VSX, A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist: Starbuck Powersurge - a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of Viper Squad Ten, a long-disbanded group of stranded timetravelling troubadours, formed to help finance repairs to their time-machine. Now very much stuck in C21...
All text is copyright the Viper Squad Ten blog team 2003-2006 unless otherwise quoted or credited. If we've not credited you properly, please let me know. Throw us a link if you're desperate enough to use this guff...
Christmas round at Powersurge Towers was as good as Christmas ever gets. i.e. utterly fantastic.
This year was especially special, however, with 16 family members crammed around the television for the very special Christmas special that was Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion.
Our audience spread was aged between three and eightysomething with everything in between, but everyone (apart from the three-year old) agreed that ex-Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant was an utterly fab (and may I say "special"?) Doctor. Very watchable, and hey, as always in the new series, its full of right-thinking (as opposed to right-wing thinking) to help meld the minds of mini-fans into better future citizens of this planet.
Exciting to hear the most explicit references within the episode to future spin-off series Torchwood (my Uncle Phil: "Isn't that a shopping centre in Solihull?"), further to those buried within Bad Wolf (the ruins of the famous Old Earth Torchwood Institute being the site where the Great Cobalt Pyramid was built - am I getting to nerdy for you here?)
And I look forward to wheeling my behemoth dinosaur PC into the front room to watch the commentary, downloadable from the BBC.
And so, to celebrate the forthcoming new series in 2006, I bring you an exclusive photo of Tennant and his assistant that I scavenged out of Russell T Davies' rubbish bin...
Christmas is the time for giving. Also taking, but mainly giving.
With this in mind, I am asking my reader to visit The Hunger Site - one click will let them make a donation on your behalf, paid for by advertising. Capitalism giving something back for once. Or something.
As my own Christmas gift to you, dear reader, may I bring your attention to Sober Santa 2, although I'm sure to be the hundredth person doing so. Not sure why Santa's been captured and held within an electrified toy train track... is he a terrorist?... surely there's regulations against such unsafe children's products anyway... how and why does the food and drink keep teleporting in... but still. Merry Christmas!
I accompanied my wife to her previous workplace's "Christmas party" round at her boss' house last night. My God.
I must say that I'm feeling pretty proud of myself for getting through it without screaming out (though I was yelling loudly within - a strange feeling - shutting out the experience with white noise).
There are some situations that I'm just not built for, and dinner parties with the "its -politically-correct-gone-mad" brigade are one of them. A number of times I really felt an interjection rising, only for common sense (and fear) to thankfully stop me.
I didn't want to let Mrs Powersurge down by arguing with her ex-colleagues, and I didn't want my lack of articulacy to let myself down when faced with the resounding certainty of someone who won't accept that they're wrong and life isn't always as simple as they think.
A very strange atmosphere as well, with no-one wanting to put a foot wrong in front of the boss. I hate all the back-sniping that happens at these things, and I hate that sensation that there's a very dark underbelly lurking just under the surface of the conversation, daring itself to rear its ugly head. Thankfully it didn't.
Still, these things are an experience, and most undamaging experiences are good in some way. And it reminded me that "high" society in Britain is still very much a poisoned chalice.
OK, maybe I have read to much into it, but I can't deny how it made me feel. But the whole thing, with the boss' wife and children waiting on us hand and foot, had a certain unease. It was like something out of a dark comedy, with tinges of Pinter's "The Birthday Party" or Brydon & Davis' "Human Remains" about it.
It made me glad for my own simple life, however tricky the twists and turns may be.
Unretentive memory annoyance: My mate Kev of the Travelkev blog happened to be appearing LIVE on the Channel Five gameshow Brainteaser at 12:30 last night, however I forgot to record it. Which is a great pity, especially as I'll watch any old tat that time of night. And I wanted to see him squirm...
Related fact: I unsuccessfully applied to go on Bullseye one as a youngster, by trying to make myself look middle-aged in the submission photo.
Chris Evans annoyance: I actually dreamt that Chris Evans died the other night. I suspect my subconscious knows just how painful an experience OFI Friday is for all involved.
I also dreamt that I'd been "hanging" with Jeremy Clarkson, but enough said about that the better.
Setting-myself-up-for-disappointment annoyance: Yesterday I booked tickets to go and see one of my favourite stand-up comedians, Omid Djalili. He tickles my funny bone like very few others - intelligent, charming, and a true master of the art, darling - but I've never seen him "live" in person.
And I won't this time, as it turns I've got a holiday booked for then... oh the sweet self-loathing of an over-privileged Brit being slightly inconvenienced...
Annoyance at other annoyances: Space Cadets on Channel Four - am I the only one in the country who is proud to say they thoroughly enjoyed it?
Note to the M&S advertising team: To increase sales of your succulent and exceptionally tender turkeys, refrain from arranging the advertising display in a manner that brings to mind the image of a defecating cow...
Upgrade to Gee-mail!
Let's face it, Gmail (or Google Mail as it's legally obliged to be named in Britain and Germany) is marvellous.
And it just keeps on getting better.
Case in point, I was reading just now about some recent improvements - the "Vacation Responder" automated reply, Gmail Mobile access via http://m.gmail.com, and perhaps most importantly for bloggers, the option to display RSS feeds as "Web Clips" across the top of the interface.
However such new features sometimes seem to take their time trickling through to non-US users.
Slightly frustrating, until I realised that there is a way to force the changes in the meantime, at least when using my UK GoogleMail (presumably every country variation will behave similarly.)
Click on Settings, and within the "Google Mail display language" drop-down box towards the top of the General tab, select "English (US)".
And that's it - all of the new options are now available!
Ancient memories of frost-tinged excitement - inherited from our Pagan forebears back when modern religion was but a twinkle in a politician's eye - mingle with my personal nostalgia of childhood excitement.
I love the ritual of Christmas, the tradition, the feeling that the country is excited as one. I love the thinking of others, the sharing, the giving, the joining of family. The time off work.
I love it's difference in comparison to the rest of the year - the sense that the nation has been working up to this for 12 months, and now we're going to have a party. I love the fact that, as such, the television companies feel they have to pull out all the stops. And the organ-players.
I love everything except it's religious conoctations (although some of it does again make me dewy-eyed with childhood nostalgia, such as the thought of clopping two coconut shells together as accompaniment to Little Donkey in a candle-lit church), but I'd sound like a right plonker if I started wishing everyone a Merry Yule, so I'll stick with the common vernacular thankyouverymuch. I don't want to get all Neopagan on your ass.
But as well as the Winter Solstice festivities, which celebrate the passing shortened days and the revitalisation of the sun (or something), this time of year marks a very special birth.
Oh, and VSX sub-editor Stu as well.
Which all helps to make December Number One in Starbuck's Top Twelve Month Chart Rundown. Yip yip yip.
Girding my loins
 Well, the anticipation is building in the run-up to Christmas, and with that in mind I would like to refer you to a super-fun builder simulation that has been eating into my worktime. It's Rocket Bob everyone!
Well, I call it a simulation, but it may not be 100% factually accurate, in that an essential tactic is bouncing Rocket Bob off the invisible walls constraining the sides of the screen. Aside from that, the physics of launching yourself off a girder using a pneumatic drill are indisputable. As far as I'm aware.
It's Worms without the weapons! Or the worms.
Great fun. And to add to it's festiveness, the game is German. As was Santa Claus, of course (or was he Turkish? Finnish? To be honest I don't care what he was, anything but the fucking American Santa Claus from The Movie.)
FOLLOW UP TO LAST POST... FILMS OF THE YEAR
So I was annoyed at my lack of memory. I have consulted with Empire and my wife, and I think this is (pretty much) a list of the films I have seen this year (and were released this year). This does not make me sad, although it's a pretty poor showing. I still don't know which of these fit into the Top Ten. One step at a time.
So I've seen (in addition to the top 5)...
Million Dollar Baby Ocean's Twelve Ring 2 Vera Drake Napoleon Dynamaite Garden State Constant Gardener Harry Potter Some Italian thing - Everything goes round or something Mirrormask Innocence Bonbon Wallace and Gromit SIN CITY (how could I forget that?) Kung Fu Hustle Crash League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse Land of the Dead Serenity Hitchikers Guide To the Galaxy
Which means I have not seen, and have to await on DVD or catch soon:
Stealth (in a beer and pizza way) Lord of War (as above) Fantastic Four (er, again) Domino (ahem) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Broken Flowers Hotel Rwanda Doom Nightwatch Devil's Rejects Wolf Creek Last Days Howl's moving castle The Island War of the Worlds Mr and Mrs Smith (ahem again) KING KONG
Arcade Fire - Funeral Eels - Blinking Lights... Editors - The Back Room LCD Soundsystem Gorillaz - Demon Days BMRC - Howl Dandy Warhols - Odditorium Nine Inch Nails - WIth Teeth Goldfrapp - Supernature Four Tet - Everything Ecstatic/Royksopp - The Understanding/Chemical Brothers - Push the Button/Dalek - Absence/65 Days of Static - One Time For All Time
The number 10 spot (which I realise has 5 contenders) could drop off in favour of one of these runners up/possible contenders...
Sons and Daughters - The Repulsion Box Death From Above 1979 - You're a Woman I'm a Machine Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better With Idlewild - Warnings/Promises Nine Black Alps - Everything Is
CDs that I have bought that might have, but did not make it, not even into the runners up...
QOTSA Coldplay Bloc Party Kaiser Chiefs
CDs that might have been in there if I'd bought them and heard them...
Foo Fighters White Stripes SFA
A tie at first place between:
A History Of Violence/Sideways
Then, in no particular order,
Batman Begins The Descent Star Wars (if only as an honoury mention)
I'm a bit stuck now.
Top 5 films then... I must have watched lots more... none were much good though. Or were they?
Text review of Hayao Miyazaki's animated adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones' fantasy creation:
A breathtakingly beautiful fairytale, with oodles of warmth to keep the darkness at bay. Some great characters (especially Heen the mute dog!) and a wonderful love story, it left myself and Mrs Powersurge feeling all warm and cosy. As well as the rest of the cinema by the looks of all the end-of-film-kisses being exchanged by couples around us! Just what this slightly life-fraught reviewer needed...
The subtitled Japanese language version was terrific, but I'm also looking forward to the DVD release of the dubbed-English version so I can lose myself fully within the magnificent art.