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Showing posts from February, 2008

Time Team 7

The team were back in the west country, down near Bath investigating the site of Francis Popham's mansion at Hunstrete. Once more it looked like a quick and easy dig, after all they had pictures and inventories of the mansion.

But once again the truth ended up being more than was portrayed, the team uncovering a nice piece of Georgian deception with regards the house...

After more than a decade of watching this show I am still totally hooked.

Reading and watching

End of last week we received free DVDs for a couple of horror movies (reviewing has its perks). These were Furnace and The Ferryman.

Well the first of these has been watched and it was a little disappointing. Good start but it just didn't really deliver. It's also quite out of time in some ways. Since the Scream Trilogy came out with tongue-in-cheek discussions of the "rules" of horror movies, horror has changed format. The old style "it's behind you" style is gone for the most part, as are the "shapes seen in shadows" style scares of old.

This film, however, has them both in spades...

Book wise the last week has been the new Stephen King book Duma Key. King has lost none of his ability to write characters, but this didn't have the edge of his earlier work. The scares are not there, although he still knows how to write great characters.

What the hell's up with the rugby

I've watched three rugby matches in three weeks (of teams I support) - and each one has been terrible.

England in two of them were atrocious, and now Leicester Tigers have played far far below the level they are capable of, and lost to London Irish. Irish didn't play all that well themselves, it's just that Leicester made mistake after mistake after mistake.

Frustrating.

Torchwood and Ashes to Ashes 2

More nights, more TV. I know it's hardly the most inspiring thing to blog about but I don't go out every night so, okay for that matter any night really - I'm not a social animal (I may have mentioned that before).

But please don't think I sit in front of the TV all the time I'm not working. I don't. To be honest outside the shows mentioned in my blog and the occasional watching of an episode of the Book Show on Sky Arts and the odd documentary I don't tend to watch much TV.

But that's digression. The TV shows -

Torchwood is still great. The episode in question was fairly unoriginal in concept, a new team member has appeared out of nowhere, and everyone knows who he is and seems to believe he's been there for a few years. So obviously this new guy's not going to be good news.

This has been done before repeatedly and this could have been a pretty poor episode. But to be honest the plot here was incidental to playing with the backstories of the charac…

All Good Things...

I've been a cricket fan as long as I can remember. I have watched so many good players, never mind their team or nationality (although I would prefer more of the better ones to have been English), and always feel a pang when one of the best retires.

Shane Warne has gone, Chris Cairns, Brian Lara, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist all too. And now New Zealander Stephen Fleming has announced he will retire after the upcoming Test series against England.

It's been a pleasure to watch him over the years, a good batsman but, in my opinion, a truly great captain.

Writing - positive reinforcement works

I mentioned on Saturday I receive a print copy of Shroud Magazine - the first time I held something I'd written (excepting print outs). Well it cheered me up.

Then I get two payments in on Sunday, covering three reviews I had written last year. Then I go check out page on Nossa Morte issue two containing my review of Gossamer Hall.

http://www.nossamorte.com/feb08/gossamerhall.html

All of a sudden I want to write - above all else. So in the last couple of days I have written a Jack the Ripper article, which Tim at Shroud was very eager to read (and so it is sent to him) and a new review (which is off with Nossa Morte).

Tomorrow I hope to finish off the review of the Ray Bradbury Dandelion Wine anniversary edition and one or two other reviews.

Let's hope this continues.

Eklavya

Last August I travelled to the United States (to Minnesota) on business. On the flight there I noticed a Hindi film named Eklavya amongst the options and chose to watch it. It was superb - wonderfully filmed, well acted and a great story.

I watched it again on the flight back to England. Recently I noticed it was available on DVD from Amazon and placed my order.

It arrived today and I have spent the previous two hours watching it again with my family. It is still wonderful, and my wife and her parents also loved it. My wife intends to watch it again in the near future.

Writing Update - a physiciality

For the first time since I decided last February to write seriously I have held a print copy of my work. The first issue of Shroud Magazine arrived yesterday, complete with an article on the Bodysnatchers, five book reviews and a crossword - all created by me.

I've not been able to stop gloating about it since.

http://www.shroudmagazine.com/

Time Team 6

The latest dig sees the team investigating World War 2 defenses in south London, trying to track down all the emplacements set up to try to hamper any invasion of England that may have happened between 1940 and 1944.

Now World War 2 programmes are not amongst my favourites. I like my history to be considerably older, and I enjoy seeing the objects that were handmade that are uncovered on bronze age digs in particular.

But WW2 does have one tremendous advantage for Time Team. It is about the only type of dig they do where they actually have eye witnesses, and this week there were a number of elderly gentlemen featured who remembered exactly where all these defenses were located.

Good show

Rugby - what's up?

I'm English. I am a rugby fan. So I watched England play their latest six nations match against Italy in Rome. All I can say is what the hell is wrong with England. For the second time in two weeks I have watched England play okay in the first half, establishing a lead in the game by the half-time break, only to come out in the second half and completely forget how to play.

Last week Wales beat them, this week they barely held on against Italy. They didn't deserve to. If Italy had just managed to win a couple of line-outs at crucial times then the result would be reversed, and Italy would have won a victory no one could have denied them.

At last the Leicester Tigers won, beating Premiership leaders Gloucester away.

Death Proof

Now this is a film that was pretty much guaranteed from the outside to send my mother-in-law running for the hills (figuratively speaking). On that level it succeeded, barely ten minutes into the film she'd decided an early night and reading her book was a far better option.

This may sound like we were all being cruel to her, but I should explain. The four of us (me, my wife and her parents) like movies. But our tastes do not completely overlap. There are movies we all like, and there are movies only some of us like. The three of them frequently watch movies or TV shows whilst I am up here hitting the keys on this computer. We put on a science fiction movie and, chances are, my father-in-law will soon be asleep.

Anyway, Death Proof - the latest Quentin Tarantino film on my viewing list. Different to say the least, and quite wonderful - and also splendidly violent.

Too many places...

Why is it whenever you think you are settled on this year's holiday choices, so many other possiblities jump up and scream "Me, me, me, me!!!!"

There are simply so many places I want to visit, and life is just too damn short. And just why couldn't I have gotten myself a job as a travel writer...

So I'm looking at all these old magazines about France and Italy (part of boxing them all up in preparation for having people come look at the house) and seeing pictures of wonderful places.

Lecce, Bologna, Ancona, Assissi, Belluno, Genova, Pisa, Florence, Siena, Modena etc etc for Italy. Paris (yes I know, I've never been), Carcassonne, Nice, Avignon, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Lyon, Aix-en-Provence, Orleans and so many more for France.

And I haven't ventured outside my two normal country choices. I want to visit Germany, specifically for Cologne Cathedral and Berlin. Tallin (Estonia) looks beautiful, as does Riga (Latvia), Prague (Czech Republic), Dubrovnik (Croatia), St…

Ashes to Ashes

I was a passing fan of "Life on Mars", the coma / time-travel cop show on the BBC a couple of years back. I'd never describe it as one of my ultimate favourites, but it was well put together and entertaining.

I'm now watching the first episode of the follow up series "Ashes to Ashes" and I have the feeling that I may well like this show a little more. The reason for this is quite simple...

I am forty years old. In 1981 I was thirteen, and rather than the mid 1970s of the first series I remember this time. In the first few minutes we've had David Bowie references (an obvious given the title), Ultravox, Adam Ant and the like. Plus phone cards and walkmen as new technologies.

This is the time I remember. And this is a series I simply have to watch.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Last year when Pavarotti died I remarked, at the time off the cuff, that each time a person of iconic status dies the world is diminished. Pavarotti most certainly was an icon, the greatest voice of a generation (maybe longer).

But in his own way Indian Guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was also iconic. His name is forever associated with the Summer of Love, with the Beatles investigation of mysticism and with Transcendental Meditation.

He died last night, believed to be 91 years old.

One less icon.

New UK genre magazine

On Saturday I received a copy if the first issue of the new UK genre mag Polluto. It describes itself as a bit of a counter-culture rag - with issue one subtitled "Post-Natal Depression and the Mysterons". It's an odd read from what I've skimmed so far, but seems as though there will be good stuff in these pages.

Issue one was original intended to feature Michael Moorcock and Justina Robson but unfortunately for the mag circumstances (poor health and novel deadlines) caused these two to not make it. They are apparantly hoping to be in future volumes.

But there is still much good stuff in here. Authors featured include Jeff Vandermeer and Rhys Hughes, plus there's artwork, non-fiction columns on culture and poetry.

If you want to check it out - here's the link

http://www.polluto.com/

New Arrival, Book-wise

New review title arrived in today's mail, one I know my wife has been looking forward to for some time. The book is the second novel by Steve Westcott, an Isle of Man based comic fantasy author.

We will get the chance to meet him in a little over a week as he's doing a book signing in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. It's only about half an hour's drive from the house so...

Of All Things, The Poseidon Adventure

I got home a little late from work tonight (something brown and sticky is once more hitting a rotating bladed device). When I arrived my in-laws were watching the new Poseidon Adventure on Sky Movies. (You notice I got the excuse for this in early.)

Well, I was tired so I just sank down into the sofa and made all sociable - and, not wanting to be rude by suggestion the movie was switched off, I started watching it. I didn't catch it from the beginning, the boat had just flipped upside down when I sat down, but they were all still in the ballroom.

But I will say one thing, it was entertaining. Yes, part of this might be the fact that we were gently poking fun at it, but it's not as bad a movie as I was expecting. Nice to get pleasant surprises.

Time Team 5

Another Sunday means another Time Team - more holes dug in fields...

This time the team were back in the Cotswolds at a Roman site. I get the feeling that you could trip over anywhere in the Cotswolds and find that it was a piece of Roman archaeology that was the culprit.

This one started off incredibly well, with a mosaic being uncovered within minutes - but as they were reopening a hole dug by the local archaeology group it was a done deal right from the off. Still interesting though, and I guess I will never tire of it.

More Bad Writing News - Darn

Well, Sunday arrived and things carried on just as they were on Saturday. A rejection. Or at least it may as well have been a rejection. I sent a science article to Strange Horizons in April last year and they've just replied saying they will consider it if I revisit and add references to my sources.

Well I wrote this nearly a year ago - all notes are long gone and the books are almost certainly in boxes. After a couple of days of packing I now have 53 crates of books all packed away. I can pretty much guarantee that the books I used are in those boxes.

And as for my internet sources (and yes there are some trustable ones out there - try NASA for one), I simply have no idea which ones I used.

So it's dead - another one bites the dust.

For anyone who cares the article was about the deaths of stars.

Saturday Writing Update - not good I am afraid

I received two more rejections today - one for a poem about Venice sent to The King's English, the other for a book review sent to Grasslimb. Ah well. Time to find them new homes.

Packing

We've contacted the estate agents about selling our house and next Friday and Saturday we have two of them coming to do a valuation. So I have started the packing.

One thing we have repeatedly been told every time a house move is imminent is declutter. And unfortunately most people see books as clutter. So I have begun packing up the books. It's far from over - I have so far filled 40 boxed (each 35 litre in volume).

I have a feeling I will need another 60 to remove enough books to make it look the way I'm told - even then there will still be many left on shelves. Then I will have to start empty the house of the other collections - we like artwork and knick-knacks. Most of the surfaces of the house are covered in small sculptures, or old artefacts like brass water containers and Victorian scientific instruments and tobacco tins.

Ah well - time to make the house less us. I will just have to keep thinking of how the next house will give us more room to put books and knick-knack…

Modern TV - a worry

I occasionally catch bits of TV shows my in-laws watch. One such was Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. Now this is in many ways a good reality TV show - mainly for Ramsey. And this is not for his shock value. Yes he may swear a lot. Hell, so do I (and yes I am being tame here). But the man really knows what he is on about and I like that. I find intelligence and knowledge unbeatable - my heroes are scientists, Einstein, Galileo, Newton, Brahe, etc etc - and above all else Isaac Asimov - I know mainly a sf writer but he was a professor of biochemistry, earned not honorary.

Ramsey knows his stuff. He is a great, great chef - yes. But he is also a good businessman and can walk into a failing restaurant and spot why it's failing and how it can be saved. Impressive stuff.

But the format of the show worries me. In a one hour show surely I do not need constant reminders of what's still to come, or recaps of events after just six minutes. Masterchef does the same - one of the few …