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I have now finished all five seasons of The Wire, and all I can really say is that it was brilliant television. It's dramatic, certainly, but in the proper sense of the word - the drama in The Wire builds slowly, and what you think must be cast-iron plot-arcs get undercut brutally with life on the streets' inevitably senseless killings. There were definitely moments in the series where something unexpected happens to a character you really ... are invested in (to say that you 'care' about them might imply an inappropriate idea of fondness), where you go 'Bu.. Wh..?'

Which is good stuff.

But it's really the characters that make this show:

Stringer Bell: second in command of the Barksdale Empire, he's trying to make it as a legit propery developer (the irony seems to escape him), but discovers that trying to escape your past is a tricky thing. And Stringer has a lot of past that wants to catch up with him. There are some glorious moments in S3 between Bell and Avon Barksdale, where it's clear that the two's motivations in life (Avon just lives for the gangster lifestyle) are going to lead to a falling-out.

Jimmy McNulty: doesn't play well with others; McNulty is the homicide detective who kicks the whole series off by going behind his bosses' backs to get a friendly judge to demand that the police investigate Barksdale. McNulty's an 'end-justifies-the-means' kinda guy, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Season 5, where you learn just how far he's prepared to go to get what he wants.

Bunk: rarely seen without his pinstripe suit and chomping on a cigar - he looks even sharper with the fedora, Bunk is real Po-lice, and is something of the voice of conscience in the final season. One of the most memorably scenes in S1 is of Bunk and McNulty checking out a murder scene - the dialogue and interplay between the two just speaks of absolute partnership and skill, although the rational mind suspects that the scriptwriters wrote the scene on a bet.

Lester Freamon: when McNulty's machinations result in the department being tasked with setting up a detail to investigate Barksdale, management elect to staff it with the waste of spaces and cast-offs that litter the place. Freamon is one such person, who's spent the last 13 years (and 4 months) placed in the pawn shop department but, it seems, mainly spinning a lucrative sideline by making dolls' house furniture at his desk. However, there's more to Freamon than meets the eye, and as Daniels says in a later season, Freamon is the Major Crimes Unit. Turns out that Freamon is, indeed, real Po-lice, and that the pawn shop placement was vindictive retribution for upsetting his superiors in an earlier case.

William Rawls: speaking of vindictive superiors, Rawls starts off in S1 as the vindictive commander of the Homicide unit, and man is he gloriously, unrepentently, bullyingly nasty! There's a scene after one of McNulty's colleagues has been shot, and McNulty's taken it very much to heart as being his fault: Rawls' consolation scene is sheer genius, and yet at the same time demonstrates integrity... in a sort of twisted way. Watching Rawls mercilessly tear his subordinates to pieces in the COMSTAT meetings in S4 is also a sort of guilty pleasure of the show.

Rhonda Pearlman: it's a cop show, centred mainly around the drug trade in Baltimore, so there aren't that many female characters. Pearlman is the District Attorney who ends up working a lot of the cases that Major Crimes brings to bear - she has a history with McNulty (and is part of the reason for his divorce), but he's not exactly good to her, but that's mostly back story. Pearlman really comes into her own during S5, although she's an ever-present throughout.

Ziggy Sobotka: in S2, we move to the city docks, to investigate potential corruption/smuggling/trafficking there. Ziggy is the union leader's son, and as is mentioned more than once, 'that boy's not right'. Ziggy's an idiot, and yet remarkably human and vulnerable. S2 had a host of interesting and intriguing characters, and was on the whole a pretty bleak storyline, but the whole would be much less without Zig.

Snoop: like I said, there aren't too many female characters in The Wire, but props to the show for making one of them the absolute stand-out most terrifying person I've ever seen on TV. Snoop is one of Marlo's hench-people, and it's not her skill that makes her scary so much as her complete 'other-worldness'. Chris, her partner, is a classic hard, hard guy, but it's Snoop that scared me, in every single scene that she was in.

Proposition Joe: Avon Barksdale ran East Baltimore. Prop Joe had the West Side; an aging drug-lord, running his empire from an appliance repair shop, Joe comes across as almost gentlemanly, until you get an insight into the control he exerts on operations, and how he has no compunctions about double-crossing people, and getting threats eliminated.

Omar: absolutely freakin' rocks.

Bone Idle

Jan. 29th, 2010 08:16 am
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I drove in today - normally, of course, I walk, but I'm still feeling pretty flaky, and I also wanted to take a detour via the Sorting Office to double-check that a missing eBay purchase wasn't languishing in the Royal Mail's dungeons sans Castle Fox notification card.

It wasn't :-/ So I'm chasing up the eBay seller at the moment. Joy.

I finished watching Edge of Darkness last night - good, good stuff from the 80s; quality drama, good storyline, excellent acting, but perhaps a little slow-paced compared to today's fare. On the other hand, I had a great time geeking out over all those 80s cars. The music is an Eric Clapton/Michael Kamen combo, and those two brought in David Sandborn to do the soundtrack to the first of the Lethal Weapons. The wheel turns full circle when you note that Mel Gibson was the star of Lethal Weapon, and he's again the star of the Edge of Darkness remake being released this year.

I've also just finished reading (well, actually, listening) to Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, mainly because that's the current discussion book for the Sword and Laser podcast. It had some nice touches, although I have to confess that I suspected whodunnit rather early on (perhaps as a consequence of the book's rather limited cast). Still, some interesting stuff therein, particularly about the psychology of a post-death society, and in a world of near-infinite resource, how they get around the money problem.
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Having mentioned Edge of Darkness in the previous post, I thought I'd amble over to the Wikipedia entry, where the following sentence struck me:

The series' director, Martin Campbell is filming a remake...

Awesome! The original director, filming a remake. YES!!!

...for release in 2010...

And I don't even have to wait that long for it!!! *bounces*

starring Mel Gibson

WTF??? *ded*
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The Guardian has compiled a list of the top 50 television dramas of all time.

The West Wing is at number 11, The Wire close behind at 14. Somewhat bizarrely, Buffy is there at 22 ('drama'), which makes Battlestar Galactica's inclusion at 25 a little less incongruous.

Given the spread, I'm surprised that Edge of Darkness didn't warrant inclusion, and if they're going to allow Buffy and BSG, you'd have thought that Firefly, however short-lived, might have warranted a mention. And I understand that some people rate Stargate: SG1 as above average, too :-)
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After gingerly walking in through the Snap! Crackle! and Pop! of a thin layer of ice over yesterday's snow dusting, I'm back at the Office (II), and was very much looking forward to warming my gloveless (they went missing over the festive period - must replace. Seriously must) hands opn a mug of boiling water (for I am still coffee-free™), to discover that our 'instant' boiling water machine isn't producing forth vast torrents of instant boiling water... more what you might call lukewarm-ish.

Hopefully normal service will be resumed shortly - the beast has been switched off over the Christmas break, and needs some time to get back up to operating temperature. Of course, since we have instant hot water on tap, we don't have a kettle...

I've got some background processes running on the PC which would've been much better run over the Christmas break, but that only occurred to me once I was home, and I'd powered down the work PC, so I couldn't remote desktop in to set things in motion. So that was a bit shortsighted of me, but nothing terminal.

DVD-wise, The Wire continues to prove rivetting viewing - the cinematography in the penultimate episode of S3 (the showdown in the empty house with Omar and Brother Mouzone) is awesome (Omar rocks), whilst in matters literary, Rachel Caine's Carpe Corpus, Morganville VI is looking set to be my first book of 2010 - I'm about half way through at the moment, but keep getting distracted by both The Wire and Assassin's Creed II.
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2009 has been a bit of an up and down year, all told, but I think I'm ending it better than I started, and I'm hoping that's what's important.

I read a lot of books - my target was 36, and I got past that. Next year's target will again be 36, but I'm going to try and read more non-fiction (new Sook notwithstanding). And I'm definitely going to try to read less Stephanie Meyer in the new year. Heck, if I could unread Breaking Dawn, I most definitely would.

We moved buildings at work in October (if memory serves): overall, I prefer the new place to the old, if only because we're squirrelled away somewhat, which means fewer walk-in distractions. Colleague H and I have been assigned a full-on project for the new year, which could well take some getting into, so I'm expecting January and onwards to be pretty busy.

DVD-wise, I've obviously discovered The Wire, which is seriously, seriously good. I've yet to finish either Battlestar Galactica or Prison Break, and I have the first five seasons of Lost waiting to go through too. As for Flash Forward, though, I think I'm going to give up on that one.

I don't really remember too many notable films. Coraline was OK, but nothing compared to the book. The Star Trek reboot was certainly watchable, but not ground-breaking. Avatar, ultimately, disappointed. Was there a stand-out film this year?

I've just received a 'Happy New Year!' text from a number I don't recognise... have at least returned the good wishes, but I hate it when that happens!

Anyway, have a good New Year, all you people! Hope 2010 brings you all things good! :D
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In what must be a first, the Barclays ATM on Chants only had £5 notes this evening... this is quite remarkable, as the poor fiver is becoming an increasingly rare beastie, seldom spotted in the wild.

Have some picspam: The Grauniad's Iconic Images of the Decade. Some good stuff therein.

I'm currently reading a John Grisham novel - I could tell you the title, but there's not a whole lot of point since they're all essentially the same story, told over and over again. I will say, though, that in painting his protagonists and adversaries, Grisham manages to make Avatar look like a subtle and nuanced film... (So why read it? 'cos it's there, and I do kinda have a soft spot for popcorn legalish thriller stuff)

Still watching The Wire, and I think I'm going to declare it my favourite TV series as of now - it's not as quotable as Firefly, nor as pretty as Heroes. It's not as heartwarming as The West Wing, nor as sexy as True Blood... but it has a subtle, understated quality with excellent acting and genuinely complex storylines. So if you were wondering, yes, it is that good.
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Am ploughing through S2 of The Wire at the moment, and it continues to be excellent, in an understated, considered sort of fashion. It has none of the glossy sheen that marks things like Flash Forward, Lost and Heroes, but what sets it really apart is the depth of the characterisations.

Also, Bunk is DA MAN! He is awesome, and looking exceptionally sharp in his suit/hat/cigar combo :D

After the first season's escapades, McNulty has wound up patrolling the docks on the police boat, and S2 concentrates mainly on dockside action. But we're still keeping up to date with Barksdale's empire over at the Towers, and office politics within the police continue to have a key role in how things play out.

So, yes, definitely good stuff - I'm about half way through S2, future updates as and when.
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Quick update whilst I transfer The Wire 1x13 to a USB drive to watch on the XBox (yes, I could just as easily watch it on the PC, but I prefer the XBox, and it's the one with sound, which is obviously beneficial).

Out walking Mali on the ice this morning, and was pulled flying to land hard in the middle of the road. Predictably, there was a wide and varied audience, and it grieves me to confess that a car stopped to enquire after my health in the aftermath.

Me, I was fine - light bruising to hand, more bruising to ego. Ah well.

Have read Morganville IV, moved swiftly on to Morganville V. P and I went to see Avatar, review to follow tomorrow, methinks. Will note that there were trailers for Percy Jackson and Alice in Wonderland, and a great big display in the foyer for Sherlock Holmes, along with the trailer, which suddenly made me slightly more warmly disposed to the concept...

Am spending this evening finishing off Season 1 of The Wire, which is excellent.

DVD Shrink

Dec. 17th, 2009 08:11 am
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DVD Shrink )
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It's 3pm and it's dark out there - and wet, too :-/

P & I have just returned from a mission to a deli in Beverley where I'd ordered a Christmas hamper for the parental units. Long-term readers may suspect that I'm singularly ill-equipped to judge the quality of a foodie's hamper as a present... and they'd be right, but I figure even if I have, by some stroke of misfortune, managed to duplicate existing beverages and/or consumables in the parental abode, they'll still get used eventually, right? And it looks impressive. Have also got some DVDs and books for them, so I think I'll be calling it a day/week/month/year on present buying on that front, at least.

Comradette K got me into the Morganville Vampires books by Rachel Caine by lending me the first two instalments. I, in turn, suggested to [personal profile] cynthia_black that [personal profile] aki_itsuki might enjoy them, given her prediliction for things vampish, and it so happens that she's now reading them faster than I am. Which means that book 3 has been borrowed from Grimmauld Place, rather than Comradette K's library shelves. 's all good, either way: actually, Book III is proving to be quite fun (it's notable that both Oliver and Monica have both commented to Claire that she's now a proper player in Morganville, as a consequence of her derrings do in tomes previous), and is more than compensating for the suspicion that Book 2 didn't quite have the same 'zing' about it as the opener).

I started a new gamer profile on the 360 - RedDogFever (you have to pick a unique gamer tag, and I chose that because, hey, what were the odds of it already having been claimed? Absolutely), and have thus set about building up my gamer score through the noble art of Achievement Hunting on Braid and Geometry Wars, principally. We've also picked up Defense Grid, a Tower Defen(c/s)e game that's rather addictive, although the achievements on offer in that look as though they're going to take a lot of playing hours. The 'proper' discs at Castle Fox (the aforementioned all being XBox Live Arcade titles downloaded to the hard disk) are Forza 3 and Assassin's Creed II. I've made a start on the former, but I think it's the latter that's going to be taking up my evenings when I'm not Wired.

Speaking of The Wire, the h264 rip of 1x01, courtesy of Badaboom player rather nicely (albeit with a 'watermark' bottom left that I'm hoping the full version dispenses with). What was more noticable, though, was that I was able to understand a little more of the witness speech when he was talking to McNulty in the opening scene...

And finally, I got my hair cut yesterday.


Dec. 11th, 2009 08:51 pm
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Badaboom is a media converter that transcodes various input files to render your *cough* DVD backups *cough* in h264, tailored for iPod/PSP/XBox/PS3 etc.

The clever bit is that it uses the (Nvidia) GPU to handle the transcoding, rather than the CPU, which is a Good Thing because graphics cards are designed to handle masses of parallel computation of the type you get in transcoding video.

To this end, even though I'm actually transcoding TheWire-1x01 in the background, I can type this post in Firefox without too much lag, whereas had I used something like AutoGordianKnot, Ione would've ground to a near complete halt as my (admittedly feeble) CPU melted.

Badaboom ain't free - I'm running ep 1 of The Wire as my test case to see how it renders on the XBox before deciding whether to buy the full version (which is only c£20, so not exactly prohibitive), but it seems to have a decent interface with some sensible presets, doesn't seem to crash as often as handbrake and is less convoluted than AGK, so it could be the thing I've been looking for (aside, of course, from the 1TB drive to put all these DVD rips on).

Badaboom won't rip encrypted DVDs (basically, just about all commercial ones), but DVD Shrink is my friend on that one. DVD Shrink is a cool utility, but you have to sleuth around a bit to find a downloadable executable, because it's allegedly not wholly legal to point to it. So when you do locate your source, it would be advisable to run an MD5 checksum to get some reassurance that you're installing what you thought you were installing...

Proper post on DVD -> h264 file coming up somewhen, with pretty pictures 'n everything...

The Wire

Dec. 10th, 2009 01:32 pm
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I'm about eight episodes into Season 1 of The Wire right now, which is proving to be pretty good, although sometimes I struggle to remember all the characters' names, and trying to keep up to speed when the characters are all conversing in street-parlance does require a fair bit of concentration.

Baltimore is portrayed as gritty and seedy, and the cops themselves aren't exactly angels throughout the piece. The interplay between McNulty and Bunk (particularly their conversation when they're scoping out the scene of a long-dormant murder case) is wonderful, and Herc and Carver are a cool kinda team. I like Lester and Bubbs, haven't quite worked out how I feel about D'Angelo just yet.
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I have finally managed to get around to starting S4 of Battlestar Galactica. To get in the correct frame of mind, I dug out the final episode of S3 (that's the Watchtower ep, which may or may not have been prompted by yesterday's posting of the vids to Michael Hedges' covers of said), and remembered all over again why I like this show.

S4, the box set, starts off with Razor on a single disc. I actually bought Razor separately, but hadn't ever managed to get around to watching it, and now I discover that I possess two copies thereof. This time I am seeing it through, though, but given that I was expecting to be nibbling away at S4 perhaps a couple of episodes at a time, and I'd already watched that S3 ep, I've had to stall part way through.

In other news, I feel cold: so much so, in fact, that I'm wearing a scarf. Indoors.
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So, P and W and I went to see Cirque de Freak: The Vampire's Assistant yesterday - fairly bland fare, to be honest; there are better vampire flicks about, and I think I'll have to dig out The Lost Boys for P soon so that he gets to appreciate the genre a little better.

I've also been lent Glass Houses, Book I of the Morganville Vampires by Rachel Caine, which was recommended to me by a colleague - the same colleague, as it happens, who pushed Twiglet on me.

Y'all know about my Sookie thing, and there's always Buffy ticking along in the background. I really ought to re-read Dracula (good, good book), but I'm starting to see Teh Neil's grumble about vampires appearing to be a food group, rather than a spice...
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MSN had this article about how these floating cities could be the solution to forced adaptation to rising sea-levels as a consequence of climate change:

floating city

I think they're pretty, certainly, although oddly they put me more in mind of the Arcologies of Old Earth rather than Pernik et al of Atlantis. If that sentence made no sense whatsoever, get thee to thy Peter F Hamilton pronto (Night's Dawn Trilogy).

Getting back to the floating metropli, though, it's all sadly impractical: the cities themselves are each designed to accommodate 50,000 people. The resource cost of construction looks as though it would be massive, which suggests that these floating conurbations are probably going to end up as pseudo-gated communities for the super-wealthy. That said, I'd be tempted.

For a slightly more realistic accommodation scenario, here's Tetris being played with Berlin apartment blocks.

In other news, I've finished S1 of True Blood.True Blood S1 )
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This entry comes to y'all from my brand new different office. Yep, yesterday finally saw the phone line being connected in my target abode, so I shifted across to take up residence in the new office. The transition's been mostly seamless: still awaiting the phone extension to be mapped - the phone itself is live, but has a different extension to my old office. A request is in for the latter to be mapped to the former, so that I end up with no change, but for the time being I'm coping with the lack of telephonic contact, rest assured.

The new building being at the opposite end of the site to Castle Fox, walking home and back during lunch to check on Mali has become impractical - it was borderline before, but the extra 5+ mins each way pushes the logistics firmly into indulgent territory, so I'm back on the bike. However, secure parking is something of an issue, and I may need to investigate my options on that score (I'm explicitly forbidden from bringing the bike into the building {Reg 4(e) applies}).

The only other downside is the lack of a printer. Since we are hardly ever required to print, and really I only ever print out the daily Killers, I'm not sure how much fuss I can legitimately make... might make more sense to get a printer for Castle Fox, but the trouble then is that I find that any printer gets such insufficient use that the cartridges dry up before they run out.

In other news (quite literally), congratulations clearly due to [personal profile] yvi on the 300 support points that [site community profile] dw_news announced in the weekly update! :D

My unwatched DVDs are starting to build up: I've got BSG S4 and Prison Break S3 to watch, plus True Blood S1 should be arriving next week - Comradette K DVR'd the first episode of True Blood for me a couple of weeks back, and that on top of the bookses constituted sufficient evidence for me to plump for the discs there and then. Flicking back to BSG and Prison Break, both of those will then have only a single season outstanding for me before canon is closed, so it sort of makes sense to complete the set...</justification>
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There are cliffhangers.

There are really mean cliffhangers.

And then there's the final episode of the one and only season of My Own Worst Enemy. This was cliff supreme. Seriously, I swore at the monitor.

Why was this show cancelled? *wails*

The premise is a sort up updating of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, with Christian Slater (who's lookin' good throughout) playing a sleeper agent for JANUS, some part of US intelligence. By day he's Henry, a mild mannered, do-good executive, with two kids, (very pretty) wife, dog and typical suburban life. On missions he's Edward, walking angel of death. He gets flipped between the two by Tony, who operates a switch that's literally been implanted in ... their collective brain.

Coming back from a mission, Tony pastes in false memories into Henry's mind, and when he 'wakes up', he has no idea that Edward even exists.

Until the switch breaks and Henry starts waking up on mission, and Edward returns in family situations. Some of the coolest exchanges are when Edward and Henry have conversations with one another by recording themselves when they feel the mind-switch coming on...

It's really smart: it's got spying, action, gadgets. It's funny, surprising, and is full of twists. And it seems well shot 'n stuff. Some of the product placements are a bit in your face, but I can live with that.

However, it got cancelled in its first season, and it seems clear to me that the writers obviously got together and said 'Right: you're going to cancel us? Then watch this...'

It's only 9 eps long, but is definitely a lot of fun. Anyone else out there seen it?
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Back in Hull, and just returned to Castle Fox having seen District 9, which was *awesome*... although the ending seemed to be developing a touch of sequelitis. Definitely worth watching (a couple of gruesome bits, mind), and probably best to go in completely 'cold', as I did, knowing next to nothing about the plot.

I'm still ploughing my way through Sookie Stackhouse canon - finished Definitely Dead earlier this evening, and am now on All Together Dead. I'll probably cobble a review for each in due course, but just wanted to reassure you all that I haven't broken my addiction I've not lost my stride :-)

Remember the American missionary people doorstepping me in previous weeks here at Castle Fox? They pounced on my in Haywards Heath, too! Same American Christian dudes, same $63,000* smiles, same name badges.

Same response from me, too (because I've had some practice now).

The trip computer in the car told me that through the course of the week's trip I'd driven 638 miles averaging 51.4mpg, with an overall average speed of 40mph. Both the journey down and the journey back up were remarkably undistinguished - I prefer the A1/M11/Dartford Crossing route to my previously favoured M18/M1/Heathrow course. There's not much in it, either distance-wise or timewise. It's basically a 6 hour journey each way, but rather than worry too fixedly about what time I'm going to arrive, I just settle in for the duration.

HMV have a sale on, so I've picked up Buffy S2 (finally), along with the Box Set of The West Wing (for completeness' sake: at £50, it seemed silly not to).

* not quite the full deal


Aug. 28th, 2009 07:58 am
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Had a strange dream last night, about being at Uni, attending a lecture on some kind of exploration thingy. The amusing thing was that [personal profile] carolanne5 was there - she got to the lecture about 3 seconds before the lecturer started talking, because her living arrangements meant that her commute took her through 12 countries, each way :-)

In other news, Castle Fox's interwebz are as dead as the proverbial doornail. Which causes issues for my daily OotP chapter discussion, but I'll see what I can do to work around that... looks likely that the posts are going to shift to mornings, but they should still be 24 hours apart, so people will still have time to read each chapter, I hope.

Comradette K has lent me the DVD to Twiglight. It's sitting here on top of the PC at the moment, and I'm wondering if I dare take it home to watch, or whether I should just pretend. I fear the latter might prove slightly healthier for my sanity.


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