Sunday, 23 February 2014

OK Computer?

Well... no, not really. There's likely to be a distinct lack of blogular activity around these parts in the near future ( "What's new?" I hear you ask ) as our PC has gone bang in the most literal sense of the word. To be fair, the thing is about nine years old and certainly gets a hammering, being the family computer, so it may have come to the end of its life. I'm typing this on Sophie's laptop but, as my access to this machine is limited and it may be some time until our main PC is fixed / replaced, please don't expect much in the way of blogging here for a while. I'll try and update you when I can but I'm sure t'internet will do just fine without me...

Sunday, 9 February 2014

A quarter of a million...?

Yes, it's true... this 'ere blog has recently hit 250,000 page views and I thought I'd just thank all you wonderful people out there in the Blogosphere for all your support. I know 250,000 page views over 5 years doesn't seem so much when compared with the output and following of more, er, prolific bloggers  -  but I'm pleased with it. And so is Hero who popped his head out of the basket above to add his thanks. Strange cat :-)
And, in the time-honoured tradition of TGWS,  here's some more random stuff...

( Above is the lovely Momo / "Jazz"  -  a very talented blogger who has sadly given up blogging for more important matters in the "real" world. If you're still reading this, Momo, I hope you and your family are well. Best wishes from the UK... )

And here are Sarah and I, raising a glass to all you Followers and bloggers out there.
( Well, yes, it's really a photo from last Christmas but we can pretend, can't we? )

Soundtrack: Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Lost in the Time Vortex: an impossibly late Doctor Who review

Time can only be experienced subjectively by any observer and, at a quantum level, time as a concept probably doesn't actually exist... which is why my Doctor Who reviews are always so late. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it...
Coming as it did only a month after the historic 50th anniversary celebration, 2013's Doctor Who Christmas special had a lot to live up to. The Time Of The Doctor was, of course, Matt Smith's final bow as the "hipster boffin" Eleventh Doctor.
The episode veered from the typical Moffatt silliness ( nudity! cooking turkey in the time vortex! ) to the equally typical Moffatt time-twisting plotlines. The Doctor finally found himself trapped on the fields of Trenzalore, facing Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels and a whole galaxy-full of evil aliens, all trying to reignite the Time War. In a breathless style that must have been baffling to the casual, mince pie-stuffed viewer, Moffatt managed to tie up dangling plotlines ( the Silence are confessional priests! ), introduce and then kill off new characters ( the flirty Mother Superious, Tasha Lem ) and address the fan-pleasing concept of the Time Lord regeneration limit. Phew! But was it any good...?
Even though this episode didn't have the scope and scale of The Day Of The Doctor
( which would have been a hard act for anyone to follow ) it seemed a fitting send-off for Chinny. In keeping with the original, twisted fairy tale vibe of Smith's first season, this episode was heavy on the myth-making, with a real sense of the weight of time as the Doctor spent decades defending the town called Christmas from seemingly overwhelming odds. ( This theme of waiting and enduring runs all through Eleven's era, from little Amelia waiting for the blue box to return, to the Last Centurion's vigil, to Amy growing old in an alternate time-stream. )
And Matt Smith pulled out all the stops for his final appearance. Even labouring under layers of latex as an aged version of the Doctor he was as subtle, playful and soulful as ever  -  flirting with Tasha Lem, dancing with the children of Christmas, castigating the Daleks and, finally, giving that wonderful speech: "I will always remember when the Doctor was me." So will we, Matt. Oh, and it was a lovely surprise to see The Girl Who Waited one last time...
 And just when it was all getting too soppy, up popped the brand new Doctor in the shape of the awesome Peter Capaldi  -  all mad, staring eyes and complaining about the colour of his kidneys. The old order changeth yet again. How long is it until Autumn? It's a good job time's only subjective...

Soundtrack: loads of old school Hip Hop from Public Enemy, De La Soul, Wu Tang Clan, Dr. Dre etc.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Suited and booted

OK, I'm probably the very last blogger this side of Raxacoricofallapatorious to comment on the 12th Doctor's new costume but I couldn't resist posting this picture of a very sharp-looking Peter Capaldi. I definitely approve of this new, stylish look for Capaldi's Doctor. It's pretty much exactly what I'd hoped for  -  a darker, more severe look for what is being heralded as a darker, more severe incarnation of the character. A few people here on t'internet have compared this image to a stage magician, and the hand gestures certainly back that up... and hasn't the Doctor always been a kind of magician? The coat's red lining also reminds me of John Simm's Master. As well as Dracula. And a crombie coat and DMs? Perhaps this Doctor's an ex-skinhead...

Soundtrack: Grace by Jeff Buckley

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Winter Walks

Even though the weather's been pretty dismal lately here in the Shire, whenever the sun's ( briefly ) come out Sarah and I have tried to get out in the countryside for some fresh air. Here are a few recent photos, firstly from a beautiful sunny day up at Cranham on the edge of the Cotswolds...

I really like this shot: the shapes of the trees and their undulating shadows on the hillside. We were walking along, kicking at the fallen leaves, and disturbed a deer who was grazing nearby. On hearing us blundering about he ( or she ) ran across the path and disappeared into the trees.
Are those my feet...?
These next few photos were taken at Saul where the River Frome runs into the Severn but had burst its banks in places and flooded the fields. So, I had to go wading, didn't I?

Here are Sarah and my Auntie Carol ( and her dogs, Max and Pippin ) on the banks of the Gloucester / Sharpness canal.
And this is the usually-placid Frome rushing down to the Severn...
...and flooding more fields on the way.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Songs Of 2013

As the year known as 2013 is already a distant memory ( hey, it's nearly Summer now, isn't it? ) I thought I'd do the usual ridiculously late look back at the songs that rocked my world over the last 12 months. Of course, the universe of popular music in 2013 was ( unbelievably, improbably ) owned by a man in his sixties. More of him later. First of all... here come the girls...

Maybe not such a great year for female singers in my opinion ( for what it's worth ) compared to previous years ( even the usually-reliant Rihanna didn't seem to put out much material worth listening to ) but 2013 did see some great pop singles from the following:
 Burn by Ellie Goulding
I Love It by Icona Pop
Roar by Katy Perry
Somewhere Only We Know by Lily Allen
Royals by Lorde
No Strings by Chloe Howl ( one of the best live artists of the year )
And as well as making fantastic, upbeat, sparky pop music Chloe knows a cool T-shirt when she sees one :-)
On a global scale one of the best things to happen to music last year was the meteoric rise of Haim, three sisters from LA channelling the ghosts of '70s / '80s FM rock... but in a good way. Their combination of Fleetwood Mac-style tuneage, Michael Jackson-style grooves and Haim-style attitude was a winning combo on songs like
The Wire / Don't Save Me / Forever
They even turned up at Glastonbury, performing their own material and also doing backing vocals with Primal Scream. I think they're going to be massive...
I didn't really listen to a huge amount of dance or Rap in 2013 ( no real reason ) but some of the good stuff did come my way:
Look Right Through by Storm Queen ( albino panther pic from cool video above )
Animals by Martin Garrix
Thrift Shop / Can't Hold Us by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Latch / White Noise by Disclosure
Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke ( feat. Pharrell ) ( controversy ahoy! )
After bemoaning the lack of good new indie / Rock / whatever bands for the last couple of years, 2013 seemed to be bursting with them. As well as the usual old fogeys, I managed to see a few great young bands live last year and, luckily, they lived up to their promise on record too. Some of the best songs were:
Follow Baby / Lovesick / Float Forever by Peace
Cough Cough / Duet / Don't Try by Everything Everything
Superfood by Superfood
Peace by Kids In Glass Houses
Not quite so young, but equally awesome were the following:
Reflektor / Joan Of Arc by Arcade Fire
2013 / It's Alright, It's OK by Primal Scream
Stoned & Starving / Master Of My Craft / Careers In Combat by Parquet Courts
Xanman / Giant Tortoise by Pond ( the Australian Psychedelia renaissance continues )
And then, of course, there was Mr. David Jones...
David Bowie somehow surprised this spoiler-ridden, internet-addicted world by appearing from nowhere after a ten-year absence and rumours of illness and retirement with a new single and, soon after, one of the best albums of his career. Only Bowie could have pulled off such a trick, like some Victorian magician wowing the crowds with his legerdemain. And on his 66th birthday, too.
The Next Day sees a return to a more traditional Rock sound for Bowie after his turn-of-the-century forays into Drum 'n' Bass. But that doesn't mean it's old-fashioned: ace producer Tony Visconti updates the sounds of "Heroes" and Scary Monsters for the modern age and Bowie is on top form, his voice betraying no signs of age and his song-writing skills as keen as ever on wonderful songs like
The Next Day / Where Are We Now / The Stars ( Are Out Tonight )
 But, after all that, my Song Of The Year doesn't come from the Thin White Duke but from a couple of French robots. Yep, the ubiquitous Get Lucky by Daft Punk ( with the help of Pharrell Williams and Chic legend Nile Rodgers ) was the earworm of 2013 and, even now, after listening to it approximately 10,000 times ( probably ), its all-conquering robo-funk groove still sounds as cool as on first hearing.

And this brave new world of 2014 is looking pretty good, too. Brand new music is expected this year from The Horrors, The Maccabees, Everything Everything, Peace, Kasabian and more. Onwards and upwards!

Oh, yeah... that was post number 750. Phew!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Mammoth Movie Meme Part Four

It's finally here: the epic, awe-inspiring conclusion to the world's greatest, most exciting meme EVER. Or something like that. Anyway, here are the final 15 questions and some typically evasive, waffling answers:
46. A film that always makes you laugh.
Just one? That's tricky. I've already mentioned Withnail And I, one of the ultimate British comedies, so for this question I'll go for one of my all-time fave American comedies  -  Ghostbusters. I'm sure I don't need to tell you how wonderful that Saturday Night Live -meets- Lovecraft movie is. So, instead I'll just post a totally gratuitous pic of the lovely Sigourney Weaver...
( You're welcome... )

47. Movies that you think everyone should watch (not necessarily your favourites).
Um... anything by Spielberg, Coppolla, David Lean, Powell & Pressburger, Nic Roeg, Scorsese, Hitchcock, Woody Allen, Ang Lee  -  that's a good start, anyway...
Oh, and Dougal And The Blue Cat...
48. A movie that took you a couple of viewings to appreciate.
 Donnie Darko. Not because I didn't like it on first viewing, but because it was such a dazzlingly bewildering, but rewarding experience. The kind of film you watch then want to immediately see again to try and grasp all the twists and nuances. James has recently watched this for the first time and also had his mind blown by it. ( He's getting into some surreal stuff lately  -  he's just watched my Twin Peaks box-set too. ) Hmmm... I'll have to dig the DVD out...
49. A book you want to see adapted to the big screen.
There have been a few tentative movie adaptations which I would have loved to see but that never got made  -  David Fincher's Rendezvous With Rama, Spielberg's The Talisman  -  but one novel which is really crying out for the mega-bucks blockbuster treatment is Dan Simmons' epic Space Opera Hyperion / The Fall Of Hyperion.
 A huge, sprawling tale of Artificial Intelligences, galactic war, poetry, religion, buildings that travel backwards in time, and the awesome, godlike Shrike, the Hyperion Cantos would really work best as a series of films, preferably with a suitably gifted film-maker at the helm, someone capable of telling a human story on an epic canvas. Anyone got Peter Jackson's number?

50. A book you really, really, really don’t want to see made into a film.
Mein Kampf...
51. Favourite child performance.
David Bradley in Ken Loach's Kes  -  a raw, painfully realistic, heart-breaking performance, once seen never forgotten...

52. Favourite pre-code.
I imagine this refers to the censorious Hays Production Code which emasculated Hollywood movies for decades. I really haven't got an answer for this one.
53. Favourite silent film.
Uncultured slob that I am, I've never watched many silent films. I'll cheat here and say my favourite is a compilation of all the best, most iconic images from three classic silent genre films: The Phantom Of The Opera, Nosferatu and Metropolis. You know which scenes I mean  -  underground unmasking, staircase shadows and new electric life...
54. Favourite coming of age film.
Stand By Me, without a doubt. It's a beautifully observed look at teenage boys on the verge of adulthood, with all their concerns and adventures, and is probably the closest any movie has come to capturing Stephen King's unique voice.
55. Favourite superhero film.
Recently I've loved many of the Marvel movies ( Thor and Thor: The Dark World, Avengers Assemble, Captain America: The First Avenger  ) and James has just mentioned the fantastic Scott Pilgrim vs The World which is a kind of superhero film, I guess... but... for nostalgia's sake and for pure comic book  fun my ultimate favourite superhero films are Superman: The Movie and Superman II. ( Just like the first two Godfather movies, I can't separate them. ) Even though they have their faults ( especially in California ha ha ), these two films still work for me as iconic evocations of the superhero ethos.
And, yes, I still believe a ( Super)man can fly. RIP Christopher Reeve.

56. Best cinematography.
So many films to choose from, but I'll go with the amazing work of Gordon Willis from The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, truly painting with light and shadow.

57. Movies you know you should watch but you can’t bring yourself to do it?
A strange question. There are many, many movies I know I should watch but haven't got round to or haven't had the opportunity to see. But "can't bring yourself to do it..."? The only example I can think of is The Sound Of Music. It's a film that is easy to make fun of ( Julie Andrews, nuns, whiskers on kittens etc. ) but I've never seen it properly so shouldn't really comment. We recently bought the DVD for Sophie so I could watch it... I suppose... hmmm...
58. Favourite genres.
Well, Mexican wrestling movies, obviously. No? OK, I'm lying  -  I haven't seen a luchador movie in my life... but that's a cool poster. Anyone who reads this blog and / or has trawled through this Mammoth Movie Meme series must have a fairly good idea of the kind of stuff I like by now...

59. Least favourite genres.
What I refer to as "Cowboy" Musicals  -  Oklahoma, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Showboat etc.  -  and Torture Porn -  such as the Saw and Hostel franchises. And who ever thought those two genres would ever be mentioned in the same sentence?
60. Biggest movie pet peeve
Sorry, but I'm not going to end this Meme with something negative. I love movies
( well, good ones anyway... and a few crappy ones ) and love the experience of going to the cinema to be transported to another world, to share the visions and ideas of film-makers... and to possibly buy some ridiculously over-priced hot-dogs :-)
So I'll just leave you with this...
That moment when you've just seen something you've never seen before, up there on the silver screen...


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