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The Ultimate Saturday Morning Cartoon Schedule.

posted by Jonathan Mayne (Saturday, August 25, 2012)

And the awesome topics from the League of Extraordinary Bloggers just keep on coming!  Just while I was still buzzing off the nostalgia of my High School Mixtape, they went unleashed even more gold.  Special mention has to go to Poe Ghostal for suggesting the topic.  Well played my friend!  So without further ado, here's this week's topic.

You’ve been hired to program the ultimate Saturday morning experience for kids across the nation–create your own ideal Saturday morning cartoon schedule.

Saturday morning cartoons.  I mean how awesome is that?  I started by reading some of the other blog posts from around the league, and at the point of writing this I must apologise for not having read them all yet.  But something occurred to me as I was getting started.  The vast majority of choices were from the 80's.  And then I started to get a little bit concerned.  Mostly cause it left me thinking "Awww damn it!  Does this mean that most people in their 30's don't watch cartoons any more?"  So here's my confession.  My choices quite comfortably span 4 decades!  Sorry.  Possibly time I grew up.  :-)

OK, so here's the selection.  Can't pick the exact number of cartoons here but we'll call the schedule 9:00 am until 12:00 pm.  So 3 hours of cartoons that we'll call half an hour each.  Probably a bit shorter but we'll draw a line there.  So I'm calling it 6 cartoons in total.  I should throw in that this selection is excluding adult cartoons like The Simpsons, Family Guy and Southpark, which obviously go without saying.  So here they are.  In chronological order, my top 6 cartoons over the last 29 years.  And counting!

Masters of the Universe

It kinda goes without saying doesn't it?  It was part of every morning cartoon schedule of 80's children the world over.  I also remember the genuine excitement that came from getting one of the toys.  Yeah visually it may not have dated incredibly well.  In fact in each episode you can pinpoint the pieces of animation that got reused again and again.  But who cares?  The show and the mythology are timeless.  Looking forward to seeing what happens with a movie.  Can't be any worse than the last time they tried!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

As a kid I remember one of my childhood friends excitedly coming back from some foreign land called he'd called America!  Ah come on, it was 1980's Belfast.  Cut me some slack.  We'd all been so impressed by the sweets (candy) he'd brought back, but then he went for the knockout.  "They've got this show over there.  It's called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and it's brilliant!"  I was so intrigued by the name alone, but a short time later it was a worldwide phenomenon.  For those of you that don't know, we got an embarrassingly sanitised version of the show in the UK.  I didn't quite realise how much until recently (Thanks ShezCrafti).  But I was so incredibly hooked on the show.  Quite how the Nickelodeon reboot goes remains to be seen, but the original raw materials of the characters will always hold up.

Count Duckula

Ah this gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling, mostly because my high school mixtape didn't have any UK or Irish artists.  Allow me to rectify that with a UK classic.  Count Duckula was a spinoff of the UK cartoon Danger Mouse and was quite simply fantastic!  During a routine resurrection ceremony, vampire butler Igor is mistakenly handed tomato ketchup in place of blood by his slow minded colleague Nanny.  As a result, their vampire duck master Count Duckula is brought back to life as a vegetarian.  I mean come on!  Tell me that isn't good stuff.  The humour was a lot more subtle and understated than a lot of kids cartoons I watched during that era and that's why I loved it so much.  If you've never seen it before watch it now and thank me later.

Batman the Animated Series

One criticism I've always had against Batman movies is that the comics are just too abstract and out there to ever convincingly translate to a believable movie.  Not to say they shouldn't make them, just that they will only ever be so faithful.  But the best on screen adaptation of the comics I've ever seen is by far Batman the Animated Series.  And didn't it just beautifully bring the comics to life?  You can argue over whether the best on screen Joker was Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger all you want.  For me the most faithful on screen Joker always has and always will be Mark Hamill.  His contribution to the character will be sorely missed.

Animaniacs

It was just so out there.  I remember watching this show and laughing my sides sore over a bunch of jokes that just weren't being done by any other cartoon.  I didn't realise how derivative a lot of the characters were at the time, but it was undoubtedly my gateway into other things.  Most notably the parallels between Yakko and Groucho Marx would inspire we to watch a Marx Brothers movie for the first time.  And as if the adventures of Yakko, Wakko and Dot weren't enough to keep me entertained, Animaniacs also brought us Pinky and the Brain.  I mean what more reason do you need?

Phineas and Ferb

Starting in 2007 and still running, Phineas and Ferb is a cartoon that I didn't see on anyone's list when I started writing this.  Shame on you all!  :-)  For those of you unfamiliar with the premise, brace yourself!  Phineas and Ferb are two step brothers through the marriage of their parents.  During their summer vacation they decide to do normal kid stuff like..... you know..... building a portal to Mars, discovering the lost city of Atlantis, that sort of thing.  As a complete side plot to this, their pet platypus Perry is a secret agent battling against his nemesis Dr. Doofenshmirtz.  Doofenshmirtz realises that world domination is probably too unrealistic a goal, and so instead aims to start with domination of the tri-state area before expanding out to the world.  Need I go on?

So that's my choice of six.  As a fun exercise I decided to ask my partner for her 6 just to see how many we would have in common.  Just for bragging rights on her behalf, her choices span SIX, count them, SIX decades.
  • Peanuts
  • Danger Mouse
  • She-Ra: Princess of Power
  • Thundercats
  • X-Men: The Animated Series
  • Phineas and Ferb
Incredibly similar choices to my own.  I'll take it.

How about you guys?  Was the 1980's time for our generation to stop watching kids cartoons or are there any modern classics you just can't get enough of?  Have your say in the comments section.

And now for some link related love. Some of my favourite posts from the league this week:

Green Plastic Squirt Gun - It's got Count Duckula. End of!
AEIOU and Sometimes Why - A fellow Animaniacs fan.  And special mention for including Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends.
ShezCrafti - A cool collection over a mix of decades with a more gamer / superhero focus.  And why not?
Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks - Just a really cool bunch of 80's choices in here.  Most of which I watched.
Memories of Toymorrow - This one's really cool.  Almost like a series of one on one duels over each genre based hour.
Rediscover the 80's - Again categorised by various genres over each hour.  And in each one both choices are awesome!

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The High School Dozen.

posted by Jonathan Mayne (Tuesday, August 14, 2012)

Awww what can I tell you?  I had a LOT of fun with this week's League of Extraordinary Bloggers assignment:

What songs were forever being looped on your car’s stereo back in high school.  A cassette could only hold a dozen or so songs, so that’s the magic number of songs to list.  If your car didn’t have a cassette deck in high school, go ahead and pretend it did, you punk.

Some may dispute this and possibly with good cause :-), but writing this felt like the single most self indulgent thing I've written since starting Geek Cultural.  And I mean that in a good way!  Allow me to get the corny disclaimer out of the way right off the bat, but is there another medium of entertainment out there that can instantly transport you to a time and place quite like music?  I mean you don't often watch a TV show or movie and think to yourself "I remember where I was when I first watched this."  But you instantly associate music with a time and place, and so this almost felt autobiographical.  And what an awesome trip down memory lane!

I didn't particularly enjoy high school truth be told.  I didn't go to the best of schools, I was a long way off being the most popular kid there and in general things didn't pan out well for me during my teenage years.  So what's a stroppy, misunderstood teenage kid to do to escape the daily strains of growing up?  The answer is listen to music.  And so I did.  My taste in music has always been somewhat eclectic, even more so as I've gotten older.  But this assignment felt like documenting a part of my life.  And because music has always been something that I associate with the better memories of high school, I couldn't help but enjoy creating this compilation of songs.  So without further ado and in no particular order, my high school compilation of songs spanning from 1990 to 1995.

For those of you on Spotify, you can listen to the playlist here.  Enjoy!
  • Skid Row - Youth Gone Wild

    Oh come on!  They were basically the go to guys for every teenage kid that ever felt the need to bitch about something that didn't matter.  Youth Gone Wild?  These days it's difficult to take that title seriously.  Mostly cause it's nonsense.  But if you were old enough to be there the first time it felt like being a part of something.  Plus their cover version of the next song was my gateway into the band.

  • Kiss - C'mon And Love Me

    Yeah all right.  I'll throw my hands up.  I was late to the party with this one.  To any child of the 80's Kiss were "that band that did Crazy Crazy Nights."  But lo and behold, some 23 years beforehand Kiss were a bunch of grown men wearing makeup at the beginnings of a glam revolution.  This is the live (and only real) version of this song from their Alive album.  And what a tune!  Sadly however the glam revolution would only last about as far as the next band.

  • Warrant - Mr. Rainmaker

    It's just an awesome song.  I'd have listened to this song on repeat if not for the fact that I had it on cassette and not CD.  But sadly it was at this point that the glam movement would come to an end, as every 20 something male within a 50 mile radius of Los Angeles would be forced to hang up their skin tight leather trousers and makeup bag.  Something had to give.  And in the early 90's, give it did.

  • Nirvana - Breed

    The godfathers of the grunge movement.  Nevermind has already taken its place in history as a classic album.  It's fair to say that Smells Like Teen Spirit got a little bit over played at the time, so I decided instead to go for the other song on the album that I kept coming back to.  And what a song it is!

  • Pearl Jam - Rearviewmirror

    It's like one great big, beautiful mess.  It's raw, it's rough around the edges and yet I wouldn't change a thing.  A Vincent Van Gogh of the era if you will.

  • Kiss - Forever

    Yeah I know I already had a Kiss song in here, but they've lasted right though till now.  No small feat for a band that have been going that long.  These days I find them to be more of a Kiss tribute band if I'm being honest, but only after abandoning the band they'd spent all those years becoming.  So hear it is.  I LOVED KISS IN THE 80'S AND 90'S!  Sue me!

  • Don Henley - The Boys Of Summer

    So Kiss weren't the only band of days gone by that it would take me until the 90's to discover.  The Eagles were the same.  And so as a result I'd stumble upon this song.  Quite possibly my desert island disc.  That is to say that if I could only have one song ever again, it'd probably be this one.

  • R.E.M. - Drive

    So Out of Time is probably still their best album.  But I liked automatic for the people.  It was a more mellow offering for sure but what harm?  Drive was one of those intensely moody songs that I just couldn't help but like.

  • Counting Crows - Rain King

    Same deal with Nevermind I guess.  I loved Mr. Jones but it got a bit over played.  So instead I opted for Rain King.  But what a great album August and Everything After was.  One of those ones that really encapsulates the decade for me.

  • Gin Blossoms - Hey Jealousy

    OK.  So part of me just wanted to make my entire song compilation New Miserable Experience by the Gin Blossoms.  I literally used to listen to it on repeat.  But if I've got to pick one song I might as well make it Hey Jealousy.

  • Marillion - Cover My Eyes (Pain and Heaven)

    Here comes the controversy!  I never really listed to Marillion in the "glory days", so this was the song that brought them on to my radar.  I don't care who sang it.  And the controversy continues!

  • Van Halen - Don't Tell Me

    OK. Here goes.  Van Halen only had one real singer.  Of the first two, one of them was quite simply one of the greatest singers the 80's had to offer and the other was Dave Lee Roth.  THERE!  I said it.  Don't get me wrong.  They were great with both, but they were at their best with Hagar.  Yeah this wasn't their best album by a long shot but I loved this song and I remember listening to it a lot at the time.

  • Hootie & The Blowfish - Only Wanna Be With You

    One of those moments where I've rewritten my listening habits of the time.  I loved this album but if I had to pick a best song it would probably have been Look Away.  I chose this song because I recently saw Ted and now I can't hear it without smiling.  If you haven't seen it yet, make sure you do.  You'll know what I mean after.
OK so slight disclaimer.  Shortly after leaving high school I got a job in a supermarket or convenience store if you're so inclined.  My first task each day was to bake bread thus making me a baker.  And because a baker's dozen is 13 I figured I was entitled to one more song.  What?  It sorta makes sense!  ;-)

So how did my playlist line up with your high school listening habits?  Have your say in the comments section.

And now for some link related love. Some of my favourite posts from the league this week:
  • Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks - It's got Tori Amos and Suzanne Vega.  What more proof do you need!?
  • Toyriffic - Hagar Van Halen and Warrant?  I'm sold!
  • Memories of Toymorrow - Special mention cause it's contains Ace Frehley - What's on your Mind.  Did I mention I loved Kiss?
  • Cool and Collected - My favourite of the lot by a country mile!  Hagar Van Halen, Warrant and Skid Row!  Not to mention a bunch of other amazing songs.
  • Rediscover the 80's - And what he listened to in the 90's.  That's gotta be worth a look.  Spoiler alert.  One of them is Sting!
  • Geek It Till It Hurts - Tom Petty?  Counting Crows?  You know you want to.

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What ish the Matrixsh?

posted by Jonathan Mayne (Thursday, August 09, 2012)

This week's League of Extraordinary Bloggers assignment is to "Remake one of your favourite movies with a cast of current Hollywood stars."  Right off the bat this led me to recall a recent conversation I'd had with a bunch of friends in the pub.  We'd gotten to talking about science fiction movies in general and before too long, conversation turned to movies in the genre that were considered "classics".  You know, movies that had taken their place in the sci-fi hall of fame.  A bunch of the usual, predictable choices came up including Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, Logan's Run and Blade Runner to name but a few.  But then I suggested that our generation's sci-fi classic would be The Matrix.  Lo and behold nobody disputed it.  I'd made an informed and intelligent comment.  I mean what were the odds of that?  But then I had to go and push it too far.

I'd made reference to my usual fly in the ointment around the original casting for the movie.  Now don't get me wrong, I absolutely love The Matrix and it'll undoubtedly be one of those movies that I'll keep going back to, but I couldn't help but wonder how the movie might have turned out with the original casting they'd had planned.  For those of you that don't know (which I'd imagine is very few of you at this stage), the original casting for the movie had Leonardo DiCaprio down to play Neo.  But more significantly it had none other than Sean Connery down to play Morphius.  And every time I discuss this with other like minded sci-fi fans I find myself screaming the same thing.  AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO THINKS THAT WOULD'VE BEEN AWESOME!?  And more often than not the answer lands at yes.  But let's entertain the notion for just a second shall we?

I often think that Leonardo DiCaprio suffers from something I call "the pretty boy effect".  That is to say that his Hollywood star persona sometimes over shadows the fact that he's acutally a really good actor too.  And isn't there a case to be made for the idea that Neo would have been a much more intelligent character with greater depth if someone like DiCaprio had played him?  Mostly cause Keanu Reeves is..... well..... you know.  But what intrigued me more was the idea of Sean Connery playing Morphius.  Not that I have any problem with Laurence Fishburne as an actor.  In fact it's the complete polar opposite.  I absolutely love him, and next to Laurence Fishburne Sean Connery is nothing but screen presence.  But given the type of movie that The Matrix was, would that have been such a bad thing?  What intrigued me more was how much Connery's involvement would have changed the character.

In The Matrix Morphius is portrayed as a razor sharp 30 something guy with good judgement.  But when I'd heard that Connery was originally lined up to play him, the feel of the character totally changed in my mind.  Suddenly Morphius became this godfather type figure who had been around a very long time and seen it all.  It also gave the character a much colder and twisted kind of feel.  Somebody who was willing to push the boundaries that little bit more.  And somebody who if pushed far enough, may have been just volatile enough to have made the wrong call.  But no matter how hard I pitched it to my friends they just weren't getting it.  And why should they?  Laurence Fishburne was awesome after all.  So I decided to pull out the big guns.  "Picture it" I said.  "Can't you hear Sean Connery delivering some of those lines?"  And then I had a brief lapse in judgement when I made an attempt to mimic Sean Connery by saying "You shtay in wunderland, and show you how deep the rabbut hole goesh."  I sat there chuckling to myself for the length of time it took me to scan a table full of blank expressionless faces, the last of which was that of my partner.  Finally she would break a silence that seemed to last forever by saying what everyone was thinking.  "Don't ever let me hear you do that ever again."  Fair play. She probably had a point.

Aaaaanyway.  What I decided to do was fill in the gaps of the movie that never was using today's actors.  Not that I'm suggesting for one second that they should EVER remake The Matrix, but more as a "what if" kind of exercise.  What makes this even less plausible is that Sean Connery has now retired.  Buy hey, it's not like this is ever actually going to happen.  So we've got our Neo and we've got our Morphius.  I won't recast the entire movie otherwise we'll be here for a very long time.  So let's say the four remaining survivors of the Nebuchadnezzar plus the villains.  We'll call that Cypher and Agent Smith.  So here goes.

Trinity - Eliza Dushku

Anyone call for a badass?  In my mind she's basically the go to gal these days.  Yeah in much the same vain as Connery she's probably more screen presence than acting ability but who cares?  Screen presence is something that can't be learned, and if anything that's probably one of the minor criticisms I had about the casting for the movie.  As far as the characters go I think that Trinity should probably have been the more two dimensional character, whereas I think that Neo should probably have had a bit more depth.  But wouldn't Eliza Dushku have looked cool as hell in those fight scenes?

Tank - Lennie James

Yeah OK, maybe he's a bit old now.  Plus I can't really give a good reason as to why I picked this one.  He just kind of popped into my head.  Mostly cause I think he's a really great and under used actor.  I guess part of me could have pictured Tank as a much grittier character. And let's face it, where gritty is concerned, Lennie James practically wrote the book.  I'm one of those few people that watched and loved Jericho, and it was in large part down to way that Lennie James played Robert Hawkins.  Why not put that cold and unfeeling exterior into more stuff?

Cypher - Tom Hardy

Doesn't anyone else think that Tom Hardy has this really cool, edgy and unpredictable kind of quality to his acting?  So who better than Hardy to play the Judas of the piece?  Plus I think it would have made that big reveal that he was playing them much scarier.  Not to mention the fact that we already know he has a great chemistry with DiCaprio after having seen them both in Inception.  Maybe I'm still on a bit of a high after Dark Knight Rises, but what harm?

Agent Smith - Michael Fassbender

This is actually the one I really struggled with.  Mostly because Hugo Weaving did such an amazing job.  But gun to my head?  I'd have to pick Michael Fassbender.  I mean other than stunning visuals wasn't he the only really good thing about Prometheus?  What can I say?  I was in need of somebody capable of playing a slick and calculated villain and he was kind of my default setting.


So that's it.  My Matrix that never was.  How about you guys?  Does anybody else share my curiosity about how the movie may have been with the original casting?  Or is the Matrix a pure and unadulterated masterpiece that should never be touched?  Have your say in the comments section.

And now for some link related love. Some of my favourite posts from the league this week:
  • Rediscover the 80's - One of the only other people I know that remembers M.A.S.K.  Yeah I know you've no idea what I'm talking about.  Check out this post for more details.
  • Under Scoop Fire - Bringing the Three Amigos into the 21st century.  Not that we ever should, but a suggestion as to how it might go if we did.
  • ShezCrafti - A hypothetical, camp look at how the Masters of the Universe reboot might be. Not that it can be anything other than camp when it's eventually made!
  • That Figures - With a look at an alternative Doctor Who reboot.  Don't get too bent out of shape. It'll make more sense when you read the post.

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A Walk Through the History of UK Computing.

posted by Jonathan Mayne (Sunday, August 05, 2012)

The topic of this week's League of Extraordinary Bloggers assignment is "Plot out the ultimate pop culture road trip."  "Easy enough" I thought.  After all, every geek out there has a ton of places they'd like to go see right?  But the more I thought about it the more difficult it got.  Mostly because if you tell a geek that they can visit any location on the planet, their imagination begins to run wild.  So it was at the point that my "road trip" to see all the locations from the Indiana Jones movies was turning into a round the world epic that I decided to set myself some parameters.  I'd limit myself to something that I could realistically achieve by car.  What would be the next UK location I'd most like to visit and why.  And then I drew inspiration from the last time my friends and I had done anything like that.

Having visited my university city of Glasgow on more than one occasion we decided we'd change it up a bit this time.  Most of us had never really visited the North of England before so we decided to give it a try.  The plan was simple. One night in Manchester and two nights in Liverpool.  Already I was getting excited about tracing through the history of the fab four, but arriving in Manchester the previous day I stumbled upon something else.  As is usually the case when you travel to a big city, you don't really question where you are until you've arrived.  As far as I was concerned I was just in some Manchester train station.  But then I saw the sign for Manchester Piccadilly and started to get excited.  I knew I was just around the corner from Sackville Gardens so I asked my friends if they'd mind taking a quick Pilgrimage to meet a founding forefather of modern computing.  Yeah they may have rolled their eyes a little bit, but they also humoured me.  Thanks guys!  So off we went, but not before I heard one of my friends on her phone say "We'll be there in a while.  Jonny wants to see some computer dude with an apple."























The man in question was this man, Alan Turing.  A pioneer of modern computing, not just in the United Kingdom, but in the world.  In 1936 he would write a paper hypothesising about computing devices, the like of which wouldn't exist for several more years.  As a pioneer in his field he would go on to be a code breaker during World War 2.  But after having served his country with unwavering loyalty, Turing's life would take an unfortunate turn.  In 1952 after reporting a break in at his property he would be forced to confess that he had been involved in a homosexual relationship with another man, something that was a crime at the time.  He agreed to accept chemical castration in place of a prison sentence but perhaps at too high a price, as 2 years later Turing would be found dead at his home in Wilmslow.

The circumstances surrounding Turing's death remain a mystery to this day.  The only thing that is known for a fact is that he died from cyanide poisoning.  But because a half eaten, cyanide laced apple was found at his property, popular belief is that he took his own life.  Why the apple?  Some say he was obsessed with the story of Snow White.  Others say that it was symbolic of the forbidden fruit in the garden of eden.  But there are those that believe that his death was simply an unfortunate accident, a theory that several pieces of evidence would strongly suggest.  In any case he would eventually be pardoned of his crimes and receive a public apology from the British prime minister.  And which British prime minister was this?  Gordon Brown in 2007, 53 years after Turing's untimely death.

Looking at the memorial did feel like looking at a piece of history.  And it was this experience that led to my idea for my ultimate geek road trip.  Retracing the steps of the evolution of computing in the UK.  Yeah there's plenty of places I could go see all over the UK but one city in particular sticks out above the rest.  The city in which Alan Turing himself was educated.  Cambridge.

OK, so let's keep it fairly small.  Significant locations off the beaten track that I'd like to go see in Cambridge.

1. Cambridge University























OK, so this one isn't exactly off the beaten track, but no visit to Cambridge would be complete without a visit to the University.  I mean look at it.  Regardless of the Alan Turing connection it's actually just a beautiful building.  So why not?

2. Science of Cambridge / Sinclair Computers

After having experienced over a decade of healthy turnover, electronics company Sinclair Radionics started to take a downturn after their digital wristwatch contained faulty components.  In order to save them from bankruptcy the National Enterprise Board bought a share of the company, but when Sinclair Radionics failed to find it's feet again they eventually went into receivership.  In 1977, owner Clive Sinclair encouraged his employee Chris Curry to move to a new shell company he'd created called Science of Cambridge at this location.























The company would go on to become Sinclair Computers, widely regarded as the company that brought computers into the homes of the British public.  The original ZX80 would retail at only £99.  A price that was unheard of for a home computer at the time.

3. Acorn Computers

In 1978 Curry would eventually leave Science of Cambridge to set up Acorn Computers with his friend Hermann Hauser.  Acorn Computers became famous for creating the BBC Micro, a computer that was to be introduced to schools all over the UK as part of a BBC, government backed initiative.  Their original offices where located in this building.





















4. Baron of Beef

So the computing story in the UK ended largely the same way it did everywhere else.  In the end the market would be won by the bigger American players who had already gained a foothold in the industry, most notably Commodore.  But it's still widely accepted that the man responsible for introducing the computing bug to the UK was Clive Sinclair.  In the end the company would be acquired by Amstrad in 1985 after Sinclair invested all of his money and efforts into the Sinclair C5, an electronic go-kart style car that would sell fewer than 12,000 units.  As for Acorn computers, after failing to meet demand for their Electron computer one Christmas, they would go on to produce the same volume the following year, only to learn that vendors no longer had the same demand for them.  They were acquired by Olivetti the same year.  It's largely believed that the downfall of both companies came to a head at the tail end of the previous year in this pub, Baron of Beef.























In a last ditch attempt to claw back some market share from their competitor, Acorn Computers published an advert suggesting that buying Sinclair Computers' latest machine would most likely result in you having to return it as faulty, next to the much more robust Acorn offering.  According to eye witness reports, Sinclair arrived at this pub holding a rolled up newspaper containing the article and proceeded to beat Curry over the head with it while shouting "You f***ing buggering s*** bucket".  He would then go on to chase him out of the bar.  Papers called it "The Battle of the Boffins" and the following year the bubble would be burst for both companies.  These days Chris Curry is working at GIS.  Clive Sinclair is still working on his electronic car.

5. The Centre for Computing History
























Yeah the UK computer industry may have had it's day in the sun, but the memory of this and of computing in general lives on in the Centre for Computing History.  So this one is actually in Haverhill, Suffolk.  But at present they're in the process of trying to move it to..... you guessed it..... Cambridge.  Plus just last year they announced their patron as none other than Acorn Computers' Hermann Hauser.  What a great initiative to promote the history of computing in our fair shores.  Certainly worthy of a visit or at the very least a donation.

So there it is.  My scaled down and fully achievable next road trip location.  Anybody else miss the days when the UK was making stuff?  Not to mention the days when computing was fresh and exciting.  Have your say in the comments section.

And now for some link related love. My three favourite posts from the league this week:

  • Cool and Collected - A sweet collection of places to visit across the US including the world's longest yard sale and quite possibly the most awesome toy museum I've ever seen.
  • Rediscover the 80's - A road trip of 80's pop culture.  This collection has it all.  And I mean everything!
  • Cavalcade of Awesome - The Billy the Kid trail in New Mexico.  That's gotta be worth a look.

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Belfast, Northern Ireland. My Own Private Hollywood.

posted by Jonathan Mayne (Friday, July 27, 2012)

Howdy folks.  And let me start with a brief announcement.  Starting this week I've decided to join the League of Extraordinary Bloggers.  Does this mean that over the past 7 days I've had delusions of grandeur and elevated my self importance on an epic scale?  Most certainly not I assure you.  Allow me to explain.  In its simplest terms, the League of Extraordinary Bloggers is a collective of like minded people that like to blog on a common topic.  This was something that I recently discovered through a blogging buddy of mine who's been part of said collective for a while now.  Why the sudden decision to do so?  Simple.  I started blogging primarily for one reason.  The opportunity to meet and chat with other like minded people, and what better way to do that than through a great initiative like this?

The format is simple.  Each week the league is given a topic (and usually a fairly open one) to discuss in their respective blogs.  Cool and Collected then collate these blog articles together and post links to their favourites on their site.  League members also post links to their favourites on their own blog posts in an attempt to better promote each other's work.  So starting this week I've decided to take part.  Obviously not every topic will be a perfect fit for Geek Cultural, but I'm hoping to contribute as much as I can.  Mostly though I'm just really looking forward to meeting other league members and promoting their work as I go.  So on to this week's league topic.  A photo assignment entitled "Things that are green."  In the absence of a lot of green coloured collectibles (I know, I can't explain it either), I decided to take a slightly different approach and think outside of the box a little.  So here's a photo of me standing in my green thing.





















"But it's just a forest" I hear you say.  Well that may be true, but this forest isn't just any old forest.  Right now this forest is also world famous.  Why?  Bear with me.  I'll get to that.  But let's start by talking about the country in which this forest is.  My place of birth and my current place of residence, Northern Ireland.

The modern history of Northern Ireland is well enough documented, so no need to overstate the fact or play the martyr.  But suffice to say that growing up in Belfast in the 1980's was a sobering experience.  The decade would see conflict on our streets reach the 20 year mark, not to mention the eventual decline of Harland and Wolff, one of Belfast's major sources of industry famous for building the Titanic.  These days the thought of hearing gunfire or explosions terrifies me, but at the time it seemed like normality.  The mid 90's would see an end to conflict and the beginning of a new era of rapid growth for Northern Ireland.  But even though the city may have began a period of political recovery, the thriving industry once brought to the city by Harland and Wolff never would.  So what's a large mass of baron wasteland to do?  They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  But what they don't tell you is that when a large mass of baron wasteland gives you a huge indoor space large enough to paint a ship, make movies.  Thankfully that's a conclusion we got to all by ourselves, as the decline of Harland and Wolff would have a strange side effect on the city.  A side effect that would bring a whole new industry to our shores.  The film industry.

And that's where the paint hall comes in.  Or as we call it these days, Titanic Studios.  What once was nothing but baron wasteland well..... still kinda is.  But that was little more than bad timing.  Huge growth opportunities were planned for the area right as global recession hit, so sadly we never got a chance to carry out the full redevelopment we had originally planned.  But hey, it's a start.  Seeing where the Titanic originally sailed from used to be a sombre affair.  Now we have this new museum, the height of which is said to be to scale with the Titanic.





















Down the road slightly and from roughly the same distance back in this photograph is Titanic Studios.





















What film studios realised was that this huge indoor space would be big enough for them to build their own locations to use as film sets.  Films including City of Ember and Your Highness.  These days however it's used to shoot a more minor cable show.  What's that show called again?  Oh that's right.  Game of Thrones!

Yes friends and fellow bloggers, my green thing is a forest in Northern Ireland.  The country which is home to 80% of the filming of Game of Thrones.  And what a beautiful win win situation that is for Northern Ireland, bringing an estimated £43 million into the local economy so far.  Long may this arrangement continue.  Oh, and as for my statement about the world famous forest I'm standing in?  That's Winterfell!

As an added extra (and just cause I like to shamelessly plug tourism in this county), the eagle eyed among you may also recognise the backdrop of this location from various shots in Game of Thrones.  Yeah it's missing a bunch of CGI buildings on top but you get the idea.  This is the Giant's Causeway in the North Antrim coast.  Plus it's also green.





















Anyone else in Northern Ireland thrilled that we play a part in the making of Game of Thrones?  How about the rest of you?  What geek related claims have you got in your own home towns?  Have your say in the comments section.

And now for some link related love.  My three favourite posts from the league this week and worthy of a click:
  • Infinite Hollywood - With quite possibly my favourite collection of green collectibles from the league.  The kind of collection I wish I'd had before writing this post!
  • shezcrafti - Showcasing the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures for the upcoming Nickelodeon show.
  • Dork Horde - Who only recently opened some green zombie toys purchased at Comic-Con. Shame on you for not opening them sooner.  They look awesome!

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Portal in 8 Minutes. Are You Kidding Me!?

posted by Jonathan Mayne (Thursday, July 26, 2012)

Anybody else remember the excitement of playing Portal for the first time back in 2007?  What an awesome game.  Such a new and innovative concept that was insanely addictive from the word go.  The only consistent criticism I remember hearing about it at the time was that it was too short.  On average people were reporting that it was approximately 4 hours worth of gameplay.  Well now imagine that it was a lot shorter.  Let's say you could finish the game in..... ooooo I dunno.  8 minutes?  You'd have been straight back to your local game retailer demanding a refund.  Well guess what?  The new record for completion of the game has been set.  And it's approximately..... you guessed it..... 8 minutes!

The original record named "Portal Done Pro" was set back in 2010, and has now been beaten by SourceRuns members  Nick "Z1mb0bw4y" Roth, Josh "Inexistence" Peaker, Nick "Gocnak" Kerns, and Sebastian "Xebaz" Dressler, in a Portal run imaginatively named "Portal Done Pro-Er".  The video is mostly made up of a complete blur bridged together by the lift segments in between chambers.  So how 8 minutes you ask?  I mean they must have used a bunch of cheats and hacks to get there right?  Well not according to them.  They claim that the super fast run was achieved simply by exploiting existing glitches in an untampered PC version of the game.  But as if smashing the game in record time wasn't enough, these guys went one further.  A bonus that quite literally has a cherry on top.

The run is ended by the player breaking into the cake room!  So there you have it folks.  Not only the setting of a new world record, but also a scientific discovery more significant than the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle itself.  The cake is officially not a lie!  Want to see it with your own eyes?  Look no further.  Oh and for those of you curious to know the details, a link to google document detailing how they did it is right here.

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Double Dragon Neon. Revival of the Old School Beat 'em Up.

posted by Jonathan Mayne (Tuesday, July 24, 2012)

You know there are certain things about reaching your 30's that come as a massive culture shock.  Like the moment you start hearing people refer to music from your teenage years as "old".  Like the first time you hear yourself say your chosen variation of "back in my day".  And like the increased frequency in which you say the words "I'd better see a doctor about that."  Plus to top it all off, just the other day I realised that my now 11 year old niece has never lived in a world without the world wide web.  But then there are those moments where you find yourself telling the "younger generation" about how much more primitive things were in your day, yet you wonder why they ever had to change in the first place.

There are certain things about the 80's that I'll never miss.  For instance I'll never miss aimlessly roaming the streets looking for a payphone.  Not to mention having to wait my turn to look interested in each individual photograph that somebody shoved into my hands.  But there's one experience of the 80's that a big part of me wishes had never gone virtual.  Gaming.  Don't get me wrong, I still love the experience of online gaming.  But once upon a time when George Michael was straight and permed hair seemed like a good idea, gaming had a meeting place.  A kind of pub for gamers if you will.  We called it, the video arcade.  A place where the recommendation of a new game from a friend was followed by the line "It's right over there."  And it was in said video arcades in the late 80's that we'd be introduced to an entirely new genre of gaming for the very first time.  The beat 'em up.

I recently put a question out to my Twitter followers that simply read "What's the greatest ever, old school, side scroller, beat 'em up game? Debate!"  I was curious to gauge what popular opinion would be and naturally I got a number of responses from various schools of thought.  For instance I'd always championed Final Fight as the greatest ever beat 'em up.  The combat was fluid, the characters edgy and the setting slick.  But fellow blogger and 80's aficionado Jaime Hood (@shezcrafti) from the Shezcrafti blog had a different take.  "You probably think I'm going to say TMNT II, but I'd have to go with Streets of Rage 2."  Never having owned a Sega Mega Drive (that's a Sega Genesis to those of you across the pond), I guess I never had enough exposure to the Streets of Rage franchise to fully appreciate it.  But also I think the genre lost its charm a little bit in the 90's.  For instance does anyone remember that point in the 90's when it became socially unacceptable for men to fight women?  Like in the later, console based incarnations of Final Fight when Roxy and Poison became Sid and Billy.  Gotta tell you, I've never raised my hand to a women in my life, but the day I get attacked by one of those two, I'm fighting back!  Most likely in vain as either one of them kicks my ass.

I guess for me the charm of the genre belonged to the 80's.  But what harm?  And what better setting than the 80's for denim and leather clad guys to single handedly take on an entire street gang for capturing a women that for one reason or another mattered to them?  But one fact was clear, every old school gamer with an opinion agreed on something.  The place where it all began.  The game that had led me to ask the question in the first place.  The game that had been the topic of one of Jaime's posts a short time beforehand.  And the game that would be the topic of the first response I received to my tweet mere minutes after posting it.  This response was from long time Twitter follower and author of the Wack Wack blog Paddy Carey (@paddycarey).  It was no more than four words long and simply read "double dragon, debate over".

To me calling Double Dragon the greatest beat 'em up of all time is like calling Jimi Hendrix the greatest rock guitarist.  Yeah people may have since bettered the technique, but what technique would there have been to better if he hadn't invented it in the first place?  Double Dragon was one of my earliest memories of arcade games, and even at the time I remember being on some level aware of how breakthrough it was.  I'd certainly never played anything quite like it before.  So imagine my excitement at learning that this timeless classic would be brought into the 21st century in the form of Double Dragon Neon.  That same old classic we all know and love but wearing modern clothing.  Same setting, same characters and same game but with modernised graphics, sound and slightly improved gameplay.  Hands up if anyone fancies a straight up shot of nostalgia.  I for one shall be there on September 12th anxiously awaiting the download on PSN.  Who's with me?

What about you guys?  What's your favourite old school, side scroller beat 'em up?  Will you be buying Double Dragon Neon or is it time that we let these old relics rust in the 1980's where they belong?  Have your say in the comments section.

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