Databasing Geeks Rejoice!

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HH DatabasesIt started so innocently. I needed a way to record the software and hardware I’d bought for work, to keep track of serial numbers and warranties. And then—insanely—I caught the databasing bug. First my books, then CDs, then games, then DVDs, all fell like dominoes into a neatly organised set of records. In response to the jeers of friends and family I vainly tried to justify the whole exercise as being incredibly handy should the house burn down or everything I own being stolen. But the truth is—and I think I can admit it now—it just gives me a warm little feeling inside.

If you know what I’m talking about, and you happen to own a copy of Filemaker Pro version 6 or above, today’s your lucky day, because to celebrate the new look site (and as a little Xmas present) I’m giving away to my Headless Hollow readers the lovingly-crafted templates for my Hardware, Software, Book, Music, Game and DVD databases. Use them individually or download the Head control panel that gives easy access to all. Just click Freebies in the nav bar and get databasing you crazy geek you!

This Blog is a Mess!

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What? New pages with nothing in them? Different layouts? What’s happening to my beloved Headless Hollow? I know, I know. I’m going through some changes here. Sit back and enjoy the sight of a blog in transition, changing before your very eyes … All for you, my pretties, mwha ahaa …

Film review: Team America: World Police

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Team America

If you laugh just thinking about the funny puppet walk the Tracy family used to do on Thunderbirds, you’re in for a gut-bustingly hilarious treat. If you’re offended by obscene language and the complete destruction of the ridiculously pompous concept known as the ‘American Dream’ and think Top Gun was good cinema, go elsewhere (not that you’d be reading this blog anyway). As for me, as soon as those wobbly puppets came on the screen in the opening sequence of Team America: World Police, I started laughing my head off, and hardly got a breath in for the rest of the film.

All the things we’ve come to expect from the South Park team of Trey Parker and Matt Stone are here—the obscene language, the scattergun lampooning of anyone remotely famous, but you might be surprised at how much acting you can get out of a puppet, and how clearly this brings into focus the crap masquerading as entertainment we are served by Hollywood. In fact there’s even a few unexpected moments of pathos—who would have thought one could feel sorry for a bunch of drowned puppets (until the stiff drowned chickens float into view that is); and Kim Jong Il singing ‘I’m So Ronery’ almost brings a tear to the eye while you piss yourself laughing.

The songs and music are perfect and perfectly satirise showtunes, pop songs and even the over-the-top John Williamesque orchestration that comes standard with every blockbuster these days. I was chuckling to myself all the next day—much to my girlfriend’s frustration as she hadn’t seen it with me—as hilarious scenes kept popping back into my head. I won’t spoil the jokes; wobble as fast as you can to the nearest cinema and catch Team America. Required viewing.

Four and a half Susan Sarandons out of five.

Boardgame Review: Battlecars

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BattlecarsRemember those classic road combat scenes in Mad Max? Ever felt the urge to flip the little red plastic switch mounted on the dash and send a rocket at that idiot that just cut you off in traffic? Tried go-cart racing and got in touch with your inner hoon? Fallen prey to road rage? You’ll love this game. Battlecars is a forgotten classic from the golden age—the 80s—of Games Workshop games, before the company became a billion-dollar giant churning out miniatures for kids with parents with extremely deep pockets. Battlecars is simple, fun, and incredibly cinematic.

What do I mean by cinematic? Well, it’s when a game is not only fun to play, but during the course of the game a little story develops, and you find yourself effortlessly filling in the game mechanics with imaginative, and usually hilarious, descriptions of what’s going on. For example, I recently played a game where one player abandoned his car, which was then rammed by the other player. The pedestrian shot at the attacking car with his machine gun, missed, was missed in turn by the car’s weapons, and then made a move and was shot and killed by the car on it’s next turn. End of game. But as we played you could easily imagine the driver scrabbling for the door handle as the other car sped towards him, just making a frantic dive onto the road as his car was rammed, then shooting as the driver desperately rolled up his armoured window just in time, and the look on his face as the car’s machine-gun turret slowly turned in his direction … as he makes a frantic run for the trees, the car slams into reverse and swings around to pepper him with bullets … you get the idea. A little Mad Max scene, only a lot funnier.

A Battlecars game usually ends up with cars spinning, smashing or blowing to smithereens, and drivers making a run for the nearest building to escape the mess. The game comes with two generic boards crossed with movement lines, counters for grass, trees and buildings and some car templates that slowly get covered by (somewhat fiddly) red counters as they get more damaged, and on which the player places counters for various weaponry—rockets, shells, flame, MG rounds and perhaps a clutch of passive weapons such as smoke, spikes and oil. A supplement, Battlebikes, adds rules for armoured bikes.

Score a copy of this gem on eBay, you won’t be sorry. And this way, no one gets hurt.

4 and a half rocket launchers out of 5.

Update: I’ve made rules summary and reference sheets, plus new playsheets that combine the car/bike sheets with their appropriate driver sheet plus modifications specific to that car/bike. Available here.

Film review: Garden State

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Garden State

So Zach told me to tell all my friends to go see his film Garden State. Sure Zach, it’s cool.

OK, so there was a cinema full of people, but it was the first screening in Australia and Zach Braff, 29-year-old writer, director and star of his movie, was there to answer questions after the film. Effortlessly confident and funny, like a better-looking Joss Whedon, he had the audience in the palm of his hand. Of course, it helped that we’d all just enjoyed his little gem of a film. (What’s it like to field questions from an audience on a press junket when your film is crap, I wonder?)

Garden State doesn’t set out to change the world, but it’s a beautiful film, simple, funny, well filmed and sensitively acted. Natalie Portman does one of her best acting turns as Sam, the girl who pops up like a bobbing cork in the life of Andrew Largeman, heavily-medicated actor returning to his home town in New Jersey for the funeral of his mother. Add some interesting characters, a brief bit of father-son reconciliation, a touch of tragedy, a great pop soundtrack, and sit back and enjoy the gentle journey. Braff loves a wide, still frame (often of his own face) but contrasts beautifully with sweeping emotive crane shots. Like Largeman’s medicated upbringing, there are very few rough edges here and things don’t always feel true to the real messiness that is life. But the film is no less enjoyable for that. We all want someone to appear in our lives and make it alright, and few of us are lucky enough to have that happen. Why not see it happen on the screen sometimes?

Four tears in a cup out of five.

Film review: Hero



Unlike Tarantino and so many of his generation I never spent days in Chinatown film theatres soaking up triple martial arts bills, so I can’t namedrop directors, scenes or moves from Chinese or Hong Kong classics. In fact I hate to say it but the wire-work still looks a little silly to me. Ignorance aside however, surely the greatest expression of the genre has come with Zhang Yimou’s Hero, so much so that it doesn’t seem necessary to go back through Jet Li’s catalogue.

Here he stars as ‘Nameless’, a mysterious martial arts genius who appears at the court of Qin claiming to have rid the King (Chen Daomin) of three peerless assassins, Sky (Donnie Yen), Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and Snow (Maggie Cheung Man Yuk). The setting is China of the 3rd century BC, when the land is ravaged by the wars between seven kingdoms.

If nothing else, go and see the film for meticulously crafted visuals. Almost every shot is perfection, perfectly composed and vibrant with colour. Perhaps there are some plot and style issues which would benefit from a greater understanding of Chinese cultural norms; the final moral behind the story was one I found difficult to come to terms with, some have said the film is a ringing endorsement of the current oppressive Chinese regime, and a Chinese audience might have connected better with some of the more melodramatic moments. But this is an epic story, so melodrama can be forgiven.

But putting all that aside, the film is stunning, and some scenes left me open-mouthed with wonder and amazed at the technical and artistic achievements of the filmakers. I have never seen colour used with such boldness and beauty. The one advantage of it coming so late to Australian screens is that we won’t have to wait long for the director’s next, supposedly even more impressive film, House of Flying Daggers.

Four autumn leaves out of five.

Crazy life …


Right now, I’m trying to get my head around understanding which tag is which in Movable Type so I can work out how to format this blog to my satisfaction. For a non-programmer like me this is, as usual, like fighting a giant octopus in a vat of slowly congealing treacle.

I’m also working on print ads, web banners, computer game packaging, websites, mapping artwork and a corporate identity.

In between I’m trying to get the CD artwork finished for my band The Telltales so I can send the golden master CD and the artwork off for the printing and duplication of our second CD release.

I’m also rehearsing with the band, playing squash on Wednesday nights, thinking about revamping my business site at Universal Head, occasionally creating reference sheets for my huge collection of boardgames, wanting to start scuba diving on weekends again, spending time with my wonderful girlfriend, sneaking in a frustrating hour on the xBox now and again playing Thief, updating my Cinema4D resource site, determined to find the time to write a story for the writing club I’m in which meets in a couple of weeks, reading the last book in the incredible ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy by Philip Pullman, trying to save a few bucks, watching Lost in Space Season One and planning to get Sleepy Hollow on DVD, and beginning to think about this year’s Christmas card design for my business.
Sometimes I think I purposely give myself too much to do …

We’re Coming Back …


I know, I know, there are problems … but bear with me a little longer while it’s messy around here as I bring the old style back. Installing Movable Type was quick and easy—because I paid them to do it; it’s the restyling with new tags that’s a little tricky. If by some chance you, like me, need to transfer your blog content from Blogger to Movable Type, you will need this essential tutorial, plus this note on saving comments.

Headless Hollow is here to stay, kids.

We’re Going Down …

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Oh no! How will you get by without your regular dose of Headless Hollow!?

Never fear, they’ll just be some confusion for a few days as we upgrade this whole blog to Movable Type. I’m having it installed so who know what madness will result. Stay tuned for a better, bigger, feature-packed headless Hollow in the coming weeks!

Thank for visiting …

The Meaning of the Meaning of Life


Listening to the radio in the car today I learned this fascinating tidbit. If it were possible to drill a shaft from the precise point of the North Pole to the precise point of the South Pole, and if you could fall through the shaft without friction (and without all the other annoying inconveniences; stick with me here, this is theoretical), you would speed up until, at the centre of the earth, you were at escape velocity (11 kilometres per second) then, as you passed the centre, you would begin slowing down, until you emerged at the other end of your journey slowed to a stop. Amazing, no? Well there’s more. The journey would take precisely 42 minutes. Forty-two. According to Douglas Adams, the answer to the question of the Meaning of Life. Co-incidence? Or … not?

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