Monday, January 26, 2015

FILM REVIEW: Debug

Debug is a 2014 Canadian Sci-Fi Horror film written and directed by David Hewlett. If that name sounds familiar to you it is because David played Dr. Rodney Mckay in Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis and in Stargate Universe. Seriously he was 50% of the reason for watching Atlantis the other half was probably Rachel Luttrell’s abs because damn.
The film stars Jeananne Goossen, Jason Momoa, Jadyn Wong, Adrian Holmes, Sidney Leeder and Adam Butcher. Debug is distributed by Signature Entertainment and was released in the UK on 3rd November 2014.

PLOT

Six young computer hackers sent to work on a derelict spaceship, are forced to match wits with a vengeful artificial intelligence that would kill to be human.


WHY I WATCHED

I just decided to take a chance but the fact that Jason Momoa (Stargate Atlantis, Game Of Thrones, don’t mention Conan) and Jadyn Wong (crushing on since Scorpion) meant it was definitely worth a gamble. I do love my B movies they are hard to do wrong though of course it does happen.


WHAT I THOUGHT

I do love B movies I’m not sure why anyone would not like them. This is a good example of the genre a decent amount of action more than a bit of gore the story is an interesting take on the old trapped in a scary house set piece of most horror films. The Sci-Fi element makes things interesting a revamp for the modern age with it being set on a vast space ship. The size of the ship doesn’t make it feel any less claustrophobic and the hacking elements are interesting. The virtual reality stuff cranks up the horror elements too which is a nice step.
It is hard to talk about Debug without having a discussion around the fan service present in the film.

Fan Service: a term originating from anime and manga fandom for material in a series which is intentionally added to please the audience and usually refers to gratuitous titillation.

video


In this case I can definitely point to some fan service of the racy/sexual kind. Of course this is not unheard of for horror films and it is handled well here of course it isn’t hindered by the fact that the lead Jeananne Goossen is a stone cold fox and the other actresses are gorgeous as well. Between Jadyn Wong in a T-shirt and panties and Sidney Leeder with very little of anything on there was something for anyone who appreciated fit young women. Of course noting that there is a discussion to be held about where all the pecs and sixpacks were so fans of the male form could have their turn.

So now with that aside let’s consider the film as a whole it is a great distraction for a night in with friends and definitely worth taking the time to check out. The gorgeous actresses on show don’t hurt either. So Sci-Fi fan? Horror fan? Check this film out.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Seetec Complaint And Independent Case Examiner

So there it is after well 2 years and a whole lot of follow up this week I finally got an answer to my complaint lodged with ICE (Independent Case Examiner). To find out why you only need search my blog for Seetec and do some reading on my various issues with them. 



In the end I got what is called a partially upheld complaint which according to those in the know is a win and doesn't often happen. I won’t bore you with the details as it will take me way too long to decide what I can and cannot share but what I will say is that it is a lot of work to get that partial victory and the way Seetec twists the truth may not be worth the stress once you review the reasons given for the decision.

I have to thank a lot of people for supporting me through this:

- Unemployment Movement forums – great place to get general
- Refuted great website full of resources lots of guidelines
- Jobseekers Sanction Advice unfortunately not sure if they are continuing past January

Tips


If you think that you are going to go forward with a complaint there is one thing I must stress RECORD everything. My complaint to ICE took over two years and in that time I was contacted more than once and asked about things that happened over a year in the past and then asked if I have documentary evidence to prove things. It drove me mad and was a good part of the reason I think for only getting a partially upheld complaint.

As a result of my partial victory I should say that Seetec has to pay ICE £5000 apparently as well as giving me compensation for their poor service.

EDIT: Just when I thought my problems with DWP and their croneys was at an end I get a package from the DWP that I had to pay £15 to get from the post office. It was a data request that I had lodged more than a year ago. A request that should have been filled in 40 days at no cost to me.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

GAMING: Something To Know About Fight Sticks

So I recently made a decent sized investment on a Fight Stick because I wanted to learn and doing it once a week wasn't cutting it. I decided on a PS3 Soul Calibut Fight Stick made by Mad Catz. The choice was down to cost I low balled a Best Offer on Ebay and got lucky. I thought it would be great to take to tournaments and such but there is an issue. the Mayflash PS2/PS3/XBox 360 convertor doesn't work with it.


I should also add that the Mayflash convertor when used on the XBox 360 won't recognise most if any of the 3rd party PS3 controllers this is because the PS3 pretty much recognises any controllers that would work on a modern PC while it seems that XBox 360 is a far more discerning device and needs purpose built controllers.



Still I definitely don't consider the Fight Stick to be a waste as I have a decent collection of Fighting Games on my PC and I am looking forward to hopefully doing some streaming subject to finishing up my computer upgrade. So just be aware that for now with pretty much all the tournaments being on the XBox 360 it pays to invest in an XBox controller of your preferred style be it pad or stick if you are thinking of doing a few tournaments.

So the Mayflash is fine if you're a dedicated PS3 player who needs to take his own controller to tournaments but only the official Sony ones and not any of the licensed variety. Hopefully that will save you some annoyance and having to try and auction off an unneeded stick.

Hope to see you guys in tournaments. I'll talk a little about our weekly tournaments next time.

Monday, January 5, 2015

FILM REVIEW: The Scribbler

[REVIEWER'S NOTE: This is not to be read before watching the film it is more for watchers of the film to get a second opinion after seeing it. Despite that there are NO SPOILERS contained within the review.]

I don't know why I decided to go for The Scribbler. I was unaware of the graphic novel it was based on which is from Image Comics if you were wondering. Also I thought Katie Cassidy was a weird choice as lead which I will go into later. Perhaps it was the Sci-fi tag and the inclusion of Eliza Dushku who I hadn't seen on a show or film since Dollhouse. I only found out just before watching that Michelle Trachtenberg would have a role in this.

I have to register my issues with Katie Cassidy, I'm not convinced by her portrayal of Laurel Lance on Arrow though she may be suffering from the Kreuk effect. Remember Smallville with Kristin Kreuk as Lana Lang she struggled in that rule in my view largely as a result of having absolutely nothing to do in the first two or three seasons past. Both Kristin Kreuk then and Katie Cassidy had incredibly charismatic co-stars that tended to become the fan favourites also Laurel and Oliver didn't have chemistry. Anyway this isn't a comparative study of superhero shows so let's get back to the case at hand.



PLOT

THE SCRIBBLER follows Suki (Katie Cassidy), a young woman confronting her destructive mental illness using "The Siamese Burn," an experimental machine designed to eliminate multiple personalities. The closer Suki comes to being "cured," she's haunted by a thought - what if the last unwanted identity turns out to be her?

That plot is pretty weird and the way that the film dumps you in at the deep end and you spend a fair amount of time clawing yourself back up from those depths. I find the first twenty minutes hard going but after that hump it settles down into something that is a little easier to understand.

Also at this time I have to mention the co-star in The Scribbler Garret Dillahunt (now that's a damn name) who I will always remember as the Terminator from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles he is a huge part of the film and he is a great onscreen and helps the film to work. The rest of the film is built around crazy characters who put up and then disappear including an appearance by Michelle Trachtenberg which was cool as I hadn't seen her since the under rated crazy film that was Sexy Evil Genius.



Katie Cassidy carries this well and definitely is convincing as a woman struggling with her inner demons while trying to come to terms with her ongoing mental issues. Things get very crazy towards the end but I'll just leave you to see it for yourselves. Oh and if you happen to be a fan of Helix the Syfy show about to come back for its second season this year then you will recognize one of the cast as one of the stars from there.

The Scribbler is probably not for everyone but is a heck of a ride and definitely worth taking a chance on. See you next film readers.

Friday, December 26, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Wearing The Cape by Marion G. Harmon

Wearing the Cape is the first in the Wearing The Cape series written by Marion G Harmon and published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform on 10 July 2011. The ISBN is 1463539657 and I picked up a Kindle copy of the book through Amazon which can currently be picked up for free.


THE PLOT

Who wants to be a superhero? 

Hope did, but she grew out of it. Which made her superhuman breakthrough in the Ashland Bombing, just before starting her freshman year at the University of Chicago, more than a little ironic. And now she has some decisions to make. Given the code-name "Astra" and invited to join the Sentinels, Chicago’s premier super-team, will she take up the cape and mask and become a career superhero? Or will she get a handle on her new powers (super-strength has some serious drawbacks) and then get on with her life-plan? 

In a world where superheroes join unions and have agents, and the strongest and most photogenic ones become literal super celebrities, the temptation to become a cape is strong. But the price can be high—especially if you’re “outed” and lose the shield of your secret identity. Becoming a sidekick puts the decision off for awhile, but Hope’s life is further complicated when The Teatime Anarchist, the supervillain responsible for the Ashland Bombing, takes an interest in her. Apparently as Astra, Hope is supposed to save the world. Or at least a significant part of it.

WHY I BOUGHT THIS

Well it was free but the fact that it was all about superheroes and the fact that it kept popping up on my amazon suggested list as I was browsing through made me take the leap. Plus I wanted to have a few more books on my Kindle as I am still pretty new to actively using it.

WHAT I THOUGHT

An interesting idea Superheroes as part of the bureaucracy might sound a bit boring at first but it is a novel look at things especially for someone used to reading Marvel and DC. The superhumans in this world are larger than life but not on the same level as a Superman. This world is a lot more like ours with those capes just slotted in as the first line in disaster response and the military’s not so secret weapons.

The world building in this book is excellent with a series of excerpts from factual books and other sources which talks about everything from the early days of superhumans to the nature of powers.

The characters are well rounded and generally very interesting, this is an example of a book that makes it feel like you are looking at a world that always existed and was just not crafted for the story you are reading and that is something that is not always the case even in the good books.

I can’t really go into plot specifics as it is intricate but I can discuss the beginning of things in the world. In the past there was a mass event of lost time for the entire world population and when everyone recovered a select group of people had superpowers. From then till the present during life or death circumstances some people develop super powers.

While over the years that makes for a high number of super powered individuals they are still in the minority and have been made a part of society. Even without the characters just learning about that world is engrossing and I am looking forward to learning more about the world.

I would recommend this to any fans of the superhero genre who wants to see something new.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Calling: Endgame by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton

The Calling: Endgame is a 2014 Children’s book written by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton and published by Harper Collins Children Books. It was released on 7 October 2014 and its ISBN is 9780062332585.

THE PLOT

Twelve thousand years ago, they came. They descended from the sky amid smoke and fire, and created humanity and gave us rules to live by. They needed gold and they built our earliest civilizations to mine it for them. When they had what they needed, they left. But before they left, they told us someday they would come back, and when they did, a game would be played. A game that would determine our future.

This is Endgame.

For ten thousand years the lines have existed in secret. The 12 original lines of humanity. Each had to have a Player prepared at all times. They have trained generation after generation after generation. In weapons, languages, history, tactics, disguise assassination. Together the players are everything: strong, kind, ruthless, loyal, smart, stupid, ugly, lustful, mean, fickle, beautiful, calculating, lazy, exuberant, weak. They are good and evil. Like you. Like all.



This is Endgame.

When the game starts, the players will have to find three keys. The keys are somewhere on earth. The only rule of their Endgame is that there are no rules. Whoever finds the keys first wins the game. Endgame: The Calling is about the hunt for the first key. And just as it tells the story of the hunt for a hidden key, written into the book is a puzzle. It invites readers to play their own Endgame and to try to solve the puzzle. Whoever does will open a case filled with gold. Alongside the puzzle will be a revolutionary mobile game built by Google’s Niantic Labs that will allow you to play a real-world version of Endgame where you can join one of the lines and do battle with people around you.

Will exuberance beat strength? Stupidity top kindness? Laziness thwart beauty? Will the winner be good or evil? There is only one way to find out.

Play.
Survive.
Solve.
People of Earth.
Endgame has begun.

WHY I BOUGHT IT

I bought it after I got an advanced sample from NetGalley which I have recently tried to get into more. Who knew a Kindle would come in handy. The description of the book had me intrigued and by the time I got through the sample I knew I had to have the full version to see what happened, well what happened at first as it is a series and not a standalone book.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I am not sure whether this is YA or Children’s though some of the content and the violence involved seems to push it over into YA. Still what matters is the content of the book and in this case it is almost entirely great compelling stuff.

This feels a bit like a disaster movie as it does take quite a few tropes from that genre, the multiple locations and multiple main characters, the book starts off with 12 and then brings in a few more so we get to see a variety of outlooks and takes on all things Endgame which for me just makes things even more fun.


I am not going to talk about the Players I don’t want to spoil it for you. If you are interested in getting a better idea I think you can still access the Sampler on NetGalley so check it out if you want a taste. I love the exotic locations and the bits of historical notes thrown in there, it motivates me to at least do the occasional Wikipedia or Google search to see which part of the legends and history mentioned are real and which are just added in there to fit in with the mythology of the series.

The characters are in a lot of ways superhuman in the way that is just about believable if you factor in the trained from birth thing and the fact that the writer does take pains to ensure that the characters tend to be specialists and not just capable of any and everything and the fact that preparation is a big part of why they are so formidable. There is also that aspect of them being underestimated by the world at large due to their age.


The lore is rich and interesting and doesn’t bog down the plot which can often happen in the first of a series. I can’t mention this book without the crazy puzzle based competition that is being used to promote it where through clues and puzzles contained within the books people can be lead on a global search whose prize is lots of gold (I kid you not).


I would recommend The Calling for fans of adventure and ensemble casts. The characters are larger than life but not ridiculous and the story is interesting and left me hungry for the next instalment of the series. Feel free to share your thoughts about The Calling below.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

CWP: The Second Week

So thank you for joining me on my journey to nowhere let’s get to it on Mondays I go to Seetec for a three and a half hour session of pointlessness. But looking for work is not pointless they scream of course not BUT trying to use the outdated and ridiculously restrictive computers. They are stuck on Internet Explorer 10 which doesn’t like a lot of recruitment websites as a rule. Add to that the fact that you can’t right click which you think is a small thing but is huge when you start thinking about things like wanting to right click and open a few sites you found on a job board. Plus as it will be clear later you have to be very careful about having your personal documents of any kind on a Seetec system (more on this later). To sum it up though if I compared my time spent on applying for a job at Seetec to applying to one at one I would say that it easily takes 2.5 times longer to do most applications at Seetec and that is when the rest of the people there are behaving and not kicking off.


I made it a point after the joke of my first week of CWP to talk to Seetec about my concerns, unfortunately when I went to reception I was informed the manager was the only one who knew anything about the CWP, it seems that redundancy is a foreign concept to Seetec. Anyway I was fobbed off on an advisor who admitted the above and also told me a little about the history of CWP in the area. There was a man with the job of going around the area I’m thinking county wide or further and sought out work placements for CWP but he left months ago and there hasn’t been a proper staff replacement. The Seetec Manager is managing the placements available for my town it seems and there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of them.

I told the advisor of my issues that the place where I work is a Learning Centre with Maths, IT and English courses and a large part of my role there was helping students which I felt very uncomfortable with. I am not a teacher nor do I have any relevant experience in that side of things, I’m a trainer but that is a very different thing and I do not have experience teaching people with learning difficulties or other issues, during that first week I felt less thrown in the deep end then shoved off a cliff to be perfectly honest.

The advisor’s answer was to call them up and talk to them about it for a bit then without warning putting me on the spot handing the phone over to me where I was asked by one of the staff there if it my concerns meant that I did not want any involvement with the students. I haven’t seen a better stitch up since I used to watch ER. In theory I could say yes I want no involvement in dealing with the learners but that sounds a lot like a reason for a sanction for not partaking in a MAN and a lot of you out there know how hard it is to fight something like that and more importantly how expensive. So I felt I had no choice but to equivocate and just request less time dealing with students and more admin duties.

To you an idea of the centre it is open plan with three workstations for the members of staff; twenty workstations for learners arranged in clusters of four; a small closet they choose to call a meeting room and a downstairs classroom for group sessions. There is no way that their promises of less dealing with students were going to be kept to but I wasn’t really left with a viable alternative.

I have to say that the teaching of the learners isn’t the only problem. The place is a hot mess, the core staff of three have some of the worst communication skills I have ever seen but at the top of it the manager is just unbelievable. The first thing that springs to mind is her habit of speaking to you while not looking at you which to me is just disrespectful, then she has a habit of asking you to do something through someone else like “Can John go and grab the wallets from the shelf” instead of just turning to John and asking. The other thing is her complete inability to listen, the amount of times I have been given a task, done it, moved on to another task only for her to raise her voice and ask why her task hasn’t been done is infuriating I have no idea how she managed to get that position. More to the point I have no idea why people like this are working and I’m kicking and screaming just to get an interview.

The other point during my talk with the advisor was that Seetec shared my CV without my consent and furthermore when they should not have had access to it in the first place. The advisor tried to badger me saying “Yes we have the right” even after I explained the data waiver. It was only after he said “there was a thing you signed at the beginning” and my answer of “No I did not sign that” that it seemed to finally sink in for him.

That issue with the whole ignoring of my data protection had to be passed on for the manager to deal with so with my issues with the placement outstanding it was agreed that I would come into Seetec first thing in Tuesday morning to discuss it with the manager. I did not hold out much hope for anything real to come out of it.

Next morning I came in and went into the manager’s office at Seetec, “You have some issues with your placement?”

“Yes and other things, the advisor recorded them on the system” she then had to leave to talk to the advisor so that she could find out where the notes were as I refused to go over everything from the day before when there was a record, apparently they don’t believe in emailing each other or doing a morning meeting.

So she came back and we discussed the issues and basically her line was “I don’t want you to end up in a charity store” well neither do I, I also want the Jobcentre to honour their letter saying that they would give me an appointment to properly hear my appeal against being sent on the CWP in the first place which I sent 4 weeks ago. Anyway the long and the short of it is I went back to the placement after Seetec in case you were wondering and nothing had changed they didn’t even know I was coming in that day despite me having said so on the phone while at Seetec not an hour before because they don’t talk to each other.

And before I sign off from this rather large post I should talk about the response to my complaint about Seetec sharing my CV, the manager says that she only passed it on to Seetec Colchester as if that was some amazing loophole in the system, I then made it clear that I had a copy of my incorrect CV directly from the placement itself and it didn’t get there without first being sent by Seetec. I then went on to tell them how they SHOULD have dealt with it which is contact me when they found a prospective placement and get me to send out my CV. I got an apology out of the manager but don’t blame me for being wholly unimpressed considering the fact that they are breaking a law and the fact that they have done it before to me. Those are facts added to my awful experiences with them in the past which you can get some idea of from searching on the blog for Seetec.

So as it stands I am stuck at this place with no real training being offered, no skills to improve my CV and very little chance of not being made to serve my 6 month sentence for being guilty of being unemployed. The last chance is with the Jobcentre who sent me on the course but by the sound of the letter that they sent me apologising for the lack of a response it sounds more like they will eventually invite me in once they have invented a “proper” reason to have sent me on CWP instead of the BS non-response given by my jobcentre advisor.


Sorry for making you wade through all of that.
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