Tuesday, May 28, 2013

John Carpenter's The Ward

I linked my TV to the Love Film service this afternoon and settled down to watch a horror film: it was raining outside and my wife was working in the office upstairs, my daughter was playing Minecraft on the Xbox and my son is over at his friend's house for a sleepover so I thought 'why not'?
The Ward is also the title of a book I'm reading at the moment, the author is S.L. Grey and it is very good, but the story is completely different to the film in case you made that connection.
Knowing that John Carpenter directed the Halloween films, amongst many others in the horror genre, it was probably what decided me to give it a go. The story focuses on a young woman called Kristen who inexplicably hides in the woods and makes her way to a farmhouse that she sets fire to. The police arrive and drag her away to a mental hospital. I should point out that the film is set in the 1960s and there are some scenes that involve ECT shock therapy but they are few and far between. The film is about this young woman and her relationship to the other members of the ward, who are all pretty young women also. They mysteriously start to disappear one by one and Kristen becomes more and more determined to escape. I won't spoil the film for you but the story does have a good twist. There is a malevolent entity in the ward that appears to be knocking off the other young women, someone called Alice who was once a patient herself. The hospital staff aren't pleasant but they are not the bad guys in this movie. If you find yourself wanting a gentler horror film, with some but not an overwhelming amount of violence and with a twist in the tale, then I'd say this would be a good comfort film. Does it seem weird that I describe a horror movie as a comforting? Maybe it does but if you like horror, I think you'll know what I mean.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

London Comic Con 2013

This Saturday was my first time attending this event. I'm quite taken with it. I was impressed by the scale and the range of the exhibitors, as well as the venue. There was food, merchandise of all types (related to film, TV, manga, super-heroes), there was manga (I got a compilation of volumes 1-3 of Bleach), there were comics (it was much more about independent comics and I was expecting it to be heavily swamped by the big boys Marvel, DC etc. but it wasn't), there were video games and last but not least there was the costumes. Oh boy! The effort that some people had put in on their costumes was brilliant. I spoke to a guy who had worked on his for 8 months. His was largely made out of the foam that camping roll mats are made from. Great idea but it must have been quite hot. We got there relatively early but had to stand around for a while until we were let inside, they had to let people in slowly. We had bought tickets in advance, so we didn't have to queue like the people buying tickets on the day. It quickly got to be very crowded and very hot with all those bodies. There was a lot of good spirit in the crowds though, even when they were standing waiting to go, giving strangers high fives as they passed. A lot of the youngsters (late teens and twenties I'd say) were wearing "free hugs" signs, which seemed very sweet and trusting in this community. Especially when you consider the brutality of what had happened a few days ago in Woolwich when a soldier had been attacked and cut like a piece of meat. Here are a few of the photos I took of the "cosplayers", who all happily consented to have their photographs taken.
Afterwards, I took my son (just the two of us went) into Piccadilly Square and we walked down Shaftesbury Avenue past Charing Cross to visit one of my favourite stores, Forbidden Planet. While we were there we bought a few items. Then it was back to the station and a Burger King for supper before we caught the train home. A grand day out. And even better, tomorrow I can do it all again at a show called Collectormania in Milton Keynes. And one more thing, I'm now off work for a week!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Eurovision 2013 Results

The United Kingdom entry in this year's contest faired somewhat better than last year's episode. However, we still only managed 19th place out of 26 entries. Not even in the top half but better than Ireland who came last (and sang last). Singing later can be an advantage, going first is just bad luck. The French entry was first and I felt a little sorry for her, she didn't do a bad job. Bonnie Tyler said she gave it her all and she did well to belt out the song as she did but it just wasn't what the Euro audience want. It's hard to write a song that just catches the mood right and because the reputation of Eurovision in the UK is almost as if it's a bit of a joke I don't think it attracts the best songwriters. One of the countries entries, I forget which, sang a song that was written by Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi! They wore jeans, which is apparently a Eurovision no no.
Denmark won the competition but my personal favourite was Ukraine, whose singer was carried on by a seven foot plus giant. Most odd! Norway also had a good song I thought and would have been my second choice.




North Yorkshire Moors

Reviewing my old photographs, I came across these from when I was on a camping holiday with my brother and his friends to North Yorkshire. I remember that we walked a lot during that holiday and my brother had our itinerary planned out. So I was just effectively tagging along for the ride. I did have a good time though and saw a lot of countryside that I haven't been back to. A lot of it was wild, open country like you see in these photographs. I can't quite remember which month we went but I think it wasn't in the high summer season, it could even have been later than August. The purple heather on the moors looks beautiful, I remember it feeling quite high up. The moors seemed vast and I don't know where exactly these photographs were taken but I guess there are places you can't get to by car. We must have walked a few miles to get to this point. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the photographs.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I Love Films

For the last x number of years I have been considering a subscription to a TV and film service. I have never actually done anything about it. I guess it's the fact that it always seems expensive to have to pay to watch stuff on my own TV at home. As a family we probably spend a fair amount of our disposable income (hate that phrase) on films. Only last week I rented a movie from the library. We buy box sets and individual films quite regularly.
Another part of me is just old fashioned. I grew up as a child with 3 TV channels and very little choice. You had to watch what was on either BBC1, BBC2 or ITV. The stations closed down at midnight and there was no breakfast TV either. It is hard for my kids to understand how little choice there was. But despite that, I enjoyed TV immensely and it didn't bother me not having a choice - I watched and enjoyed the films that were scheduled. True though, I did have to wait for the films to be televised and that could be a very long time. VHS changed all that. I remember video rentals shops booming and going along on a Saturday to rent a horror.
Well, I've decided to move into the new era and subscribe to an online downloadable film service. I've chosen to go with Love Film, due to the scale of their choice and the features they offer. It's finally the time...really, I don't know what took me so long!


I saw in the news this week that Angelina Jolie has been speaking about her experience of double mastectomy to protect herself against a very high probability of developing breast cancer. My respect for her has gone up another notch. Firstly for speaking out about it and leading the way for other women with the same gene. Secondly, for the fact that it shows how much she loves her family in wanting to be there for them for the rest of her good long life. I've always thought she has got to be one of the world's most beautiful women and I was vaguely aware that she also got involved in humanitarian causes. She would definitely be on my heroes wall.

Dambusters 70th

I have an interest in reading about defence history. It is probably as a result of reading Tom Clancy novels. There are quite a few stories from the Second World War that deserve a read. The story of the Dambusters is one of those that catches peoples imagination. Thursday evening I watched a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of that air raid on German dams. It is a remarkable story, from the design of the "bouncing bombs" to the courage and bravery of the aircrews who flew with no armour into great blasts of flak. As the heroes of the Second World War pass on, it makes me think what a devastating but interesting period of history it was. Truly, the world was turned upside down. It is hard to imagine a war like that happening again but I can imagine how quickly a series of significant events can lead to catastrophe. I hope the world doesn't go through a war like that again. We owe it to the sacrifice of the men like the Dambusters, may they rest in peace.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

House at the end of the street

I rented this movie last weekend and watched it on Saturday night. I couldn't tell what side of the horror/suspense side it was going to fall but judging just by the cover art alone it was probably going to err on suspense and it did indeed. The pacing was good and so the story unfolded with a good rhythym. Jennifer Lawrence is always very easy on the eye, infact the whole cast was. The story involved a mother and daughter making a fresh start and trying to connect with each other. They moved in to a large house that they could only afford because it was next to a neighbouring property where there had been a tragedy. The surviving member of the family lived there alone and seemed to be a nice, intelligent but shy young man. The other neighbours seem to care very little about this person and are instead pissed off that their property values have been reduced.
The daughter befriends the young man, which causes tension between her and her mother. The mother is trying to get closer to her daughter and be a good mother but it's not going very smoothly. There is a lot of built up frustration in the relationship and the mother seems to be a doctor in a hospital where she has to work late shifts a lot.
If you are looking for a little suspence without being terrified, it's an entertaining romp. But don't expect a water tight plot and credible story. It's not a film that will haunt you or stay in your memory long.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Eurovision: A Look Forward

On Saturday night it's the grand final of The Eurovision Song Contest. This year's British entry is being performed by Bonnie Tyler. I remember Bonnie from the 80s, the biggest hit I remember was called Total Eclipse of the Heart. The song she's signing is called Believe In Me. The chance of Bonnie getting anywhere is of course minimal. The voting has rarely anything to do with the songs and a lot to do with voting for your neighbouring countries. Still, I find it incredibly entertaining. I love the mix of euro-pop and regional variation in what's considered catchy. Over the years there have been strange entries.
I'm looking forward to seeing some Scandinavian rock but I don't know whether there will be any. It's being held in Sweden and one stand out act for me from the past was Lordi, who wore grotesque make up and silly costumes, they were also from one of the Scandinavian countries I can't remember which now (was it Norway?).

Friday, May 10, 2013

Standing Stones

Many years ago I visited the ancient stone-age sites in Wiltshire. It was amazing to see these still-standing relics of ancient human activity and feel the echoes of past religious significance. It is very hard to explain what you feel when you're there. A few years later I visited the sites again with my wife, we were recently married and my wife felt a strong relationship between our visit and her own fertility, again something that is hard to put into words without it sounding weird or just imagined. There was no inkling she was pregnant before our visit to Avebury but while we were there and she touched a few of the stones (you can touch them at Avebury but not Stonehenge) and leaned with her back to them she had such a strong feeling that she became convinced. Actually, she knew she was pregnant, when we got home a test confirmed it.
Stonehenge is a much more famous and recognisable monument. In order to respect and preserve it, due to the numbers of visitors every year there are some restrictions. You can't walk among the stones but you can get within 30 feet I'd say. There's only a small chain link fence so it's not like you can't feel their power or significance. The stones are so huge when you consider how deep they are too, that you wonder how on Earth they got there. The visitor centre nearby tries to explain all of that and it is fascinating when you think that it was done by early man. Although we can now only speculate why.
These photographs were taken by me with my manual SLR, it was a Praktica MTL5. A very trustworthy and reliable camera. I think I had a 35-70mm zoom lens and may have used that or it might have been a more powerful zoom, I was broke in those days so can't remember exactly what I did use.

West Kennett


Monday, May 06, 2013

Bank Holiday drawing

I mowed the lawn on Sunday morning, we had some friends coming over for lunch and supper and I wasn't sure whether we would spend some time outside. The weather forecast wasn't too bad for Sunday and Monday. So, I worked hard and unfortunately it didn't do my back much good. So Sunday evening and today I've been stiff and not especially up to my usual antics. It has however given me some time to just sit in the garden enjoying the fresh air, the temperature and the sun. While in the garden I took my black sketching book and a retractable pencil I bought a few months ago (it cost a lot more than I was expecting when I got to the till, I was too embarrassed to say I didn't want it if it cost that much). Wanting to make some use of the pencil, I decided to draw the house from the garden view. I've wanted to do this for a while, we moved to the house in July 2011, so we'll have been here for two years in July. Anyway, I hope you like this. There are two big rooms on the top floor but due to my seated position I could only see one of the skylights.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Expo Fever!!

Oh my golly gosh! I'm so excited I could wet myself - but I won't (it's okay...calm...breathe). Two very special events are coming up in May - and I'm not even talking about The Eurovision Song Contest, which I blog about every year. No, I'm talking about two fantastic shows that are happening that I want to go to.

The first is the London Comic Con and the second is Collectormania in Milton Keynes.

I haven't booked for the London show yet but I think it looks awesome. I've never been to it before but it looks huge! It's got comics, video games, cosplay, Japanese Asian fusion experience, Steampunk and fringe festival. Sounds amazing!

The other event is Collectormania and again it is always worth a visit. I've blogged about this event before but we missed it last year and I'm not even sure we went the year before, I'll have to look that up. I got some great shots of Dr Who and Blakes 7 props and I could even get Jenna-Louise Coleman's autograph - she's dreamy! Best of all, admission for this one is free.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013


This photograph is another I've scanned in from a set of photographs I took over 10 years ago. At first glance there is nothing unusual or strange about this. It was a very hot day, I remember that. The symmetry of the silage rolls appealed to me and stood out against the natural landscape. I thought they looked very alien in this habitat. When I first saw silage rolls I didn't know what they were and it was a couple of years before I understood them. I have since seen a machine rolling them on the TV but to a town dweller like me, the field and countryside management is something I seldom think about. The photo makes me hanker for those long hot summers I remember as a child. It's been so cold this year that any warm weather would be good, even if it was only two or three degrees warmer.