Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Now my perfect Sunday...

We're breaking out the Hot Fuzz quotations this time (sorry Joss), as the most prominent subject in my mind is my perfect Sunday. The perfect Sunday that I just had.

So. My perfect Sunday. It kicked off with, as most Sundays do now, with being at work. It was a beautiful, sunny day and anyone familiar with the English weather's current behavioural patterns will know that it just hasn't been sunny for a long while. The typical English response to this - mass exodus from their houses, descend on their town centres and then harass poor, innocent cafe workers with their relentless tide of tedious requests.

I assure you I am not in the least bit bitter about any of this. Honestly.

Anyway, back to my perfect Sunday. So far, you might think it had been a bit pants. I'd been stuck inside all day, serving the general population who were enjoying the sunshine. But strangely enough, that didn't manage to detract from how nice my day became. If anything, it provided a much needed contrast, thus balance, enabling my day to be perfect.

Could I say "perfect" any more? I'll let you keep the running score.

Eventually, work finished, I managed to run away. Now, a bit of context here. My laptop died after three years of noble service (this post is being crafted on my housemate's Mac. The switch around of the @ and " keys is still a little disconcerting). Due to this, when I arrived home on Sunday, I did not automatically switch on said deceased laptop and check my emails. Instead, I made myself a pot of tea (Moroccan mint. Finest kind), stretched myself out on a sofa in our now clean and tidy living room and proceeded to blitz my way through The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov.

About half an hour into these extremely pleasant and relaxed proceedings, I had my epiphany. I was in the middle of my perfect Sunday. Everything was calm and peaceful, I had a good book and some damn good tea (thank you Teahouse Emporium!). All was well. The Universe was in balance. Could it get any better?

Apparently so.

You see, I am a man of infinitely useless knowledge. And that knowledge occasionally finds a convenient outlet in a pub quiz setting. So when my friend Phoenix text me and asked if I wanted to go to the quiz, my evening was pretty much set.

Quick aside: my close friends all have call signs. This is a result of extreme Battlestar Galactica geekdom, which manifested in August 2010. My wingman, Starbuck (so named for the obvious reason of being my wingman...or really wingwoman), was elsewhere while I was at a club, where I was hoping to run into a girl I had met (/Starbuck had made sure I talked to). In a moment of nervous geekdom, I text Starbuck for advice and called her the aforementioned call sign. It stuck. Since then, many people have call signs. I received mine (from Starbuck) in November 2010: Achilles. Why? Because girls are my Achilles' Heel.

They really, really are.

So anyway, pub quiz with Phoenix, Starbuck's boyfriend Wench and two other mutual friends who have yet to receive call signs, rounded off my perfect Sunday. We may have only placed 5th, but it was still an extremely enjoyable evening.

There you have it. My perfect Sunday. Tea, a good book, followed by a damn good quiz. Tradition to continue next week, with different tea, different book, but same quiz and more than likely the same team. But who knows? The future holds many wonderful possibilities. Assassin Girl could come into the cafe and I could finally pluck the courage to ask her out. Kindle Girl might impress me first. A rampaging mob of respectable feminists may murder me for the previous two comments. The editor of SFX could come back in, I would recognise him this time (not just his Mass Effect N7 hoodie) and the resulting conversation could land me my dream job.

If only.

Alternatively, I settle for him noticing the Twitter post linking to this blog, reading it, putting two and two together and then offering me a job...

I get the feeling I'll see Assassin Girl before then...

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Eggs. The Living Legend Needs Eggs.

Once again, I'm borrowing a line from Firefly, but it appears to be my thing. That and it just seems that Joss Whedon managed to conceive a line of dialogue for every occasion. Joss is Boss. Fact. Just wait. Avengers is going to prove that. The trailer has shown us this already.

However, as much as Avengers is so awesome it's getting mentioned again, this is more about Pancake Day. Hence why I'm quoting Jayne Cobb. Today at work someone wondered what was the deal behind Pancake Day (though I'm fairly sure they phrased it as "Shrove Tuesday", Pancake Day's official name). My response - "Jesus. It's something to do with Jesus."

Now why am I babbling about this? I'm a fatalist. To that end, let's talk about the pancakes. Or, more precisely, the failure of our experiment with coffee in the pancake mix. I think the failure was the result of the kind of coffee used (at this point, I have *definitely* worked in the coffee industry too long). We used soluble coffee granules, the kind from a jar. The problem was I expecting something like iced coffee. You know, shot or two of espresso in the mix, that would've worked. A note for next time.

Okay, so I'll be honest. A bit underwhelmed by Pancake Day this year. I had, pretty much, one pancake. Well, two. One coffee pancake and one regular pancake. With cherries. I don't the cherries were the problem. My inability to find maple syrup, that was a problem. Must admit, I'm also fearing a slight Christmas Effect here. Allow me to elaborate.

Ever found that, as you grow up, Christmas becomes less and less exciting? Back in the day, as a kid, you couldn't wait. You'd wake up at ridiculous o'clock, sneak into the living room and watch really, really random CGI animation things (that you only ever found at Christmas and still have no clue what it was called), desperate to open those presents staring at you from under the tree because you've already exhausted everything that was left in the stocking. Or, in the case of my later years, under my little Christmas tree. This is the Christmas Effect - over time, excitement decreases. Has this happened to Pancake Day for me?

Well, just going to have to wait until 2013 to figure that out. For now, I'm blaming no maple syrup. Maple syrup was good last year. Also, my flipping technique needs a *lot* of work.

Random digression time. Mass Effect time. Just finished my second playthrough of the first Mass Effect. Finally decided to get around to playing Mass Effect 2. Not played very much yet. Enjoying so far nonetheless. Don't think I'll have it done in time to play Mass Effect 3. I'm saying Mass Effect a lot today. Mass Effect.

Oh, now here's something good to babble about. My growing collection of Quantum Mechanix swag. My last post prior to my list of top ten villains mentioned my anticipation of the arrival of my Claudia Donovan (of Warehouse 13 fame) maquette and F-302 (Stargate SG-1 fame) replica. But, thanks to QMx's ability to torture me with awesome stuff (namely free Firefly buttons), I now have a Viper keychain. Attached to my bag. Complimenting my Quantum Mechanix rocket (which came with my River Tam maquette) and my Millenium Falcon Lego keychain that was a gift from my nephews when they went to Legoland Windsor.

I still haven't been. A fact that still torments me to this day.

So yes. I have my new QMx swag now. Claudia is now dutifully guarding my GameCube and, by extension, looking down on me whenever I'm watching a DVD or playing a video game. Thankfully, not in a judgemental manner.

Pictures of my QMx swag will follow. Eventually...

Now to wrap this up with some kind of profound thought. "He who asks is a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask remains a fool forever." Chinese Proverb. I think that's pretty profound.

Friday, 3 February 2012

I want to be an achiever. Like Bad Horse.

At work today I was struck by my not uncommon compulsion to sing, but something was very, very wrong. Not with my song choice - Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. But with my ability to remember the songs. I mean, this is Dr Horrible. A work of Joss Whedon. I can recall all the words to the Buffy musical episode "Once More, With Feeling" (a phrase that, I must say, I don't get to use as often as I would like to!), but somehow, Dr Horrible escaped me.

This, was most definitely, a problem. One which I resolved, somewhat easily, by putting it on as soon as I arrived home from work. And, a tad naturally, it sparked my neuro-synaptic relays. Or, in other words, I started thinking. About villains. About my favourite villains.

Oh yes children! It's time for my top ten run-down of my all time favourite villains!  As always, spoilers will be avoided as much as possible, but apologies for any that slip in.

10: Darth Vader (Star Wars)

Ever moaned about your boss breathing down your neck? Feared his or her wrath if you didn't do your job properly? Then spare a thought for the poor men and women of the Galactic Empire. Failed to stop those pesky Rebels from stealing the Death Star plans? Were those really the droids you were looking for? Then watch out, because Darth Vader isn't above using the Force to choke the life out of you. He's also a pretty mean duellist with a lightsaber. Just ask Obi-Wan Kenobi.

9: Julian Sark (Alias)

He's dashingly handsome, dashingly devious and has an uncanny knack for keeping himself alive. Captured numerous times by the CIA over his criminal career and yet this sneaky little bugger always manages to escape. How does he do it? His response to Sydney Bristow and Michael Vaughn should sum it up - "Not a problem. My loyalties are flexible." Enough said really.

8: Dick Jones (RoboCop)

When it comes to money-grabbing, amoral capitalists, none do it better than Dick Jones, Senior Vice President, Omni Consumer Products. The driving force in the ED-209 programme, mastermind behind a criminal underworld, general all-round jackass. His departure from his service to OCP is particularly memorable too. Ronny Cox has played many a villainous jackass in his brilliant career, but his portrayal of Dick Jones makes him the definitive corporate villain.

7: Robert "Sideshow Bob" Terwilliger (The Simpsons)

Voiced wonderfully by Kelsey Grammer, Sideshow Bob is quite possibly one of the most charming villains ever to grace animation. I mean, who else would consent to his arch-nemesis' last request of a performance of the entire score from Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore? That's right. No one but Sideshow Bob. Though it has to be said, he really didn't need to rig his mayoral election. But oh well. Still a wonderful villain.

6: GLaDOS (Portal)

Genetic Lifeform and Disc Operating System. Quite possibly the most deranged and psychotic Artificial Intelligence since the seminal HAL 9000 from 2001. As can plainly be seen, Ellen McLain's completely off-its-axle AI beats out its forerunner to the number six spot. There's nothing more joyous, yet also incredibly creepy, than hearing her synthesised voice taunting you throughout the game. "I think we can put our differences behind us...for Science. You monster."

5: Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

"Home sweet home." Oh yes, Spike. You did very much make Sunnydale your home. Crashing through the town's sign in "School Hard", Spike made one heck of an entrance to the Hellmouth, then went on to make his awesome speech about the Crucifixion, the first of many epic monologues. But none finer than my favourite Spike episode, "Lover's Walk" - "Love isn't brains, children, it's blood! Blood screaming inside you to work its will! I may be love's bitch, but at least I man enough to admit it." And a damn fine man, and villain, you are Spike.

4: Hans Gruber (Die Hard)

"You asked for miracles, Theo, I give you the F.B.I." When villains come as slick and sneering as Alan Rickman, you'll overlook his less-than-German accent. Every word from that man's lips are just so beautifully enunciated that it doesn't matter that he's not an evil dictator of the galaxy, maniacal AI or corporate tool, he's an amazing villain. In his own words - "I am an exceptional thief, Mrs McClane. And since I'm moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite." Genius. And classically educated too.

3: The Master (Doctor Who)

Although his name would say otherwise, The Master isn't master of this list, but he comes frakking close! Alas, my early Who knowledge is limited mostly to "Genesis of the Daleks" and Jon Pertwee's adventures with the Autons, so it's John Simm's joyously evil performance as the megalomaniac Master that snags the number three spot. As seen with Sideshow Bob, it's not uncommon for villains to attain political office. But only The Master would go Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, gas his entire cabinet at their first meeting, then go on to completely take over the world and successfully capture the Doctor. Now that's villainy.

2: Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (X-Men)

Shown here by the wonderful Michael Fassbender, but also including Sir Ian McKellan's classic performance as the X-Men villain, he is just short of my favourite villain, but by a tiny margin. It was a very close race. For me, Magneto is made exceptionally brilliant by a remark in the third film (many deny it existed, but sorry guys, it did happen and it had some pretty good moments) - "Charles Xavier did more for mutants than you will ever know. My single greatest regret is that he had to die for our dream to live." It his genuine respect for his own nemesis, his old friend, that elevates Erik Lehnsherr above your rank and file villains. And we can only hope that Michael Fassbender will continue to breathe new life into the character as the franchise continues. Also, it gives the ladies a villain to swoon over.

1: Mayor Richard Wilkins III (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

That's right kids, it's a Buffy villain snagging the top spot, but not just any old Buffy villain. The Mayor, polite, dedicated public servant of Sunnydale, very particular about hygiene and very disapproving of swearing, but also not adverse to murder and devouring Sunnydale High students and staff (sorry, Snyder) in order to achieve ascension to pure demon form. There's just something that simultaneously warms and chills the soul about the Mayor. He's an equal opportunities employer - humans, renegade Slayers, vampires. In the Mayor's Sunnydale, everyone gets a fair chance. Well, right up until he becomes a giant snake. But thanks to the Mayor, Sunnydale High, class of 1999, gets one hell of a graduation ceremony. Kudos, Mr Mayor. Kudos.