But

I don’t want to get all down on 3A (threeA) having been bigging them up a post or so ago.

But.

I am bored with all the recent licensed releases they have been making. I want Ashley Wood designed stuff, not 2000AD, Metal Gear Solid, Real Steel, or VALVE (as recently announced) – I don’t care how good these licensed products are, or how well 3A make them, it’s just not what I personally want from 3A or my 3AA membership.

Give me World War Robot, Adventure Kartel, Tomorrow Kings (or Queens) or Popbot.

Frustratingly when there has been an Ashley Wood product release, like the recent Adventure Kartel Fighting JC, it turns out to be a surprise drop with random appearances on a working day, for me that means no access to Bambaland to have a chance to grab the dude.

Okay to be fair, I did snag the two variants of the WWRp Sand Devil Mk3 Bertie that were offered recently. But given that I couldn’t secure a surprise Whisper Ghost Popbot in the last drop or a GID Mk3 Bertie in the current one, I’m not having the best 2012 with 3A so far.

</emo>

The time has come…

… the Walrus said, to talk of many things:

Here is a slightly random brain dump with a literary bent.

I have just finished another incredible Alistair Reynolds book, House of Suns. Thanks to the fantastic @waarg for the loan. Reynolds is definitely my go to guy when I have no Iain M. Banks to read. They have both created convincing imaginings of a futureverse, populated in believable ways, by which I mean populated by characters and technologies which we would like to believe will come to pass, benevolent super-computers, machine people with heart, alien worlds with visual wonders to blow the mind, etc. Some books are better than others, House of Suns is good, but never quite as great as I think it could have been, certainly not as great as Reynolds at his best. But then I am talking about the best books by the best sci-fi authors out there, so the odd dip in high standards is excusable.

I have simultaneously been reading book eleven in the wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, Knife of Dreams. This is the last book written wholly by Jordan before his untimely death, and it is as enjoyable as fans of the series might expect. As I start book twelve, written from Jordan’s extensive notes by Brandon Sanderson, I have to say it is not without  a sense of trepidation. This story has taken twenty-one years to emerge, book one was published in 1990, the final part, book fourteen is due to be published in 2011, and a change in the author’s hand at this late stage could do untold damage to something that has been an epic part of may readers lives. The first few pages of Sanderson’s book twelve were uncomfortable reading, but by page 100 or so I’m beginning to notice his presence less. I can only hope that Jordan chose his successor well.

I’ve also read three more of the Martin Beck series by Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo – The Laughing Policeman, The Fire Engine that Disappeared, Murder at The Savoy. One can only be disappointed that the authors stopped this series at ten books.

New to me was author James Anderson, but I picked up his Agatha Christie style classic crime novel, Affair of the Thirty-Nine Cufflinks, in a January sale, and enjoyed it enough to buy the other two in this series.

I had been planning to read Neal Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book since it was published, but for one reason or another it eluded me.  I have now rectified that oversight and I am so pleased I did. There is no doubt that this is strictly speaking a children’s book, but as with so many other books of this category it is a delightful and rewarding read for adults too. There is no point saying anything about Gaiman, it has all been said, he is a master of the storytelling craft. In the foreword or afterword Gaiman says that he had spent 20 years writing the book, having started it when his now adult son was a child riding a tricycle around a graveyard, and he was struck by the first nugget of the story. It makes me feel better about having taken a couple of years in my turn to get around to reading it. If you ever had any ambition to write fiction, read the opening few lines of this book, it will either inspire you or make you realise the error of your ways. Genius. At. Work.

Like many other readers of crime fiction I have been drawn into the writing of the Scandinavians. Yes many years ago I too read Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, and recently I have read the real pioneers, Sjowall & Wahloo, mentioned elsewhwere and above. I have read and loved Larsson’s  Millenium trilogy. But for me the start of it was Henning Mankell. I had read all of his Wallander books to date and I just have to make an appointment with his ‘final’ Wallander novel, out about now, to finish the series. And whilst I have been trying to avoid spoilers this is the story which I’m already suspecting will see Mankell kill him off. In order to prepare myself for the loss of Wallander I have recently taken up with a new detective Harry Hole, creation of the Norwegian author Jo Nesbo. I determined to start at the beginning, hunted through the shelves of many book shops and found that Redbreast was the earliest title. Of course after I was well in to that book I discovered two earlier Harry Hole novels which have not yet been translated into English. Of all people you’d imagine I would have done some internet research too(!) So what of my new friend Harry? I liked him. I liked him from the opening chapter, through the trials and tribulations of his investigation and this excellent novel all the way to the finale. I am already anticipating the next in the series.

I’m also continuing my somewhat random meander through the books of Kate Atkinson having failed to get a couple of them in the correct sequence from the protagonists perspective, I am now reading One Good Turn. This is another Atkinson novel with elements of crime and the police which avoids being ‘relegated’ to the less well respected category of a ‘crime book’. I hope readers of crime books will not pass Kate Atkinson by, she writes a very great story, every time in my experience, and many of these stories feature things that avid readers of crime fiction will recognise and enjoy.  Categories are crap, don’t be bound by them, it’s part of marketing and audience profiling. Read good books by good writers.

So why commute 100* miles?

On a night like tonight this is a question I ask myself with some degree of seriousness.

We find ourselves making a series of short, slow and uncomfortable jumps between London and the Cotswolds, thanks primarily to some scallywags who stole a load of cable from the signalling system in the West Drayton area, presumably to sell for scrap….

As a consequence a long daily journey which I have adapted to over the past 9 years of back and forth travelling is transformed into a mini-nightmare.

So far today’s adventure is nowhere near the worst. We’ve had 5 hour marathons ending up on coaches with the passengers directing the driver who is clueless about where he is or where we’re all going. We’ve had trains which hit unfortunate people leaving us stranded in places we normally fly through at 90mph. And we’ve had a train stuck for 45 minutes about 2 minutes outside our destination. There have been many similar incidents, but spread over such a long period they’ve not yet reached the tipping point which makes me stop this silliness and get a job nearer home.

Tonight, on our first leg to Reading we travelled on a Penzance train, and yes we were speculating how nice it would be to sail through Reading and go the distance to Cornwall. That temptation resisted now, in order to make the next jump to Oxford, we have boarded a cross country service for York, again how tempting to end up in that Cathedral city as a break from the norm.

So why do it. Honestly I can’t even answer that well enough to convince myself. But mostly because I don’t want to change the things at either end of it. And, on days when it goes smoothly, I get time on the train to listen to music and read, or tweet and, even though you’d never believe it given the dust and cobwebs on this blog, I even get time to write.

*note for pedants: I can’t exactly work out the accurate distance, and depending on how you measure, by road, rail or wing of crow the amount varies. but 100 miles is close and it makes for a more interesting title than whatever the ‘real’ distance is, 98.42 miles maybe?

2 films

I am on my sickbed. I have been here for 3 days, and although some may call it man-flu, I am only a man and it feels pretty crap to me. And, if for no other reason than I don’t want to pass this on to someone else I’m opting to stay in bed/on the sofa until I’m properly recovered.

As a consequence I’ve seen too much telly. I’ve also watched a load of  things I’d probably not have bothered with, and luckily I’ve seen some good things too. In particular I have seen four films. I have finally seen “Up”. I enjoyed it, I even enjoyed the cynical manipulation of my emotions which is the opening 10 minutes. I’m not of the opinion that it’s the greatest animated movie made, to be honest I’m not sure it’s even the best animated movie of the year, but I have no doubt it will win the Oscar for best animated feature.

Unfortunately I also saw possibly the worst film ever made. Certainly the worst film I have ever seen. This film should be destroyed, deleted, redacted. No trace of it or any record of it should ever be found. This film is the execrable “The Whole Ten Yards”. I only watched this because I have a vague recollection that I was passably amused by the original ‘The Whole Nine Yards”. Why anyone thought a sequel was a good idea is the first question, surely the original couldn’t have been a big enough box office success to warrant a sequel? But once that mistake was made, why did any studio, any producer, anyone(!), think that the plot and script for the sequel was worth doing anything with other than shredding? The plot is nonsensical garbage. The script is absolute crap. But so much bigger than that, there are two truly hideous performances in this film. Bruce Willis shares top billing with Matthew Perry. Perry should be embarrassed by this movie, and he should purge it from his resume, but in comparison to Bruce Willis and Kevin Pollak he has nothing to be ashamed about. Pollak is landed with a pantomime character, very poor make-up and his performance is as ridiculous as the role he is landed with. Willis can only try to hide behind the script, in every other way his performance is appalling, most of the time he is over the top, sometimes just hamming it up. Even when there is a possibility within the terrible script Willis is given to play a little more sensitive he fluffs it, the worst performance he has ever given, but then, why bother, even if he’d given his greatest performance ever, the script, the direction and the editing would have left him mired in a dung-heap. A film to avoid at all cost.

2010, so far, so good

another year another embarrassing gap between posts. why do I bother I ask myself, indeed why do you bother asks my reader, all one of him/her. NB I am ignorant of their gender, it is not they who are undecided, at least as far as I know, which is plainly not very far at all.

There are like a million things I could catch you up on, except, that would be 1. boring (I mean srsly even more boring than this) and 2. it would take far too long.

So instead I’ll ramble about some random things, like:

A. a fabulous new iPhone photography App that I downloaded this very day, called Hipstamatic, and priced at an incredibly reasonable £1.19 which is like $1.99 of your American dollars. plus when you realise just how fantabulous it is for yourself, you will be pleased to discover that there are additional upgrade packs for a paltry 59p (99c) each, an amount you’ll be only to happy to pay to have even more fun with this App.
Oh, but why? I hear you ask, [listens briefly, and almost deafened by the silence, continues] why does this fool think I want another camera app for my iPhone which has a pretty poor camera already, for no extra money.
Well here’s why, because it will make your photos even poorer quality, but also indescribably sooo much better and more fun.
Hipstamatic is a beautiful re-creation of the plasticy-goodness of the original early 80’s camera with a ton of options for customising, lenses, film type and flash. to quote their app store entry “Digital photography never looked so analog”.
[note to self upload at least one convincing example here]

B. i saw The Wolfman movie this weekend, and what a jolly good romp it was too. the caveat with this film is, it’s not a modern horror movie, the film-makers ignore even the retro make-up effects of 80’s classics like The Howling or American Werewolf in London, to go proper ‘back-in-time’ to the 1940’s B&W horror days of Lon Chaney Jr.’s The Wolf Man. Wonderfully recreating the make-up style that made Chaney into a monster whilst clearly keeping him a man. Yes the script in this version is patchyin places, and Anthony Hopkins goes a little over the top, but, if for no other reason than to see a bunch of annoying local villager types get their comeuppance, this is a popcorn movie to sit back and enjoy.

C. Just finished the first of Steig Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I know, I must be like the last person on the planet to have read it, but, just in case dear reader you are in fact yet to have picked this up yourself, let me urge you to do so. Here is why – fistly this is a difficult book to get in to. There must be 90 pages or so of pretty uninvolving stuff before I found the narrative became truly gripping. But once you’re in to the core of the story it’s worth the wait. That said there is nothing here which is completely unique, but enough elements are refreshingly combined to make this a very enjoyable read even for one such as myself who has been all over this genre for 30-odd years. Also, I cannot wait to read the next book in the series, that is always a promising sign…

Which leads me to an apology to my book club colleagues, I’ve been reading this instead of the book I was meant to be reading. That’s about the second month in a row I’ve done that, perhaps I’m not the clubby type, I like to read what I’m in the mood for and as soon as something is prescribed I have a tendency to rebel against it. sorry 😉

All change again

There were loads of things I liked about using LiveJournal, particularly the widgets that let me select a ‘mood’ icon for every post, and a place-holder for the music I was listening too at the time I was posting. I also loved the Piximix designed Kaboom Bros Graffiti theme.
But.
There were problems, the biggest one of which was the ridiculous limit on how many links the blog would support. 10 links. What’s that about? The only way I could find to extend the number of links was to pay.
And the back-end had a pretty amateurish feel and felt overly concerned with the whole ‘community’ nature of LJ, an area I can’t say I was interested in. Some may have issues with the WordPress Dashboard, but I love it’s professionalism, it is well laid out and the tools are all at hand. There are more options than I can yet imagine needing. This is the third incarnation of WordPress I have tried and I am happier with it than ever.
So I have moved here, again. And this time I have opted for a very plain theme, but with the twist of a very unusual layout. I like this for now, let’s see if I can live with it.

Where did the Barbecue Summer go & where was I ?

Sorry to be boring and English and write about the weather, but it’s dark again in the morning when I get up (admittedly very early) and August is racing away. My mind programmed at a relatively young age to associate seasons with school terms, knows, once you hit September it’s Autumn term, ergo Summer is over and it’s Autumn from 1st September.

So we woz robbed. The weather men, for all their recent denials, said we wouldn’t have another mostly grey, frequently wet summer – but that 2009 would be a "barbecue summer". What we got was a couple of baking hot weeks back in what was it, the end of June start of July? Then back to lots of cloud and frequent rain, often heavy, especially for our holiday in the Lake District. Lucky us. Since, we’ve managed only a selection of sunny-ish days in August, two fine days this week, and we’re a ‘week away from Autumn’ – in my head anyway.

So that’s a long way round to ask, where the bloody hell have I been since 29 June? What’ve I been doing and why haven’t I found time to post about it? Truth be told I don’t really know.  
Been mainlining series 3 and 4 of the Wire thanks to the BBC – how did it take me so long to catch up with this amazing drama, especially as I loved Homicide: Life on the Street, David Simon’s previous ‘great’ series. Again I dunno.
Been to the Great British Beer Festival with the charming and ever amusing @richbs (for the Twitterers among you) We had a very pleasant afternoon tried some excellent beers and even Tweeted about it a little. Fortunately before alcohol could adversely influence the quality of the tweeting, the big Twitter DNS attack took the whole thing down. That just left us drinking to do.
Been failing to do anything about repairing or replacing our garden fence wot blew done in some bad weather last year.
Been reading some good stuff, a list might follow (in honour of a new reader I may have tempted to my blog – although as a young digital native I’m sure she’s long given up ploughing through all this old drivel – who the fuck gets new readers writing about the weather?)
Been taking some photos, and then failing to follow through and get them on flickr.
Been doing a ton of work related stuff, some of it still ongoing, some of it got launched, some of it going live soon, exhausting but mostly satisfying.
As for the rest of it… your guess is as good as mine! As the wonderful Sandy Denny used to sing "Who knows where the time goes".

Blame it on the Boogie… And Wendy

What a surreal weekend, everywhere you turned it was either Glastonbury or Micheal Jackson, or stories about how news of MJs death spread at Glastonbury.

In the end, most right thinking people – by which I mean not those people holding all night vigils outside the hospital or on the sidewalk by his Hollywood Star, whilst weeping or blaming ‘them’ for persecuting ‘him’ – will probably agree that Michael Jackson made an enormous contribution to the world of music, and pop in particular, and that he was at his best when younger and lets face it, less weird. Another victim of his own success and the people who in a desire to ‘milk the cash-cow’ enabled his eccentricities and spiralling decline.

He has left us. And left us a legacy of great pop to remember him by.

I will also remember this weekend for the less than fabulous night I spent trying to sleep while the celebrants of stag nights and hen do’s (identifiable by their flourescent items of clothing, bunny ears and/or pink sashes) staggered around Brighton. The boys more staggery than the girls because to compensate for their lack of identifying outfits, as described above, the boys had gone for a uniformity of consumption of cheap alcohol, especially it would appear Strongbow, the portable can of choice.

This alone would have been less troublesome but for the unfortunate positioning of our hotel room near the entrance to Madame Geisha’s nightclub, the poor performance of the Hotel’s double-glazing and in particular the emergence of some drunken idiothole at about 3am looking for WENDDDYYYY! And not quietly or productively it would appear, as either WENDDDYYYY! was long gone, or sensibly in my opinion, was having nothing to do with this particular buffoon.

One suspects that one of the reasons for the absence of said WENDDDYYYY may have been her avid paramour’s inability to articulate, walk rather than stagger, or most importantly, to communicate – in anything less than a bellow – the single word WENDDDYYYY repeatedly, which one imagines is a level of dedication likely to become tiresome quite quickly.

Happily I can report that either the lovelorn fool lost the use of his vocal chords or more hopefully fell into the sea and drowned, because after what only felt like an interminable time, peace was restored, by which I mean music plus the screams of laughing girls, assorted sirens and other miscellaneous sounds produced by the midnight to 4am set.

There’s nothing like waking on a Sunday morning in a beautiful coastal town after very little sleep to remind one never to book a ‘centrally located, covenient for all amenities’ hotel ever again, regardless of the circumstances.

Posted via LiveJournal.app.

Wot no posts?

Yeah, well, my usual infrequent posting has been further sabotaged by a decision to return to Twitter. As a result I have stopped thinking in posts and changed my brain to 140 character limit tweets.
Read about a million books since I last posted an update and given up more of my living space to designer toys, so ‘Life’ goes on even if it’s not reaching these pages.
May embark on a retrospective recap, or may not bother. Am a few bottle-conditioned ales into a barbeque, with a failing iPhone battery so will stop for now and tend to the sausages!!

Posted via LiveJournal.app.

Twitter II – the return

So I thought I’d give Twitter another go… A second chance to engage me. Having tried it out for maybe two months about a year ago I just wasn’t getting it, maybe I was following the wrong people, or maybe I’m too boring to post interesting enough 140 character summaries…

Anyway, there’s no doubt I’ve seen a lot more evidence of tweeting in the last year and having read a couple of good reviews of free iPhone apps (icon factory’s Twitterific and Twitterfon) thought it would be worth trying again. Am hoping to “get it” this time, but maybe it’s like Marmite, you either love it or hate it – personally I love it, but the jury’s still out on Twitter.

Posted via LiveJournal.app.