Wednesday 31 December 2014

One better than the one we're doing now!

From a strictly numerical point of view, next year will be one better than the one we're doing now.

I'm all about this!

By all traditionally observed units and measures I failed at 2014. I don't often go in for traditional though, unless it's something that I like, but even then I'm not exclusively traditional, it's just in amongst everything else in the grab-bag that I have grabbed.

So I'll take my +1 thanks folks.

I'm not unhappy with 2014. It saw the beginning of some projects that I hope to continue/finish, a couple of which are things you can (and may have already) see(n), I discovered that you can cook cookies in a wok, and Scott Bakula is once again the lead of a Donald P. Bellisario TV production (where he belongs).

Panda is the star of his own comic now. That's new for him. He's having a good time with it. We both are.

The people who've known Panda the longest have been aware that this was an idea back in the early days of our partnership. They've heard me talk about it to varying degrees over the last few years, and also probably heard the umming and ahhing that went along with the ebb and flow of my enthusiasm for the project.

The drawing, which was the original deterrent, has ended up being far easier than I imagined. I'm not totally terrible at it. Stuff looks like stuff, which is the goal. The writing jokes in a neat three panel format, on the other hand, is something that I need to work at.

It's still a weird process for me. It's different. They're not really one-liners. They're interactions that sometimes contain one-liners, but they need to have these breaks in them. There is a pacing thing on which my grasp needs to be mightier. I often say them out loud, and I've realised that that's not working. It's a different system of delivery. Something that I've never really thought about before.

I'm enjoying the whole process, so there's a good chance I'll keep making them.

There is this other thing over on another part of the internet that I am doing with my old friend, maverick_boxer. That is not his real name. Clearly. He has another name, but that is the one he is using for this thing that we're doing. This thing called Failure to Launch, and it's a specific kind of thing that is pretty different from what I do here. It's one of those let's play shows that all the tubers are doing these days.

If that's the sort of thing that interests you, take a gander. If listening to me talk a whole lot of nonsensical shit while my friend tries to explain how a computer game works sounds like your cup of tea, you should definitely take a gander.

I might try and find a way to tuck it away somewhere here on The Glue, so that you can stay informed. Sort of a cross promotional thing. For now though, it's over on the InterTubes.

I hope you're still reading to enjoy the flavoursome juices that United by Glue will be bringing you in the coming year. I look forward to smuggling these things deep into your brain for the purposes of mirth. 

Oh, I just thought of something. 

Porpoises of Mirth and a Happy New Year!

Saturday 13 December 2014

Strip Search Gives Us Sequential Art for Summer

I am going to preface this by saying that I am not really big into reality TV. Well, I love documentaries, and I sometimes watch the news, but that stuff that they make where people compete in a bunch of really artificial competitions and there is that 'gaming' process by which a competitor can be eliminated by conniving instead of through a lack of talent or skill. I don't like that. It's kind of nasty.

I also hate it when someone who is clearly very good at something and is still really young refers to the show as '[their] last chance'. I think that people should be eliminated immediately for that.

I am also going to preface this by saying that I have a really poor concept of the passage of time, and as a result am reliant on temporal landmarks and the general geography of life to remember when it was that I actually did something, or something was done unto me. This is hard when I do something on my own. That limits it, because the people involved are great indicators.

Actually, I can just go and look this one up. Gimme a sec.

I'm back.

So, it turns out it was mid last year.

'What was last year?', you might ask, which would be totally valid at this stage, because I have not at all been forthcoming with details yet. Strip Search (like in the title) would be the short answer to that question.

Now, before you get all like, 'What kind of reality TV are you watching? Is nudity the key component that is missing from The Block for you? Or perhaps it's the televised invasion of privacy and personal space that you enjoy', the show is not at all about the quest for bodily secreted contraband. It's not about that at all.

It's about comics! Which is also implied by the title. The title was pretty thorough, but what it didn't say was that they are webcomics. It wasn't that specific.

I like webcomics. I have for a long time. This isn't a recent thing for me. I was introduced to PvP by finding it left open by another student in a computer lab back in high school. That was 16 years ago!

Strip Search is a webcomic reality show where the winner got to be a part of the Penny Arcade machine. They got them some money too, but being a part of the aforementioned machine is huge.

Maybe I need to explain Penny Arcade first. No, look, let me just say they are the wizards at this thing. By just about any metric you might want to use, they are the winners of the webcomic game. They are the dominant species. Apex predators. Without the predatory behaviour though. They kind of do the opposite when they made Strip Search. It's their show, and it can be found at their internet.

There is more to the show than the personal interest I have in the subject matter. It has greater appeal than that, and that greater appeal comes from the people involved. They're nice. There is some good natured griefing, but they're all really nice to each other. They're respectful, and they want to be friends. They play their game that they're playing, but instead of being like Monopoly, it's like like something else. Some other game. A game that doesn't fray and tear at the very fabric of society. A game that doesn't ware through the basic foundations of civility and decency.

Monopoly is poison.

Strip Search is the opposite of that, which makes it the opposite of a lot of other reality TV.

You know what it's like? It's like It's a Knockout. Do you remember that? The one that ran in the 80s? Everyone was so positive. They're just glad to be there. It's like that, but with drawing.

You can watch it. It's online. Still. Even though it's about 18 months old. Maybe it will be forever. Who knows? And, unlike shows like The Block in which viewers don't really get an opportunity to benefit from the product of the show, we all get to benefit. A lot of strips have come out of the show. Not just form the winner, but pretty much everyone on the show benefitted greatly from the exposure, which means more tasty comics for us.

I'm going to do a separate post on the strips resulting from, and related to the show, so look out for that in the lead up to Christmas.

Friday 5 December 2014

Hayao Miyazaki Movie Season on SBS

I assume that most of the people who read my blog are aware of the incredible work of Hayao Miyazaki. I feel like this is a fairly safe assumption with me and my parents making up three of my total readership of four (yeah, I read my own blog).

I don't need to sell him to you. That time has passed. The guy is crazy internationally revered for his contributions to his medium, and popular culture as a whole. You don't need me to tell you that. Maybe you do. Maybe you aren't really aware of the defining influence that this guy has had not only on animation in his home country, AND the international relationship with that animated output of that country of his home, BUT ALSO mostly responsible for a very different sort of broad range appeal than you would find in, say, a Disney Pixar film.

Maybe you need me to tell you those things.

Maybe you also need to be told that starting tomorrow night (Saturday, 2014-12-06) SBS 2 are running a Hayao Miyazaki Family Movie Season.

My Neighbour Totoro1988Saturday, 2014-12-06, 5:55pm
Kiki's Delivery Service     1989Saturday, 2014-12-13, 6pm
Spirited Away2001Saturday, 2014-12-20, 6pm
Howl's Moving Castle2004     Saturday, 2014-12-27, 6pm
Ponyo2008Saturday, 2015-01-03, 6pm

It's a good selection of his films. I mean, they aren't necessarily the five films that I would choose if I was trying to force my love of his films onto my friends and family, but they've included films from the late eighties and the the entire naughties, which are the two periods in which his popularity went through it's greatest growth.

In case you didn't notice, they're on Saturday nights for the next 5 weeks.

I'm not sure if they're going to end up on catchup, so if you don't have access to them in any other form, it might be worth your time to tune in.

Thursday 4 December 2014

Erik Wernquist's Wanderers

There is something that burns deep inside me for this sort of thing. A part of me that will sit in awe when I see things like this.

And, short as it is, Erik Wernquist's Wanderers is my favourite science fiction film for a very long time.

It is this perception of space; a habitable, working, and usable space that has reenforced the foundations for which everything else that I love about it is built. It is this awesome and incredible thing that accommodates and allows all those fantasies of space persist. Because where the fantastic yearn to be possibilities, this boundless neighbour into which we must engineer ourselves is a promise.

Thursday 27 November 2014

Gravity Falls

Gravity Falls is this show that's going around at the moment. It's the sort of show that is very definitely my cup of tea. 'Meine Straße', to quote a friend.

I'm not above watching children's television programming. I've never said or implied otherwise. Maybe I have. I don't know. I'm not though. I don't think anyone is. People say that they are, but they're dumb. It's a dumb thing to say.

Gravity Falls is not dumb. I like it. It's funny, and more than a little morally obtuse.

It's about these twins (Mabel and Dipper) who are spending the summer (which apparently lasts multiple seasons) with their great uncle (gruncle) who owns and operates a tourist trap in Gravity Falls, Oregon. He gets a mysterious journal. She gets a pig. Paranormal adventures ensure.

It's good stuff.

I could go on about how it feels more like a classic Nickelodeon cartoon than it does anything that I've ever seen from Disney, but that about sums up that point. No. Wait. I might anyway. There is something in the vein of Hey Arnold!, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, and at times Ren & Stimpy by way of The X-Files going on here.

The ongoing plot is kind of engaging with its conspiracies, bizarre villains, and frequently unexplained dialogue and plot points, but if you do keep watching it will probably be because the voice cast is incredible, the script is funny, and the characters are endearing. It's a funny show. It keeps you chuckling.

It's a mirth machine. Mostly on account of its good-spiritedness. It's good-spirited. Even when the characters are doing morally questionable things (which is pretty frequent) they've got such wonderful intentions.

Well, a lot of the time they do. There are times when they range from 'just misguided' through 'selfish' all the way up to 'pretty much entirely morally bankrupt'. Regardless you will find it easy to invest in their victories and misadventures on account of that endearing nature of the characters that I mentioned earlier. It's good fun.

Look, watch this short credits sequence, and you'll understand (on some level) what kind of thing you could be watching if you were watching Gravity Falls. On another level this is just a great clip, and the show is pretty diverse in its comedic approach.

Yep, she taped the pig to the goat, and then married them.

Monday 17 November 2014

The Unquestionable Suitability of Gifts

We cruised up and passed the third anniversary of this iteration of United by Glue. The same thing happened last year. Last year we also delivered an octopus, but I would argue that it's a substantially more impressive octopus this year. It has colours.

The octopus was meant to be a one off for last year, and then we were going to move beyond the cephalopod anniversary, but here we are.

This year we saw the approach of the day in question, and we made a move that, at the time, felt bold. A move to change the nature of The Glue. To change what was on offer. That was a plan from early on, and now it's a thing that is actually kind of happening.

I say 'kind of' on account of only being three deep at this stage, but the plan is to continue at it.

I hope you're enjoying Panda in this form.

Wednesday 17 September 2014

The Fridge-Women of the Land of Tomorrow

If you've not heard of Women in Refrigerators, you should probably femaliarise with it, and the concept in general.

Is it an important (pop-)cultural observation? Yes, I think it is.

The general gist of this thing is that women are often sabotaged out of the 'actual character' column into being plot points for members of the member-gender, with specific reference to page 15 (I think) of Green Lantern vol.3 #54.

The site and the term are fifteen years old at this stage (and the comic just turned twenty), but it isn't really an out of date concept. The general undermining of female protagonists is an ongoing trend in media.

Samus Aran, bad-arse cosmic-bounty-hunter of Metroid (and its related sequels), has found the time in recent games to run about in her space-underwear and go uncharacteristically wobbly-kneed due to the pressures of the dangers that surround her and the presence of boys who can talk her through it.

This is the very same character whose reputation is based on repeatedly striding (arguably under prepared) into space-pirate planets and dying worlds in order to get business done. There are few characters who are depicted as being as calm under pressure in literally world-shatteringly dangerous situations as Samus Aran.

This was a strange direction to be approved by Nintendo after the unparalleled Metroid Prime Trilogy.

I don't really know what to say about all of this.

It's a shame.

That's what I can say.

It's a shame that I find comparatively few examples where female characters are afforded the same level of story arc epicocity and complexity as is given over to male characters. Even if female characters are being better written these days, and given better stories than they were previously, how many female characters get an Emerald Twilight, Return of the Dark Knight, or a Death and Rebirth of Superman?

I'm tired of falling back on Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Willow, who is the most interesting, hardworking, brave, intelligent character on that show (and would be on many others), and has the most interesting story arcs and trials to overcome.

And, while she is 'saved' by Xander in season six (after her own Woman in a Refrigerator moment), it is through The Power of Friendship and not through promises of marriage and babies like the end of The Fifth Element.

There are just a ton of questions I want answered.

Why do fantastic games with female protagonists like The Longest Journey and Syberia dwell in obscurity?

Why can't Princess Peach rescue herself from Bowser's Castle? I think it's called escaping. Where is that game?

Why isn't there a fantasy-kingdom-management game starring Princess Peach? She can't spend all her time getting captured and rescued?

Why don't they remake The Guardian Legend? Arguably, one of the most incredibly well designed games ever made, with or without a female protagonist.

While I'm glad that Scarlet Witch is being added to the roster in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, why don't She-Hulk, Mockingbird, any of the Spider-Women, Moondragon, Crystal, Firebird, Firestar, Echo, Wasp, Captain Marvel, Hellcat, Tigra, Madame Masque, the Kate Bishop Hawkeye, Terminatrix, or any of the other female Avengers get a look in?

Why isn't there a She-Hulk TV series that is a cross between a superhero show and a courtroom procedural show? Did I mention that She-Hulk is both a superhero and a highly skilled lawyer who frequently represents superheroes in court? Imagine looking at the superhero phenomenon from a legal perspective. Where is that show? I would absolutely watch that show.

Where is the Barbara Gordon film trilogy? From Batgirl to Oracle and the Birds of Prey. Protege to team leader in three films. A character who finally escapes the obsessive, unhealthy, and violent world of both her real father and symbolically adoptive father by being paralysed from the waist down, only to decide that they're both doing it wrong.

Where is the Hawkwoman film franchise that looks at the complex history of her origins as a militaristic police officer on her fascist home-world of Thanagar, to a superhero in exile on an unfamiliar Earth? What happens when both sides call her traitor after war breaks out between the two worlds she has called home?

Why don't they promote Katma Tui, Arisia Rrab, Boodikka, or any of the other female members of the Green Lantern Corps to the title lead of at least one of the five ongoing Green Lantern comics?

Why isn't there a cinematic sequel to Willow (the film, not the character) that focusses on the adventures of Elora Danan?

Why can't they revive Magnum, P.I. with Thomas Magnum's daughter, Lily Catherine Hue (who would be in her early thirties), as the eponymous star of the new show?

Why isn't Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde) the focal character of the X-Men film franchise instead of continually being sidelined so that other characters can play her roles in stories?

Why is Cutthroat Island the last pirate movie with a female lead that I can name? Female pirates were a thing. A real thing. An awesome real thing.

Why is DC Comics' Harlequin treated as a sex object instead of as a cautionary tale about successful women (she was a criminal psychiatrist at the top of her field) who become trapped in abusive relationships?

Holding up the infrequent example is not parity, but nor do numbers create equality. 

Tuesday 16 September 2014

The Universal Appeal of Vampires

Having visited das Kino some four or so times recently, I've seen that Dracula Untold advert a few times.

Parts of it seemed appealing briefly, but parts were perhaps the opposite. Not perhaps.

Epic, army-fighting vampires aren't really my scene. They're the scene of other people.

Maybe it's just that I've read Dracula, or that I've read Dracula and have a reading comprehension level >= a 12 year old, but Captain Bat-Fist and Bram's count can't really be the same guy.

But, that's okay, on account of it's not meant to be. The Dracula of which there is going to be this untelling is actually the Universal Monsters Dracula, and not Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Is there a difference?

Yes. There is a difference.

Compare the character as he appears in Universal's Van Helsing (the one with Wolverine) to the one in Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula.

See what I'm talking about?

Knowing this, it's easy to see the appeal of going a bit bat-shit, and I'm honestly surprised that they aren't going full Captain Drac Sparrow all over our faces. Cheers to whatever it is that passes for restraint and subtlety over at Universal.

I've made clear a certain degree of vampire snobbery in posts past, but I've also been a little 'live and let unlive' on the matter. Regardless of how you choose to cast me in this I'm open to people doing what they feel they need to on the vampire front, but it doesn't create some sort of obligation on my behalf to participate.

I am totally free to do my own shit. I could make a sandwich. That is probably going to happen. Oh, my goodness, is that going to happen. It really, really is.

This is the sandwich:

And this is the Dracula Untold advert:

I guess the bit that made me briefly excited (prior to the arrival of the giant bat fist) was the line,

Sometimes the world doesn't need another hero. Sometimes what it needs is a monster.

That and Lorde's cover of the Tears for Fears classic, 'Everybody wants to rule the world'. The line though sucked me right in, and for a moment I was expecting something else.

With the recent news-cycles obsessed with religious conflict, civil unrest, and terrorism it would seem like the perfect time to take advantage of the existing fears and cultural shorthands to make a film about the supernatural reimagining of a guy whose life was defined by those very things.

Imagine a Dracula caught in the shifting hands of faith, who wages a campaign of terror against an invading army, tearing away at their morale and sanity, while justifying his tactics to the homeland he is trying to unite. A Dracula who is finally driven by nationalism, grief, and desperation not only to the supernatural darkness of vampirism, but also to the very human darkness that made him the dark prince of medieval psychological warfare.

A film about a man who while trying to be a hero, pushes way past the extremes of that concept and becomes both a literal and figurative monster.

A movie that would be dark. Like, crazy dark. A character so lost in the darkness that he can't possibly see a way back. There is no redemption. The well is too deep.

All we are left with is the knowledge of the man he used to be and the fate that awaits the broken, twisted creature of obsession that he will become.

Imagine that film.

That's what I thought we were getting.

I know that there was that Dracula: The Dark Prince thing, and that Vlad Tepes thing that are both kind of that, but they aren't really what I'm talking about.

 It's the cat-people thing all over again.

Monday 15 September 2014


Let's talk about Willow, because it's shazzawesome.

I'm not saying that it's better than those Middle Earth movies, but it's my goto movie when I want me some fantasy. That and Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula's movie, which is also sweet, and also has a creepy dog in it.

While we're on the topic, have you ever watched How I Met Your Mother and hoped that when Ted's talking to his kids in the future he'll just start outlining the plot of Bram Stoker's Dracula? Every episode!

For me it's like the 'cat people' thing. You know how during the whole lead up to meeting someone who has been described as a cat person you're hoping that this time it's going to be a ThunderCats scenario, and then every time you're secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) disappointed.

It's like that.

If you're a cat person and I've come across as a little down when I meet you, it's because I promised myself a ThunderCat, and that is not what you are.

You're a cat enthusiast.

It's not that I don't like people who are into cats.

It's not that at all, but when you're expecting a chocolate milkshake made by Scott Bakula and it turns out that it's just brown, opaque water from the kitchen tap in that apartment I lived in in Enmore, you're going to be a little down.

If you're not down at first, you definitely will be once that water takes your immune system to the boundary for six.

Even when people describe themselves as a 'cat person' to my face (where I keep my eyes with which I can plainly see that they are not a 'cat person' by any reasonable definition), on the inside I'm all like, 'You're not really though, are you?', and once on a first date it was way less on the inside than it probably should've been.

The takeaway from that story is that if you tell someone that you would've preferred to be on a date with any of the age appropriate ThunderCats (of which only one is a woman), there isn't going to be a second date.

There also isn't going to be a whole lot more of that first date.


I don't know if you've seen Willow, but, as mentioned previously, it's shazzawesome. It's got hobbits, and wise wizards, and stop motion animation, and Val Kilmer playing himself. I mean, I've never met the guy, but this is how I imagine he is in his day to day life.

You should get into it.

They should make sequels.

Come on, Disney!

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Moonage Daydream

The guitar tears in, grinding hard on the border between realities. It comes again, and, now announced, the herald calls across the cosmos.

He calls to us, naming himself before the message starts.

The guitar claws, and the herald names himself again.

Warnings and intimacy, and the promise of the daydream.

A drum calls the connection back, and the guitar grinds again as the dimensional walls flex and tear.

He demands truth.

We are warned again, and the promises come. The connection is reinforced as the message drifts from reality. The herald calls the repeated message across the cosmic wound.

The connection is slipping.

The guitar claws, howling as it fights to maintain the signal between worlds.

It's grip finally weakens, and the transition is only a moment, and it is gone, and we are alone.

Reality is restored, but it is changed. The herald's words are catalyst enough for a new age.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Star Wars, A New Hope

The imminence of new Star Wars is a mixed bag. I'm glad The Mouse is in the house. I'm pretty happy Buy n' Large (did you see Wall-E?) with the way that happy-go-lucky rodent operates.

I mean, I am not down with the absence of mixed race couples among the older stable of characters. I mean, the mice stay together, and the ducks stay together, and Goofy and Pluto are both dogs, but one wears clothes.

Is that super awkward when Goofy goes over to Mickey's for dinner?

I was talking about Star Wars. There're new ones on the way. The bag is mixed. That's where we were at.

The bit that makes it less so good is that I was there in '99. A lot of us were.

In my more formative years I was a lot-a-bit unstable for Star Wars. The original trilogy. That was the only one we had. Then they broke that.

George came in and was all like, 'These are my toys and I have decided to destroy them.'

If you really got into The Phantom Menace, and it is your favourite of The Wars, then you can take it and every copy of Batman & Robin and I can bury you alive.

BYO shovel.

It hasn't been all bad since the 1983 release of Care Bears versus Space Nazis. The first Dark Forces computer game was great, and came out during a long forgotten time when not everything in the Star Wars universe was made of light-sabres. Shadows of the Empire (only the novel) was a really good character based story set between Empire and Return.

And then there are these two videos by Belated Media.

I know that very strictly speaking this stuff isn't at all any sort of official canon. It's all just the ravings of a yet another YouTube lunatic who says things like 'salmon-box' to describe a scenario in which you are forced to work within the confines of a metaphorical box (predefined criteria) during a task that already feels like you are swimming upstream (like a salmon is prone to do).

These ravings though, are sweet.

When it comes to expanded universes, fan fiction, and other questions of canonicity I'm about as libertarian as I get. You can choose your own adventure. That's up to you.

For me, the Belated Prequel Trilogy is canon, and I am more excited about the arrival of episode III than I am about episode VII. They've restored a sort of positive feeling for the future of the franchise that is something that has only recently arrived in me. I'm sure there are words for that.

Thursday 14 August 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

Un amigo mío recently hypothesised that 'Guadians is definitely up [my] Straße', and he was right. I saw it, and it is deep within my Straße. It has taken up residence in a neat little half-timbered restoration that they got for a song. Well, songs.

When I say something like, 'Guardians of the Galaxy is pretty much exactly what I wanted it to be', I am telling you the truth.

I saw it, and it is.

It's part of that Marvel Cinematic Universe that's been going around, but it's not so much a superhero movie as it is space opera. It's got more in common with Star Wars, Firefly, and Flash Gordon than it does with The Avengers, Iron Man, or Green Lantern.

This, in and of itself, is a good way to win points with me. I'm down with the spandex, but you throw in the ray-guns, and I am yours.

I've expressed on occasion an appreciation for the space hero flavour of things (Panda and I both), but I don't want you to think that that is going to colour my opinion of this movie.

I don't stand up for any pan-galactic spandex-monkey. I'm a discerning space hero enthusiast. And this, my friends, is where it's at. Cosmically speaking.

The characters are adhesive. The kind of folks you're likely to carry around back there somewhere for long a time to come. They definitely shine through the spectacle, and there is a lot of spectacle to shine through.

You get the very real impression that self proclaimed outlaw of galactic renown, Peter Quill, is just an Earth boy doing the best he can in a big scary galaxy with a verbally abusive racoon and a verbally limited 'house plant'.

I'm not going to lie; I am likely to lead you astray if it suits me, and have done so in the past.

Actually, maybe I haven't. I'm not checking.

I've definitely mislead you to get your attention, but then I admit to it straight away.

Pretty much straight away.

Regardless: This is not one of those situations.

I like this movie a lot, and I've already started making arrangements to see it again, and I've been listening to the soundtrack since I got home the other night. On repeat.

Look, this film may not cuddle your happiness, and let it ride shotgun for some cosmic mayhem the way it did with me, but there is a very solid chance that you are going to enjoy this movie.

There's a good chance.

A very good chance.

Wednesday 13 August 2014

Do you need Mail Chimp?

I fell in love with Mail Chimp back in the '09. So many years ago now. It was a beautiful moment for me. It was one of those rare moments in life when you look deep into the eyes of a corporate mascot, and you realise that even deeper down inside yourself you are a sucker for a chimp with a little hat and satchel.

We've all been there.

Mail Chimp is pretty straight forward. It is everything that the name implies that it is.

Imagine, if you will, a digital chimp who lives not in the wild reaches of Africa, but dwells deep in the darkest heart of the internet. A digital chimp that delivers your e-mails for you. A chimp that also manages your mailing lists. A chimp that even alsoer helps you with your templates. A chimp that even alsoest does analytics for you that look super pretty.

Pretty standard chimp stuff really.

That's what it is. It does other stuff too, but it's this thing that I have described. In a hat and satchel.

Also, if you have 2000 subscribers, and are sending less than 12,000 e-mails a month, the chimp in the natty hat will do you for free. That's good for small businesses and people who are just starting out, and the prices stay pretty reasonable after that. He keeps costs down by only wearing a hat.

That IS pretty cool, but the thing I think I like most about Mail Chimp is that it will punish you if you are greedy, stupid, and have an actual human bum for a face. Mail Chimp is totally prejudice against bum-faces.

Let me explain.

There are lots of bad things that you can do that will pretty much ruin your correspondence, your mailing lists, and your relationship with your customers. What the chimp does is go, 'bad human!' and smacks you. He smacks you digitally. Then you learn not to do it again. If you are a bad learner he just refuses to deliver your mail for you.

This incredible chimp will settle so many arguments about things that should never be argued about in the first place.

Chimp knows best, and chimp says, 'No!'

End of chimp story.

He is kind of protecting you from yourself.

Like a chimp-run nanny-state.

The chimp will provide you with all of this information first if you want it. Which you should. He will teach you about mails and how they can best work for you, and he will make sure everything is awesome for you.

I enjoy the Mail Chimp so much that I often try to find excuses to use it, but usually fail at that and just convince other people to get into it. Then I 'provide support', and ask them to tell me what they're doing.

Step by step.

It isn't weird.

His name is Freddie.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Train-Loads of Spandex

It may or may not surprise you to know that I spent a fair portion of this weekend cruising around the back end of Lego Batman 2: DC Heroes, and that my copy of the game not only has a Martian Manhunter that can turn invisible (as he should), but it also has fifteen brand new characters, and some alternate versions of existing characters.

They were just sitting back there. Completely unattended. They looked so lonely. You should've seen the looks on their little, digital, plastic faces. There are other things back there too. Other things that I am still in the process of fetching out.

There can never really be enough characters in a DC game. I mean, Scribblenauts Unmasked, with its 2000 some characters, might suggest a limit to that statement, but for the most part you can just sort of keep piling people in.

This sort of superhero clown-car approach is the scene these days. Everyone who has a roster to milk is growing extra hands to fully exploit the udder.

This exploitation is kind of at odds with the contents of these udders.

DC can see what Marvel is doing with The Avengers, and they want that too. They want you to buy all of their Justice Leagues, and they want you to buy them now. This is why they've decided on the express route, and they're not really winning hearts and minds.

The last three DC films have been terrible (Green Lantern), boring (The Dark Knight Rises), and among the most tedious cinematic experiences in recent history (Man of Steel). Even the animated DC udder to which I usually turn for sustenance at times like these has begun to sour.

This is DC's scene. This is what they do best. There has been a lot of trend whoring, and DC have gone to great lengths to reassure the public that they will do pretty much anything going. Villains become interchangeable, Green Arrow becomes Batman (Arrow), and Batman wears any dress that Warner Bros. thinks might appeal to the customer. Camp in the sixties, grit in the naughties, and nipples in the nineties.

It all just starts to become meaningless.

What I'm suggesting is a sort of franchise fatigue.

Look, I love the DC Universe, but I get more excited at the prospect of re-reading their encyclopaedia, than I do at the prospect of watching any of their new films.

The problem being that the DC Universe is a finely balanced cluster-fuck of nonsense in which awesome stories of diverse scope are told. There is a lot of room in there for a lot of different things. Imagine a giant train, but it's like that song.

It's a crazy train.

Then you start selling tickets to interplanetary holy wars, a racially diverse Atlantis, Egyptian god-kings who turn out to be alien police officers who are stranded on Earth in an endless cycle of reincarnation, other space police with magic rings that were susceptible to the colour yellow, mood based power rangers, heaps of orphans, so many orphans, like every second person, and a beret wearing gorilla who's in love with a villainous brain in a jar.

And that's just the first couple of rows. By the end of it there is an immense amount of incredibly wild shit going down in every carriage of the DC crazy train. But it's balanced. It all makes its own sort of sense.

I guess what I'm saying is that when you make a Batman movie, and you at some stage want it to be more than just a one horse show, you are going to need to make sure that the world your Batman lives in has room for everyone else on the train. Who are made of milk if we go back to what I was saying earlier.

I guess it's an udder train of sorts.

In the meantime, if you have Lego Batman 2, and you want more guys in your game, let me know.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Are you being hacked?

The word 'hack', and derivatives thereof, get thrown around a lot these days.

It's a popular word that is becoming increasingly meaningless.

People use it to cover a lot of different behaviors and activities. It seems to be most commonly used these days to refer to finding an account open. It's kind of like claiming that someone broke into your house when you left the front door open.

People also use it to describe scam accounts, 'parody' accounts, and other doppelgänger (I love that word) accounts on social media sites. This isn't really hacking either. It's more of an old school con with new toys, and is pretty easy to do even if you turn your security settings up. If this does happen to you, I recommend following this link. More often than not they're used for marketing scams, but are occasionally used for more malicious activities.

As a result of all of this, the term 'hacking' is wearing a little thin. I'm all for the evolution of language (and 'hack' has done its fair share), but at some point we should restrict the number of definitions we offer up for a single word within a single arena.

I'm more on board with the 'life hack' use of the word, as it is more in line with the usage that led to the definition that I'm complaining is currently in the process of being bastardised.

There is a great history of the term in one of the books I have floating around. I did spend some time looking for it before I started writing this, but I was unfortunately unable to find it. If I find it. I will share the title of the book with you.

Hacking Facebook is very difficult, and something that Mark Zuckerberg has been known to take very seriously, but 'hacking' Facebook is very easy, and is something that is more often than not wholly reliant on somebody leaving their account open.

Look, those are the two far extreme ends of the 'unwanted access' spectrum, and there are a variety of 'hackings' that can go on in between the two. Some of these aren't really hacking, and some kind of are. For the most part we, as individual users, are only really capable of protecting ourselves from the one end of the 'hacking' spectrum, and the rest is up to the people that provide the service.

In the Facebook case, their end of the spectrum is relatively tight. They appear to be pretty good at it. I'm not privy to what's actually going on over there, which is fair, but they look like they know what they're doing.

Your end is probably another scene entirely. Maybe not yours specifically, but yours generally.

There are a few things that you should be doing, and this is by no means an exhaustive list. This is just a good place to start.

Always log out properly
Whenever you use a computer that other people might be able to access, log out of Facebook (or other service) properly. Once you have logged out, delete the history, and close the browser. Then reopen the browser, and go back to Facebook (or the other service) to make sure the password hasn't been 'remembered'.

This isn't fool proof. Actually, far from it. It is better than not doing it though.

Don't use public computers
Don't log-in to anything on a public computer. Don't check your e-mail. Don't check your Facebook. Don't check on your World of Warcraft anything. Absolutely never do online banking on a public computer. Even if you are in the habit of logging out properly, there isn't much of a guarantee that there aren't key loggers on the machine, or something else with a similar purpose.

If it is an absolute emergency, and you really need to check one of these things (not your bank account) you should change your password on a trusted computer as soon as possible afterwards.

You shouldn't be doing it in the first place though.

Don't reuse passwords across services
This is a really big problem. I'm not gong to explain it. I'm going to let xkcd explain it for you

Funny comic. Serious problem.

Even if a site isn't out to get you, you have no idea how good/bad their security is. It's that weak link in a chain metaphor that people are prone to harp on about. This same metaphor is good for talking about the one person on your network/system who has atrocious password practices. 

Don't write down your password
I wouldn't have even mentioned this one, except that it came up recently when I found out that it is being taught at my brother's expensive high school as a way of remembering passwords. No!! Bad expensive high school. Very bad! 

This is ridiculous. Don't ever do this.

This is an absurd habit to get into, and is an incredibly irresponsible thing to encourage others to do.

I could tell you stories. Crazy stories. Instead, I am going to tell you about a very dumb thing that I did.

Some years ago when I started a new job, and I was inundated with nine logins with random string passwords in two days, I wrote down three that were behind other logins. That is just an excuse, and it was still a super stupid thing to do.

Well before the end of that week I had changed the passwords to something else, and left the note in my top drawer as a reminder that I am very often prone to doing incredibly stupid things, where it was found at a later date by the data manager in our office. How embarrassment!

Remembering a multitude of passwords is a good skill to cultivate, and is something that will become even more relevant in the future.

It is better to be inconvenienced by forgetting a password than to make it accessible to others. Especially in a professional scenario where there is an IT department who can reset it for you. They do have better things to do than reset your password, but I promise you that they'll be far more annoyed if they ever have a serious breech.

There is this whole problem with this too, in that I would frequently argue that the security checks used to reset a password are far too often incredibly insecure. That is a story for another time though.

There is this whole misconception about password strength anyway, which is covered pretty clearly by this xkcd comic on password strength.

I guess the real takeaway from all of this is that you should be reading xkcd. It/he is the business. You will be totally emsmartulised. Also, it is funny.

Cleverness is the wombat's cummerbund. It increases one's nattiness.

Saturday 19 July 2014

Are you rubbing your computer on complete strangers?

I am occasionally reminded that I have spent most of my professional life as some breed of 'IT guy'.

I guess, in my own head I have always imagined myself as one of the 'wise-cracking iconoclasts built for grander things' subspecies. I also sometimes like to pretend that I am a bear, but that doesn't make it so.

As one of those 'IT guy' things who isn't a bear I am acutely aware of the effects of poor computer hygiene. People just sort of switch off, and cruise around rubbing their computer on every strange thing they can find. Digitally speaking.

It's bizarre.

To me, it's pretty weird that people don't seem to pay attention to the URLs when they get search results. This really is Not Rubbing Your Computer on Strangers: 1001. When I find out about this I tend to worry about them visiting places like Tijuana, or Bangkok.

Here are the first three results I got when I Googled 'mozilla firefox'.

Clearly the first one is an ad for a Mozilla Firefox download, and then the next two are not ads, with one going to the firefox download page, and the the third going to the Mozilla homepage.

It is not uncommon for companies to advertise with the same search criteria that their sites would be SEOed towards, so the fact that it is paid isn't necessarily a give away, but the URL for the first result  is

The postcode for this address is in Scam City. You will be getting malware.

Following this link will lead you to a page that looks like this, which to most people looks pretty legitimate.

It even has a disclaimer that you won't read, just like all the safe sites.

A disclaimer that contains this little chestnut.

This sort of statement is surprisingly common. You might not expect it, but it is. Hence the surprise.

I think it comes down to them not getting in trouble with Google for duping rubes, so that they can keep their sweet advertising spot.

The fact that they've said it doesn't really matter though, because most people don't read disclaimers, and most people don't pay attention when they are installing things. It's actually a fairly standard method for getting malware and poorly designed and coded toolbars onto people's computers.

It's really common. So common in fact that the first page of results for my Google search had five opportunities to experience the thrill of installing malware:

Firefox download with bundled malware (Ad)
Firefox download
Mozilla homepage
News about Mozilla Firefox
Firefox download with bundled malware
Firefox download with bundled malware
Firefox Wikipedia entry
Firefox download for Android through Google Play
Firefox download with bundled malware
Firefox download with bundled malware
Firefox download with bundled software (I haven't looked into whether or not it is malware)
'In-depth Articles' results

This isn't unique to Google searches, or Firefox distributions. I have come across examples on most search engines that I have used. Honestly, it is probably all search engines, but I filter it out these days, and tend not to take note of them.

I know a lot of you are probably thinking that you would never be caught out by something like this, but I see the evidence of it on a lot of computers. I've seen it on the computers of IT professionals, and ICT students, and programmers, and high school computing teachers, and a lot of the more tech savvy people that I know.

It is ridiculously common.

Even if you think you are absolutely super awesome with computers, and you never use them to Google Pandas or kittens or some such, and you've got a dozen top tier raid toons, and you've finished the internet, and totally pwned the boss fight with Mark Zuckerberg's left testicle, and you don't use aim assist when CoDing n00bz on your XBone, you should heed these words.

Especially if you are any of those things.

Thursday 10 July 2014

Alien: Isolation

I am sure that I have at some stage previous to this one that is happening made clear that I far prefer Alien to anything that has been made subsequently. I would go so far as to say that it is the one that I like it the most of them, which isn't really going any further than the initial statement.

I might even go so further as to say that it is one of the most exquisite films ever made.

I do like the series as a whole, but not in the same way that I like the first one, and not on the same level.

There is something terrifying and real about the first one. Something that comes after you on the most basic levels.

There is nothing you can do. The alien is dangerous, predatory, and apparently unkillable. In the later movies they are clearly very killable, but in that first film it is apparently an entirely different beast.

The creatures in the second film appear to be so unlike the one in the first that I've often argued it should've been made as a part of a different franchise. It's an action, shooty, farce, thing with a number of plot points copy and pasted from the original, which is why they have made so many video games about it.

They haven't ever really made a game that was based on the first film. Not really. Mostly because the general wisdom in the industry is that shooty-shooty, kill, kill is the most surefire way to ensure that people spend money on your thing that you made.

Apparently running and hiding from something you can't kill is an unappealing way to spend an evening.

Until now!

People love this shit. This is actually a popular sub-genre in the contemporary interactive digital entertainment landscape, which is why The Creative Assembly got the go ahead to make Alien: Isolation.

If you have ever watched the original Alien, and thought, 'me too!', then this game might be for you.

If the idea of trying to get some series of tasks completed so that you can get the hell out of wherever you are all the while being stalked by an eyeless, indestructible, monstrosity from the depths of space (and H. R. Giger's imagination), then this might very well be your scene.

As someone who has really enjoyed hiding in storage cupboards for indefinite periods of time while playing System Shock 2, I'm looking forward to the opportunity to do some cupboard hiding in one of the great cinematic cupboard-hiders of all time.

Sunday 6 July 2014

Timey-time, time, time

It is coming up on that time of year again.

Doctor Who time!

Which is, this time, also a new Doctor time.

Timey-time, time, time.


The time will actually be in late August. Kind of just after the 23rd.

I think.

I don't rightly know, to be honest. I haven't checked. It'll go out on the 23rd in the UK, and then everyone else gets it after, which is fair. He's their toy.

I like a new Doctor, which isn't to say that I didn't like the old ones, but I've seen enough now to know that this is the reason I like the show. I like that it is always different, but in a way it is always kind of the same too.

I tend to favour the incumbent. That appears to be the general rule for me. They will be my favourite until they are gone. It's part of the adventure.

This has meant that in my life time I have adored some of the much less popular Doctors, but I am okay with that.

But, that's what it's all about. It's all about change. The show endures because of it. Not just the cast, but 'everything changes': the tone; the genre; the style. It is a show about change. That's what's going on.

And, here we are again; time for more change.

I'm excited, and I like that there will be a carry on companion. They're always fun. Not always. That isn't true. When the Fourth passed to the Fifth he bequeathed a small legion of teens, which didn't go so well.

Their were too many, and they all had to be doing things, and each episode was only 25mins, and there were more than a few times that you thought, 'it might be nice if a couple of them would just stay on the TARDIS and have tea for just one story', but it never happened.

As a result of all of this they killed Adric, the maths kid. The Doctor actually made one of the other companions kill him in the TARDIS to conserve oxygen when it was shrinking. It used to be a pretty dark show. Actually, only some of that is true. Adric died. That is the true bit.

He died, and he took the dinosaurs with him.

It's odd, though, because the First Doctor had just as many pets, but didn't have the same pacing issues with his stories. They tended to operate in pairs and groups more I suppose.

Anyway, I've heard things about the new season that I don't really feel the need to talk about, but it all sounds exciting.

Here are the teaser trailers that were built to betease you into committing subconsciously to some sort of viewing arrangement.

Monday 30 June 2014

Strange Days

If there was a competition for comic covers that bluntly depict the threat of reality invading the fantasies we've decided to live in, I'm pretty sure this would win.

The more you know about Adam Strange, and his story, the more this makes sense.

Depending very much on how you want to read it, Adam Strange could well be about a man fantasising that he is Adam Strange, which is not an altogether unappealing pass-time.

Fantasising about being Adam Strange is not a stretch for me. It's a fairly straight forward sort of activity that falls under the category of 'I import my heroes from space, and being one would be nice'.

Sometimes when I forget that people can see me I hold my arms out at an angle, and imagine that they help me steer my jet-pack adventures across alien landscapes. Sometimes I'm other things. Robots and dinosaurs are fun too.

Adam is not from the current space. He's from the old one, cut from the same space-cloth as Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. You know the one. The one with the ray-guns and spandex.

Remember when space was like that?

On good days Panda and I try to find some balance between being space heroes and being mildly productive by some generally accepted Earth understanding of the word.

Strictly speaking we are not always successful. One might argue that Rann is defended with greater frequency and regularity than what should probably be the status quo is defended.

We pretty much have our own status quo. I've come to understand that it isn't unique to us.

'There are many like it, but this one is mine.'

It has less laundry than it should, but we're getting better at that.

Friday 20 June 2014

Alien 2: Bro-Dudes in Space

I would like to preface everything that gets said later on with: I really like Aliens. That needs to be known. I think it is a fantastic movie, and under no circumstances do I want anyone to think that I don't like it, or that I am saying that I don't think very highly of it.

Whenever I voice this opinion in public everyone jumps on me about how 'it doesn't have to be the same movie as the first one'. I know that, but plot-wise it is very similar to the first one regardless.

I like that the sequel to what is essentially a cabin-in-the-woods movie in space is a war movie. Two thumbs up! I think it's great. Alien is one of my all-time favourite films, and any sort of sequel that was tonally too similar would have to be pretty good not to seem entirely unwatchable.

So, they did a great job following up a fantastic film. Aliens is a great film.

... but it is essentially about arrogant, talking-monkey, bro-dudes in space, and why that is where they are going to die.

Of the four films in the Alien franchise, it is the least reliant on the eponymous aliens for the plot. Their actual being there is important to the plot, but what I am saying is that they could be any aliens. It didn't really matter who turned up or how they got there to bust down on the 158 residents of Hadley's Hope. At no point do they need to be those specific aliens. This film could've just as easily appeared in a different franchise with no real changes to the script. Especially not to the plot.

You also could've shot it as a satire without any changes to the script.

It's still a great film.

It doesn't detract from the franchise. It just doesn't really contribute much of anything in terms of concept. It's just lots of the plot of the first film rewritten to explain how they got their again, and to accommodate the aforementioned bro-dudes.

Those bro-dudes who are in the end mostly responsible for their own demise, because they're too cool for too many of the things that people who aren't fuck-wits might tend to get involved with: quarantine; covering up of exposed skin; following orders; actually paying attention when their situation is being explained to them. Nup! Bro-dudes in space!

Still a great film.

I actually enjoy counting them off as they die. 'Good-bye, fuck-wits 1 through n'.

Hudson's diatribe about what bad-arses they are nearer the beginning gives the impression that the great many of their 'combat drops' probably took places in malls, and that a lot of the hardware he talks about probably only saw action against frenzied late-night shoppers.

These guys were clearly out of their depth.

And then they died for not listening.

And isn't that what the Alien franchise is really all about.

That and black men sacrificing themselves to save white women.

Great film. Great franchise.

Not that I condone any sort of sacrificial activities, let alone those that are racially based. Probably especially those that are racially based. It isn't a good scene to get involved in.

It's bad.

Look, some very questionable decisions were consistently made in the making of these films, and lends credence to the possibility that sections of the first script were perhaps recycled.

Some of these are disputable. It's clear that Parker isn't 'sacrificing himself'' per se, but he essentially secured his own fate in order that Lambert may live just a tiny bit longer. But, It's a trend.

Alien 3 and Prometheus are the worst (EDIT: in their race based sacrifices). They are not subtle.

Tuesday 17 June 2014

He'll be your captain

I finally got hold of Space Pirate Captain Harlock, which is that movie that I was talking about at some earlier stage (December of last year). This is to date the most recent of the Captain Harlock things that has been made (that I know of).

If you're into this sort of scene, which you may well be, it would be worth knowing that this is most in line with Harlock Saga (ハーロック・サーガ ニーベルングの指環, or Harlock Saga: The Ring of the Nibelung). But, at the some time it really isn't in line with it.

Harlock stories are constructed anew from familiar parts. That's how they're made.

A lot of the more important Harlock mythology is at least touched upon in this one. It always is. That is how it works. Yattaran, Kei, Miime are all there, but they've definitely taken more notes from Harlock Saga than any of the other iterations.

If a lot of this is kind of nonsense to you, it might mean more to you to say that this Space Pirate Captain Harlock is stand-up-straight, epic, pulp, space-mythology at its best.

There are a number pretty full on space battles, tragic heroes, questions of morality, people with scarred faces, and there is a deep disregard for the accurate depiction of a number of sciencey things. It's basically a super melodramatic space adventure in an impossible future, with the gothicocity turned way up to eleven. In a good way.

This is the high-fantasy of science fiction, and it's pretty incredible.

If the Germans had written operas about space pirates, this is where you'd have boarded, but with more singing, and in German.

If you know much at all about German opera, you would know that this is not the first time in this post that it's come up.

This has been pretty well timed for me. I've been dwelling lately upon my relationship with space voyages, and the voyagers who voyage such voyages. Which, for a change, is actually relevant to things that are going on for me at the moment, which has legitimised the dwelling. Not that I wouldn't've dwelt regardless, but I would've initiated what happens next with some alternative variety of preamble.

Star Trek comes last.

Well, not last, but it isn't first. When I think about people and or things making their way across the endless night, there are a fair number of cartoons, TV shows, and books that come to my mind first and foremost.

They got there first. That's all there is to it. Robotech (Super Dimension Fortress Macross), Star Blazers (Space Battleship Yamato), Captain Future, Ulysses 31, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, and Vehicle Force Voltron were sewn deep long before I saw my first Star Trek anything.

I really like Star Trek, but it isn't the first impulse that I get when this stuff comes up. That's just the way I was trained.