Category Archives: Stuff

Hayden Christensen as Case in the upcoming Neuromancer film?

In Neuromancer, the main character Case has killed people in dirty meaningless fights, he’s a self-destructive drug addict, running himself into the ground, barely eating, and trying to convince the city streets to open up and swallow him in a dark alley one night. This character is a vortex of self-loathing, and I just don’t see many actors who would want to try and do that in a science-fiction film. I’ve spent fifteen years getting to know the character and seven years writing about it, so in this regard I feel that I know Case pretty well.

Does that character description fit with Hayden Christensen in your head? He’s most famous for playing Anakin Skywalker (who became Darth Vader) in the second and third of the Star Wars series. In fairness to Christensen, in the Star Wars films he (allegedly) went to Lucas and said ‘Are you sure you want Anakin to be this whiny?’ and Lucas said ‘No, make him more whiny!’. With direction like that the it’s hard to do much. While Christensen may yet display previously unseen depths of acting and character in his performance as Case, he’s not yet shown that he is capable of portraying the complexity of the part. I really hope he surprises us, and I’ll be the first to stand applauding if he does.

Christensen might be able to pull it off with good direction, but the director attached to the project, Joseph Kahn, doesn’t give me a lot of hope on that one. He’s best known for the very dumb action film Torque (scoring a rating of 3.4 out of 10, barely skimming out of the worst rated 100 films on IMDB) and the Britney Spears video for the song ‘Toxic’. The story of Neuromancer is fairly complex, with multiple antagonists with differing agendas, which is partly why this film hasn’t ever happened yet despite 20 years of people trying to make it. I’m very concerned that they are going to strip it back to a pile of meaningless action sequences.

If they made this film feel like a drunk hurriedly stumbling home through the bad area of town, people hurrying past and predatory eyes watching the progress from shadows, then it would feel right. It’s more likely to feel like a glossy jet-bike ride, and that’s going to be a huge betrayal of the book. Christensen’s casting feels like the jet-bike version of the story, and that’s why the people who want this film to be good are so worried about him.

Game FAQ maker despairs of America

Tonight I finished playing the rather jolly game Assassin’s creed. I liked it lots, some people don’t, but there you go; however, the ending is left open so you can go and find all the collectables in the game (although quite why you would bother is beyond me). The openness of the ending leads players to think that there might be something more to do (there isn’t really), but I thought I’d check reliable GameFAQs to see if they had anything for me, when I stumbled on the increasingly desperate guide by a chap called Brad Russell.

Skip down to the FAQ’s bit at the bottom of the page (press ‘Crtl’ and the ‘F’ key on your keyboard at the same time and type ‘FAQ’ then skip through until you get to the start of them). It gets quite funny as they go on, while the poor guy’s will to live is sapped by a constant barrage of questions all on the same lines.

You can read one man’s despair here.

Guns and fog

A friend in America sent me a link to follow up the post from last week about a man who tried to change a tyre on his car using a shotgun to loosen the nuts

This time we have a couple of guys were looking to get tattoos of a magnum, so they were tracing around a real one which was, of course, loaded. Hand and arm wounds later, there are two 22 year-olds who now have a permanent reminder of how cool guns really are. (Slightly more info here.)

Those guys were American, but just to show that stupidity with guns is not only a US policy, a referee at a football (soccer) match in Kuala Lumpur was mobbed after showing a red-card to a player. He was a policeman, so he then went to his car, got his gun, and fired shots in the air to calm the mob. Personally a referee with a gun would not make me feel any more calm, but that’s just my perspective on this. Perhaps gunshots are considered calming over there; it’s one of those cultural things… Or perhaps not. The man was arrested, although it wasn’t stated whether the charges were ‘being a bloody idiot’. (Link)

Two more quick interesting/cheerful links:

Fog machines are now being used as anti-burglary devices, filling a pharmacy with thick clouds in seconds and preventing theft because no-one can find anything. How very cool. More here.

A wedding dress shop owner held onto a dress from a cancelled wedding for fifteen years and then the original purchaser eventually wore it down the aisle. “I knew you’d be back for it,” said the owner. Aww.

DiCarlo had stuffed the bow and the sleeves with paper so they would hold their shape, and wrapped the gown in plastic. She left it hanging in a corner of her basement storeroom.

Now that’s just a bit creepy… But sweet. Possibly. I have a horrible vision of the room filled with shaped wedding dresses, like some kind of uber-Miss Haversham from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Scare yourself here.

Who would win in a fight between Neil Gaiman and William Gibson (with extra credit for Neal Stephenson)

A few months ago I had the honour of meeting William Gibson who signed my thesis during a book tour.

William Gibson signing Mata's thesis
(Many thanks to Chris, AKA Head First Only for the superb photo capturing the moment.)

During a talk he was giving in London, one of the questions asked was about who would win in a fight between himself and Neil Gaiman. Gibson replied that because Gaiman wears a lot of leather jackets he was probably the tougher of the two, so Gaiman would probably win.

Fortunately, Gaiman was giving a talk in the same location a few months later, and the same group of people attended and asked the same question. Gaiman reports his answer in his blog:

I was asked tonight who’d win in a fight — probably a no holds barred cage match, I suspect — between me and Bill Gibson. I said me, but my daughter Holly, who was there, just laughed at me afterwards and said she couldn’t imagine me fighting anyone. Holly says that Me vs Bill Gibson would be like a fight between a baby bunny and a duckling, and she is probably right.

So there you have it. Gaiman thinks he could take down the Gibson. Searching around, I found that Neal Stephenson has also been asked who would win in a fight against William Gibson, but his answer was considerably more wordy:

You don’t have to settle for mere idle speculation. Let me tell you how it came out on the three occasions when we did fight.

The first time was a year or two after SNOW CRASH came out. I was doing a reading/signing at White Dwarf Books in Vancouver. Gibson stopped by to say hello and extended his hand as if to shake. But I remembered something Bruce Sterling had told me. For, at the time, Sterling and I had formed a pact to fight Gibson. Gibson had been regrown in a vat from scraps of DNA after Sterling had crashed an LNG tanker into Gibson’s Stealth pleasure barge in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. During the regeneration process, telescoping Carbonite stilettos had been incorporated into Gibson’s arms. Remembering this in the nick of time, I grabbed the signing table and flipped it up between us. Of course the Carbonite stilettos pierced it as if it were cork board, but this spoiled his aim long enough for me to whip my wakizashi out from between my shoulder blades and swing at his head. He deflected the blow with a force blast that sprained my wrist. The falling table knocked over a space heater and set fire to the store. Everyone else fled. Gibson and I dueled among blazing stacks of books for a while. Slowly I gained the upper hand, for, on defense, his Praying Mantis style was no match for my Flying Cloud technique. But I lost him behind a cloud of smoke. Then I had to get out of the place. The streets were crowded with his black-suited minions and I had to turn into a swarm of locusts and fly back to Seattle.

The second time was a few years later when Gibson came through Seattle on his IDORU tour. Between doing some drive-by signings at local bookstores, he came and devastated my quarter of the city. I had been in a trance for seven days and seven nights and was unaware of these goings-on, but he came to me in a vision and taunted me, and left a message on my cellphone. That evening he was doing a reading at Kane Hall on the University of Washington campus. Swathed in black, I climbed to the top of the hall, mesmerized his snipers, sliced a hole in the roof using a plasma cutter, let myself into the catwalks above the stage, and then leapt down upon him from forty feet above. But I had forgotten that he had once studied in the same monastery as I, and knew all of my techniques. He rolled away at the last moment. I struck only the lectern, smashing it to kindling. Snatching up one jagged shard of oak I adopted the Mountain Tiger position just as you would expect. He pulled off his wireless mike and began to whirl it around his head. From there, the fight proceeded along predictable lines. As a stalemate developed we began to resort more and more to the use of pure energy, modulated by Red Lotus incantations of the third Sung group, which eventually to the collapse of the building’s roof and the loss of eight hundred lives. But as they were only peasants, we did not care.

Our third fight occurred at the Peace Arch on the U.S./Canadian border between Seattle and Vancouver. Gibson wished to retire from that sort of lifestyle that required ceaseless training in the martial arts and sleeping outdoors under the rain. He only wished to sit in his garden brushing out novels on rice paper. But honor dictated that he must fight me for a third time first. Of course the Peace Arch did not remain standing for long. Before long my sword arm hung useless at my side. One of my psi blasts kicked up a large divot of earth and rubble, uncovering a silver metallic object, hitherto buried, that seemed to have been crafted by an industrial designer. It was a nitro-veridian device that had been buried there by Sterling. We were able to fly clear before it detonated. The blast caused a seismic rupture that split off a sizable part of Canada and created what we now know as Vancouver Island. This was the last fight between me and Gibson. For both of us, by studying certain ancient prophecies, had independently arrived at the same conclusion, namely that Sterling’s professed interest in industrial design was a mere cover for work in superweapons. Gibson and I formed a pact to fight Sterling. So far we have made little headway in seeking out his lair of brushed steel and white LEDs, because I had a dentist appointment and Gibson had to attend a writers’ conference, but keep an eye on Slashdot for any further developments.

(Source: Slashdot interview with Neal Stephenson.)

I think that really only leaves one question: who would win in a fight between William Gibson and Richard Morgan? (I think we’d probably allow Gibson to tag team with Gaiman if they wanted to.)

How to change a tyre using a shotgun

Apparently it’s not a good idea to try to dislodge a stubborn wheel-nut on a car’s tyre using a shot gun:

Shooting at the wheel from arm’s length with his 12-gauge shotgun, he was peppered with buckshot and debris.

Sadly, the article doesn’t mention if it worked or not. Enquiring minds need to know!

Link spent $4million on a book of fairy tales

Who could command such high prices as US$4,000,000 for a hand written book? Is it an original by the Brothers Grimm, written in their own blood? Or perhaps it is a lost Shakespeare, where he decided to write a book for his kids instead of all those violent plays?

Nope, it’s J.K. Rowling. Of course it is. Silly me; however, it was a charity auction, so the high price is all tax deductable… I mean, it’s all going to a good cause.

Fancy a look? Here it is. It looks quite nice. I’d quite like a copy to flick through it myself, but her handwriting isn’t great so on second thoughts, I’ll just wait for the movie.

Woo hoo! Masks!

What does mad doctor do when he’s not creating life out of the scrap bins from the back of Iceland Superstore? He makes masks for a masquerade ball that my partner and I were going to, of course.

Medieval-style mask

Medieval-style and harlequin masks

I think they’re pretty neat. That may also be the first time I have used ‘neat’ in that context. Hurrah!

If you’re interested, there’s more info on how I made them here.

Eurovision 2008 might actually be very good indeed

Bill Bailey is going trying out as a contestant to be the Eurovision song contest in 2008! If you’re not familiar with Bill Bailey, you can get a taste of his sense of humour from his simply wonderful Cockney Medley. He is one of the funniest comedians in the country, and a he’s good musician too. What could be better for Eurovision than an extra helping of surrealism on top of the, already rather bizarre, event? Also, the contest is usually full of pretty people sashaying gymnastically around the stage, so Bill would make a very nice change in tone!

As it says on his website, he’s only putting himself forward, so this doesn’t mean he’ll get in, but I really hope he does! Why is this happening? It’s all down to the power of the internet. Lovely.

Interesting things round-up – today’s theme is ‘weird’

Let’s start with something smart…

What is ‘freedom’ in a society? How should we judge what this is, and whether a society is achieving it? What are the contradictions that freedom produces? Well, Daren Epstein, writing for The Foreigner – Japan does a very good job of answering those questions in a short essay about Harajuku called An Idea of Freedom. The whole site is very interesting and well-worth a browse, but that article did a better job of saying what’s worth fighting to preserve than anything I’ve seen so far. Amusingly, it’s the parts of society that are considered weird by the majority that Epstein thinks truly represent the idea of freedom.

Continuing on the thoughtful theme, here’s a great article looking back at the works of Philip K. Dick. You’ll have to sign up for a free NYTimes account to read it, but they have some interesting pieces in there so it’s definitely worth the small effort. Their daily news email is very good too. Anyway, Philip K. Dick was definitely a bit weird.

Onto something silly…

Microsoft are now saying that they might support the Blu-Ray drive in the Xbox 360. I joked about this at work a few months ago and was told by someone to not be so silly – for those who don’t know, Blu-Ray is Sony’s idea for getting high definition DVD-style media into the home. Microsoft and Sony are arch enemies because of the Playstation and Xbox brands, so this news was highly amusing to me. Maybe not weird, but pretty odd.

You have twenty seconds to comply! Samsung (of all companies) along with a Korean university have fitted up a pattern recognition rig with a 5.5 millimeter machine gun and a set of speakers… The result is just as disturbing as those images in your head right now. As if this wasn’t weird enough, halfway through the promotional video they use the music from the Pirates of the Carribean! What was going on in their heads? Surely they should have used the theme from Robocop? (UK link US link)

Probably quite a lot of you have heard of smart drugs – chemicals that make you smarter. This idea has been around for many years, but it seems that we’ve actually cracked it (crack… drugs… suit yourself…). The implications of this are really quite odd, so this could be the start of a very interesting time for humanity.

And finally… It’s not weird, but American SWAT teams really need to learn how much explosives they need to blow a door without taking out most of the hallway too.