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April 07, 2006

Grey's Anatomy

Grey's Anatomy

I wonder what came first? The idea to do yet another medical drama, or the rather poor pun that is the name of this series.

The main star is of course called Grey - Meredith Grey. In the opening episode she starts her first day along with another selection of newly qualified doctors in a busy hospital. They is the usual cultural and personality mix required by US serials; token black, asian and female characters. If we need a poor sap who is a bit useless, well let's make it a white male, wouldn't want to antagonise anyone would we? Grey is of course pretty, vulnerable but strong willed, and intelligent. When a patient is misdiagnosed, she is the only one around who has read the manual properly on that illness.

One of the bosses is a tyrant, though with a heart of gold obviously. Amusingly Grey has had a drunken one night stand with another of the senior doctors there. It's all a bit Scrubbs really, but twice the length with slightly fewer laughs. Everyone is good looking, and the cases are tragic, but it's not about the patients, it's about the doctor's relationships.

I've never seen E.R. which means I cannot do much of a comparison, but I think it will be a bit lighter in tone, with less blood.

Channel 5 are showing it directly after House which is an altogether more serious program. I found myself laughing more however at Hugh Laurie's anti-hero, he is just so fantastic in that role. The laughter is the cynical kind though, Grey's anatomy is much jollier.

Apart from all this falseness and predictability, or maybe even because of it, I found myself liking 'Grey's Anatomy' quite a lot. I like it's PG rating, I feel comfortable wasting an hour being entertained, but not challenged too much. It's not essential viewing, but I have a feeling I'll end up watching it quite a lot, especially if it's always on after 'House'.

Update: Just found out that there is a new TV show viral marketing technique - blogging. So while this show was first going out in the U.S., someone pretending to be a nurse at the hospital wrote a blog about what was going on. Clever. Here it is, it's called seattlegracegossip.

Now all we need is someone with better programming skills and more time than me to grab that data, and repost it to a new blog at the right stage in the show for us watching in the UK.

(see also the blog from the barman across the street, and also a blog by the writers of the show. They have more blogs than I do! )

Posted by se71 at 02:14 PM | Comments (0)

PSP Games

I have a Playstation Portable (PSP) handheld computer. I've already praised it's goodness here. I thought I should tell you little about the games I have for it so far.

Burnout Legends

This is fantastic. It's hard to imagine how you can get so engrossed in the fast paced action on such a small screen. But you do. Racing cars around tracks at such a speed that the obstacles are hardly visible before they've flown past, it's almost unbelievable that your fingers can keep up. But they do. The cars are responsive, and the tracks are just forgiving enough to let you get away with bashing into the sides, but not so easy that stupid head-on collisions can be contemplated.

So the game physics, and graphics are good. What about the gameplay itself. I've had this game for months, and according to the stats I've for played something like 13 hours and am 70% through. This is pretty good for me, I usually only get 10-20% through a game before I get stuck. It's getting harder, but I'm hoping I have a few more hours left. There are several different tracks, and lots of different cars. You 'win' new events to play as you progress through the game, by beating opponents or beating times. The opponents are good, but again, not too good.

The best thing about this game though is the 'takedown' element. Many races have as an integral part the option to smash your rivals against the crash barrriers, or nudge them into concrete posts or oncoming traffic. They of course are trying to do the same to you. This is great fun. And jumping my car from an overpass and landing on an opponent's roof really made me laugh.

Multiplayer is excellent too. If you have a friend with a PSP, you can play against them even if they do not have the game themselves. The wireless connection allows the relevant game data to be passed across. This is very slow unfortunately, but once it's there you can both race against each other on any of the tracks.


Everybody's Golf

I got this as a first game, as I thought it would be good for the kids to play. They have hardly had a look-in though, I've kept it mostly to myself. There are six courses, unfortunately I haven't worked out how to get to the final four. This is a bit of a shame, as I'd like to experience some different holes.

Golf games are some of the oldest computer games. They have come a long way however from Mean 18 in terms of graphics and music. This game is very pretty, and sounds nice in a very Japanese way. There is a lot of emphasis on building your character, and choosing their outfits seems to be about as important as getting the right clubs and balls. This distraction is a bit annoying. I don't want to waste 18 holes just to get a new hat do I?

All in all, very nice, but as I'm stuck 1/3 of the way through, I have to give it a lower score.


Coded Arms

This is a first person shooter in the Doom/Quake vein. I tried to get to grips with the controls, but the PSP buttons do not seem to be geared up for it very well.

I managed to get through a few levels. but each one looked very like the last, small rooms where all the walls look the same, and silly robot opponents who dart around too fast for the controls to get a fix on them. Give me a few slow moving zombies to practice on!

Playability poor, £35 wasted.


Grand Theft Auto - Liberty City Stories

I had really high expectations for this. Having never played any GTA titles on any other platform, I hoped this would be a good introduction. I'm afraid it isn't. You start off in a city street, and I knew enough about the genre to know that there would be an element of openness about the gameplay. So you can grab a car, or a motorbike, or a taxi, and drive around. You can even walk. But you'll eventually get given missions to complete. Some involve picking up people and taking them places, others are gun fights.

The missions are extremely annoying. Here's why. There is actually very little fun shooting the useless gun you have been given. Driving around the streets is boring if you've played Burnout - the vehicles feel like toys. The worst thing is that if you fail the mission, you have to go back to the start. You have to endure cut scenes again, and then perform the boring beginning of the mission again. So if you are having a bit of a problem shooting one character say, and you meet him 3-4 minutes into a mission, you have to do it again, and again, and again, wasting all those minutes on simple stuff.

I am stuck and have given up completely after only about 3 missions.

Why can't we have an easy setting, or a skip this mission option, or a 'save game right now' option.

Also, after Burnout Legends and Everybody's Golf, the graphics look a little old fashioned and dated. The music is good though, and seems to fit with the environment.

A disappointing 3/10

Posted by se71 at 11:08 AM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2006

Cutting out the deadwood in my music collection

I listen to a lot of albums, on CD, and on my computer and on MP3 players. I've always known that some of them have tracks that are less than perfect. I always persevere, persistently listening to not only every track, but also to them in the correct order (the closing bars in any song give me a Pavlovian response to the opening bars of the next one).

When I'm tempted to skip a track, I think back to the album Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. I borrowed this from my friend Richard Moore when I was at school. I listened to it and really liked it, but told him the next day that the track 'Songbird' was a bit poor and let the whole thing down. He assured me that I was wrong, that I should keep listening, and that I'd change my mind. Of course - he was completely right. 'Songbird' is a fantastic song. It's not flashy like the Lindsey Buckingham tracks, not smouldering sexy like the Stevie Nicks ones, it's a pure love song and a perfect ending to side one (yes, it was vinyl in those days). I could have given up, and determined never to make that mistake in the future.

As I'm getting older though, the amount of music I have seems to be growing exponentially and almost overwhelming me. I have decided that it is time to cut out the deadwood in my collection. I don't want to make any mistakes, so extensive listening is required before the incisions start. But we all have albums that we play which start well, meander a bit, and your ears lose interest, then maybe a really good track makes you sit up and notice again. I think it's time to stop wasting all that time listening to junk.

I've already started to make some value judgements on the CDs in my collection. I'm listening critically and asking myself the question "Would I be disappointed if I never heard this track ever again?" It's surprisingly easy, even on old favourite CDs, to say "No!". Those filler tracks are heading towards the bit-bucket of history.

It would have been fairly difficult a few years ago to actually put into practice any cull like this. It's not practical to lift the needle on vinyl, and on analog cassette the APSS (Automatic Programme Search System) functions similarly meant you had to get up and go over to the deck to press the buttons (and even then they were likely to skip past a good song, or stop at a quiet bit in the bad one).

Even with CDs it's a bit of a pain to extract tracks. I suppose I could burn a new copy of the CD with the bad songs removed and put it in the jewel case, and then file the original away somewhere. But that's a lot of effort and will realistically never happen.

No, the best thing to do is to make sure all my playlists in whatever software player I have reflect my tastes. In fact, I can keep the old playlist with all the tracks, and have a new one with just the tunes I like. I do switch around a lot between applications like Winamp, iTunes and Music Match, but I think a lot of them support the .M3U format so that's the one I'm going to try.

I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Of course, I've pretty much written off several albums already (100th Window, The Dreaming, Beaucoup Fish, Hometime, Vapor Trails.

Note 2: books and films are also on my hitlist...

Posted by se71 at 02:10 PM | Comments (0)

Gene Pitney

Gene Pitney died unexpectedly today.

I've been a fan since I was about eleven, and have most of his albums. I've also seen him in concert.

If I was forced to name my favourite male vocalist, this would be him.

A sad day.

Originally uploaded by se71.

Posted by se71 at 01:03 PM | Comments (0)