Bring me Sunshine

It is amazing how one little thing can change your outlook so much. When I went to bed last night, exhausted from power reading my way through one book and halfway through another, it was raining so much I expected to see Noah at my front door in the morning warning of the impending flood.

Waking up earlier this morning the rain was still present and busily melting the last vestiges of the snow and ice we’ve had on the ground for over a week. Not especially cheerful to look at, but the knowledge that my trips to the Metro would be safer now did fill me with comfort.

I then went back to bed (had a seriously weird dream that I’ll be damned if I can remember anything about except its odd and possibly disturbing nature) and then woke to this glorious sunshine and the odd pile of shovelled snow with a few heaps of disinterred snowmen scattered about. My energy level, as always, shot off the effing chain like it usually does when Sol makes one of his sporadic appearances.

Coincidentally, every time the sun puts in a much appreciated appearance I think of Morecambe and Wise. Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise (Little Erne) a comic duo whose TV show used to delight me when I first came to England; their show’s ending signature tune was Bring Me Sunshine and the lads would sign and cavort to the song. It quickly became a favourite of mine and I can still hear them singing it; although both funny men have passed on to that big stage in the sky.

One tiny seagull celebrates the sun in my neighbourhood.

Nothing charges my batteries more than the sight of a robin-egg blue sky, with or without seagull. I already feel equipped to face world and the many different challenges that face me, head on. I feel like standing tall, pointing my arm in the forward direction and shouting, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed [sic] ahead!” I am not alone in my joy of the sun’s re-emergence, I’ve seen scores of my neighbours who have been, like me, mostly house-bound trundling themselves and their children, babies and dogs sprightly down the path; all smiling and all happy.

If I was in fact completely restored by this “salubrious weather” I’d probably attempt the Morecambe and Wise dance that used to accompany their Bring Me Sunshine song, instead I’ll just hop on YouTube and see if anyone has been kind enough to post it and perhaps just sing along while the boys dance.

 

Walking Dead Fever…

So this year, Meg and I decided (in between everything else going on) to devote a huge amount of time playing video games as we’ve both been a bit slack in that area of fun for a while now. First on the agenda (or play list) was The Walking Dead: The Game.

I had been watching the developer’s on-line “diary” of this game as they updated on a regular basis what they had done and where they were in the whole process. Telltale Games, the developers in question, were trying to push the boundaries a bit and not only come up with a game that would resonate with the existing Walking Dead franchise, but, they were also trying to breathe new life into the old “adventure” game.

Walking Dead is a “point and click” game with echoes of role play ala Mass Effect. The gaming community received the games release with a kind of euphoric instant acceptance that appears to be more for the “subject” of the game than the actual game itself. The Walking Dead has been popular with folks first as a graphic novel series, then as a television program based on the novels for quite some time.

Just one snapshot of the ever changing group in The Walking Dead.

The game does not follow the telly program, which did surprise me a lot, but the next iteration of The Walking Dead game verse will. Fans of the books will be pleased with the game though. It looks like you have stepped into a volume of them. The art work screams graphic novel and it works extremely well for the game.

The game play itself is a bit of a mixed bag. In some ways it is simple and direct, but in other ways it can be stupidly frustrating. It was probably just me, but I had a hell of a time moving the R3 and L3 together for “easier” movements and object searches. In the area of shooting the infected, it was too easy. When you pulled your gun and got ready to send a “walker” to zombie heaven, all you were given was a “box” like aiming area, no cross hairs or aiming features like Uncharted for example.

This caused me no end of problems at first. I kept dying as I tried to aim at a walker head. It took me literally ages to figure out that as long as you kept the zombie in the box, you were going to hit it. Once I got used to it, however, I was despatching walkers with the ease of an Annie Oakley shootist. Of course, then it got too easy and the end consequence was that it lost a lot in enjoyment value.

Like other games that are flooding the market at the moment, The Walking Dead has more than its fair share of glitches. Most of them were downright funny. Lilly with her invisible rifle, Omid lying in mid-air, to name just two; but some interfered with game play and were infuriating. There was an apparent frame rate issue that slowed action (or stopped completely) changing the outcome of that particular challenge.

It frustrates me that a company like Telltale Games will spend so much money on publicizing their product but will so obviously cut back on expenditure of quality assurance checks to make sure the game play flows smoothly. Anytime that a glitch changes the outcome of an event in the game, the glitch then becomes non-acceptable from the player’s point of view; and player is spelt C-O-N-S-U-M-E-R guys.

My overall experience with The Walking Dead was positive. I enjoyed the game, the story, and the graphics. I did not enjoy the glitches and the obvious “copying” of the role play element that worked so well in the Mass Effect verse. And copying it most definitely was, the difference being that you really did not change any of the “important” elements of the game by your decisions.

*And before I get my head bitten off here, yes I know that ultimately, when you finished ME3 your choices did not count for squat either, but, originally that was not the plan.*

What does confuse me is how The Walking Dead garnered so many awards, accolades, and almost universal acceptance as being the crème de la crème of all the games released in 2012. I can only shake my head and wonder if it has to do with “cross-merchandising” between the novels and the television series.

I haven’t said a lot about the story, but really there is no need to spend a lot of time here. The main protagonist is Lee, who is on his way to prison after murdering his wife and her Senator boyfriend. After the officer driving hits a “walker” and crashes, you play as Lee and eventually meet and befriend Clementine. Once you two “hit the road” you meet the first of the many folks you will encounter on your mission of trying to unite Clem with her folks.

The group dynamics change and flow as there are power struggles and leadership questions. Just as changing are the members of the group, who die off either getting munched by one of the undead or by natural causes. Not really any different from any zombie apocalypse film you seen or game you’ve played or book you’ve read.

Stepping back from the game for a moment and looking at the entire “verse” of The Walking Dead, I think that the existing popularity of a fictional world that the public already laps up has contributed firmly to the high rating given the game. Which is why I think the next game in the “Walking Dead” franchise that is due for release in 2013 as a “prequel” to the TV series will be instantly accepted and raved about.

Pre-order you prequel now…

Regardless of its merits or glitches or game play, the 2013 version of Walking Dead will hit the ground running and not lose one step in its stride towards “Game of the Year 2013. It is so obvious that Telltale Games want to further cash in on the success of the TV show. Of course when the name of the “real” game is making money, you cannot blame them.

I’ll leave you with two things (or maybe three). Am I the only person who wants to see how Clementine (Worst choice of a character name ever, I hear that “Oh my darling Clementine” in my head every time I hear the kid’s name) turned out after the events of the game? And who else besides me, thinks that “actor Anthony Lam” is really Steve Buscemi?

Will these questions ever be answered? Who knows, but I do think that Clementine is already a pistol toting, zombie killing, little momma who will be able to shoot the ears off of any walker who gets too close.

I would have to give this game a 4 ½ stars out of 5 (if I did a star rating system) just for the fun, if not frustrating at times, game play and story.

“Go ahead, make my day.”

Conjoined Twins Reality TV Show?

Reality Television
Reality Television (Photo credit: badjonni)

So Abby and Brittany Hensel are getting their own Reality TV Show on TLC. In case you missed the short video on Huff Entertainment, TLC is the Channel that also features 19 Kids and Counting and the channel doesn’t really strike me as producers of ‘quality’ television.

Am I the only person in the world who feels like this is the 21st century version of the old fairground freak show?

With the deepest of respect to both Abby and Brittany who, I am sure, have felt like the world has been staring at them for years; I don’t feel like this is either a good idea or tasteful television.

Okay, they will be making money from this venture to be sure and I can’t think of anyone who would turn that down. But a Reality TV show, really??

Of course folks are ‘snake fascinated’ by the spectacle of these girls who share the same body. One controls the right, the other the left. I am also sure that their lives have been very interesting.

I know from the video that both girls seem well adjusted and happy to be taking part in this business venture. Because that is what it really is, business. I can imagine both TLC and the shows ‘new’ sponsors rubbing their hands together gleefully at the anticipation of viewers that this program will get.

But, if you’ll pardon the pun, the reality is that this program should really have been a ‘one off’ to show how well the twins have adjusted to, what must be, a nigh on impossible life style.

I cannot begin to even try to imagine what life must be like having another ‘head’ conjoined to my body. One that has it’s own working brain, personality, opinions and, God help us, bad breath.

Ludicrous, but, you would have to have such a good sense of humour and an almost inhuman ability to laugh at yourself, or selves I suppose. So yes, it is fascinating to see how the twins have coped and how they have grown to accept their situation.

I can imagine, again, what the shows producers were thinking. I mean how do you cope with dating? If one of you completely dislikes or cannot stand one twins choice how does that resolve itself. I cannot begin to think of how the reality of the birds and bees could be worked into the equation!

Sure it’s fascinating television but it still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I am sure that the older folks out there can remember the big jar with the ‘corpse’ of the two headed baby that was displayed in the ‘Freak Show‘ tent. Along with the Frozen Ice Man and the Bearded Lady, the Human Skeleton and the Pin Head. For the price of about half-a-buck you could go in and stare at the unfortunate people who made up the exhibit.

I can only assume that TLC is looking at the show as an addition to the one-off programs that feature unfortunate people from all over the world. Yesteryears JoJo the Dog-Faced Boy is now the boy who is covered in hair.

But despite the lovely window dressing of politically correct phrasing, the end result is the same.

Someone who doesn’t fit into ‘normal’ life is trotted out and displayed. Some folks will watch because, truth be told, it is fascinating. Some will watch to laugh and make fun of the twins. A lot of people will only watch the ‘pilot’ and never tune in again.

It would be nice to think that in this day and age, people would not be fooled by the trappings of a reality TV program that is in reality a travesty. I hope that the twins make a good sum of money from this cynical venture and can live their lives as they see fit.

In the meantime, I’m waiting for the next Reality TV Program to come up with an even more distasteful theme.

So what do you think? Have a look at the trailer here:

Abby and Brittany Hensel

Do you feel that this is ‘tasteless’ TV or do you think that it is harmless entertainment?

Like I said earlier, this leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth, not too dissimilar to how I felt after watching The Elephant Man.

How the Internet Changed the Way We Watch Television

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The internet has changed the way that we view television. I first noticed the increased presence of the ‘net’ while Buffy the Vampire Slayer was in its relative infancy of seasons.

By the time the series had moved up a gear or two and was entering its third season, my daughter started buying Buffy ‘fan-zines.’ The first thing I noticed was the magazine’s inclusion of several different sites that were forums for fans.

If you logged onto the net, you could access these ‘fan-sites’ and either read the current thread of discussion about the program or enter the debate. The latter choice could be a little disconcerting.

While reading the intense and sometimes heated discussions on the forum I noticed that a few of the more fervent fans would get excited enough to give a figurative ‘bitch-slap’ to folks who disagreed with them.

I, for some reason, thought that these ‘fan-sites’ were indicative of the “Buffy-verse” alone and therefore rather unique. But the internet was a great place for fans of many different television programs to meet and discuss or even bitch about the latest episode that they’d just watched.

Certain programs listened to these fan groups and acted upon  the fan feedback.  Lost, for instance, listened when fans  relayed that the introduction  of two new major characters in the program had resulted in characters that they despised. Producers acted quickly and killed off these two new characters in the same season that they were introduced.

Going back for a moment to the verse of Joss Whedon, it is imperative to mention the huge internet support for Firefly when it was unceremoniously axed by its network. The fans of Joss’s fledgling western/science fiction show rose in mass to show support for the program and to petition the network for a reprieve.

While the fan protest wasn’t enough to save the beleaguered show, it was enough to convince both Joss and the studios that an audience existed for a film. And thus Serenity was created to give the loyal fans some closure for a program that they’d grown to love.

Independent film producers learned very quickly of the power of the internet in areas of marketing their products and drumming up interest in upcoming film releases. Paranormal Activity is one such “internet” driven film but it was by no means the first in a long list of films that would use the net as the perfect advertising tool.

The American re-make of The Grudge (Ju-on) used the web to show ‘diaries’ of the actors and set up a site with a ‘tour’ of the grudge house and a fictional account of one of the producers.

Apart from certain network affiliates I have not seen any increased activity across the board for web ‘snake oil publicity’ with the  exception of The Walking Dead. AMC vigorously utilized the internet in the upcoming months to the pilot  air date of The Walking Dead. They continued the vigorous net campaigning well into the second season.

Of course I’ve not mentioned the new “webisodes” that have taken the net by storm. The hugely popular The Guild, brainchild of Felicia Day is just one of many. Joss Whedon also did a webisode series which coincidentally had Felicia Day in a major role,  Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was another hugely successful venture into this new medium.

I have postulated before about how YouTube was becoming the ‘new’ television and now believe that it’s not just YouTube but the internet that is ‘becoming’ television. Either by replacing it as another medium of entertainment or influencing the direction that existing shows are going.

Think I’m exaggerating? Just check out the first related article, Dr. Horrible is going to be on television in October.