Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Monthly Update: 7/13


Unfortunately 'Full steam ahead' is proving slightly more difficult than anticipated, mostly due to the lack of landlords that accept Housing Benefit.  The plan was initially to get a small flat in the Bristol area, where I could then find a job to raise some money ready to move to a slightly bigger/ more convenient flat and save up a bit for the shop; but to do all that Housing Benefit is required just to cover the time spent looking for work.  I thought it would make more sense for landlords to accept Housing Benefit as in a lot of cases it's more reliable than having a job, but apparently there's so much red tape involved and constant changes to the law that it's not worth the landlord's while, especially in a high-demand area like Bristol.  Which is fine.

Now the plan is to find a job first that's willing to wait for me to move closer, which is considerably more difficult, what with the amount of competition that most likely live closer already.  But I will continue on.

The third alternative is I win the lottery and move straight to Bristol and open the shop next month- you never know, it could happen!

Thank you for being patient, and I hope you will stick with us on this journey- once again, any feedback is greatly appreciated.  Currently we are considering the feasibility of running a café element to the shop, so any ideas regarding that will be most welcome.

Until next time,


Rooksburg Reviews: The Long Game

Doctor Who s1e07: The Long Game

The Doctor and Rose, with their new companion Adam Mitchell, find themselves on Satellite 5- a space station dedicated to transmitting news to the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire.  As usual, all is not what it seems as people who are 'promoted' to floor 500 are never seen again, technology is outdated, and something's wrong with the plumbing...

An interesting story with interesting characters, some good character development, an important milestone, and yet I still forgot this episode even existed.  As they say, there's nothing worse than a 3-star review, as you're not mind-blowing, nor are you 'so bad it's good'; merely mediocre, bland and forgettable.

The main point of this episode centres around Adam (again, a completely forgettable companion).  Adam
was in the museum from last episode where he was somewhat likeable compared to the Americans, so Rose immediately took a fancy to him (showing no remorse over Mickey) and convinced the Doctor to let him tag along.  On arriving at the space station he immediately faints from culture shock before showing his true colours by smiling deviously after being given the magic phone and the TARDIS key; clearly the Americans rubbed off on him.  Despite being so forgettable, he is notable for one key point- he is the first and so far only companion to get kicked out of the TARDIS for bad behaviour, an impressive feat though to me it felt slightly harsh; Rose was supposed be on a date with Adam but ran off with the Doctor, both abandoned Adam in a strange uncomfortable place, and Adam did want to change the world for the better (albeit with personal gain in mind, but the Doctor has been guilty of that himself before).  Ultimately it just felt like the Doctor wanted an excuse to get himself and Rose alone together again.

The editor, with the 'editor-in-chief'
The 'monster of the week' is the Mighty Jagrafess (of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe), who is an amorphous indecipherable creature attached to the ceiling in floor 500 and ultimately doesn't do much- arguably the true villain is Simon Pegg's character, 'The Editor', as he is the one operating the station whilst the Jagrafess oversees.  They have been controlling the media for 90 years in attempt to enslave the human race without them even realising, and it would have worked if the Doctor hadn't come along.  Again, they are fairly decent villains- neither are doing anything particularly evil (aside from killing anyone who knows too much), and the point is raised 'is it really slavery if the slaves don't know about it', though this is immediately shot down by the Doctor who isn't in the mood for philosophical debate.  Also interesting is the fact that the Doctor doesn't save the day this time, instead enlightening an ordinary girl who takes matters into her own hands.

Not much more to say on this one.  Everything is 'good, not great' which leads to a fun 45 minutes but not a memorable one, and in a way slightly disappointing when this series often strays into 'so bad it's good' with its camp cheesiness.
First Impressions: Pleasantly surprised, might give some credibility to the series.
In Retrospect: Oh yeah, this episode... Simon Pegg's cool.

Next Time: Father's Day.  (aka the reason why I haven't dwelled on Rose's selfishness this episode)

Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Traveller's Guide to Faerun: Furthinghome, Aglarond

Climate: Warm Temperate.
Terrain: Dense Forest, Rocky Coast, Hilly Farmland.
Population: Mostly Human, Some Half-Elf.

I arranged transport with a passing merchant as soon as possible, packing the bare minimum- some field rations, some coin, and a rapier.  Most of my new friends turned up to see me off, though Lynne was absent; one of her friends told me that she was upset, thinking I would be 'different' from other men which frankly shouldn't be a surprise as I'm not human.  The friend looked at me with an expression of horror when I told her this, then walked off shaking her head.  Truly there was much for me to learn about humans, and with this thought in mind I headed off to the nearest city.

On the road I attempted to curb my enthusiasm, though there were so many extraordinary sights.  When the
My first companion!
clouds had cleared the rolling hills were a beautiful green bathed in the golden light of the sun.  To be honest I am surprised the merchant put up with my incessant questions!  He was a likeable man; a human.  One of the first lessons I would learn is that one should always state a person's race in Faerun, as there are so many varied species and everyone seems to bear some resentment against the others.  The merchant told me his name was John, and that he was born in the town to which we were headed- Furthinghome, on the Aglarond coast.  He then gave me some tattered robes with a cowl that would cover my face, saying that the humans of the city were distrustful of other races, especially ones that looked like they might be elven.  He also told me that despite my desire to explore, I should stick with him as we wouldn't be staying long.  He just had to make an exchange then we would be on the road to Velprintalar; home to a powerful mage who should be able to tell me how to get home.  Finally John had a warning- if we did somehow get separated then I should avoid Thay at all costs.  It was a land beyond the mountains behind us, and he warned that if I ever encounter a wizard dressed in red then I should avoid them, as I would most likely be kidnapped and experimented on in a tower somewhere.  I found this hard to comprehend- humans seemed to have such varied personalities.  The majority I had met so far were friendly, but then there was Lynne's unusual behaviour, and now the stories of these horrible wizards!

As we approached Furthinghome I heard a somewhat familiar sound, and sure enough there were tens of peacocks roaming the countryside!  I had seen peacocks before in Djinni zoological collections, but I was unaware they were wild here.  Sadly John had to point out to me that they were not in fact wild, but had escaped from a local dilapidated estate.  I made a mental note to explore this estate, but I was soon distracted as I caught a salty smell on the wind, and as we passed one last hill I was met with yet another
Such beautiful greys!
spectacular sight- the sea!  Like a combination of land an air, it had the same sort of blue as the sky but looked more... solid.  Yet at the same time, not as solid as the land due to its constant movement.  Of course, now I look back and laugh at my naivety, but back then it was simply too much for me- I almost fainted from the experience, but instead I entered a trance-like state, fascinated with my surroundings and paying no heed to the man asking me questions- one of the city guard.  Luckily John covered for me, telling the guard I was a relative and had been 'touched in the head'.  Thankfully I felt a little more comfortable inside the city, as it was reminiscent of the Djinni cities back home, though the architecture was much less grand, consisting mostly of weathered wood and stone that hadn't taken kindly to the salty sea air.  We followed the main road into the centre of the city, John pulling me along as I was getting distracted by the sounds of seagulls and smells of the countless spices being sold at the stalls that lined the street.
'Here we are, Old Furthing,' said John, 'I have business to attend to, so I shall meet you back here at Highsun in two days time.  I've already booked us lodging at the Beached Mermaid by the docks.  Now I'm already late, so see you soon!'
I turned to tell John I had no idea where 'here' was, or even what 'highsun' is, but he had already gone.  I was alone in this city.
Type: Large City, Small Trading Port
Population: Mostly Human, Few Half-Elf
Reputation: Wealthy, though slums harbour anti-elf extremists
Imports: Exotic Goods
Exports: Fish, Timber, Herbs and Spices

I remained calm, and decided that I may as well have another look at the sea whilst I had the chance.  Presumably that was where the docks were as well, as my only previous experience of docks involved airships.  Before I knew it I had spent the rest of the day just sitting on the docks, watching the sea and the sunset.  The next thing I learned was that humans have very poor night vision- as I looked for the Beached Mermaid several careless humans bumped into me before running off.  Eventually I found the inn and told the landlord I was with John the merchant.  He said he had been expecting me, though there had been no sign of John yet, and I was shown to my room.  It was possibly the earliest night I'd ever had, and it pained me to be missing out on the drunken revelry below my room, but after the days I'd had I was in need of well-deserved rest.

Morning came, and the first thing I noticed was that my door was open- I must have forgotten to lock it in my overtired state.  I headed down to the bar, but other than a few unconscious men littering the bar it was empty, so I set off to find some food.  It was early in the morning, but the city was still bustling with activity as market stalls were already peddling their wares- mostly exotic items, and things made to look exotic.  It was at this point I realised I had no money to buy food with, despite being sure I had some the day before.  This didn't bother me too much, after all that's what field rations are for- though I would have to find some money somewhere, which meant finding work.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Rooksburg Reviews: Dalek

Doctor Who s1e06: Dalek

In a subterranean museum in Utah lies a vast collection of alien artifacts- the pride of which is sending a distress call that the Doctor receives.  What is this prized artifact?  Well the title of the episode may give a clue, it's a Dalek- the Doctor's most hated enemy.
Straight away we see the main flaw in this episode; the fact that it tries to build suspense despite the title already giving the big reveal.  Aside from this relatively minor flaw (it's not even noticeable so long as you avoid the 'next time' trailer and aren't paying attention to the title when it comes on screen), this is a pretty decent episode, though I would say it would be better suited later on with slight script changes.  The purpose of the new series was to introduce Doctor Who to a new audience, and as such it should be assumed that some of this audience may not have heard of the Daleks.  If their first experience is this episode, I would be quite disappointed.  It shows that Daleks are nigh-unstoppable ruthless killing machines, but that they also have a sensitive side (albeit caused by some 'biomass extrapolation', but still).  I'm also not happy with 'levitate' and found it a bit cheap, but I suppose they needed to address the problem of stairs at some point.

The theme of this story is to hold a mirror to the Doctor.  Previously we have seen him take a relaxed view to what goes on around him, only getting involved if he absolutely has to- but this time he's involved due to personal hate and fear, not entirely unlike a Dalek's motivations.  Due to this, this episode is quite an important one for the series as it shows the first time the Doctor's really been torn up by his actions in the Time War, which some have speculated we haven't seen the full ramifications of until this year's 50th anniversary special.

Regarding the supporting characters... oh dear.  Poor Americans, they just can't catch a break from us Brits-
The trolls have taken over the internet.
we have a view of Americans that depicts them as loud, greedy, ignorant, gun-toting, cowardly people that have a condescending view of the British; and this episode reinforces every single one of those stereotypes without any redeeming features.  We have the museum's owner, and owner of the internet, Henry van Statten who displays a tenacious single-mindedness to ensuring the Dalek doesn't get damaged, even when it's killing his entire staff- until the point where his own life is in danger at which point he'll stop at nothing to save his own skin.  We also have Diana Goddard, who is van Statten's right-hand woman (after his former assistant disagreed with his ambition to become president) and immediately betrays him to take his place when all is safe.  Another significant member of van Statten's staff, Simmons, takes delight in torturing the Dalek, even taunting it when it's fully operational.  The final American is a guard who disregards the Doctor's advice in dealing with the Dalek (concentrate on the eye-stalk) and goes for a brute force approach only to be killed within seconds.  To highlight how loathsome these Americans are, we have an Englishman working with them- Adam Mitchell- who is constantly belittled and mocked, and demonstrated to be a generally much nicer person than the Americans.  He also serves to show how heartless Rose is, as within seconds of meeting him, she starts flirting with him; again, completely forgetting about Mickey.  A vague attempt is made to show Rose's compassionate side, but it doesn't really work when she's being sympathetic towards the most feared being in the whole universe.

First Impression:  Pretty good, but aren't Daleks meant to be terrifying?  Yet a single human can cause them to question their own existence?  Sounds a bit lame...
In Retrospect:  Still pretty good, wish we'd seen a Dalek story before this though just so we'd know how terrifying these creatures are supposed to be.  Unfortunately, this won't be the only time RTD attempts to make the Daleks 'sympathetic' villains...

Also, this episode features a topless Christopher Ecclestone, which I'm sure is good enough reason for some of the female fans to watch it (and probably some male fans too).

Next Time:  The Long Game.