News and comments from Arthur

Odd Jobs and DIY

 Tuesday 30 Jan 2007, 6:33 PM

Arthur has been thinking for a while about getting back intot the whole "mortgage" game and moving house to somwhere a bit bigger. At this stage it is really little more than thinking " it might be something to do some time this year" and as part of that Arrthuir has begun to fix up all the nlittle odds and ends around his cureent house that have needed fixing for many, many years. Even if Arthur deosn`t end up moving, at least he;ll have all his off jobs done! In fact, calling them odd jobs isn`t entirly accurate. Some of them are qucik and easy like fixing the broekn end on a curtain pole or adding a magnetic catch to a cupbaird door. Others are somehat more involved like repainting the kitchen ceiling. And, worst of all, Arthur suspects he will end up completely redecorating one of his spre rooms. he dislikes it that much.

As part of the DIY process Arghur has been trudging rounf the various DIY shops to biy odds and ends. He also visted MFI to order a nice dark walnut bookcase for his bedroom (it matches his bedroom furniture). Whilst he was up that end of town Arthur visted the Screwfix Trade shop on a neartby industrial estate.

Arthur never likes visiting trade places as they sometimes look down on regular shoppers as they aren`t "proper" builders, plumbers etc. Screwfix weren`t too bad although there were the usual rugged looking tradesman just hanging around drinking tea. Unlike other trade places where they have a range of goods on display, Screwfix was very much a trade counter; there was nothing to pick up and buy. It was just like a DIY version of Argos complete with laminated catalogues, little forms to fill in with little pencils, one of which Arthur accidentally managed to steal (it really was an accident; it got muddled up with Arthur`s bits of paper!), a counter to pay and another counter to collect you stuff once it appeared from the warehouse behind the scenes.

Arthur had several items he wanted to see before he purchased but being a counter system made that a bit tricky and he really didn`t want to get off on the wrong foot by looking like some amatuer DIYer asking to see everyhting first! Thus Arthur just purchased his halogen lighbulbs and left, happpy in the knowledge that they had mistakenly given him 11 bulbs instead of the 10 he had asked for.

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Even more new TV

 Saturday 27 Jan 2007, 11:49 AM The Lost Room

Last Sunday the new series of 24 (series 6 as Arthur recalls) started on Sky One with a double episode. As Arthur is often out gaming on a Sunday night and, as mentioned before, currently has no means of recording TV, he had to make do with the repeat shown 6 days later on Saturday night.

As with thge last 3 or 4 series, Arthur has watched the opening few epsiodes and thought to himself "this is all a bit silly and far-feched". Yet it is strangely addictive stuff and Arthur still wants to knmow what happens next. Like all resies of 24, new charcaters are added and old ones return, often in slightly different roles to what they have been in earlier stories which helps keep thing frsh and interesting. Arthur still can`t help but feel that things are getting a bit stale and maybe they should just make the long rumoured film and then stop before it all becomes too cliched. More importantly it would give Keifer Sutherland some spare time to make a new Lost Boys film (The Lost Middle Aged Men?) although Arthur suspects that Keifer`s rapidly receeding hairline would not permit such a cool blonde mullet in the sequel.

Another recent TV series that has appeared on SKy One is The Lost Room. This is essentially a mini series that could well expand into a full blown series (much like new Battlestar Galactica did). It consists of 3 feature length epsiodes that tell the story of mysterious objects with supernatural powers, all of which are connected to a motel room in Texas, the Lost room of the title, which can only be reached using The Key, one of the aforementioned supernatual objects.

Whilst the series isn`t brilliantly acted and doesn`t have gripping, dark storylines, it is a good idea with plenty of room for twists and turns. In a way Arthur wishes it was a bit slower as they seem to be rushing though lots of good ideas and charcaters. Already it has introduced varuious groups and people who are searching for all of the objects, some of whom want to destory them, some who believe thay are fragments of God, some whom are just in it for the money etc. Hopefully it will get a proper series (unless it all warps up nicely at the end of the 3 ep[siodes made so farm which Arthur very mych doubts!) and the pace will improve a bit; somwhere between breakneck storytelling and Lost would be a good idea!

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Best. Televison. Ever.

 Wednesday 24 Jan 2007, 8:12 AM

Arthur is still utterly stunned. Last nights Battlestar Galactica was the best bit of televison he has ever seen. Full stop. In the entire history of the world. Out of all the TV shows he has ever seen. It was just amazing. Just 3 epsiodes into the new series (4 if you count the first feature length one as 2 episodes) and they go and produce something as utterly gobsmackingly good as this. It was mostly an action oriented epsiode but still found time for charcaterisation and telling the "human" story which, to be honest, is what Battlestar Galactica is all about. The special effects in this epsiode (and most other episodes if Arthur really thinks about it) put 99% of big budget Holywood action films to shame. In particular Arthur wishes he could go back in time and force George Lucas to watch this complete with a few good slaps to the face and the advice "Look you fuckwit... this is how you bring 80`s sci-fi into the new millenium!"

By the end of the epsiode Arthur was choking back the tears (yet was still chuckling to himself every time Apollo appeared on screen complete with his new "who ate all the pies" look). The only downside was be that next weeks epsiode can only go downhill from here.

Thinking of things going downhill, Arthur immediately turned over to channel 4 (actually it toook him a few minutes to compose himseLf first after the prvious hour of televisual genuius) to watch Shameless. Arthur knew the series was not as good as when it had first started but things got even worse at the end of this latest epsiode when Sheila, one of Arthur`s 2 favourite charcaters in the series, left for good! Sheila really made the series entertaining and funny with her "permanently breathless/always having an orgasm" way of speaking, and her totally insane view on the world. If Marty the pyromanic with Tourettes syndrome (Arthur`s other favourite charcater) leaves then Arthur may well give up too...

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Arthur is going mad!

 Tuesday 23 Jan 2007, 4:05 PM

Today Arthur went to a mental clinic. No really. It is all part of his slow and steady progress to overcome his fear of needles so he can get to a hospital to find out what exactly it is about local anesthetic he is alergic to.

The visit to a local hospital basically took the form of group therapy for about 12 people all of whom had some form of fear or anxiety ranging from claustrophobia to agrophobia and even to people who found their whole life hard going.

To an extent Arthur felt a bit guilty being there as there were some people for whom even getting to the meeting was a big deal but as thisng went along Arthuir could see some of the systoms popel displayd as applying to him although in smaller amounts, such as a fear of being late so always getting to places stupidly early.

The first meeting also included some breathing excercises to help cope during stressful times although Arthur was somewhat put out to discover that he was a special case and deep brathing would not stop him passing out when needles were stuck into him! (it was somehting to do with being blood phobic and the best thing to do was try and increase the blood pressure by moving around lots rather than trying to relax which really isn`t practical if someone is trying to give you an injection!). Still, Arthur has plenty more seeions to go, so he`ll see that else they have to say.

Once Arthur got home from the hospital he settled down to watch the new epsiode of Heroes he had downlaoded on Bit Torrent. Unfortunatley his first attempt was a dead loss as it was some dodgy password protected rar file, probably full of spyware and viruses. Fortunately his second attempt worked and downloaded pretty quickly too thanks to switching to Bit Tyrant (http://bittyrant.cs.washington.edu) as his new Bit Torrent client.

This latest epsiode, the first for what seems like a couple of months, was good but not great. In particular the promise of seeing Hiro fighting a dinosaur that was hinted at in a painting in the previous epsiode, was a bit of a cop out involving a life size model in a museum. But it did have former Dr Who Christopher Ecclestione as the invisible man which brightened up proceedings no end with his cheeky, chirpy British accent.

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New Projector

 Thursday 18 Jan 2007, 7:34 PM JVC Video Projector

Last night Arthur went to a demo of a new video projector he has been waiting to see, the JVD HD1. The demo was held at PJ Hifi in Guildford (visit http://www.pjhifi.co.uk) and was the first public showing of this highly anticipated projector in the UK and was attended by pone the the designers who had flown in from Japan especially for the occasion.

The demo was in fact a showndown between the new JVC and the Sony VPL-VW50 (aka The Pearl) which is the other "projector of the monent". Both projectors share simillar technology in that they are both D-ILA projectors. Arthurs current projevotr is LCD which works by shining light through LCD panels to produce an immge. The most popular technology at the monet is DLP which involves thousands of thiny mirrors on a chip that refelct licht to form the picture. D-ILA is a combination of the 2 in that it is mirrors on an LCD panel.

The advantage of D-ILA is that the LCD mirror panels are much cheaper than DLP chips so the projector can use 3 panels (one for each part of the colur spectrum; Red, Green and Blue aka RGB) as opposed to DLP which tends to use 1 chip and has a colour filter wheel which spins very fast to produce the RGB light required to make the final picture (you can get 3 chip DLP projectors but they are very expensive - usually in excess of £15,000!) The other factor that JVC are selling their new projector on is a good contarst ratio and really dark blacks (as opposed to the grey colour that Arthur gets on his current projector).

The new JVC projector was very good, and produced a better picture than the Sony although it wasn`t something that immediately hit you; thre were lots of subtle diferences, that gave the picture more life. The black levels were darker but this wans`t at the expense of the white levels so the picture still had plantyu of punch to it (The Sony projector uses an internal iris to reduce the anmount of light in dark scenes but this in turn makes the whites duller). Also the colur was more vivid and even across the screen (like ARthurs current projector, when the Sony showed an all white screen you could see the top of the screen was a pinkish white and bottom was a bit yellowy - the JVC on the other hand was plain white across the entire screen). The video processing was also better. Both projectors are full high definition (1920 x 1080 pixels which is double the number of pixels on Arthur`s current projector) but the JVC showed no jaggy lines or odd patterns when showing complex textures on the screen unlike the Sony which, during one particular shot in Mission Impossible 3 of a large wall, was interpreting the very detailed brickwork as all sorts of strange swirly patterns.

Overall the JVC prodcued a less murky, sharper, consistent picture than the Sony. Saying that, the JVC was kore expensive but, having spent the night sleeping on his decision, Arthur called PJ Hifi back the next day and placed his order for the new JVC. it is certainly light years ahead of his old Sony LCD projector. In particluar the black levels and contrast are much better and there is no visible pixel structure (watching Arthur`s current porjevtyor is like looking though a net curatin at times).

So the money has been paid. Now Arthur just has to cope with thew agonising wait for it to arrive sometime in early February (hopefully!)

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Smooth Moves

 Sunday 14 Jan 2007, 9:48 PM Warioware: Smooth Moves

Arthur only knew of this game from seeing videos on Youtube and had never heard of other Warioware titles on other Nintendo consoles. But from the moment he saw it he knew it was just the sort of game that the Wii was created for and just the utterly insane, drug incuded gameplay and visuals that only the Japanese (and Nintendo) could come up with.

The game is basically just a whole load of mini games that you complete in rapid succession with things porgressively getting faster and faster. If you complete a game you quickly move onto the next one. Fail a game and you lose one of your five lives. And when Arthur says mini games, he really does mean "mini"; a typical min game might only last 3 or 4 seconds and could involve plucking a nasal hair or sweeping away a pile of leaves.

But what makes the games interesting is that each one is played using the Wii controller held in any one of about 15 different positions. The exact style you should use to hold the controller is displayed to you as each mini game starts and then you get a sinlge line of instructions telling you what to do before the few seconds of action kicks off. In addition, even though 2 mini games may use the same style of holding the controller, you may actually use it in a totally different way.

For most games (there are over 200) it is really intuitive exactly what you have to do, even though you only get the simplest description and very little time to work things out. The only times things seem to be a bit more confusing is when some sort of Americanism is involved and to British citizens such as Arthur, it really isn`t obvious what you are supposed to be doing.

The whole mini games senario is warpped up in a series of bizzarre storylines where yhr player has to vicist various charcaters in the local town and meet their min game challanges. The graphical look of eeach series of games is determined by this story. Arthur`s favourite is Jimmy P who, after giving his umbrella to a kitten on his way to the disco, attracts a whole army of stray cats who then proceed to follow him and join him for a dance at the disco. Thus the whole level has disco dancing kittens representing lives and gliierbnalls with funky jive kittens bursting out when a game is completed succesfully, all accompanied by some great music that has Arthur dancing and singing along between games!

The only downside to all this is that is is a bit short lived and you have to complete the single payer game to unlock the multiplayer stuff. Ther eare standalone games to be unlocked as well but it really isn`t something most players are going to be playing for months to come. But it is a great game for parties and, whilst it lasts, it definitely provides lots of laughs.

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Wireless Wii

 Thursday 11 Jan 2007, 12:31 PM A Linksys Wireless Router

The final bits of Arthurs of Wii "system" have now slipped into place as Arthur has finally got a wirless connection up and going in his house. Ok so it`s only temporay as he has only borrowed the router (from Baz of www.iambaz.com fame) but at least it proves wirless communications are possible from Arthur`s airing cupboard (where the router is situated) and that the walls of his house aren`t lined with lead.

It took a bit of messing about to get it to work in that the internet connection only started working by accident (Arthur still doesn`t know quite what he did to get it going) and WEP encryption wouldn`t play ball at all and it would only connect in unencrypted mode and later on (once Arthur had proved to himself that wireless comms were possible without encryption) using some other encryption method that Arthur currently can`t recall the name of.

Once the connection was tested and working fine, the first thing the Wii did was several software updates which took 5 or 10 minutes. Arthur isn`t quite sure what these updates actually did for the machine as he hadn`t had any problems with the old software. Looking around the main Wii menu it would appear that the internet connection isn`t used that extensively at the moment; the weather channel was nicely done showing a globe that would could spin just like Goole Earth to get the weather in various cities around the world. Then there was the online shop where you could buy old games with Wii points of which Arthur currently has none (Arthur is waiting for the Nintendo VIP club to start exchanging VIP Stars for Wii points so he can get games for free rather than having to pay).

Arthur downloaded the trial version of the Opera browser which wasn`t too impressive is it seemed to lock up on an annoyingly regular basis. And finally there weas the whole Wii message board/Wii friends/Wii mail system which again was only of minor use as Arthur doesn`t know anyone else with a Wii to meet online!

Still, Arthur is sure things will get better over time and is loking forward to online multiplayer Mario Kart which must surely be coming (if not, someone senior at Nintendo really needs to be executed).

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Galactica is Back

 Wednesday 10 Jan 2007, 7:21 AM Battlestar Galactica new series logo

Hooray! Battlestar Galactica was back for its third series last night and Arthur couldn`t have abeen happier. Actually that`s a slight lie in that another programmes that Arthur wtaches, Shameless, also started a new series the same evening as well. Arthur had palnned to watch Galactica which strated at 9pm on Sky One followed immediatley by Shameless on Channel 4 at 10pm. Unfortunately, just as as Galactica started the announcer announced (as they do) that the first epsiode of the new series was feature length which meant that it clashed with Shameless.

Arthur quiuckly scrambled around to determine which of the 2 shows were being repeated and when (Arthur currently has no means of recording television as his video packed up some months ago and he has yet to find a DVD/Hard disk recorder he likes) but gave up on fear of missing the start of Galactica (that and the fact he could always fall back on downloading Shameless via Bit Torrent).

Galactica was just as good as ever and even darker and more depressing than previous series (it makes Eastenders look like a jolly old Eastend knees up! It really doesn`t get any darker than human suicide bombers destroying Cylons!) and Arthur just couldn`t tear himself away to watch Shameless even thiough he knew there was a better chance of getting a repeat of Galactica or being able to download it. Arthuir ended up watching the end of Shameless and also watched the next epsiode which was showing immediately after on E4. Tragically, whilst Galactica has been getting beyyer than ever, Shameless just isn`t as good as the first couple of series especially now that several good characters (Kev and Veronica have left). Still, Arthur will keep watching as it still has its great moments.

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Sarah Jane pwns Torchwood

 Tuesday 2 Jan 2007, 10:28 AM Sarah Jane Smith

News Years day bought a plethora of Dr Who spin off televisual entertaintment in the form of the pilot episode for The Sarah Jane Adventures and a double bill of the final 2 episodes of Torchwood.

Torchwood, which has been improving slightly in the latter half of the series, was OK. Arthur still thought the acting was rather poor and the storylines full of really stuopid plot holes and very lazy story writing.

The first episode dealt with 2 of the Torchwood crew getting trapped in 1945 after stepping through a hole in time. Cue a near neverending series of incredible leaps of logic, ridiculous coincidences and good luck so incredible that even the world`s luckiest leprechaun who had won thwe natioanl lottery every week since it was launched, would have been astounded.

The only decent charcater was the mysterious Bilis Manger who appeared in both epsiodes and whom Arthur suspects will also be popping up in Doctor Who series 3/ Shame the story that revolved around him was pretty much nonsense with no explanations at all as to why he was doing what he was doing (maybe he had a bigger agenda than summoning some random demon to stomp over a few buildings in Cardiff and all will be explained when/if he appears in the main Who series).

The second episode was a bit better still but still only ranked as average viewing. The main thing that annoyed Arthur was that (spoliers ahead) none of the main cast were killed off ; unfortunately they all survived to attempt acting in series 2. The only nice touch of the night was the time vortex machine that was a primitive version of the up/down column in the centre of the TARDIS. At last - somehting that actually ties in to the Doctor Who universe.

As much as Arthur really doesn`t care for Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures (henceforth known as SJA as Arthur is getting fed up of typing the full title), which had been shown earlier that day, was a totally different kettle of fish. How on earth Russell T Davies could have got it so wrong with Torchwood and (pretty much) right with SJA, Arthur just cannot work out. OK, so SJA is made for children and has some kiddie elements like a cheesy looking talking coumpter but it managed to pack in more plotlines, characters with backstory and emotion than the entire series of Torchwood put together. In fact SJA seemd to be everything Torchwood was supposed to be just without a load of sex, violence and swearing added for no real reason.

Arthur just thought it immediateley felt like Dr Who (probably a lot to do with Sarah Jane who is still the best ever Who assistant and is also pretty damned attractive for someone approaching 60 years old!). K9 even made a brief appearance although only for one scene that effectively (and conveniently) writes him out of the entire series which is due to appear at some other time later on in the year. Overall a very entertaining start and Arthur just hopes that once the series gets going it doesn`t suffer from being cut down to half hour epsiodes rather than the hour long pilot.

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New Years Wii

 Monday 1 Jan 2007, 10:35 AM

Well, Choices delivered nice and quickly and the Wii controller (plus mini games) arrived a couple of days after it was ordered. The games in Wii Play areen`t anyhting special; they are mainly designed to show of how the controller works and get peole used to it. A couple are good for multiplayer action (Laser Pong and Battle Tanks) and the 8 ball pool is a simple but effective game for solo players. Arthur has certainly be going back to these games on and off over the past few days for some light entertainment.

Arthur also had to get an add on nunchuck controller as well. Unfortunately all the online shops were out of stock so Arthur had to go round town trying to find one. Despite much cycling and popping into every conceivable retailer of electrical goods Arghur could think of, he didn`t manage to find one until the day before new years eve when he checked the Argos "Call and Collect" service and found they ahd got some new stock in overnight. it was a simple matter of reservinf one then popping down to the shop to pay for it from the automated till and collect it from the assigned collection point.

Arthur is certainly glad he managed to get the extra controllers as multiplayer Wii action provided much entertainment at a friends party on New Years ever. Of particular note was the normally placid mother of 2, Becky, who, once playing Wii Sports Boxing, went into a whirling frenzy of rage and agression which pummelled all comers into submission. Athur would have suggested she had some unresolved anger issues but he was far too scared. Previous Wii Sports boxing champion TC also came unstuck after his 6 year old step daughter beat him; oh the shame...

Arthur blames his poor performance on most games that evening on feeling unwell after eating far to much food.

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