Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The weirdness of Gumtree

I don't use Gumtree much, but have just advertised some old magazines I'm giving away. Go here and here to get your hands on vintage Empire and MacUser literature - no seriously! I'm NOT KIDDING!!!

Anyway, while browsing, I came across this ad in the Freebies section:

pain in the butt girlfriend
she is lazy, unwilling to work, no fun in bedroom, answers back, moans all the time. answers to the name of LOUISE please try and keep the same name as shes a very dim 29 year old. thanks for reading

Oh dear - someone needs a bit of relationship counselling...

Monday, April 26, 2010

First ever YouTube video

Back in the olden days, there was no YouTube. Cyberspace was a pretty dull place.

Then, in 2005 a couple of guys came up with the idea of a video social networking site. The rest, as they say, is internet history. Or something.

Anyway, I was amazed to see the first ever upload from one of YT's founders. It's pretty bland and yet typical of the kind of content YT is riddled with. If only they'd thought about filming the elephants taking a dump, or someone getting attacked by a monkey.

No doubt cyber-archaeologists will be searching for this historic gem in centuries to come.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

ABC Warriors

Being a geek who used to read 2000AD avidly each week when I were a wee lad, I was very excited to come this short animation of the ABC Warriors on Vimeo.

Sadly, it's way too short - I'd love to see more of this.

2000AD ABC Warriors from Firestep Films on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Meltdowns and parenting

Over Easter we went to the National Railway Museum in York. It's a very impressive place to visit, and I don't think you have to be a trainspotter to appreciate it. I particularly enjoyed sitting in the cabin of the famous Mallard (the fastest steam locomotive in history).

Unfortunately, JKY had a complete meltdown in the middle of the museum because he wasn't getting his own way. This was a Force 12 tantrum with foaming mouth, drooling snot and serious lashings out of extremities.

It lasted for 15 minutes.

As we tried to to calm him as patiently as we could, many many members of the public walked past (mostly families and older people). Although I tried to ignore them, I couldn't help thinking that as they walked past staring at us they were quietly judging our parenting skills and thinking things like: 'Just give him a big slap.', 'Don't pander to him', 'You're not doing it right', 'This is really spoiling it for the rest of us', 'Give him some chocolate or something'.

I'm sure in actuality, most of them knew exactly what we were going through and were just glad it wasn't them. However, it didn't feel like it at the time.

So, the next time you see one or two parents trying to calm down a screaming toddler, please don't judge them and bear in mind the following:

- Every child is different. What works for one child in terms of discipline probably won't work for another. God in His infinite wisdom made us unique - right from the moment we pop out of our mummy's womb. That's what makes parenting challenging sometimes - ultimately, it is up to the parent to try and figure out the best tactic for their little one.

- Toddlers are incredibly immature emotionally. They see things very black and white - plus, in their mind the entire universe orbits around them 24/7. You cannot reason with them in the way you can with a seven-year old, hence the stormy tantrums.

- Smacking or hitting a child is not necessarily the best option. I have become increasingly anti-smacking the more I have learnt about what is teaches to young minds. By hitting a child, you're basically saying it's OK to use violence to resolve an issue. For example, if a child hits you and you hit them back as a punishment, surely you're giving a confusingly mixed message and presenting yourself as a hypocrite).

- Youngsters over the age of two are constantly testing boundaries. It is their way of figuring out their place in the world around them. If boundaries exist in a family set-up they feel secure and protected (testing these boundaries are a way of checking they are still in force and that the security continues to exist).

- Bribing children with chocolate etc in order to behave sets a problematic pattern of behaviour for the future. It may make things easier in the short term, but will make life a lot harder later on. Children should simply do as their parents say with no answering back and no bribes. This is admittedly a high standard to expect but is at least something to aim for. (by the way, I'm not saying we've never resorted to a wee bit of bribery in the past but we at least try and keep it to a minimum!).

- Sometimes, the best-intentioned and most loving parent in the world will either get it wrong, forget to do the right thing or just be at the end of their tether. It happens to us all.

(By the way, I am not in any way writing this as if I'm some kind of authority on parenting - believe me, I'm not. I'm just making some observations based on my own experience, that's all.)

When a family is struggling in public with a tazmanian devil of a child, on the whole they are usually loving parents who are trying the very best to bring up their child in the right way. Only the very tiny minority of parents are neglectful or cruel to their offspring.

I think we handled JKY's behaviour as best we could. I can't think of how we could have done it any different without compromising our principles or losing it completely. So what if our son was screaming for 15 minutes? Eventually he calmed down and we were able to carry on.

No doubt there will be many more meltdowns of this scale to come (especially if we are blessed with another wee little one). I guess it's just part of earning one's Parenting Battle Scars.

Parenting Battle Scars - yeah! That makes the whole experience seem almost worth it!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sickening Stuff

Why oh why has Thorpe Park launched new rides based on the Saw movies??

It beggars belief, it really does. As far as I understand, the Saw movies centre around the exploits of a serial killer who enjoys putting people in traps where they have to cut off various appendages in order to stay alive. Er - great fun...

I think the whole Saw phenomenon is indicative of a sad society which revels in gore, violence, pain and death. I can just about bring myself to appreciate some horror films as well-made pieces of artistic filmmaking - Jaws or The Shining spring to mind. Most, however, are exploitative and tap into the dark side of humanity too easily (they also tend to consist of bad acting, a poor script and a total lack of imagination).

Theme Parks are meant to be fun and family-oriented. These new rides that glorify horror are contrary to this notion.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The thing about Trek....

I got Star Trek (the 2009 JJ Abrams version) on DVD for my birthday and even though I missed it at the cinema, I knew it would be good. Abrams really nailed the sci-fi re-boot which was a fun, action-packed, old fashioned adventure that managed to respect the source material while still setting itself apart as something new and fresh.

It was one of those films that I wanted to see again straight away, and couldn't wait to get into the DVD extras. For me, that's a rare thing indeed.

One thing Abrams said was that the challenge was to re-invigorate the franchise and in so doing make it possible for anyone (from the hard-core Trekker right through to the completely uninitiated) to enjoy the film. That's a tall order, but in my opinion Abrams and crew managed to pull it off. Let's hope the sequel does away with the so-called 'odd-number Trek curse':

So now I'm all excited about things of a Trek nature, I think I should point out that I'm not a Trekker. I've always had a bit of a love hate relationship with the Trek. I'd always considered myself more of a Star Wars kind of guy, but thanks to the betrayal/fiasco/letdown/pig's ear of the Phantom Menace and Abrams' directing efforts on the new film my loyalties aren't quite as clear as they were.

This is difficult for me as my gripes with Trek are many and varied:
- Why have the bridge on top of the ship's saucer where it's easy shooting for would-be baddies. Surely, the bridge on a starship should be right at the core of the craft? They have video cameras in the future as well, you know.
- The Next Generation was all a bit dull and relied too much on characters employing convenient science mumbo jumbo plot devices in order to resolve any problems.
- Trek technology is never quite convincing enough. We have phones that can communicate across the planet and it's only 2010. It will be another 200 years before Kirk and crew get to lark about in space. Surely the Federation will have come up with something infinitely more advanced than our humble iPhones.
- The writers too often use time travel in the story while having little concern for the repercussions. One example of this blatant disregard for all things chronological is in the new Trek film which (here be spoilers!) completely obliterates an entire timeline (and therefore perhaps negating every Trek series or film that was ever made previously).

Having said all this, I do have a small amount of affection for things Trek-related. There is something endearing about the comradeship that exists among the crew of the various vessels, plus if you take away the sci-fi nonsense, Trek is essentially a human story where men and women overcome great obstacles all for the greater good of humanity (or something like that anyway). The notion of what Starfleet represents (i.e. an intergalactic humanitarian peace-keeping force) is also quite laudable.

One can't deny the cultural impact Star Trek has made over the last few decades. Most people, I think, are familiar with aspects of the Trek universe - and I'm sure the sci-fi show has inspired countless inventors and scientists to go on and do what they do.

So am I about to commit my life to the ways of the Trekker? Actually, no. In my opinion, the hard-core Trekkers who are out there have a quai-religious attachment to Trek - meaning their loyalty to the franchise is unflinching and non-critical.

They also prance around in Trek uniforms which is just silly*.

So that kind of devotion is totally out for me. All I can say, however, is that I have a new-found healthy respect for Trek and recognise its worthy contributions to all things sci-fi.

Well done, Gene Roddenberry!

*however, if anyone bought me a miniature Enterprise for my birthday I would be inwardly very excited...!!