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Category: Ramble (Page 1 of 43)

delicious roasties

Week 46: Timey wimey

(November 12 – 18)

One of the random moments that’s always stuck with me from the Star Wars films is when Yoda accuses Luke of always looking to the future, “…never his mind on where we was, what he was doing…

I’ve been doing a lot of waiting this week, and a lot of reflecting, and it’s made me think about how we continually live our lives across three different time streams (if you’ll forgive me getting a little time-wimey). We always have the promise of the future, distracting us from the present. And we always have the past that we revisit constantly, but can never truly restore to the present. Nostalgia has become a great cultural driver for us, and a great feeder for capitalism—which is surely nothing more than the drive to acquire material assets to (supposedly) make your future better.

But that’s not really my point. My point is, I think, that it’s remarkable that we can function in the third–the present–at all. We spend all our time looking forward to things: that next cup of coffee; the end of the day; seeing someone; planning for tomorrow. And then the experiences we have in the present get filed away as memories of the past which inform our desires (or fears) from the future. They also fill our present. We spend vast swathes of time reliving and sharing those memories: talking about that great movie we saw last night; that delicious meal; that legendary holiday.

It’s a self-sustaining feedback loop in which the present is the briefest flash of our existence: this split second as I write this word and then you read this one. Then it’s gone. We can only act in the present, but the bulk of our consciousness is devoted to either side of that line.

Anyway, that went way deeper than planned, so let’s talk about Doctor Who!

Watching

A little bit underwhelmed by this week’s episode of Doctor Who (“Demons Of The Punjab”), which is a shame as it was excellently made and had all the hallmarks of being a bit of a keeper. I’ll definitely give it a second chance, but I feel like the series is starting to play a lot of the same cards: they’re strong cards, no doubt, but I’m now waiting to see it all come together. The next two look pretty intriguing though.

For Fridate horror we watched an anthology film called Holidays on Netflix. As you might reasonably guess, each short film was based around a particular holiday (St Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc). With eight holidays to cover, the films were pretty short—in fact it was like an evening going through horror shorts on YouTube (with the same wild variance in quality). A couple of the shorts were absolutely batshit crazy, some were fun. One was really, really good—the one inspired by Father’s Day. If you can track that one down then I highly recommend giving it a watch on its own.

But possibly not on your own.

Reading

After looking through my virtual to-read pile, I realised I’ve owned a copy of Bird Box for some time now. My interest in this was especially piqued after watching the trailer recently, so I started reading it. Several chapters in and I’m intrigued by the premise (if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll get a perfect sense of the book so far). I am already wondering if the plot can be sustained long enough to remain interesting, but the book seems short enough that I’m willing to stay around long enough to find out.

Meanwhile, It is continuing to plod along in it’s amiable and expertly-crafted way. I marvel at Stephen King’s ability to drift wildly from the plot, and yet still retain the interest of his reader (listener). Equally, the energy which Steven Weber continues to bring to the narration is a delight.

Pathfinder board game

Week 45: Tiny moments

(November 5 – 11)

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about tiny actions, and the way they can change the course of our lives; a little bit like the butterfly effect. For example, randomly picking up a Doctor Who book in my primary school playground sparked a lifelong love of the show. Many years later, writing a letter to a video magazine, to see if I could write for them, proved to be the first step in a life/career path that indirectly led to me emigrating to Australia and starting a career in IT. Go figure.

Alongside those tiny actions are the coincidences: the confluences of unplanned events that steer our lives in seemingly unpredictable directions. You miss out on what you think is your dream job, only to get a job you really like a few months later. One apparent setback becomes the thing that you only realise later had left your life clear for much better things to happen.

How many times in our lives does this happen? We turn left instead of right? We say one thing instead of another, and those are the words that changes someone’s mind? We go out, instead of staying at home, and meet someone amazing?

And if you didn’t make one of those choices, sometimes years back, how different would your life be now?

Watching

Episode 5 of the new series of Doctor Who (“The Tsuranga Conundrum”), and the io9 review sums it up best for me: I’m ready for Doctor Who to stop proving that it’s still Doctor Who. This week we had the alien/base under siege story. This has followed from the obligatory monster story and the (very excellent) historical story. Once again, a perfectly good episode—gorgeous to look at, strong attention to characterisation. I just don’t think it’s going to be an especially memorable one. I’m ready for this season to throw off the restraints and *really* show us what the new production team are capable of. Five down; six to go!

Friday’s horror movie was A Quiet Place, which I’ve been waiting to watch for a long time (indeed, the bluray has been sitting on my shelf for months now). And it was pretty damn good. Very slow–a consequence of the [necessary] lack of dialogue, and the literal slow and measured pace of the characters. However, once it starts (and it starts pretty early on) it doesn’t let up. In fact, I was surprised when it ended.

But, I do love that last scene ….

Reading

Not much.

creepy halloween portrait

Week 44: Halloween

(October 29 – November 4)

Sometimes you meet new people, and sometimes they’re really, truly awesome. And that’s about all I have to say on that subject for now. So let’s talk about Halloween.

As you might know Halloween used to be my wedding anniversary, and also used to be the occasion of our annual Halloversary party. That, obviously, doesn’t happen now: I’ve bequeathed Halloween party responsibilities to my friends, and now I just enjoy Halloween for what it is (i.e. the best freakin’ ‘holiday’ of the year).

The kinderbesten are both old enough now to start properly getting into Halloween as well. I made sure to pick them up some costumes the other week, so they’d be appropriately attired. They both had much fun trying them on beforehand and deciding which combination of bits and pieces they wanted to wear for the night itself.

One of my favourite bits about Halloween is driving home and seeing all the families out trick or treating—kids dressed up and having the best time, while their parents hang back just far enough not to spoil the fun. I’m sure this is something that has happened only in the last few years; I don’t remember seeing it so much before last year.

By the time I got home from work, both kinderbesten had gone out. The Elderbeast had gone to do whatever he does with his friends. The Kinderbeast, meanwhile, was so determined to go trick or treating that his great grandmother ended up taking him. It’s a great image: an 83 year old trick or treating for the first time, accompanied by a six year old in a ghost face costume. He came back sometime later, beaming with an impressive haul of candy (which I subtly thinned out in the days afterwards, because that’s the kind of mean Dad that I am).

The Elderbeast did not come home quite so promptly, and once it got to 8pm I had to get a message to one his friends to tell him it was time to come home—which he did pretty quickly. I guess this is the dawn of the teenage years. Before long staying out late with his friends will be the norm.

Oh, fun.

Watching

The viewing week, as it will continue to do for the next month or so, kicked off with Doctor Who (“Arachnids In The UK”). This week’s episode featured giant spiders, which feels like a deliberate throwback to the classic show (even though the mechanics of the plot ended up being very much modern show). As with the last few episodes, the same pattern is showing: a high focus on the characterisation, but less so on the plot. I don’t have a huge problem with this. We’re here to enjoy the journey with these characters, not just for the journey itself. The most elaborately and carefully plotted story will fall completely flat if the characters aren’t engaging, but well written characters can usually help carry you through a wafer thin plot without realising.

For me, the only major misstep of the episode was Chris Noth’s character. I enjoyed his performance, but the writers seemed to be presenting him as a potentially new and terrible Presidential successor to Donald Trump. This utterly failed for me, as I can’t really imagine anyone worse than Donald Trump in the position.

On Friday I finally started watching The Haunting Of Hill House (just the first two episodes). Great stuff. Completely different story to the novel, but with a lot of the DNA in place. It was fun picking up the various references and callbacks to the book. I’m very keen to see where this one is going.

Saturday was an ‘easy viewing’ day, with repeat showings of Jurassic Park and Star Trek (the 2009 movie—and, wow, how was that nearly ten years ago now?!?)

Reading

I’m still plodding onwards with It. I haven’t picked up a new novel to read yet; I’ve continued to dip into my Humble Bundle short story horror collections. Nothing truly outstanding yet, but hopefully I’ll have a few good ones to talk about next week.

jason vorhees hockey masks

Week 43: Waiting

(October 22 – 28)

This week we had a follow-up appointment at the children’s hospital (kinderbesten krankenhausen!), to make sure everything was once again well with the Kinderbeast following his course of antibiotics. Typically this appointment fell on the same afternoon that the Elderbeast also had a thing on, which required me taking the afternoon off work for the hospital checkup, while the Elderbeast’s mother took him to his thing.

I left work super-early and picked up the Kinderbeast from school. Naturally, this meant I ended up arriving late to the hospital. We just about managed to park at a few minutes after the scheduled time, then raced into the hospital—with visions of having driven all that way only to lose our appointment to the next person and having to reschedule. I was praying that they were running late. And they were.

Two hours late.

We finally got in to see the doctor at 5pm and, since you’ll be wondering, everything was fine. Luckily the Kinderbeast found plenty of other kids to play with during this time, but my brain definitely turned into soup. Two things I don’t handle especially well are: having to wait around for things; and hospitals. Put them together and it’s as if someone peered inside my head and challenged themselves to find the worst thing they could do to me.

(Actually, no—the worst thing they could have done was if one of the doctors had come out and started sticking needles into my eyes while I was waiting).

In the end, what made it bearable was knowing already that the Kinderbeast was fine, and that the checkup—when it eventually happened—would confirm that.

And he was.

Watching

Amazing episode of Doctor Who this week (“Rosa”)—one of those that people will be talking about for years to come. I was fairly worried, going in, that the story would end up being about how the Doctor inspires Rosa Parks to make her world-changing stand, and thus completely rob her of her agency. Fortunately, I was dead wrong. This was one of the most raw representations of racism I’ve ever seen in the show, and far from showing the Doctor being the superhero, a large part of the episode’s power comes from her combined fury and helplessness over the institutional racism that she witnesses here.

The Kinderbeast watched the episode with me and the two responses he had made my day. Watching one of the scenes where the racism is on overt display, he asked with a mixture of outrage and puzzlement: “Why are they doing that?” Later, when the driver confronts Rosa Parks on the bus, he declared: “That man’s a jerk!!”

As I commented on twitter, it’s a reminder that racism is taught, not learned naturally, and we have a responsibility as parents not to darken our children’s outlook on life, and to help them grow up to be the best people they can be.

The week, as it so often is, was capped off by Fridate Horror. I’ve been wanted to start working through the surprisingly large list of horror films on my Netflix list, so this week’s choice was I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House. It’s a sloooooow film. I wasn’t even sure if I liked it at first, but it grows on you, like a persistent fungal infection. Literally every scene looks like a work of art—you could freeze frame the film at almost any point, print it, and put it on your wall. Meanwhile, there’s a sense of dread that slowly builds up until you realise it’s tapping you right on the shoulder even though you never heard it coming.

Probably not a film for everyone, but up there with Suspiria as one of the most gorgeous films I’ve ever seen.

For Sunday night, the Elderbeast requested that we watch A Monster Calls, the book of which he read some months ago. It was really, really good, and also really, really sad. I don’t want to talk too much about it, for fear of spoiling it (it works best when you don’t really know what things are leading up to), but I think I’ll be watching it again soon. The only negative point was Sigourney Weaver’s English accent, but even the forced nature of that fitted well with her character.

Watch it, but be prepared for a few tears by the end.

Reading

I am continuing to listen to It, which is continuing to drag a little, but is also continuing to be thoroughly enjoyable—if that makes any sense.

I haven’t yet decided what novel to pick up next, so I’ve been dipping into a set of horror short story collections I picked up from Humble Bundle. So far there have been some memorable offerings from Clive Barker and George R R Martin. I’m looking forward to whatever comes up next.

pizzas

Week 42: Birthday

(October 15 – 21)

This week was dominated by the Elderbeast’s birthday (his 12th) which seemed to be another one of those things that was on the horizon forever, and then suddenly … happened. His main present from me this year, on his request, was ‘dinner at a fancy restaurant’. Since he also wanted Peking duck, it made sense to go to the nice Chinese restaurant down the road from us. And it was very, very nice indeed. So nice, in fact, that everyone kept saying how nice it was, in case we each forgot how nice a time we were having and how delicious all of the food was.

One of the best parts was that I got to pay—which might be one of the first times I’ve ever paid for a big, expensive family meal. It felt really good to be able to treat everyone to a good meal and a great evening. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I’d recently been handed a little over $500 back on my tax return.

The celebrations continued on Saturday when, as further evidence of my sheer awesomeness as a parent, I allowed the Elderbeast to have some friends round for a birthday sleepover. Naturally, I was a little nervous about this but—spoiler alert—I have to say they were all excellent and any fears I might have had ended up being completely unfounded.

What was more of a surprise was the Kinderbeast spending half of the day in hospital! He complained of a pain in his groin in the early afternoon, so I took and look and let’s just say that things didn’t look they way they should. Unfortunately we were mere hours away from people arriving; luckily, the Kinderbeast’s mother was able to take him to a local walk-in surgery.

And then the saga began. From the surgery, they were sent to the nearest Emergency Department. From there, they were sent to the children’s hospital in the city. We then had some fun talk about possible surgery, until they ended up walking that back and sent him home at about 9pm with a prescription.

It was a time!

Watching

I spent all week meaning to get started on Netflix’s The Haunting Of Hill House, but somehow that didn’t happen.

I did, of course, watch the second episode of Doctor Who (“The Ghost Monument”). I’m still very much loving this latest reimagining, and I genuinely can’t get over how gorgeous the show looks now. It always looked good, but they’ve managed to take this new season to the next level. The plot was, once again, perhaps a little thin, but was more than compensated by the compelling characterisation and performances of all players.

Oh, and the new opening titles are just superb—they’re just too short!

To keep me entertained on Saturday night, while the children played, I decided to watch the 1975 movie of Tommy. I’ve been listening to the album a fair bit lately, and remembered the movie vaguely from my childhood. It’s a blast. Not, perhaps, a great movie, but one that’s not ashamed to be what it is, and it does good service to the music.

Sunday night’s ‘Netflix hidden gem’ viewing was Advantageous, a light science fiction drama about a mother struggling with being sidelined in an increasingly age-conscious society. I don’t really want to say too much more about it, but it’s surprisingly sad and moving.

Reading

It, the audiobook, continues to be a little plodding. I’m at the same point, more or less, where I last abandoned the novel. And I’m not surprised, to be honest. As my reading discipline gets worse, I really need stories to get to the point, or for the plot to move forward fairly regularly. It is not a book like that. In fact, on reflection, it has so little plot that I’m impressed they managed to make such a good film out of it.

This is not me saying that it’s a bad book. It’s not; it’s a tremendous book, perhaps King’s defining work. However, it does run down numerous side alleys—it’s a book, you could say, that takes the pretty route at very chance. There’s barely a character whose entire life story isn’t spelled out in marvellous detail; there are flashbacks within flashbacks; there’s a wealth of content that brings almost nothing to the story, does add to the richness of the tale. As I think I’ve already said, no one rambles better than Stephen King, but there is a lot of rambling in It.

Outside of that, it’s still an absolute pleasure to listen to Steven Weber’s narration. Even the slow stuff is marvellous: I just seem to be at a point where I’ve been stuck in the same scene for about four days.

In far more glorious news, I finished my book—The Boy On The Bridge. Thoroughly enjoyed it, and I can say without hesitation that if you’re someone who enjoyed The Girl With All The Gifts, then you’ll also enjoy this one.

As mentioned last week, I also started (and finished) reading the graphic novel of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep. This one was a real treat, and I couldn’t get enough of it. It’s one of the densest graphic novel adaptations I’ve read, by which I mean it really feels as though every page of Philip K Dick’s source novel has been brought onto the page.

I’ve read the original novel several times, and, perhaps inevitably, always viewed it as a prototype version of Blade Runner. This is the first time I’ve read it as a story in its own right and been able to see exactly how rich and fully-formed the world that Dick creates really is. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more adaptations like this.

smoke on the horizon

Week 41: Ensure the insurance

(October 8 – 14)

This week I renewed my house and contents insurance. For most people this would be a gloriously trivial matter. For me, not so much.

Last year, as part of an effort to streamline and manage my finances, I adjusted my insurance policy before renewal: main change was to raise my excess to $1000, reasoning that reducing the monthly payments would a smart move. The following week my backyard fence was irreparably damaged in storm, landing me with a $1000 excess bill (the total cost of the replacement fence was $1500). I quickly decided that I would drop my excess back down before the this year’s renewal, while spending much of the ensuing 12 months crossing my fingers that no more of my fences would blow down.

So this year my renewal quote comes in and it’s already $20 a month more than last year, and this is before I even reduce the excess. Given that the same company had increased my car insurance premium a few months earlier (and I’d been too lazy to do anything about it) I was determined to get a better deal this time round. So, I shopped around and found a better deal (almost $50 a month better).

There was just one problem.

I would need to phone my existing insurance company to cancel.

Naturally I didn’t want to start the new policy without cancelling the old one, but neither did I want to pick up the phone. So this dance went on. And went on. And this week we get to crunch time: the day that my insurance policy automatically renews if I do nothing about it.

So I double checked my replacement policy, got a fresh quote, and fiiiiiiiiinally made that phone call. It couldn’t have been more straightforward—they didn’t even try to haggle (to my simultaneous chagrin and relief). Even better, I was able to set up the new policy completely online.

The curious aftermath of all this is how much better I felt the following day. Now that I’ve laid it all out, it doesn’t seem much of a surprise, but I suspect this ridiculous business was stressing me out more than I realised over the last few weeks.

Stupid, the little things that wear us down.

Watching

Of course the big news this week is that Doctor Who finally came back, and it’s arguably one of the most anticipated season debuts since the series relaunched in 2005.

For my part, I love that the show changes. I love that it’s different every few years, and I love the fact that we’ve finally got a female Doctor. (If I have any reservations, it’s simply that showrunner Chris Chibnall has historically written some of the series’ weakest episodes in the past; but he may end up being a superb showrunner).

It’s odd to be able to say that a show is different in almost every way, but is still intrinsically Doctor Who. The way it looks, sounds, and even feels, is totally different now; and yet Jodie Whittaker is unquestionably the Doctor—the same character we’ve followed for decades. One of the smartest things in this episode was to make almost no reference to the fact that the Doctor is female now—there’s a few offhand comments, but this isn’t an episode about how the Doctor is different now (as post-regeneration episodes can sometimes be). Rather, it’s an episode about how the world changes around the three companion characters. Now, I’ll admit I was a little bit dubious about having so many companions for this season—it smacks of hedging bets, as if Chibnall wasn’t sure his new Doctor alone could bring in the viewers (same thing that happened when Tom Baker left)—but I’m enjoying the company so far and it definitely feels like the right decision.

Anyway that’s enough about Doctor Who. For this week…

For Fridate horror we watched the original version of Suspiria, which turned up streaming on Stan a week or two ago. I’d never seen it before, so it was quite a trip. Probably one of the most gorgeous horror films I’ve ever seen, but of course it didn’t make a lick of sense.

I had a curiously tangled journey towards my Saturday night film choice. I settled on something earlier in the week, and then promptly forgot what that choice was. I spent Saturday afternoon narrowing down my choices, and then happened to read something that mentioned my original choice: Looper!

I’d only seen the film once before, and was keen to give it a second viewing. And it holds up to a repeat showing. Strongly. Both leads (playing the same person) are fully rounded—they make bad choices at times, but it’s understandable why they do what they do. The time travel shenanigans hold up (at least I’ve not spotted any obvious gaffes yet). It’s a film that’s well worth the buzz it generated (and I’d completely forgotten that it was a Rian Johnson movie).

Keeping with the theme, and in the mood for some more potentially mind-bending sci-fi, I dipped back into my Netflix list for Sunday and picked Infinity Chamber. My only complaint with this one is that the casting was a bit of a missed opportunity. The lead actor is perfectly good, but given that the narrative demands one person to carry the film solo for large chunks of time, the movie could have been immensely elevated by casting someone with a bit more charisma.

Nevertheless, this was still a really engrossing watch that offered plenty to think about and left room for a couple of different interpretations.

Reading

Still going with the audiobook of It, and very much enjoying Steven Weber’s narration.

Also still going with The Boy On The Bridge. For once I’ve been pretty good at picking this one up almost every day; it just seems, on this occasion, that only having 30 minutes or so reading time per day is the reason why I’ll be with this book for a few weeks.

Late in the week I also picked up the graphic novel of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep in a ComiXology sale (and, yes, I am worried about how much of my live suddenly revolves around Amazon companies). More on this one next week.

chickens in their coop

Week 40: Chickens!

(October 1 – 7)

We finally got our chicken this week, after months of prep and waiting. The farm I had been keeping in touch with called up to say they had some pullets available this week, so we drove down on Monday morning and picked them up.

They are already much loved members of the family and I’m really pleased to see how dedicated the kinderbesten are to looking after them. The Elderbeast has taken on feeding and watering duties, while the Kinderbeast has decided that he will be chief pooper scooper.

The chickens are called Henrietta and Lady Scramble von Eggs III (both names chosen by the kinderbesten). Of the two, Lady Scramble is the biggest and already clearly the boss.

Having finally got the hens, I’m definitely glad that I opted to buy a second coop and bolt the two together. The original coop would have been just about big enough, but only for overnight stays. As it is, there have been a couple of days already where bad weather has forced me to keep them in the coop (instead of them getting to spend the day in the playpen, on the lawn). The second coop has a much larger floor area, and provides a place for us to put the feeder and waterer where they won’t get in the way.

Over the weekend I fitted a roosting bar in the coop—chickens like to sleep off the ground, safely away from predators—and was delighted to see them start using it almost immediately.

Chickens!

Watching

I managed a relatively rare feat this week and binged an entire Netflix series. The show in question was Maniac, which had started off looked pretty intriguing, and had then gone on to get some pretty strong word of mouth.

The show does a great job of defying categorisation, but it reminded me in some ways of the cerebral science fiction thrillers that the late 1970s was very good at producing. It was also barmy, surreal, funny—demonstrating perhaps a dash of inspiration from Douglas Adams. Both Jonah Hill and Emma Stone are fantastic in it—Hill, especially, is a revelation—but I also took particular delight from Justin Theroux’s performance.

Ironically, much of the appeal for me was that Maniac was billed as a “limited series”—just the single, ten-episode series—which I like because I don’t want to have to catch up on, or commit to, several year’s worth of episode. Inevitably, this time I’m sad that we won’t be getting any more of this one.

For Saturday night I was planning to watch The Man From UNCLE. Then the Elderbeast overheard me listening to the soundtrack from The Social Network and asked if we could watch that. Having only seen it once, and remembering it to be pretty damn good, I agreed.

I was impressed that the movie kept the Elderbeast’s attention throughout. Then again, with David Fincher directing an Aaron Sorkin script there’s really no alternative. I was also very happy that, given the rich drama unfolding on the screen, outlining a version of the story behind the world’s biggest social network, I was able to summarise events as “it’s basically a bunch of people being dicks to each other”.

Reading

I’ve started two new books this week. The first is the audiobook of Stephen King’s It which, at 40 hours long, is going to take about 60 days of driving to and from work to finish off. It’s read by Steven Weber, one of those actors you recognise, but can never remember what from (most recently he appeared in I, Zombie).

So far he’s brilliant, bringing a huge amount of energy to the reading and giving each character their own, very distinctive voice. I get the feeling that he thoroughly enjoyed getting stuck into this one.

I attempted a reread of the book last year, shortly after the film came out, but stalled about halfway through (frustrating, given I’ve successfully read it at least twice before). Out of all King’s best-remembered books, it’s almost certainly the most rambling. Almost every character gets their life story laid out before you even get to see how they fit into the story. It’s certainly a long haul.

Luckily, no one rambles better than Stephen King. It may be a bit of a slog for a poorly disciplined reader like myself, but it makes for great listening. As with Dune, I’m finding that listening to the book, rather than reading, allows me to absorb the details more easily and enjoy the world I’m being drawn into (rather than worrying how long it’s going to take to get to the next damn chapter.)

alien lego

Week 39: Difficult conversations

(September 24-30)

This week’s theme is Difficult Conversations. I had to have a Difficult Conversation at work this week, but in the end it was thrown rather sharply into relief by the Supreme Court nominee hearings over in the USA. Here we saw one brave person stand up for truth and justice, no matter the cost to themselves, while another person ranted and raved about the injustice of it all. One of these people is the nominee for the Supreme Court—a lifetime term which puts the appointee in one of the most powerful positions in the USA, not to mention giving them significant influence over the lives (and deaths) of every citizen in the country.

Of course the GOP has been true to form and put forward the worst candidate you could possibly imagine. It’s one of those situations where I find it hard to articulate the problems because they’re so blazingly obvious. And yet we have the GOP, and no shortage of other people, campaigning on behalf of someone who is demonstrably a liar and almost certainly an abuser. In a twisted way, it’s entirely appropriate—Kavanaugh would absolutely represent the law, but the law as the GOP sees it (which is to say, as another tool they can exploit and twist to their benefit).

I’ve said it before, but it doesn’t seem so many years ago that a politician’s career would be finished after even a whiff of indiscretion. We all remember Bill Clinton’s presidency almost ending because of a consensual sex act. Now, we have someone who is accused of attempted rape (and is almost certainly guilty) and people are still supporting him. Meanwhile, here in Australia we have a former Deputy PM who is a proven cheat and liar, and who got re-elected to Parliament due to the efforts of his party.

The most galling thing is that it’s the right-wing who campaign on the basis of family values, but it’s those same people who trash those values at every turn. I can’t help feeling that modern politics has become tarnished beyond repair and the process of fixing it is not going to be a pleasant one.

Watching

It’s been a relatively light viewing week, but I did finally dip into a new TV series. I’d read about a series called The Norsemen somewhere or other and seeing described as “The Office, but with Vikings” made it sound like something that I’d be into. It was. And I am. It’s not the fall-down, hyperventilate, smack yourself funniest thing you’ll ever see, and there’s a mildly worrying homophobic slant to one of the characters, but it’s casually amusing and if “The Office with Vikings” appeals to you, then I highly recommend it.

For my Saturday movie I picked Hanna, which showed up on one of my streaming services. It’s one of those movies that’s brimming with genius, but doesn’t quite manage to become the sum of its parts. In short, I loved many, many elements of the film, but came away thinking the whole thing hadn’t quite come together as well as it could have done. That being said, definitely not a disappointment, and well worth viewing,

Reading

Guess what? I FINALLY FINISHED THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE!! Yes! I made a commitment to myself to sit down and read it every night this week, and I managed to do exactly that. It was a fine read, but throughout I had the same problems with it that kept stalling my progress.

Firstly, the 1963 Robert Wise adaptation is so good, and relatively close to the source material, that I felt little sense of mystery as I made my way through the chapters. It’s probably sacrilege to say, but I didn’t feel as if the novel was giving me anything I hadn’t already found in the movie.

Secondly, I had a really hard time engaging with the characters as written due to the fact that their dialogue seemed overly stylised. It was very hard to accept them as real people when, to my ear, they didn’t speak like real people.

Also this week, I finished the audiobook of Dune. It’s been fascinating listening to a full, and highly regarded, novel in audiobook format. The production, as I’ve already said, was superb. The experience of listening to a book, instead of reading, seems to allow me to focus far more on the words and details. As such, both the strengths and flaws seem more apparent. Frank Herbert builds a rich, highly detailed, fully immersive universe in Dune. The first act of the story is rock solid, intricately plotted, and absolutely gripping. After that, however, he seems to get a bit lost in his creation. We shift from a Game Of Thrones level tale of political drama, to a slow-burning character study of a rising messiah. The closing chapters, though dramatic, seem to amble towards a conclusion, and then abruptly end.

Overall, I really enjoyed listening to this one, but it was just as fascinating to hear the book in a whole new light, and with a fresh perspective.

sunset

Week 38: Scribbulings

(September 17 –  23)

Over the course of this week I’ve been hammering away at several different writing projects, so I thought I’d waffle on about them a little more here. I tend to waver between having a laser-focus on a specific story, and having several things on the go at once. It’s possible that this isn’t great for my productivity, and I should maybe look at a more structured approach—but where’s the fun in that?

My major project at the moment is a sci-fi novella. It started out as a story, and quickly decided it needed to be longer. I’m at what I call the start of the second act (or roughly a third of the way through). I’ve had a few victories with this project recently. Firstly, it’s reached the point where the story has developed its own legs—I may have written about this already, but the current couple of chapters weren’t even in the original outline; they’ve simply appeared because the characters wanted to go in different directions.

Second, I finally have a title. The story takes place on a space station, and I’ve been struggling for months to come up with the right name for the station. That finally arrived this week, and will serve as the story’s title too.

I’ve also done something I’ve never really done before: I’ve written a lengthy piece (in the form of a report) simply to give me some much needed background to the events of the story. Most of it was already in my head, but writing it out this way has given me something a little more rigid to continue building the story on. It’s a really useful process, akin to writing biographies for your characters.

My other projects have included this blog, which I tend to devote a morning a week to. It’s a good way of getting some low-effort writing done, and can also be a good way of starting the day—by reflecting on what’s gone by recently.

I’ve been putting some extra effort into wrapping up new material for the podcast I’m working on with some friends. It’s been many months since we managed to get a pilot episode out, and I’ve taken a bit more time with the writing than I had planned to. For a long time I’ve had 90% of the material I needed for some new episodes; I just needed to sit down and focus on filling in the blanks.

Finally, a couple of older short stories have popped up recently and demanded to be rewritten. I did one of these earlier in the month, and recently another one—one that I’d almost forgotten about—piqued my interest again. Hopefully this means I’ll have a couple of stories that are worth sending out, instead of simply leaving them to languish on my hard drive.

Watching

I’m not still into the idea of starting a new TV series (no idea why) so for my Monday night TV Night I cracked open my newish bluray of The Thing and watched a doco that spanned the publication of the original story to the making of Carpenter’s film. Not a huge number of revelations in there for me, but it was still fun to watch.

For Friday Night Horror we wrapped up our Final Destination journey with Final Destination 5. This movie might have the best opening titles I’ve ever seen: a simple concept, incredibly well executed, that had us all watching in awe.

On Saturday I found myself unexpectedly #childfree (the Elderbeast arranged a last minute sleepover at a friends). I found myself into the mood for either an eighties movie, or an all-out action movie. I settled on Dredd, which perfectly captures both. This is a movie that either gets better each time I watch it, or I simply forget how good it is every time. It’s perfectly crafted, from start to finish, and the only sadness is that audiences didn’t show up enough to give us the sequels that this film deserves. I will have to watch it again very, very soon.

For Sunday night I was tempted by a few titles on my Netflix watch list, but I also felt like it was a good night for introducing the Elderbeast to another classic. After a quick browse, I came up with Hot Fuzz (yes, I’ll get an ointment for that). The Elderbeast enjoyed Shaun Of The Dead, so this was a reasonably safe bet. And it paid off. He’s already keen to watch World’s End.

Reading

I have, predictably, made no progress on The Haunting Of Hill House this week. I’m actually starting to look at reading strategies, and whether a more structured/disciplined approach to my reading will help. Normally I’d simply abandon the book, on the premise that life is too short. But this is a classic of the genre and I can’t let it defeat me!

I’m also very close to finishing the audiobook of Dune. It remains highly absorbing, but I’m still feeling that Frank Herbert hasn’t quite managed to make the latter parts of the book match up to the gripping first act. It’s all starting to come together, but there’s a lot of meandering. I’m aware that these words might be sacrilege to some—and the prose and characterisation are undeniably top notch—but the book does shift rather noticably from being a tense political drama to a portrait of life in the Arrakeen desert.

weeds in alley

Week 37: The sound of …

(September 10 – 16)

This week, for a change, has mostly been about music.

One on end of the spectrum: the streaming variety. I’ve been a longtime Spotify subscriber, but recently got the urge to try out Google Play Music, mostly because it supposedly does a better job of integrating with the Google Home. So far I’ve been unimpressed. Spotify is less than flawless in its design, but I’ve grown used to it. Meanwhile Google Play Music isn’t lacking anything I can put my finger on, but it’s often hard to find what I’m looking for. There seem to be minimal options for browsing music, so the user is forced to search. I’ve got it for a month, so I’ll keep trying, but so far it’s not looking Iike I’ll be making that switch.

On the other end of the scale, I’ve been immersing myself in hi-def multichannel music. Way back when I bought my first DVD player, I discovered that DTS (rivals to Dolby) had started releasing multichannel remixes of classic albums. These were mostly hard to get hold off, relatively expensive, and included very few titles that I was interested enough in to pay the money. This was followed by DVD-Audio, which offered high resolution sound as well as multichannel. Same story. Limited selection. Hard to find. Too expensive for my pocket back then (although I did end up with a couple of titles). After this came SACD. Same story yet again.

All of this was enough, however, to give me a taste for multichannel music. Some audiophiles may look at it as a gimmick, but I love hearing all my speakers coming to life, and being completely surrounded by the music.

Fast forward to a few months ago when I decided to set up my old SACD compatible player for the hell of it. I also decided to check out what SACDs are available to buy, thinking that no one plays SACDs anymore, so there must be a cheap secondhand market, right? Wrong! Most of the bastards are well over $100. Amidst this, somewhat absurdly, is a newly released SACD of Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms at the price of a regular CD. I snapped it up (I used to quite enjoy the album when I was younger) and it sounds absolutely awesome.

Since then I’ve been investigating options for getting hold of some more multichannel music. I’ve picked up a few Bluray audio titles (which is the latest format; again, relatively expensive and offering only a small number of titles that I’m actually interested in). I’ve continued to look at SACDs on eBay, but they mostly continue to be way too expensive.

However, over the weekend I stumbled across a Definitely Not At All Dodgy site that offers downloads of hundreds of these out of print titles and I’ve been downloading them like Napster never went out of fashion. I’ve bought myself a portable DVD burner and a stack of discs (and now also have the inevitable stack of failed burns). Where I can, I’ve bought original discs (I’ve ordered at least four titles from eBay in the last few weeks) but most of these mixes are either long out of print, or are secluded away within hugely expensive Super Deluxe reissues of albums.

Consequently, I’ve finally been able to enjoy treats like David Bowie’s Station To Station in 5.1 (pleasantly immersive, but not quite a revelation); I’ve rediscovered a few old Queen albums (The Game and Night At The Opera); I’ve realised that I should have been spending a lot more time listening to Groove Armada’s Vertigo album; and I’ve even found that an old multichannel download of Propaganda’s A Secret Wish (one of my favourite albums) works quite nicely on my new Bluray player.

The market remains defiantly adult-oriented. Naturally we’re talking about people who buy physical music, and like to listen to in on a hi-fi system, which means you’ll see a lot of Sting, Genesis, Dire Straits and the like getting the multichannel treatment—artists that are a bit less to my taste. Luckily, there have also been some David Bowie and Simple Minds titles release, which is a bit closer to the sort of music I’d buy anyway.

Sadly we’re unlikely to find the likes of Chvrches or Tash Sultana hitting this market. Maybe one day.

Watching

For Fridate Horror this week we did something a little different. I spotted something called The 50 Best Horror Films You’ve Never Seen on [Amazon] Prime Video and we decided to watch that, since who doesn’t love a list show? Despite a straight-to-video budget it was a surprisingly engrossing. It as presented by people who clearly love the genre, as opposed to the usual Z-List celebrities that are often unearthed for theses things. Furthermore, it introduced me to several films I’d never even heard of, let alone not seen. Suffice to say, there are about 10 new films on my Friday Horror viewing list.

For Saturday night I treated myself to a shiny new Bluray of Deadpool 2, having missed the movie at the cinema. There’s not really anything profound to say about it, other than it’s just as awesome as the first one, and had me laughing out loud at numerous moments.

Finally, on Sunday the Elderbeast (who has managed to come down with yet another virus) went straight to bed leaving me free reign to choose my own viewing. I opted for The Similars, which has been on my Netflix list for some time and has something like a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (unlike most of the films in my Netflix list). I can’t say too much about it without giving things away, but it’s a beautiful looking film and if you’ve ever wanted to see a Twilight Zone episode directed by David Lynch then this is your almost-chance.

Reading

Still listening to Dune. Still reading The Haunting Of Hill House. I promise I will read something different soon …

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