Fancy a spot of sword fighting, rescuing maidens and defeating evil warlords. All this (and more) doesn’t happen in Elvenquest, a comic fantasy audiodrama from the BBC.

Written by by Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto, and starring Stephen Mangan, Alistair McGowan, Darren Boyd, Kevin Eldon, Sophie Winkleman and Dave Lamb.

This is a parody of Middle-earth and just about all fantasy stories.
In Lower Earth, a band of warriors go forth to search for a mythical sword to save Lower Earth from the evil Lord Darkness. In order to do so, they must find “The Chosen One” who will save Lower Earth. The Chosen One is Amis, a dog in the real world which belongs to a fantasy novelist called Sam Porter.

There are four series, broadcast from 29 March to 3 June 2009 to the last on 12 February 2013.

Very funny, very recommended, very silly.




The D’Karon Apprentice
By Joseph R. Lallo

In the months following The Battle of Verril, great strides have been made to heal the rift between the Northern Alliance and Tressor. The peace between the nations, however, is a fragile one, and the awakening of an ancient enemy threatens to spark a new conflict that could undo all that the Chosen have achieved.


I have read The Book of Deacon Trilogy (2010-2011) and Jade (2011). These I rated highly, especially Jade that I regarded as one of the best fantasy stories in recent years.

However this book has issues. But first, the good things. His writing has improved since Deacon, where there were problems with large battle scenes making sense. In this book the best aspect was the action scenes. These come across clearly and with a good sense of excitement. Secondly, despite being a long book (169,000) words it has good pacing. The story was always moving along and things happening.

Now, the problems.
First, it’s best to read this book immediately after the Deacon Trilogy. I read this three years ago and was having trouble remembering all the characters and their motivations. These could have been explained better at the start.

Then there is the magic. Is there method here, or is it just all plotonium ?

Things happen that make little sense. Where does all this energy that can destroy buildings come from and why can a supposedly human character survive all this destruction.

The story is very simple: Our heroes have to stop an evil wizard.
It’s a bit like the fighting scene where our hero takes on a dozen Ninjas, with each one coming at him (or her) separately. If they could just co-ordinate their attack he wouldn’t stand a change. And with this book there is never a sense of co-ordination. Shouldn’t someone be trying to discover the weaknesses of their opponent. Rallying the forces, defending the walls and finding secrets. Everyone seems to be reacting to events, not making thing happen. There are a lot of missed opportunities here.

It would have been better if the ‘evil one’ was dealt with in the first half of the story and the second half dealt with the unforeseen consequences.

It’s not that it’s a bad book, just a disappointment after the Deacon Trilogy and Jade.

PC Meeting

This meeting report comes from sometime in the 1990s

PC Meeting

The last PC Users meeting was held at Robbie’s Lancaster, near Jade Stadium. It’s a comfy venue and I got a nice meal for under $10.00.

Robert Edgeler from Big Byte spent time before the meeting playing with his flight simulator, spending all of the time in ChCh airport.

He spent the first ten minutes of his talk explaining that while he was from Big Byte and wearing a company jersey, he was there to give advice. However he managed to imply that we should all show our appreciation by buying lots of stuff from his workplace.

He covered lots of things for a new purchaser to look out for.
Most time was spent on how to avoid getting nuisance attacks, spam
and rubbish from the internet. He named the “Windows Media Player”
as the worst offender, it collects PC information on browsing
habits and sends the data to advertisers. Apparently there is an option
that is on by default, but can easily be turned off.

He claimed that “Registry First Aid” was the best program to remove
unwanted entries from the registry.

He also mentioned some system performance measures to speed things up. But I’m not going to pass these on the people who have PCs 4x faster than mine, you will just have to PUT UP with your 1,000MHz+ PCs !

Interesting site mentioned:
Here you can find people you went to school with. I haven’t visited, but
you may be interested.

Try not to overclock your brains during the weekend.
See Ya Monday.

Atomic Bitchwax

Atomic Bitchwax -II

If you find a CD with a cover consisting of scantily clad girls, turbo-charged mustangs and skinny guys with long hair & guitars you may be able to assume this is rock music. You would be right and this trio of Ed Mundell (guitars), Chris Kosnik (bass) & Keith Ackerman (drums) make a lot of noise circa 1974 for three guys. Most reviews call this “stoner” rock. I’m not sure what this means, but to me it’s like an updated Deep Purple with minimal vocals.

From Aural Innovations #15 (April 2001)
This is the 2nd studio CD by Ed Mundell from Monster Magnet. The CD picks up where the last one left off with the band going for a different sound for the guitars as Ed really changed gear this time around. Again, the CD is half instrumental and half with vocals but mostly in the 70’s acid jamming style. The production is very raw and nasty and Ed rips it up all over the place. The opening song Ice Pick Freek is a killer.

I still don’t care much for the vocals of Chris Kosnik, but the guitar riffs are a killer on this release and Ed sure shows that he can play some great guitar. Play The Game has a guest organ player but you hardly hear him. Warren Haynes from Gov’t Mule guests on the 4th track, Smokescreen, and plays some killer slide guitar. Ed told me that Warren was to play on two tracks but there was no time. The band seems to have a pretty constant approach to the songs with most songs starting with some heavy riffing, a little solo, vocals, small middle solo, and longer solos at the ends, sometimes fading out.

The Cloning Chamber is an excellent song with a great riff and organ line. Dishing out a heavy dose of tough love borrows a little bit of the riff rom Rock and Roll Hoochie Choo by Rick Derringer! Great song. Well, if you liked the first one, you will love this one. I think it is an improvement but does not break much new ground from the first one, still lots of great ripping guitar and good songs.

Americans !!!

Top 10 Things everyone finds annoying about Americans

  1. Too much violence, not enough nudity on television.
  2. A Kiwi is a New Zealander, not a fruit.
    The ‘Kiwi Fruit’ is called a Zespri.
  3. Threw out the British over 100 years ago, but kept
    their system of weights and measurements.
  4. Herbs is pronounced without an ‘H’.
  5. Even the vice president doesn’t understand the
    political system.
  6. Since arriving late for the last world war, too keen
    to start the next one.
  7. Elections take a year.
  8. The ‘World Series’ doesn’t include the rest of the
    world, it should be called the ‘Americas Cup’
  9. You haven’t won the ‘Americas Cup’ since 1995,
    it should be called the ‘Rich Dude’s Sailing Cup’
  10. They drive on the wrong side of the road.

Calman On

Susan Calman is a Scottish comedian, I have heard her mainly on the weekly ‘The New Quiz‘ from the BBC.

It turns out she also did a comedy series titled “Keep Calman Carry On for the BBC. In it she ‘interviews’ fellow comedians about various subjects…

Episode 1
She goes walking with Muriel Gray (who I have never heard of) up a ‘hill’ in Scotland. I’m sure it is just a hill, not a mountain as she describes it.

Episode 2
Andy Zaltzman takes her to cricket. Andy is best known as half of the Bugle team with John Oliver. The only problem Susan has is getting Andy to shut up.

Episode 3
John Finnemore takes Susan on a spontaneous holiday. This is the best episode as John is a very talkative and cheerful person, who leads Susan on a fun day out.

Episode 4
Susan visits an art gallery with Phil Jupitus (who I know from Stephen Fry’s IQ program). Phil doesn’t say much, he appears to be a shy fellow when not in front of the camera.



Wind Me Down

From June 9 1995


The Windows 95 Roadshow

Sept 6 at ChCh Town Hall.

Welcome to the Bill Gates version of Hell.

I actually like the Stones “Start me up”. It has the raw energy of a
great band at the top (Tatto You – 1981, I have the album).

Unfortunately , they cut the song before “You make a grown man cry” which sums up a lot about Win95. After hearing the song intro
endlessly, it becomes reduced to an aural background. (pity)

The roadshow took up the Town Hall Limes room, mezzanine above the restaurant and the James Hay Theatre.

Along for the ride were about 20 local retailers of software and
hardware, desperately grabbing onto the coat-tails of the $200 million extravaganza. Micro$oft spent a lot on banners, brochures and boxes (most with Win95 printed on the outside).

I went through the exhibitions in about 20 minutes. There wasn’t a lot to see, just lots of computers with the Win95 desktop.

The most prosperous must be ComputerLand. They had coffee & sandwichs for the reps. The main event was Win95, and nobody was going to upstage the reason they were there.

More interesting was the two presentations :

Intro to Win95.

This started with deafening music and a light show. After 2 minutes of this I was expecting the dancing girls to come on !.
You can’t accuse Micro$oft of originality. The presentation was a
direct rip-off of Home Improvement. I hope Tim Allen was paid for it.

Two presenters looking like Tim & Al showed us what to spend our money on. They explained how Win95 supersedes DOS 6.22 by taking a chainsaw to a block of wood wrapped in the DOS 6.22 box.

This was followed by an intro to Win95, showing off the main features.
It ended by showing a full screen movie (with sound) under Win95. What they let slip was that to do this you need a Pentium with 16meg RAM. As he said “With a $4,000 computer you can now do what a $500 TV will do”.

I am still not convinced about Win95. They have changed the close icon from the top left of a window, to the top right. Why I don’t know. The concept of a simple front end menu (e.g. what you got on a 1981 PC) seems to have vanished. Overall, the interface is more complex, rather than simpler.

Some of the mouse movements aren’t intuitive. A lot of the menus start at the bottom left corner (“Start” icon), and move up and across, while holding the mouse down. This must be a problem for anyone with creaking fingers (the writer an exception). I find it easier to pull a mouse towards me than to push it away. Perhaps being left handed makes a difference, what do you think.

The OS doesn’t appear to be developed with touch-screen computers in mind. And it’s still based around applications, rather than documents.
Paper analogies are still used, and a cross-platform multi-media
standard was not mentioned.

Micro$oft Office Presentation

This was more interesting. Word, Access, Excel, Powerpoint and
Schedule were shown in their 32bit form (Access still in development).

The most interesting features :

* Auto underlining. Just enter “——-” in the line under some text,
and a full line will be created across the page.

* Word automatic capitalization. ie changing tHIS to This
and capitalizing the first letter of a new sentence. The
multi-threading really helps here.

* Exceptions list for acronyms to be excluded from the above.

* Automatic list generation. When you start a list, the WP
automatically adds the next number.

* Creation of relational databases from tables. This takes tables with
repeating data and creates a relational database.

* Incorporation of Schedule with network project management software.

* Powerpoint can use sound. (must check version at work to see if this is new)

So, for me the most interesting things were the improvements made to the Office package of applications. (At work I’m still using version 2 of MS Word ! ) Of course I could always use OS/2 with Office. 🙂

Despite my last message, Win95 does use proportional slider bars. It
appears that developers have the option, some don’t use it.

Syberia 2


Syberia II is a 2004 adventure game conceived by Benoît Sokal and developed by MC2-Microïds, and a continuation to Syberia. It is a third-person puzzle-solving game. Stylistically identical to the first Syberia, Syberia II improves upon the first game by introducing more realistic character animation.

Syberia follows the guidelines first introduced by LucasArts: it is impossible to die or to get stuck at any moment in the game, which allows the user to become fully immersed in Syberia’s universe without the fear of making a mistake or the constant need to save the game.

Adventure Gamers Review

First, this is a better game than the first. Mainly due to the better puzzle design. There is more variety and are more logical. Large portions of the game I could complete without resorting to help.

It also brings the story to a conclusion and shows creatures hinted at in the  first game. For this game I used the UHS (Universal Hints System) instead of a walk-through, which probably forced me to spend more time on the puzzles. Also, talking to people helped a lot with solving problems and showing the way forward, something the first game didn’t do as well. 

The graphics are similar the first game, however the sound was more low key and atmospheric. Symphonic music was mainly used during the cut-scenes.


The were less  phone calls, however the tedious and ultimately pointless private eye cut scenes came to nothing. All you see is silhouettes and it adds nothing to the plot.

There is a girl with a balloon at the start who becomes a problem as getting her to react is dependent on a specific character interaction.

Overall (taking the two games together) an enjoyable game.

(11 Hours to complete)

On 26 November 2012, Microïds revealed on their Facebook page that Benoît Sokal had officially signed a contract with Anuman to write the story of Syberia III and that official development had started. The game is scheduled for release on 1 Dec 2016. Additionally the project is to be overseen by Elliot Grassiano, the original founder of Microïds. Sokal left Microïds shortly after the release of Syberia II and founded his own company White Birds Productions to release Paradise, a game that uses a similar style of gameplay as Syberia but is not directly related.

The Amazing Esther Stephens

Esther Stephens, who plays Kate Sheppard in the Court Theatre show ‘That Bloody Woman’ also plays Ngaire Monroe in the TV Show ‘Westside’, currently on TV3, Sundays 8:30.

She has a band with an excellent album:

and Videos on YouTube:
Light in You 
Under You
French Kiss

Also in ‘That Bloody Woman’ are:

Amy Straker sings as Amy Grace on

Phoebe Hurst has a free album:

Tim Heeringa plays guitar:


That Bloody Woman

That Bloody Woman

By Luke Di Somma & Gregory Cooper
Directed by Kip Chapman

song from the show

This is the best show I have seen for a long time (probably since Grease a few years ago). But don’t ask me.. here are a few more who agree….

In Association with Auckland Theatre Company A Christchurch Arts Festival Commission Suffragist, activist and cyclist Kate Sheppard transforms from a face on the $10 note into a feminist firebrand raising hell in this red-hot new rock opera.

Leading the charge to win women the vote, Kate takes on the patriarchy, public opinion and even Prime Minister Richard “King Dick” Seddon. The smash hit of the 2015 Christchurch Arts Festival returns to take a fresh look at one of Christchurch’s favorite daughters brought to life: loud, proud and in your face.


Sheppard musical revival is a righteous, rocking instant classic

It all started in a Christchurch tent.

I first reviewed rock musical That Bloody Woman in August last year when it debuted in a speigeltent in front of a couple of hundred people during the Christchurch Arts Festival.

It was immediately obvious that this show was something very special that deserved a bigger life beyond its three-night run in Christchurch.

Since then, That Bloody Woman has been restaged and amped up for a nearly three-week run at the Auckland Theatre Company that attracted rave reviews and sold out houses. Now, it returns to Christchurch for a month-long run at The Court Theatre.

It is a spiritual homecoming for the punk rock musical about Christchurch suffragette Kate Sheppard and her battle to win women the vote in 1890s New Zealand.

I was curious and a little nervous to see how this punk-infused and hand-made musical would transfer to a larger theatrical stage from its speigeltent roots.

I need not have worried. The show is as righteous, witty, vivacious and moving as it was on its debut.

In short, That Bloody Woman is an instant classic.

The transfer to a larger stage with bigger production values feels like a natural evolution for a show that is obviously going places. In the smaller venue last year, some of the rock numbers pinned you back in your seat a little, but in a larger venue the show is able to unfold its wings and really soar.

And soar it does. The infectious, urgent and catchy tunes gave me goosebumps several times, while some of the more moving numbers brought me to tears.

That Bloody Woman is an intoxicating mix of irreverent humour, heartfelt political righteousness and genuinely moving sentiment. Composer Luke Di Somma’s knack for a catchy and enchanting tune is equally matched by playwright Gregory Cooper’s talent for a pithy one-liner and ability to capture history in a respectful but entertainingly irreverent, and sometimes profane, manner.

These rocking tunes and smart lines are brought wonderfully to life by an incredibly talented cast, led by the enchanting Esther Stephens as Sheppard, and an awesomely tight four piece rock band called the Hallelujah Bonnets.

And Sheppard is given a perfect antagonist in the form of Geoffrey Dolan’s Richard ‘King Dick’ Seddon. He is every inch the strutting, bearded, beer-bellied embodiment of the patriarchy Sheppard was fighting to overcome.

This is a show that is unafraid to be both profane and profound as it brings to vivid life the powerful motivations and yearnings behind the groundbreaking suffrage movement.

This is a righteous rock musical with wit, verve, humour and heart. I urge you to see it.

I now look forward to seeing this show soar even higher. It feels ready to take on the world.

Review by Charlie Gates, The Press, Fairfax Media

Erin Harrington Review