iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
Woo hoo! Have tickets to see the Mope King himself (sorry Dan) Tom McRae in the autumn, and it turns out that his support act will be the inestimable Brian Wright. Two great acts for the price of one.

I first saw Brian Wright doing a guest song at a Hotel Cafe tour, then later supporting Mr Mcrae, and then as a full member of the Hotel Cafe. I think he's a deceptively rich songwriter who often transcends the various country/honky tonk genres he writes in. There are some good examples of his range of stuff on his myspace page (with his band The Waco Tragedies), from the foot-stomping Glory Hallelujah to the freewheeling Morning Cigarette and the wistful Neighborhood. The only one I'm not keen on is the None More Country Bluebird.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
Had a gorgeously hot and sunny couple of days here, which in the last couple of hours has suddenly become that deep gloom that signals either a solar eclipse or a heavy rain shower. Unsurprisingly, it turned out to be the latter.

Presumably this is because our cats have begun sacrificing mice to appease the Great Sky God. For some weeks now Pixie has been intermittently trotting into the house just after dusk with a tiny grey mouse clamped proudly between her teeth. I, in turn, have been rescuing said mouse, checking that it appears uninjured, and releasing it back into the wild where it runs off to forage happily (until its next impromptu trip to our hall carpet).

Last night however I was summoned to the hall by Pixie's plaintive cries, and discovered her patting her pet mouse indignantly. It had rudely stopped moving, probably on account of the gaping hole in its side. Sad. Even later last night I went into the kitchen to find our other cat, Charcoal, excitedly patting yet another small rodent in the hopes that it would rise from the dead and do a bit more scampering. This one had no injuries, but was just as deceased. Clearly it's time to keep the cats in of an evening, in order to spare the local mouse community any further atrocities.

On a positive wildlife note our swifts are once again nesting in the eaves of our house. Every so often they launch from the rafters in a high-speed parabolic curve and whoosh past your ear.

We also went for a nice walk in the local park on Saturday, which has some really big old trees, and came across a nesting pair of woodpeckers (possibly the same ones that visit our garden, but just as possibly a different pair). They were scouring the bark of an Ash tree, which had three neat circular holes drilled into its trunk. I've never seen an actual hole made by a woodpecker, so that was quite cool. I'm still amazed that a bird can drill-out such a large space. We could hear the near-constant twittering of what we assume were woodpecker chicks coming from the general direction of the holes.

Which reminds me - Springwatch starts again tonight. Bill Oddie has been replaced by Chris Packham, in what is almost certainly an improvement. I remember Chris from kid's TV, when he had the same hairdo as Limahl from Kajagoogoo.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
Yay, bank holiday!

Apropos of nothing in particular, I indulged in a bit more nostalgic Doctor Who watching recently.

'Battlefield' starring Sylvester McCoy was the extended DVD version. While it's one of the Seventh Doctor's better outings (i.e. it's not utterly unwatchable), it's very stilted. In general it feels like it was shot on a shoestring budget in approximately two days with no time to rehearse. (Which knowing Who is probably exactly how it was shot.) McCoy does his best to appear, by turns, mysterious, impish and brooding, but I remain utterly unconvinced that he's any of those things. Worse, I can't help feeling that the Doctor is written significantly better than he's played, which is never a good feeling to have about the lead character. Likewise Sophie Aldred as Ace gets a lot of gushing teenage behaviour for which the actress seems too old. There are a few decent scenes and likeable supporting characters, and a welcome return for Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier. Oh and a cool blue demon. But overall: meh. Sorry, Tim!

'Image of the Fendahl' starring Tom Baker is better. Okay, it feels like it was shot on a shoestring budget in approximately two days with no time to rehearse, but at least Tom Baker is convincing. The story is an odd pastiche of 'Quatermass and the Pit', involving ancient aliens from Time Lord mythology who have somehow influenced human evolution. The plot is woefully illogical and under-explained, to the point where it feels like key scenes must be missing. On the plus side it has Chris Boucher's usual crackling dialogue and pin-sharp characterisation, and a very decent supporting cast. I have no recollection of watching it my youth so I can't lean on nostalgia with this one, but I do remember the novelisation which probably helps.

On a related-ish note, here are a couple of BBC News videos:

An interview with Russell T Davies about completing filming on his (and David Tennant's) era on Doctor Who. (It includes the trailer for 'The Waters of Mars' special that aired after the Easter special.)

A five minute interview with Richard Dawkins that barrels through all the questions you'd expect, against a ticking clock, and gets Dawkins's usual precise answers.1
--
1 Dawkins is of course best known for his cameo in last season's Doctor Who finale (not to mention being married to Romana mk II), but has probably done a few non Who-related things in his life.

Star Trek

May. 20th, 2009 08:33 am
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Serenity)
My review of the new Star Trek movie is at Strange Horizons today. I can't make up my mind whether I let it off the hook -- see what you think.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
A gracious open letter from creator Josh Friedman on the sad cancellation of Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles. When it was bad it was slightly meandering, but when it was good it was excellent. I'm pleased it got two series; I'd have been far more gutted had it died after its first year, whereas this way it had a chance to tell a more rounded story.

A trailer for Guy Ritchie's new Sherlock Holmes film featuring a Holmes who is much more like Robert Downey Jr. than we'd previously imagined. The movie looks like a lot of fun on its own terms, but it bears so little resemblance to Sherlock Holmes that I'll just have to pretend it's something else. (Downloadable trailers in better quality here.)

Two clips of the surely superfluous new 'V' miniseries starring Morena Baccarin. It's not like the original 'V' was any great shakes. The very first miniseries was a lot better than the second (The Final Battle), with its infamous rubber alien baby, and the second miniseries was itself like Shakespeare compared to the short-lived weekly series that ended up as Dynasty with Lizards. I'm willing to give the remake a shot since any remake brings with it the potential to improve on the source material, but how exactly will they make a wolf-in-sheep's-clothing alien invasion feel fresh and relevant these days? Oddly the clips remind me more of Earth: Final Conflict than 'V'.

And finally, rejoice world for the superlatively quirky The Middleman is arriving on (region 1) DVD. It's not the greatest thing ever, but it's possibly the funnest thing ever.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Serenity)
Dollhouse has been renewed for a second season. Warner Bros are making a big budget movie of Primeval. And Star Trek is a smash box office hit. It's like the world's been turned on its head.

Still, this plus Niall's admittedly lukewarm defence of the show may finally prompt me to give Dollhouse a try.

EDIT: And as if that isn't enough craziness, they've greenlit a remake of alien-lizard invasion series V which stars Alan Tudyk (Wash) as a human and Morena Baccarin (Inara) as an alien. There's a spoilery review of the pilot, which I haven't read, here.

EDIT to the EDIT: Comment from Joss Whedon confirming the Dollhouse renewal.

Springwatch

May. 1st, 2009 08:17 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
No inhabitants in our bird box yet. Tantalisingly we actually saw a blue tit leaving the box a couple of weeks ago, but we weren't recording from the camera at the time. (Naturally.) Since then a couple of suspicious-looking feathers have appeared, but no actual sign of nesting. They're probably having trouble getting a mortgage.

On the plus side, last month we were pleased to realise that we have not one but two Great Spotted Woodpeckers visiting our bird feeders on a daily basis (they particularly like a hanging length of birch log plugged with bits of fat feeder). We've only seen them both together once -- if it weren't for that we'd have no clue it wasn't the same bird. The only difference between males and females is that males have a red flash on the back of the head, but we've only seen clearly enough to know that one of the two is female. If it turns out we have a pair nesting nearby that would be fantastic. Very pretty birds.

We also have several Dunnocks (aka Hedge Sparrows) hopping around our garden for the first time this year. They look a bit like a cross between a sparrow and a wren. The bird book reckons these are wee timorous birdies who are supposed to dart nervously from the undergrowth, but ours are bold as brass - all over the bird table and the garden. They've been fluttering around recently doing what we think is either Mortal Kombat or courtship displays; either that or they enjoy driving cats to distraction.

My wife still goes out for her nightly Newt Census. We're regularly seeing seven palmate newts lurking in or around the pond just after dark which is more than we could ever have hoped when we built the pond. Very gratifying. They don't actually do much, but it's the next best thing to having lizards in the garden.

Or maybe this is the next best thing to having lizards in the garden...

Dreamwidth

Apr. 25th, 2009 11:22 am
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
Some while ago I prodded Dreamwidth to see what all the fuss was about1 and signed in using my lj details as an OpenID. Now they've noticed and invited me over to their Beta, so I've tentatively set up a journal over there: http://iainjclark.dreamwidth.org/

I don't intend using it very much for now, since I don't share the seemingly prevalent feeling that LJ is Evil, but I may crosspost. Anyway, it's there and if you want to friend me go ahead. If the whole of LJ migrates over there at least I have it staked out... :-)
--
1 It's basically LJ at the dawn of pre-history.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Serenity)
CBR has good interviews with creator Josh Friedman and Brian Austin Green (Derek Reese) about the very nifty Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. SPOILERS aaaalll the way to the second season finale. I hadn't realised that it was almost cancelled 13 episodes into Season 2.

Vague spoilers for the end of Season 2 )

Easter

Apr. 14th, 2009 08:34 am
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
Had a great Easter weekend involving no (count it) no work, and lots of relaxing. We had friends over for most of the weekend which was fun.

We did a pseudo-BBQ on Saturday (cooked indoors, eaten outdoors to ensure that Janet didn't get any undercooked meat) which was lovely. We did some potato and tomato 'curry' as a side dish which in no sense is a curry involving only some chopped potatoes, tomatoes and onions fried with mustard seeds, turmeric and coriander. Very nice, very mild.

Then on Sunday the sky was blue and the sun was hot so we pottered around the garden fixing and weeding things while Janet's brother carved a new paddle for his canoe. The cats helped, of course. Here's Charcoal helping:



More helping here. Pixie helped too, but in a more sedentary way.

On Saturday night we watched Doctor Who (what I thought), which included a nice shout out to Tom Baker's first story 'Robot', but was otherwise slightly dull.

On Sunday we also watched Skellig on Sky, in which John Simm continued to be as great as he is in everything not called Doctor Who. I was expecting something slightly twee and cosy, which it was in places, but mostly it was surprisingly honest, real and edgy for a kids drama. A bit low key and moody, but otherwise quite interesting. It's possible that the moral is to talk to scabby-looking strangers, but I'll let that pass...

It's a good job we had the nice weekend because the weather has been relentlessly foggy ever since. Yesterday with sea fret (but we had a nice pub lunch anyway). Today with full-on fog and low cloud extending well inland. Chilly, dank, and gloomy. But at least we had a lovely Easter.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Serenity)
I'm a contributer to the latest Mind Meld article over at SF Signal along with many others including [livejournal.com profile] wrong_questions and [livejournal.com profile] saxonb. My bit is allllll the way down at the bottom. Take that however you wish. ;-)

The rather leading question at hand is this: BSG has ended, and no one appears to be thrilled with the finale. What would you have done differently, if you could run the show?

It's a question I singularly fail to answer, on the grounds that it's much easier to complain and point fingers than to offer solutions *cough*. In fact I quite enjoyed the Battlestar Galactica finale, on just about every level except logic. I've been known to forgive a lack of logic when a) the writer is Joss Whedon, b) the characters and the emotion hit me the right way, or c) both of the above (e.g. Buffy's 'The Gift'). There are certainly some fine and poignant moments of character and emotion in the BSG finale, but somehow along the way I stopped caring, enough, about these particular characters.

I think BSG and I parted ways emotionally and intellectually at the end of Season 2, when I stopped my reviews, but the rot certainly set in before that.

Trailers

Mar. 8th, 2009 11:13 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Serenity)
Unexpectedly, the latest trailers (Trailer 3 in both cases) for Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation are not just good but *so* good they've more or less sold me on the films. I wasn't sure either of them would amount to more than superfluous cash-ins on their respective franchises, but the Star Trek one in particular reached me on a gut level in a way that previous promos for the film missed by a mile. Maybe it's just been so long since Trek had some genuine spectacle, drama and energy on its side.

If streaming video doesn't float your boat, both trailers can be downloaded directly here

Londinium

Mar. 8th, 2009 10:37 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
This weekend we went on a flying visit to London, mainly to see the Babylon exhibit at the British Museum before it closed, but also to cram in a few other things along the way.

We had a chilly but beautiful night time walk around the embankment via the London Eye and Big Ben, a pleasant meal and a glass of Hoegaarden in the White Hart, and Janet got to buy half the stock of Falkiners a lovely little shop selling hand-made paper and bookbinding supplies.

The Babylon exhibit itself was an unusual blend of fact and mythology, including the many artistic interpretations of the Tower of Babel and the Hanging Gardens, but despite a couple of beautiful items it didn't inspire me in the same way that last year's Terracotta Army exhibition did.

If anything we enjoyed the new Egyptian room at the Museum more. The room contains items from the Tomb of Nebamun, including some fantastic and lively wall paintings. This image of a cat is excellent and surprisingly naturalistic.

And of course Janet got to commune with the Rosetta Stone again.

We also booked to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum (the Darwin exhibition was sadly sold out) which showcased some stunning photography that was only enhanced by being displayed on vivid high definition screens rather than prints. Despite allowing people into the exhibition in booked slots it got rather crowded, particularly in the corners, but it was well worth it. Then I queued for 30 minutes to get a cup of coffee while my legs begged for mercy.

The Natural History Museum is one of those places that's always fantastic to visit. The building itelf is so lovely, like a secular cathedral, and is stuffed full of wondrous things. I'd have loved to have stayed longer but the urgent need to fall over won out.

I'm absolutely knackered, but it was a good trip. Photos can be found on my Facebook here.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
Space Age! Our old hot water tankI do love our old Space Age hot water tank shorn of its cladding. Very steampunk.

We're having our central heating system completely replaced with a new boiler and all new radiators, which involves three days of British Gas engineers under the floor and in and around the house. I've taken holiday and am house-sitting, but unfortunately I'm also having to work. I spent most of yesterday holed up in the bedroom shortlisting CVs for an upcoming vacancy. (I was even in work for ten minutes first thing this morning.) This is becoming increasingly impractical since the engineers are flitting from radiator to radiator and no room in the house is safe! I can't get moved.

They even needed the power off earlier. No computer! I know.

The cats don't know what to make of it. It turns out that once you pull up some floor boards there's a dusty crawl space at least a metre deep under our ground floor, and the idea of one of the cats slithering under there doesn't bear thinking about. They'd never be seen again. Or if they were, I can only imagine the cobweb-strewn Poe-like apparition that would claw its way back into the light.

Yesterday we locked them out of the house, which was fine until it started to drizzle. When the Ringtons tea salesman came to the door Pixie seized the opportunity to dash inside like an indignant bullet train. Naturally she made a bee line for the hole in the floor, and only the presence of a man working inside said hole prevented disaster. Many annoyed mrr-OWWg noises when I scooped her up.

Today we've got them both shut in the bedroom. Unlike Pixie, for whom all this is just a terrible affront to her sovereign feline rights, Charcoal is actively terrified of the engineers and either slinks into a corner with her head near the floor or panics and dashes frantically from room to room (often back and forth between the same two rooms repeatedly) seeking an escape. Poor thing.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)


You're looking at the inside of the bird box in our garden. The so far uninhabited bird box in our garden, but we're coming up on that time of year when a young bird's thoughts turn to twigs and trying to impress Bill Oddie, so fingers crossed.

Here's the outside:
We invested in a bird box with camera and attached it to the side of our garage, and then I painstakingly laid the cable (just visible on the photo). The set up was very easy - plug and play, essentially. There are audio, video and power leads coming off the camera unit (which can be disconnected at the box end mercifully), and thankfully all three cables (bound with a single coating) run the whole 30 metres so the power can be supplied from within the house. The cable snakes along the garage, around the kitchen, into the house next to our patio doors, and around the wall to our DVD recorder.

(Or nearly all the way to our DVD recorder. The 30m cable sounded like a lot, but when you're hugging the contours of a house it gets eaten up pretty rapidly. At present it has to take a slightly more direct route under our armchair rather than hugging the wall all the way, but I'm sure I can get a bit of extension cable. We thought about wireless ones but internet consensus seems to be that the wireless bird box cams can be a bit flaky, and despite a bit of faffing the only real difficulty I had with this one was getting the cable through the wall and into the house.)

We're really happy with it. We now have a bird box with a live feed that we can watch on the TV and record from. The camera seems to be in focus, shoots colour in the day and infrared when light levels are too low, and has a built-in microphone which has already picked up bird song and the sound of birds hopping around the exterior of the box looking for insects.

We've been meaning to do this for years. We get hordes of birds in our garden and we know they nest all around us in the trees, and even in our rafters. You already get a fantastic view of them feeding from our kitchen window, from where the outside of the new bird box is clearly visible. We just want to go that one step further1.

On the downside it cost us a fair chunk of money. It's this one as endorsed by Simon King. There are many cheaper ones on the market it has to be said! Ultimately we decided that we may as well buy a decent one rather than risk it being poor quality. It also comes with a bird feeder that the camera can slot into if the little buggers persistently refuse to nest...

*waits expectantly for birds to move in*

*drums fingers*

To be honest we've had three sparrow boxes up on the back of the house for over a year now without any sign of habitation, so I have no illusions about how quickly we might get a lodger. On the other hand the new box is well away from the house and several blue tits and coal tits have shown an interest already while foraging, so I'm quite hopeful. Possibly a "room to let" sign next to the bird table might help.

Progress reports will follow as and when we, y'know, have any progress.

--
1 Also it gives the cats something to watch on TV. You should have seen Pixie's ears perk up when the sound of twittering started coming from the speakers.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
We're having a bit of a minor flurry of DIY at the moment (for some unknown reason...), getting things done around the house we've been meaning to finish for ages. And by ages I mean years.

One is this little bit of wall tiling in the kitchen. Very modest by most standards, but I'm really pleased with the results. The tiles have a lovely rustic feel, complement the terracotta wall colours in the kitchen perfectly, and (crucially) make the area next to the bin and the cat litter tray a lot more resilient/waterproof. Also this is my first foray into tiling, and it's gone pretty well. They're Elios 'Cotto' tiles, for what it's worth.



Also in the above left pic you can see our swanky new spice rack. Made (you may gasp) by sticking three spice racks together and screwing them to the wall. This really is incredibly convenient. These days we use quite a few herbs and spices, and now they're readily to hand rather than stuffed into any and every bit of space on the window ledge.

Footprints

Feb. 28th, 2009 12:08 am
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
"Footprints uncovered in Kenya show that as early as 1.5 million years ago an ancestral species, almost certainly Homo erectus, had already evolved the feet and walking gait of modern humans."

This is truly fascinating, particularly with the accompanying photograph. I love little glimpses like this into the distant past, and a footprint is such a vivid and relatable image (and a ready-made metaphor of course.) 1.5 million years ago someone who was not yet fully human but with a foot essentially the same as ours walked upright, and we can see their footprint. For some reason this really touched me.

The only earlier prints are apparently more than twice as ancient, and much more apelike.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
Our newts are still here. Hurray! The pond froze over very convincingly several times over the last couple of months and I'd begun to fear the worst, but today Janet began cleaning out plants and gunge and general detritus and found both an adult newt and a baby newtlet1.



The little one still has gills but is much bigger than the last ones we saw back in September - at least an inch long now. The older one looks like a Palmate newt, which is the kind we thought we had last year. If it's been in the pond all winter it must be very good at holding its breath and own a thick woolen scarf. Maybe it hid in our woodpile and has just decided to pop into the pond for a quick bath. Who knows.

Janet is extremely pleased. Newts are one of the main reasons we built the pond.
--
1 Technical term.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (V for Vendetta)
More viral marketing for Watchmen. Following on from the 1970s news pastiche about the tenth anniversary of Dr Manhattan is this 1970s public service film pastiche about the dangers of vigilantism. Both have the sense of time and style down perfectly, which has to bode well for the film.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Pixie in the Snow)
Once again we curse the day we bought a house this close to the sea. Everyone else1 gets several feet2 of snow. We get blizzards that melt on impact leaving nothing but a slight scum of slush in their wake. Hmmph.

Also of course the entire country grinds to a halt, infrastructure collapses, and businesses close for the day because it's a bit cold and wet. But we expect that.

Still, there were a lot of extremely happy kids with snowmen and sledges on the news, so at least someone is having fun!

--
1 For values of 'everyone else' that includes enough other people to make me jealous.

2 For values of 'several feet' that includes any snow at all.

January

Feb. 1st, 2009 09:52 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
Films 1 to 5 of 2009 (Defiance, Persepolis, Frost/Nixon, Valkyrie, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) are reviewed here.

Bookwise I've completed His Dark Materials but that's it so far. Reviews to follow.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
Janet is now the proud owner of a black 16GB iPod nano 4G. It's shiny. It's curvy. It's tiny. It even has a motion sensor so you can play little marble-rolling games -- for some reason. Considering that this is an upgrade from an old mp3 player that only had space for three albums, she's very pleased.

We saw the Watchmen trailer at the cinema for the first time today, and it looks great. I also [via [livejournal.com profile] percyprune] really like this viral marketing for Watchmen in the form of a faux-historical news article on Dr Manhattan. Really nicely done.

And finally for [livejournal.com profile] snowking on the occasion of Hoggmas, hot on the heels of the Steampunk Cyberman comes a competition to design a Steampunk Cylon. STOMPY.

Round up

Jan. 25th, 2009 09:58 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
Not had time to post much recently what with working late, going to hospital appointments, shopping, attempting to decorate, going to leaving dos and trying to at least pretend to have a social life.

So far this week I've been impressed by President Obama, specifically his inauguration speech and immediate action to overturn any number of idiotic, bigoted or downright fascist Bush policies. Kudos to that man. I do remain suitably sceptical that this huge rush of political euphoria can last; no doubt there's a New Labour style post-election crash due soon (although I'm by no means as cynical as Tom McRae on the subject). There are a few nay-sayers in our office who think he's all cliches and speeches and, to quote Luke Skywalker, it's all such a long way from here. Nonetheless, I can't help but feel that this is an important moment in world politics. Obama is the right man at the right time telling the right story - and it is a story even if not in a pejorative sense - about regrouping, rebuilding and reaffirming fundamental values.

TV-wise, CSI: original flavour is back on C5 and as good as ever. I've been mildly spoiled for future cast changes, but otherwise it's nice to watch a consistently high quality series do its stuff and not have a clue what's coming next. We're still catching up on various US imports including House (still great), Sarah Connor (mostly great) and Galactica (I just need closure). We also have the Dexter S1 box set to watch, and we found the entire Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes going cheap in HMV so we've started that too. Incredibly I don't think I'd ever seen the first episode before (A Scandal in Bohemia).

We're also trying to get back in the swing of going to the cinema. Today we saw Frost/Nixon which is both a predictable underdog story and an extremely solid, occasionally outstanding character study of two men. Both lead performances are exemplary, and the film settles out as a surprisingly melancholy portrait of Nixon in a way that reminded me very much of George Reeves in Hollywoodland.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
Barack Obama will meet Spider-man in an issue of the regular comic. Spidey will apparently save Obama's inauguration from a supervillain. Apparently Obama admitted to having been a Spidey fan as a kid, Marvel got wind of this, and one thing lead to another, yadda yadda yadda. Look, I'm not making this up, okay? Although looking at some of the panels they're previewing, I kind of wish I were. Edit: also their Obama likeness is *terrible*.

These caricatured Doctor Who figures are *so* cute. Many more here. Not that I understand the point of collectibles. I still get occasional catalogues through the door from Forbidden Planet, and the entire catalogue from start to finish is pretty much composed of TV and movie characters done as figures, figurines, busts, miniatures, plates, T-shirts, scarves... Does anyone actually need 17 different figurines of Buffy in every outfit she ever wore? Or a tastefully sculpted tableau reproducing a scene from Ghostbusters? I mean, where do you put this stuff?

Meanwhile Outpost Gallifrey reports on the quite excessive lengths the BBC went to in order to prevent word of the new Doctor Who leaking out ahead of their announcement. (Can't seem to link to the article directly, but it's dated Jan 6th on that page).

And finally, it looks like Watchmen will get released as planned, probably after Warner Bros agrees to pay Fox huge sums of money. I would normally have no strong feelings about which company profits from a given franchise, but it's hard to read this open letter from the Watchmen Producers without concluding that Fox are a creatively bankrupt bunch of money-grubbers.

Film 2008

Jan. 5th, 2009 05:32 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
Yes I'm still doing reviews of 2008. I only managed 28 films last year, as recorded on 52 Film Challenge. Barely over halfway!

1. I Am Legend - Misjudged CGI but darker and less linear than expected.
2. Charlie Wilson's War - Political black comedy with Sorkin's trademark wit.
3. No Country for Old Men - Quiet, deliberate and gripping. Great dialogue.
4. Sweeney Todd - Every inch a traditional musical, just a really macabre one.
5. 3:10 To Yuma - Interesting characters but the ending feels unearned.
6. Flags Of Our Fathers - Thoughtful but meandering.
7. Letters From Iwo Jima - Beautiful and powerful though not quite a classic.
8. The Lives of Others - Bleak yet life affirming.
9. Iron Man - Effortlessly propped up by Robert Downey Jr.
10. Michael Clayton - Numb but quietly satisfying thriller.
11. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull - Nostalgic but misjudged.
12. Cloverfield - More like a First-Person Shooter than a film.
13. Jumper - Even more under-developed than you'd expect.
14. Enemy of the State - Flips from conspiracy thriller to actioner much too abruptly.
15. The Wind That Shakes The Barley - Strong IRA tale with an awkward second half.
16. Hollywoodland - Noirish and melancholy. In a good way.
17. The Bourne Ultimatum - Consistently entertaining but never raises your heart rate.
18. The Dark Knight - Hardboiled organised crime flick with supervillains.
19. The Searchers - Stunning cinematography but dated and uneven.
20. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army - Fantastic art design, cartoonish characterisation.
21. Transformers - Moronic.
22. Them! - Admirably naturalistic, but very slow.
23. Pi - a deeply weird, stylistically beautiful movie.
24. Futurama: The Beast With A Billion Backs - hilarious in places, but runs out of steam.
25. Wanted - so hugely over-impressed with itself you just want to slap it.
26. Seraphim Falls - a sparse Western about vengeance and forgiveness.
27. The Day The Earth Stood Still (the remake) - preachy but still interesting.
28. Quantum of Solace - Decent Bond flick, but always in the shadow of Casino Royale.

We also caught up with a fair few rewatches. Over the Christmas period I ended up watching A Muppet Christmas Carol, Patrick Stewart's A Christmas Carol, and Bill Murray's Scrooged. That's quite enough epiphanies for one year.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Angry Demon)
Watching ITV's Demons, starring Philip Glenister with a dodgy accent, it quickly becomes clear that it is the most original story ever told. No other story has ever had the vision to deal with a lone teenager who learns they are destined to fight the forces of darkness, no other story has ever had a mysterious mentor figure, a secret library, a vampire-killing gun, a blind woman who is a seer, a devoted best friend who is secretly in love with the main character, sinister villains in long coats and wide brimmed hats... So there's this teenager, he's the last heir of Van Helsing, who was real, and he's being assisted by a Mina Harker, who was real too, and an unconvincing American named Rupert who looks just like Gene Hunt. There are demons. There's destiny. There's teenage angst. There's wisecracking. It's not just a riff on Buffy, though Buffy is clearly its main TV inspiration, but a synthesis of every teen-with-secret-powers story ever told. It's also really, really dull.

Crooked House, filling the BBC's traditional 'M.R.James ghost story before Christmas' slot on three consecutive nights, is hardly any more original but still hugely superior. It consists of three new half hour ghost stories set in cursed Geap Manor in various time periods, with a framing sequence in which writer Mark Gatiss plays storyteller with exactly the right amount of morbid relish. The first is an 18th century morality tale about a guilty merchant that's just a little too clever in its parallels to modern banking. The second is a 1920s tale of high society and ghostly brides that's just a little too pastiched. They both evoke a very specific kind of mild nostalgic horror. The third story, however, is one of the creepiest things I've seen in years, finding a present day teacher stumbling into a very sinister past. Every Halloween I look for something that hits me just right to send a shiver of dread down my spine, but I rarely find it. This may have been at Christmas, but it did the trick.

The New Who

Jan. 3rd, 2009 06:15 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Dalek Fandom)
Well, I can say with absolute certainty that they've cast the right hair for the job. If I was going to cast any hair for the role, it would be his. That's Time Lord hair, right there.

Whether I'd have cast the rest of Matt Smith I'm less certain, but since Moffatt apparently shared my instinctive desire to cast someone older I'll have to assume his audition was Just That Good. It'll be a looong time before we find out for sure.

Yahtzee!

Dec. 30th, 2008 03:19 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Christmas)
Just under the wire for 2008, yesterday my wife located a shiny new one pound coin, and we have the complete set of new UK currency as polled obsessively back in August.

(Many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] veggiesu for donating a poncy southern 50p coin earlier this year.)



Now I can die happy. Well, not so much die as snack and booze. Now I can snack and booze happy.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Cat in a Hat)
More books, probably the last of the year.

19. The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell )

20. The Little Sister – Raymond Chandler )

21. Northern Lights – Philip Pullman )

My books of 2009 )

So that's 21 books this year vs. 9 last year. I set the bar low but I'm still pleased to have notched up more than twice as many as last year. I had a bit of a blip after The Little Sister in which I started two1 books2 which still languish unfinished on a shelf, which slowed my pace considerably.

My wife meanwhile notched up 38 books, vastly outstripping me as always and beating her tally of 35 last year.

My wife's books of 2009 )

--

1 Apocalypse How by Daily Show writer Rob Kutner, initially a very funny take on surviving the post-apocaypse, but one where the law of diminishing returns sets in very quickly.

2 Who Wrote the New Testament by Burton L Mack., a scholarly, secular attempt to reconstruct the actual beginnings of early Christian belief through literary and historical analysis, but one that for me feels nearly as much of a conjectural house of cards as the religion itself.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Christmas)
We're done, that's it, the fat lady has sung, the stapler has stapled its last. No more work in 2008.

We visited my family in Yorkshire at the weekend and spent a very good time surrounded by lots of people, many of whom are unlucky enough to be related to me. We had a nice meal in Beverley, the place of my birth (not that this was relevant to the meal) and came home laden down with presents.

All presents are now bought, the meal is planned, and the house is in a state vaguely resembling neatness. We did the big food run to the supermarket yesterday and survived unscathed1. Although my brother's poncy southern palate2 is now so refined he only has a chicken in case of "emergency" (i.e. failure to buy a goose) we've settled on a nice fresh free range chicken (or "happy chicken" as Janet calls chickens that have been allowed to gambol with the lambs and roam in vast herds across the serengeti.)

We're doing the quiet thing again this year, so just my brother-in-law over for the big day. With Janet's diabetes we have to be a bit careful about Christmas snacking, but the meal itself should be fine with judicious application of wholemeal bread and a bit of common sense3. I did sit and watch both Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver cooking Christmas things the other day, and aside from an overwhelming desire to slap both of them hard around the face I was amazed at how unhealthy their Christmas dishes were. Apparently Nigella believes that you have to coat all vegetables so liberally with maple syrup that they must emerge from the oven tasting like toffee apples4. I'm currently researching recipes for roast potatoes with rosemary and garlic as the amount of sugar in the supermarket toppings you can buy is ridiculous. Janet is currently making her surprisingly tasty sugar-free chocolate cake (using Splenda).

Then it's Chr2stmas on Boxing Day when my parents-in-law are doing us a meal.

To get you in the mood -- for what is unclear -- you can hear Tom McRae doing a version of White Christmas over at his myspace page. Nowhere near as depressing as the suicidal version of Wonderful Christmastime I posted last year, but acceptably mopey Christmas fare.

--
1 Barring a large hole where my wallet used to be.
2 :-P
3 Sadly our common sense is stored at the back of the cupboard and went out of date in 2006.
4 Also she was flirting with me quite embarrassingly. I think she has a crush on me, poor thing.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Christmas)
By popular request (okay, [livejournal.com profile] ajp): our Christmas tree, looking rather more magenta than usual due to a new set of fairy lights this year. As usual it's a smörgåsbord of elements randomly flung together in the hopes that it will all look beautiful in the end. It's nothing special, but I love having all the lights off and just a Christmas tree for illumination.



While I'm at it, here's a picture of our garden taken in the hard frost just before last week's snow. Everything was white, wintry and crisp with several days' worth of frost. This windfallen apple had been feeding the birds for weeks.



Bigger versions behind the click.

Engage

Dec. 7th, 2008 05:00 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Christmas)
Today we pressed the big red button marked Engage Christmas! Infernal Christmas Engines thrummed into life. Somewhere, deep within the bowels of the earth, Elves stirred from their slumbers.

Our Christmas Tree looks very pretty. We vary from year to year on whether to put the tree up this early, but we do enjoy the build-up to Christmas far more than the wind-down so we want our hit of Christmas reasonably early -- particularly since we don't have any time off work before the main event this year. An impromptu drive down our street showed that a reasonable proportion of houses already had a tree up in their front room or porch. The research is in: it's Christmas.

Most but not all of our pressies are bought and wrapped, and we're slowly accumulating festive foodstuffs to tide us over the long hard winter a day or two of intensive snacking. As always given my wife's diet-controlled diabetes this involves much research into low-sugar alternatives to things like mulled wine, Christmas pud and other desserts. We have a reasonable selection of these, including a spicy sugar-free cake made with Splenda that Janet really likes. She's researching custard tarts at the moment.

Mmm... Christmas...

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Serenity)
OMG Leonard Nimoy!

It's a new shot added to the recently released trailer for the new Trek movie. Seeing an actor in 2008 playing an elderly version of a character he first played in 1964 is fairly unique in itself. What strikes me first is how very old he looks, but then I look things up on the interwebs and realise he hasn't appeared on screen as the character since 1991. That's an amazing 17 years ago.

As for the trailer itself (HD versions here) it's a strange mixture of homage and newness pitched primarily at a mainstream movie audience. I expect they're hoping, as with the revamped Doctor Who, that any lingering lack of coolness surrounding Trek will have faded with time (notwithstanding the near saturation screening of modern Trek shows in the intervening years). Despite a few moments of more widespread appeal, like The Voyage Home, Trek has always been a fairly niche property so they're clearly pitching at a bigger audience of non-fans who have a nostalgic fondness for the '60s show but aren't that familiar with later incarnations.

What that means is a film that looks high budget, action oriented, with a youngish cast, plenty of humour and only a passing resemblance to the original show. Probably wisely they've opted to keep the general look of the costumes and the core characters but little else. The cast seem okay, aping the original actors to greater or lesser degrees: on the one had is Karl Urban practically impersonating DeForest Kelley as McCoy, and on the other Simon Pegg seems like Simon Pegg with a Scottish accent. But that's probably just because he's so familiar. Likewise Zachary Quinto looks like Sylar dressed for Halloween.

It's hard to deny that it looks interesting, but although I'm keen to see it I think my main reason is less excitement and more a burning curiosity to see what they've done with the concept. I really don't know whether it'll be any good, but I really do want to find out.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
There's a very thoughtful opinion piece on the BBC website entitled "Is Barack Obama black?". It's a response to comments about Obama that frankly I hadn't even been aware of. I think the article makes some very wise points about artificially absolute definitions of race, and also the societal nature of the labels we apply to people. And indeed even if Obama is regarded as mixed-race that makes his accomplishment no less great, albeit less symbolic.

Rumours continue to circle around Paterson Joseph as a contender for the next Doctor Who, and he certainly seems interested. I know I was cheerleading for him earlier on the basis of his role in Neverwhere, but I've been reminded that he can be a little broad in his performances so I'd be interested to see a recent performance to make up my mind. He's in the BBC's new remake of Survivors, along with the increasingly ubiquitous Freema Agyeman and Julie "Bonekickers" Graham. It looks potentially okay, potentially terrible. I may summon up the energy to find out. Or not.

On a related note I'd seen others refer to the recently released BBC Archive material relating to the genesis of Doctor Who. What I hadn't realised is that the first two documents released, and particularly the first, are essentially internal BBC briefing papers trying to work out 'what is this thing called Science Fiction?' with a view to determining whether it could be adapted for TV. They propose to use Arthur C Clarke and John Wyndham as consultants, and even met with Brian Aldiss. As such these documents represent brief but fascinating "as others see us" thoughts about written SF in the early 1960s; at once insightful, pragmatic and patronising.

The remaining documents are more about Doctor Who itself: 'concept notes for new SF drama' and 'background notes for Doctor Who' are fascinating glimpses into the origins of the TV show, with the latter representing a recognisable yet strangely different vision of the series. It goes some way to explaining just how unlikeable Hartnell's Doctor would occasionally be in the early episodes.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
Yesterday and today.



We went for another walk in our local park this morning, timed cunningly to fall between our early morning snow shower and the inevitable thaw. Although it's fair to say we wuz robbed in the snow department, it still felt marvellously wintery and that's good enough for me. The crows seemed to agree.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
We finally went to see Quantum of Solace at the weekend. Spoilers... )

By 'eck

Nov. 22nd, 2008 10:23 am
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
By 'eck, it's bloody freezing outside. We just went for a walk in our local park to kick through the Autumn leaves, and my ears are now cold enough to conduct high energy physics experiments. It was very pretty though. It would have been even prettier with a dusting of snow, but despite some nasty sleet yesterday the Met Office have otherwise failed to deliver on their promise of heavy snow this weekend. I try not to meddle in the affairs of the Met Office, for they are subtle and quick to anger.

Pixie was found at the bottom of the bed this morning in a bemused state with her cat collar hooked under one armpit. Quite how she got onto the bed while hobbled is anyone's guess. I dutifully rescued her, and she seems none the worse for wear. Our other cat Charcoal has one of those break-away collars, but Pixie still has the elasticated kind which was barely long enough at full stretch to cope with this latest escapade. We may have to remedy that. Also at some point I'd like to see documentary footage of a cat inserting its leg under its collar as it appears to both violate the known laws of physics and constitute an impressive stage act.

I haven't been posting or commenting much this week as lots of busy Things are going on, but I'm still here, honest. Now that we're back in the warm my main plan for the weekend is to do some Christmas shopping. I know it's a few weeks yet, but this time last year we'd nearly finished. This year we've barely begun. We've opted not to take the week before Christmas off as holiday this year, but take the week after New Year off instead. Working in HE we're fortunate to get the Christmas and New Year period off anyway, so with an extra week that'll add up to a good long break. Our first in quite a while.

Peril

Nov. 14th, 2008 05:58 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
I knew it...

Is your cat plotting to kill you?
[via [livejournal.com profile] ajp]

Mainly our two cats are plotting to kill me by stampeding across the bed in the wee small hours of the morning like cheetahs in pursuit of a gazelle, and also by patiently waking me up at about 6 a.m. every day in a manner almost exactly as depicted in this cartoon.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
The second trailer for Watchmen is out. (There are some new posters too.) I know that movie trailers are filled with Lies, but impossibly it looks like they may actually have succeeded in adapting the graphic novel for the big screen. That's a very nice trailer indeed. Director Zack Snyder's 300 was so slick and hollow that I do worry whether this will turn out to be an exercise in obsessive visual style over substance, but some of the dialogue scenes in the trailer hint otherwise. The source material is far richer and more thematically complex than 300 (which is, when all's said and done, a fairly trite, macho, sexist and homophobic work). What's clearly intact in the Watchmen trailer is the deconstruction of what it means to have superhuman beings or vigilantes in a more flawed, realistic and political world.

I notice that the film is R rated, which is a bold move since that'll severely restrict its potential audience. By comparison, The Dark Knight was a 12A (even though that nasty little pencil scene alone should have pushed it to a 15 for me). The fact that they've gone with such a box-office-denting rating shows at least some artistic integrity is involved. Also the official Watchmen site currently crashes my browser. Yes, that's how hardcore this film is.

Quantum of Solace director Marc Forster will direct the movie version of World War Z from a script by J Michael "Tin Ear" Straczynski. Not 100% sure what to make of this but my wife loved the book and the script has at least one glowing review. jms is also scripting a remake of Forbidden Planet, an idea so wrongheaded that even he thinks he's walking on hallowed ground.

Finally, an image has been released of the new Starship Enterprise from the semi-reboot Star Trek movie. Casual viewers would probably shrug and say this looks exactly like every other picture of the Enterprise they've seen. Devoted fans have unleashed the kind of lack-of-perspective hate-storm not seen since Daniel Craig's hair was deemed to be the wrong colour for Bond. (Although at least that fan implosion focused on the main role, not just a bit of hardware.) I kinda like the new design myself, but I don't love it. It's growing on me. There's also an image of an earlier generation of starship from the movie, as well as heaps of cast images. It'll either be awesome, or an utter disaster.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
I spent most of yesterday closely resembling a vegetable1. Much of the day was squandered resting my por ded back which inexplicably went twang on Saturday night, and has just as inexplicably healed itself today.

The rest of the day was more profitably squandered on some intensive lounging. I also listened to The Bugle, a comedy-news podcast thing which reminds me strongly of Radio 4's The Now Show but features John Oliver (the British guy from The Daily Show) and Andy Zaltzman. The lovely Dan and Aileen led me to listen to this, and it's amusing and rightheaded. But then, so are they.

This in turn led me to catch up on some of The Daily Show which is thankfully available to us denizens of the UK via the Channel 4's 4 on Demand.

And finally we indulged my wife's penchant for Sharpe by watching part 2 of Sharpe's Peril, a newly-minted drama featuring a less-than-newly-minted Sean Bean, and copious amounts of mild peril, mild heroism and mild villainy. I'm not exactly an expert on Sharpe, but I have to say this was much more successful than last year's lukewarm Sharpe's Challenge, if only because it engaged with the characters rather than just reiterating them. Not that Sharpe is ever much more than an enjoyable potboiler at the best of times: when your untrustworthy character is called Silas Wormwood you're not dwelling in the realms of subtlety.

--
1 No change there, you may say2

2 And not even an amusingly-shaped vegetable

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
Woo Hoo! They elected someone smarter than me.

That is all.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
What? Seriously, what?

A number of local councils in Britain have banned their staff from using Latin words, because they say they might confuse people. Several local authorities have ruled that phrases like "vice versa", "pro rata", and even "via" should not be used, in speech or in writing...Other local councils have banned "QED" and "ad hoc"...
Assuming this is real and not a Daily Mail scare story dressed up as journalism (which it manifestly sounds like, except that it's on the BBC website) this is crazy. Surely no-one seriously believes that "vice versa" is an obscure latin phrase. It's an English phrase; who cares about its etymology? Next someone will suggest banning "cul de sac" because it'll confuse non-French speakers. Or "margarine". Half our language is appropriated from elsewhere, and it seems meaningless to tag a few key phrases and mutter darkly "those are foreign".

Even leaving aside their derivation, are these phrases really obscure and elitist? I don't speak a word of latin, but I know perfectly well what all these examples mean, yet according to the Plain English Campaign "the ban might stop people confusing the Latin abbreviation e.g. with the word 'egg'." Because, you know, that one always confuses people. Why not just go the whole hog and ban words of more than two syllables?

I find this all very surreal because this kind of "PC gone mad" story is normally anathema to me. Usually the journalist has ridiculously mischaracterised a fairly sensible decision, and it's the press facing my ire not the bewildered subject of the story. In this case the councils are not imposing an outright ban, merely "discouragement", but on the face of it I still can't understand what they could be thinking.

Okay, I'm taking a few deep breaths and disengaging rant mode. On a tangentially related note, the godlike Stephen Fry talks lengthily, wisely and poetically about the beauty of language and the insanity of trying to freeze it in place on his new improved blog. An oasis of common sense.

Politicking

Nov. 2nd, 2008 12:11 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
Interesting juxtaposition in the US Presidential Election of Sarah Palin's derogatory statements about science vs. Obama getting the endorsement of high profile scientists.

Palin, in that 'loveable' folksy way of hers (see also: George W Bush), decided to ridicule 'wasteful' scientific research on things like fruit flies: "You've heard about some of these pet projects - they really don't make a whole lot of sense - and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit-fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not." Since my own wife's degree project focused on drosophila melanogaster, I'm well-versed in how incredibly useful these little insects are to science, but here's a fairly scathing rebuttal to Palin.

Meanwhile 76 Nobel prize winners have written a letter endorsing Obama as "a visionary leader" and condemning Bush's policies.

Also, as if Obama could become any more like Jed Bartlet, here's a really fascinating speech of his about the role of religion in modern America. I hadn't previously been aware of this speech but it looks like it was made back in 2006. I can't help but be reminded of President Bartlet's rant from The West Wing episode The Midterms (itself gacked from the interwebs) about selective adherence to the Bible to support bigotry. Obama's speech (in selectively edited form) been seized on to argue that Obama 'hates' God, but it's actually a very even-handed and astonishingly brave thing for a US politician to do. Brave even though he's not claiming to be an atheist, merely arguing very cogently for separation of Church and State; a fairy uncontroversial view, you'd think1.

Speaking of YouTube, this video of Palin set to piano improv is deeply unfair, but very funny.
--
1 Bartlet is of course portrayed as a devout Catholic and his rant is not seen as coming into conflict with his beliefs, and there's no reason Obama could not be a Christian and still make this speech.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Halloween)
It's that time of year again. Honestly, we have so much fun on Halloween we should be burned as witches1.

Janet's not feeling too grand today and can't leap up and down from the sofa very easily, so I'm taking the lion's share of the callers. The ratio of cute-kids-who-are-really-into-it to sullen-teenagers-in-scream-masks is so far not ideal, but we'll see how things go. The freezing drizzle we've had on and off all day has at least let up, which increases the chances of getting a good range of trick or treaters.

We've nothing to rival Janet's 133t carving skills on last year's pumpkin but the porch is still decked out in an array of pumpkins and scary Halloween tat. This year we've put one of our strange glowy rock things inside the pumpkin, giving it an exciting range of both red *and* green glows. For added scariness. And not having to replace the candle.



There's just about nothing on TV tonight that qualifies as Halloween fare until after midnight, at least not on any channel I could find without an understanding of astronomically large numbers, or a willingness to watch Most Haunted. The mainstream TV channels just don't seem to have caught on to the blatant commercialisation of this festival in recent years. Which is strangely unlike them. I've therefore downloaded obtained via ouija board from the spirit world Nigel Kneale's The Stone Tape, a TV play I've always had a hankering to see and which is out of print so costs slightly more to buy than a large high street bank.

--
1 Except, not really.2
2 I'd be a Warlock for a start.3
3 Yes, just like Julian Sands. Seriously, you remember that movie?4
4 Okay, I kinda liked it too but that's not the point. What was the point?5
5 Oh yes, in summary, not to burn us as witches and/or warlocks.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (TV)
We've been intermittently pummelled by hailstones this afternoon. What the weather forecasters euphemistically refer to as "wintry showers", but in practice are more like the immediate aftermath of making a prank phone call to Odin. I've been known to enjoy some proper snow and ice in my time, but driving sheets of hailstones that quickly melt into icy puddles can't be on anyone's list of favourite weather. I was thinking this even before our cat Charcoal entered through the cat flap at Mach 3, drenched from head to toe, freezing cold and squeaking indignantly. She's much happier (and warmer) now.

Meanwhile the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross1 story climbs to new depths with "emergency crisis talks" at the BBC, and journalists charging after BBC executives in the street shouting "Do we know who's to blame yet?" (Those were the exact words). News 24 have belatedly starting asking whether this mob-mentality is all a bit much, but as far as I can tell this has only recently occurred to them and they're mainly using it as a bonus talking point in interviews. In any case I'm going to have to join the mob now, because otherwise I'll find myself calling Noel Gallagher rightheaded, and then the world will end.

I also caught a bit of Obama speechifying on the campaign trail on News 24. That man may or may not be from Krypton, but he certainly knows how to make speeches. Sometimes I do wonder whether (assuming he wins the election) the weight of expectations on his shoulders is so impossibly huge that we're in for a New Labour-style backlash when he doesn't fix EVERYthing. I also hope there's some real substance behind the fervour. Mainly I hope we get to find out.

Lastly, and on behalf of my wife, I would just like to say ZOMGSharpe!!!111.

--
1 In the "you can't make it up" category, Jonathan Ross currently has a book out entitled Why Do I Say These Things?.

EDIT: Now the controller of Radio 2 has resigned.

Noooo!

Oct. 29th, 2008 09:28 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Dalek Fandom)
Say it ain't so: "David Tennant quits as Doctor Who". More comments from him here.

Maybe Paterson Joseph is a possibility after all... no I don't believe it either, but a guy can hope.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
I don't normally embed videos, but I was emailed this today by Avaaz.org, and I'm sure this will be doing the rounds.


It's a quite nice, positive video underlining America's place in the world (rather than apart from it). The email claims "The ad doesn't tell people who to vote for" (I assume they had difficulty saying this with a straight face since it's explicitly anti-Bush) "but its overriding message of tolerance, diplomacy, human rights and equality is unmistakable". And that part is tough to disagree with. It's pro- things that, to me at least, sound like common sense. So I guess that makes it a pro-Obama advert. :-)

Of course I don't live in the US and can't vote in the US election for quite sensible reasons relating to electoral fraud, but as the BBC like to remind us the election will affect the rest of the world. That's clearly the point of this campaign.

The official blurb:

In just over a week, America will head to the polls. So much depends on this election -- the fight against climate change, the war in Iraq, global efforts on human rights and many other issues.

But right now, US conservatives are employing the most divisive and deceptive tactics in the US election, portraying those who call for change as "anti-American" and even terrorist sympathizers. Check out this new response ad from the global online organisation Avaaz.org, calling for hope, unity, and change as Americans head to the polls.

If enough people watch the ad and sign its message to the American people and presidential candidates, it will be picked up by the US talk shows -- who are looking for what is hot online. You can watch the ad and sign on here.
Hey, you never know...

EDIT: While I'm at it, here's Joss Whedon praising a number of things including The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Hard Day's Night, but Obama makes it into the list.

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