depicting the crazy adventures of Bear and insane serial-killing, escapade-creating cat Looshkin. Yeah! Mental cat adventures!

Starting as the story of a ‘going-nowhere’ taxi driver, Sam goes from zero to bumbling hero over the course of six series of comics – with the help of his mysterious furry side-kick Fuzzy of course. Why is he mysterious? You’ll have to read it to find out!

Oh yeah, and there’s secret ninja organisations and such – awesome.

Dr McNinja

He’s a doctor, and he’s a ninja. Oh, and his side-kick is a young boy with an excellent moustache who rides a dinosaur. Seriously, there’s nothing not to like here!

Girl Genius

A steam-punk style story of epic proportions, Girl Genius features adventure, romance, robots and mad science! Beautifully drawn and great fun.

Questionable Content

QC follows a group of twenty-somethings through relationship dramas, life dramas and all that kind of thing. For me, this is the comic that got me interested in web comics. Read it from the beginning and watch both the characters and the drawing develop. T’is good stuff.

So there’s my top 5. Now it’s over to you – what are your favourite comics, web-based or otherwise? Have I missed someone out? Let me know in the comments!

*Images are samples – click-through for whole comics. Go on, you know you want to!

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Filed under It's My Life, Science and Geekery

Vampires and How Twilight Has Ruined Them For Everyone

Twilight logo (www.photobucket.com)

A confession: I have seen Twilight the film, and have read the series of books. The film was so very bad that I couldn’t bring myself to watch the rest of the saga, but the books managed to keep me reading in the way that a trash romance novel may occasionally. Essentially I enjoyed it, but in a ‘I am fully aware that this not high-brow literature’ kind of way.

However, there are several problems I have with Twilight, particularly Edward’s stalkerish behaviour (Edward confesses that he snuck into your room and watched you sleeping on numerous occasions, and you think this is romantic, Bella?! What the hell?) – but the one I’m going to discuss in this post is the watering down of the vampire myth.

Almost every vampire book or TV series has their own take on the ‘facts’ about what vampires are and how they behave – for example, in Buffy the vampires burst into flames on contact with sunlight, while in Stoker’s Dracula the Count is able to walk around perfectly well outside in bright daylight although it is suggested that his powers decrease during the day. So, I’m not upset that Stephanie Myers has her own take on the vampire myth, but,  in my opinion, she has handled two major things pretty badly.

Exhibit 1.

Vampires don’t sparkle:

There have been a lot of vampire stories where the vampires are able to tolerate sunlight – Dracula and Being Human among them – but the premise that vampires can’t go out into bright sunlight because their skin shines like “diamonds” and would expose their existence is, well, ridiculous.

There are a lot of ‘sparkly vampire’ jokes out there on the internet, and I think this speaks volumes for how well the idea has gone down among the geek online community. I hear that this is partly due to the special effects used in the films (which were so good, I can’t even remember Edward sparkling in the first film – apparently he did).

The Count

The Count from Sesame Street - I'd trust his number skills if I were you... (Image from icanhascheezburger.com)

The thing is, this could have worked – if the writing had been better and the characters had more depth, I may have been able to suspend my disbelief a little more. But as it was, the sugary (and repetitive) descriptions of Edward made me think ‘oh, now he’s super perfect and he sparkles like a beautiful diamond too – yeah, right‘.

Which nicely leads me on to:

Exhibit 2.

Vampires are supposed to be scary:

Even when Bella is almost killed by James in the first book, the character of James is not really scary (it’s pretty obvious that Edward and friends can and will take him out without much problem – Bella only gets herself in any trouble at all because she is monumentally stupid). Also, the Volturi, the main antagonists through the latter half of the series, are a distant threat for the most of the story – more looming politicians than real ‘bad guys’.

There was only one incident in which I remember feeling any of the threatening edge of vampires in Twilight. In book two (I think), when Bella runs across the vampire Laurent unexpectedly in the woods, and suddenly realises that he has not, as she thought, become a nice non-human eating vampire since she last saw him. Here Myers manages to actually build a little tension before the werewolves come along and take Laurent out. But, one memorable scary moment in four books is just not enough, and the final ‘conflict’ was a massive anti-climax – any tension that was built up fizzled out very quickly.

In the left corner: James from Twilight... In the right corner: Mitchell from Being Human - who is scarier? (Images from http://twilightsaga.wikia.com/wiki/James and http://www.bbc.co.uk/beinghuman, respectively)

Compare that with Being Human, the British TV series in which a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf share a flat. Here, they also have a modern take on the vampire myth. One of our three main protagonists is Mitchell, a ‘likeable’ vampire – he has rejected drinking human blood and is generally a charming guy. He tries to redeem himself from past deeds, but carries a very obvious darker edge and is on several occasions drawn back into a world of blood, sex and evil power games. And he’s one of the good guys.

Now that’s scary!

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PIAS and The London Riots

There are a lot of things to be angry and upset about when it comes to the recent riots across the UK.

First and foremost, of course, is the senseless loss of life; three men were tragically mown down while trying to defend their area, and I believe there have been other fatal incidents. There was also the destruction of people’s houses and communities. My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones or their homes.

Businesses have also been attacked, and, as a musician and music lover, there was a particular sting when it was reported that the Sony DADC warehouse was razed to the ground. This warehouse wasn’t just used by Sony, it also held the stock of independent distributor PIAS, who work with many of the UK’s independent record labels.

PIAS warehouse fire

The Sony/PIAS warehouse fire is extinguished (Image from http://www.mixmag.net)

The other night I accidentally ended up in a political discussion in a pub (yep, you’re right – this is never a good idea), and when I mentioned the PIAS warehouse, the bloke I was talking to just said ‘yeah, but all that stock is insured’ and dismissed my concerns.

Well, I hope that he was right – but even so, things are never that simple:

Indie labels work hard to promote and develop new and interesting artists, and their target markets are those who are more likely to appreciate a physical release – they are CD collectors and vinyl junkies, so a loss of stock is going to cause a very real problem. The Guardian Music Blog posted a very informative article explaining why:

“even if a label’s stock is covered, getting the insurance money may take a long time, which is a big problem for labels operating on a shoestring budget and therefore obliged to contend with cashflow issues.” (from aforementioned Guardian blog)

And it’s not just the labels that have an issue, independent record shops may also suffer with difficulties getting hold of back-catalogues.

Thankfully, and with a lot of hard work, PIAS has come up with a plan to try to limit the damage.  Kenny Gates, CEO, made this statement on the PIAS website:

“Sony DADC have been remarkably quick and efficient to put together a contingency plan that should allow us to ship to stores sometime next week… These times are difficult for us, our artists, our labels and the whole indie sector which we vastly represent but we are determined to come out of this setback in the best way possible.”

Difficult times indeed.

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At What Point Did You Forget That We’re TRYING TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD?!?!

Heh, Cats and Dogs was a funny film – and I swear there’s a grain of truth in it. My cat often has the wistful look of one in the midst of planning global annihilation…. aww, so cute.*

She did not take my criticism of her world domination plans well... (Not my cat, btw - image from ICanHasCheezburger.com)

Anyway, this post was inspired by my lovely friend Jenni over at Blossom.nu, who asked me what the world would be like if I were in charge. A tricky question indeed, I thought, so this is my attempt to answer it… In order to keep my answer fairly concise (and hopefully entertaining), it will take the form of a list of the top four things I would do if I was in charge (it would have been more, but my brain started going melty from thinking about stuff too hard, buh).

  • Mandatory training for all management level employees – lessons to include: How to not be a psycho boss, How to not be an office gossip, How to actually manage people, How to not make the whole office feel uncomfortable with your brown-nosing, How to give your employees credit for the work they put in and make them feel at least a little bit appreciated… There’s a good boss. Have a biscuit.
  •  Fix the NHS*Warning – serious point ahead!* The NHS is a good thing. It shouldn’t be privatised and it needs to be looked after and, well… cleaned up a bit.  I don’t know how to fix all the NHS’s problems, but I do know that it’s important that we try, and that we do so by listening to those who know what they’re talking about – like the people who actually work within the organisation.
  • Legalise it*warning – controversial point ahead!* Alright, we all know that drugs are bad, mmmkay… but really, is marijuana that much worse than alcohol? Which is perfectly legal to buy and enjoy, as long as you’re over 18.  I mean, yes, pot can cause paranoia and other mental problems, but alcohol can also cause liver damage and mental problems, so I honesty don’t think that one is illegal and the other is not purely because the government is worried about our collective health. I don’t smoke – marijuana or anything else – but part of me just doesn’t see the logic of the war on drugs. I just wonder if a more relaxed, understanding and less authoritarian approach would actually help more people.
  • An End to Ugg Boots – they are stupid. They look crap, they aren’t waterproof, they don’t support your feet and if you wear them for a while they go all misshapen. They will be banned, and anyone who ignores the ban will be punished by simply not being taken seriously in anything they do.

Heh – turns out I have quite strong opinions about stuff. Who knew?  If you feel the need to discuss further, please let me know in the comments – just be constructive with your criticisms and we can be buds, ok? And before you say anything, yes, I do see the irony of being libertarian on drugs and authoritarian on the comparatively harmless Ugg Boot… It’s just my opinion, feel free to disagree.

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*But seriously though: if cats ever put aside their many territorial disputes and start working together, the human race is in trouble – they’ve got us pretty well-trained to bend to their whims already… I for one will welcome our feline overlords when the time comes.

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Thoughts on Makeovers, Confidence and Not Watching Gok Wan Anymore

OK, I admit it – Gok Wan is my guilty TV pleasure. Everyone has one, whether it’s reality TV, soaps, or dodgy dramas, most people have a programme (or genre) that they’re not proud to admit that they watch – but still watch anyway.

Gok Wan has built his TV career from styling ‘ordinary’ women and taking them on a ‘journey’ to increase their confidence in their body shape. He does this by teaching them how to choose clothes for their shape, by dressing them for a big catwalk event at the end of the show and by giving them an expensive-looking makeover. This is great for the women involved, but under all the ‘confidence exercises’ perhaps there is a more subtle message for the viewing audience.

Gok Wan (image from Wikipedia)

On one hand, the core message at the heart of the show is that any woman can feel sexy, regardless of her body shape. “It’s all about the confidence” exudes Gok. This is a good message – confidence is a good thing. Feeling comfortable with your shape is a good thing.

On the other hand, to feel as confident and sexy as this, it seems that the women must be subjected to humiliating displays – posing nude (except for some draped material) in a shop window, having all their clothes hung on washing lines to demonstrate their apparently awful fashion choices, and testimonials from friends and family about how they wish “she’d make more of herself”. And of course, they must be completely made-over. Hair, make-up, clothes and accessories – all must be completely changed.

Alright, yes, How to Look Good Naked and Gok’s Fashion Fix are makeover shows, and it wouldn’t be much of a makeover if that didn’t happen – but this implies something less savory than the glossy initial message of the show…. that these women just weren’t good enough as they were. They were sub-women to be looked down upon for their lack of fashion knowledge on how to balance out a big bum or wide shoulders, regardless of whether they were nice people or not, regardless of whether they were helping society or doing important stuff with their time. Why can’t they dress in comfy clothes and get on with it? Why must women try their best and do it in heels? Isn’t just doing your best enough?

And then there’s the other sneaky less-than-positive message given by this kind of programme – that confidence comes from dressing yourself up in fancy clothing, by putting on a veneer of glamour and smiling for the camera. In life, this just isn’t always the case. Real confidence is an internal thing – if you’ve lost it,  it can take more than some pretty clothes to bring it back.

If I am being totally fair – Gok’s Fashion Fix and How To Look Good Naked programs are less cruel than predecessor What Not To Wear, and definitely much less horrifying than the awful Ten Years Younger, concentrating more on working with what you’ve got than ‘fixing’ imperfections as the latter show does.  But still, it’s because of the conflicting messages that I’ve decided to stop watching Gok Wan, and makeover shows in general.

Which leaves me with just dodgy-science based crime shows and trashy novels as my guilty pleasures. Oh well, I think I can live with that.

Related link (just to balance the argument a bit!): Why I love Gok’s Fashion Fix by Jacqueline Wheeler

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