Sunday, June 30, 2013

Glastonbury 2013

I have not been to Glastonbury Festival, which is a shame since I like the festival scene and the music. I've not been to a music festival since 1994 or '95. That's an astonishing 18 years ago! Yikes! Anyway, I have been watching Glastonbury on TV and usually manage to get my fix of the festival from the comfort of my sofa. I've enjoyed performances by teenage rock band The Strypes and I also enjoyed what I've seen of Haim's set. The Foals set also seemed good but I missed Nile Rogers and Chic, which I hope to catch up on and The Rolling Stones likewise. I am a fan of The Rolling Stones, particularly their earlier stuff.
One of the problems for festival goers that you don't get by sitting at home with TV, radio and Internet is having to decide what bands to see and locating the right stage. It's a real challenge to get your itinerary sorted out. So, from the flyer below which 3 bands would you like to watch? I'm a Smashing Pumpkins fan so they'd be on my list.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Escape from New York

I recently watched this film. It was the first time I sat through it all. I've started it a few times and never got very far. Kurt Russell plays the main character Snake Plisskin an ex navy seal who now wears an eye patch. His backstory isn't very well explained but he starts out in processing to enter a prison at the beginning of the film, a prison that is walled in around three mile island. The President of the United States, played rather bizarrely by Donald Pleasance, has to eject from Air Force One before it crashes. His escape pod lands in the gang controlled area of New York and in order to escape from a life in prison Snake is given the job to rescue the President. This will prevent a war but it is unclear how exactly. I find it to be quite a weird film, I still liked it but the theme and the score were co-written by John Carpenter and the theme is so of its time it's untrue but I do like it. It's not John Carpenter's best film but in my opinion it's a classic you should see at least once.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Through my Love Film subscription, I've been watching some good shows. My wife and I watched the first episode of a series called Dexter this week. I'd seen the DVD box set for sale and I've heard friends say they liked the show but I didn't really know what it was about. In my mind, it was about a guy with paranormal powers who helps the police investigate unsolved murders BUT now I've seen it, it isn't that at all. Dexter is a forensic scientist, a blood splatter specialist who works for the police. He is also a vigilante and quite unlike any normal person.
I was entertained by Dexter but what a twisted mind to come up with a show about a person who normal people should really be appalled by. It is a strange world in which we live and where shows get more and more extreme to fight against each other for supremacy of the ratings war. I shall probably watch more episodes of Dexter and I might find my reaction changing the more I watch.

I'm now officially a Manga reader

I've been reading some Manga comic books recently. I'm reading three series, they are Bleach, Death Note and Naruto. I haven't started Naruto yet, I only picked up my first volume of that this week. I bought Bleach at Comic Con, the edition I got is a compilation of the first three volumes - I did the same for Naruto. Death Note is a series I'm reading from the public library. I'm enjoying them, I don't know why I have ignored Manga until now.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Total Recall 1990

A week ago I watched the original Total Recall film starring Arnold Schwarzeneger and Sharon Stone. It was a lot better than my memory of it led me to believe. I can see why I thought it was ground-breaking at the time. I loved the future cars and the Johnny Cabs. But the story it is based on is the real star of the movie in my eyes. The idea of implanting false memories that seem real as a leisure activity is so cool. It was loosely based on a story by Philip K Dick called "We can remember it for you wholesale", I have never read a Philip K Dick story but this makes me want to try one. Sharon Stone is just perfect as the fabricated wife. The film is so clever on different levels. The governor of Mars and his henchman are played so over the top well by Ronny Cox and Michael Ironside they steal the show for me. Arnie just bulldozes through the scenes. The visual effects are terrific. It really is a movie that is easy to watch again. And if you've never seen it, it is a MUST!

Father's day

Last weekend went by pretty quickly, my son had a sleepover on Saturday afternoon and I picked him up on Sunday. My wife and I pruned back the corner of our garden where a vine and tree were growing over the fence. Sunday was Father's Day here and my wife had booked a table at a nice pub close by on the canal. We had a nice meal there, the service was a bit slow but it was busy so understandable. I got a free pint tankard and bottle of ale. I don't normally drink ale but it was a welcome treat. It's a bitter sweet day for my wife is father's day, her father was only in his fifties when she lost him. So she feels some sadness every year on this day.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Office (US version)

I was a huge fan of The Office when it was first aired on television here in the UK, almost 12 years ago. It's hard to believe it was so long ago. It was a show that started out quite small with an alternative feel to it. It was a fresh way to produce a show and during the first minutes of the first episode I was watching and asking myself is it a real documentary? I guess this is because the characters are so well observed and you can say "I've had a boss or known someone at work like that!". There are times when I wince with embarrassment for the characters in The Office but they seem oblivious to it.

I can't remember when I first heard that a US version was going to be produced. It's not unusual these days for TV series to be remade for different audience tastes. But the style of humour in the office was something I thought could only be funny for British audiences. I expected it not to be funny (they wouldn't "get it") and for it to bomb with American audiences. Not sure why I held that prejudiced opinion, I can only think it was because my exposure to ordinary office settings in the US, junior grade office staff and middle managers has been very limited and practically non-existent. We see the high-flyers mostly on TV. Macho management "celebrities" like Donald Trump, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are who I normally think of when I think of US business, Wall Street and multi-nationals companies owned by rich Americans - or rich professionals like doctors (House, Grey's Anatomy, ER) and comedy shows that have wealthy families such as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Frasier. Other shows like Will & Grace and Friends are funny but their characters don't do subtle and are caricatures I enjoy for the farce but are less funny when thinking of them as individuals, like how boring it became when Joey fell in love with Rachel.

Now I must confess this: I have not yet watched the US version of The Office. But last night I watched a retrospective documentary that talked to the cast and showed clips. My wife was in bed asleep next to me and I was laughing so hard I woke her up shaking the bed. My prejudice has gone and I am totally going to watch the US version. The whole team and cast seem to have made something truly great. I think writing fresh material based on the characters has really seemed to work well. The astonishing thing is that the transition has worked so well, I think it seems like I'm going to find the US version funnier than the UK one.

US version

UK version

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Vikings the TV series

Over the last few days my wife and I have settled down to watch a few episodes of a series that is exclusive to the Love Film instant streaming service. I must say that I am enjoying the episodes I've seen quite a lot. Hats off to Love Film and Amazon for bringing the series to subscribers before any other channel in the UK. I will be watching the whole of season 1.

In praise of ... the BLT sandwich

I bought some bacon yesterday. It was a subconscious reaction to enjoying some bacon for breakfast while I was looking after my son. We ate out, so I thought I'd buy some bacon to enjoy at home. I also bought a bag of mixed lettuce leaves and some vine ripened tomatoes (the ones still attached to the vine: does the vine make any difference apart from visually?). We had some thin sliced brown bread, so this morning I offered to prepare a cooked breakfast. My daughter wanted a bacon and tomato sandwich, my son a bacon and lettuce but I had the classic BLT. I even added a little mayo and a few drops of ketchup to mine. Much better than shop bought, you can't beat a home made BLT. The freshness of ingredients is everything and at home this is something you can guarantee.
But when you can't make a sandwich yourself and you are at some place that is not familiar and have limited choices of where and what to eat. You can bet that a sandwich outlet, even if it just a chiller cabinet in a newsagents, will have a BLT. I find the BLT a reliable and comfortable hunger quencher. The photo below is not my own, but mine was almost the same.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Holiday choice

Last summer we got our kittens in June and to treat them with the love and kindness they deserved we didn't book any holiday time away from home. The previous year, we had been living in our new house for about 3 weeks and then we were on holiday for 7 days in Spain. Our Spanish holiday was great. My wife was very worried it would be too hot for her and that she would get bored. She is a workaholic and works during the holidays she has from teaching. So going away forces her to stop working and I think the break from work for us all works well. Spain was very hot, perhaps slightly hotter than my wife prefers it but I think it helps to relax if the weather is always nice and sunny and you don't have to worry about what to wear. We took some novels to read and our kids spent a lot of time in the water pool at the hotel. In the afternoon and evenings we went for walks along the beach etc. Some aspects were not so nice but we avoided the places we didn't like.
This year, we haven't booked anything yet but I'm keen to go somewhere. We will either end up not going anywhere, going away to somewhere in the UK or going for a cheap getaway somewhere abroad. We've got the issue of the cats though. Our options are to ask my parents to house sit for us and also look after the cats. Or maybe find a cat hotel? Cat hotels can be quite expensive. The weather is a factor if we go for a hotel stay in the UK. Hotels aren't cheap and if the weather is bad it can ruin a UK holiday. No sitting on a beach enjoying the heat, if you have to battle against the wind or the rain.

Mediterranean holiday?

UK beach holiday

I don't know what to do for the best, we have to keep a firm grip on the cost.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Evening sunset

Lovely early evening weather here at the moment.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013


I watched this film tonight, streamed it via the service Love Film I've signed up to. It is probably the grimmest film I've seen for a while. It was a good film though, very tense and suspenseful with just the right pacing. The story involved an ex soldier, bomb expert, who begins the film with a home made video of him declaring who he is and that he has planted 3 nuclear bombs in American cities. The story then follows a female FBI agent who is part of a Counter Terrorism Unit and her efforts to find the locations of the bombs. I can't really tell you much more without spoiling it. It's not a film for the fainthearted. Samuel L Jackson plays a central character and the entire cast perform really well. For me, the main theme of the film is the moral ambiguity than can arise for society as a whole when faced with a crisis of extreme proportions. It's very effective. If you can stomach moderate torture scenes, this is a decent film to see.

Joe Petagno and Motorhead

I first heard a Motorhead song when I was about eight years old. I became a fan. Their sound was heavy and edgy but still musical. Amazingly, Motorhead are still the same now. They are unique, I should say Lemmy is unique. I was watching a video on YouTube earlier tonight (a few rude words in it, so I won't embed it), it was an interview with the man responsible for most of the Motorhead cover artwork over the years Joe Petagno. I was surprised to hear that he wasn't happy with the Overkill single cover. He thought it was rushed due to a deadline and that it should have been multi-layered. Well, I remember it coming out (amazingly) 34 years ago and for me then it was an amazing cover.  I felt that way about the album sleeve for Bomber - I remember drawing and painting one of the bombs from that cover in an art lesson at school. The original cover artwork is smaller than I thought it would be, if what the video was showing was the original work and I think it was because Joe was showing it himself.
In the car today, I played my kids a Motorhead best of compilation album and my son instantly liked Overkill. He thought the drums were amazing. Chip of the old block, I'm happy to say!

Monday, June 03, 2013

MTG: Izzet v Golgari Duel Deck

This weekend I've played Magic the Gathering a few more times with my son and enjoyed it. He needed a bit of cajoling into playing the first game and he said he would only play if we could play with the Izzit and Golgari duel deck I had bought a few months ago in Manchester, specifically he wanted to play the Izzet deck. It was a good game and he used the Izzit Boilerworks card to good effect, using the ability of the card to create the mana he needed to summon his creatures and instants. Eventually, he beat me with his Shrewd Hatchling creature. I played with the Golgari deck and just didn't make effective use of the graveyard, which is the way to play the deck. I did have a good card I wanted to play but through a couple of bad choices didn't get the chance to play it.
On Sunday, my son actually came to me and asked for a game, which was nice. So we played and I won. He did hit me with a good Instant spell called Prophetic Bolt. We were both waiting for the right type of Land card to use the creature cards we had. I was lucky because I was able to summon a creature first even though it was a low power one. I just wore him down slowly.
I'm happy how we're both enjoying playing the game and how we're picking up the intricacies of the rules. We also spent some time sorting out a couple of decks from the Gatecrasher Fat Pack I bought. I can't wait to try out my first built deck.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Dr Who - Matt Smith's doctor

I was a bit saddened by the news yesterday evening when it emerged that Matt Smith would be leaving his tenure as the eleventh doctor. Dr Who has been the longest running UK sci-fi show on the television. Since the relaunch of the franchise it has been very successful. The three newest doctors have done well: Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith. Each has filled the role in a unique and interesting way. Considering Matt is the youngest of the three I think he's done exceptionally well. He's been very entertaining.
But I can understand why actors don't want to retain the role for long periods - it can easily become all that they are known for. I guess some actors are happier with that situation than others. It's weird to think that an actor can be institutionalised in something that isn't real, I guess it becomes real for the actor and in many ways a part of their life. They are the character they play for the most obsessive fans.
I wonder how the role will affect Matt's life in years to come? And I wonder more about who will be found for the role next and what kind of a job they will make of it? It will be hard to live up to the previous incumbents.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Death Note films

This week I've watched the films Death Note and Death Note: The Last Name. They are parts one and two of a Japanese live action film series. The films are based on a Manga series of the same name. The story revolves around a character called Light Yagami who picks up off the ground a cheap black notebook with Death Note written on the cover. There are rules for the user of the death note about its use but basically the owner can see and talk to a God of Death, in Light's case it is called Ryuk (who looks a bit like a cross between an angel and a punk rocker). The death note can be used by its owner to kill anyone whose name is written in the book. What's interesting about Light is that is a law student and his father is a senior police officer. He decides to follow a criminal whose trial collapsed and he witnesses the offender bragging to his colleagues. Judging him to be guilty and likely to re-offend, Light writes the criminal's name in the death note and sure enough he dies of an unusual heart attack. After this epiphany, Light goes on and starts to kill other criminals, writing their names in the book.
This obviously arouses the suspicions of the police but they are clueless to know where to begin. They receive an offer of help from a super sleuth with a hidden identity known only as L, he appears on a laptop carried by a polite old man. The laptop has a voice synthesiser and L communicates his information, which reveals a lot more than the police know. So this trust in L is built up and because of the lack of any other fruitful direction the police want to work together with L to try and identify the killer. L is a geeky young man with an compulsive need to constantly eat sweet food but trust in this character is cleverly built up.
While L is clever, Light is also equally clever in his attempts to outwit L. This cat and mouse relationship is a backbone of the film. The two films are very good, I especially liked the first one but you need to see both to wrap the story up.

Light with Death God Ryuk