lacuna_raze was down on Fri 2nd and we watched IT Crowd together. We're both very definite on "The Work Outing" from the second season being our favourite :o) We also went down to Industrial Fallout on the next day, which was so much better now it's warmer; not only can you go outside so you can cool off or just so you can hear people, it also meant that the inside wasn't cram packed because people were using up the space outside of the club too. Brilliant. :o)
It was my birthday on the Mon 5th but I didn't really do much during the day :oP I spent a lot of it playing Civ4 (lacuna_raze had bought me it along with a copy of Howard the Duck), although I did find time in the evening to play through Carcasonne (Luke has bought me it along with seemingly every expansion set ever produced for the game). My parent's got me a few ornaments; one of them was a fabric black rose in a tinted glass container and the other was a full-sized display skeleton... (it's about the size of my mother). I'm not really sure what to do with it :oP I'm sure if I ever have a spare room then it'll have a happy live living in one of the closets though :o)
I was out down Dungeon with Luke and Vicky that weekend (10th) and littlecyberalex was off at re-enactment the day after so I stayed in on Sunday and played games with him instead (had to arrange Bert a lift so he could make it). Very similar pattern next weekend (17th) only I was down Dungeon with Bert and then up at littlecyberalex's for computer games (which I'm not very good at) :oP I was down Dungeon again on the 24th but littlecyberalex was at re-enactment so we went to _phoenixrising's place and played Monopoly whilst watching a Batman animation instead :o)
It was Luke's birthday on the 29th so I was down Dungeon with him on Wed 28th. As Wednesdays went it wasn't too bad... the music was still generally not that good but I found some things to dance to (that I probably wouldn't have bothered dancing to on another night but you got to make the most of what you've got) and there were at least more people I knew down there than I'd have expected for a Wednesday. Still, the atmosphere on a Wednesday is not exactly brilliant; it's the crowd mostly. Also went for a meal with Luke and friends on Thurs 29th :o)
Diary: Hospital Stuff
I had what was, in theory, my final appointment regarding kidney stuff on Wed 21st. I'd gotten a phone call on the 4th to tell me that the consultant in charge couldn't make it on the appointment already booked so it was put back -again-. Anyway, the idea was that I had to see an external assesor to get a second opinion and have everything forwarded on to the appropriate board to give permission for everything to go ahead. Basically it meant that, once again, I had to go through all the risks of the operation with someone again and discuss why I wanted to do it.
I find that a bit tricky sometimes because it's not something that is really calculated for me; I don't have any complex reasons for wanting to do it - simple altruism is enough. Still, the person my appointment with was keen for me to justify it in terms of benefit to myself so I had to adopt a 'no true altruism' approach and talk about the benefits of moral fulfilment and similar. I suspect that's all true as well, it will probably have a positive psychological impact on myself.
As the appointment was arranged quite a while ago, I'd forgotten that I'd need my passport and birth certificate, hence I had to drop in the next day to have those photocopied. I was then told that I should have a response in less than a month (hopefully 2-3 weeks). Getting there at least...
Turned out not to be my last appointment as I was phoned again soon afterwards to tell me that they needed some more blood... whole thing seems rather disorganised to me...
Diary: Work Stuff
I had two interviews this month, one with HSBC on Wed 7th and one with Capita on Tue 13th.
I felt fairly comfortable during both interviews. I don't think I came across as nervous. I'm still not loud and extroverted but I'm never going to be and don't want to be (not even faking it). The latter had a written test, which I completed although didn't have time to double-check (also, the first page was a spelling test, eek!). Both were for roles that I could imagine doing well and enjoying (to some degree anyway).
Didn't get either though :oP
The agency that set me up with the HSBC interview gave me feedback saying that I wasn't specific enough with the competency based interviews. I can see that, although I definitely felt that I was more than specific enough to illustrate and outline my abilities. I guess the problem is that 'competency based interviews' seem to be more about being good at telling an interesting story about one occasion (which might as well be made up for all they can prove otherwise) rather than outlining your work experience and the skills you've demonstrated.
It strikes me as very odd that someone can make up a story about a phone call they once had and went well and that's considered better than someone who discusses the telephony workload that they had over the course of more than a year and the variety of situations and tasks that came with it. Then again, the whole interview process seems insane sometimes... in the second interview they actually threw in the surprise question of 'when have you received good customer service'... what? Suddenly the interviewers have stopped being interested in my own skills and abilities completely and are now interested in how many stories I can pull out of no where about how well I've been treated as a customer? :o/
Books: The Enemy
I put Charlie Higson's 'The Enemy' on my Amazon wishlist after seeing an interesting online advert for it and my mother bought it for me on my birthday :o)
It's genre sci-fi style zombie apocalypse horror (as in, they're not really zombies but they're close enough that it sums it up). The concept/twist is that it's only kids under the age of fourteen that survived the apocalypse (a year and a half ago). It doesn't skimp on the violence or horror just because it's protagonists are children either; some of the things it describes are quite disturbing/horrific.
The overall arch (which is part of the advertisements but still arguably spoilery) is that you start with a group of kids in London who have survived thus far but are finding it harder and harder to carry on. They hear of another group of kids who are apparently doing better and set off to find them, eventually find them but not everything is as brilliant as they might have imagined. There are some elements that are a bit predictable but largely the plot manages to keep you from guessing everything that's going to happen.
One problem is that it ends on a cliffhanger, meaning I'll have to wait for the next instalment :oP Also, some of the cultural references are likely to age quickly.
The characters sometimes feel like they act older than they should but probably understandable since they've been living independently of adults for over a year. Whilst the book starts off with a fairly likeable crowd, they don't always make what you might think are the 'right choices' (although they don't live in a world where 'right and wrong' are so obvious anyway). There's certainly 'Lord of the Flies' type elements to the whole thing.
Worth a read anyway I'd say :o)
Television: Misfits & Oliver Twist Mini-series
When I first heard about Misfits all I really knew was that it was about a group of British teenagers that get superpowers. It made me think that it was going to be some kind of British Heroes but it really wasn't; at the end of season one, I think it's a lot better. Heroes had the idea that the powers were arbitary allocated to fairly random individuals but it still ended up being very comic book. The characters generally adhered to comic book style cliches about their moral status and they all had epic comic book style quests. Misfits is more of a 'what if' story where the 'what if' is 'if completely normal people had superpowers'.
Okay, moving into more slightly spoilery issues about the premise...
So, the show starts with five teenagers who are doing community service. A number of them are immediately dislikeable and the others generally show themselves to be similar, with only one exception really. I hate shows that have dislikeable characters that we're supposed to like but it works here because we're not supposed to think they're great or even good people... they are just five teenagers doing community service and exactly as you might expect five teenagers on asbos to be. By the end of the season, I found all but one of them to either horribly flawed and/or behaved in some fairly unforgivable ways.
But they're not monsters either... the show doesn't try to get us to like them but it doesn't try to get us to hate them either. Whilst there is plenty of things you could really dislike and even hate about the characters, it also doesn't shy away from having them behaving in likeable and even admirable ways. In short, they behave like real people; they're complicated mixtures of a little good, a fair bit of bad and a lot of screwed up. It makes it very interesting to watch.
The scene were they get their powers is really jarring but is easily ignored.
Spoilery issues about the characters...
So we have five characters:
Nathan: Nathan is clearly a complete twat right from the beginning. He's messed up in a fairly unsympathetic way and the sort of person that you just wouldn't want as a friend because he'd be too bloody annoying and you'd quickly hate him. That being said, he can occasionally be very funny when watched as an outsider (no doubt infuriating if you ever met him). He's not really a very bad person though, just a complete waste of space most of the time. The most interesting point for this character is in the second episode where you see him be a complete bastard but you see him work through it and you see genuine regret. Of course, sticking with the realism of the series, he doesn't reform or become a new person, which is good.
Simon: Simon started off as the character I felt most sympathy for. He's clearly socially dysfunctional and portrayed as just a little disturbed right from the beginning but he's also a bit childlike and vulnerable, which makes it really easy to warm to him. He's also really creepy, to a pretty unforgivable extent. His behaviour at the end really makes him seem over the edge. In some ways, it's still easier to accept just because he does seem genuinely disturbed rather than just an arsehole.
Kelly: Portrayed right from the start as a complete chav, which the sorts of attitudes and behaviours you'd expect. It's easy to hate her right from the start and the show doesn't make an apology or excuse for her behaviour either but it doesn't allow itself to play her up as a complete stereotype either. Despite her falling neatly into the 'chav' box, that doesn't stop her being a real person with real feelings and by no means lacking in redeeming features. It's this sort of thing that makes the show special; it takes a character from a social class that is widely hated and that the audience will obviously hate but it doesn't pander to that hate. Whilst most people will probably dislike her and for good reason, it doesn't allow her to become the stereotype that another show might, especially given that she's one less morally offensive characters.
Alisha: This was the character I was most worried about when I read about this show, given that her power is basically date rape. I could see her power being presented in such a way as to be sickening and I'm sure a lot of shows would have happily done just that. I still remember the date rape issue in Torchwood coming up and feeling quite sick about how they handle it. However, whilst the show refuses to shy away from the controversy of her power, it executes it in such a way that it's neither offensively tactless or preachy. It helps that her power is often a vulnerability as well, allowing exploration of both sides of the issue.
Curtis: The only character that I have little bad to say about, even his reason for being sentenced to community service is very excusable. I don't like the handling of his time manipulation power, it just seems too silly to be able to alter certain things about history and not have -everything- else change dramatically, but I can forgive it as the rest of the show is so good.
Spoilery stuff about the plots:
This is where the show is really fresh. Once you have superheroes, the normal route is to have the main protagonists become 'the good guys' and have some epic battle against the 'bad guys'. It only even gets close to that in the very last episode and even then the 'heroes' aren't painted as such and the villains not evil in the obvious comic book sense (although still obviously bad to me). Most of it is them struggling through their lives in a fairly amoral way; they're not superheroes or supervillains. The moral judgement of whether or not their behaviour through the main plot is morally acceptable or unacceptable isn't even simple and the show doesn't really try to persuade us either way. That's what make this all so fresh.
I caught the 2009 Oliver Twist mini-series on late-night tv, which was fun. Interesting use of a black actress for Nancy; I'm aware that there definitely were black people in London at that time, although whether it's accurate to have a character like Nancy played by one I'm not sure. It took me a while (by which I mean 'I looked it up on imdb') to realise that it was the same character that played Liz 10 in Doctor Who. :o) I thought it was a good performance anyway.
The Fagin character is probably the most interesting character though; it's interesting to see a production choose an actor that does not match the proportions normally associated with the character. (spoiler) I liked the religious reference in the court room at the end, where the court offers mercy if Fagin would accept Christ, to which he refuses. I think that's an interesting statement about religious conviction and how it can remain important even amongst those where it can feel like it makes no sense.
Having watched that, it made me feel nostalgic for the 1999 Oliver Twist, so I watched that too. I actually like the fact that the first (of three) instalments is a prequel explaining the backstory. Dickens wrote the novel for the backstory to be revealed at the end as a big series of twists but I don't think that worked well in the book and certainly doesn't on film (where a lot of the audience will already know what to expect anyway). It's a lot easier to understand and make sense of this way too :oP