… far too much rubbish. The problem with suddenly deciding at the airport that you need a new book is that you’re pretty much stuck with what WH Smith has stuck on the so-called bestseller list that week, thereby making it a self-fulfilling prophecy. One thing’s for sure, Dan Brown has a lot to answer for. Practically every publishing house on the planet has suddenly decided that people will read books like that and so are churning them out at a silly rate. And there is considerably more quantity than there is quality. The only book that really stands out from the crowd so far has been ‘‘ by John Twelve Hawks. Still flawed, it’s paranoia levels are a little high and there is some resultant preaching, but by en large it’s a good book. It’s supposed to be a trilogy and I, for one, am looking forward to the sequels. Basically imagine 1984, crossed with Barker’s ‘Imagica’.

I’ve also recently read a fair bit of Greg Bear, though not intentionally. The books I’ve read were ‘‘, it’s sequel ‘‘ and the entirely unrelated ‘‘. ‘Darwin’s Children’ was very good with a certain amount of emphasis on the science fiction.The novel is set in the modern day and the topic, if you hadn’t guessed is evolution. A good strong book. And he should have left the ending open instead of writing a weak, contrived sequel. Read Radio and pretend you’ve never heard there was a sequel. ‘Darwin’s Children’ is an utter waste of time unless you really don’t like loose ends in your mind.
‘Vitals’ is an interesting book, the topics being immortality and control, though the linking of the two is also somewhat contrived. Fairly good though and worth reading. Another pleasantly open end. Let’s hope the Gregster doesn’t ruin it by trying to tie them up.

I’ve been using Amazon Marketplace a lot recently, and picked up a stack of graphic novels really cheap. These days I think the Ebay auctioneers are trying to cream as much profit out of people as possible. Add in sniping, the use of buying tools and more traders than there are private sellers and Ebay is basically a very unattractive option for books unless what you’re after is very rare.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve picked up recently:

– The first one, written by Neil Gaiman. Definitely as good as I remember it. And I did have to check, but yes Tim Hunter does predate Harry Potter by at least three years.
– I’ve read this before too. Just as well really, as my significant other swiped this one as soon as she heard what it’s about and her sharp eyes spotted those deadly words… Dave McKean. Incorrigible…
– I love the works of chaote Grant Morrison and The Invisibles ever since I picked it up at the library.
– My favourite so far. Very nicely written, good art and the character is just as charming and manipulative, humanistic and inhuman, as I would have desired. Very recommended.

And what’s next on my list? A bit of nostalgia in the shape of the .

Last week was Penny’s birthday and so we did have a few plans for the weekend. Nothing exciting, it was purposefully low key and she was working Saturday morning, but we made a good day of it. A good lunch, then Penny picked a copy of and then we read in a pub for the whole afternoon. Very relaxing and very enjoyable.

Saturday night involved watching one of Penny’s birthday presents, namely the Kiera Knightley version of . Aparrently it was quite true to the book, but not as much as the BBC version. Colin Firth was a better Darcy but Kiera was a better Lizzie (though apparently she’s supposed to be quite plain, according o the book). The whole film came over as quite rushed and compressed as it had to fit as much in as possible, into a two hour slot. And as for the added US ending? It’s utter crap, as expected. Thankfully it’s an Extra, not tagged onto the end of the film like it was in the US.

Sunday was then an all-day trek. It was going to be longer and over a more distinct route, but various memory lapses meant we covered the stretch between Woking and Ash Vale via a few detours along the Basingstoke Canal. Woking, because it was en route for the first leg of the trek before we had to alter our plans, and Ash Vale because we wanted our evening sustenance to be .

Plans for this week? Thursday and Friday I’m in Germany, and Saturday viewing property.

The last week
This last week I’ve been listening to the a lot. I know I’m a good few months behind the times, but not listening to the radio a lot meant that I didn’t really hear their best known track “Bet you look good on the dancefloor” until New Years Day in Andy’s car, where Radio 1 was playing the most successful tracks of 2005. It’s a cracking track.
Okay, I’ve not really been watching it on TV, but the principle is there. I’ve been enjoying Lost immensely. I caught the first 3 episodes when it first came on telly, but then missed the next three, at which point I gave up. You’ve really got to watch all the episodes concurrently. However over the last week I’ve been watching the episodes I’ve acquired. I’m up to episode 17 (Hurley’s past and the mysterious numbers) and can’t wait to watch more. Then I get to watch them all again because Penny wants to see them now.
Penny’s been reading Memoirs of a Geisha recently because she wants to watch the movie next weekend. She’s been enjoying the book a lot and is hoping the film will do it justice. Me, I’ve been reading rubbish in the form of a couple of re-released novels. Good fun, historical pulp fiction that’s entertaining and occasionally educational. The ones written in the seventies are the best though, the style goes downhill after that.
Sadly nothing, though I’m looking forward to the next when it comes out this week.
A bumper crop this Christmas just past. I went to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire again, because my dad is a huge fan of Harry Potter films. In terms of DVDs, as previously stated I got Existenz, Memento and Appleseed from. I watched Memento with my parents, but it really wasn’t to their taste, unsurprisingly. I love it though and I’ve still to watch the other two movies, both of which I’ve yet to watch.
was my graphic novel gift from Penny. The first collaboration between Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman, and what a treat it is.
Last Year
Last year was a good year for music and films. Here are some of my highlights.
My favourite cinema movie of the year had to be Sin City. Honourable mentions should go to Batman Begins and Harry Potter.
My favourite independent movie of the year, regardless of format, had to be , which I was fortunate enough to see at the London Film Festival.
What a year in music! There was music in the charts that was actually worth listening to! What’s that about?
Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs, Kasabian, Killers, Razorlight… All good bands. Album of the year has to go to Green Day with American Idiot though.
I can’t really decide on which were my favourite books of last year, but I thought I’d mention that I was very pleased to have met both Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and got them both to sign my stuff.

Youll probably have spotted the trend that very, very little happens on Sundays so Ill skip straight to Saturday.

Saturday morning was an early one, despite the late arrival the previous night, because Penny and I were off to see at in London. We were queuing from 9:30, the doors opened at 10:00 and we were finished by 11:00. It was really hard deciding what to take to get signed as wed been told we were allowed three books and it was unclear whether or not we had to buy a book when we get there.

I was really gutted when we got there and discovered that not only did we not have to buy a book, but we were actually allowed six! Id brought a spare and bought one book on site (couldnt resist). So the books I managed to get signed were Anansi Boys (his newest), Smoke & Mirrors (an excellent book of short stories), Good Omens, Coraline and the MirrorMask screenplay. If Id have known how it was going to work Id have brought Signal to Noise, Midnight Days, Sandman or American Gods (which I couldnt find on Saturday morning). Penny brought her much-loved copy of The Wolves in the Walls, which is illustrated by Dave McKean.

Neil himself was very friendly and affable and much amused by the fact that Lenny Henry had accused him of smoking giant reefers with Dave McKean when writing MirrorMask. He also revealed that a new anthology of short stories is due soon, assuming hes got enough material. I presume it will be published sometime after his next work, a childrens book.

All that done, we did some exploring (Hamleys and Libertys) before ending up in in the afternoon. Situated under London Bridge, around the corner from the London Dungeon, the Vinopolis is a wine museum and wine tasting experience. It was definitely worth visiting, though it would have been prohibitively expensive had it not been for the two for one deal we had. As it was, we decided to go for some whiskey tasting too. Some of the wines we tried were average at best, but we also discovered some absolute gems like a 2003 , a and the port. Among the whiskey tastings we particularly liked the smoky flavour of the .

After that, it was Pizza Express for dinner, a train home and a much-deserved 10 hour coma.

Quite a day!

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So, Wednesday night involved a flight to Hannover. Unfortunately, having spent the entire day in an office block, underground train or airport departure lounge, I hadn’t realised how bad the weather had got. The result was a one and a half hour delay in taking off, which certainly stretched my patience. On my eventual arrival, a taxi was waiting for me, all pre-booked and pre-paid. Unfortunately the driver stank to high heaven. He’d obviously been eating something unwholesome sometime in the last week or two. My mood got no better on arrival at the hotel where I found that my reservation had been lost. Luckily this was quickly solved, but my irritation was about to reach a new high, despite the fact the journey was over. Some genius had decided that the best place for an over-sensitive lightswitch was in the headboard of the bed. And so, every 5 minutes or so, my head or the pillow, or some passing microbe would switch the main lights on, wrenching me from my well-earnt slumber. This went on for a while until I finally decided to remove the lightbulb from the fitting. I was quite reasonable about it though. In the morning I returned the bulb to reception, with an explanation of why I was presenting it to them.

The next day, the meeting itself went very well indeed. A hostile audience (hostile to the project, not to me personally) was converted into being positive about the future and all was right with the world. I left Germany with a brain like scrambled eggs, but quite content. (Okay, maybe I was a little smug as well). And this morning, my project manager reported to me that apparently I “went down a storm” in Germany, which is nice to hear. Just as well really, my jaw really aches…

An Interlude

Sorry about that! Now, moving on to books I have finished recently. Firstly, ‘Freakonomics’ in our non-fiction category. Very, very interesting book, well worth reading. An economist uses his powers to investigate aspects of the world we often take for granted, gets accused of being a eugenicist and proves sumo wrestlers cheat! You can borrow it off me once Andy’s finished with it.

Next up, Clancy’s ‘Teeth of the Tiger’. Utter pants. I know I said recently that I only consider Clancy pulp anyway, but this has to have been the worst Clancy I’ve ever read! (The only one from the Jack Ryan\John Clark book I haven’t read is the previous one, Teeth of the Bunny or whatever) It is weak, boring, uninspiring, unresearched… bobbins.

And finally, ‘Thud!’ the newest Terry Pratchett. A book I enjoyed immensely. The second half was as good as the first half. Not my favourite Pratchett book, but it certainly fits well into the Guards storyline. Much better than ‘Going Postal’. I’m slightly hesitant to lend this out as it’s my signed copy.

Back Again

Stayed at Andy’s place again last night, which was cool. Travel from Heathrow to Chiswick is only 30 minutes. Watched an episode of Spooks (strange), ironed a shirt and crashed, only to get up early this morning to get back up to Amersham. Hopefully I can leave early today.


I couldn’t write about this earlier as Penny has internet access in the evenings now. But tomorrow is our one year anniversary since we got together. Amazing how time flies, isn’t it? She’ll be working part of tomorrow, but I certainly have plans for the evening…

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On Monday Penny and I went to Eastbourne for a Terry Pratchett book signing. It was quite a pleasant affair, and due to a combination of some forward planning and blind luck we not only had a relatively short queuing time, but also by some fluke ended up right at the front of the queue! This meant that Terry, resplendent in his huge, black trademark fedora, was still relaxed and happy to chat.

And now heres the gossip Terry let slip to Penny that there is a good chance of a Hogfather movie coming out for next Christmas! I havent found mention of it elsewhere on the net yet.

Me, I didnt get any extra gossip, but he did mock my battered, tattered, dog-eared, water stained paperback copy of Good Omens. He wrote an encouragement to burn the mess inside and then shoved the offending thing away from him in disgust with his pen. See, he has to be nice to everyone that comes to these things, but he chose to be rude about me and how Ive treated my book. I fill strangely privileged.

Ive now also half-finished the new book that brought about this signing,Thud!. Its a Guards/Vimes story set in Ankh-Morpork, which suits me just fine. My favourite characters have always been Vimes and Vetinari. Im enjoying it quite a lot so far. It has some unsubtle references to pointless conflicts between two groups of beliefs and races for current affairs fans, and an equally unsubtle dig atThe Da Vinci Code. So far so good and Ill post a fuller review once Ive finished it.

Terry also released a childrens book calledWheres my cow? which ties intoThud!, but it was rather pants. Not very well done at all, and a somewhat cynical attempt to make an extra stack of cash that will probably succeed.

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Workshops should be renamed to work churches. After all, you don’t buy into anything and you can only pray that you get something productive out of it! Which is what I’m going to be doing all day today.

I had a wander around Amersham last night, it’s not a bad little town. Decent library (huge graphic novel collection, though their internet computers didn’t allow you FTP access. Grrr…), an indoor climbing wall and a Pizza Express. And in contrast to Aldershot, the local Bargain Booze has no full-time security staff and the local kids are at least polite when they ask you to buy booze for them and don’t hurl abuse at you when you refuse. A seeming lack of pubs though…

The Quill Awards completed last night. Some of the highlights are that the latest Harry Potter won Book of the Year and Best Children’s Chapter Book. Gaiman’s 1602 won best Graphic Novel (still not read that one) and the most amusing title for me is the winner of the SciFi/Fantasy/Horror category (it’s all one thing you know!) which is ‘The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror’ by Christopher Moore. The rest of the winners are here.

‘Real’ books

I need something fairly brainless in the mornings to read, so I bought the newest Tom Clancy paperback, ‘Teeth of the Tiger’. If I’m reading for quality, I steer away from Clancy, and his politics do often grate with me, but it’s a fairly decent techno-thriller that you can read with only half of your brain switched on. When I finish that one, I’ve got a collection of H.P. Lovecraft’s work. All praise Great Cthulhu! After that I have ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’ by Susanna Clarke to read. I didn’t really get into it last time, but I’ve got enough time in the evenings to dedicate to it now.

Graphic Novels

I recently acquired, as part of my monthly post-payday Amazon purchase the second ‘Global Frequency’ book and ‘Mr Punch’, a Gaiman/McKean collaboration. I had read GF2 before, but it was quality, so I had to own it. I haven’t read ‘Mr Punch’ yet as it requires a fairly awake brain. I’m getting frustrated that ‘Desolation Jones’ is only bi-monthly and the first (assuming there’s more) storyline is supposed to be six episodes long and I’ve got three of them already. So for those weak in arithmetic, that means I’ve got to wait half a year to finish reading the story. Grrr….

Bryce very kindly brought his library graphic novel acquisitions with him to the game so I had something to read on Sunday morning while everyone else was still asleep. The first was a Constantine book, ‘Highwater’, which was good, and firmly re-establishes Constantine as someone not to be messed with. I quite enjoyed the other book he brought, but am ashamed to say I can’t remember it’s name.


My AudioScrobler profile (see link on right) is slanted. The WMP plugin only records what you actually play using WMP, not what you transfer to your MP3 player. If I’m playing music from the computer, it’s likely to be mellow Sunday morning stuff, or occasional weird stuff, so there’s by plenty of Lamb, Massive Attack, Mr Punch, Goldfrapp etc. However, my MP3 player, which I actually listen to most often, is mostly filled with rockin’ tracks as I’m listening to it on the move and want something to get the adrenaline flowing.

Aside from that, this month’s Amazon purchase included the classic album ‘Moon Safari’ by French electronica outfit, Air.


Haven’t seen any movies recently, not being around in the evenings much. I’ve been filling my time, as mentioned below, watching the second season of 24. However, films I want to see, hopefully are: The Corpse Bride, Nightwatch and Serenity. Next months DVD purchase may include Batman Begins.

I’ll start with a film I saw the other evening and that I’ve been wanting to watch for some time. It’s an independent film called . It’s a series of vignettes, starring 2 to 3 people in different settings, being… people. There are connecting themes (coffee and cigarettes being the most obvious but by no means the only one) both in the narrative and in the visuals. The vignettes range from the utterly bizarre, the funny, the poignant and the very simple normal, everyday coffee shop scene.
What this film does not have: A clear beginning, middle and happy end; Action, explosions or car chases; Romance
Who is in this film: Bill Murray, Cate Blanchet, The White Stripes, The Wutang Clan, Roberto Benigni, Steve Buscemi, Steve Coogan, Iggy Pop and a host of others.
In summary: I really enjoyed this film and I think many people will. But not if they want their conclusions wrapped up and presented on a silver platter. Some things don’t have a meaning and are just there to be experienced.

My god, I sound like a pretentious film student! Noooo!

Anyway, moving onto comics/graphic novels/[insert newest term here]. Last night I read the much sought-after , written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean. Both writer and illustrator and people whose work I like a lot so this was something I’d been hunting for some time. Unfortunately it is out of print and and second hand dealers were asking a fortune for it. So when I found it on Ebay, I was much thrilled and hastily clicked the ‘Buy it now’ button. It arrived in short order, read it last night and it was worth every penny. A dying director ‘films’ his last movie in his head. That’s the whole story, but it all hangs together wonderfully. Gaiman and McKean do their thing very well together.

Right, next I bought the first two copies of , the new comic by . In this world, there a bunch of ex-spooks in the world and when they get to be a problem they are ‘imprisoned’ in LA. They have freedom of movement of the city and immunity within it’s boundaries, but that’s it. Jones is a British ex-spook, turned private investigator, specialising in dealing with problems that have arisen within the intelligence community. His first case is, quite literally, hardcore. It’s a good story, though Ellis is prone to throwing loads of interesting tidbits into the first episode (“look what interesting fact I found on the internet!”), but by the second episode things settle in a bit more and take on some life of their own. It was a good read.

Ellis seems obsessed with the whole fallout of the global intelligence community. It was first touched upon in Global Frequency and now in DJ. I have no idea why, but it does make good stories.

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BBC NEWS Magazine Can read, won’t read books

Victoria Beckham says she has never read a book in her life. It’s a common trait – one in four adults say books aren’t for them.

Does this mean she’s never read her own (alledged) autobiography? Oops…

But seriously, I have heard people say they just don’t have time to read and that they’d rather escape into some like Eastenders or some magazine or other. I’ve even heard “I think enough at work, I wouldn’t want anything too intellectual in my time off”. It’s a sad world.

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