Star Princess: South America Cruise (Part 1)
Apr25

Star Princess: South America Cruise (Part 1)

This March, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of our first date and to celebrate the fact we’d managed to save up long enough to afford it, my wife and I took a holiday with Princess Cruises on the Star Princess from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso. This post forms the first of two long parts documenting the holiday’s highlights as well as giving some hints and tips about cruising in general and cruising with Princess in particular. Some tips will probably update those presented when I wrote about our first Princess Cruise around Asia in 2008. The Air France Experience To say we were a little worried in the lead up to our cruise would be an understatement. Do we need visas? Have we got travel insurance? Did we arrange the parking for the right day? Are our passports valid? Did we really get travel insurance or have I mistaken that for the Iceland trip last year? And so on. One of the major concerns was that we’d arranged to fly out to Buenos Aires through Princess (there are flight protection benefits doing it that way) and this meant we had to fly Air France from Heathrow with a change at Paris Charles de Gaulle. Yes, we’d be risking the entire vacation on French air traffic controllers being at work. As it was, the air traffic control worry never materialised. Instead, after a short hop to France we settled into our seats for the 13+ hour flight to Argentina. Settled into our uncomfortable seats. If you’ve ever wondered what happened to those hard plastic chairs you used to sit on at school then I can tell you now that someone put a tea towel over them and installed them on Air France planes. Painful seats, equally painful food. I know that airplane food doesn’t have a good reputation, but French food does so we had high hopes they’d cancel out into something average. But no. It’s something when you and your wife disagree what something is before you eat it – I thought potato, my wife thought egg – then both change your minds to “Is this some genetically-engineered tasteless fish? Is this entire trip a psychological test or TV prank?” We still don’t know what we ate on Air France and were too scared to ask in case someone told us. Arrival: Buenos Aires, Argentina We picked up our luggage, got through security, spotted some Princess Cruises representatives, and were directed to the end of the airport where someone would take our luggage and put us on a coach to the ship. The representatives in the airport were having...

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American Reflexxx: Mob Violence And Gender Confusion
Jan02

American Reflexxx: Mob Violence And Gender Confusion

You know what it’s like. You’re following some random links on random Tumblr sites looking for 1980s-style neon gorgeousness (don’t ask me why) when you find yourself somewhere called Sleazeburger and during the scrolling you notice a comment from someone asking about a film. And then you follow the link in the answer. And then you spend a little over 14 minutes gawping at something mesmerising and distressing, captivating, and mind-reeling. American Reflexxx is a movie featuring that Tumblr site’s owner, performance artist Signe Pierce, and filmed by Alli Coates in 2013. It was supposed to be a short film featuring Signe in stripper gear, neon shoes, and a reflective mask strolling along Myrtle Beach in South Carolina; something pretty, something futuristic cyborg-like, in a tourist destination in the heart of conservative America; it was probably expected there’d be stares, maybe some comments, photos from phones; it was probably not expected that a crowd would form and that both verbal and physical assault would take place. Oh, so naive. There’s some interesting time-dilation editing in the movie which helps to make Signe Pierce’s cyborg seem that much more alien amongst the humans. And, interestingly, it’s very difficult to come away from this video with anything other than bad feelings towards those humans as their behaviour to the alien is distressingly… well, human. The initial interest in the sexy giant very quickly gives way to uncertainty over gender. Unable to truly know whether Signe is male or female or something else entirely the instinct becomes to assume she is wrong, and therefore bad, and therefore a threat, and therefore scary. Adrenalin’s a hell of a drug and it will either trigger a fight or flight instinct but when you’ve got the safety of the herd around you and the threat has no obvious weapons a fight with the protection of numbers in the mob is probably the result you’re going to get. I mean, you’d like to think people could think rationally, perhaps think it’s a model doing a photoshoot or even the art piece it is, show some interest maybe, then go about whatever it was they were doing before, but forming into a mass of bullies is certainly an option too. The video features Signe getting sprayed with water, someone trying to trip her, and someone cowardly pushing her from behind to the floor where she suffers a cut. In each case the person assaulting the alien is a woman. A raised reaction to a perceived raised threat from a potential rival perhaps? Or women are just naturally violent in South Carolina? I’ve not been so I don’t...

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Talks Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Dec22

Neil deGrasse Tyson Talks Star Wars: The Force Awakens

It’s become something of a tradition that famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson – how famous? He’s about 0.85 on the Professor Brian Cox scale level of famous – will take to Twitter to discuss elements of some current big thing and describe the science behind it, what’s right, and what’s wrong. Deflategate? He talked about it. Eurovision Song Contest? He talked about it. Proposed acquisition of 99p Stores Ltd by Poundland? He talked about it after converting the currency to those quaint dollars and cents they have over there. As you probably know unless you’ve been in a cave following a terrible spelunkung adventure (in which case thanks for popping by this site first on your escape from the darkness) the Star Wars universe just added a new movie to the collection in the form of The Force Awakens. I wrote a review about it. Recently. Here it is: Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Review. It’s a big thing – the movie, not my review – and that means Neil deGrasse Tyson popped up on Twitter and told anyone who would listen about the film. The scientist’s remarks about the new Star Wars film are...

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Review
Dec18

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Review

Like many people I’ve been to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens and like many people you’ve probably seen it too even if you haven’t because you’ve probably seen the original Star Wars and without wanting to spoil the film too much this new release is almost exactly the same. In much the same way that J. J. Abrams rebooted Star Trek you can more-or-less consider Star Wars: The Force Awakens to be a reboot of A New Hope with a splash of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi thrown in for good measure. Did I like The Force Awakens? Yes. It was a big sci-fi spectacular, it had good action, good characters, and it all felt warm and familiar. It’s a good film because the original Star Wars trilogy was good. That said, there was nothing new in it at all and I’m really hoping that this is addressed in the following two; I’m going to be mightily disappointed if all we can look forward to is ghost Jedi, swamps, and muppets in forests again. So, let’s see what The Force Awakens is like. The desert planet Tattooine still features, only this time it’s called Jakku. The person on that desert planet with the notably absent parents who dreams of fighting for the rebels and who has the Force flowing within them, originally Luke Skywalker, of course, this time is Rey. An aside here: I really liked her. She’s a tougher character than Luke ever was, handy in a fight, taking no nonsense, and only grudgingly accepting help. I approved of Rey a lot. The evil Empire is now the evil First Order. The evil Emperor is now the evil Supreme Leader Snoke. It will be interesting to see if any back story of Snoke appears in the upcoming movies as I understand he became truly evil because his parents Snufflywubs Giblets and Jar Jar Jumblybum didn’t give him a cute enough name. The Darth Vader character – the Sith Lord, all in black, with a family connection to one of the main characters – is now Kylo Ren. With his helmet removed he reveals himself to be Young Sherlock Holmes. The pipe is truly evil and explains the husky voice. The bit where the Millenium Falcon is captured, boarded, and the pilots are hiding below the deck plating is there. Han and Luke dressed as stormtroopers pretending to take a captured Chewbacca through the evil base is now an actual stormtrooper – Finn – pretending to take a captured Poe Dameron through the evil base. The Death Star is now Starkiller Base. Nobody thinks...

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Star Trek – The Electronic Game
Dec14

Star Trek – The Electronic Game

Who remembers the electronic game based on Star Trek: The Motion Picture as produced by Coleco and listed in their Coleco 1980 Catalogue? No, me neither. Still, let’s take a look at it since it’s almost Christmas and you might sink one too many Snowballs then feel like whipping yourself around the sun in reverse and travelling back to purchase it from a better time in every way except for wages, health, technology, general safety, cleanliness, entertainment, and disturbingly scratchy clothing that you couldn’t get too close to the three bar electric fire while wearing if you didn’t want a trip to the Burns & Melting ward to be your overriding memory of the festive period. Looks sort of like the Enterprise, so that’s good, although sort of like the Enterprise after the episode Encounter At Trash Compactor, so that’s less good as that was one of the early Next Generation episodes before they thankfully killed off Flippy the Space Toad (though not in the trash compactor, sadly). I wonder how you play it. It’s the U.S.S. Enterprise versus V’ger in this action packed, electronic space game for 1 or 2 players! The opposing forces orbit over a runaway planet – their mission to gain possession. They fire at the planet attempting to neutralize it and claim it for their own! V’ger fires a green energy bolt – the Enterprise raises a protective shield around the planet – the bolt is deflected! Now, the Enterprise fires a photon torpedo – V’ger raises its shield too late – it’s a hit! Photons are fired again – and again – five hits and the neutralization is complete. The planet is won for the U.S.S. Enterprise! I see. I have a few problems with this game. I’m going to have to put my nerd hat on and I’m not going to take my nerd cap off first. The runaway planet didn’t appear in Star Trek: The Motion Picture; the runaway planet appeared in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier but it was cut from the movie as the studio felt its story arc wasn’t as strong as that of the bald guy with bad teeth protecting his holes from the emotional Vulcan. Roddenberry was very specific when it came to warfare in his space opera. The Enterprise usually neutralises a planet by having Kirk (later: Riker) give everything on it a venereal disease and for privatised healthcare provided through insurance from the shadowy “Federation” to then quell the global populace. Any Star Trek fan will tell you that you can’t just press a button and extend the shields around an entire planet....

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Pulp Fiction Artwork: The Allure Of Armpits
Nov29

Pulp Fiction Artwork: The Allure Of Armpits

Take a look at any collection of pulp fiction novel covers and you’ll spot patterns. Understandable, of course; cheap, derivative stories only need cheap, derivative art, quite often bearing little if any connection to the contents of the pages within. Scantily-dressed women feature a lot, naturally, but you’ll also spot other trends too: the smoking gun pictures, the bound-and-gagged women pictures, the ravishing redheads, the sultry brunettes, the innocent-looking blondes. And armpit pictures. Yes, nothing sells a pulp fiction novel better than gratuitous armpittery. I imagine. Just what is the allure of armpits? The following cover images come via https://www.flickr.com/photos/56781833@N06/ but probably don’t really help to explain just why the imagery is so prevalent in the genre. The Emerald Bikini A story of a man’s escape from the drab routine of married life through a girl whom he possessed completely, and whose wanton sex appeal turned a southern town into a frenzy. There’s a reason they don’t make bikinis out of emeralds any longer and it’s not just because it triggers a frenzy of greed in a southern town probably suffering economically because, well, it’s a southern town; no, that reason is chafing. Chafing leads to stretching. Stretching leads to armpit-exposure. Armpit-exposure leads to temptation. Temptation leads to adultery. Also: emerald bikinis are prohibitively expensive. That’s another reason. Harling College A teaching degree was needed… and the subject was sex. Prexied by a beautiful tramp… Financed by tainted millions… Guided by an international boudoir expert… Staffed by a free-loving faculty… …The shocking story of a plush campus, where co-eds received a liveral education. An educational pulp fiction novel and not just because it’s set in an education facility. Let’s count the other ways: Do you know what the name for exposing your armpits to other people is? You do now. It’s harling, apparently. Where do you go to learn to harl? Harling college. How do you entice someone you’re attracted to? You harl like you’ve never harled before. Tramps prexy. Okay, I don’t know what that word means but it’s possibly explained in the book. And I’m hoping it’s the American definition of tramp and not the British one because we don’t have beautiful tramps over here. Our ones have matted beards and smell of wee. Oh, and I really hope that to prexy doesn’t mean to cause someone to wrinkle up their nose as you pass because you’re encased in a cloud of odours that only tramps – British definition – and maybe your gran if you haven’t checked in on her for a while have. It used to be possible to be an international boudoir expert. I...

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