Robert Hampton

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22nd March 2013

Ogle the Goggle Box

BBC Television CentreI always like to think of myself as someone who doesn’t watch much TV, apart from the odd highbrow drama on BBC4, of course. However, on reviewing my blogs of times past, it’s clear that television has been a big inspiration for blog entries over the years.

The TV I discuss isn’t always high-minded, either. One of the earliest television related entries came in the wake of a massive brawl in the Big Brother House in 2004:

Sorry to go all Daily Mail on people, but BB really is the most reprehensible, morally bankrupt thing on TV. I hope the police investigation results in prosecutions against all the Channel 4 executives involved in putting this vile show on the air.

Good grief, that show pisses me off.

While on the subject of reality TV, let’s skip ahead chronologically and get this embarrassing post out of the way right now:

I’m going to come out and say it: Hooray for good old-fashioned Light Entertainment bollocks on ITV1! Britain’s Got Talent was actually fairly entertaining.

What was I thinking? In my defence, this was before I found out how cynically produced the whole thing is.

A much more pleasant show to watch is Frasier, so I was sad to see the show come to an end:

I think Frasier will stand the test of time much better than that other recently-ended American sitcom. Friends, with its reliance on 90s pop culture and “cool” dialogue (like… you know, whatever), will be irrelevant within 10 years. Whereas Frasier never tried to be cool, just funny, and was all the better for it.

Not sure whether that prediction has come to pass, with Friends filling up every spare timeslot on Comedy Central while Frasier is relegated to the lesser Comedy Central Extra. But I still think it’s a million times better.

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4th January 2013

Ring In the New Year, Wring Out the Old

Hampo in front of the Berlin WallA little later than planned, here is a look back at the preceding 12 months, as seen through my jaded eyes. As January began, I wrote a blog post looking forward to the treats that 2012 held in store. How did the year pan out? Let’s have a look…

The year started on a downbeat note for my family as we mourned my dad’s sister Betty, who had been a part of all our lives for as long as I could remember.

The government announced that High Speed Two, a new TGV-style railway line, would be built to link London with the Midlands. Middle England quickly took up against the plan, as Tory MPs lined up to denounce the line that was due to slice through their constituencies. David Cameron had succeeded in alienating his Conservative base, and it would not be only time that happened this year.

Web sites participated (or didn’t) in a protest against SOPA, a draconian anti-copyright law in the US. Elsewhere on the Internet, Twitter caused a minor kerfuffle by announcing that it would censor Tweets on a country-by-country basis.

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4th February 2012

Encounter at Cashpoint
Posted by at 11.33pm | Television | 2 responses

Last month I looked forward to the release of Star Trek: The Next Generation in HD. Well, the waiting is over! Sort of. There’s a while to wait for full season box sets, but CBS have decided to whet the appetites (and wet the pants) of Trek fanboys such as myself, by releasing a “sampler” set of three remastered episodes.

I watched the HD version of Encounter at Farpoint, the show’s pilot episode, tonight, and was impressed – it genuinely does look lovely. TNG was shot on film but then transferred to videotape for editing, resulting in a slight but noticeable loss of picture quality. To get the best picture quality possible, CBS have gone back to the original film footage and painstakingly re-edited the episodes exactly as they were first time around, guided by long-serving Star Trek guru Michael Okuda. Pleasingly for TV purists, the episodes are still in 4:3 (the temptation to go widescreen must have been immense).

The YouTube clip below is a promotional clip from CBS, but I can say that it genuinely does look that good. It’s safe to say that TNG has never looked better.

The special effects have also been redone, but the producers, thankfully, have resisted the urge to do a complete CGI makeover or add in pointless extra guff for the sake of it (Star Wars and Red Dwarf, I’m looking at you). For the most part, they have stuck with the original model shots (space jellyfish and all), re-composited in HD. All in all, it’s a wonderful upgrade to a wonderful series, remaining utterly faithful to the original while taking advantage of today’s TV technology.

The consequences of this are that I will probably be parting with my hard-earned cash for TNG on Blu-ray, despite spending a considerable amount of money buying the DVD box sets a few years ago. Well played, CBS. Well played.

1st January 2012

The Day After New Year’s Eve

2012 promises more than just the collapse of global capitalism and the fulfilment of ancient Mayan prophecies as foretold in a terrible film. Here (in no particular order) is what I’m looking forward to this year.

Liverpool Central reborn

Artist's impression of new Liverpool CentralLiverpool Central was highlighted in a damning report as one of the ten worst interchange stations in the UK, news which came as a surprise to no-one who has used the station. It’s dank, dirty and overcrowded – not good for Liverpool’s busiest station and hub of the Merseyrail network.

Change is finally coming this year; the squeaky escalators, brown formica panelling and chewing gum encrusted platforms will soon be swept away in favour of something rather more modern. It remains to be seen whether the refurbishment will solve the station’s main problem – that of the Northern Line platforms being just too damn narrow – but let’s face it, it could hardly be worse than it is now. The station will be closed for up to six months this year, which will be a lot of upheaval (especially for my daily commute, as Central is by far the nearest station to work). There’s no doubt, however, that it will be worth it in the long run.

Star Trek: The Next Generation in HD

TNG is celebrating its 25th anniversary, which – as well as making me feel really old – is the perfect opportunity to launch the remastered HD version of the series, to be released on Blu-ray this year. Normally I’d be thinking “oh hurray, a chance to buy the stuff I already own on DVD all over again,” but I’m refraining from this, because the video on CBS’s web site (linked above) looks gorgeous. The big question remains: will they manage to edit the racism out of Code of Honor?

The 2012 Olympics

Yes, really. Yes, it’s a horrendously expensive event which is taking away vital funds at a time of austerity. Yes, the capital will be a nightmare to live, work and travel in for the duration. And yes, the city will be a fortress where anyone dark skinned can expect to be Tasered within an inch of their life. But the pomp and spectacle of the opening ceremony will be amazing; a once-in-a-lifetime event for this country. It’s a shame I failed to get tickets, but I now have a Freeview HD box and frankly, 1080p is just as good as being there. Hopefully it will be Ken, not Boris, who represents London as mayor at the ceremony.

I won’t be watching any of the sport, of course. Well, maybe the men’s diving. Definitely the men’s diving.

Festival Gardens opening

In 1984 the Government gave Liverpool a ton of money to create a beautiful riverside park, complete with miniature railway, Japanese gardens and futuristic dome. The International Garden Festival was a huge success, attracting visitors from all over the country and leaving a lasting legacy for the people of Merseyside. Or rather, it would have, had the Militant-controlled city council not allowed the park to close and fall into disrepair. It’s a huge embarrassment to Liverpool that this was allowed to happen, especially after the Japanese government, horrified that their gift to the city had become overgrown with weeds, threatened a diplomatic incident.

Now, after 25 years of closure (excluding the brief existence of the amusement arcade/scally magnet Pleasure Island, which closed due to being shit) the Festival Gardens are about to come to life again. The opening, originally pencilled in for Summer 2011, has been delayed by almost a year due to various issues, but is finally expected to happen in the Spring. I’ve peeked through the locked gates to the park and it looks rather special. The Liverpool Echo got a rather more close-up view.

Travel

Following my jaunt to Tallinn last year, there will hopefully be at least one overseas trip this year as well. Like Joseph Stalin in 1944, I have my sights firmly set on Berlin. I’m also planning more Station Master excursions. Altnabreac, I’m coming for you!

I promise to be more active with my blogging this year: there will be blogs, tweets and videos from me throughout 2012, I promise.

24th October 2011

Quinto-sential
Posted by at 7.53pm | Gay | 1 response

Zachary Quinto (Sylar in Heroes and Spock in the Star Trek reboot), came out last week.

It’s impossible to state how happy this news makes me. A popular actor, whose career is very much in the ascendancy – in an industry which still largely demands that its leaing men are red-blooded heterosexuals – has decided that he is no longer going to deny his true identity.

And the best part was how he did it, by just casually – nonchalantly, even – dropping it into the conversation during an interview with New York magazine.

His eight-month role in Angels was both “the most challenging thing I’ve ever done as an actor and the most rewarding” he says. Having to inhabit that terrible lost world, if only in his mind, took a toll. “And at the same time, as a gay man, it made me feel like there’s still so much work to be done, and there’s still so many things that need to be looked at and addressed.”

In a world where positive gay role models are in short supply, Quinto’s coming out is a welcome development. It also gives an added dimension to all that Kirk/Spock slash fiction.

Now, do you think we’ll actually get a gay character in Star Trek at some point? It has been 45 years, you’d think they’d get round to it soon.

28th January 2010

Padded sell

I look forward to the time when tablet computing truly comes of age. Nothing would please me more than to be able to sit in Starbucks, drinking coffee and tapping away at my Wi-fi enabled tablet, pretending I’m really sitting in Ten Forward on the Enterprise-D drinking Raktajino while preparing a duty roster for Commander Riker on a PADD.

So does the iPad bring us one step closer to Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision? Maybe. But I wish we were getting the full blown MacOS rather than the iPhone OS, with its dependence on the locked-down App store which means that Apple, and Apple alone, decide which apps you can and can’t run on it. It also looks a bit underspecced and underpowered for what it is. A netbook or a cheap laptop still might be a better bet for lots of people.

I remain to be convinced that this the quantum leap forward for computing that the pre-launch hype promised us. But it’s Apple, and the brand name and lovely design will surely mean that 100 billion are sold within the first 20 minutes.

Now, speaking of Star Trek technology: when do we get a working Holodeck?

31st December 2009

2009? More like Woo! Thousand and Nine!

Was this year an exciting way to say goodbye to the decade? Here’s a reminder of what happened on planet Hampo this year (part 2, hopefully, follows tomorrow):-

January started out with one of my favourite shows being revived. Despite being up against EastEnders and being hosted by Ben Shepherd, the Krypton Factor did well enough to be recommissioned for a second series. We found out Who would replace David Tennant, and a year later we still haven’t actually seen him in the role. ITV’s latest attempt to ape the success of Doctor Who was Demons which failed spectacularly; the only creative thing about it being the number of different excuses the writers found for Christian Cooke to remove clothing.

In the wider world, various eras were drawing to a close, as Woolworths closed its doors, Tony Hart kicked the bucket and Dubya left office. Meanwhile, yours truly had an enjoyable night in London Theatreland.

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13th May 2009

Set phasers on stunning
Posted by at 5.37pm | Films | No responses

Halfway through the new Star Trek film, I started getting anxious. How do the events of the movie fit into established continuity? Did the people in charge of the film read the Star Trek Chronology and Encyclopedia to ensure that there could be no contradictions of established lore? What would Seven of Nine think of all this?

Then I realised that this film really wanted to get away from the fanwankery that plagued the franchise in its later years, and so I forgot all about that and enjoyed it. Yes, it’s good.

24th December 2008

But will it cause a drop in house prices?
Posted by at 12.41pm | In the News | No responses

There are millions dying in Zimbabwe thanks to the misrule of a brutal tyrant; the global economy is heading for meltdown thanks to the selfish actions of greedy bankers; scores of Mumbai residents have been murdered by terrorists.

So who has Pope Benedict singled out for criticism? You’ll never guess.

Speaking on Monday, Pope Benedict said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was as important as protecting the environment.

The good news is that the Vatican is finally making a serious effort to forgive Galileo Galilei, 375 years after he was tried as a heretic. So look for gay Catholics to be welcomed into the fold sometime around 2383 — for Star Trek fans, that’s about five years after the USS Voyager returns to the Alpha Quadrant.