Sunday, 29 November 2015

Overrated vs Over Merchandised

A lot of people don’t seem to understand the difference between something being overrated (to overestimate the merits of; rate too highly), and over merchandised (excessive merchandising branching into the ridiculous or non traditional).  In this, I will attempt to illustrate the difference and what these two terms actually mean in greater detail.

For something to be overrated, it has to be below the quality that would merit the hype given.  This is subjective and dependent on individual opinions.  For example – I would say that film franchises like  “Dumb and Dumber”, “The Hangover”, “High School Musical”, “Anchorman”, “Water Boy” and similar are very much overrated.  These films do not deliver on the promise of entertainment, but rather showcase abject stupidity for a few cheap and meaningless laughs that are generally undeserving.  Others may have a differing point of view.  However, what disqualifies a film or television show from being “overrated” is how well written and developed the story and characters are.  What genuinely labels a film or television show as overrated includes shallow or nonexistent plot, too many badly clichéd or poorly written one dimensional characters (especially main or secondary characters with dialogue), an excess of low-brow humor (IE – garbage or toilet humor) or the glorification of idiotic or rude behaviour, and an over reliance on sex and sexuality (whether openly pornographic or merely sexualized characters, situations, and humor) to appeal to the audience.

For example, the characters and story written for Star Wars (particularly with 4, 5, and 6) was never overrated because at the heart of the films is a good story with characters that have interesting and fully developed back stories.  These are not one-dimensional cardboard cutouts with names, these are fully fleshed out characters in a Universe that gives credence to them, and the story surrounding them has a fully written arc to it rather than things being thrown in for the sake of it being there.  You can see where they came from, where they are, and where they are going.  Other examples of this include Transformers, Star Trek, Alien, Predator, Thundercats, Doctor Who, G.I. Joe, Farscape, Andromeda, the sagas of Middle Earth, The Fast and Furious franchise, VR5, Riddick, X-Men, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica, Jurassic Park, Firefly, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dark Stalkers, and many others.  None of these can be considered overrated, and in fact a number of them were drastically underrated, like Firefly, Andromeda, VR5, and Farscape; while others not only got their dues, but deservingly remain in the spotlight decades after their initial release, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Transformers, and Battlestar Galactica.

Over Merchandising is a much different story and can actually be pinned to far less subjective evidence.  Novelizations and tie-in books, comics, posters, toys and play sets of the characters and vehicles, along with costumes, t-shirts, and hats are merchandise well within the acceptable range.  Borderline merchandise would include shoes, pajamas, and other wearable items, bedding, blankets, and curtains, dinnerware, drink ware, silverware, serving and barbeque utensils, and kitchen ware (including teapots, measuring items, and cookie jars), household, holiday, and party décor, telephones, and coin banks.  Excessive merchandise includes perishables, disposables, and food items.  Over merchandising is when all three of these categories are utilized to excess, especially if the third category is included at all.

For example, Star Wars was over merchandised at first, then it tapered off, and is now being drastically over merchandised again.  Star Trek, Transformers, and X-Men have all been over merchandised at one time or another.  Many Disney films, such as The Lion King, Toy Story, Ice Age, and Frozen have been horribly over merchandised, and many others were over merchandised to varying degrees, but not quite to the same severity.  These are still good stories, many of them very well written and the characters well portrayed, but they were so over merchandised that in some cases (like with Disney’s Frozen) people became so sick of seeing everything under the sun slapped with that franchise on it, they grew to hate it altogether.  That is what over merchandising means and how it can severely hurt what is otherwise a good story.

This dichotomy includes sports teams as well.  Many teams are often drastically over merchandised, especially when they win a season trophy (Hockey’s Stanley Cup Trophy, Football’s Superbowl Lombardi Trophy, Baseball’s World Series Commissioner's Trophy, Soccer’s FIFA World Cup Trophy, etc), ending up with the team logo, colors, and/or name on everything from the more acceptable hats, t-shirts, jerseys, flags/banners, and blankets, to kitchen appliances and dinner ware, lamps, bathroom décor, flower arrangements and food.  Literally anything you can think of to put a logo, color scheme, or name on, it will bear the mark of some sports team that won their season trophy.  That is over merchandising to an extreme level (I see it all the time with Seahawks stuff, as much as I respect and support my home team).  Some teams are indeed over rated, many of which either hardly win any games, habitually cheat to win, or employ players that are inappropriate as role models (criminals, etc), yet are touted as “awesome teams” by their fans or league officials.

Regardless of whether you like or dislike it, when you step back and objectively examine a given film or television franchise (or sports team), its characters and story (or team players and performance), merchandising considerations, and level of advertising, you begin to see the difference between overrated vs over merchandised, and the amount of harm that over merchandising can do.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Nerdversity 220 - Bayformers 2007 (Joke)

Recorded 15/11/15. This podcast was a little joke we pulled before we got into the main Transformers 2007 podcast. We hope you enjoy

Saturday, 21 November 2015

MCM Birmingham Comic Con Day 1

So Day 1 of MCM is done. This year, the event was in Hall 5, which is right by the entrance to the lake and near the train station, so no real need to travel around the NEC, I was there early to take full advantage of my press time. First things first, was the round table interview with Dina Meyer, which went great. Then after that, I went onto the floor to experience the mad house. 

The areas in blue on the map are signing zones and are made up of MCM and Memorabilia guests. This also includes a GLAMOUR ZONE, where the playboy models are signing autographs. Most guests charge around £15 or £20 for an autograph and that also includes a photo. They also don't mind if you bring in items from home either, though this can mean a standard variation on charges instead of an 8x10. The large circle in the upper left is where the stage is and that is where guests can go and give a talk on their career. 

There are numerous stalls and groups that sell everything from matchbox toy cars to the latest anime toys and DVDs and pretty much everything in between, from comics to plushies. Board games and RPGs to Disney pins. There's something for everyone,

Other attractions included a cosplay masquerade, a Steampunk exhibit, Barricade and Bumblebee from the Transformers movies and the DeLorean, which you could sit in for a small fee and have your photo taken of the event and then take it home. The proceeds of which went towards the cost of maintaining the vehicles. There was also a Street Fighter IV e-sports tournament.

As good as day 1 was, here's just a few minor nitpicks
  • It was far too overcrowded. people were stepping on each other
  • queuing for autographs wasn't properly organised and maintained
All in all, not bad. Usual saturday issues of being crazy busy and  being packed in like sardines. Hopefully tomorrow will be good

Nerdversity Reviews: The Looking Planet

"A tale translated from the Cosmic Background Radiation."  That is the tag line for this really cute and very well animated 17 minute CGI short film.  Why is it called "The Looking Planet"?  Well, the film answers that question in a very interesting way, and at the center of the story is a young Cosmic Engineer named Lufo.  He's creative but feels stifled doing the same thing millennium after millennium, so he finds a way to break up the monotony and discovers something unexpected in the process.

Many human artists often feel they and their creativity are being wasted on the routine rut of day-to-day life, often desperately searching for a way to break out of the daily grind, if only just once, and let that wild creative scream out for the world, the Universe, to see and hear.  It would seem that humans are not so unique in this, after all.

Being someone who has been hooked on Astronomy since the tender age of eight and listening to the sound of the Universe as I look up at the stars twinkling in the night sky, I’ve wondered, as so many of us have, what might be out there?  Are we alone in the Universe or are there other forms of life lurking among those distant stars?  How did we get here?  Why are we here?  What are we doing or supposed to be doing?  Through science fiction, the human imagination has sought increasingly creative ways to tell stories to perhaps come up with some plausible ideas.  Are any of them right?  Are we even close?  Who is to say?  But that doesn’t stop us from asking those questions and finding more inventive ways to answer them as science grows ever more complex and we discover more and more secrets hiding in the Universe, waiting for someone smart enough, or perhaps creative enough, to find and understand them.

Winner of numerous awards at more than 40 film festivals across the country and around the world, The Looking Planet is well deserving of those awards, I assure you.  And if you pay careful attention, you will see hints of a much deeper and far greater story yet to be told.  Imagine if this were to become a full length feature film - how much of the story could be told then?  If you have not seen "The Looking Planet" yet, what are you waiting for?  Perhaps Einstein was right; maybe imagination truly is more important than knowledge after all.

Check out their website and facebook page for more information about The Looking Planet, and check out our interview with the creator himself, Eric Law Anderson.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Nerdversity Reviews: Cabin Pressure Series 2, Episode 3 - Ipswich

Ispwich aired on BBC Radio 4 on 31st July 2009 and starred:
  • Roger Allam as Douglas
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Martin
  • Stephanie Cole as Carolyn
  • John Finnemore as Arthur
  • Phillip Davis as Mr. Sargent
  • Alex MacQueen as Dr. Davis
The episode begins with Martin and Douglas finishing the cheese tray, before handing it to Arthur. It reminds him on a documentary he saw last night on dogs. There's alpha dogs, beta dogs and amigo dogs. He means Omega dogs. He lets slip that there's Camembert on the tray, but Carolyn takes it. Douglas is annoyed and confronts Carolyn about it, but she rebuffs him and tells them that they're doing an SEP course in Ispwich on Monday. Douglas tries to get out of it but is reminded that the CAA will take his license off him if he doesn't go.

In the car, Martin and Arthur are cramming for the course. Martin is trying to teach Arthur the correct answers, but only Arthur has ever needed mnemonic for aft and fore. When they get to the testing center, they meet Mr. Sargent and Dr. Duncan, who thought there were going to be 400 of them, not just four. Martin and Douglas go in for the pilot's course and start arguing over who is worse than the other. They go through a 5 step plan to combat this,

After this, they do the swimming pool safety lesson for water landings. Everyone jumps in except Douglas. who realises that they're in water, no risk of fire, so just steps onto the life raft, much to the annoyance of Mr. Sargent. After everyone's dried off, they go and eat lunch and make their way through the quiches, Arthur himself having eaten 7 of them. After lunch and a small test, they move onto the smoke filled cabin drill. They fail it after they've all held onto each other's belts and have been playing ring-around-the-rosie in the cabin. Martin got dizzy and passed out and then Arthur removed his smoke hood and became smoke filled. 

They realise they've failed, but are given a seconds chance when they realise that they need 19 passengers for a steward, but only have 16 seats, so by getting rid of Arthur, they are given a second chance, pass the smoke filled cabin test and then the episode ends with Mr. Sargent forcing Douglas to jump into the swimming pool in uniform. 

Monday, 16 November 2015

Nerdversity Reviews: Cabin Pressure Series 2, Episode 2 - Gdansk

Gdansk aired on BBC Radio 4 on 24th July 2009. It starred:
  • Roger Allam as Douglas
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Martin
  • Stephanie Cole as Carolyn
  • John Finnemore as Arthur
  • Britta Gardner as Madam Szyzsko - Bohusz
  • Simon Greenhall as The Conductor
The pre-credits scene has Carolyn in the Flight deck reading off the special requirements for the Chamber Orchestra they are flying to Gdansk in Poland and it's as follows: 

The first violins will not sit together; the second violins will not sit apart. The harpist will ignore you unless your aura is orange; there is nothing you can do to make your aura more orange. The tubist must on no account be given alcohol; the conductor must at all times be given alcohol. He will also require the toilet to himself for an hour before landing. And, most importantly, the bassoonist, Madame Szyszko-Bohusz, will be working under the presumption that you are trying to kill her unless proved otherwise, so avoid approaching her with blunt instruments, sharp knives or hot liquids.

The episode begins with Martin, Douglas and Carolyn playing a game in the flight deck. The first is to name all Seven Deadly Sins. Arthur and Carolyn argue over the pronunciation of Wrath, with Arthur swearing it's pronounced "RATH" with Carolyn saying it's pronounced "WROTH", however the book says it's Anger, Douglas and Carolyn come in first and second, Martin loses as he put Lust down twice and forgot Pride. Douglas goads Martin into betting in the second challenge of naming all Seven Dwarves from Snow White. Martin struggles naming them all. Carolyn and Douglas hand in their answers, but before Arthur can give the answers, Carolyn is called away by the service bell.

The ringer of the bell is the notorious Madame Szysko -  Bohusz. Carolyn struggles at first with her name, but then realises that she's really upset with the fact her arm-rests are slightly higher than everyone elses, leading her to believe that it's been tampered with. Carolyn reminds her that they haven't been, but if she has a problem, to swap seats with her bassoon. Meanwhile in the flight deck, Martin tries to get Douglas to give him the answers to the Dwarves question. They keep betting, this time for the cheese tray and Martin loses each time. 

Carolyn has to deal with Madam Szyszko - Bohusz about her cashews, which she believes to be covered in broken glass rather than salt. Martin loses a game of "holding your breath the longest" to answer a call from ATC. For the final piece of cheese, Martin and Douglas play "Passenger Derby". In this game, the Seatbelt sign is still illuminated and Arthur has given them plenty of drinks. Martin and Douglas bet on which one will make it to the toilet first. After Martin loses that bet, they go for the desert of Cheesecake or Strudel and again, Douglas wins. The final stage of betting begins with Martin and Douglas betting on Gdansk on time for 3 months salary. Martin loses again, but reveals to Douglas that he doesn't get paid.

In the cabin, Carolyn and Arthur have proven to Madame Szyszko - Bohusz that the cheesecake isn't poisoned, In the flight deck, Martin is sad that he's lost every bet so far with Douglas, when Douglas gives him the answers to the Dwarves test. The episode ends with Martin giving a cabin address to the crew and spouts off the names of the Dwarves to which Madame Szysko - Bohusz blows frantically into bassoon.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Nerdversity Reviews: Cabin Pressure Series 2, Episode 1 - Helsinki

Helsinki aired on Radio 4 on 17th July 2009 and starred:
  • Roger Allam as Douglas
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Martin
  • Stephanie Cole as Carolyn
  • John Finnemore as Arthur
  • Alison Steadman as Ruth
  • Matt Green as Kieran
  • Simon Greenhall as Milo

The pre-intro has Douglas talking to Fitton ATC about an echo and GEE, which results in Karl threatening to send them to be back of the line to fix their radio or follow GEE, to which Douglas agrees to.

The episode begins with Martin and Douglas on the flight deck. Douglas is hiding orchids on the flight deck and under the seats as he plans to trade them in Helsinki. Arthur seems low spirited at first as he realises he would have been a millionaire, if the numbers he would have picked came up in the lottery. It turns out that he's interested in meeting the passenger. Arthur Milliner, It's just then that it's revealed that it's Carolyn's birthday. Martin gives her the orchids underneath his seat and this is when Arthur reveals his surprise. He's booked a flight to Helsinki with the crew and Carolyn's sister Ruth. He thought this was a good idea.

Kieran and Martin seem to get on fine at first, but it turns out Martin's career template doesn't match Keiran's, as he's planning on going further than Martin. Meanwhile, Carolyn and Ruth are TRYING to reconcile, while Arthur bakes a cake for Carolyn's birthday.

In Helsinki, Douglas hands Milo his orchids and gets his 14 boxes of fish, while Arthur's leaky cake thing isn't welcomed until they pay 75 euros to get it in. The crew of MJN and Ruth gather in a darkened room to await Carolyn's birthday. Martin and Kieran get into an argument to which Martin clips Kieran round the ear, then Kieran retaliates with martial arts. Ruth and Carolyn get into an argument in which Arthur's liquid chocolate cake ends up on Ruth.

The episode ends with the crew admitting that Helsinki is less Twinkly Helter Skelter and more Sink in Hell. They reflect on the day. Carolyn abandoning Ruth and Kieran in Helsinki. Arthur paying 75 euros for a bowl of sludge which ends up on Ruth, and Martin hitting a child and getting beaten up by said child. They say happy birthday to Carolyn. Her birthday cake is a fishcake with 20 cigarettes in it. Ruth's husband Philip comes out the cabin and the realise he was merely pretending to be deaf.

Nerdversity Reviews: Cabin Pressure Series 1, Episode 6 - Fitton

Fitton aired 6th August 2008 and starred:
  • Roger Allam as Douglas
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Martin
  • Stephanie Cole as Carolyn
  • John Finnemore as Arthur
  • Adam G. Goodwin as Mr. Goddard
  • Melisande Cooke as Helena Richardson
The pre-intro scene features Arthur in the flight deck. He makes a cabin address proclaiming to be Wing Commander Sir Arthur Shappey  and he's undertaking a round the world record attempt. Even going as far as saying that people can jump out the plane at bits of the world they like best. He also wants to fly under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Carolyn stops his fantasy address and reminds him to start hoovering.

The episode begins with Martin, Carolyn and Arthur in the Portacabin waiting for Mr. Goddard. It's raining and the cabin is leaking. Douglas arrives 45 minutes late and offers to make everyone tea. Arthur asks Douglas what song he was singing last week, but his singing is horrific. Douglas thinks it should be taken to the vet. Athur goes back to fixing the leak in the roof but falls through it, making the hole bigger. They decide to go sit in GERTI, at least where they'll be dry.

Inside the plane, Arthur offers to play Charades, despite the fact that last time he played, he mimed Apocalypse now, despite not knowing what an Apocalypse was. He goes back to working out what song Douglas was singing, but now has a different tune coming out. Martin goes through the Standard Operating Procedure notebook and Fire Evacuation procedure. Carolyn and Douglas make fun of him and he storms out the flight deck and towards the back of the cabin. Carolyn gets a phone call from Gordon Shappy, her ex husband stating that he wants to buy GERTI for £1 and he'll take on all of MJN's debts as well.To which, Carolyn is considering taking the offer.

Douglas goes into the back to apologise to Martin for being childish. They share the joke before Arthur comes in and explains that he was going to be a pilot too, but he never went up. Douglas and Martin discuss what it means to be happy, but Arthur explains what true happiness is like, His moments of true happiness are when you get in the bath and it's just the right temperature, or when your knuckles are just right for cracking and best of all, simply tossing an apple from one hand to another. Douglas, Martin and Arthur start juggling apples between themselves and that's when Douglas starts humming the song that Arthur was strangling earlier, which is "We're Busy Doing Nothing". 

The crew believe that Goddard isn't coming as it's one hour to Dusk and he hasn't shown up or called. This is when Douglas reveals that the water they've been drinking has actually been vodka all along. They're all drunk except Arthur, who's been drinking pineapple juice. They're playing a game of "Books that sound different with the last letter knocked off". Goddard calls and he'll be there in 20 minutes. The only problem is Martin and Carolyn are drunk. 

Martin and Carolyn are the stewards with Martin pretending to be Arthur. They joke about it to Goddard, who demands to see the pilots. He's unhappy they're throwing apples, despite Douglas insistence that it's hand-eye co-ordination exercises. They take Goddard to Madrid. The episode ends with Martin going to Douglas' house to give him back a present he left on the flight deck and this is where he finds out he's been lying to Helena about being a captain. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Nerdversity Reviews: Cabin Pressure Series 1, Episode 5 - Edinburgh

Edinburgh was released on Radio 4 on 30th July 2008 and starred:
  • Roger Allam as Douglas
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Martin
  • Stephanie Cole as Carolyn
  • John Finnemore as Arthur
  • Geoffrey Whitehead as Mr. Birling
  • Adam G. Goodwin as Philip
The episode's pre-credits scene is of Martin giving a cabin address about a movie. Unfortunately due to a technical fault, they can't bring the rest of the movie, so Martin fills in the audience on what happened.

The episode opens with Carolyn explaining their jobs and then Arthur realises that it's coming up to the Six Nations Final, which means that it's Birling Day. Birling Day is a yearly event in which a rich, retired gentleman by the name of Mr. Birling hires MJN Air to take them to wherever the Six Nations Final is being held, this year, it's in Edinburgh.

Douglas and Arthur try and keep the fact that Mr. Birling is a generous tipper. This causes Martin and Mr. Birling to clash with each other, especially when Martin refuses to toady to him, which Douglas and Arthur do. As soon as Martin finds out there's a huge tip in it for him, he soon changes his mind. Meanwhile, Douglas is frisked at Fitton Airfield for anything that can hold water. Carolyn finds a water bottle, a bottle of shampoo for coloured hair and a bottle of nail varnish. This is to prevent Douglas from taking part in a Birling Day tradition in which he steals the bottle of 25 year old Talisker Whisky.

Once they arrive in Edinburgh, Martin takes Mr. Birling, leaving Arthur and Douglas alone in GERTI. Douglas sends Arthur outside to fix the aerial and this is when he enacts his plan. While Arthur is on the roof, Carolyn rings him and they realise that Douglas is alone inside GERTI with the bottles of Talisker. Arthur goes back inside and challenges Douglas about the whisky. Arthur takes one and it still opens up as normal. 

After Wales win the Six Nations final and the Triple Crown, Mr. Birling is happy as he's Welsh and that gets Martin in on the tips. So much so that he lets Mr. Birling sit in the flight deck during take off and play with the Ground Proximity Warning. However, problems arise when Martin gets the over excited Mr. Birling a bigger bottle of Whisky and he drinks the half liter bottle, passing out in his seat. 

They arrive back at Fitton and send Mr. Birling off without getting their tip. Douglas reveals his plan that he switched the Talisker for the McHamish's Special Tartan Reserve, which Martin gave to Mr. Birling, meaning Douglas didn't get the Talisker, but Arthur did get a single miniature bottle off the plane because it was the tester one from earlier. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Nerdversity 219 - Thunderbirds at 50 (Part 2)

In this second part, we cover the video games released in the last 30 years. The 2 kickstarter projects, the 2004 movie and the 2015 Thunderbirds Are Go! series.

Nerdversity 218 - Thunderbirds at 50 (Part 1)

Following on from out Supermarionation episode last month, here's Part 1 of our look at Thunderbirds at 50. In this episode, we'll explore the show's origins. the voice cast, the production of the series, the troubled production of Attack of the Alligators, as well as Fox's Thunderbirds and Turbocharged Thunderbirds. We also take a look at the reboots of 1992 and 1999, as well as ending with a look at the comic world and TV21/Fleetway. 

Nerdversity Reviews: Cabin Pressure Series 1, Episode 4 - Douz

Douz aired on BBC Radio 4 on 23rd July 2008. It starred:
  • Roger Allam as Douglas
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Martin
  • Stephanie Cole as Carolyn
  • John Finnemore as Arthur
  • John Sessions as Yves Jutteau
  • Rufus Jones as Captain Jessop
  • Robert Harley as Lachlan
  • Ali Amadi as Habib
The episode's pre-intro scene has Martin giving a cabin address in which he claims there's nothing to worry about. This goes on a few more times until he states he needs a stimulant made from a  South American bean. Carolyn has Arthur send Martin a coffee.

The episode picks up directly afterwards, with Martin finishing his coffee and then Arthur seeing the Sahara desert and camels, which he considers to be "Brilliant". Douglas sets about landing, but a hydraulics failure makes Martin take the landing. 

After a rough landing, Martin gets into an argument with the Douz airport manager over fees, refusing to pay them. Meanwhile, Carolyn realises they're doing this trip for free when she speaks to the Captain of the Panda Charters flight and finds out they've gone bankrupt and Jutteau wouldn't let them leave without paying the bill and so stripped their plane to pay for the bill, leaving them stranded in the airport.

Jutteau drains GERTI of her fuel and parks a number of vehicles around the plane, blocking them in until they pay the bill. Refusing to pay it, they think up an escape plan while Douglas plays cricket with the Scots international team.

Douglas gets a plan. He drains the fuel tank of the baggage carts and fire trucks, moves the fire truck out the way with the help of the cricketers. They taxi the plane out the runway and down the highway to the nearby airfield at Kebili. 

The episode ends with Douglas and Martin driving GERTI down a deserted Tunisian highway, while Arthur has decided on the new MJN Air brochure cover, which is a dozen Scottish men in swimming trunks moving a Fire Truck. 

Monday, 9 November 2015

Nerdversity Reviews: Cabin Pressure Series 1, Episode 3 - Cremona

Cremona aired 19th July 2015 on BBC Radio 4 and starred:
  • Roger Allam as Douglas
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Martin
  • Stephanie Cole as Carolyn
  • John Finnemore as Arthur
  • Helen Baxendale as Hester MacCauley
  • Rufus Jones as Percival
  • Robert Harley as Gawain
  • Ali Amadi as Lancelot
The episode opens with a pre-credits scene of  Douglas giving a Cabin address that's littered with references to Frank Sinatra songs.

The episode with opens with Martin singing Come Fly With Me, then Carolyn summoning them into the Portacabin to explain to them that they're flying a film star, Hester MacCauley to Cremona in Italy, where she'll be making a movie about Fascist Italy. It also turns out that Arthur is extra excited as she is his favourite film star, having starred as the Lady of the Lake in his favourite movie. 

Martin is smitten by Hester and tries to charm his way with her, while Arthur annoys her with his over enthusiasm and his love of Camelot. Though MJN had already earned her ire when they allowed the Camelot fans to swarm her taxi and that Carolyn didn't get her out of the taxi, carry her bags and provide security. 

On the flight, it turns out that Hester is staying at the Excelsior, a very posh hotel and that Martin, Douglas and Arthur are staying across the way at the dreadful Garibaldi. Though with some pushing from Hester, Martin books them in the State Rooms on the 5th floor by accident. Martin tries to clean up the mess, but Douglas refuses to leave the State room.

Douglas finally relents after Martin convinces him the rooms have been refunded. The three of them move into the Garibaldi as per Carolyn's request and Arthur is horrified by the cockroaches running round. Martin is later horrified to see a bunch of knights around the Excelsior hotel, demanding to see Hester. Douglas concocts a plan.

Douglas holds an auction to turn the knights into butlers for her state room, using the black shirts for the movie. The accommodations balance out. Hester gets the State Room, Douglas gets a room at the Excelsior thanks to the auction and then Martin and Arthur share the hotel room at the Garibaldi.

The episode ends with Carolyn revealing she was the one who sent the knights and is upset that Martin and Douglas got rid of them, even though Douglas was part of the plan and got a night in the Excelsior. 

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Nerdversity Reviews: Cabin Pressure Series 1, Episode 2 - Boston

Boston aired 9th July 2008 on Radio 4 and starred:
  • Roger Allam as Douglas
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Martin
  • Stephanie Cole as Carolyn
  • John Finnemore as Arthur
  • Ewen MacIntosh as Karl
  • Kerry Shale as Mr. Leeman
  • Matilda Zeigler as Shanwick ATC and Boston Paramedic
The opening for this episode is Carolyn giving a safety demonstration in her car,

The episode begins with Douglas and Martin playing a game of Simon Says in the flight deck, when Carolyn informs them that they've been hired to pick up a plane full of stranded American passengers from Luton Airport and fly them to Boston. Martin and Douglas try and argue the schedule, but Carolyn is set.

Once at Luton, Arthur tells Mr. Leeman to extinguish his cigarette, but he refuses until Carolyn comes over and extinguishes it. Martin and Douglas continue their game of Simon Says until the smoke alarm goes off. Carolyn reveals it's Mr. Leeman smoking in the toilets. Martin goes to confront him but Mr. Leeman insults Martin and sends him back to the flight deck, where he concocts a plan. 

Next time Mr. Leeman enters the passenger toilet to smoke, Arthur opens the door and sprays Mr. Leeman with a fire extinguisher, giving Mr. Leeman a heart attack, Now stuck with a sick passenger, Martin and Carolyn butt heads over diverting to Reykjavik where he can get hospital treatment or press on for Boston. It causes problems with Martin and Douglas too, which results in GERTI being pinged around the Atlantic Ocean by Shanwick ATC,

The crew get medical help from Dr. Price, who reveals that Mr. Leeman died in the galley from his heart attack. Arthur reads his eulogy. it's decided that they press on for Boston. Once they arrive, Carolyn has problems with the Medical staff who tell her they should wait until tomorrow and they need to stay onboard GERTI until the coroners come to pick up Mr. Leeman. Martin decides to strong arm his way into the conversation and convinces the medics to take him.

At the security desk, Martin butts heads with a TSA agent over nasal clippers, informing him that there's a fire axe in the flight deck. Martin ignores Douglas' words about being strong arm just as he explains to TSA that he could crash the plane by pushing down on the control column, causing Martin to be arrested by the TSA under the Terrorism Act of 2002. Douglas and Arthur decide to go Duty Free shopping for Toblerones while Carolyn chases after the TSA agents and Martin. 

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Nerdversity Reviews: Cabin Pressure Series 1, Episode 1 - Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi aired on July 2nd, 2008 and stars
  • Roger Allam as Douglas
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Martin
  • Stephanie Cole as Carolyn
  • John Finnemore as Arthur
  • Ewen MacIntosh as Karl
The episode begins with a pre-introduction from Douglas. Martin and Douglas had had a gentlemanly bet with each other to see who could fly GERTI best after drinking a litre of vodka through a straw, hence why Martin's take off was very hairy, especially over a golf course. Douglas is up for landing and can't decide which of the two runways to aim for.

The actual episode starts with Martin and Douglas in the cockpit playing a game of Brians of Britain, a take on the quiz show Brain of Britain. However, with only 30 minutes of fuel left and a runway closure at Fitton, Martin makes the decision to make a £7000 diversion to Bristol, to which Carolyn is less than impressed at. She challenges Martin and Douglas to fly to Abu Dhabi, taking an oil executive's possessions there, including the cat and most of all, no diversions unless absolutely necessary. 

The day of the no frills flight comes and first thing's first, Arthur has no idea on how planes fly. Onboard GERTI, Martin, Douglas and Arthur are making their final checks before they take off. They continue their game, but are horrified when they find out that Arthur has made them meals. The first of which, is Orange Platter, which is everything he could find Orange, cooked in baked beans sauce. The other meal he has lined up is Surprising Rice, which is a rice concoction that has mystery items in it, which he refuses to tell what they are because it goes against the spirit of Surprising Rice,

Part way through the journey, Martin sat-comm's Carolyn to complain about the lack of catering and the fact they'll be sleeping in a Bedouin tent in Abu Dhabi. It's during this conversation in which he realises too late that he's switched the heating in the hold off, when it should have been turned on. This leaves Martin with an agonising decision - Divert or let the client's cat freeze to death in the hold. The episode ends with Douglas lighting a match and Martin making a call to divert

Friday, 6 November 2015

Nerdversity Reviews: Cabin Pressure (series overview)

Cabin Pressure was a BBC Radio 4 comedy series that ran from 2008-2014. It was created by comedian John Finnemore, who also plays the delightfully cheery, yet idiotic steward Arthur. It was produced by veteran radio and TV producer David Tyler.

The general plot of the series is that it follows the oddball crew of the world's smallest airline, MJN Air, or rather Airdot, as they are chartered to take all manner of weird and wonderful items, people and even animals across the globe. The show stars:
  • Roger Allam as First Officer Douglas Richardson
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Captain Martin Crieff
  • Stephanie Cole as Carolyn Knapp-Shappey
  • John Finnemore as Arthur Shappey
The show takes place in the fictional town of Fitton, which is located somewhere in the Midlands, though never clearly expressed where it is. As the series progresses, we find out that Carolyn has received an old Lockheed McDonell 312, a 16 seater plane called Gerti, as settlement from the divorce from her previous husband, Gordon Shappey. She proudly proclaimed "MY JET NOW!", which is what the company is named after.

The crew is made up of Martin Crieff, a man who has been wanting to be a pilot since he was 6 years old, but before that he wanted to be the aeroplane. He does however, have a distinct lack of natural piloting ability, because as the series progresses, we find out that he was turned down by several flight schools and failed his CPL 6 times, barely passing on his seventh attempt. He doesn't appear to have any outside hobbies other than flying. He possesses an almost encyclopedic knowledge of flying and how aircraft work. He lives a life of poverty in a student house attic, making a small amount of money on the side by being a "Man With A Van", despite being a Captain, Martin isn't paid by Carolyn.Martin has shown throughout the series that he is a stickler for the rules and regulations of the CAA, though more prissy than being pompous, rather proclaiming "as the commander of this vessel...." several times through out the series. He has a good friendship with Arthur, who prefers to refer to him as "Skip". 

First Officer Douglas Richardson used to work for Air England before being fired for smuggling. He's the competent pilot, while Martin is the Safe one. He's a smooth talker, witty and intelligent, usually missing no opportunity to flaunt this in the face of Martin and Carolyn. In the series, he's embarassed by his second rate job and pretends to be a captain to his then wife Helena. Every Birling Day, which falls on the Final of the Rugby World Cup, Douglas makes every opportunity to steal a 25 year old bottle of Talisker single malt Whisky from Carolyn. He often has schemes and plans that involve smuggling or in some cases, fix the situation the crew are currently stuck in. Douglas is a recovering alcoholic and has been sober for over 10 years, but maintains his image as a "hard boozing sky god"

Carolyn is the owner and stewardess of MJN Air. She received GERTI in a divorce settlement and used it as a charter airline. MJN is always on the verge of bankruptcy.This is why she's always trying to get customers, especially rich ones to keep MJN afloat. Carolyn often gets involved with the Word Games and other Games that Martin and Douglas like to play on the flight deck. Towards the end of the series, she meets another pilot called Hercules Shipwright (played by Anthony Head) and the two begin a relationship. She also looks after her idiot son Arthur and his pet cockapoo Snoopadoop. Of course, she pulls multiple duties throughout the series as owner, managing director, administrator and stewardess as well.

Arthur is Carolyn's half Australian son. He's the steward onboard GERTI, though he proves to be over helpful and gets in everyone's way. He's 29 and still lives at home with his mother. As well as being overly cheerful and an idiot, he's always over optimistic about life and doesn't ever see anything as bad. His claim to fame is that he is the inventor or at least discoverer of Fizzy Yoghurt, which is essentially Yoghurt plus time. Aside from Birling Day, Birling Day Eve, GERTI'S birthday and Summer, Christmas is his favourite time of year. He's also an avid fan of Toblerone, a bear expert. He is allergic to dragon fruit and strawberries. He also can't lie, as he turns a funny colour and falls over every time he tries. He also invented a game of Yellow Car, in which the player must point out every Yellow Car they see, but there is no end to the game. 

Douglas and Martin pass the time on the flight deck by playing many games including:
  • Brians of Britain
  • Making bets that Douglas usually wins
  • People who have Evil Sounding Names
  • Books that sound different with the last letter removed
  • Simon Says
  • One syllable words only
  • The Travelling Lemon 
Douglas has also invented several humorous cabin addresses, based on Hitchcock Films and even Limericks too. 

The series was one of the most popular shows on Radio 4, with over 20,000 people fighting over just 200 tickets for a recording at the RADA Theatre. It has also won numerous awards, as well as John Finnemore winning several awards himself. The series theme is Mikhail Glinka's Ruslan and Ludmila Overture, which can be heard here, Finally, the series has been released in it's entirety and can be bought here

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Nerdversity Thoughts: What does it mean to be a geek girl in today's culture?

This controversial comic was shown to us and I thought it'd be a good time to talk about this subject. Note: we are NOT trying to attack or discredit anymore, We are not trying to be gatekeepers of anything and these are merely observations and opinions.

There;s no denying that pop culture is now on the rise and with it, a new generation of pop culture fanatics, however, lets start at the very beginning: Back when geek culture was starting out in the 50s and 60s, it was largely male orientated. Most of the authors were male, the biggest selling comic books were aimed at men. It's clear that Captain America and Batman weren't aimed at girls and neither were John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movies. This was still the time when computers, comic books, sci-fi anthologies, table top RPGs and the like were still underground things and up until very recently, children were still being beaten up and called a "nerd" for playing CHESS, that's not counting reading Spider-Man comics in the school yard. Majority of the bullies were male, but there were women who were bullies on to the geeks.Even well into the 80s and early 90s, there were very few female contributors to the Geek culture.

How do women fit into this? well, first off, let me say that yes, we are in agreement that there are many women who have been playing games since the Atari 2600 or been playing D&D since Version 1, reading sci-fi anthologies from the 60s and even been shovelling quarters into arcade machines and pinball tables. They have suffered their own fair share of abuse from men and other girls over the years as well.

Now for the sciencey bit - It's no surprise that women are fantastic liars and are much better at it than men and can also hide their true intentions better than men. I'm not saying all men suck at lying and I'm not saying that all women are perfect liars either, but as a general statement. It's also been proven that women can tell absolute lies and still beat a polygraph test. On the flipside, humans are social creatures and we have always separated ourselves into groups from day 1. We find people we most associate with and get along with. When it comes out groups outside our social circle and hobbies, this is where things get different. People have a desire to belong somewhere. This is where it ties in back to geek culture. When we meet a new social circle and culture, we want to fit into that circle and culture, so our brain tells us we have 2 ways, we can lie and fake our way in and hope it works, or we can earn our place like the other members,

In the last 15 years or so, we have seen pop culture start to rise from an underground thing to multi billion dollar phenomenons. To many, this is a good idea, some people who've been in the geek community a long time are less reserved at the idea. Thanks to shows like The Big Bang Theory promoting geek culture and it being heavy prevalent everywhere else, especially mainstream conventions getting mainstream non-geek media attention, geek culture is extremely popular at the moment and shows no signs of stopping, however, this is where many fandoms have run into a problem. The Fake Geek Girls. They are the sort of girls who buy geeky clothing because it's cool, keep geeky TV shows on the air and generally cause headaches for people in many fandoms, especially when they post things like this:

The other thing we should mention is that one of the other theories as to why women are badgered and questioned in the geekdom is this: The older fans of things and have been around the longest are very weary of who they let into the community due to them being bullied about it, especially now with many of the things they love being billion dollar earning franchises, so when someone who has shown NO interest in a subject before and has laughed at them previously for having the Batman lunchbox now has an interest in Batman, are they here for the right intentions?

One other theory is the "Gatekeeper" theory which, I think is an awful name for it, but women seeming hate having to prove their credentials over men. The reason that they state is simply that men don't try to be something they're not, they tend not to lie to each other due to the "Bro Code". It also stems from the fact that whenever someone new enters a group, they test each other's knowledge on a certain subject to make sure they're not trying to run their mouth and fake their way in and they actually are credible enough to talk with the group. Remember, it's NOT just women who get this sort of treatment, men get it too, regardless of whether it's geek culture, cars, sport or whatever else. 

There IS a distinction between new fans and fakes and this is what we're trying to separate here. Fakes wear geeky clothes, cosplay in rather revealing clothing, but know NOTHING about the subject matter that they're trying to be a part of. They only want to be there because they want to be popular and get noticed,  New fans are the kind of people that have a strong interest in something but are just starting out and need a helping hand on reading material, viewing order etc etc and they want to earn their place in a culture and community.

A survey was released recently that showed that women are closing the gap on gender differences in video gaming, which many have said that the era of the fake geek girl is dead. I disagree as the results only show a 44% markup of females who play video games. It doesn't go into detail as to what games they are playing and what platforms. Many people wouldn't consider Angry Birds or Farmville actual games, more time wasters, Now, if the breakdown had more accurate information in it, we could see the real figures and the 44% is too vague a number.

These types of fakes are the reason why women get harassed at conventions, be they there for the popularity or there to enjoy themselves. Bringing this subject up is a very dangerous thing in the geek community as many choose to attack the people who bring this up and would rather protect the fakes, but another question is aside from the fakes, It is why women who go to their local game store to buy a some new models for Warhammer 40k often get "you buying that for your boyfriend?" and are often laughed out of the store, despite the fact they may have been playing since the early days at their local club. 

In my personal and honest opinion, we shouldn't be protecting the fakes and blaming the men for asking the questions. They've had their cultures ruined by fakes who are only there to get their popularity and then leave, moving onto their next one. We as a geek community should band together and help remove them because we think women who play D&D and video games are awesome.

Once again, I hope you've enjoyed this article and please note, this is just an opinion, based solely around observations within the communities and at conventions. Do not take this as fact, we encourage you to do some research and make up your own mind regarding this subject. 

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Nerdversity Guides: Convention Survival

Winter convention season is at it's final peak before they close down and we have to wait until February before they begin again, so this is why we're giving you guys and and gals the ultimate convention survival guide, along with some dos and dont's.

The convention itself:
  • Make sure you purchase your tickets well in advance. Many cons do not allow you buy tickets on the door. 
  • Double check which ticket you have, what you're entitled to at the convention and when the convention opens it's doors. Many cons have priority access, which allows early entry between certain times
  • If you have press passes, make sure you take relevant paperwork
  • This also goes for any paperwork you may need for general entry, it may be a print out confirmation of the ticket with ID. 
  • If your convention gives you a lanyard and badge, keep it safe and on display at all times 
  • If you're travelling in via public transport, make sure you know the timetables, so you can get there and home safely. 
  • If you are bringing in cosplay props and weaponry via public transport, keep them safe and secured away in a backpack or case. 
  • Be sure to fully obey the conventions safety protocols regarding photos and cosplay
  • Many venues are extremely expensive for food and drink. They also don't offer much in the way of dietary needs, so to get around this, buy your own food and drink that you can keep on you.
  • Drink plenty as well, it does get very warm inside a hotel or hall that has many bodies in it all day
  • Take advantage of resting as much as you can in the convention hall, be it sitting down and having breakfast, or eating lunch, It's easy to forget that you'll be on your feet all day. 
  • Don't rely on the convention accepting cards. Not all of them do, so bring cash. Most convention centers and hotels do have card machines, but be prepared for a still charge
  • Get plenty of sleep the night  before, so you're feeling refreshed. You'll be in for an early start
  • Take a spare phone battery and camera battery, they'll run dry very quickly and there's not may places to charge them, if at all.
  • If you have a large and bulky cosplay, then take some friends along as handlers, who'll help guide you through the narrow maze and crowds.
  • Don't hesitate to talk to any of the stewards or even at the welcome desk if you have any problems
  • If the convention staff talk to you about anything, listen to what they say and obey any orders they give
  • Some rules aren't defined by the convention, but by the venue, check the venue rules before heading there
  • Report any bullying or harassment to any convention staff
  • Arrive at the hotel with plenty of time for check in, most of the time it's 3pm, but they will let you in before if it's ready.
  • Try to keep your room clean and tidy for the cleaning services
  • If you are returning late from a convention, please be respectful to other guests staying and keep the noise level down.
  • Do NOT trash your hotel room and have wild room parties.
  • If the hotel is hosting the convention, please respect the guests right to privacy. This means NOT following them to their rooms or trying to break into them
  • Be aware that hotels do add surcharges to anything you may do or use in the hotel. 
  • Also, food is a little more expensive than most places. It may be worth eating out instead
  • Many hotels can hold your bags for you after check out until you're ready to leave, just ask
  • If you are staying in a hotel that's near the convention center, it's a great place to store things and food until you need them.

  • Cosplayers usually don't mind photographs being taken, just ask permission
  • Male or female, watch those hands
  • If a cosplayer is talking, eating or otherwise doing anything else, wait for them to finish before taking pictures
  • Remember your please and thank yous.
  • If you are cosplaying, adopt a safe pose for photos. 
  • As stated above, follow the weapons policy to avoid law enforcement intervention and security staff intervention
  • Keep spares with you just in case, such as glue and a needle and thread. 
  • Make sure you can get in and out of your costume in a hurry and easily
  • It's not mandatory, but a business card can be helpful if people want to find you on social media
  • Just remember to have a little consideration with cosplay choices. Large and Bulky cosplays don't really mix that well with large convention halls filled with hundreds of thousands of people and tight walkways. 
  • Remember to be polite to all guests attending the con
  • Try to limit autographs to one or two items, most cons have this rule
  • Remember cash, as not many guest handlers will have a card machine
  • Try to respect their privacy, don't hang around their table all day asking questions.
Most of all though:
  • Have fun
  • Make some new friends
  • Stay safe
  • take loads of pictures and share your experience

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Nerdversity Rants: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

This isn't so much a rant, more a case of how I think Marvel and ABC could vastly improve the series. 

The first half of Agents season 1 is set after Item 47, a one shot which picks up directly after the first Avengers movie. In this one shot, in case people haven't seen it, 2 civilians find a chitauri weapon after the battle of New York and go on a bank robbing spree before being captured by SHIELD, the 2 criminals, Bennie and Claire, are captured by SHIELD and are then made into agents, and then we never see or hear from them again. Were they killed in the purge during Cap 2? we don;t know, noone even mentions them again in show,

The comes the season 1 episode The Well, in which we see the titular agents involved in a brief clean up scene post Thor: The Dark World and then introduced to Professor Elliot Randolph, played by Peter MacNicol, who has been on earth for millennia, Was he referenced in Thor? Thor 2? nope and double nope. This is the first the agents have heard of him, as well as the audience, so again, I doubt he'll even be referenced again in Thor 3: Ragnarok. The other loose Thor tie in comes in the form of the episodes Yes Men, in which Lorelei and Sif make an appearance post The Dark World, yet neither of them mention the events of the movie, the Dark Elves or anything like that, even Lorelei was never mentioned prior to the events in this episode. They also reference Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier in which Sitwell makes a passing reference to Nick Fury being killed.

The problem in my opinion is that the tie ins to the movies and other TV series are so loose, that they may as well not even be there, other than to hear the MCU fans grin and giggle when they hear Coulson mention Daredevil. 

Not that I'm actually hating on Agents, I think that the series has gone from strength to strength since day 1 and I really enjoy the series, can't wait for Season 3. However, the problems have started to lie in the fact that Marvel Movies and Marvel TV have broken off into their own separate divisions so to speak. Also in the fact that the movies are dictating in which direction the TV series must take.

My one hope is that one day, this ends and we get the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D that we've been wanting to see for years, have Stark make an appearance, or Widow or even Hawkeye.