‘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.

The weekend, as is often the case, began on Friday night. A slightly frazzled, ‘work is finally over’, ‘I hate the rush-hour’ Friday night, but Friday none-the-less. As Penny was out gallivanting I finally finished watching the second season of 24. Very enjoyable, and very, very brutal. I won’t spoil it for anyone by detailing why, but wow.

Saturday began with breakfast with Penny before she went off to work. I then got a haircut that took me by surprise. Somehow when I said “just a trim to tidy it up please”, the bizarre acoustics of the barbers translated this to “I’m sick of my crazy uncontrollable locks, make me look somewhat less disrespectable, dammit!”. I must confess it does look more professional, but it’ll take a while to get used to the change in length.

Then, having plenty of time left over of my morning and nothing left to fill it with, it was off to London where I arrived at the usual pub in Canary Wharf about an hour early. Good thing I’d brought reading material with me! And when that ran out, there was always the news to read on my phone. After the usual food, drink and catch-up, off to Kev’s for our game of Aberrant. We didn’t really achieve very much, but we got ourselves in a position where we’ll be ready to move next game session.

The post-game period was spent watching the Top 100 animations of all time. Some I disagreed with (Urutskidoji?! Sure it was only at 85-ish, but still, there are a lot of far superior animes out there that didn’t even make the top 100) and of course The Simpsons made number one. Good program though.

Sunday was spent playing a non-horror game of ‘When Darkness Comes’. It was fun to play, though the rules needed some tweaking. It also took longer than I had anticipated, mainly due to the ridiculous number of botches! I’ll be writing up the rules and posting them to EG. It looks like it’s a game I can run easily at Conception.

Speaking of EG, it’s back up with most of it’s content. The database got corrupted, so some content will have errant question marks throughout it. The only thing lost was the forum posts, news and user accounts, but all the actual content is there. I need to create a new logo too and some icons have been lost. However, security is affirmed and the codebase more stable. Which means that once users are recreated, we can post the Aberrant journals up there.

My movements this week: I’ll be in a B&B until Wednesday night when I’ll be going home to repack. Thursday night I’m flying out to Holland, returning late Friday.

Well work is getting busier and busier. Tomorrow I won’t be in the office at all, off to a client site. I’m glad it’s getting busier, there’s nothing worse than inactivity.

Well, I finally managed to install . It was a lot less scary than it could have been once I’d done some background reading. I’m sure it shouldn’t have been that scary in the first place though, and I shouldn’t have had to do any background reading to install it. While installing an operating system is hardly a day-to-day activity and certainly not having two co-exist on the same machine, we are often told these days that Linux is ready for the end user and it’s not as techy as it used to be. Rubbish. Sure, I could trust the suggestions of the installation program (they were pretty much correct), but then why did I need to make all the decisions? An normal computer user will not understand what it means when the boot sector is on hda1 and root is installed on sda1 which will be repartitioned and formatted with the ReiserFS file system. Eh? Like I said, it all worked smoothly, but I was confronted with a lot of technical questions, and I’m supposed to reasonably technical.

On use Linux was quite pleasant and intuitive. I decided to opt for GNOME rather than KDE as a desktop thingy, mainly because I’ve read it can auto-mount USB drives, which I use quite heavily. One frustration is that I’m going to have to download codecs to view most movies and listen to most of my music. For various copyright reasons they were not included with the OS which I find quite annoying. I want it all to work out of the box. It manages to come with an adequate office package (I would describe 2 as excellent, if it weren’t for that immense let-down, the database is ships with), half a dozen MP3 players, but if you want to listen to a WMA or watch an MPEG you have to go online.

I watched the directors cut of the other day and I really enjoyed it. I’ve not seen the theatrical release of ‘s epic, but I’ve been informed the directors cut is much better. Alexander got panned in reviews when it came out in cinemas. Empire Magazine’s review was one of the more balanced. It gave it 4 stars and described it thus: “Unwieldy and flawed, but Stone remains a tornado in an era of airless formula and — to paraphrase our Ptolemy — its failings are greater than most films’ successes.”
Interestingly, they only gave the director’s cut 3 stars, saying it was cut down and more audience friendly than the more cumbersome theatrical version. I can’t comment on that, but I did enjoy the directors cut. The characterisation was good in my opinion. Some judged it hammy and overacted, but these are strong, epic even mythical characters. Sure, the plot jumped between the campaigns of Alexander to his youth all the time, but it was well timed to show where his decisions came from and what his influences were. Some say the battle scenes were too messy, bloody, violent and horrific. Yes they were. It was war in simple, bloody, vicious times. Fans of the battles of will be appalled. I thought it was great, depicting clearly that there was no glory in his conquests, just blood.

And yet, is still my film of the year.

: “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.

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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First off, I never really covered the bank holiday weekend. It started for me on Friday evening when I went up north with Andy, getting into Arnold just in time to get a couple of drinks in before last orders.

Saturday involved some shopping and, once Tim had arrived, traipsing around a few pubs in central Nottingham, enjoying the ale and killing time until the rest of the reprobates managed to show up in Nottingham. At seven we then all met up in a pub in Sherwood, there was a brief flurry of gifts for Karen from the absent Penny and the present Tim. After that? Well, Bryce has already covered it here, so I won’t go over it again. But let’s just say I felt awful for about 2 days after the event. Not a great thing really, as I was working on Monday.

For some reason I ended up watching two chick flicks this weekend. Personally I think my decision-making ability was diminished to my hangover and that I was taken advantage of. But since I have seen them and since some of you are in the position to be coerced into watching chick flicks, I may as well review them for you.

First up we have , starring Will Smith and Eva Mendes. Watch this film if you want somewhat amusing, formulaic, heart-warming pulp. It is light-hearted if you can’t be bothered to engage your brain and fancy the odd chuckle at Will Smith’s expense. This film is harmless.

Next we have , starring Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. This is in no way formulaic, heart-warming or light-hearted, and although it has the odd funny moment, it’s occasional, ironic and black comedy. This film is the anti-Hitch. It is an intelligent look at modern messed-up relationships, truth, lies, loss and obsession. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still mostly a chick flick. But it’s certainly not a traditional entrant into the category and should not be recommended to anyone who likes a happy film or wants avoid thinking.


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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Still ridiculously busy, so it’s back to bullet points!

  • Apparently people have realised I’m leaving the company, so there’s a panicked “Oh my god, you must finish this/answer this/explain this! (delete as applicable)”.
  • It looks like I may be meeting Beth for dinner tonight. Assuming my headache doesn’t get any worse. Which has just saved me another bullet point.
  • Finished watching ‘Identity‘ the other night and it truly was an excellent film. Thanks Bryce!
  • People are starting to make excuses about not being able to come to my leaving do tomorrow night. Gits.