News and comments from Arthur

Totoro meets the Neighbours!

 Wednesday 29 Nov 2006, 7:03 PM Sky Mangel, Harold Bishop and Totoro

Today`s episode of Neighbours was particularly good as not only did it feature a character death (always a good plotline), but Arthur`s favourite Japanese animation director (and head of Studio Ghibli) Hayao Miyazaki got a mention!

Unconventional late teen/early 20`s hippy Sky Mangel (daughter of the now legendary Joe Mangel) decided to celebrate Miyazakis birthday by watching some of his films. Then her on/off boyfriend Dylan (who thinks he is the father of Sky`s as yet unborn baby when the real father is fact his younger brother!) got back from a 2 week cookery course with a gift of a large cuddly Totoro! Fantastic!

Arthur isn`t quite sure how Dylan managed to find such a gift especially during a cookery course but is was an exceptionally nice, big Totoro toy (probably 2ft tall!). Arthur is also somewhat disappointed to find out that the original transmission date of the episode in Australia (episode number 5048 on Septermber 6th) is nowhere near Miyazakis actual birthday on January 5th. Arthur is guessing that some studio Ghibli DVDs were released around that time in Oz and it was a subtle form of product placement. If not, such a mistake could only be down to poor research and someone should be fired. Still, seeing Totoro in Neighbours was great. Best episode ever!

Arthur would like to thank the following web pages for helping with his research into this particular Neighbours episode and discovering the factual errors depicted within:

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Jack Skellington in 3D

 Monday 20 Nov 2006, 8:51 PM Poster for the film Nightmare Before Christmas 3D

Arthur spent Saturday on one of his occasional trips into London for a day out. He drove and parked at a friend’s in Ealing and caught the tube into the centre of London (it actually works out as much less hassle than taking the train as there is no waiting around for train to turn up, no hassle getting to and from the station etc.)

The day began with some shopping around the Leicester Square area. The Japan Centre had a surprisingly poor selection of Japanese snacks as did the supermarket in China Town. In fact Arthur only ended up getting some chocolate Panda biscuits from Cyber Candy in Covent Garden. Trudging round the comic shops was a bit more fruitful though; Arthur saw loads of nice books that he has immediately put on his Christmas list and he purchased a small graphic novel called We3 about a stray dog, rabbit and cat who are used in military experiments to create animal/robot hybrid soldiers. The artwork is really nice and Arthur was sold on one particular image of a very angry leaping cat in power armour! The story is good too and this would make the perfect Christmas gift for the comic book loving, anti vivisectionist in the family…

The main purpose of the trip to London was to see the film Nightmare Before Christmas 3D. At the moment this film is only showing in 2 cinemas in the entire country and, as such, Arthur expected it to be quite busy, especially given the cult following the film was gained since its original release in the early 90’s. However the cinema wasn’t that full so once again Arthur ability to predict when to turn up for a film had let him down.

The film itself is exactly the same as the original version except that it has been converted to be shown using digital 3D projection (at present there are only a few cinemas in the country with digital projectors, let alone with the 3D add on, hence why it was showing in so few locations). The film was made 3D using a new process that takes old 2D images and converts them into 3D, probably using some exceedingly complex computer algorithm to determine how “deep” into the picture any particular item should be placed. The 3D effect wasn’t the gratuitous “everything jumps out of the screen at you” kind of affair that you get in theme park rides and cheesy 80’s 3D films; it was more of a subtle, layered effect. And the 3D glasses themselves used a new system using circular polarization (no red and green lenses here) that improved on the more conventional linear polarization to eliminate ghosting around the edges of items and reduce the 3D viewing headache to a minimum.

Certainly Arthur is looking forward to seeing more digital 3D films in the future, both old films converted to 3D (Star Wars is rumoured to be coming out in 3D next year for the film’s 30th anniversary) and new films made specifically in 3D (James Cameron has said he wil never make a 2D film again). Arthur just hopes that the cinema chains get a move on and install more digital projectors!

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 Saturday 18 Nov 2006, 4:46 PM Poster for the film Casino Royale

Last night Arthur went to see the new Bond film Casino Royale. All the showings that evening had sold out (Arthur was even surprised to find the cinema foyer packed with people waiting to go in when the film finished at 11:30pm!) so turned up and hour early as that is often how early he has to arrive in order to be close enough to the front of the queue to get a decent seat. Surprisingly it wasn`t too busy at that time and he could probably have spent another 1/2 hour at home (Arthur`s ability to calculate the time to turn up to the cinema to get a good seat has gone seriously awry of late)

Anyway, armed with a pot of Maltesers, the adverts began and Arthur pretty quickly noticed that the sound was making a nasty crackling pop noise during any remotely loud bits. Arthur made a quick complaint and thankfully it had vanished by the time the actual film started which was good new as it would have spoilt an otherwise good film.

Daniel Craig made a good Bond although he didn’t have too many witty one liners and those he did have fell a bit flat. The action was, in general, superb, especially the opening “free running” chase sequence (more action like this can be seen throughout the highly recommended French film District 13). There was only one slightly silly scene in the middle involving Bond curing himself of poisoning and the last ½ hour lost its way and became a bit muddled and directionless. But it is still definitely recommended viewing, if only for the opening titles sequence which takes all its imagery from playing cards (initially Arthur wasn’t that impressed with the theme song by Chris Connell but now finds it very enjoyable and thinks it works well as a Bond title song).

The only usual Bond elements Arthur missed were Miss Moneypenny, a good car chase (there was a brief scene of Bond driving very fast though the European countryside to catch some kidnappers before flipping his car but that was it; no real chase at all) and the tracking white circle that moves around the screen at the start of the film. A lot has been made in the press about the lack of gadgets but they were there in one form or another (e.g. slide out weapon drawers in his car, tracking chips under the skin etc.); they just weren’t as obvious as in some other Bond movies.

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Dodgy wiring

 Tuesday 7 Nov 2006, 5:14 PM

Arthur had a minor electrical disaster this evening (fortunately it didn`t involve him getting a shock although it could have been close).

Upon discovering a large black spider lurking on the ceiling in his hallway, Arthur decided the best way to get rid of the monster was to suck it up with the vaccum cleaner. He took his Dyson upstarirs and plugged it into the electrical socket in his bedroom. The instant he plugged it in, he heard a pop along with the sound of his PC powering down. A quick check round his house and Arthur discovered that the circuit at the back of his house that powered some of the sockets upstairs and the ones in this kitchen/dining room were all out of action, although some sockets were still working just fine.

Not knowing what was wrong or how long it would take to fix, Arthur ran a few extension leads from sockets on different circuits that were working OK in order to supply power to the fridge and freezer. The only thing he couldn`t get going was the electrics for the boiler which, whilst not super urgent, was kind of important if Arthur wanted hot water and heating the next morning!

He chceked the trip switch and that was all fine so came to the conclusion that a wire must simply have come lose in the socket that he had been plugging his Dyson into (all sockets on the circuit after that one were out of action, any before it were just fine).

Arthur unscrewed the socket from the wall and a spark of electiricty confirmed that Arthur was right; it was just a lose wire. He turned off then power to the whole circuit, re-attached the wires to the plug socket and turing the power back on, everything sprang back to life. Arthur then had to tidy away all his entension leads and plug his fridge and freezer bach into the sockets they were supposed to be plugged into. Most importantly he restarted his PC and got epsiode 7 of Heroes downloading again! Fortunately the files weren`t corrupted but the delay meant that he`d have to leave his PC downloading overnight and would only get to watch it the next day...

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Rotten Torchwood?

 Monday 6 Nov 2006, 9:10 PM

After a weekend of back to back weddings, Arthur had a day off on Monday to recover. He spent the time doing useful stuff like sleeping, cleaning and trying to buy a new door at B&Q after the useless company he`d ordered one from previously happended to mention 4 weeks after placing the order that it had now been discontinued (they didn`t have the intelligence to tell this to Arthur - he had to call them to find out what was taking so long).

Arthur also had to catch up with Torchwood using NTL on Demand after he missed it on Sunday night due to wedding commitments. As the fourth episode in the series, expectations were running high. The first episode was the big opener, the next 2 were more filler and character stuff and the fourth epsiode (pretty much 1/3 of the way into the series) would be whenthings would really start to get going. And indeed, the story looked like a good`un; a half converted cyber-woman (who happens to be the girlfirend of one of the Torchwood regulars) goes on the rampage. Sounds great; the opportunity for plenty of good character and deep, emotional acting plus lots of action; what could possibly go wrong?

Well Arthur can`t quite work out what happended but this episode was to the Dr Who/Torchwood universe as Phantom Menace is to Star Wars. With such a great idea Arthur just cannot work out how they screwed it up so much. He desperately wanted to like it but he just couldn`t.

The cyberwoman costume was lame, the CGI special effects were cheap, the acting was appalling, the action was comedicaly bad and the storyline just descended into one long, embarrasing chase scene. Unfortunatelty the repeated claims that this series is dark, adult sci-fi are just not convincing Arthur any more; the stories are more like Dr Who script rejects that have the occasional bit of sex, swearing, blood or violence added in an attempt to justify the post-watershed timeslot.

The epsiode had a few good points (the part cyber-converted Japanese businessman was nice although even that could have gone further) but overall Arthur suspects it is a sign that this series is just not going to work as perfectly as new Dr Who does; Arthur can still watch it and enjoy it on a certain level but, so far, it cetainly isn`t anywhere near as good. Arthur will continue to watch in the hope that there are some plot lines that tie into the main Dr Who universe and, with a bit of luck, an epsiode or two that actually justifies the hype.

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 Thursday 2 Nov 2006, 4:53 PM A pepper on Arthur`s pepper plant

About 18 months ago, some at work gave Arthur a pepper plant. Arthur duly potted the 2 inch tall seedling and careflly watered it every day. It quickly grew to 6 inches tall and by the summer it was flowerting and growing taller still. Arthur was rather excited at the prospect of some home grown peppers and was pleasntly surprised that the plant had even survived as Arthur is not particualrly good at keeping greenery alive (most pot plants in his house look good for a couple of months then quickly go brown and struggle through their remainaing years close to death until Arthur finally gets fed up with cleaning up dead leaves and bins them).

The flowers came and went but no peppers appeared and the plant continued to grow taller. Eventually it became so tall is simply keeled over into Arthur`s other pot plants on the side in his kitchen. The bottom foot as one long, thin green stalk and the top foot (the entire plant was now at least 2 feet tall or would be that tall had it not fallen over) had branched out and was covered in plenty of leaves. It wasn`t the most attractive plant in the world and, due to the lack of promised peppers, Arthur was tempted to throw it out on more than one occasion but decided not to because it was actually alive and didn`t have any brown leaves, unlike virtually every other plant in his house.

Then, a few hours ago, over 18 months since it was first planted and having not produced a single pepper, Arthur suddenly spotted something bright red on the plant whilst cooking his tea. Yes, it was a real life home grown pepper! It was over 2 inches long a very bright (Arthur cannot work out how he didn`t notice it sooner). In fact on closer inspection Arthur spotted another smaller, brown looking pepper growing on the plant as well. Unfortunately it was at this point that Arthur had a little accident; in his excitement at actually getting some peppers, he inspected the smaller, runty looking pepper and managed to snap if off the main plant. This was particularly annoying as Arthur decided that it was in fact just beginning to grow which is why it was so small and a funny colour. Arthur quickly learnt his lesson and left the big pepper alone to be harvetsed at a later date. Now he has to look for some recipes that only require one small pepper (although quite how hot it is remains to be seen). And all it took was 18 months of growing, watering, plant food etc. It may be some time before Arthur can consider farming as an alternative career...

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Teeth are crap

 Wednesday 1 Nov 2006, 1:42 PM

Whoever invented teeth really needs a good kicking; they are an utterly shit piece of design. Other parts of the human body grow and repair themselves just fine; if your leg gets broken just stick it in plaster and sometime later it`s pretty much as good as new. If you cut yourself, a sticky plaster or some stiches will allow the wound to heal. All in all the human body fixes a decent number of broken parts all on its own. All apart from teeth that is. For some reason humans have evolved (or were created depending on your point of view) so that teeth are ptetty much a one shot deal. Once they are damaged that`s it, they`re not growing back. All this despite the fact they get regular wear and tear, day in, day out.

Arthur says "pretty much" as you do of course lose your baby teeth aged around 7. But what`s the point in that? These teeth have probably only had 5 years of use and in most cases are perfectly good teeth. It would make far mpore sense if all your teeth fell out and were replaced around the age of 30 when you could probably do with a new set. And why, if the human body is quite happy to produce 2 sets of teeth, can`t it produce more? Maybe a new set every 10 years would do the trick. And it`s not like mother nature (or God, again depending on your point of view) finds this an impossible task; sharks grow new teeth all the time so why not humans?

And just in case you missed the point, Arthur thinks teeth are crap.

In other teeth related news, Arthur`s "no anaesthetic" filling went by pretty painlessly; he only let out a little yelp when the dentist blew cold air into the hole to dry it out before it was filled. Also the clamp used to attach a rubber sheet round the tooth to keep it dry dug into Arthur`s gum so that is still a bit sore and will doubtless result in an ulcer or two sometime over the next few days. Og and the bright light dazzled Arthur on a number of occasions rsulting in much eye watering (why don`t they give you dark glasses instead of plain ones to protect your eyes?)

And so ends Arthurs current series of teeth/dental related posts (at least it better be the bloody end; Arthur will not be happy if he needs more dental work any time in the next 6 months). Normal posts about TV, films, Pocky and slugs will commence henceforth...

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