A chilled out weekend that began with a few hours of playing on the PS2, acquired by trading in some of my older games that I don’t play anymore.

RE4 is slightly less horror and slightly more FPS than previous incarnations, but I think it does so well. The interface seems slicker, there’s less really annoying, pointless puzzles and more story. I’m actually interested in what happens next. So I can see myself keeping myself amused with this in the odd moments of spare time.

On Sunday penny and I went to see the at the Royal Academy of Arts, which we enjoyed immensely. My favourite piece was the , rather than the more well-known piece, .

Monday, yesterday, Penny had a busy day. She had her first introductory driving lesson, a preliminary to her intensive course starting soon, and then went in to London in the evening. The purpose of her visit was to go to see Neil Gaiman announce, talk about, read from and sign his new book, . Apparently she enjoyed it immensely.

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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Wow, what a week it’s been! No blog for the last week and a half due to an enforced absence in Hannover. But let’s tackle it one day at a time…

Saturday the 30th of October

It all began on Saturday with Kev’s birthday party. Penny and I arrived what we thought was late, but we ended up getting to Kev’s a good few hours before anybody else gave an ETA. It was a good party and good to see everyone again. It was the first time I’d seen Russ and Andrea since the infamous Night of the Jentalist! Lynsey’s cooking was excellent and the wine bountiful.


Sunday began with us all watching Blade Trinity – AKA bloody bubblegum for the eyes. (Note to self: Use less weird metaphors). In the late afternoon Penny and I rushed off to go and See Dave McKean’sMirrormask’. We were much pleased to find out that not only was Dave there to introduce the film, but he was doing a Q&A afterwards, he’d brought the cast and Lenny Henry (friend of McKean & Gaiman) decided to show up too.

The film itself was a fairly simple family story at the heart of it, but the visuals and the storytelling together (especially the visuals) made it an awesome experience. Sadly, Penny – exhausted from the previous night’s excesses and lulled by the warm theatre – dozed off from time to time, thereby missing chunks of a film she’d been clambering to see for some time.

After the film was the Q&A session which was more entertaining than informative. The cast were pleasantly ‘normal’ rather than showbiz and Dave himself seemed rather unsure of all the attention. The best line came from Lenny Henry, when asked about the creative process of Gaiman & McKean: “Have you seen the film? They were obviously on drugs! I turned up and they were smoking giant reefers, like rolled up Persian rugs!”

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All kinds of stuff going on this weekend, principally Kev’s 30th birthday party.

And then, on Sunday just before I fly out for the week, Penny and I are going to see MirrorMask at the London Film Festival. The DVD already has an Amazon entry, though as you can see, it’ll be a long time before it’s available…

Originally uploaded by sburn01. Click to enlarge

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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.

: “And the other thing is Hollywood executives really love the smell of their own urine and what they really like doing is urinating on things. And then going, ‘Hmm, now this smells really good’ and being really puzzled when the rest of the world goes ‘No, actually it smells like pee.'”

The rest of the interview is quite good too, talking about MirrorMask, the Sandman film(s) and movie-making in general, I just particularly liked that quote.

Well, I had a day off yesterday, and much enjoyed it was. And a much needed break. Weekends tend to be filled with sociable stuff which, whilst enjoyable, are often not exactly chill time. And that’s what I had yesterday.

Why yesterday in particular? Well, a few weeks ago I had a dilemma. I had a certain amount of spare money and not sure whether to spend it on a Sony PSP or a new mountain bike. After some agonising, I decided that a mountain bike would be a better investment. Healthier, more sociable as I could go on trips with Penny and a less constant drain on funds as games are expensive. So after some research, I settled on a Specialized Hardrock Sport, pictured right, and it was ready to collect yesterday.

Sadly, it wasn’t ready until the afternoon, so I was forced to spend the day chilling out playing computer games and reading (more on that later). But finally it was ready. I took the train to the rather excellent bike shop in Woking and then cycled in back along the canal. One thing is for sure. If I didn’t have one already, I’d want one. Light, sturdy and very responsive; An absolute dream to ride. I’m looking forward to punishing the hell out of it.

There’s quite a good interview with Neil Gaiman in the new SFX (Nr 136 out at the end of the month), but if you can’t be arsed to buy it (I know I’m unlikely to), it is available in full here. It’s somewhat censored, as Neil does like the word Fuck. (His acceptance speech to unexpectedly winning a Hugo was “Fuck me, I won a Hugo!”)

Now, back to that reading that I was doing. On Monday Mage: The Awakening was released and on Wednesday it finally got delivered to my local game store. I’ve read through most of it now and it’s quite nice. The rules are slicker and less open to abuse (though more rulesey than Mage: The Ascension. Don’t expect to be able to cast spells without the book in front of you for a good long while), the design and art is lovely, particularly the cover (except for WW’s new tendency of using a weird script font for chapter subheadings in a shiny colour that makes it hard to read) and it’s all quite cohesive.

And the Tremere are back! But this time, instead of being Mages that became Vampires (as in Vampire: The Masquerade), they are now Vampires that became Mages! Huzzah! Well, not exactly. It’s like WW felt they ought to include them, had some good ideas but never had them properly polished. Expect some house rules regarding that and regarding Sleepers causing paradox.

The Forbidden Planet events page shows the following signings:
Saturday 22nd October 1 – 2pm, Terry Pratchett signing his new Discworld novel (starring Vimes and the Guards), THUD!

Saturday 12th November 11am – 12pm, Neil Gaiman signing his new novel, Anansi boys.

I’ll probably be there for the Neil Gaiman signing, though the Pratchett signing is tempting. Maybe that means I can get my copy of Good Omens signed by both of them! Result! Next step is to find out if these are ticketed events or whether it just involves queuing for three hours.

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Mirrormask is not even out in the cinemas yet (due for release in the US in September, no UK release date yet) and Dave McKean is already talking about his next movie project, the filmisation of Signal to Noise, written by Gaiman. It should be an interesting project considering the thematic. The graphic novel is ridiculously hard to get hold of though. No appearances on Ebay, and buying it second-hand on Amazon will cost you at least £26.

I hope that MirrorMask will make it to the UK, the visuals look very good. It won’t be a major release, but when it’s finally out, it’ll probably be showing at independent cinemas like the Curzon in London.

Update: MirrorMask is being shown at the Edinburgh Film Festival on August 27th. Tickets are still available on Ebay.

Then of course there’s Gaiman’s other movie project, Beowulf. Empire announces that in addition to Ray Winstone and Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie will be hopping on-board this project. Robert Zemeckis’ stop motion-capture epic is due to hit cinemas in 2007, as opposed to the rival Beowulf film, Beowulf and Grendel which will hit cinemas (though perhaps only independent ones) in 2006.

Update: Angelina Jolie will be playing Grendel’s mother, so definetly not a stereotypical character for her. Grendel was a direct descendent of Caine (at least once the Christians were finished adding a thin veneer over the top of the Anglo-Saxon epic poem), filled with hate and bile for all things alive. Grendel’s mother was worse.

In addition, John Malkovich has joined the cast! Woot!

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