Friday 30 January 2009

Lost toys part one ( Space: 1999 )

( Pic courtesy of )
The Space:1999 ray gun ( obviously). I was never really into toy guns as a kid, and it was much easier to just stick a couple of fingers out and go "Peow!Peow!" anyway, but this plastic beauty was cool. I just liked the fact that it looked different to the standard raygun, and much better than a phaser. Heresy, I know. Long since gone to the Great Jumble Sale In The Sky. Sigh!

Monday 26 January 2009

Working On A Dream

Just had my first proper listen to Springsteen's new album, Working On A Dream, released today. On the whole a very optimistic and warm collection of songs, not the overtly political statement that some may have expected after Bruce's support of Obama. Mostly tales of the human heart and all its frailties, taking in supermarkets, fairgrounds and cowboys along the way. Musical nods to The Beatles, The Byrds, The Beach Boys and, er, Bruce himself. The weakest song - Surprise, Surprise ( not about Cilla Black we hope ) - is followed by the best - The Last Carnival - Bruce's tribute to his late friend and keyboard player, Danny Federici, featuring Phantom Dan's son on accordion. A lovely, low-key elegy to the first E-Streeter to be lost:
Sundown, sundown
The carnival train's leavin' town
Where are you now my darlin' Billy?
We won't be dancing together on the high wire
Facing the lions with you at my side any more
We won't be breathin' the smoke and the fire
On the midway.
( Soundtrack: What do you think? )

Sunday 25 January 2009

Being Human again

The first episode of the regular series of Being Human premiered tonight on BBC 3.
Here you can see the cast from last year's pilot ( above ) and the re-jigged lineup ( below ). Speaking as one of the sad gits who signed the infamous online petition to commission a full series, I must admit I was wary of the changes that were made. With two cast members being replaced  and the whole production reportedly chasing a younger demographic ( excuse me while I spit! ), alarm bells were ringing. I had the impression that the show was going to be made over in the image of most of the yoof-friendly crap on BBC3, a sort of Two Pints Of Blood And A Packet Of Crisps if you will. I'm glad to report that this isn't the case  -   phew!
The dynamic of the werewolf/vampire/ghost flat-share is unchanged, with plenty of humour sprinkled amongst the horror, and fine acting all round, especially from Russell Tovey as George. The special effects are excellent, coming as they do from nu-Who veterans Millennium FX, with the werewolf transformation setpiece reminiscent of An American Werewolf In London. My only real complaint is the mundane way the vampire antagonists are portrayed: in the pilot Adrian Lester played a silkily evil, Gothic vampire leader, Herrick, while the new version ( played by Jason Watkins ) has dialled back the Anne Rice qualities in favour of a more down-to-earth menace. But the show is still far from the blanded-out compromise it could have been and I'll definitely be tuning in next week.

Random irritation of the day: Why can nobody on TV pronounce the word "innovative"?

Like a Rolling Stone...

Bruce is on the cover of the latest Rolling Stone, his 14th appearance. Here he is today and also way back in 1978. It's a busy time for the man they call The Boss: his new album comes out this week, he's just performed at Obama's inauguration, the Superbowl gig with The E-Street Band is coming up, and new tour dates for the summer have been announced. No dates yet for the UK, but Ireland is confirmed, so fingers crossed Bruce will make good on his promise at Cardiff last year to play here again.

Soundtrack: Thunder Road by Brooooooce and The Street Band.

Friday 23 January 2009

Doctor Who Meets The Bionic Woman

After much speculation it's now been confirmed that Michelle Ryan ( in black leather! ) will co-star with David Tennant in Planet Of The Dead. Lee Evans has also been confirmed, but am I going to post a pic of him? Er, no.
Russell The T says: "Michelle is one of the most sought after young  actors in the country and we are delighted to announce that she will be joining the team."
She will apparently be playing a character called Lady Christina De Souza ( she's gone up in the world since Eastenders! ) with a "mysterious past" who's going to have "a huge impact on the Doctor."
Roll on Easter!

Soundtrack: rain beating down outside. Lovely.

Phillippe Druillet

A small example of Druillet's fantastic 1970's work, from the golden age of Metal Hurlant.

Click on the picture for a giant-size version.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Happy Birthday, Tom!

900 years old today and not looking a day over 75, Tom Baker IS The Doctor, and always will be.
( OK, it's technically now the morning of the 21st not the 20th, so Tom's big day was yesterday, but that's time-travel for you. )

He's ( finally ) here to save the world...

To do list: sort Iraq, ditto Afghanistan, fix the economy, win over the rednecks, redecorate the Oval Office. No pressure...

Sunday 18 January 2009

RIP Tony Hart

No, this isn't Tony Hart, it's his creation, the ubiquitous Morph.
Yet another sad passing, following Oliver Postgate, of a children's TV legend: Tony Hart died today, aged 83. A familiar face on telly throughout my childhood, Hart was a gifted artist and communicator who introduced a generation of kids to arts and crafts with his shows Vision On and Take Hart. He will be greatly missed by those he inspired to pick up a pencil or brush and say "I can do that..."

Soundtrack: Left Bank 2 by The Noveltones ( the Vision On Gallery theme ).

Nemo found and returned

After a door-to-door campaign we found the owner of Nemo aka Lucky, the almost-frozen fish ( see post "Finding Nemo" 8/1/09 ). We took him back to his owner and I released our finny friend back into his home pond. The old guy seemed pleased to have him back, and said he thinks the goldfish might have been nabbed by Charcoal aka Smokey, one of Hero's feline friends. It's amazing to think that Nemo survived being fishnapped and dragged across two or three fences before being dropped on our patio. Tough little bugger.

Soundtrack: Life Itself by Bruce Springsteen ( pre-release download from the next album ).

Saturday 17 January 2009

A Christmas Carol ( in January )

I picked this up today in a secondhand bookshop in Gloucester, for £1. That's just one of your English-type pounds for Dickens and Rackham. Bargain! I read A Christmas Carol at school when I was about 9 or 10, but I've never owned it before. We also got a couple of old Target Doctor Who paperbacks for James, The Diary Of Anne Frank for Sophie, and Adrian Mole for Sarah/Sophie, £5 for the lot. 
Reading update: I'm currently reading The Writer's Tale by Russell T. Davies & Benjamin Cook, Nova by Samuel R. Delaney, and today I've been dipping into GK Chesterton's The Glass Walking-Stick  -  sounds like a good name for a blog!

Thursday 15 January 2009

Life on Mars?

They don't make alien invasions like that any more do they? A classic Frank R. Paul cover for a reprint of Wells' War Of The Worlds: Martian tripods, heat rays, panicking crowds, all present and correct. 
The reality of life on Mars may be more prosaic: NASA have announced today the presence of methane gas on the red planet which could point to the existence of life. One theory is that organisms called methanogens living in underground water could be emitting this gas as a waste product. Here's a quote from today's Sun: "John Murray, a member of the Mars Express European space probe team, believes the mini-Martians may be in a state of suspended animation and could even be REVIVED." Is that such a good idea? Haven't these scientists ever seen Quatermass And The Pit? That's just asking for trouble.
Seriously, this is exciting news. Even if the only life on Mars turns out to be flatulent microbes it still means that life isn't exclusive to this planet, and somewhere in the universe there could be more advanced lifeforms. Hopefully without tripods and heat rays.

Soundtrack: Costello Music by The Fratellis.

Wednesday 14 January 2009

A boy and his tiger.

After a couple of sad posts in the last week ( Ron Asheton and Patrick McGoohan ) I thought it was time for something happier. So...
Calvin And Hobbes, one of the greatest comic strips of all time. What more can I say?

Soundtrack: ( White Man ) In Hammersmith Palais by The Clash.

I am not a number, I am a free man!

I've just heard the sad news that Patrick McGoohan has died at the age of 80. McGoohan was a veteran actor of stage and screen but was, of course, most well-known as the creator and star of The Prisoner. A unique and unusually intelligent spy-fi drama, The Prisoner tackled themes of identity, liberty and paranoia, all wrapped up in a very 1960's, surrealist package. McGoohan's ex-secret serviceman was gassed in his London flat and awoke to find himself in an unending, Kafka-esque daydream of incarceration, interrogation, false escapes and tea on the lawn. Given the name Number Six, he was forever trying to escape, to discover the unseen Number One and to outwit the different Number Twos and their attempts to find out the truth behind his resignation. This was the kind of show you could appreciate as a commentary on life and liberty or just enjoy as a weekly adventure, penny farthings and all. I watched The Prisoner when Channel 4 repeated it in the '80s and, apart from some obviously dated attitudes and dialogue, it stood up well in the decade of Reagan and The Thatch. There is apparently a remake in production, starring Jim Cavaziel and Ian McKellen, but I doubt if it could ever achieve the cultural significance of McGoohan's masterpiece.
Be seeing you...

RIP Patrick McGoohan 1928-2009.

Soundtrack: The Prisoner by The Clash.

Monday 12 January 2009

Conan Returns.

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, and in the interests of fairness, here is a suitably mean 'n' moody take on Robert E Howard's greatest creation by the late John Buscema. 

Sunday 11 January 2009

Frazetta who?

Barry Smith, Conan The Barbarian, Red Nails. What else can I say? Comic art perfection from ( for me ) the definitive Conan artist. ( I do love Big John B's work as well, but when I think of our favourite Cimmerian, it's Barry's version that springs to mind first.)

Soundtrack: Can't Get You Out Of My Head by Kylie. ( It doesn't really fit, does it? )

Thursday 8 January 2009

Finding Nemo?

This handsome specimen was found on our patio this morning. On our frozen, icy patio. Gasping for air. God only knows where it came from. Possibly dropped by a bird after being fishnapped from some frozen pond? It apparently had some kind of bite- or claw-mark on its back, but we don't think Hero was responsible. Sarah and the kids rescued it and it's now swimming in Ken and Wendy's pond, in Tuffley. We're hoping for a rain of frogs tonight...

Wednesday 7 January 2009

I am the world's forgotten boy...

I read today ( in The Sun of all places ) that Ron Asheton, legendary Stooges guitarist, died yesterday, aged 60. What a sad day for rock 'n' roll. Ron was a true innovator and champion of a brutal, primitive style of playing that says more to me than the virtuosity of yer Claptons and Becks ever could. With players like Ron it's all about the feel and self-expression, not fretboard masturbation and ego. And what a legacy he left. Think about it, no Stooges: no Sex Pistols, No Fun. He also cast his shadow over other dealers in distortion like The Ramones, The Jesus And Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream, the list goes on. When I was a young whipper-snapper and played rudimentary geetar in The Death Planet Commandos, we used to cover The Stooges' Search And Destroy and 1969. Two absolute classics which we probably ruined but had a great time in the process. Good Fun.
RIP Ron Asheton.

Soundtrack: The Stooges, of course.

Saturday 3 January 2009

The 11th Doctor, Matt Smith

And t'internet goes into meltdown!
Steven Moffat and co. have totally blindsided the British public by announcing "an unknown" as the 11th Doctor. After the seemingly endless speculation about "older" actors like James Nesbitt, Bill Nighy, Paterson Joseph, Uncle Tom Cobley and all, the next Tardis occupant turns out to be a 26-year old! And not a woman either. Certainly interesting casting. I must admit I'm not overly familiar with Smith's work, but I did see him in The Ruby In The Smoke. The Moff says Matt Smith can convincingly portray the 900-year old Time Lord looking out through 20-something eyes, and he certainly has an unusual, young-old face ( Smith, not The Moff). It remains to be seen how the legions of DT fangirls/boys will cope with this upstart but, judging by his interview on tonight's Confidential, I think he is really promising. Only a year to wait...

Friday 2 January 2009

Books 2008

Ok, it's time to look back at my Books of 2008. These are books I've read in 2008, not ones necessarily published last year. I thought I'd better get this down for posterity 'cos the BBC weatherman said tonight that there will be, and I quote, "holes in the sky" tomorrow. Sounds a bit apocalyptic really...

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
It's said that you will have read the majority of your all-time favourite books by the time you're in your twenties ( or something like that). Well, at the advanced age of 42, I've discovered a novel that has leapfrogged straight into my Top 20. This is a wise, funny, sad and very human story of an affair between a very normal woman and a man who is "unstuck" in time, like Vonnegut's Billy Pilgrim. This condition is given a pseudo-scientific name of Chrono-Displacement and is the catalyst for a moving love story. A great book: it made me laugh, cry and think, you can't ask for much more.

The Affirmation / The Glamour / The Extremes by Christopher Priest.
Finally got round to reading some Christopher Priest. And I'm glad I did. All three approach the same themes from different angles: identity, memory, reality vs fiction. Fascinating, thought-provoking stuff, but very cool and detached. The Affirmation is probably the hardest to get into, but the most rewarding, with some stunning narrative shifts. The Glamour has a brilliant central conceit ( invisibility as a social phenomenon ), but does the ending go too far? The Extremes starts off as the most mainstream of the three, but heads off into ( Virtual ) unreality, and can be seen as a strange sort of companion piece to Ballard's Super-Cannes. I need to get hold of The Prestige next.

3 collections of Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion tales :
The History Of The Runestaff: The Jewel In The Skull, The Mad God's Amulet, The Sword Of The Dawn. Corum: The Knight / Queen / King of Swords. Von Beck: The City In The Autumn Stars, The Warhound And The World's Pain, The Pleasure Gardens Of Phillippe Saggitarius.
Three of Moorcock's Eternal Champion avatars  -  Hawkmoon, Von Bek and Corum  -  all up to their necks in wars, quests, adventures, betrayals, alternate worlds etc. Plenty of exciting journeys, colourful characters and philosophical asides.

God Knows by Joseph Heller.
One of my absolute, all-time favourite novels is Heller's Catch-22, a 20th century classic. This is bound to pale in comparison, but is still a major work by a great author. The story of King David and his scandalous life: slaying Goliath, fighting Phillistines, chasing women, having arguments with God, taking on his own friends and family to create and lose a kingdom. All told in Heller's unique style. Hard work at times but worth it and often hilariously funny.

The rest:
Fantasy Of The 20th Century by Randy Broecker.
HMS "Surprise" by Patrick O'Brian.
Tithe by Holly Black.
Imperial Earth by Arthur C. Clarke.
Night Walk by Bob Shaw.
Super-Cannes by J.G. Ballard.
The Owl Service by Alan Garner.

I bought a few 2nd-hand books in Stroud yesterday, to start 2009's "to be read" list:
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.
Beyond The Golden Stair by Hannes Bok.
Nova by Samuel R. Delany.
I also received a Penguin books box-set for Christmas: Boy's Own Adventures, featuring authors such as John Buchan, RL Stevenson, Verne, Anthony Hope and good old GK Chesterton, without whom this blog wouldn't have a name. A lot of reading there, should keep me busy.

Soundtrack: Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts. ( Punk rock Heaven. )


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