Posts

Showing posts from 2007

2008 Concerts

Well 2008 is almost with us and we have our first couple of concerts booked for the next year. First off will be Clannad in March. I had absolutely no idea that they ever planned to work together again but a random search picked up a concert in Nottingham in March. so...

The second planned so far is one of my wife's favourite bands - Bon Jovi. They are playing in Coventry in June which is only about 40 minutes drive from us so why not. It's not an concert I would have chosen just for myself. I saw Bon Jovi in the 80s and they were excellent, but their music is not quite my normal taste.

I don't switch the radio or TV over if Bon Jovi come on, but I wouldn't often seek them out just for myself. That said I am rather looking forward to the concert.

The Covenant

We picked another horror film for this evening's viewing, fully expecting an experience like The Forest the other night. Well, we were very wrong. This was so much above The Forest in terms of quality.

The story was better, tying into the legends of the Witch Trials in Europe and North America; the pacing was excellent, actually managing to build up a degree of tension; the acting was reasonable; the effects not laughable. All round an enjoyable movie.

It's not Oscar-winning quality, nor does it break new ground. What we get here's been done before many times over - but originality is not important here. The film holds together and it entertains.

Strongman

One thing that I find endlessly fascinating is just how strong people can become. On the moment on UK television (on Channel 5) they are showing the 2007 World's Strongest Man - I watched the first heat this evening.

These guys are capable of lifting some of the most amazing weights, hundreds of kilograms. It;s unreal. These guys are the closest things to the superheroes of comic books.

Phil Pfister andTarmo Mitt won this evening's heat but we've yet to see Mariusz Pudzianowski, the best of them all.

Millennium

One of my favourite forms of entertainment is serial TV - science fiction, fantasy or horror - or even just science related. I don't like all of them. I never liked the concept of Lost for instance, so I never bothered with it. Battlestar Galactica just seemed a case of "Run Away! Run Away!". There's little you can do with that for me that could make it heroic.

But there a lot I do like. I like Star Trek, but not Voyager so much. I like the new Doctor Who, Torchwood, Stargate, Bones, CSI, Babylon 5, X-Files and more.

One of the shows I have liked since day one is Millennium, the second of the Chris Carter created shows, launched on the coat tails of his X-Files success. It never seemed to take off and ran for only three seasons, but it contained one of the best lead characters I have ever seen in Frank Black. Moody, troubled and insightful (in a most eerily supernatural manner), he was portrayed quite brilliant in my eyes by Lance Henriksen.

I found this a good …

Nostalgia for B-Movie Horror Nights

Back in the 1980s we (an old schoolfriend and I) had a passtime we enjoyed. We would go to the video rental store and pick a bad horror film - deliberately. We had gotten to know the staff in the store quite well and they would run lists of the least watched films in store from the computer system, which we then used to guide our viewing.

This meant we watched some serious drivel, straight-to-video B-Movies that looked as though they had been made by a group of friends over a weekend on a whim. Some of them probably were.

It became somewhat of a game, and fun for the insults you could throw at the screen during the film. Well all good things come to an end and after we both graduating from University we no longer met up as often - my friend had disappeared over to California to work for NASA so it made it kind of tricky.

Last night, however, it was relaunched in a totally unexpected manner. We have had my wife's parents staying with us over the holidays. Normally with them if we sugg…

Two films in one day - sheer luxury (The Yin-Yang Master)

Having watched Apocalypto yesterday lunchtime I was persuaded by the family (it didn't take much) into watching another in the evening. We chose a Japanese fantasy film called The Yin-Yang Master.

My word, am I glad we did. It's a delightful little whimsy -enganging story, good (slightly over-the-top) characters, magic, demons, a touch of wire-fu. But above all else it is a beautiful film -the settings and the costumes are exquisite.

I've developed a definite fondness for Chinese and Korean movies over the last few years. And I have watched and enjoyed a number of Japanese horror films also, but this has moved Japanese movies up there with the Chinese and Korean for me.

Next of the Asian films on my list must be 2046. I bought this a few months back but haven't gotten around to it. Heard nothing but good things so it may well go up the pile.

Apocalypto

I'd heard bad things about this movie - it's mismatching of bits of history, merging together Mayan, Aztec and Incan themes and transporting things in time. So in that sense I was ready. And so we settled down this afternoon to watch it just as a film.

In that sense it was incredibly. Gory in parts, heartfelt and sentimental in others - it is a very well made film, and thank heaven Gibson decided to make this entirely in the Mayan language.

Doctor Who XMas Special 2007

Okay I am not going to be the one person to mention this in a blog for today but not much else has happened today so...

...and yes I understand this might get me a bit of a "Bah Humbug!" reaction but XMas a bit of a non-event when you don't have kids. (Note: XMas is not Christmas, I distinguish the commercial side from the religious).

Anyway back to the less contentious issue of a science fiction TV show. This third XMas special (of the new launch show) saw the Doctor on the Titanic, or a Titanic replica in pretty much the same kind of danger as its original namesake.

It was dark, darker than the previous annual specials and up there gloom-wise with some of the darkest of the regular series. Kylie Minogue was good as the one-off assistant to the Doctor, reminding people that she can actually act a little - she's not in the same league as Meryl Streep but she can play a part.

The idea was fresh, the Doctor was his usual madcap self, played with just the right amount of gl…

A Year Ago

Image
Just before Christmas 2006 we went to Venice for a few days. It was a really weird experience to wander around one of the most visited places on Earth virtually alone. The only non-locals we met over there were fans of UK rugby club London Wasps - Wasps were playing a game against Treviso which is only a few miles away from Venice so they had decided to stay over a day or two and see Venice itself. I guess they weren't counting on it being colder than England, windy and even sleeting. Nice.
Anyway we took a few seasonal Venice photos and I thought, one year on I would revisit them and post a couple here.



This is Babbo Natale (the Italian for Father Christmas) in Campo San Giacometto, near the Rialto Bridge.

Buone Feste (Italian for Happy Holidays) - Christmas light on a Venetian Rio Terra.

BTW - for those who want to know a rio terra is a filled in canal. During the time of Mussolini there was a plan to fill in the canals of Venice so that cars could drive its "streets". A…

Sporting Disasters TV show

Over the last couple of days there have been a number of TV shows featuring accidents in various types of sports. I'm not normally one to watch misfortune or other reality TV shows. But something in this one show (Sporting Disasters) has gripped me and I've watched a couple of episodes and am amazed at the lunacy of some people.

I feel wrong watching these shows - essentially each episode is an hour of watching people get hurt in a variety of ways -skydiving, extreme skiing, go-karting, motorcycling speed record attempts, skateboarding, snowboarding as well as mass fights in ice hockey, soccer and other sports.

I'm not sure what this kind of thing says about us as a species, and I have to admit I am not immune.

You won't find me watching Big Brother though...

Night Watch

Caught up on another of the films I should have seen months ago last night. Friday night, end of a long long week at work and the consensus was watching a movie.

We chose the Russian dark fantasy film Night Watch. I'm glad we did - it was superb; original storyline, a setting (Moscow) I am not overly familiar with, no actors I recognise and a good story. Okay I guessed the ending a little but it didn't spoil the movie.

Now I want to see The Day Watch.

Shelfari - another thing to use up my life

I like lists. I like applications and sites that let me make lists. And unfortunately for all the work I have to do I have found another such site - Shelfari.

Shelfari is like all these FaceBook, MySpace type sites - except it is geared exclusively towards readers.

You log on - set up an account and then add books to your bookshelf. Then you can write little reviews, hold discussions with other readers and link to friends. Typical kind of stuff and yes it could well be addictive.

http://www.shelfari.com/

Desert Island Discs Thinking - Part 2

A few days ago I listed my choice of disks according to Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs.

Since doing so I have thought about the somgs I left out and mourned their absence, so I made a new list of the "next" eight

The Damned – Eloise
Ian Dury and the Blockheads - Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3
Guns ‘N’ Roses - Sweet Child O’ Mine
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Some Candy Talking
Led Zeppelin - Kashmir
Lynyrd Skynyrd – Freebird
Barry McGuire - Eve of Destruction
Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run

I couldn't do without those either - and I still had to leave out The Doors' People are Stange, Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi, Nick Drake's Hazey Jane II, Pink Floyd's Echoes, Metallica's Sad But True and Roy Harper's Me and My Woman. Difficult thing this.

The European Union and the Environment

I'm a strong supporter of the European Union. If you are not, fair enough, we differ in opinion - that's the way of the world.

I've lived my whole life in a relatively stable peaceful country, in a generally peaceful continent - and I attribute this in large part to the European Union. Europe historically has been at war with itself almost constantly for centuries but no more.

Anyway this is digressing.

The EU has announced limits of greenhouse gas emissions on car manufacturers and the aviation industry. Okay they are not are stringent as they might be - I would be in favour of setting the car industry a date to achieve zero emissions, with a reducing limit each year until the zero - but it's a good .

Now they need to keep pushing it or our future will suffer.

The Times They Are A-Changin' (Politics-wise)

In the UK one of the political parties (the Liberal Democrats) has recently elected a new leader in Nick Clegg.

In one of his first radio interviews since taking over as leader, Clegg admitted he does not believe in God.

Not sure if anyone would have admitted to that one a few years back...

...mind you the Liberal Democrats are not likely to win an election over here - they fit in as the third largest party, and the UK is normally governed by either the Conservatives or the Labour Party. I would imagine that it might not have happened were he the leader of either of those two.

Bizarre Censorship and a U-Turn

Sense prevailed. In the time since I wrote the below post and now - some six hours or so - the BBC have reversed the decision and Fairytale of New York will be played uncensored.

------------------

I've just read one of the most bizarre and pointless of news stories in quite some time.

In the UK one of the BBC's radio stations has decided to censor a song for broadcast removing the words "faggot" and "slut" - used as insults - so that it will not cause offence to anyone listening.

The only problem I have is that the track - Fairytale of New York by Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues is 20 years old and has never been censored before. They have been happy to play the track in full with no cuts for two decades - so why start now?

Also it's only censored on Radio 1. If you tune in to one of the other BBC radio stations - 6 more nationals and over 40 local stations - you will hear the unedited version.

I don't get it.

Auray

Image
I was looking through the photos from Brittany this summer - searching for the photos of old embroidered garments for my wife when I found some shots from Auray - a wonderfully pleasant river port town, which now has a busy artists community. So I thought I might post a sample shot or two...


Shot of the bridge across the river - and edge of the harbour


One of the narrow streets around the harbour - and yes, cars drive down these roads...

Wonderful old house with steep roofline.


It's a little bit commercial around the harbour itself, but they've managed to maintain a great deal of the town's charm.
Statue of Saint Goustan - on the side wall of a house.

Reading Update and Procrastination

I've read a couple of zombie novels of late - one of those odd coincidences that seem to plague my life, and seemingly give weight to those people who believe these things hold some kind of significance. To be honest it's only the reactions I get to these coincidences that plague me - the coincidences themselves are usually trivial.

Anyway I am meandering - I'll get the that later. Back to books...

The first of the zombie books was Simon Clark's This Rage of Echoes. This actually manages an original take on zombies, something I never thought I would encounter. In Clark's book he has the infestation create copies of the infection carriers - copies which then seem hell bent on destroying the originals. Great stuff!!

The second one was Brian Keene's Dead Sea. The zombies here are run of the mill, lumbering, brainless, rotting hulks intent on nothing more than eating your brains. This is not a great disappointment though, for Keene's focus is not the zombies, but …

Desert Island Discs Thinking

I listen to Radio 4 a great deal. Each day on my way to and from work, and often at home whilst reading email etc.

One show they have on regularly (and it's been running since 1942) is Desert Island Discs. On this show the guest is invited to choose the eight records they could not live without and they talk about the records and their life in general.

I don't often find much of the guests' tastes that matches mine but I enjoy the show. I think the closest they've had on to my own taste was Jeremy Clarkson, which is a little worrying.

Anyway I just started thinking about what I would pick - and yes I realise I would never be chosen as a guest - not being. However I have always had a fondness (some say obsession) with lists so I started writing down titles.

First thing that occured to me is just how hard it is to choose just eight. My list started out at sixty - just a little over the limit. And then the guests on the show have to pick the best of the best - one track they …

Writing update - some good, some bad

Received a few updates about some articles/reviews.

The bad news is that one of my articles (a historical true-crime piece) that was accepted back in August has been returned - the publication is not going to happen so they've released the articles. Ah, well - it's the second sale I've made to magazines that died before publication. Guess it's one of those things.

The good news concerns a book review (of Brian Aldiss's H.A.R.M.). The magazine running it, Art and Prose December 2007, is now out and you can find them on the web at

http://www.artandprose.com/blog/


The issue also features a story by a friend of mine - Joy V. Smith - called Paulie, which is pretty nifty. She writes sf, non-fiction and children's stories and you can find her blog at

http://journals.aol.com/pagadan/JoysJournal/

Trying to think nice thoughts

Image
For the last two weeks we've been suffering from flu. I even took two days of work - which for me is virtually unheard of.



This bug is so bad that I didn't even read a single word of my then book for nine straight days. It really wasn't the book's fault (Brian Keene's Dead Sea BTW). The bug was just that bad. Well, I thought I was just about over it, but I was wrong. It's decided to have another go.



So I've decided to try to ignore it and think nice thoughts - so I spent a few minutes flicking through more holiday photos. In doing so I found this one and thought I just had to share. I have absolutely no idea of specifically where it is. I can remember my wife taking it. We saw a beautiful bit of countryside in Northern France, stopped on the side of the road and took some photos. This is one of them...





Terry Pratchett's Bad News

Just read one of those pieces of news that shocked me.

Terry Pratchett has a form of Alzheimer's

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7141458.stm

I can only hope it's very slow acting and he has a long happy (and literary active) life.

An odd sculpture

Image
I was sorting through some photographs from our trip to Milan in April this year when I came across some images of a sculpture of a human skeleton with one or two modifications (such as the enormous pointy nose.



So I thought I would post one of the shots here.


Two films, several books

I don’t watch many films. I tend to prefer books to films. But every now and again I feel just have to watch some movies – and catch up with some of the big films of the last couple of years. To give you some idea of how up to date I tend to be both of the movies I watched this past weekend are already into sequel-land, and in one case multiple sequel-land, before I’ve even watched the first.
The two films I chose to watch were Saw and The Hostel – yes both part ones.
Saw surprised me a great deal. I found this to be far from the gory moronic horror I expected. This was a good film – seriously good, and very creepy.
The Hostel however was all I expected, however. Effectively a film of two halves, the first a teen/college sex comedy before flipping into a non-supernatural gory horror flick. The gore is done reasonably with good use of well-timed cutaways and splatter. The problem this film had for me though was that the first part had left me not caring whether any of the lead characters …

Credit Where It's Due

One of my pet hates is unnecessary packaging.

I have ranted and raved over the years about all kinds of excessive wrappings for things - shrink-wrapped cucumbers, two-for-one-offers on jars requiring them to be packaged together rather than believing shoppers could count to two, etc etc etc

Well I feel I have to say well done to one company for a good decision, and it's a soap manufacturer of all things...

Ceuta Healthcare Ltd make Shield Soap. I buy it. Their 4-packs have a nice shiny outside wrapper which contained 4 bars of soap individually wrapped in smaller shiny packets. Neither the outside or inside packaging was recyclable.

But they have changed things. The outside is still the outside - but then I guess they want to advertise their wares. But inside the shiny printed packets are replaced with white unprinted paper packets which are recyclable. Not much but it's a start.

Writing Update and a Bit of a Rant

Received a couple of rejections today - for two science articles.

But also the good news of another review that will run in Shroud Magazine. This is my 25th book review accepted for publication.

Shroud is a new US based horror print magazine launching next year, Check them out - and subscribe, there's going to be a lot of good fiction in this mag over the months/years

http://www.shroudmagazine.com/

~ - ~
As I was reading through some emails and writing this I had a music DVD playing on the TV in my office. I won't say what it was but it had "Creative Packaging". That's a term I use for those times when record labels decide that a standard DVD box (or CD box for that) isn't sufficient for their needs and they go off on one.

Generally what they produce looks good (not always though) but these things feature cardboard and customised plastic components which seem guaranteed to break, tear or go wrong. Tonight's DVD is one of these. It's two disks are held on sp…

One of my favourite places - Carnac in Brittany, France

Image
I hope you will indulge me if I post an image or two of one of my favourite places. This is partly to encourage anyone who might stumble across this to visit this truly magickal place in Western France, but also to partly mollify a friend who has been berating me for still not posting any images from a trip I made in August.




For anyone who does not know Carnac, it is home to a vast collection of stone age menhirs - more than 3,000 of them!!! And these date from over five thousand years ago. The site is truly huge and definitely deserves a visit.


The site has multiple alignments of stones spread across a large area, plus numerous tumuli (man made hills containing tombs), dolmen, a quadrilateral of standing stones and one of the tallest menhirs I have ever seen - the Manio Giant.

First Post - Welcome

After months of good intentions and little to show in terms of results, I have finally set up a Blog.

So as this is the introduction I am going to tell you a little about myself and what this blog is for - and I promise not to whitter on too long.

I am a forty year old book addict, and since February 2007 a published writer - my first sale being a science article on Exoplanets (already hopelessly out of date) sold to UK based sf webzine Darker Matter.

I managed to publish an article in each of the five issues Darker Matter ran as well as three book reviews in issue five. I'd like to think this every presence had nothing to do with the zine folding.

Since then I have written many more articles, reviews etc and so far my sales stand at

9 articles (on science, history and horror)
24 book reviews
1 poem
1 crossword