Monday 31 May 2010

Destination Planet Cornwall

We're off to Cornwall tomorrow morning for a week of sun ( hopefully ), sea, sand and pasties. I might be able to do some blogging while we're there, but I can't promise anything. Er, so I won't.

We've been agonising for some time about going because my Mum is so ill and we feel guilty as hell for leaving her. However, everyone we've spoken to, including Mum and her carers, have urged us to go and have a break while we can. Hopefully we'll be able to relax as much as possible and recharge our batteries. I think we'll need to.

Sunday 30 May 2010

Doctor Who: Cold Blood ( review with spoilers )

Leapin' lizards - Just a mini-review this week, sorry. Reality intrudes yet again, leaving me with little time for blogging. And even less time to review a show about time-travellers. Excuse me, I think I just stepped in some irony, don't want to get it on the carpet.....

So, Cold Blood, part two of Chris Chibnall's Silurian morality tale. Metaphors abound as the lizard-men "illegal immigrants" mass at our world's ( underground ) border, demanding their share of the surface. While the good Doctor tries to broker a peace deal, angry and frightened mother Ambrose kills lizard-warrior-woman Alaya, pushing the Silurians towards total war.....

A fine ending to the story, again very trad Who, but very intelligent and moral, with all the characters acting for what they think are the best reasons, not just as "goodies" and "baddies": I think the Silurians' creator, Malcolm Hulke, would approve. I love the scenes in the Silurian city, but then I'm a sucker for secret underground bases and cities in fantastic fiction, and often in my dreams too. And just when we think the story is over, invasion averted, humans and Silurians at peace ( for the next 1000 years, at least ), there's a sting in the tail... sorry, "tale".....

Poor Rory. He didn't understand much of what was going on, but he was honest and decent; he wanted to help people and he wanted the love of a beautiful red-head. What he got was death at the hands of homo reptilia and the final indignity of being wiped from existence by that pesky Crack in time. Rory now never lived and even Amy has forgotten him. But the Doctor remembers. And, as he said, "Time can be re-written", so.....
who knows?
Maybe we'll see him again when the Pandorica opens.

Four Out Of Five Bow Ties.

Saturday 29 May 2010

GK Chesterton

A word from our founder:

Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget;
For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet.

( From "The Secret People" by GK Chesterton, 29th May 1874 - 14th June 1936 )

Are you listening David Cameron?

Monday 24 May 2010

Doctor Who: The Hungry Earth ( review with spoilers )

"Dear Doctor Who,

"When I grow up I want to write for your telly show. I've got a great idea for a story. It's set in a Welsh village ( like The One With The Maggots ) where people are drilling down into the earth ( like The One With The Drilling Project ). The village is suddenly surrounded by an invisible wall ( like The One With The Horned Demon ) and monsters come up out of caves ( like The One With The Cave Monsters ). Hope you like my idea! See you next Saturday,

Christopher Chibnall ( Age 8 and 1/2 ) "

The Hungry Earth does seem at times to be one big love-letter to early 1970s Doctor Who. And that's fine by me!

"We're trapped and something's burrowing towards the surface....."

The Doctor promises Amy and Rory a trip to sunny Rio ( probably feeling guilty that his evil alter-ego trapped them all in a frozen Tardis last week ) but, of course, it all goes pear-shaped and they end up in a Welsh village in 2020, where a "big mining thing" is drilling 21km into the Earth's crust. However, something is stirring far beneath the surface, and the Tardis Trio and the residents of Cwmtaff ( how Welsh is that name? ) find themselves under attack from the Silurians, led by tough lizard chick Alaya. She's come to kick ass and ( presumably ) eat flies.....

After last week's surreal shenanigans, this episode is the most traditional Who story we've seen in a long time: a small community is under siege by strange creatures, one companion is kidnapped, the other says "What's happening?" and "I don't understand!" ( a lot ), the Doctor sits down for a debate with his enemy, and the Tardis is out of control as and when the plot demands. But don't get me wrong - these are the kind of elements that make Doctor Who the show it is and always has been: a fun adventure series for kids and adults alike, often spooky, often thought-provoking, but never too serious for too long.

And there's a lot to love in this episode. The chemistry between Matt Smith and Meera Syal, as project boss Nasreen, is wonderful to behold - with Nasreen's pinging of the Doc's braces being a laugh-out-loud moment. The design work on the Silurian warrior and her briefly-glimpsed underground city is beautiful, promising so much more next week. The scenes in the darkened churchyard are atmospheric, recalling memories of The Daemons and The Curse Of Fenric for us old-timers. And I'll have to mention Matt Smith again: he really is fantastic in this episode, by turns boyish, steely, distracted and charming. And his scenes with young Samuel Davies ( as Elliot ) are filled with the childlike sense of wonder Steven Moffat has brought to this new Who era. Great stuff! I'm looking forward to next week's conclusion, which promises to be bigger and bolder in scale, with the Silurians ( or homo reptilia ) on the warpath. Hopefully Amy will have more to do than be a ( gorgeous ) damsel in distress, and hopefully the hot- weather-induced ratings dip will turn around :-(

Four Out Of Five Bow Ties. ( or Welsh Cakes. )

What's going on. ( An open letter to the Blogsphere. )

Blog posts have been few and far between here at The Glass Walking-Stick lately, as you may or may not have noticed. This is down to an intrusion by the ever-troublesome "real world" which is seemingly forever waiting to trip us up.

I mentioned a while back that my Mum was ill and I wondered whether to blog about that or not. I had plenty of much-appreciated support from you guys out in blog-land, but I decided not to hit you with my problems, and to just carry on with the usual inconsequential nonsense you've come to expect. But now my Mum's condition has worsened and her care is taking up a lot of our time, so my output here is necessarily less then before.

I'll still hopefully maintain some kind of presence here - particularly with the Doctor Who reviews which seem to get later each week - but things will probably stay fairly quiet around these 'ere parts for a while at least. Then again, I might find it therapeutic to churn out all sorts of rubbish; I'll play it by ear for now.

Thanks for your time,
cerebus660 ( Simon. )

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam

'Tis all a Chequer-Board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.

According to the oracle Wikipedia, today is the birthday of the great 11th century Persian poet, mathematician and astronomer, Omar Khayyam. Above is my extremely battered 1941 American edition of Fitzgerald's translation of Khayyam's famous Rubaiyat. The introduction by American poet Louis Untermeyer claims the poem's philosophy is "a vigorous, free-thinking hedonism, a casual but frank appeal to enjoy the pleasures of life without too much reflection."
Sounds good to me!

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread - and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness -
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

Sunday 16 May 2010

Doctor Who: Amy's Choice ( review with spoilers )

And when the Doctor wakes up, all his friends wake up too.....

This week the Tardis Trio find themselves in a world where they can't tell dreams from reality, where nothing is what it seems and menace lurks behind the most harmless of facades. Sort of how I feel every Monday morning.

The Doctor: "Listen to me. Trust nothing. From now on, trust nothing you see, hear or feel!"

The Doctor is visiting Amy and Rory, five years after they left the Tardis. The couple are living in a rural idyll, Amy is pregnant and baking cakes, Rory is now a doctor and has grown a rather disturbing ponytail. But then they wake up in the Tardis and it was all a dream. Or was it? They find themselves alternating behind the two realities, unsure which is real, all at the whim of this strange chap.....

The Dream Lord.

Described by Simon Nye ( this episode's writer ) as "a relentless piss-taker", the Dream Lord delights in confusing and upsetting our heroes, as well as putting their lives in danger: in one reality they face an army of aliens hiding inside the bodies of pensioners, in the other the Tardis is dead and drifting towards a sub-zero fate within minutes.

The Dream Lord: "If you had any more tawdry quirks you could open up a tawdry quirk shop. The madcap vehicle, the cockamamie hair, the clothes designed by a First Year fashion student."

I've always been a sucker for stories like this, from the fragile realities of Christopher Priest's novels to the Hollywood surrealism of Vanilla Sky ( hey, I liked it! ) to any number of cheapo horror films dabbling in paranoia and delusions. Amy's Choice isn't exactly a classic of this sub-genre but there are some lovely, surreal touches throughout: the sound of birdsong in the Tardis signifying another change in realities, Rory's "death", the army of pensioners assaulting the country cottage, "There is an eye in her mouth!", the Tardis turning distinctly frosty.

The three lead actors and Toby Jones as the Dream Lord all give great performances, ranging from subtle to broad as and when required. Simon Nye's script isn't the full-on comedy many expected from the creator of Men Behaving Badly, but it has its moments - "If we're going to die, let's die looking like a Peruvian folk band" being the killer line. So, a fine episode, obviously an effects-lite breather between bigger-budgeted stories, with plenty of twists and turns, and a revelation for Amy - her Choice is Rory.

Three And A Half Bow Ties out of Five.

The Doctor: "Something here doesn't make sense. Let's go and poke it with a stick....."

The Heroic Age?

Marvel's much-trumpeted "Heroic Age" , supposedly featuring a return to greatness for their classic Silver and Bronze Age heroes.

And Deadpool. ( Yeah, right. )

Hang on..... "Origins Of Marvel Comics"? Where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah.....

Phew! That's better. Excelsior!

Monday 10 May 2010

Doctor Who: The Vampires Of Venice ( review with spoilers )

"Blimey, fish from space have never been so..... buxom."

After the widescreen epic that was the last two-parter, this week's trip in the Tardis is a lighter story, almost a "romp" as nobody but journalists would say, which still finds room for bloodied fangs and human fish-bait.

"Any where you want, any time you want. One condition: it has to be amazing!"

The Doctor, concerned at Amy's recent "Do you fancy a shag?" moment, whisks her and dopey boyfriend Rory back to sixteenth-century Venice, in the hopes of rekindling their romance. Here, the new Tardis team discover the exclusive girls' school run by Signora Calvierri is a front for vampiric aliens who plan to sink Venice and populate the Med with their rejuvenated aquatic race. In an attempt to rescue a Venetian boat-builder's imprisoned daughter, Amy is fanged by vamps, Rory takes on a sword-wielding alien, armed only with a broom, and the Doctor probably wishes he'd taken them to Butlin's instead.....

As usual with single-episode Who, the story zips along without much regard for logic, taking many narrative short-cuts and dodging plot-holes as it goes. The boat-builder and his daughter are cyphers and the aliens' physiology is suspect. And, it has to be said, the climax involving the Doctor climbing a tower to dismantle some alien tech is far too familiar for anyone who's watched The Idiot's Lantern or Evolution Of The Daleks.

However, apart from a few dodgy CGI moments, the whole thing looks fantastic, with the Croatian city of Trogir standing in handsomely for Venice. The beautiful backdrop of alleyways, arches, palaces and courtyards provides a perfect setting for the Hammer-horror pastiche of torch-wielding heroes and "pale, creepy girls who don't like sunlight". And the star-turn this week comes from Helen McCrory, regal and commanding but ultimately tragic as the guardian of a dying race, who shares some wonderful scenes with Matt Smith.

"One city to save an entire species. Was that so much to ask?"

And the Crack In Time arc makes its obligatory appearance as Signora Calvierri talks of the last days of her planet, Saturnyne:
"There were cracks. Through some we saw silence and the end of all things."

So, all in all, a fun episode, rating a good Three-And-A-Half Bow Ties.

Sunday 9 May 2010

No vamps here, honest...

Just us girls. ( No Vampires Of Venice review yet: fangs have been too hectic this weekend )

Friday 7 May 2010

Hung Parliament?

It doesn't look good, does it? As it stands this morning the Conservatives have won the most seats, with Labour not far behind, meaning we might be heading for a government with no clear majority. The Lib Dems, who recently seemed to emerge as a credible third party, have lost out big-time. What happened there? Probably a case of the British public chickening-out and voting for the devil(s) they know. Obviously we'll find out more as the day progresses but the UK's future looks depressingly Blue at the moment.....

Thursday 6 May 2010

UK Election Day 2010

This is a public service announcement ( without guitars )

Please vote today. This could be one of the most important elections in many years so please don't waste your hard-won right to vote. Please vote with your conscience and don't be swayed by others, no matter how well-intentioned. And don't listen to biased, uninformed bloggers...

But for God's sake don't vote Tory :-)

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Happy Star Wars Day!

May the Fourth be with you etc. etc.

And Happy Birthday to my Mum! We love you!!

Put your back into it!

Listen to Uncle Cerebus, kiddies: look after your back! You only get one, and if you don't take care of it..... well, you might just end up sitting at home on a workday, dosed-up with painkillers and trawling the net for pictures of spines.

And you don't want to be doing that.

You really don't.....

Soundtrack: I Want You ( She's So Heavy ) by the Beatles.

Sunday 2 May 2010

Doctor Who: Flesh And Stone ( review with spoilers and controversy )

"A forest in a bottle on a spaceship in a maze. Have I impressed you yet, Amy Pond?"

Poor Amy. She might be impressed by that forest/spaceship/maze combo, but presumably not by having a Weeping Angel lodging in her mind and having to stumble through an army of said Angels with her eyes closed. All in a day's work for a Doctor Who companion.....

The Doctor and co. have escaped from last week's cliffhanger with the aid of the Byzantium's still-functioning artificial gravity ( love that old SF impossibility! ) and find themselves inside the crippled Starliner, with the Angels close behind. The first scenes of the episode bristle with tension as the desperate band of clerics and time-travellers try to penetrate the ship's security systems and escape the rapidly advancing and strengthening Angels.

Bishop: This whole place is a death-trap!
Doctor: No, it's a timebomb. Well, it's a death-trap and a timebomb..... and now it's a dead-end. Nobody panic.

Even when they find their way to the heart of the ship the crisis doesn't let up: the Angel in Amy's mind forces her to count down to her own imminent death..... for fun, that pesky Crack In Time makes an unwelcome reappearance, and the Doctor's crew have to navigate through the ship's Angel-haunted "oxygen factory" to safety.

This episode is a spell-binding exercise in tension and atmosphere, a worthy successor to Steven Moffatt's previous spine-chillers like The Empty Child and Blink. And there are so many great moments: the shoot-out in the corridor, the Angels laughing and ( gulp! ) moving, the Doctor's tender moment with Amy in the forest, "Something I've... missed", Father Octavian's moving and defiant final words, the Angels forgetting the gravity of the situation, the list just goes on.

For me the best scenes are the ones set in the forest. ( Filmed in Puzzle Wood, Coleford, in my home county of Gloucestershire, fact fans! ) Director Adam Smith brings us more of that fairytale quality with which he imbued The Eleventh Hour, and the performances of Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Iain Glenn are extraordinary. This two-parter has been one of the best Doctor Who stories since Rusty Davies brought the series back 5 years ago. And potentially one of the most controversial scenes in the show's history is saved until the last moments.....

Poor Amy wanted to see an alien planet, which she did, but the price was being terrified, mentally scarred and even bruised from climbing out of a dead starship. So she asks to be taken home where, five minutes after she originally left in the Tardis, on the eve of her wedding, Amy decides she wants something more than adventure and travel from the Doctor. She wants some Time Lord TLC. In a funny, but startlingly frank ( for Doctor Who ) scene, Amy tries to entice the Doctor into her bed. He, of course, is having none of this and decides she needs to get her priorities right. Cue the "Next Time" trailer, showing the Doc whisking Amy and almost-forgotten boyfriend Rory off to sixteenth-century Venice for a romantic date. With added vampires.

This scene has already caused a ( mild ) uproar amongst the Daily-Mail reading set who don't think such a thing as ( whisper it ) s...e...x should even be hinted at in a supposed "children's show". My 14-year old daughter Sophie came over all Mary Whitehouse-prudish and said this scene was WRONG and STUPID. She's not been impressed with this new series and the fact that Amy is now officially a "slut" ( her words ) is just the icing on the cake. To carry on the food-based metaphors I think it's just a storm in a teacup but we'll have to see what happens next.....

Saturday 1 May 2010

Free Comics! New Thunder God!

Free Comic Book Day: a great opportunity for comic shops to attract new customers or a chance for tight gits like me to pick up some super hero guff for nowt? Well, both actually. James and I had a nose around Proud Lion, Cheltenham's premier comic shop, today; I was really in there to look for Marvel's new SHIELD mag, which was sold out, but luckily it turned out to be FCBD so I came away with a couple of freebies.

Iron Man/Nova no.1 ( "Great for all ages!" ) features a slight but fun story of the Golden Avenger and the Human Rocket tangling with the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes. Of course old Shell-Head should be able to polish the floor with those Z-list villains in about half a page, but that wouldn't make for much of a story, so we get some light-hearted zoological fight scenes, absolutely no characterisation, and some fun-but-dumb lines like "Why did our baboon just transform into a tuning fork?" The adventure is reminiscent of some of the madder ( DC ) Silver Age stories, is drawn in a pleasingly cartoonish style by Craig Rousseau, and has the wonderful title "There's An Ape For That" - groan! Oh yeah, there's also a Marvel Super Hero Squad backup, featuring the Hulk, aimed squarely at even younger readers, which has some kinetic Bruce Timm-esque artwork by Leonel Castellini.
Strangely enough this comic is called "Iron Man/Nova" on the cover, but "Iron Man: Supernova" on the indicia. Ours not to reason why....

A slightly meatier meal is to be found in Iron Man/Thor no.1, an ecological disaster story by the team of Matt Fraction, the great John Romita Jr. and "Kinky" Klaus Janson. Ruthless property developers ( are there any other kind? ) are terraforming the moon, which has dire consequences for the Earth. Enter Iron Man and Thor. Exit property developers.
Marvel were always going to team up their latest movie properties for FCBD, so no real surprises here. Tony Stark is suitably charismatic and devious, Thor is suitably heroic and pompous, and Romita's artwork is suitably awesome, as seen below:

He really draws a mean Thunder God, doesn't he? Speaking of whom, I'm probably the last person on Midgard to post this new photo of Chris Hemsworth as the mighty Thor, from Marvel's forthcoming movie. I'm not familiar with the actor ( apart from his supporting role in Star Trek ) but he definitely looks the part here, and the costume is certainly faithful to the latest comic incarnation of Thor. I'd rather have seen a shot of the Son Of Odin striking a heroic pose with his hammer in his hand ( stop sniggering at the back! ) but this will have to do for now. Let's hope director Kenneth Branagh can deliver a convincing take on the Thor mythos, Asgard and all.

See more on this story over at Matthew K's wonderful Capes On Film. Tell him cerebus660 sent you!

Enter Sandman by Metallica
Paranoid by Black Sabbath

Steranko Saturdays: Recent Work

As we all know, James Steranko only produced a relatively small body of work in comic books before he went into the publishing game with his company Supergraphics. He has also worked in the film industry, creating promo artwork and storyboards. Only very rarely does the Jaunty One return to the comics industry, drawing the occasional cover. Here are a couple of examples, one recent ( Hercules from Radical Comics 2009 ) and one not so recent ( The Victorian from Penny Farthing Press 1999 )
But who knows? One day Steranko's artwork might again grace the interior of a comic book. As you can imagine, I'd certainly buy it.....


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