Robert Hampton

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February 2012

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.

11th February 2012

Christians Cross
Posted by at 7.03pm | Gay, In the News | No responses

The Daily Mail claims that Christianity is under attack because of two recent court rulings.

In the first case, the Christian owners of a guest house in Cornwall lost an appeal against a fine for discriminating against a gay couple who were refused a double bed. The hotel owners claimed that they did not allow any unmarried couple to share a bed and therefore the discrimination was not on the grounds of sexual orientation, but the Court was not convinced by this argument.

I’m pleased that the original ruling has been upheld. It is not fair or right that a gay couple going on holiday should have to phone ahead and check whether the hotel owners approve of their sex life. The law reflects this, stating that no service provider can discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. Incidentally, there are also protections for religious belief. Can you imagine the outcry if the situation described above was reversed and a gay couple turned a Christian away from their hotel? That would not be acceptable either, and there are laws in place for that reason.

The second case involved Bideford town council, who are at the centre of a row over the prayers held before council meetings. An atheist councillor, with the support of the National Secular Society, launched a court action, claiming that forcing councillors to attend prayers was a breach of human rights. Earlier this week the Court ruled that prayers are unlawful.

There was an outcry from Church leaders, and Eric Pickles took time out from lunch to condemn the ruling.

Again, I can see no problem with this outcome. Prayers now cannot form part of the formal council proceedings, but there is nothing to stop prayers being held before official council business begins. Surely this is a reasonable compromise – unless, of course, the Christian members of Bideford council feel the need to force their faith on everyone else, like it or not?

Leaving aside the issues of the above two cases, it is hyperbolic in the extreme to claim that Christianity is “under attack”. Last time I checked, there were churches in villages, towns and cities across the land, and Christians of any denomination could travel to any of them without impediment, to worship as they wished. Meanwhile, Wikipedia has a long list of countries where Christianity is banned entirely or subject to severe restrictions. For the Daily Mail to claim British Christianity is under attack is an insult to those Christians worldwide who live in fear of government-sanctioned persecution or even death because of their faith.

19th February 2012

Bully for you
Posted by at 12.21pm | Gay | No responses

The March 2012 issue of Attitude magazine has just come out. It’s the publication’s annual Youth Issue, focusing on gay teenagers and the challenges they face.

In many ways the situation now for gay people in the UK is better than it’s ever been. But if I was feeling happy about things, I was brought down to earth with a bump by the article on page 65, “The invisible children”, about the victims of homophobic bullying. The article is not available online, but I strongly recommend you hand over £4.25 at your local WHSmith for it, or buy the digital edition of the magazine.

It begins by telling the story of 15-year-old Dominic Crouch:

Dominic had been on a school trip where, during a game of Spin the Bottle, he kissed another boy. We don’t know if he was gay or not. As Roger says, that was something for him to decide in his own time. But back at school, video from a phone was allegedly passed around and Dominic was bullied with homophobic language. One day, Dominic walked out of school, climbed to the top of a six-storey council building, and after two hours, threw himself off.

The sad story of Dominic is far from an isolated case. In fact, it’s a serious problem, albeit one which is ignored by the mainstream media. A Stonewall survey in 2007 revealed that 65% of LGB pupils experienced bullying and that figure increases to 75% in faith schools.

Why do I mention faith schools? Because of this Guardian article about an anti-gay book which has been used in some British faith schools, which has incensed me.

The booklet, “Pure Manhood: How to become the man God wants you to be”, discusses a boy dealing with “homosexual attractions” which it suggested may “stem from an unhealthy relationship with his father, an inability to relate to other guys, or even sexual abuse”.

The booklet, which claims that “scientifically speaking, safe sex is a joke”, explains that “the homosexual act is disordered, much like contraceptive sex between heterosexuals. Both acts are directed against God’s natural purpose for sex – babies and bonding.”

The final insult: Michael Gove – Education Secretary for a government which seems increasingly determined to send society back to the 1950s – claims that the Equality Act 2010, which prohibits anti-gay discrimination, does not apply to, “any materials used in sex and relationship education lessons,” so the schools can continue pushing this dogma on impressionable children with impunity.

Therefore, any gay school pupils unlucky enough to be at a faith school don’t just have to contend with taunts from their fellow students. They could potentially have teachers standing up and telling him that they are disordered individuals. By allowing this material under the guise of “religious freedom”, the Tories are now actively promoting discrimination and enabling bullies. It’s disgusting.

I’ve decided to start my own religion. It’s called Hampoism, and takes as its central tenet that Michael Gove is an odious tossweasel. Give me my legal protection NOW!

29th February 2012

Pi in the Face

The tech world is getting excited about Raspberry Pi, a new low cost computer, which has launched today after several years of development. For under £30 you can have a simple but capable computer – just add a keyboard and plug it into your TV, then boot it off an SD card.

The Pi has been created with educational purposes in mind. The device’s creators want to get it into schools, so kids will have something they can tinker with to their heart’s content. They will be able to write their own programs and, hopefully, learn that there is more to computing than Facebook and cutting and pasting Wikipedia articles into their essays.

In many ways, this is an attempt to turn back the clock to the 1980s and the heyday of hobbyist programming. The computers of the day were very different beasts – turn on a Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum or BBC Micro and there were no fancy icons or windows to click on, just a text prompt and a flashing cursor. To make it do something useful you had to type something.

C64 boot screen, showing READY prompt and blinking cursor

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