Showing posts from 2013


It's fairly obvious that "Pick" - formerly PickTV - is the Sky-run freeview channel; Wikipedia confirms my suspicion that it is simply a rebranded Sky 3. I wonder why they changed the name? I guess either "Sky 3" tested poorly - people thought it was third-class or third-rate or just generally offcuts - or they wanted to trick people into watching what they thought was an independent channel so they could bombard them with adverts for other fine Sky products at a discount rate. And wow, what does it say about the broadcasting industry that it is cheaper to buy your own channel than it is to buy advertising space on somebody else's? Anyway, I only mention this because they've recently been pushing this thing called "Moonfleet". I don't know anything else about the show. I believe it involves boats. An advert in my news feed suggests it contains Ray Winstone. Whatever. The important thing is it's called Moonfleet. Moooooonfleeet.


This announcement  kind of highlights a lot of what is wrong inside the heads of the people behind Facebook. They're going to start autoplaying video adverts, initially without sound (as they apparently have been with user videos, though I haven't seen any). The idea is that the brightly-coloured movement will attract your eye, and after a moment of staring at it you'll naturally want to click to activate sound. Because of course, the best way to watch a video is always mute for the first twenty seconds. But as you read this press release, you realise it's not a new mechanism for getting adverts in front of your eyeballs so Facebook employees can pay their bills. It's "a New Way for Marketers to Tell Stories", a "richer storytelling format for advertisers".  It's not just for the benefit of marketers, it's "for people who will discover more great content". And after the video is over, they want to make it "easy to dis

In My Pants

"Smallville Season 11" Superman I flipped through Smallville Season 11 #1 this week (it was free on Comixology, like your first hit from the dealer) and was struck by the Superman costume (pictured right). It's very similar to the classic, but with a red belt and darker patches down the sides, beginning under the arms and continuing down the sides of the legs, flattering the torso like a rugby top. It has a few lines on and around it, seams like it was actually sewn together by somebody, but nothing overly elaborate. Some detailing on the boots. Enough to make it look distinct from the comics. Most significantly, no red shorts. And I'm looking at it, and I'm thinking, well, this is actually fine. It looks like Superman. Huh. "New 52" Superman See, I'm not overly fond of the "New 52" Superman outfit (left). I enjoyed Grant Morrison's run on Action (see  earlier article ), and am satisfied with his reason for wearing it -

Back in Action

I've been suckered in by - I mean taking advantage of - a lot of Comixology sales lately, and this week I picked up Grant Morrison's run on Action Comics. 99¢/69p an issue, you can't pick up the trade paperbacks for that, even on Comixology. It was ... Ugh, argh, rrmmmm. Hah. Ouch. Don't get me wrong. It was good. There's no denying it was good. Morrison has fantastic ideas. Brilliant. He knows the magic of words and worlds, every panel on every page is a work of genius. The problem is not that he's not good. The problem is that he's so far past good that it's just awful. So brilliant that it hurts to look directly at it. It's less evident earlier on, where things are more coherent, but even there there are digressions, non-sequiturs that don't pay off for nearly a year, and usually that's a great thing, the mark of a solid writer who's planned ahead. The first line of the dialogue in the first panel of the first page gives away

The Final Frontier

Google Play Music is trying to update. It's a 6MB download. I have insufficient storage space.* There's 120MB left on my internal storage, 2GB on the "phone storage" partition, a whopping 7.2GB on my SD card**. I have insufficient storage space for a 6MB download. What. * Illustrated here by a photograph of our cat, Ginger, in a box ** It would be a lot less if I had direct control over where Google Play stored its media. Currently it assumes you want it on the "sdcard0" mount, which is how the "phone storage" partition on my phone identifies itself ..

Let's ****

So Tesco are doing this thing where they are advertising their tablet based on what you can do with it. This makes sense for pretty much any other product, but not so much with an Android tablet. All the things they are advertising are available to pretty much anyone running Android (except Kindle Fire owners)! Video conferencing, watching movies? Talking sodding Tom ? They should be advertising things that are unique to the Hudl. Like, maybe, explaining how it's as fast and powerful as a more expensive one? Or that you can use Clubcard Boost to halve the price? But no, the man in the street doesn't get the distinction between software and hardware, so we can just show some pretty moving pictures and assure you that this [PRODUCT] is making people's lives better. Honestly, it's like advertising cars by just showing them driving around, without explaining why this one car is better than any other car that you might ... ... ... huh.


Every time there is a scandal some wag asks why we use "-gate" as a suffix for scandals. These people know why. They know all about the earlier scandal and/or hotel. They just want to be clever and point out that it's a nonsensical thing that has nothing to do with actual gates. Well: why do we still say "pants" when people haven't worn pantaloons for centuries? Why do we use "stuff" when talking about things that aren't fabric? Why do we use any word? Because there is a communal understanding about what this particular set of lines or audio pattern "means" that goes beyond its literal or even etymological origins in as little as a few decades of its being coined. Almost as though language is a continually evolving shared delusion, or something. In any case, if you're going to have a suffix that quickly and easily illustrates a moment when something is metaphorically swung open to reveal hidden truths to the public, you could d

Seek! Locate! Exterminate!

On August 8th Google officially retired Latitude , and it has been largely unlamented. Probably the main issue was that it wasn't sure what it wanted to be. At times it seemed like a check-in tool in the style of Foursquare  (man, is that still running?), with points awards and a leaderboard. At other times it was more like a way of just letting your friends know exactly where you were at any given moment. Most of the time it just seemed sort of pointless. I tend to imagine this confusion came about because Google were just really excited about the fun possibilities of location-aware devices and rushed in without really thinking about what the point would be, but it's entirely possible they just wanted to track your movements and came up with some half-hearted window dressing to con you into willingly consenting being monitored.

No Such Thing as a Free Launch

I signed up for Google Play Music All Access (a name that fair trips off the tongue) just to see. Now their entire catalogue comes up when I search in the player, and if I see something I like that I don't already own I can press the "Add to my library" button to, well, add it to my library. I'm wondering what happens to this music after my subscription expires. They appear in my library exactly like any album that I've previously bought through the service. I'm assuming they differentiate on an internal level, and anything I've just "nabbed" will immediately vanish when I opt out? Probably that's one of the ways they hope to "encourage" people to stay subscribed. It's notionally very different. Spotify makes it clear they haven't actually "given" you anything, you just have access to it. Google pretend to "give" you the music, so when they take it away you will feel like you've lost something...

For Hero

I avoided DIAL H when I saw it was being written by China MiƩville. If I had to fall down on one side or other of the fence, I would probably describe myself as a fan of Dial H For Hero, though I have never read an issue of the original series. It was, by all accounts, a fairly harmless effort with a charmingly dopey gimmick; the kid hero (or, later, heroes) discovered a magical device that they could use to take on the form and abilities of a random superhero. When it was revived in the 80's it became a wish fulfilment fantasy on multiple levels, as not only was it a story about a kid (just like you!) granted fantastic abilities, but all of the costumed identities were culled from ideas submitted by fans. As I say, I've never read any original DH4H. I'm familiar with the concept because in the decades since audience-participation comics became unfashionable the H-dial has reappeared again and again, becoming firmly entrenched as a key mystic artifact of the DC Univ

All This And Less

This advert is running in Comixology right now: Any sane person would interpret this to mean "Superman Unchained #1 and 200 other comics are all on sale for 99¢." At first glance you might not realise other comics are involved, because that text is de-emphasised. What the advert is trying to very strongly imply, to get you to tap on that box without reading it properly, is that Superman Unchained #1 is only 99 cents. It's not. It's like $5. What the advert is actually saying is that Superman Unlimited #1 is now available to buy , and in unrelated news 200 issues of various Superman comics are only 99¢. To be clear, I don't feel cheated or decieved - I noticed the specific wording and figured something was up before tapping through - but I am disappointed by the clear attempt to deceive. Something that is by now so thoroughly ingrained into advertising culture that I'm sure whoever laid this out didn't give it a second thought. This wasn

Deadly Typeface

I finished my first playthrough* of Thief: Deadly Shadows over the weekend. I managed to hold this in through the whole game, but now I feel I must speak out. I can hold my peace no longer.


So, by now you'll have heard the news. It's been everywhere. It was discussed on Radio 2 this evening.  But still, I feel the need to note that this post contains spoilers of a most final nature for the immediate future of Doctor Who, and put it behind a cut, even though it's basically only a couple of lines about my personal reaction.

Mind = Blown

So, I'm just going to put these here.

In The Name Of

So, the Doctor Who season 8 finale went out. And yes, it was awesome, but I'll be perfectly honest here: the pre-credits alone sold it to me. The next 45 minutes could have been static and I still would have come away feeling giddy with excitement. Two days later, it is time for cold reflection. How well does this episode fit with what has gone before? Spoilers...

Dude, Where's My Content?

I tend to keep my web browser non-maximised, unless it's a site I'm working on.  Usually this is because I'm browsing while waiting for something else to finish and I want to keep it visible in the background, but not always.  Possibly there are deep-seated psychological reasons, a fear of commitment or some such.  Regardless, this is my use case. As a result, whenever a friend of mine links to an article they have written in Starburst magazine, this is what I see: It's (judging by eye) about 25% advertising (largely cross-promotion), 5% menu and 40% dead space.  The headline is small and inoffensive, the writer's byline obscured.  But my primary gripe is the article itself is completely invisible, pushed off my window by an enormous image (which, incidentally, shares enough in common with the four lozenge adverts that it looks at first like another advert).  This is their standard layout, all articles are laid out like this - small header, big image, conten


We stood on the precipice, looking out over the valley below.  "All the way over there, huh," Tony grimaced.   "Yeah, you can just make out the crash perimeter," I confirmed, pointing into the distance.  "We came down near vertical, so no matter how far we are above ground level it shouldn't be too far away from there," I started to say, but before I could finish "vertical" I was interrupted by a terrible roar from below.   With a tremendous crashing sound the forest canopy beneath us shook and rippled like the surface of a lake before tearing asunder to reveal the source of the noise - a gargantuan creature rising to its feet.  The behemoth was so large that as fast as it moved, its sheer size dictated it took a clear seven seconds to reach its full height.  I glanced at Tony as the displaced air rushed past us; he was looking up at the beast in awe, unafraid, already sizing up its potential weak spots and tactical assets.   "What t

Young Who

The other day I was reminded of some work I did back in the day - this illustration for Walking in Eternity , a charity Doctor Who anthology. I quickly realised that it was not available to view anywhere on the internet, which was a situation that clearly needed to be remedied. So! Here it is, newly pressed and available for purchase as a print. It seems reasonable that any proceeds will go to the original beneficiaries, the  Foundation for the Study of Infant Death .

Both Caramel And Nuts

"Snickers" (still often referred to in my house as "Marathon", no matter how long ago they rebranded) are currently running a competitive promotion. They're producing two variants, named "More Nuts" and "More Caramel"; you can probably take an educated guess at the difference between them. It's probably more apparent from the labels than it is from the contents, both of which taste like ... Well, like a Snickers bar. The "More Caramel" variant is packaged in an easily-identified tan wrapper. "More Nuts", on the other hand, is either the standard Snickers brown or so close as to be indistinguishable. Certainly shop staff appear unable to tell the difference as several times now I've seen them mixed in with the standard bars. At first I had assumed both variants differed from the standard bar. However I'm no longer certain this is the case. It's possible the wrapper colouring is intended to indicate that

All things must end

I've moved house recently and as a result have been sifting through my old comics. And as a result I have been reading a lot of old comics. (Something my shift to digital will rob me of. But I'll treasure the resultant shelf space.) This has reminded me of something I meant to discuss about a year and a half ago. In October 2011, DC Comics rebooted their fictional universe. Some series were restarted from scratch, while other ones carried on more or less unchanged - albeit with minor background modifications or knock-on effects from other, more substantial revisions. (Green Lantern is the most unsettling one, as it carried on without missing a step ... But it soon became apparent that the Superman comics had decided the Death of Superman arc was no longer canon, effectively removing Hal Jordan's tenure as Parallax and Kyle Rayner's entire origin. Sticking-plaster patches are slowly being introduced, though I'm still not sure how Blackest Night played out. But I di