Pic of my week – 30/04/2011

April 30, 2011

Bank holiday’s, a Royal Wedding and Easter, but what did I go and choose as my Pic for this week?

Today, for one day only, I was a timelord! Nerdy ambition complete!

It had to be really! This was of course my pic from ‘The Doctor Who Experience’ in London and I’m right in the middle of the actual Tardis used in the TV show (well for Chris Ecclestone and David Tennant’s reign). It was an amazing sight to behold, as someone with a great interest in TV, I love visiting sets for shows as it is. But as a fan of Doctor Who, it was pretty special to get to step inside the Tardis at long last!

The exhibition itself is running at London’s Olympia until September this year. As well as the Tardis, you can see many props from the shows history and a crazy amount of monsters from the show (Dalek’s galore!).

I was most impressed that the exhibition runners also went to the effort of making a walk-through attraction at the start of the experience, where you are put into the middle of a Doctor Who Episode. The scenery and sequencing of this section was particularly good for a temporary attraction, as we were attacked from all sides by Cybermen, Daleks and Weeping Angels. In fact it gives permanent UK parks such as Alton Towers and Thorpe Park something to think about when it comes to dark rides – this beat most of theirs.

I would fully recommend ‘The Doctor Who Experience’ to any fans of the show, theres plenty to do and some great sights to behold – but at £17.00 for an adult admission, it is perhaps a little pricey for those not so interested.

Don’t forget, to see all my pics from every week, follow m on twitter – @chrisbheath

Sunday Rants – Royal Wedding Fever

April 24, 2011

Something’s happening next Friday, you may have heard. It’s called ‘The Royal Wedding’ and it will see joy an happiness spread throughout our United Kingdom as our future King ties the knot with his finace. And the whole thing will be beamed to you live – in fact it might be quite hard to miss.

Now, everyone likes a wedding. Well, actually that’s not true, but they are happy occasions. I get that. And it is of course lovely for Prince William and Kate Middleton. I’m sure they will have an incredibly happy day and I couldn’t be happier for them.

What I do object to however, is this assumption in the media (and our Government) that this should invigorate our lives and turn our country into a wonderful place to live again. There were comments in the media last year (when the date was set) going as fas as to suggest that people would be so happy, we could forget about the financial crisis.

Of course! Nothing distracts me away from the doom and gloom of our current economic climate more than a wedding between two people I don’t know and never will. It’s not like we’ll even be invited to the reception so we can all get hammered and dance the night away.

But of course Mr Cameron has addressed that. He said just the other week that he would like us all to have a street party. Riiight, a street party. Well I suppose it could unite us all in a lovely and happy way for a few hours. But what happens afterwards? Oh I know, the street is turned into a tip and we never speak to any of our neighbours again, great. And who exactly is paying for these ‘street parties’ during these tough times?

Actually, we shouldn’t just pay for ourselves to have a party to celebrate this day, we should also commemorate it in every single way we can by buying merchandise. The amount of souvenirs in shops is staggering. There’s not just the usual mugs and plates, you can buy a soap pack, pens, characters, cakes, ducks, models, costumes, moulded biscuits. You can even join a Royal Wedding club whatever that is. People will spend loads on this and it’s not even their own wedding. Shocking!

Then there’s the fact that we are actually expected to watch this ‘event’. The TV networks have been shoving the day down our throats for weeks now, their adverts piercing my eyeballs every time I am near a TV screen. Four channels and YouTube will be streaming the same footage in the UK. What exactly is the point? – Mind you, ITV’s could be a laugh with Phillip Schofield hosting, maybe he’ll make Wills and Kate beat ‘The Cube’ before carrying on.

And what exactly will the coverage show? I checked the schedule earlier and we have highlights such as fashion designers predicting Kate’s Dress, Jake Humphrey watching people enter Westminster, fashion experts commenting on guests appearance, commentary of the carriages arriving, Alistair Stewart waiting for Kate to emerge from her home, fashion experts commenting on Kate’s (and hopefully Alistair’s) appearance, the actual ceremony itself and to round it all off fashion experts reviewing what was worn and what should have been worn by all protagonists. Mind you, that’s all followed by Wallace and Gromit!

And if our hype wasn’t bad enough, in the US it’s just ridiculous. It’s being trailed like a movie, with William having the sorrow of losing his mother and now the poetic rejoice of giving his mum’s ring to his bride. They are actually using the phrase ‘biggest event of the year’ in the US, which makes it all the more funnier that the American’s couldn’t care less about our hyped-up day off.

And I suppose I should stop complaining, because as I have just mentioned, I and most of the country, will have a day off on April 29th. I shall personally be staying away from the wedding (although I may watch a bit of TV’s just to see how dreadful it will be) and hopefully enjoying our nice weather.

There’s nothing wrong with people getting married, it’s lovely. I just struggle to care to the extent that people expect me to about two people I know very little about. I can’t wait until we return to dull, drab, unoriginal Britain again and this madness will just be a distant memory…

Enjoy the remainder of your Easter Sunday! 😀

The Doctor is back – and darker than ever!

April 22, 2011

It’s been a bit of a wait since Christmas day (damn Easter being so late this year!) but finally it’s time for Series 6 of Doctor Who which starts tomorrow night (Saturday 23rd April) at 6.00PM.

And I have to say first of all, it’s a testament to Steven Moffat’s incredible writing last year that I am as excited about this series as I am. Before Moffat and Matt Smith took charge of the TARDIS last year, I had grown a bit bored of Who. The show wasn’t reaching the heights it once had, the stories seemed poorly thought out and rushed with little thought for the overall story.

That all changed last year when the universe became cracked in what was – in my opinion – easily the best series since the shows return in 2005.

But what does this years series hold?

The trailer for series 6 (which you can see below) has been knocking around the web for a few weeks now. What it shows is a much darker and hopefully scarier side to the show. Moffat himself has been telling anyone who will listen, that this years show will be far darker than previous years. It will also have a much more engrossing story arc which runs right from the first episode of this years run.

‘The impossible astronaut’ is the name of tomorrows opener (which Moffat describes as a belter). The whole Who team have crafted the opener as more of a finale. It’s a two-parter, set in America and looks visually stunning from what I have viewed so far. The fact that neither the Doctor or the assistant are changing this year (first time since 2005) should give us more time for a proper story as well. Oh, and a lead character WILL die. Can’t wait for this one!

The series trailer also hints at several more complex story lines. If you watch closely, you’ll notice that the old-style TARDIS from Christopher Ecclestone and David Tennant’s era is there. Why would this make a comeback? Several theories have arisen as to what this could be. I believe it could be hinting at a possible rewind cycle for the Doctor, with Amy and Rory travelling back through the Doctor’s life (a bit like last years ‘The Big Bang’ but I of course could be miles off with this!

I’m also thinking that we could see a parallel universe introduced this year. The show has been split into two series of 7 and 6 eps. When asked about this, Moffat revealed that it was purely for storytelling techniques. Why not have one series in one universe and the other in a different one. It could explain many of the impossible things which are looking likely from the trailer.

This more complex storytelling is what I love and what I believe should always be in Who (it is after all, a show about a man who travels in time), but I do worry it could alienate the audience. Unlike other sci-fi shows, Doctor Who still has a massive mainstream audience and I fear a more involved story could ruin this. And the BBC haven’t helped by scheduling the show at 6.00 when people are either eating or getting their dinner. Come on Beeb, this is a prime-time show, give it a prime-time slot. Heck, even BBC America have.

But any doubts about the quality of the show have been thrown out after last years incredible series. I can’t wait for tomorrow. This show, for me, has replaced the gap that Lost left! I just hope I wont be disappointed!

Talent Show Britain

April 19, 2011

A few years ago it was decided by the television networks that we no longer wanted to watch true talent on a Saturday night. The big fun shows I grew up with such as the incomparable ‘Noel’s House Party’ have been deemed unprofitable and too old fashioned. Instead the TV execs have delved deeper into the archives and filled Saturday night with talent shows!

Now, we all enjoy a good talent show every once in a while, but the stations have become saturated with them. As soon as ‘Dancing on Ice’ finishes, ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ (which it hasn’t) begins. As soon as that’s over, were back to ‘X-Factor’. And the whole time this is going on, the BBC and sometimes 4 and 5 are also making the same rubbish.

And it’s not just on Saturday nights. This stuff is on all week and covering a variety of shows. We have X-Factor, BGT, Dancing on Ice, Strictly, Masterchef, The Restaurant, The Choir, The latest BBC dance contest, the latest BBC Musical/Andrew Lloyd Webber contest, Britain’s Next Top Model and Biggest Loser (although to be fair the last one is debatable as to it’s clarification as ‘talent contest’.

These shows cover a spectrum of topics, but the core of the show stays exactly the same. It’s always a group of budding and aspiring people in their field with an ounce of talent, with some complete idiots thrown in to make things entertaining. These subjects will then be put in front of a panel of judges who will mercilessly destroy their dreams before opening it up to the public, who are so enthralled that they can influence TV, that they phone premium phone lines to choose an eventual winner (although sometimes the evil producers don’t even allow that!) Now that is a tired format…

Even the judges are the same every time.  There’s always the tough, ruthless, emotionless git who will insult every contestant. Then there’s the lenient one who’s happy and carefree and happy to still be on TV. They’ll let everyone into the final if they can. And finally, there’s the ‘head-in-the -clouds’ bimbo type who are normally more busy filing their nails than watching the acts.

Sometimes the producers drop the last two of the formula and only have the ruthless one’s (a bit like Alan Sugar in ‘The Apprentice’). They think that there’s nothing we enjoy more than watching evil, heartless sod’s ruin the dreams of the young… ahhh. But one thing these people always have in common – which they don’t deserve to – is their notion that they’re better then everyone else.

And I suppose this brings me onto the question of: Why do we watch this crap?

I watched Britain’s Got Talent properly (as in a whole episode) for the first time on Saturday. The show seems (like all manufactured talent shows) to be filled with a selection of some ugly people who are surprisingly good, most that are decidedly average, some adorable children, a gluttony of dancing dogs and several random and painfully unfunny acts.

These are then judged by Michael McIntyre, Amanda Holden and David Hasselhoff, who have about one brain cell between them and no idea about what talent is. But I’ll admit, that these idiots can make it entertaining… for one episode.

I’m sorry, but I could not watch a whole series of that and I can’t understand why people do. It’s the same stuff every week!

Yet people do and the audience at the auditions are unbelievably sensational. They shout, scream, laugh and cry at every single second of the show. They’re so into their show that I’m starting to doubt my whole views on reality. Am I the stupid one? Have I got it all wrong, is this actually the purpose of life – to be the baying audience in the theatre of horror that is a modern talent show? Maybe these shows are actually fantastic.

Or maybe it just proves that thanks to dumbing down of audiences everywhere, TV execs can get away with anything these days. It’s all about the talent show these days. That’s something I just can’t understand.

I say ‘roll on some good quality TV’, maybe a drama. Oh, what’s that? Doctor Who’s back on Saturday? At last!

I’ll be previewing Who later this week!

Sunday Rants – Smokescreen of the smokers

April 17, 2011

It’s a cliche’d rant and one that’s been done several times before, but if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s smoking.

I’d like to make it clear that I know several people who smoke and they are all very nice, polite people. I am not getting at the one’s who are polite and understand that their smoke affects others. It’s the one’s who don’t that infuriate me.

I am proud to say that I have never smoked a cigarette, I’ve never seen the point. Why would I want to fill my lungs with ash, tar and carbon monoxide. That just seems like a stupid thing to do and that’s before you factor in the various diseases and Cancer which the whole ‘hobby’ can do.

But never-the-less millions of people do it and fair play to them. I don’t care if other people want to smoke so long as it doesn’t affect me.

And that’s the problem. It does affect me. In the last few years, the various Governments have tried to crack down on smokers. They’ve been removed from the workplace, restaurants and pubs and stuffed outside. You could feel that this is unfair for them, against their human rights. Or you could be realistic and realise that this is only for the good of everyone.

Most people in the country do not smoke and therefore do not want to breathe in so-called ‘second hand smoke’ from those who do wish to inflict this upon themselves. Yet despite the moves to counter this, non-smokers are still polluted with this horrible habit on a daily basis.

When I walk out of my workplace, I find several smokers standing just outside causing a smokescreen between myself and the world outside. Unless I want to stay in the building, I have no choice but to walk through this and endure the disgusting smell and taste of the smoke.

You could argue that this is just a small thing and I could always hold my breath, but in many instances you find yourslef with no way to escape the smog.

One example of this, would be smokers at themeparks. You may be aware that I visit quite a few parks a year and so have a lot of experience of this. When you are queuing for a ride, you have no-where to go. You must stand in line or lose your place. This is then made a horrible and disgusting experience when someone lights up next to you. I can’t stand situations like this. Maybe I have a slightly more adverse reaction than others to this, but the smell really turns my stomach to the extent that I want to throw up.

I can’t believe that people can’t wait more than an hour for their next fag. It’s pathetic and disgusting, especially when no effort is made to direct the smoke away from others around them.

Yet, these things are not what annoy me most about smokers. The worst thing about those who are inconsiderate to others, is the fact that they drop their fag ends anywhere. The entire world is a rubbish bin to these smokers and they’ll leave their fags anywhere!

Someone has to pick them up you know. I spent many a morning working at Alton Towers picking up cigarette butts that the previous days guests had discarded. There were also a couple of cigarette related fires during my time there. There just seems to be no consideration for others.

This has gone so far at my current workplace that my employers have paid for new cigarette bins (which don’t seem to be being used) and will give smokers a free pouch to put their litter in. This is the money I pay for my car-parking at work, being re-invested to help with a disgusting habit. Appauling!

I am well aware that this is the age-old story of ‘the minority ruining it for the majority’ and that’s what makes it even worse. Smokers already have a bad enough name thanks to the shocking health risks involved, there’s no need to make the situation worse.

So please, if you do smoke, try and be considerate to others. Some of us can’t stand the stench and the squallor of it all. Lets make the country a nicer place to live ahhh!

Enjoy what little is left of your Sunday 😀

The Fast Lane – Hamilton outclasses Red Bull in Shanghai

April 17, 2011

Wow! It’s hard to find a better word to describe this years Chinese Grand Prix. I don’t think I stand alone by saying that this was the best Formula One race in a long long time. I defy anyone to claim F1 is boring after that!

But amongst the incredible action from the entire pack, there were two drivers who stood head-over-heels above the rest – Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber. Both have had a bit of a hard time of late – but today saw those fortunes turned around in spectacular fashion.

Hamilton has clearly learnt a lot about these Pirelli tyres since last week – keeping them sweet right up until the end of the race. He notoriously pushes his car too hard and loses grip by the end, but it was his careful driving (and admittedly three-stop strategy) which helped him pass both his team-mate and of course that stunning move (without DRS or KERS) on Vettel for the lead. A great return to form for Lewis.

But a more impressive drive came from Webber. After 20 laps, Mark was still stuck in 15th position. Both myself and several others were commenting on Twitter about just how dreadful Mark Webber’s season seemed to be and how a championship was fading away already.

Things changed completely after Mark’s second pit stop. He was finally put in some clear air and wow did it make some difference. Purple sector after purple sector, Mark worked his way up the grid and into contention for the end of the race. A few great moves on Schumacher, Massa and Button and Webber was up into a podium position. For me this (at least the second half) was the drive of the day.

Webber’s team-mate Vettel had a much busier day than he perhaps expected. After being swamped at the start by both McLaren’s and almost Rosberg, he found himself on the backfoot throughout. If it wasn’t for Button’s mistake in the first pit stop, I think Vettel could have had an even harder time of it.

But as it was, he got himself into a leading position – however Red Bull elected for a two-stop strategy, a mistake they will probably rue. Vettel’s tyres were clearly well past their sell-by by the end of the race, making it easy for Hamilton to find a way through. Of course, if there had been a few more laps, I reckon he’d have had both Webber and Button past him too. All things considered, a successful weekend for Vettel.

Button I feel had a little bit of a disappointing weekend. It’s strange to say that about someone who finished a string fourth, but I feel it could have been a lot more. Jenson made a few too many silly mistakes, the most obvious being mistaking the blue overalls of the Red Bull team for his own McLaren’s, costing him vital time in the pits. Maybe blue is the next colour McLaren will be trying out after the garish red number used yesterday!

But it wasn’t just this error, Jenson also seemed a little weak on track. Both Hamilton and Webber got past easily thanks to Button leaving them more than enough room. There seemed to be little fight whenever someone came up behind him and Jenson virtually let both through. Caught asleep methinks!

Ferrari continued their relatively disappointing season. Massa looked to have a real chance today, but the two-stop strategy just didn’t work with the fast degrading Pirelli’s. A shame, as it was great to see Massa on form and overtaking again. Alonso on the other hand was ‘all at sea’ for the whole day, spending most of the race duelling Schumacher. Even a malfunctioning DRS system couldn’t help him, which I hasten to add I do believe to be an error not anything more (cynical twitterati – I’m looking at you!).

Mercedes had a good day, finally! Rosberg was very impressive throughout both with speed and attempts to overtake. I think the team will be pleased with 5th, but again slightly disappointed he couldn’t keep Button and Webber behind. Schumacher had his best race for a long time. The final result of 8th may not be that impressive, but he was very racy throughout and provided some great on track action. Good stuff!

Paul di Resta deserves a mention. He was unlucky at the end, finishing 11th and just outside the points. But throughout the weekend he drove well and looked to be on for a much higher position earlier in the race. I was particularly impressed to see him holding his own against such experts as Schumacher and Alonso. He’s also outshining the often-praised Sutil this season.

The Renaults, who were so strong in Malaysia, seemed to disappear this week. The best position for them was 9th with Petrov. The team seems to be very up and down this year with the tracks massively effecting their performance. Last weeks hero Heidfeld (or fIeld if you’re David Coulthard) only managed 12th.

There was so much action in today’s 56 laps that I’m bound to have missed out some of it, but that’s great news. This is the sort of race F1 needed. There was a quiet expectation that after last weeks cracker in Malaysia that things would quiet down again this week. But processional this was not, easily one of the best Grand Prix’s I have ever enjoyed.

It’s early days still, but today proved that the Red Bull’s can be beaten (just!) and that could mean we have a championship on our hands. Three long weeks until Istanbull!

Pic of my last 2 weeks – 16/04/2011

April 16, 2011

Due to being a bit pre-occupied and forgetful, I managed to miss last weeks pic of the week. But fear not, because now I give you two for the price of one, starting with last weeks.

The fantastic light of the nighttime traffic. My first long exposure shot!

I’ve wanted to do a shot like this for a while, using a long capture shutter and getting enough light in to turn the cars into a stream of bright light. But I’ve never had the equipment until now. This was taken on my iPhone using an app called ‘slow shutter’ and for 59 pence on the app store, it’s pretty good value.

Admittedly there’s a lot more to this photo than just pointing and shooting. It took me about 1/2 an hour to get the light settings correct and get a good enough subject to photograph.

But apart from some glare from the window, I’m thrilled with the result of this image. Looks like the F1 opening animation!

Ducks in the garden!! Anyone care to name them for me?

And on to this weeks pic. One month after I started this project I snapped this one. It started off as a rather basic shot of some ducks on our outside lawn, but this photo is the result of a lot of after effects. First of all it’s been cropped and rotated to get the best angle on my subject. I’ve then also enhanced, sharpened, reduced noise and then saturated the colour.

The final result is, I think, a very powerful and vibrant shot which has an almost larger than life feel to it. I know that many photography experts out there will be able to pick flaws with it, but I am still fairly new to this and am (hopefully) learning more day by day. I’m also amazed that I can do this fairly quickly and easily (including the editing) on a phone.

That’s this weeks pics, remember to follow me on twitter (@chrisbheath) to see all of my pics every day and let me know what you think of them!