Sunday, 30 November 2014

Light Savour

Star Wars fans have felt the disappointing side of the Force many times in recent years, so did the teaser for the latest instalment strike back with the return of a New Hope?

Proper, and subtly updated, storm troopers (instead of those prequel pixel-monkeys):

A Swiss/Sith Army lightsabre with extra attachments (can-opener and corkscrew?)  Be careful how you hold this one:

And best of all, if you aren't going to show any familiar faces in what is after all just a teaser, then give us something just as familiar and beloved - the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs.  The Millennium Falcon is lovingly trailed by a swooping, tilting camera in a bravura shot which homages old-school Dykstraflex. Oh, and some TIE Fighters:

Welcome back, Star Wars!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Growing up is hard to do

The game this weekend was League (re) Union.

The 'indy band' album cover shot - somehow spontaneous and posed at the same time...

"No, let's just get a picture of the three middle-aged men" said Mary with unusual reticence after we invited she and Rose to join us in a group photograph.
She was right though, the shadow of fifty is cast across us much like the one from Jonty's nose was in the ensuing photographs (banter, guys)  - and we weren't even fift-EEN when we met.

3 unwise men...
The writer, the actor and the artist encountered each other amid the 'Disco and Death Star' final years of the 1970s, and formed strong bonds through the metamorphic years of secondary school. We dabbled in each other's disciplines: treading boards, sketch books and creative writing with varying degrees of success but consistent enthusiasm. And it was this last area, the literary arena, which caused enough laughter this weekend for me to literally have to pass around tissues for a roomful of 'adults' to staunch their tears of mirth.
As I've mentioned before; not being the cool kids, we did more science outside of school than we did within - and even wrote up reports about our astronomy club (the 'STAR League') viewing sessions. Spanning 1981-1986 and recorded in four volumes now known as the astrobooks, these accounts became invaluable commentaries on our times together, at times crassly naive but also possessing a pure, almost virginal outlook untainted by experience and cynicism.  (And maturity and intelligence at times, but that hasn't changed as this weekend amply demonstrated.)  And it was these recently restored journals which generated enough screams and roars of hilarity to ensure that it wasn't until Monday when all our cats tentatively returned.

'Astrobooks' (and ancient photo albums) all got a good going over...
Stretching the abundant patience of our wives, who also appear within those pages, the weekend was something of a regression to those early years, complete with a Sunday Horror (on Saturday night), a trek through farmland to take a variety of group photographs (which will hopefully always bring as much future amusement as the the thirty year old ones in the Astrobooks), and finally a viewing session of a perfect night sky at the very end.

Cheers! (again)
This blog has never been intended as a diary, so I'll let these images speak for themselves. And I'll close by stealing a wonderfully apt quotation which Jonty used in his online summing up of the weekend:
"One day chums
Having a laugh a minute
One day comes
And they're a part of your lives" ….for over three decades!

And what's a summery afternoon without some frisbee 'action'?

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Hey, Missy!

A Scottish Doctor and Master, and the best series for almost ten years.
So why does writing about the conclusion feel like a chore?
I've started, so I'll finish...

The scary/crazy Scottish HR manager from that wonderful series Green Wing is the Master - its confirmed. But also - she's a woman.  Fandom has tied itself in knots trying to concoct over-complicated alternative theories for this intriguing character's identity for three months now - and what a twittering waste of data that was.  Sometimes the simplest, and in this case, most logical conclusion is the correct one - even in a Steven Moffat script. And Michelle Gomez is a magnificent Master, thankfully supplanting the excruciating John Sim version, to become the best since Delgado.  Or at least Jacobi.

Except, she now appears to have been vapourised.  By a Cyberman.  Who's also the resurrected Brigadier.  Whaaaat?

Despite many wonderful, ingenious scenes and exquisite performances, watching this season finale wasn't an entirely pleasurable experience for me.  In fact, it stopped me sleeping properly, which is ridiculous for a TV programme.  I can only put it down to the feeling that Dark Water/Death in Heaven falls short of capping what has been the best series since 2005 - with a consistency of story-telling quality which surpassed all expectation.  Unsurprisingly, we've had the best Doctor in years, and the very surprising rehabilitation of a companion who has surged from the back of the field to the lead.  This alone could have carried a year of average scripts, but instead we've been given Into the Dalek, Listen, Mummy on the Orient Express, Flatline - no less than four stories surely destined for all-time greatness.  I even loved the Robin Hood episode.
So, could this ever be rounded off satisfactorily?

Moffat rose to the occasion magnificently last year with Day of the Doctor after a very patchy year of stories - but this time I'm left with the feeling that we've dropped back into the credibility-stretching, over-complicated keyboard bashing which finales like the Wedding of River Song previously 'thrilled' me with. After being so thoroughly spoilt this year I hate to be negative now, so I'll emphasise the positive (which took a second viewing to really bring to the fore).  Actually, I'll make a top five list:

1.Circular logic.
What does that logo mean, we all thought?  Then the doors closed together and we all suddenly remembered we've known who the villains in this story were going to be for months.  A forehead slapping moment in the best possible way.

2. Kissy Missy.
You can keep all your bromance/romance fan theories, this was a hilarious and icky moment, with the Master expoiting a completely new way of rattling the Doctor. And the look on Clara's face was priceless...

3. Martial art. A painting of the Brigadier (from his last appearance in the programme), is a lovely tribute, rendering that absurd Cyber-Brig nonsense later on even more unnecessary and increasing the pang of regret that the new programme makers didn't move quickly enough to get Mr. Courtney back while they still could.

4. Only Osgood dies young.
Still reeling from this one and I have to hand it to Moffat.  How do you show just how malevolent the new Master can be? Have her ruthlessly kill a supporting character of course, but obviously not the most beloved one which fandom instantly took to it's heart as their avatar, and has just been invited to join the TARDIS crew.  No, that would never happen. Much less tread on her glasses afterwards.  Oh no.

5. Permission to Squeeeee!
I once read about a quick-thinking skydiver who saved a friend who's chute failed to open by doing exactly this - so it really could happen.  I couldn't do it though, I invariably fumble with keys and locks under the least-challenging of circumstances.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Return to Aus

Standing at the limit of an endless ocean...
hidden in the summer for a million years

The Domain Gardens - perfect for a picnic in the shade

Thank you to everyone who left such kind comments on Facebook about my previous post - The Insect Bride.  Reading your well-wishes made our celebration even more special  We spent our 25th Anniversary in Melbourne - a long-planned and much looked-forward to week of sheer indulgence.
Trying to book an apartment at the beginning of this year proved to be unexpectedly difficult, until it finally dawned on us that we were married on Melbourne Cup day, and would be staying during that City's busiest week of the year. However, I am fortunate to be married to one of the planet's greatest organisers, and even this obstacle proved no match for her mighty skills.
We arrived on a grey, chilly morning, and left a week later in a tar-melting 37 degrees, browner, happier but also poorer after enjoying shopping and cuisine in a city world-renowned for it's cafe and restaurant culture.

The Yarra river (and Flinders station on the left) from the south bank

Both somewhat frazzled by our regular work and commuting routine, we were determined not to spend the week rushing around and achieved this goal pretty well.  It helps that Melbourne is an extremely easy city to navigate, laid out in a grid pattern and easily land-marked by the Yarra River and distinctive Eureka Tower.  Following the advice of making a one week tram ticket our first priority, getting around proved to be extremely easy, especially as our centrally-located apartment genuinely was.  Early mornings would see me running along the banks of the Yarra River before grabbing a couple of takeaway coffees to bring up to the apartment on my return.  Our balcony caught the morning sun and despite still being on 'kiwi time' and rising early, it was wonderful to relax out there and not feel as if we had to rush to begin our day.

Inner city living - some feat.

When we weren't eating and spending, we visited the Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibition - already iconic and striking creations made all the more so by the mannequins wearing them.  Precisely positioned projectors cast footage of human features onto their blank faces, an unsettling effect particularly when a mannequin unexpectedly blinked or even spoke to you.

Blinkin' heck - did that dummy just open its eyes?

The Melbourne Cup Races were an inescapable presence, and we went with the flow, drinking in the undeniable elegance on display by people-watching at Flinders Railway station,  and Rose buying a 'fascinator' to wear while watching the Cup Day race at Federation Square.
We had meals with friends, one who's lived in Melbourne for two months, and the other for 20 years - both very much in love with the place and it's certainly easy to see why.  One morning we hired a couple of the bikes which the City council makes available at various stations throughout the city, and traced the upper section of the Yarra river - crossing at Port Melbourne to make our way back again.  Paths are well marked for cyclists, and equally, areas where they are not welcome.  I'll risk incurring the wrath of the popular cyclists front of Wellington by voicing my approval.  As an early morning waterfront pedestrian I dearly wish a route for cyclists could be delineated, rather than feeling as if I'm trying to walk to work on a velodrome track.

Melbourne Cathedral

We finished our week at a long established Melbourne cabaret - entered via a ghost train.  'Dracula's' has entertained this City and the Gold coast for almost 25 years with a blend of playfully horror-infused burlesque and musical entertainment and we were treated to a seventies-themed show with well-staged and performed renditions of hits from that era.
Packing the following morning involved shoe-horning a large number of rare and long-sought blu-ray discs into our bags - now much fuller than when we had arrived.  Many of these movies will be fodder for film reviews in following months - I'm looking forward to finding the time to watch them.
Our foremost impression of Melbourne is that it is an incredibly relaxed and friendly city, which made it perfect for combining a shopping trip and culinary expedition with a peaceful getaway break.

Grungy, lively Degraves St - perfect for breakfast at any time of the day.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The Insect Bride

Even Frankenstein's Monster found a mate. Dracula had Brides, Kong had his 'squeeze' and for 25 years today I have been married to my 'Amazing Amazon'.

It might not seem appropriate that the wonderful person who so often symbolises practicality, stability and normality in my developmentally-arrested life should feature in this fantastic fiction-obsessed blog.  Except, as Rose encourages me to aspire to occasionally give at least a vague impression of a grown-up; life with me has somewhat tainted her.

She now knows her Marvel and DC, can name the Star Wars planets, identify the Doctor's friends and enemies, and quote:"Klaatu Barada Nikto". She's been made to watch some atrocious films for the sake of my sad obsessions, but always finds something to enjoy about the occasional good ones - which makes me ridiculously happy.

But as fervent as the denial would be, I believe the seed was there before I ever stumbled awkwardly into her life. As everyone who knows us will have heard, Rose moved in next door to me at the Nurse's Hostel all those years ago, so even I couldn't fail to meet my future life partner.  Having barely met, she watched an episode of Doctor Who with me in the TV Lounge (The Daemons) and remarked "The Doctor's riding a motorbike?".  This was enough to distract me from one of my all-time favourite stories: you see, the general viewing public call him "Doctor Who", only the enlightened correctly refer to the lead character 'the Doctor'.

Rose already loved Monty Python, Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds and our first 'unofficial date' was to an audience participation screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (do I know how to treat a Lady, or what?)
Through our quarter-century together she's become chilled to the bone with me as we've scanned the night sky together, made me damn sure I kept my guard up as she followed me into many years of martial arts training and even sat through a live concert of music from Doctor Who. I'm well-aware that this programme plays far too big a role in my life, but I will always smile to myself recalling that when the impossible happened, and the long presumed-dead series returned from cancellation to become a world-wide hit, it did so with the episode title: 'Rose'.

Of course, we've done so much more together - which she often instigates and organises, that is far more significant, challenging and rewarding than anything which comes under the frivolous and geeky auspices of this blog - and I won't detract from that by giving mention here.
I try to be realistic about myself: there was never any need for 'Ladies to form an orderly queue', but somehow I have ended up with someone who is not only the perfect woman, but perfect for me.  Happy Anniversary to my wonderful wife.