Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Book Review - A Calculated Life by Anne Charnock

Book Review

Title: A Calculated Life

Author: Anne Charnock

Published: 2013

Rating: 60/100


There's a lot to love about A Calculated Life (ACL)... but there's also a lot to hate. As a big fan of sci-fi, I absolutely loved the futuristic dystopian world in which the book is set. I found the way in which the "simulants" had integrated into regular life to be a very interesting concept and when Charnock is elaborating on this, ACL really grabs you. As I was reading I began picturing a more picturesque version of the city in Blade Runner- one of my favourite books/movies of all time.

I loved reading the interactions between Jayna and human characters and enjoyed the internal conflict these interactions created within "her". My favourite chapter was the one in which Jayna visits with her boss's family and interacts with his wife and the kids. I found myself picturing the scene and smiling, as if I was 'The Constructor' watching my greatest accomplishment blend in so effortlessly with humans. This chapter had the perfect blend of dialogue and actions, without so much unnecessary explanation.

With that said, I wasn't a big fan of the novel's pacing. I found it to be quite draining to read in parts and, as a result, had to read it in small chunks (30 mins max). The novel took me over 3 weeks to finish and there were numerous times when I almost gave up. ACL is definitely not a sci-fi page turner and if you're looking for a novel that will leave you on the edge of your seat, this is certainly not it. I also found the book ended rather abruptly. In the final few chapters I was finally starting to really get into it and I found myself really wanting to know if Jayna's plan would succeed or fail. Then, without much warning, the book unexpectedly finishes with an absolute fizzer ending, leaving me feeling like I had just wasted my time.

However, with that said, I do think Charnock achieved her goal - which was to write a novel that explored the relationship between "bionics" and "organics" (humans), i.e. the struggle that would exist if both had to co-exist in society. In doing so, she made me (the reader and a human) actually care about the fate of Jayna's character (a bionic). Charnock succeeds here because, as a reader, there were moments when I actually forgot Jayna was a bionic and I found myself caring about her as if she was a human character. As a writer, I take my hat off to Charnock for pulling this off.

Who should read this book?
Anyone who loves real sci-fi movies like Blade Runner and Ex Machina.

- Chris Gander

Friday, 20 November 2015

Recipe: Hummus Mediterranean Summer Pizza (Clean Eating, Sugar Free)

Easy & Healthy Pizza Recipe

Hummus Mediterranean Summer Pizza

Suitable for those doing clean eating or sugar free diets!

Ingredients (SERVES 2 ADULTS)

  • 1 x Large Sugar Free Thin Pizza Base - Either buy one from the store (or the base with the least amount of sugar) or make this whole wheat pizza base.
  • 3 x Tbsp Hummus - Either buy some from the store or make this sugar free hummus from scratch.
  • 1 x Baby Cucumber - Wash & cut into thin slivers. If you can't find baby cucumber, just use half a regular sized Lebanese cucumber.
  • 1 x Cup of Spinach Leaves - Washed.
  • ½ x Avocado - Cut into thin slivers or just very small portions.
  • 8 x Cherry Tomatoes - Wash & cut into 4 quarters each.
  • ½ x Lemon - Cut into 2 pieces.
  • 1 x Small Block of Feta Cheese - Crumbled.
  • Salt & Pepper - To taste.
  • Chili Flakes - Optional.

Method (10 mins prep, 10 mins cook)

  1. Cover the pizza base in hummus and put it in the oven on 180° for around 8 minutes.
  2. While the pizza is baking, prepare all of the other ingredients and have them ready.
  3. Pull the pizza base out of the oven and sprinkle a pinch of chili flakes across it.
  4. Toppings - Cover the pizza base in a layer of spinach leaves. Then add the cherry tomatoes, cucumber and avocado. Crumble the feta over the top generously. Add salt and pepper to your taste.
  5. Serve - Serve the pizza with a quarter of lemon for each person to squeeze on themselves.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Recipe: Salt & Pepper Calamari + Mango Summer Salad (Clean Eating, Sugar Free)

Easy & Healthy Salad Recipe

Salt & Pepper Calamari + Mango Summer Salad

Suitable for those doing clean eating or sugar free diets!

Ingredients (SERVES 2 ADULTS)

  • Salt & Pepper Calamari (about 10-12 pieces) - Either buy a packet from the store already made or make your own. If making your own, follow this easy and healthy recipe.
  • 1 Large Mango - Cut into small pieces.
  • Mixed Salad Leaves (about 80g worth) - Swap this out for spinach or rocket if you so please.
  • 1 Lebanese Cucumber - Wash & cut into small pieces.
  • 1 Celery Stick - Wash & cut into small pieces.
  • 1 Small Birds-Eye Chili - Optional. Wash & dice up finely.
  • 1 Small Green Capsicum - Wash & cut into small pieces.
  • 8 Cherry Tomatoes - Wash & cut into 4 quarters each.
  • 1 Lemon - Cut into 4 large wedges.
  • Olive Oil - Optional. Ideally use lemon-infused olive oil.

Method (10 mins prep, 10 mins cook)

  1. Prepare all of the ingredients.
  2. Grab a large salad bowl and add the salad leaves, mango, cucumber, celery, chili, capsicum and cherry tomatoes. Don't mix it yet.
  3. Pan fry the calamari until it's a light golden brown colour on both sides (ideally use a stone pan that doesn't require oil or add a bit of olive oil to a regular pan before frying). Then turn the pan off and let the calamari cool for 2 minutes. Finally, tip the calamari into the salad bowl.
  4. Dressing - Drizzle a small amount of lemon-infused olive oil over the top of the salad. Top it off by squeezing 2 of the lemon wedges over the salad.
  5. Serve - Mix all of the ingredients together using salad spoons. Serve with 1 lemon wedge on the side. Enjoy!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

5 Games That Define My Childhood

I've been a gamer all my life. My earliest childhood gaming memory involves me deftly leaping over crocodile infested waters in the first true 2D platformer 'Pitfall', which went on to be the 2nd biggest selling game on the Atari console (4 million); second only to the legendary Pac-Man. Other memories involve me standing behind my cousin and watching in awe as he commanded an army of 'Lemmings' on his PC, spending all my pocket money playing the 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' arcade machine with friends and spending countless hours bonding with my father as we played 'A Boy and his Blob' together on NES. It's these memories and more that make me smile when I reflect back on my younger years.

Games have always been a big part of my life and now the simple mention of a specific title can instantly evoke a number of nostalgic memories, all hinged on strong emotions. It's powerful stuff, even more powerful than other forms of media. Sure I remember dancing on my bed and trying to imitate Michael Jackson whilst watching him tear up the screen in the 'Black or White' music video and I will never forget the time I saw 'Jurassic Park' with my Dad at the movies.... but games... I hold them high, higher than everything else. You form a bond with games... a bond that is personal and unique. This is because everyone plays games their own way. You choose a path, go on a journey and come out with your own story to tell.

With that said, inspired by Mark Serrels from Kotaku, here is a list of 5 games that define my childhood...

1. Resident Evil 2 (Playstation)

I like to think of myself as a daredevil. As a child, I wasn't scared of anything. I grew up as a seemingly invincible kid. I would get injured every second week and my hospital file is now referred to by my parents as a tome. The first time I can legitimately say I felt true fear was when I played Resident Evil 2 in Big W. I remember gripping the controller with sweaty palms and looking around the store nervously, hoping nobody could tell that I was freaking out (and hoping staff wouldn't kick me off for breaking the 15 min time limit). From that point on, I was hooked. The adrenalin rush of opening a door and fearing the next room would contain flesh-eating zombies was addictive as hell. No game had ever made me feel like that before. 'Survival Horror' has been my favourite gaming genre ever since and I can honestly say that no game has ever even come close to toppling it from the pedestal I've put it on. I hope blood and gore splatters across my screen until I'm old and senile enough to resemble one of the zombies I so love to kill... with deadly accurate head shots.

2. All  4 Wrestling Games (Nintendo 64)

World Tour, Revenge, Wrestlemania 2000 & No Mercy

I have to group them because in my mind they all blend together to form a huge chunk of my childhood. Collectively, they were the games that inspired a young Goose to perform many stupid backyard maneuvers, like leaping off the fence into a pool whilst doing Eddie Guerrero's Frog Splash and trying to Rock Bottom a friend through a folding table. I would spend countless hours button mashing with my best mate in what can only be described as some of the most epic and brutal multiplayer encounters I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Winning one of these matches was like winning the Heavyweight Championship. I'd get up and prance around the room, taunting an invisible crowd and elevating myself to greatness. To do this day I've never had a more satisfying gaming "win". While I'm admittedly no longer a massive fan of wrestling, there are still remnants of a boy who once dreamed of being a wrestler residing somewhere deep in my psyche. One day, when someone really tests my patience, there's a Stone Cold Stunner just waiting to happen.

3. NBA Jam (Arcade & Sega Genesis)

Young Goose could never play basketball. He was too short and uncoordinated... and nothing has changed. What he could do (and still can do) was annihilate anyone and everyone in NBA Jam. That may sound cocky and arrogant, and it is, but I wouldn't make such a bold statement if it wasn't true. You see, I'm the first person to admit when I suck at a game. I will forever be a certifiable noob when it comes to hardcore shooters like COD and football games like FIFA. However, give me some Jam and I'll spread your remains all over the shiny court. NBA Jam was the first game that made me legitimately feel like a gaming God, and that felt bloody good. I loved this game so much my parents went out and bought me a real basketball ring, not knowing that I absolutely sucked at the real thing and felt like a complete loser when I tried to play. Somewhere along the line I was given a mini-basketball ring that I put up outside, near my dog's kennel. I would shoot hoops and jam that thing to oblivion; all to the delight of my dog Snowy, who would look at me strangely whenever I'd shout 'Boomshakalaka' at the top of my lungs...."Is it the shoes?"

4. Diablo & Diablo 2 (PC)

That frustratingly hard-to-kill, red-skinned and horned abomination of gaming has taken up more hours of my life than any other game. Who ever thought clicking a mouse over and over again like a drone would be so much fun? Diablo holds a special place in my heart. It made me fall in love with how games are crafted. It made me realise that games are an art form. Diablo also used to make my old high-school IT teacher (Mr. Ellis) scream out in uncontrollable fits of rage... which, in my mind, made him look like a real-life "end-of-level boss". For a couple of years at least, our IT class consisted solely of playing Diablo and Quake. Which is why it still baffles me that I managed to come 1st in the class every year! We would play secret LAN games behind the teacher's back, giggling every time he nearly caught us and softly swearing every time we got killed (remember the ears?). Diablo was also the first game that hooked me like a drug. Prior to Diablo, games were just mindless fun you played here and there. Diablo consumed me and haunted every waking moment of my life. Parents, school and friends were just obstacles in the way of me finding more loot in Diablo's many realms (long live the cows). Yes... Diablo basically ruined my life. Thank you Blizzard.

 5. Battletoads (NES)

There are two words that strike fear in the heart of every true gamer... "Turbo Tunnel". Battletoads is, without a doubt, one of the toughest games of all time and represents the relentless grind that all gamers go through when finishing a level becomes your only goal... when the primal human needs for eating food and going to the bathroom evaporate and the only thing you can focus on is getting to that next level or reaching that elusive checkpoint. I don't think I ever even finished Battletoads. Has anyone? Seriously. I remember spending countless afternoons after school hiking up to my friend's house to play Battletoads with him and his brother. All 3 of us would sit in front of his TV for hours, while his Mum delivered us a constant stream of nourishment. It was like going to work. It was like a job. This could have been the end of my gaming days. Battletoads could have left a sour taste in my mouth for gaming... but it didn't. Like sucking on a sour warhead, getting past the game's brutal exterior was all part of the fun. Battletoads taught me that games are better when they are equal parts fun and challenging, which is why I only ever play games on 'Hard' these days.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Avengers Movie Review

[This movie review is spoiler free]

5 Reasons Why The Avengers Kicks Ass

1. Hawkeye & Black Widow 
Joss Whedon dedicates lots of screen time to showcasing the characters Hawkeye (played by Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson), both of whom we've seen briefly in previous Marvel franchise movies. In Thor we were teased with a sneak peak at Hawkeye and in Iron Man 2 we were privileged enough to get a taste for how truly awesome Black Widow is.
 Hawkeye Jeremy Renner
In The Avengers, both Hawkeye and Black Widow are given as much airtime as their big 'super hero' brawler friends (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America & Hulk), which is a good thing because they are the easiest characters to identify with. Hawkeye and Black Widow have no superhuman powers, instead they rely on their unique combat skills to get the job done. Hawkeye and Black Widow keep the movie grounded and show the audience that you don't need super powers to make a difference; anyone can step up to the plate and take a swing!
Black Widow Scarlett Johansson 
As Hawkeye, Jeremy Renner commands the screen with his likeable swagger and cocky attitude. It's no wonder he's already taken over the Bourne (The Bourne Legacy) and Mission Impossible (Ghost Protocol) franchises. In The Avengers, Joss allows Hawkeye to show off his skills with a bow, leaving the audience breathless when he performs trick shots that defy the laws of gravity.

As Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson steals the spotlight with her deadly curves and impressive moves. The months of martial arts training Scarlett had to undergo has paid off, ten fold. I could of literally sat there and watched Black Widow kick the living crap out of bad guys for 2.5 hours and I still would have left the cinema giving this movie a big thumbs up.

2. Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk

Eric Bana and Edward Norton can take a seat. Of all the Hulks I've seen on the big screen, Mark Ruffalo is by far the most suited actor to play the jolly green giant.  Mark portrays Bruce Banner as a reserved, down-to-earth and humble genius (essentially the polar opposite of Robert Downey's Tony Stark).
Mark Ruffalo The Hulk aka Bruce Banner

 3. The Avengers is Hilarious

When you sit down to watch The Avengers over the next few weeks, be prepared to laugh. The Avengers is by far the most hilarious super hero movie ever made. Joss Whedon's unique brand of comedy and well-timed humour (see Firefly) is sprinkled throughout the movie in a way that keeps the audience in a good mood, from start to finish, unlike 'The Dark Knight'. There are action scenes in The Avengers so intense they leave you on the edge of your seat, breathless, and just when you least expect it one of the main characters will say something that sends the entire cinema into an uproar.
The Hulk, who, it can be argued, is historically the least funny super hero of all time, delivers the movie's two biggest laughs. Only Joss Whedon could take a character like that and utilise him in such a way that leaves the audience walking out of the cinema going "Remember when The Hulk did that...", instead of re-living the big action set pieces.

4. The Relationships

The Avengers is a huge ensemble movie with lots of interesting characters who, prior to this, have never interacted with each other on screen before. Joss somehow manages to carefully budget and juggle each minute of screen time to highlight the relationships formed by each of the characters. For example, Tony Stark has never met anyone who challenges him intellectually, until he runs into Bruce Banner. While Thor has never met anyone who can physically match him, until he goes up against Iron Man and The Hulk. Joss spends the first hour of the movie letting these relationships play out and it's an absolute treat to watch.
The Avengers Cast
5. No Girl Drama

Thankfully, the only "girlfriend" character that features in The Avengers is Pepper Potts (played by Gwyneth Paltrow), and she only gets a few minutes screen time. They touch on where Jane Foster (played by Natalie Portman) is hiding, but that's about it. Joss checks the girl drama in at the door and rightly saves it for the standalone movies.
Thor and Jane Foster


The Avengers is the best Marvel-brand super hero movie of all time, and I'm not just saying that as a Joss Whedon groupie. It's not better than The Dark Knight (DC Comics), but it doesn't try to be either. The Dark Knight is technically a better movie, but The Avengers is loads more fun, packs the laughs and leaves you smiling as you walk out the door. Comparing them alongside each other in the super hero genre is pointless. Go and check it out!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Siri, Meet David 8

Have you been talking to Siri much lately? Sam has.
Siri is one of Apple's marketing hooks. Technically speaking, Siri is an "intelligent personal assistant" and "knowledge navigator" that functions as an app on the Apple iOS. Watching Mace Windu talk to his phone while he cooks Gazpacho would have looked crazy about 10 years ago, but now it just seems normal. It's amazing how far we've come in such a short time (my previous blog on Hologram Tupac is proof of that).

Siri is an application that could be loaded onto (or into) anything. Which means Apple could put Siri inside an android robot and "it" would function exactly the same. If Siri was an android, would we react to it differently? Yes. Would Apple be able to market it as effectively? No.

Creepy much?
It's the outside shell that society still has a problem with. As far as we've come, we still aren't ready to accept Androids as the norm. However, when it comes to what's inside the Android, the important stuff (AI), we're all quite happy to jump on board the Siri bandwagon and fill Apple's pockets with bucket loads of cash.
In South Korea, they've got Androids (Ever-3) advanced enough to sing, dance and act. Androids that could probably rock up on stage during The Voice and blow the judges away. Imagine the look on Seal's face when he spins the chair around to find an Android staring right back at him. Somehow I don't think "it" would make it to the next round.

If this is where we are now, where will be in another 10 years? Ridley Scott has been trying to shed some light on this for years and his upcoming movie "Prometheus" aims to provide us with a glimpse into the future. One of the major characters in Prometheus is David, who is an Android.

In what can only be described as a fantastic piece of viral digital marketing, Ridley Scott recently released a video that introduces the character of David in the form of an advertisement. Without further ado, I would like you to meet David 8:
Sign me up for a David 8! What are your thoughts on Androids? Post your thoughts in the comments section.

Now, out of 50 points, how did all of you score in my blog?
  • 10 Points - You have had a chat with Siri before
  • 10 Points - You know who Mace Windu is
  • 10 Points - You identified the robot pictured as being from the movie I,Robot
  • 10 Points - You know the name of the actor who plays David 8
  • 10 Points - You actually are an Android
- Digital Goose

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Hologram Tupac Fools My Girlfriend

If you haven't been living under a rock the last 48 hours, chances are you've already seen the mind-blowingly awesome surprise 3D holographic performance at Coachella 2012, featuring none other than the legend himself, Tupac Shakur (aka Makaveli).

The eery performance is enough to send chills down your spine, especially for rap fans like myself who still keep Pac's timeless tunes in heavy rotation. I can't imagine what is was like to be there and watch a holographic Tupac light up the stage and ignite fans, like he did all those years ago.

And here's what happened today....

To be transported back to rap's heyday, I load up the video on YouTube and switch it to full-screen. My girlfriend, a fellow Tupac groupie, sits next to me. Snoop Dogg struts on stage to perform '2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted' with a very energetic, if somewhat luminescent, Makaveli. My girlfriend remarks that "even back then, Snoop looked really old. I wonder how old is Snoop now?".

My girlfriend actually thought she was watching a classic performance of a 'very much alive' Tupac and who she believed was an 'ageless' Snoop Doggy Dog.

While I acknowledge that 3D holograms have been around for years, and I'm aware of the Holographic Elvis & Celine Dion duet on American Idol back in 2007, this "live" performance at Coachella is a game changer. It should be seen as a testament to how far we've come as a technologically advanced society. We now have the power to bring people back from the dead! And to think, this digital marvel took only 4 months and between $100k-400k to produce (kudos to the brilliant team at Digital Domain). How was it created? Read more over at the Wall Street Journal.
Hologram Tupac
What does this say for the future of the music industry, and touring in general? There has already been talk of Hologram Tupac going on tour with Dre & Snoop later in the year. A holographic artist wouldn't need management and wouldn't have a crazy list of back-stage demands, for a start...

I can't help but let my mind wander. I've already started to dream up concerts featuring artists who were taken from us way before their time was up. Kurt Cobain tearing up the stage again, with Dave Grohl in tow, in a Nirvana reunion is what instantly springs to mind. That's a concert I would pay good money to "experience". And what about a Beatles reunion? The list goes on.

Hologram Kurt Cobain
Of course, with all new advancements in technology, come the 'digital haters'. Should we, as a society, really be doing this? Isn't this wrong? Aren't we taking things a little too far? What's next, a Hologram Steve Jobs running the next Apple press conference? All of these questions will be raised and discussed at great length for weeks to come - and really, when it comes down to it, there is no right answer.

Personally, I'm all for this. Bring it on! What generation wouldn't want the next generation to experience famous artists of their time. This type of technology helps immortalise legends, and in my book, there's nothing wrong with that at all. They used to do it with statues and sculptures back in the day... we've just taken it a million or so steps further.

With that said, what are your thoughts? If you have an opinion on whether this is the right way forward or not, please post your thoughts in the comments section. 

Now, out of 50 points, how did all of you score in my blog?
  • 10 Points - You had already watched the video, before reading this blog
  • 10 Points - You actually know who Tupac is, and are aware of his greatness
  • 10 Points - You know how old Snoop is (40)
  • 10 Points - You started to dream up concerts too (which ones?)
  • 10 Points - You hope to one day be remembered in hologram format
- Digital Goose