Book: Terry Pratchett “Thief of Time”

August 26, 2009

Terry Pratchett “Thief of Time” is the last (I think) in the Death-Series.  I’m working my way through Terry Pratchett books according to themes – starting with the Guards, now Death, with various asides on the way.

thief of timeThis is without doubt one of my favouite Pratchett books so far. Again we meet Death and his granddaughter Susan Sto Helit now a school teacher and the type of teacher we all wish we had.  However Death, with the help of Death of Rats draws her unwilling into the difficult task of finding ‘someone like her’.  Death himself can’t do this because he has to ‘ride out with the other 3 horsemen because of the impending Apocalypse.  At least we think there are 4 horsemen but there is also the milkman.

Also in this book we learn about Wen and The Monks of History, Lu-Tze the sweeper and his apprentice Lobsang and a clockmaker.

It is a fast paced book with lots of very good characters and interesting new concepts.


Editorial Fact Checking?

August 25, 2009

I have been fairly indifferent to the recent news debate about proposed changes to the US Health Care system and in particular the comparisons with the NHS.  However, it is probably worth noting that one of the key editorials which has caused so much of the ‘debate / argument’ was in Investors Business Daily (IBD) which stated:

“people such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.”

… hey it’s an editorial opinion, not a article presented as news, so there is no need to justify the statement or give any proof for saying that someone with neuro muscular dystrophy would be dead if he lived in the UK – the only problem was that in stead of giving an anonymous example they actually named the most famous British scientist currently alive – and that is the key – CURRENTLY ALIVE and he gives lots of credit to the NHS for that fact.

see bbc news web


360° Stage

August 20, 2009

Last night I went to see this…

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This photo was taken during part 2 of the event – the tear down. We only got to watch about 10 minutes of this before getting moved on, but it was fascinating.

Prior to this there were four blokes playing some music under, in and around the stage, and they were good, but the real winner of the night is the stage and the screen in the middle that does things that screens just don’t do!

Last year I went to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers in this same venue (Hampden Stadium) and swore to myself that I wouldn’t go to another stadium gig.  The visuals for that were average, but there was no way of seeing the band, the sound was OK but there were simply too many people trying to fit into the space between the stage and FOH mix – there was no stewarding to stop people moving anywhere in the stadium.

The U2 360° Stage meant that there was a good view for every available seat, the sound was good (I thought the vocals could have been clearer in the mix but apparently that was just me).  Generally speaking the screen was worth watching the entire time so it didn’t really matter where the band were or what they were doing.

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West Wing Season Two

August 17, 2009

This is nuts.

I hammered through season one from this box in 7 days.  I decided that wasn’t a good pace so should slow down, so I’ve just managed to finish season two of The West Wing in 10 days.  The problem, apart from my lack of self control is that I can’t watch one episode I watch one disk which is usually four, hour long, episodes.

So my thoughts on Season Two?  I’m not sure.  It is all really very, very good – tightly written, tightly performed, tightly filmed and tightly edited but that has all been said before.  There are a few small niggles such as why some characters seem to simply disappear never to be mentioned again, but overall it is simply very good, gripping drama.

Having just watched the season finale I am trying hard to resist simply breaking open the next box.  It was so ‘edge of the seat’ that I rewound (OK that term doesn’t really make sense for a DVD, but there we go) to watch the last 20min or so over again.

My aim now is not to start Season Three for at least a week, and from then on only to watch one episode in one sitting.  I’m not sure how realistic a goal that will be.  I am still following The Wire on BBC2 three nights a week and I can always fall back on Firefly boxed set to keep me busy.  All of this is fairly unusual for me though as I don’t tend to follow TV shows that much and those three are all American dramas.  The world may be upside down – certainly I think I’m turning nocturnal but that is a different matter.


Squirrels

August 15, 2009

One of the blogs I follow is thisisphotobomb.com (warning though, sometimes the content is questionable).  Basically a photobomb is when someone gets into a photo either deliberatly or randomly in the background who isn’t supposed to be there, say someone making bunny ears behind your head or jumping into the shot just as the photo was taken.

This is slightly different…

DanielSsquirrelbomb-P

You can read the story here, but basically the squirrel seemed to be interested in the noise made by the self timer on the camera.

Of course this has since led to the squirrel appearing all over the web, the best one I’ve seen so far is:

photobomb2


West Wing Season One

August 8, 2009

I’ve had a few nights of little sleep and somehow managed to get through all 22 episodes of Season One of the West Wing in under a week!  This wasn’t deliberate, I thought the boxed set would last me a lot longer than this and hopefully it still will.  But I thought I would give some thoughts on this initial exposure to the West Wing phenomenon.

  1. it’s good.
  2. it’s amazingly tight.
  3. a little claustrophobic.
  4. they walk about a lot.

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West Wing obviously has high production values (and cost) which make a difference right from the start.  The set looks like a real working office with the right amount of mess, extras in the background, things changing from day to day, etc.  The lighting and camera work is great – especially the walking about a lot stedycam stuff.

One of the things that I had heard about in praise of the West Wing was how good the writing is and it really is.  There is just the right balance of quirky one liners, complex jargon and straight plot moving to keep you interested.  The technique of having the characters walk about a lot is a good way of fitting in dialog and making it dynamic and interesting.  This also shows how good the actors are as some of these shots are fairly extended and require not only tight scripting but physical timing as well to get to the right place by the time your lines run out.

On the down side – I have no idea what a lot of the characters are actually supposed to be doing in the White House, there isn’t any explanation of their roles or even the hierarchy.  There is no back story to the characters, who they are, how they know each other, what their motivations are (although I’ve started season 2 and some of this is expanded in the first couple of episodes).  But that in itself is interesting because as a viewer you are introduced to a group of people with a group dynamic rather than a bunch of individuals with their individual stories.

So far so good, and it must be gripping because I just keep putting on the next episode as soon as one stops.  I really must slow down.


John Hughes – thanks!

August 7, 2009

john-hughes-RIPJohn Hughes, film maker died yesterday.

As someone who’s “formative years” were firmly in the 80s I would like to thank John Hughes for making the best movies of that time.

The Breakfast Club, is the seminal movie of teenage angst and one of the few films I will watch every few years, fantastic writing and outstanding performances from the Brat Pack and a movie that everyone should watch.

Pretty in Pink always makes me cry! Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Weird Science when Kelly LeBrock became every teenage boys dream, Sixteen Candles, She’s Having a Baby, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Uncle Buck, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation….

(for all these I try to forget he also produced Home Alone 1, 2 & 3)