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ggreig: (Dark Wizard)

For anyone who missed it, the trailer for the forthcoming Dad’s Army movie was released a couple of weeks ago. It's due in cinemas in February.

I'm a bit cautious about the prospect of a movie, because the one with the original cast back in the 1970s was an absolute turkey. Why did so many perfectly good sitcoms of the period wind up as terrible, terrible movies? However, on the admittedly dubious grounds of a trailer it looks like this might be quite good.

ggreig: (Dark Wizard)

I’ve taken a bit of an interest in Dad’s Army ever since I ran a short-lived roleplaying game in the 1990s in which the player characters were members of the Home Guard, dealing with mysterious happenings which turned out to be due to a burrow of Wombles rather than fifth-columnists – although one of the Wombles was blessed with the name Berlin…

This evening I went to the Byre Theatre to watch the St Andrews Play Club present their rendition of Dad’s Army. This was the opening night, and if you’re one of the local readers of this blog and fancy catching it, it’s on until Saturday. It has a running time of two hours, including the interval.

The St Andrews Play Club have put on a previous production of Dad’s Army in 2011, but I was unaware of it at the time. That consisted of a couple of TV episodes, “Mum’s Army” and “The Deadly Detachment”. The second episode there is the one you probably expect, with the U-boat crew as prisoners of war, and the oft-repeated line referring to Private Pike which I won’t spoil here just in case there’s anyone in the universe who hasn’t heard it.

So it sounds like this evening’s production was more ambitious, stretching to two TV episodes (“The Godiva Affair” and “The Deadly Attachment” again), an “episode” which was only ever performed on stage by the original cast (“The Floral Dance”) and an original piece to close by one of the society members, called “All Together Now”.

Alan Tricker as Captain Mainwaring (in the 2011 production)

The main characters were all recognisable, despite the rather odd experience of watching an unmistakably Scottish Sergeant Wilson. They were probably spoilt for choice for people to play Fraser! Captain Mainwaring and Lance Corporal Jones are probably the most demanding roles to play, as they involve not just acting but a lot of comic timing, and I’m pleased to say they carried it off admirably. Alan Tricker as Captain Mainwaring wasn’t a new Arthur Lowe, but that would be a tall order (for a short man); he didn’t have quite the level of frustrated self-importance of the original but nevertheless did a good job in the role. David Lee as Lance Corporal Jones did a great job – it was almost like watching Clive Dunn in action.

There’s a warm comfort to be had from watching something so familiar yet slightly new. The TV episodes were very familiar, of course – so much so that I was completely unfazed when rather endearingly in a moment of meta-character “”Pike” fluffed the punch line to “The Godiva Affair”, naming Mrs Fox instead of Mrs Mainwaring. For anyone previously unfamiliar with the story, I think the business probably sold what was actually meant to have been said. “The Deadly Detachment” strayed somewhat from the original in having an all-female U-boat crew, but that was cool (and played completely straight). Apart from that line, it’s not actually a favourite of mine, but I enjoyed seeing it on stage.

The two sections I was unfamiliar with both had a musical bent. “The Floral Dance” saw the platoon and other residents of Walmington-on-Sea, engaged in choir practice before an event in aid of wounded soldiers, and building up to a performance of the song named. Despite having a slightly different pedigree, it felt right. If you’re not able to see it in St. Andrews, and want an idea of what it was like, YouTube comes to the rescue – here’s audio of the original cast performing it on stage:

The final section, “All Together Now”, was a celebration of the end of the war (probably VE-day, but that wasn’t quite clear and I didn’t recognise the clip of Churchill on the radio announcement). Featuring a selection of songs culminating in White Cliffs of Dover and a tableau in which the cast were starkly lit and sprinkled with poppies. I didn’t feel it quite gelled as the scripts by Jimmy Perry and David Croft did, but again that’s a tall order, and apparently it was written at quite short notice, so good on the script writer all the same. It was more sentimental than amusing, but that’s OK – one of the strengths of Dad’s Army was that it would occasionally make it clear that, for all their ridiculousness, the characters were utterly sincere and serious about being prepared to lay down their lives to make the smallest of differences.

Worth checking out, if you can.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

It suddenly occurred to me that a Cavorite Sphere – as developed by Mr. Cavor in H.G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon – is something that I did not have, and I searched for such a thing.

I discovered that there are two on the market suitable for 28mm. One is relatively easy to find mention of, but is sold in the US and doesn’t seem particularly easy to order even there.

The other I discovered via eBay, and it’s made in the UK by Richard Helliwell’s company Infinity-Engine. This is the one I bought.

I first heard of it under a fortnight ago, ordered it less than a week ago and completed it today – this may be a record! And at this point I wish I’d included a 28mm figure for reference in the picture, as I had to ask the seller for the size and I’ve made it no better for anyone finding this – but you’ll just have to take Richard’s word and mine that it’s the right size. The sphere is about 9cm across, from bumper to bumper, or about 3½” in old money.

The Cavorite Sphere on the Moon - hatch open

It’s a 38-piece resin kit, of which 32 are railway bumpers and one is the Moon’s surface (or a small part thereof). Visually, it’s based on the 1964 movie, which I re-watched parts of in preparation for painting this kit. (If you’re interested in this story, the 2010 Mark Gatiss TV Movie is also worth watching).

Having re-watched some key parts of the movie, the easiest thing to pick up visually was that the Cavorite itself was a yellowish substance painted on to white blinds. The yellow turned put to be metallic and reflective when the sphere was flying through space lit by the sun, so I could have gone for a very brassy look and it would probably have looked great. But the thing about Cavorite is that it counteracts gravity when it’s a) cool and b) exposed. If the blinds were deployed, and we had the brassy look, the sphere would probably not be – wherever it’s meant to be. It would be flying off into space. I thought about having one blind partially exposed, and maybe weathered so that the Cavorite covering is only partial, but ultimately I decided to keep it simple. No exposed Cavorite.

With my dodgy colour vision, I was less sure about the colours used for the rest of the sphere. However, the impression I wound up with was the ribs were a dark metallic colour, the panels surrounding the portholes were wooden, and the other panels of the sphere, where the blinds would be deployed were also dark in colour. I couldn’t decide whether it was a dark metallic colour or something else, but then I caught a hint that it was a dark red.

Now, this could be entirely my imagination, and if you watch the film you may see something else. As I’ve mentioned, my colour vision is dodgy, so if you see something else you’re probably right. But having seen it, real or not, I was caught up by the idea and decided that the majority of the panels were to be painted Burgundy. It’s not so far-fetched after all – burgundy was a popular colour of the period and not a million miles from the “Purple Lake” colour used for some railway carriages, so it fit in reasonably well with the railway theme of the bumpers.

The only “clever” bit of painting, as opposed to using flat colours, was for the wood panels, where I used a base coat of ochre and a wash of burnt umber to achieve a slightly textured varnished wood colour. I dry-brushed a little silver on the hard edges of the bumpers to give them a bit of wear.

You can attach the hatch open or closed. I chose not attach it at all, so I continue to have the choice. I also chose not to glue the top and bottom halves together, so that I have the option at some future date of scratch-building the interior. As you can see if you click through for the larger version of the picture, the interior is a bit ribbed – you can also see a bit of waviness on the exterior panels, although it’s not so marked. I think the body of the model was originally mastered in a 3D printer, with some details being modelled more traditionally before the whole was cast in resin; which is of course a faster way of producing multiple copies than 3D printing is, at least for now. It’s quite cool to see new technology being used in this way, and although there are detectable artefacts, I don’t think they harm this model, adding to the “hand-built” charm of the fictional sphere.

The Cavorite Sphere with the hatch closedTwo halves of the Cavorite Sphere

Finally just a brief mention for the base. Not used to getting a base in these sorts of models, it was quite nice to do so. Here it is in a photo of its own, where it doesn’t look quite so washed out in the harsh rays of the sun:

The Moon's surface

I decided that the powdery surface was pale, but under the surface – or harder bits that hadn’t weathered away – would be darker, and a combination of washes and dry-brushing in different shades of grey got me there, more or less. These highlighted most of the structure I wanted, but I did try to paint faint impact rays around the centre of the largest crater.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Of course I already knew which episode of Doctor Who was on the day I was born; I mean, who doesn’t know their natal episode? ;-) And naturally, it’s a classic…

It’s interesting to see what else was on though; on BBC One, Doctor Who was preceded by Grandstand and Juke Box Jury, and followed by The Dick van Dyke Show and The Munsters, then a film (The Eagle and the Hawk) under the heading “High Adventure”, the Last Night of the Proms, more sport in the form of Match of the Day and an American courtroom drama series, The Defenders. All before closedown at 11:35.

What was on BBC Two is less recognisable today, though I might have enjoyed The White Rabbit (the dramatised story of SOE operative and successful POW camp escapee Wing Commander Yeo-Thomas), with a young Annette Crosbie appearing in the cast list. There’s an archaeology programme the description of which reminds me of the one shown on BBC3 in The Dæmons, but it probably wasn’t quite as exciting as that! There’s also Always On Wednesday, “a master class with Nadia Boulanger”. David Attenborough’s right; BBC2 is not the channel it was when he was its controller. The evening on BBC Two finished rather later than BBC One, with the “midnight movie” for night owls, Cover Up, just starting at 11:15.

Find out what was on (according to the Radio Times) on the date of your choice from the BBC Genome Project.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Over the last few years, it's often been something about the reporting of the independence debate that's spurred me to write about politics on this (generally) non-political blog. (Hopefully soon I'll have nothing more to say.)

Here's an interesting short online documentary featuring Professor John Robertson talking about his findings of bias in BBC and STV reporting during the independence campaign.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Fear them!

A double bill with "Back Toy The Future":

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone paying attention (apart from Ian Davidson, who seems to think it’s the other way round), but a study at the University of the West Coast of Scotland has found that the BBC, and to a lesser extent STV, are favouring the No campaign in their news coverage of the independence referendum. It’s worth reading the article; some of the margins are considerable.

This follows the leaked ruling by the BBC Trust – still to be officially announced – that the BBC breached its own editorial guidelines over the reporting of what the Irish European Minister said about the relationship between an independent Scotland and the European Union.

What the study doesn’t measure is the stories that haven’t even made it to broadcast for some reason.

Whichever way your own personal preference goes, if you want a balanced view of the referendum, make sure that besides following the established broadcast and print media, you’re reading some of the citizen journalist sources that openly prefer the alternative; the three most obvious being Newsnet Scotland, Wings over Scotland and Bella Caledonia.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Channel 4 is doing an evening of programmes about psychopaths, and have a handy-dandy test where you can assess your own level of psychopathy.

Uninterestingly but perhaps reassuringly, it turns out I’m a teddy bear, scoring 21%:

You are warm and empathic with a heightened awareness of social responsibility and a strong sense of conscience. You like to carefully weigh up the pros and cons of a situation before you act and are generally averse to taking risks. You are very much a ‘people person’ and dislike conflict. ‘Do unto others…’ are your watchwords. But, although you avoid hurting others, those residing at the higher end of the psychopathic spectrum might not be as considerate, so stay vigilant to avoid being hurt unnecessarily.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)
Must-watch official prequel to The Day of the Doctor, the 50th anniversary episode:

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Here's the response I got to my complaint to Question Time:

Dear Dr. GREIG

Thanks for taking the time to contact the BBC about Question Time, broadcast on 13 June 2013. We forwarded your concerns to the Executive Editor who passed on the following response:

Question Time is a current affairs programme that covers a range of subjects and debates issues in a UK context. It chooses panellists carefully across the series. We regularly invite politicians and non-politicians from one part of the UK to appear on the programme in other parts of the UK. This programme was no different – it was not an independence special discussing exclusively issues related to the independence referendum. It dealt with a range of topical issues in the news. We aim to offer the audience across the UK as well as in the room, as wide a range of voices and opinions on the issues being discussed as possible.

The only difference in this edition was in the makeup of the audience. 16 and 17 year olds have been given the vote for the first time in next year's independence referendum and we wanted to look at what sort of things were of interest to and influenced this age group, to acknowledge why these people were being given the vote.

The composition of the audience reflected both those for and against independence, and contained a number of people who were undecided. It was also broadly representative of voting patterns across the party political spectrum.

The Green Party has been on the programme twice since March, and we have offered the Scottish Greens a seat on the panel the next time we come to Scotland in the next series.

Nigel Farage represents a party with growing UK support and their recent electoral gains since the 2010 general election makes them of interest to our audience.

Thanks again for contacting us.
Kind Regards
BBC Complaints

No surprises there then.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

I’ve complained to the BBC about the make-up of the panel on Thursday’s Question Time. I was prompted to do so by the Scottish Greens’ official complaint, which seems to me to be quite justified. The Scottish Lib Dems were also short-changed by the inclusion on the panel of George Galloway of Respect and Nigel Farage of UKIP (neither of which parties have significant electoral support in Scotland), but the Scottish Greens have plainly come off worse, only having appeared on Question Time once in 14 years of continual representation in the Scottish Parliament.

Although Question Time’s for a UK-wide audience, on the relatively rare occasions when it’s recorded in Scotland I think it has a responsibility to accurately reflect Scottish politics to the rest of the nation as well as to Scotland itself, and I don’t believe that was done on this occasion.

Here’s the text of my complaint. I could have said more, but after writing this and précising a bit to fit more in, I only had about five characters space left.

The selection of panellists, although the programme made a feature of the independence debate and took place a week before a by-election, did not appropriately represent political viewpoints within Scotland.

Two parties with significant electoral support and representation at Scottish Parliamentary level (the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Green Party) were excluded in favour of politicians whose parties have neither (Respect and UKIP).

I recognise that Question Time is intended for a UK-wide audience, but it does that audience no favours to misrepresent the politics of Scotland; particularly when this appears to form part of a pattern of under-representing the Scottish Green Party, who have appeared on Question Time only once in 14 years of Holyrood representation.

I have listened to suggestions from the BBC and David Dimbleby that (a) this was not an independence special requiring a reflective panel and (b) "Question Time does not follow by-elections and never has". They do not stand up and I do not accept them. On independence, the audience was selected with a particular feature of the referendum in mind, and split evenly in terms of opinion; and more than half the programme spent on an independence question when the independence debate was not particularly prominent in the week's news. Functionally, it's clear this was an independence special; and Question Time has clearly responded to a by-election as recently as February (live from Eastleigh).

If you want to watch the programme and judge for yourself, you can find it on the iPlayer for the next 12 months. There are only three questions covered in the programme, and the independence one is second. In an hour long programme, it runs from roughly 17:25 to 50:25, so about 33 minutes. Oh, and the "particular feature of the referendum" that I mentioned was age; the audience was made up of 16 and 17 year olds, because people of that age will be able vote in the referendum.

ggreig: (Astronaut)

I was at first puzzled, then interested, when Spain’s entry appeared. Introduced by Graham Norton as ESDM, they and their sound were kind of familiar, and they started with the sound of Asturian bagpipes. Then the lead singer looked familiar, although I didn’t know her from Oxford where apparently she lived for a time. It didn’t take long for the penny to drop – ESDM were El Sueño de Morfeo, a group I recommended a couple of years ago. Their song, Contigo hasta el final, didn’t grab me as immediately as some of their other work, but seemed OK. They came 25th out of 26, just ahead of Ireland whose entry also seemed a bit better than the voting reflected.

In other news, the entry from Belarus arrived in a Sontaran spaceship:

The Belarus entry in Eurovision 2013 A Sontaran emerging from his spaceship
A Sontaran emerging from his spaceship The Belarus entry in Eurovision 2013
ggreig: (Beep the Meep)

I’m not much of a dreamer, but I’ve had some strange dreams over the last couple of days which I presume are due to being knocked out of my routine (my medication isn’t very exotic). As usual for me, they fade pretty fast and I don’t remember much about them, but I thought this one was worth sharing the concept of, before it disappears like the detail already has:

The villainess, a schoolgirl kidnapper whose preferred medium of communication is through 1960s ska (with unseen accompaniment), is opposed by a randomish assortment of unlikely individuals who each have a superpower that consists of changing into a small, inoffensive animal. They set off to investigate the parts of buildings that conventional searchers can’t get into.

There’s gotta be a smash TV series in it, right? Winking smile 

* Yes, I know, spelling. It’s a reference to a meme from the 1990s. Its original page disappeared with Geocities, but there’s a copy still around. And Millie was the only female name I could think of associated with 1960s ska, even though My Boy Lollipop wasn’t among the selection my protagonist employed. Nor, staying on the small animal theme, was Oh Henry, although I’m sure that one would have cropped up in the showdown somehow if I’d got that far before waking up.

Edit: I would also have really hoped to hear Monkey Ska, originally by Derrick Harriot.

ggreig: (Beep the Meep)

Nicholas Courtney, who played the character of Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart on television for 40 years (1968-2008) in Doctor Who has died at the age of 81. The Brigadier was played honestly but with humour, despite an occasionally regrettable penchant for shooting things, and that warmth seemed to be a reflection of the actor. He will be missed.

ggreig: (Vacant Podling)

While in the vicinity of Hollywood, [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfemand I went to the recording of an American TV show there - with me under strict instructions from [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfemnot to embarrass her by mentioning the host's former stage name...

Craig Ferguson, who some may remember as a stand-up comedian in the late 80s or early 90s, or as Confidence in Red Dwarf, is now rather better known in the States than he was on this side of the pond, after a number of seasons in a successful sitcom, starring roles in a couple of moderately successful movies, and several years of presenting a daily chat show: The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

Not having been to a recording of a UK show, I can't make any comparisons, but they don't half make you work for your free ticket in the States! The warm-up man is dire and filthy, not a good combination, although to be fair to him, he knew it; and he was on the ball with coordinating responses silently once the programme began. In return for your seat, you have to sit and laugh for an hour or so, whether it's funny or not; and under those circumstances it's a pretty fair bet it's not...

After too long listening to the warm-up guy, the show began. The standard pattern of the show is opening monologue, followed "after the break" by studio guests. The opening monologue is a bit weird for the audience because it's delivered straight to camera, and even though we were behind the camera, it was plain it wasn't for our benefit! Craig plainly knows his audience and is now an American citizen, but it's a bit odd hearing a Scottish accent building up to his closing catchphrase,"It's a great day for America". There are some jokes related to the world situation that might get more of a mixed response in the UK.

The guest spots were a bit more interesting, as they were slightly less scripted. I had no clue who the first guest was, but Brooke Shields had a bit more international appeal. She was plugging a stage show.

Actually, the guest that woke me up most was Tyson. Who's Tyson, you say? Haven't a clue, except that he was the guy plucked from the audience to look foolish - one seat away from us. He did a fairly good job of matching up to Craig's banter, after an initial period of looking like a stunned mullet. Of course we wondered whether he was a plant, but on balance I don't think so - he was hesitant and lost enough to start with that I think not. And he seemed to enjoy himself, and might possibly have earned himself repeat appearances (apparently this does sometimes occur to audience members, but I haven't watched any subsequent programmes to find out).

Part 1: Fleetingly visible as a small blob in the audience.
Part 2 : Part 3 : Part 4 : Part 5

Craig has a decent line of patter, but didn't manage to justify the side-splitting mirth expected of us; still, it must be pretty difficult to keep that up day after day, and if we needed any reminding that it's a skilled job requiring talent, we only had to recall the gulf in capability and charm between him and the warm-up man!

Afterwards we nipped out to the  Farmer's Market a couple of blocks away for something to eat (the show gave us money off vouchers for local eateries, but not for anywhere we wanted to go). It's a permanent fixture, more like some of the well-established markets in our big cities than the local farmer's market in St. Andrews. After a wander around looking at everything, I had fried alligator tail rolled in cornmeal (nice enough but undistinguished) from The Gumbo Pot.

ggreig: (Steam Coach)

A video snippet from the BBC that I managed to miss earlier in the week, with rather a good look at an electric cab from 1897:

ggreig: (Rune)

I didn’t. Edward Woodward started his career at the Byre.

ggreig: (Robot Maria)

To make up for the previous post on November 5th, about British sci-fi and fantasy TV that could only be watched online if you were inside the UK, here’s some that you can only watch if you’re outside the UK (including Edge of Destruction, which I’ve never seen − <gnash, grumble>). They’re on the BBC Worldwide YouTube channel. Unfortunately I can’t explore it effectively because I’m in the UK, but it definitely has:


Because it’s viewable outside the UK, it’s advertising-supported; I don’t know how intrusive that will be.

ggreig: (Robot Maria)

MSN are putting classic British sci-fi/fantasy TV online to watch free in the UK (edit, sorry if your hopes were falsely raised). Currently there’s Day of the Triffids, Neverwhere, The Quatermass Experiment (the 2005 live remake) and Doctor Who’s The Web Planet (1st Doctor).

On the Doctor Who page, it says “come back to see new episodes every Tuesday and Friday from November 10th”, so The Web Planet isn’t all you’ll get.


Sep. 6th, 2009 09:27 pm
ggreig: (Robot Maria)

Due to Microsoft’s recent price reduction, and what seemed like a worthwhile deal at Curry’s (an extra wireless controller and a couple of games thrown in for free), I somewhat unexpectedly became the owner of an XBox 360 Elite last weekend.

Not being a gamer, particularly – though I don’t mind having the facility for games thrown in – I’m  more interested in the XBox for its capabilities as a Media Center Extender. In theory, at least, you can store all your digital media on your home network, and watch or listen to it through your TV, by way of the XBox. (There are stand-alone extenders that aren’t also games consoles, but they seem to be less available here than in the US, they cost nearly as much as an XBox, and the massed opinion of the Internet seems to think that the XBox is technically the best media extender anyway, so the choice was fairly inevitable.)

If I want to explore that possibility, then the next thing I need is a home network capable of transferring media information fast enough. Now, I already have Wi-Fi and it might do the job – but video would be pushing the capacity of a Wi-Fi network somewhat, and I’m not especially keen to have to run an Ethernet cable from the office upstairs to the living room downstairs so, remembering some mention of Ethernet through the power cables, I looked it up.

It seems there’s more than one system, but HomePlug appears to be the name to look for. I found a UK company that produces HomePlug products, and ordered a couple of Solwise 200Mbps HomePlug AV Ethernet Adaptor with Simple Connect & Mains Through. Try saying that without your teeth in.

Obviously while part of the appeal of going for something like HomePlug is that it should save the hassle of cabling, another part is that it’s a cool technical toy. Ethernet through the power cables! Obviously that is going to save the planet and stop all wars, instantly!

Unfortunately I have to report that it isn’t so.

The doohickeys duly arrived on Wednesday, and I rushed home to plug them in and enjoy the thrill of watching something that I could perfectly adequately have watched by using the built-in capabilities of the television, but doing so via the network from my PC upstairs! Please contain your excitement.

Today, thanks to a long Ethernet cable I was able to substitute in instead, I arrived at the definite conclusion that the reason that the picture – and the whole network connection with it – inevitably failed after a few minutes of watching was because the HomePlugs, despite being sold as suitable for AV use, couldn’t cope.

Maybe if you want to try them elsewhere, they will work for you, as they do seem to be a wee bit susceptible to “other stuff” on the power supply. Debugging my power supply is a step too far for me, though, so they’re going back. It’s a bit of a disappointment, as I really wanted them to work – obviously, as I was prepared to spend money on them. Looks like I’m back to good old CAT5 cable; I may have to do a bit of DIY to put it in, but it’s a lot cheaper, and it works.

For the moment, that’s it, and I can watch digital TV (which I could do anyway), listen to my ripped music (slightly more convenient now) and watch old movies downloaded from the Internet Movie Archive (not previously possible without burning DVDs); but the nebulous plan is to get a Windows Home Server machine at some point (maybe something like this one), put some real disk space in it and actually reduce the number of DVD boxes I have lying around.

June 2017

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