Saturday, 30 August 2008

Writing Rethink

About a year and a half back I decided to start writing. I'd been a reader for many, many years and wanted to give it a go. I started in easy, writing reviews for various magazines, then added articles. Went well at first. I sold most of what I submitted.

But I wanted more. I have been a fanatical reader of science fiction and horror. So like most people in that position I wanted to write it. So I have tried. I have written about 20 stories - mostly horror, mostly what I would consider comedic. Seems I'm alone though.

I have submitted these tales to various magazines and websites out there and have the grand total of NO SALES. Bugger!

Well okay maybe I am not being totally honest here. I have sold one drabble (100 word short story). Wasn't connected to these though. I write an article on Jack the Ripper a little while back and had an idea for a twisted little meander. So I scrawled it down, sent it off and, much to my surprise, they took it.

So that was nice - a good warm feeling. And $25 to the good, not bad for 100 words. So I have spent most of the time I have been writing over the last few weeks (months really) writing fiction. And every single submission has received the same kind of response. All negative of course and, when feedback given, all saying something like "While we definitely enjoyed some..." but ending in a 'we are not going to use it' type statement.

I've heard people say the two things writers need are thick skin and determination. And I suppose a hunger. I might not have enough of these. Do I have a thick skin, well not really. I need positive reinforcement. I have a need to be successful. And I will admit to having a tendency to give up on things I do not instantly do well at. (I have catalogued this before, and recently for that.)

So I am going to give the writing thing a bit of a redirect. I am going to concentrate on articles and reviews again. It will not make me famous, but I'm not after fame. But it will give me satisfaction. And I guess that is what I want.

Wish me luck.

If Only Someone Will Buy My House

We went out today - myself, my wife and her parents. We went to Market Harborough in Leicestershire. I've always liked this town - I find it friendly, welcoming and homely. So much so I would like to live in the area.

We popped into a couple of estate agents in town to see what the housing stock nearby is like. We picked up details on a couple and went driving - just to have a look round, find which villages we like.

Well we found a couple. And one in particular. A wonderful, wonderful seventeenth century house with a courtyard garden. And it's within the price range. It would be absolutely ideal. Only problem is we haven't manage to sell our house. And at the moment that doesn't look all that likely...

Such is life. I suppose the good news is that with the housing market the way it is there is a good chance that it will still be available when we are in a position to buy. Fingers crossed.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Goya's Ghosts

Wow! I sat down this evening with the family. Just to relax, wind down after the week at work. We clicked onto the movie channels and found Goya's Ghosts. All I can say is wow! This has to be one of the finest films I have seen in a long, long time - maybe years.

Francisco Goya, the Spanish Inquisition, Napoleon Bonaparte, heartbreak - strong emotions and occasional brutality, but all done well. Superb.

Odd Socks

The human race is an odd animal. We're not that far removed from pack animals. We like to follow. We set things up to allow us to follow - fashion, pop charts etc etc...

Facebook seems to be one of these things. I have a few friends on my Facebook profile, 89 at the time of writing - not bad for a anti-social so-and-so like me. The one thing I keep noticing, and falling for, on Facebook is groups and fan pages.

These notices pop up every time I log onto Facebook telling me the various things my friends have signed up for. And invariably I join one or two or swear my allegiance to someone or something - announcing myself to the world as a "fan".

I believe anything could get fans on Facebook - any actor, writer, singer, object or activity - The Toxic Avenger, Vampires, Backgammon, CDs, DVDs, BluRay, Lawnmowers, Baseball Caps or even Odd Socks...

We are sheep - baaa!!!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

America Watching - From Afar

The American election gets a lot of coverage on the media over here. A lot. Just as well I like politics and current affairs. I guess a lot of people don't. I've heard a number of people here complain about it's level of coverage. The old thing about why do we care about the US election over here in England...

I guess it's the fact that the US is the world's greatest power. Still is, although no idea for how long they will remain on top. So they are important - and this process will determine how the course of the US for the next four years (at least until the next round of elections come around. Nothing major seems to happen during the election rigmarole).

But it's also a great circus. Bright lights, bold colours, bouncy music - everything over the top. In comparison election campaigns over here in the UK are dull.

I enjoy the circus. Odd really. I never liked the real circus.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Bloody Packaging

I've been a bit of an eco-hippy in some ways for years. I've recycled glass and paper as long as I can remember. I drive a small engined car, and don't make too many unnecessary journeys. Etc etc etc.

I could go on - many would. I'm not trying to preach though. I'm just trying to set the scene (so to say). After all I like Italy and fly there every now and again to recharge my batteries.

But packaging irritates the hell out me. Okay I can recycle a good deal of it, but why is there so much of it. I try to avoid much of it - not buying items that are overly packaged, but it is annoying.

I prefer to buy fresh produce - ideally from a market stall. So one of my gripes is easily avoidable - that of individual shrink-wrapped vegetables and fruit. These really are baffling to me. Why plastic wrap fruit and veg? I can just about cope with supermarkets attaching little sticky labels to apples telling me they are apples - okay, I am being flippant, they do say which type of apples they are.

But one of the worst I have seen was a cooking sauce. I'm not saying which one, partly because I am a coward and don't want to risk any comeback, and also because for the life of me I cannot remember. I didn't buy any so I can't go check. But - here goes...

Talk one jar of sauce. Simple glass jar with a lid, sealed. Surely that's enough. However these jars were then partly enclosed in a cut-away cardboard box (one with a hole in the front to allow you to see the jar I guess. Little bit of overkill - well, yes. But that's not all. Two of these boxed-jars were sellophaned together with a buy-one-get-one-free message.

Now I like bargains. I especially like something that is free. But I can count, I possess good reasoning skills. Just putting a sign on the shelf would have let me know of the offer. Then I could rely on my inbuilt ability to count to TWO, or some multiple of two. It's not a difficult task.

These is not unusual though. I have seen so many bits of unnecessary bits of wrapping applied to items on supermarket shelves. Toothpaste and puree tubes (with seals) encased on cardboard boxes. Surely the tube is enough. DVDs and CDs shrink-wrapped in plastic (these things do come with cases and part of the bargain).

This list could be endless. I'm guessing just about everyone who's ever walked into a supermarket in England (or any other western country I'd guess) will have seen hundreds of these. We don't need this stuff.

We can brush our teeth even if we have to buy the toothpaste without a box. We can still make stir-fries and casseroles if the sauce doesn't have three layer wrapped round it. We can still cook peppers that have not had to be freed from a plastic outer skin (okay we might have to wash them a little, but ooh - that's tough).

Okay, rant over. You can come out of the shadows now. No need to hide behind the sofa as though Doctor Who was on and the monsters were scary. I'll let you get back to normality.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Addendum

I've skimmed back through the post I just completed. Made me sound like a right depressive. I'm not. I'm generally a happy person.

It also made me sound like a self-conscious person with little confidence. I'm not. See me at work, at the day job, and I'm anything but. I know what I'm doing there though. I'm in my comfort zone - even this early into my current position. I might not know the system, but I do know how to design software. I can program - and well.

Writing though, that's out there. I never took any subjects beyond sixteen that required essay answers. In Mathematics, Computing and Astrophysics things are right or wrong. No real middle ground...

Well, back to it.

Keeping your spirits up - it's hard

For years and years I skirted on the edge of writing. I read a lot - and I mean a LOT. I read about books, about authors and about writing. I wrote many, many reviews - for various fan sites all over. Then last year I took the plunge - gave it a go and started to submit.

But I still played it safe. The majority of what I wrote were still reviews - although with articles thrown in here and there. For the most part they sold. Not too bad.

However I started to get story ideas. I should have resisted. Since then I have written a dozen or so short stories - mostly horror-lite with comedy (or at least I think they are comedic, I might be biased). And of these I have sold none.

Well to be fair I did sell a 100 word drabble to Necrotic Tissue - so I have sold something and you should have seen the grin on my face for the few days after that.

But of my short stories - nothing. And I have had a number of rejections, none of them too bad in themselves, but they do tend to get to you. Especially when, like today, you receive a rejection for the third day in a row - and to cap it off, today delivered two of them...nice!

The problem with this is twofold. For one thing the confidence levels have decreased. I have confidence issues, always have had - not much I can do to change my basic personality. If I do something I have to be good at it or I tend to give it up. My wife if she ever reads this will agree with that statement. My life is littered with things I would like to have been good at but wasn't.

And they are diverse. Calligraphy - I was crap at that. Can't draw, don't try anymore - to be fair I have no artistic ability at all. I like art but I can't do it. Tried playing guitar, then bass, then drums - guess how well they went. Fortunately I never tried keyboards - mind you that would have just made this list one longer.

I played golf for about six months, then stopped. Mind you this could be partly due to something else. I have tendon troubles in my forearms - and don't think filthy thoughts from this. I am a software designer. I type for a living. I type quickly, but have never managed touch-typing. I make do. I am prone to working long, long hours. I am also over forty - so aging tendons plus overuse is a recipe for disaster.

When I saw the doctor and discussed this with him he suggested I give up anything that could make a bad situation worse, and improve anything that I simply had to continue doing. The mouse changed - to a thumb roller. The keyboard changed - to a split. The guitar went, the golf experiement was ended (I was getting an odd pulling feeling as I finished the swing - and the vibrations from hitting the turf were unpleasant to say the least).

But these are just examples. I've tried lots of things. I know the basics. I know a few words of Japanese, of Greek and German. I got further with French and Italian (posso parlare un po' Italiano), but that's largely because I like visiting the countries a great deal.

I play few games - when I do I tend to play puzzles and mental acuity games. Facebook has me locked in for hours. I play Word Twist - I've been beaten once ever. Pathwords likewise. Scramble I have a perfect record. I loaded up "Who Has The Biggest Brain?" That one is deadly. I wanted to get a higher and higher score - I'm verging on obsessed. I admit it. I like to start off any computing session (and I admit this is nearing "need") with a good score. A high score would be best but they are not common.

Anyway I digress. I often meander, go off on tangents - did I ever mention...no stop!!!

So back to the problem of writing, and receiving rejections for, fiction. The first problem is that writing fiction takes time. I have a day job so spending hours trying to write a short story, then more hours trying to find the market from which to receive the rejection. So that's less time to write the non-fiction, the articles and reviews I seem to be able to sell.

Then there is the fact that the rejections are demoralising. So much that I feel less like writing the other stuff and want to get a fiction sale. I want to be good at this. I've spent over thirty years as an avid reader.

I often quote my first read, the hook that secured me, as Isaac Asimov's Through a Glass Clearly. The story I tell is true. I did find the book when I was 9 years old. It was the cover that attracted my attention, and the contents that made me a science fiction fan. But the deeper truth is I have always been reading. I have always had books in my life. I can remember when I was a kid going to the local library (in Acocks Green in Birmingham should anyone really want to know) with my library cards and borrowing books. The first passion I remember, like many kids I'd guess, was Dr Seuss. I was hooked - the weirdness got me.

Roald Dahl and Asterix were there too - as were comics. Lots and lots of comics.

So my whole life I have read books. My heroes are authors and scientists, your basic intellectuals. My fantasy dinner party would involve no one who hadn't written a book (not a deliberate criterion, just that the choices all do).

I want to be one of them. I want to hold a book in my hand and see my name on the cover. Well rather, not MY name. almost everything I have written has appeared under this I.E. Lester pseudonym. But I would like to hold a book I was resposible for. It's a dream I guess - and a common one.

So I don't want this to go the way of calligraphy (which was a really poor choice as anyone who has seen my handwriting would agree) or guitar-playing or golf or, or, or....

I know writing means you need a thick skin. But it also needs to have a success once in a while. Let's hope my next one isn't too far away...

...wish me luck!

Monday, 25 August 2008

Trying to relax - not successfully though...

I started this day on this blog...

I decided to get back into the typing thing by blogging. I've not been all that much in the write frame of mind of late. Work pressures got to me. I admit it.

I left my old job a week ago. The last few week's were fraught - after nine years it really became a wrench to the system. That and the last week I have been concerned about making a good impression at my new employers - hopefully not too obviously whilst I am actually there though. The evenings and this long weekend being the fraught time.

So I have not been the most relaxed when trying to scrawl. I've been working on a short story - featuring demons and ghosts, zombies and werewolves. After a little over a week it is not half finished, and only about 800 words long. I've tried an article - got a great idea for a piece for Raving Dove, hoping lightning can strike twice - and I've tried reviews. Nothing doing.

So I've watched an episode or two (Torchwood and Pushing Daisies) and popped back and forward to the book I'm reading for a chapter here and there to get away from the screen.

I've listened to some music - Suzanne Vega and Nick Cave mainly although I have popped on some other tracks amongst them. Might try some Tom Waits in a little while - that usually relaxes me.

So I thought I'd type in some book thoughts - I've read a few over the last week or so - so here goes.

Current choice is Mike Resnick's Stalking the Vampire. Not Resnick best by any means - I am much more a fan of his straight sf over this comedic dark fantasy.

Before that I was reading Thomas M. Disch's The Word of God. Now if ever a book was written that is going to offend people then this is it. It's an odd book - bit of a mix of many things, memoirs, commentary, diatribe, retrospective, spiritual how-to guide and many other things. Mostly it's compelling, but I realise that not many people won't agree with me.

Another one read was Askin Ozcan's The Second Venice. Yes I know it's a book about Venice - big shock I bought it. But this is a weird one, bit of a satire, edging on sf although only edging. Basically to cope with the demands of tourism they build a second Venice, next to the real one - but a much more accessible one.

Have lots more on the plate. Need to get back to horror soon, have to get some reviews out there.

More music, more music, more music, Part 3

Okay, moving on.

Choice nine is an album that has been in the 6-CD rack in my car for the past four years - Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run. It's title track aside (stunning though it is) the album is just packed with wonderful, wonderful songs. The opening track Thunder Road is one of my favourite songs - although I do believe I never mentioned it when listing favourite songs - and includes one of the greatest lyrics I've ever heard in "You ain't a beauty, but hey you're alright" - Bruce certainly knows how to woo the women.

Each of the tracks on this album is a classic. They'd be stand out tracks on most other artists albums .Thunder Road, Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, Night, Backstreets, Born to Run, She's the One, Meeting across the River and Jungeland. They are all truly great.

I have to admit I love Springsteen's music (no sorry, most of Springsteen's music - The ghost of Tom Joad went a little too country for me, and the Seeger Sessions stuff I found difficult to connect to) so one of his albums had to be included. Born in the USA was a contender, as for me is his debut Greetings from Asbury Park but born to Run is head and shoulders above these for me. It's his best set - even if it doesn't include Candy's Room.

And onto the last choice - oh God what am I going to leave out. Could I have a top twelve, a top fifteen, twenty-three or maybe eighty-seven? No, I must keep this list down.

So that means no Pink (I simply couldn't find one album, even Dark side of the Moon didn't quite get there), no Genesis (although I love The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Selling England by the Pound), no Tom Waits (one of my favourite solo artists), no Suzanne Vega, no Rolling Stones, no Beatles (might shock a few people I know), no Led Zeppelin (sacrilege I know), no Iron Maiden, no Guns and Roses (Appetite for Destruction being the one album I REALLY, REALLY want to make this a top eleven for), no Van Morrison, no Black Sabbath or Ozzy, no Deep Purple, no ELP, no...I could go on.

The last choice is AC/DC with Back in Black. Until my wife bought me a copy of this album on CD I had worn my way through three or four vinyl copies of this album. From the opening bell chimes through to the last guitar chord I find this an absolute masterpiece. I love Back in Black (the title track), You Shook Me All Night Long, Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution, Shoot To Thrill - heck all of them.

There is such a power on this album, it is simply incredible. Now I think I must go off an listen to it.

More music, more music, more music Part 2

Okay two down (Metallica's Master of Puppets and U2's The Joshua Tree) down - guess that means I need to find another eight albums for my list.

I have to move onto one of my favourite bands - King Crimson. I pondered this one for a while. I like this band immensely but which album above all others. I know I never said I was only going to pick one album per band but somehow it seems right to. Listing ten albums by the same band (say Dream Theater, more on them later) wouldn't really say much about me - except look at the sad Dream Theater fan.

So I thought about their debut album - In the Court of the Crimson King. It's an absolute classic, but is it their best? To be honest it is a bit floaty at times. The opening track - 21st Century Schizoid Man is inspired. I have no idea what effect this would have had in 1969 when the album was originally released. It was good and fresh sounding when I first heard it more than a decade later, but in 1969 that track must have been truly scary.

So onto their other albums. The second and third albums (In the Wake of Poseidon and Lizard) sound very much like a band in transition, one trying to find out what it should be (which it was with it's ever changing line-up). So they're out. I'll come back to their other 1970s albums later.

Their 1980s reformation albums (Discipline, Beat and Three of a Perfect Pair) I found okay - but the production sounds odd to me so, even though Tony Levin was on them, I simply couldn't pick one of them.

The 1990s sextet incarnation produced their most extreme albums - most noticeably Thrakattak and the ProjecKt albums. But picking one of these, enjoyable though I found them (yes I am weird), might be considered a little pretentious. The ConstrucKtion of Light was pleasant enough listening but not exactly full of new ideas - something KC are renowned for.

So it has to be one of their best 1970s albums. And I've chosen the last of their 1970s studio albums - Red. Starless and Bible Black is wonderful but I find Red stunning so there - now we are three.

Well I've waited long enough - I must include a Rush album. Now I am not going to go off on one here. No way am I going to start debating the relative merits of each album, and how the band change over the thiry plus years since their first album. I'm able to, but who'd read it. No, let's get straight to the point - it's Moving Picture hands down. Permanent Waves came close but the decision was never in doubt.

Album 5, band 5. Band is easy. The first band I ever listened to was The Who so there MUST be a Who album on my list. Again like Rush there is no question, no debate. It's Who's Next. This album has the greatest ever rock song (in my opinion) in Won't Get Fooled Again. Add to that Baba O'Riley, My Wife and Behind Blue Eyes. So for those I can even forgive the line "I'm just a hippie gypsy" that Townshend came out with in Going Mobile.

My progressive rock instincts come to the fore for album 6. It's Yes's Fragile, released in 1971. Rick Wakeman joined to band for this album and it's where it all came together for me. Okay Close to the Edge is brilliant, and often considered their best, but an album that contains Roundabout, Long Distance Runaround and Heart of the Sunrise. Together with Starship Trooper and I've Seen All Good People on The Yes Album - incredibly also released in 1971, these songs are what Yes are in a nutshell. Absolutely brilliant.

Album 7 is Dream Theater's Metropolis Part II: Scenes from a Memory. I'd been vaguely aware of Dream Theater prior to this, but never a diehard fan. This album though I found to be the clincher. It's truly great. Metallica crossed with Pink Floyd - not a mix I would have thought could be successful but I was wrong. This is the business.

Away from progressive rock and heavy metal I have to include an album by a band of the generation that seemed intent on ridding the world of all the dinosaurs - the punk era. Not a punk band though, much as they may have been lumped together with them in their early days, The Jam certainly played a simpler version of music than the Pink Floyds, the Emerson, Lake and Palmers and long-caped excess-driven acts of the mid 1970s.

But strangely enough it is when they, themselves became more complex in their arrangements that they reached their best. Their final studio album The Gift is brilliant. It retained much of the aggression and energy of their earlier albums but took the 1960s influenced mod-revival to its greatest height. It comes complete with horn sections, funk rhythms and truly great songs. What more could you want?

Two to go...

More music, more music, more music

A little while ago I listened in to a conversation about the best albums ever made. Annoying thing is I cannot remember where it took place. It could have been on TV, on the radio (but I only listen to Radio 4 so that's not all that likely) , in the pub, on a train or pretty much anywhere. I blame an aging brain for not remembering the exact details of when and where...

However my half-formed memory did leave me pondering the idea. Not original I know. I guess just about eveyone has done this over the years but it has bugged me. I have listened and relistened to a number of albums trying to work out which I considered best. I've been trying to leave aside personal feelings towards certain albums for associative reasons. I like Rush's 2112 (the first of their albums I listened to) and Hold Your Fire (as it was the album that confirmed me in 1987 as a die-hard Rush fan - guess it came along at the right moment) but I wouldn't put either down as their best - even if 2112 is stunning, the power in the performance on the side-long title track is incredible. (Oh God, describing it as side-long dates me a little doesn't it.)

Likewise with Yes and 90125 - it came out when I knew a couple of Yes songs but hadn't bought much. In fact at that time the only Yes album I'd bought was Tormato - not exactly the best introduction to their 1970s output.

I also needed to remove all compilations from my thoughts. The first album I ever bought (with saved up pocket money) was a European compilation - The Best of the Last Ten Years '64 - '74 - The Who. That's the one that really hooked me onto rock music thirty years ago or so. So that had to be pushed . As did a wonderful Beach Boys compilation I bought not long after - and yes I did originally check out the Beach Boys because I'd read Keith Moon (Who drummer) was a big fan.

Next thought was Live Albums - should they count? Most live albums contain no new songs - okay there are some exceptions to this, but general it's just old material in a new form. Should they count? This one was simple - YES! I love live music. I don't get to see all that much of it these days as many of the bands I like simply don't play anymore, or it they do it's not regularly. So they only way to hear them "play" is via live albums or concert DVDs. So they're in.

Okay, rules set - then came the tricky moments. If I limit myself to 10 albums, what should I include? I want the list to sum up me - and I want it to be honest. I don't want to lie and try to make it seem as though I have great music taste. I have my music taste, pure and simple. good or not is merely a matter of personal opinion.

I will admit I do get a bit snobby when it comes to music. But this isn't in the form of my taste is better than yours - I just don't get when people don't have a defined music taste. When I talk to people who say they like music but just listen to what is on the radio at any given moment I cannot fathom it. Surely they MUST have a favourite? If not, it does not compute with me. But it's their lives...

Anyway back to mine and the matter of subjective taste. I'll give you one quick example which will become a little more in context the more I type. I like Billy Joel's Songs From the Attic live album. Don't ask why - I just do. I'm not overly a fan of Billy Joel. I've bought his early albums from where the tracks on this 1981 live album originate and they haven't quite clicked. But live is different. It's not good enough to make my list though.

So, enough preamble - time to make a choice. The first one is easy for me. One of the albums I've loved since I first heard it - Metallica's Master of Puppets. Now I was never an out and out thrash fan back in the 1980s. I'm still not. If we exclude the Metallica albums I own (all of them of course) you might find half a dozen Thrash albums in my entire collection - ten at the most. But this one album I find stunning. The Black Album, Load and Reload all come close, but none for me match this one superb set of songs.

The second choice was also easy. And unfortunately it's an album my wife does not like (not the only one to appear on this list I have to say). Unlike the ones we'll get to this has nothing to do with the music. U2 were one of the most popular bands to hear around University campuses when we were both students. And The Joshua Tree was played to death. I'll admit I may have been one of those who did play it - although not as regularly as some.

For the same reason my wife has a dislike of The Smiths, so if I ever want to listen to anything by them I have to wait until she is out of the house. The only track of theirs she can listen to - and likes a great deal in fact - is How Soon is Now, good news for me as it's one of my favourite tracks...

...Part Two to follow.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Je suis un philistin??? And an Olympic hope.

I admit it. It's true. I am. I must be.

I've just sat down to watch the closing ceremony of the Olympics. The fireworks were nice - pretty even. Then the dancers came in, the drummers and the men riding large wheels. I lost it when that happened.

The commentators started talking symbolism. That's the usual point when I leave the room - and I'm not talking metaphorically - I actually leave. I have to. If I stay beyond that moment my natural sarcastic self has nothing stopping it surfacing and my family would probably kill me (and yes I mean this is figuratively).

It's like ballet and interpretive dance. My brain simply isn't wired that way. Abstract art I can do - and like greatly. Whacked out weirdo music also good. But choreography? Not for me.

Thankfully my family called me down to see the London bit. For eight minutes there was a presentation of what London will be like. And it had Jimmy Page and Leona Lewis playing "Whole Lotta Love".

I am so hopefull this is a sign of what London will be like. The Olympics are going to be in Britain - let's have a party. Let's have fun.

We're not going to match the organisation and spectacle of the Chinese ceremonies (I admit they were good even if I am not a fan of the format) so let's not try.

Britain has such an enormous diversity of music and culture. So rock music can go up against Bollywood, Bangra, Calypso, Reggae, Gospel, Welsh Choirs, Scottish Pipe Bands and on and on...

It could be good....

...Let's hope

Saturday, 23 August 2008

What a week the world has had.

Well, whilst I've been through my own personal change - the world has also been having a weird old time.

Just when we have ten used to one pretty worrying thing, another comes along to rattle us a little further.

Musharraf has resigned in Pakistan. Okay he came to power in a coup and overthrew a democratic government but Pakistan has been pretty stable these last few . Given its location in the world - bordering Afghanistan one side and India on the other - this is one country we all want to remain stable. Two suicide bombings in Wah haven't helped the government's cause there.

The world economy is spiralling downwards, energy prices high, food prices high, credit crunches etc etc - scary times.

Russia and Georgia fighting over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. A plane crash in Madrid. Safari deaths in Africa, insurgents fighting in Somali, bombings in Algiers, etc

The world seems to be going to hell.

However I found some bits of news to make me smile (apart from GB/NI winning 19 Golds at the Beijing Olympics) and I thought I should share.

The Air Guitar World Championships took place in Oulu, Finland - go find a link to it on the web, it's hilarious.
A dog in Argentina saved an abandoned baby by putting him alongside her own puppies
A mayor in Australia, of mining town Mount Isa, called for "beauty-disadvantaged women" to move to his town as his town has a very high male population. Only in Australia...
Classic Children's TV show The Banana Splits is being remade - okay not so much a good news story as they usually make an absolute pig's ear of these things, but it made me smile to remember the inanity of the show
Claims or "proof" of the existance of bigfoot have proven to be a rubber gorilla suit encased in a block of ice...

Proves to me there is a funny side to this otherwise shitty world...

One week down

Sitting here typing late on a Saturday afternoon I have survived week one in my new job.

I have to admit to being very nervous on Monday morning as I drove in to the new office. After all it had been nine years three months and eight days since I last drove to a new job (and yes I realise knowing this kind of thing to the day is kind of sad - but I have always been able to remember this kind of rubbish).

New people to meet, to get to know, to work with. New systems to learn, understand and improve. New industry to get used to. It ain't advertising anymore.

So one week down I have to say it's been good. It's going to be hard work, it's going to be stressful at times I am sure. But I think I'm up to it.

Wish me luck...

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Writing Update

I have writing news. It's been a while - pressures of work have meant I've not been writing much these past few weeks.

But I have had some feedback/updates on earlier writings. A couple more rejections - one review, one drabble. You can't win them all.

On the good side though my copy of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #36 arrived today - containing my review of Paul Collins and Danny Willis's Allira's Gift - book on of a young adult fantasy series that is quite enchanting. And I received notice that a poem I write way, way, way back at the turn of the year has gone live at Fear and Trembling - the link in case you are interested is below

http://fearandtremblingmag.com/item.php?sub_id=3682

Monday, 18 August 2008

New Beginnings - Strangely the Same

Today I started my new day job. Everything is different except my drive to work.

The new company is directly over the road from the old one. At least for a week, next weekend my new company moves into its new offices - so just four more days before I move and things get a little better. I won't look out and see the old office.

It's going to be a hell of a learning curve. After nine years programming the same way, for the same company, the same industry and the same clients, I have a new system to learn - a new mindset to adopt.

Wish me luck - it's going to be fun.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Endings - New Starts - Odd Thoughts

Life is in transition...

I've been working for the same company for nine years. Until yesterday that is.

Nine years doing the same job, seeing the same people every day - and it's over.

I resigned a month ago, and yesterday was my final day. It's still sinking in.

In many ways I regret having left, but I had to. Things had changed.

The company had grown in the last year, new people had joined.

I had reached the point I did not see my future being there - but still I didn't want to leave.

I start afresh on Monday - new company, new job, new industry, new office, new set of people.

I'm apprehensive. I'm excited. I'm edgy. I'm optimistic. I'm determined to succeed.

I feel this will be good.

Stranger Than Fiction

I've never seen a film with Will Ferrell in a starring role before. In fact the only things I've ever seen him in have been two Austin Powers movies and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and trailers to numerous movies I have no interest in ever seeing - Anchorman, Blades of Glory and films like this hold no interest for me.

I don't tend to get along with many American comedy films. American Pie and all similar films usually leave me cold.

But Stranger Than Fiction had a few things that grabbed my attention. For one thing Emma Thompson - I've been a huge fan of hers for years. I consider her a great actress and, importantly for me, intelligent. And this isn't me attributing positive characteristics to someone I like - this woman has won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. That's not something you get unless you can string a few words together.

Secondly Dustin Hoffman - a great, great actor who has starred in some of my favourite movies - and I'm thinking Wag the Dog not Meet the Fockers here.

And finally the plot. I like plots in books and films that mess with the medium. Yeah - I know I'm a horror and science fiction fan but I can have levels can't I? I like postmodernism. Show me a novel when the author steps into the pages and interacts with the characters and you'll probably have a book I like. Add in wild disjunction and I'll go with it - basically break the norm and do it well and I'll be a fan.

This film does it. Having a truly boring lead character is a good start - a man who counts his brushstrokes when cleaning his teeth for heaven's sake, how much duller can you get?

But when he starts hearing a narration of his life told in the third person I was hooked. Then have this narration as an ongoing novel being written by Emma Thompson character - getting better. And to make it even better have them meet and see what happens. Brilliant. With films like this I might start watching more American mainstream fare - well more than just the horror and science fiction stuff.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Facebook - The Bane of Writing

I have to admit an addiction to Facebook. Not so much for the making of friends - although it's very nicely re-introduced me to a couple of old University friends I'd thought long in my past. No the thing I like (and dislike) about it is that it has puzzle games likes Scramble, Word Twist and Pathwords - all of which allow you to play against friends.

And there's nothing I like more than word games.

The result - I've spent another lunchtime playing games on Facebook when I really intended to do some research for a history article. Darn! Good fun though.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Old SF films

I've spent today working. I know a Sunday and I've been working - the day job really does get in the way. Well one more week and that will be a thing of the past (new job aug 18 - but that's another story).

I've been keeping going with cricket (which will surprise no one) and old science fiction movies - makes a change from old horror movies.

Just watching the end scences of Wedlock (with Rutger Hauer and Mimi Rogers) after having watched Trancers & Trancers 2 earlier. It's been a blast. The only problem is trying to find copies of Trancers 3 to 6. I can get the first five in a box set but it feels a little bit wrong to do so as I already have the first two.

Maybe I should just get it and list my copies on eBay - you never know they might sell.

Next time I have some work to do like this I might go for Terminator and Terminator 2. That or dig out my copy of Highlander and Salute of the Jugger.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Cricket and Francesco

Kevin Pietersen made his debut as England Cricket captain in a match which really doesn't matter.

Ah well, it was good to see England on top for once - and Steve Harmison back bowling well - even if the result doesn't really matter with south Africa 2-0 to the good with just this match left.

We've been enjoyed the latest Francesco da Mosto series - a voyage across the Mediterranean following the old Venetian trading routes. I've just watched last 's two episodes - a day late because I'd gone to a now-ex-colleague's leaving do. Wonderful show as always - Francesco is very charismatic and enthusiastic. He brings real feeling to his shows. I just wish he did one every year rather than one every other year.

Mind you perhaps the wait contributes to my enjoyment...

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Catching up with Films

Okay, now I know no one can ever accuse me of being up to date with movies, but I have to admit being particularly behind with regards Spiderman films. I watched the first in the series a while back but had never managed to find time for numbers two and three.

I figured as number four is going to be made I'd better catch up...

So this evening I made time and sat down, with the family, to watch Spiderman 2. My, that was a waste of time. Not exactly a brilliant film. Okay, there are some decent enough moments in the film, but generally it's not all that brilliant.

And yes, I will be watching the third soon.

English Cricket

England lost the third test against South Africa - and with it the series. Not exactly news I know. I spent yesterday watching England work pretty hard at rescuing the match, but in the end South Africa proved themselves the better team.

And today Michael Vaughan has resigned as England captain. Well, all I can say is well done. Well done Michael for all the service put in over the years, for all the good you have done for English cricket and for the dignified way in which you brought your time as captain to a close. Under your leadership England became a force in world cricket again - no longer a whipping boy.

I also have to say "Well done" to Paul Collingwood. Like many, many others I was moaning about his recall to the England team for the Third Test. He'd done nothing whatsoever in months and I thought Ravi Bopara should have been picked ahead of him. But he came to the wicket on Friday, still looking hopeless but battled - and battled harder than just about anyone I have ever seen battle on a cricket pitch. And the resulting 135 was superb. It didn't save the match but it made sure there was a match and not just a slaughter.

Well done both.

Friday, 1 August 2008

nossa morte

The latest issue of nossa morte - complete with three of my reviews went live last night.

Here's the link...

http://www.nossamorte.com/