Thursday, 28 April 2011

Official Royal Wedding Brochure - Downloadable Version

A colleague at work asked me if I could make a printable version of the Official Royal Wedding Brochure that's currently doing the rounds, so I duly did.  The format in which it's presented is very restrictive, and doubtless designed to dissuade people from using it for their own purposes, but I couldn't see anything prohibiting it. 
I figured some other people might also like to try and print it out as well, so they can read along to the ceremony, kneel at the appropriate time and enjoy looking at all the nice pictures.  So, I made up this PDF of the brochure which you can print, view, send to your reli's and enjoy without any limitations. 

Royal Wedding Official Brochure

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

So You Liked The Mighty Boosh?

I was in philosophy class at the tender age of sixteen when my friend Leo told me about a show called The Mighty Boosh.  Initially I was sceptical; how could a show about two men working in a zoo be entertaining?  But my friend forced the DVD’s upon me, and so after school one night I took a break from my dedicated homework routine, put the DVD into my computer and sat back.  And I was taken on a journey through time and space, a journey I’m still on to this day.  The Mighty Boosh was a revelation.  Each episode was a totally enthralling trip, a juxtaposition of dark humour against colourful, arty and energetic adventures.  

The Mighty Boosh's Bizarre Logo

The first series follows the adventures of Vince Noir, a trend setting hipster (Noel Fielding) and Howard Moon, a trend apathetic 'jazz dalek' (Julian Barrett), Zoo keepers at the Zooniverse, owned by Bob Fossil.  The Zooniverse features a gift shop owned by shaman Naboo, whose best friend and familiar is the ape Bollo.  A diverse crowd to be sure, and every episode they embark upon a surreal adventure.  After a brief and generally irrelevant (but always amusing) introduction, it launches into the episode.  With trips to the afterlife, a trek through a mod-wolf infested forest and journeys to the arctic to find precious stones, every episode features a leftfield story with twists and turns.  Fashion, musicianship, arty-ness and relationships are all commonly explored themes. 

The Cast assembled outside the Mod-wolf infested Jungle Room

The Mighty Boosh has a few things that really make it special.  The banter between Vince and Howard is lightning, with hilarious back and forth between the two.  The balance of Vince’s obvious affection for Howard is juxtaposed with Howard’s disdain for Vince, and his ever changing hipster ways. 
The second factor is the regular breakdown into a song and dance routine.   Every episode features one, sometimes two songs, all of which are memorable and entertaining.  Julian Barrett is a talented musician and wrote most of the music.  Of particular note are their two man raps which they occasionally embark on, known as crimps.  With genius wordplay between the pair, they have become so notorious even the sugar puff monster has tried to get in on the action.  

Calm a Llama down!

The third and final factor that makes The Mighty Boosh so noteworthy is the imagination that goes into it.  I don’t know exact figures, but the Mighty Boosh has always featured a risibly small budget, which is compensated for by the enormous amount of imagination that goes into each scene.  In fact, they played it cleverly by often acknowledging the fact that money hard to come by, sometimes even breaking the fourth wall.  But it never comes across as cringe worthy, with the cheap costumes and unconvincing sets coming across as being intentionally kitsch, rather than financially restrained.      
Six years on, I have trouble remembering what TV shows I watched before I discovered The Mighty Boosh.  I seem to recall watching and enjoying The Office, but aside from that I think it was all dross.  But having watched The Mighty Boosh, it turned me onto a completely new type of comedy.  Comedy with a dark, yet (generally) good natured edge.   

Noel Fielding - The Cockney Hitcher

Possibly the most glowing review is demonstrated from this story.  After watching the first few episodes, I eagerly e-mailed my friend Felix telling him about this fantastic new show I’d discovered.  Having not heard back from him in twenty four hours about it, I e-mailed him again to see if he’d enjoyed it.  A while later, he replied saying that he’d stayed up until six that morning watching the entire first two series.  A wise man once observed “Crack is really more-ish” and The Mighty Boosh has a similar appeal.  

After having consumed both series myself, I found my thirst for psychedelic, surreal, dark commentary barely sated and so I set out to discover more.  And as is often the case with journeys into the unknown, I discovered a vein of riches far greater than I could possibly imagine.  But aside from The Mighty Boosh, very few of these surreal comedies seem to have permeated the public psyche.  

Julian Barrett converses with a coconut

The Mighty Boosh is reasonably well known, as it has unfortunately become something of an indie video bible.  What with Noel Fielding’s increasingly frequent appearances on the uncomfortably hip Never Mind The Buzzcocks, he (and therefore TMB) are quite well known, but there is a wealth of other shows  that a criminally small proportion of the population are aware of.  And so, I’ve decided to write a couple of articles (as and when I think of them) of a few shows that I would consider essential viewing for Mighty Boosh fans.  They all feature a degree of surrealism rarely seen on mainstream television, and all will transport you to somewhere totally abstract while you consume them.  

One of the ways in which I rate the potential of a show is the actors it features, and so I will try and highlight this aspect.  There seems to be a pool of about fifteen actors whose performances always hit the spot, and you’ll find them commonly spread out throughout these shows.  These include;

Noel Fielding
Julian Barrett
Rich Fulcher
Matt Berry
Richard Ayoade
Simon Pegg
Mark Heap
Chris Morris
Matthew Holness
Alice Lowe
Julia Davis
Nicolas Burns
Chris Morris 
Rebecca Front

And probably several others who’ve slipped my mind at this moment.  These people are all acting gods amongst men, turning in consistently entertaining performances in a variety of roles.  Some are more versatile than others, but they all consistently entertain. 

So, look out for my next entry where I’ll recommend you a darkly surreal comedy you've probably never seen!  

Friday, 1 April 2011

It's all a matter of perspective

I recently found these two spectacular images of the Earth, and after marvelling at the beauty portrayed, and the science that made the capture/creation of these images possible, I also started thinking of how these photos embodied the attitudes of their representative countries.  

Please click the pictures for full screen versions, it may take a while to load but it is well worth it.

Earth - The American Way

So, this is Earth as seen by Americans from fourty five thousand kilometres away.  This is actually a composite image, stitched together from thousands of other images, the most famous of which is known as Blue Marble (thanks Wikipedia!).  That link points you to a picture of the Earth, as photographed from NASA satellite Apollo 17, way back when on December 7th, 1972 at precisely 5:39 am UTC.  This is quite releveant, because at this time, over this point on the Earth, Africa and India are fully lit up whilst the East is experiencing sun down.  The photo was taken with the sun behind the astronauts, and shows Earth fully illuminated.  
Along with several other images, it was stitched together to give a 'true color' image of the world.  The original has a 1pixel/kilometre ratio.  A true colour image means that even though it might not be a photo as we know it, it has been corrected to give an approximation of the colours as we see them.  In this case, a lot of the image comes from infra-red sources, amongst other things.  
With it's rich blue oceans and verdant green land, it's a breathtaking image. It is typically American, with it's overly saturated and unnaturally rich colours lending the image an optimistic feeling.  It has a slightly artificial, unnatural look to it.  This is Earth as imagined in a Pixar movie.   

Some Images are more equal than others
And here we have the earth, photographed by Russian weather satellite Elektro-L, from thirty six thousand kilometres away.  This is the first major spacecraft developed and launched by post-Soviet Russia, With it's darker seas and browner terrain, it seems a far more austere representation of the Earth as we know it, bringing to mind war torn pictures.  Somehow, it seems like a far more realistic capture of the Earth than we would imagine NASA's effort to be.   

The Russian images are created from a mixture of near-infra-red and visible wavelengths.  Any details out of our visible wavelength are given an unnatural colour.  All plant life appears red, for instance (representing the infra-red they reflect).  This means that they show the Earth in a way that humans wouldn't see, using the naked eye.

Which means that, surprisingly, NASA's gorgeous green and blue representation of the Earth is actually closer to what we would see if we took a ride up to space (with Richard Branson as our tour guide, maybe).  

It's interesting to note that despite the enormous effect that humans think they've had on the Earth, it's still impossible to directly see much evidence of it from fourty thousand kilometres away.  No settlements jump out, no enormous ocean liners make themselves obvious, and no planes or other aerial craft interrupt this view.  Maybe it would be a different story if this was taken over Europe or North America, but from this view of the Pacific Ocean, Earth looks like a place where calm and tranquility reign supreme. 

Credit to Russian Space Web and Visible Earth for these images.