Star Trek 2009

I have now seen the new Star Trek movie.  There are a lot of positive things to be said for it.  The plot is good, and bit above the usual Hollywood fayre of the moment.  The cast is strong, and even the cliches are are done well.  If that was all that was required of it, then it would have been a great movie.

But movies need to be well-executed, and this wasn't.  It was the usual thing of intense action interspersed with bland, plodding, angst-ridden drama.  There is no style or flair in the direction, and even the excellent cast can't save it, because they have nothing to work with.  The dialogue is uninspired, and no effort has been made to deliver anything 'special'.

I felt nothing for any of the characters, and no emotion for the events.  At the end, I was just happy that it was finished.
  • Current Mood
    disappointed disappointed
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Ariel and the Space Cats

No, not a 50s pop group, except in the minds of the Worle Operatic and Dramatic Society.  Last night, they performed Bob Carlton's Return to the Forbidden Planet.  This stage musical is probably the most bizarre to tread the boards of British Theatre, being the alien lovechild of William Shakespeare and Ed Wood.

Imagine, if you dare, The Tempest, with borrowed (and adapted) dialogue from any number of the Bard's works, combined with a dose of Hit Parade classics of the 50s and 60s and a photon torpedo-full of srcewball comedy.  Mix this with Star Trek-inspired sets and costumes and you have, what Carlton described as, Shakespeare's lost rock and roll masterpiece.

I saw the touring version a couple of times in the early 90s, and it was quite a show.  The amateur production was far less lavish, but sci-fi never needed to be lavish.  Until Star Wars, we were happy with wobbly sets and spray-painted hairdryer rayguns.  Why? Because these works had heart, and were unashamed of their limitations.  WODS production was all that and more.

Playing in Weston's Blakehay Theatre, originally built as a Baptist Chapel, the ample cast were crammed on to a small stage, but made use of the balconies for those little asides and for flying a paper rocketship (and Jedi?) across the stage.  A big viewscreen displayed black white film, wobbly special effects, and a green-eyed monster.  It also replayed the narrator, in the original version Patrick Moore, BBC Points West anchor Amanda Parr.

It's a long time since I went to the theatre (Kind Hearts and Coronets about 10 years ago) and this has made me all enthusiastic for drama again.  Forbidden Planet is a hell of a play to pull off as an amateur company.  There must be 20 songs and musical numbers.  The leading lady was a last minute replacement, and had to do much of the show from the script (however, as the science officer, she had a perfect excuse to be carrying a clipboard).  Ariel, the rollerskating robot, was brilliant.  Captain Tempest was Zapp Brannigan reborn.  Miranda went from farmgirl to fox effortlessly.

The chorus in their guises of Zargoodians (gnomes), Zhnorgoidians (beasties), Quwadorgs (witches) and Catmdiquodianoids (our Swinging Space Cats) were amazing, wandering around the stage and the audience, along with their Earthling (human) counterparts.  From the door, where we were scanned with a pink star-shaped hairbrush, to the hall ("May I see your boarding card?"  and the complimentary anti-sickness and anti-madness pills) we got the whole treatment.

The set was replete with monitors, a silver BBC microcomputer, various gadgets and levers.  The Monsters from the Id (Beware the Ids that march) were simple but in the character of classic sci-fi.  The Shakespeare pun were truly awful, as great puns should be.

All in all a great evening out.  We really fell for the Catgirls.
  • Current Music
    RttFP Soundtrack (still in my head)
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Swede, Carrot and Bacon Soup

(Serves 4)

500g Mixed Carrot and Swede (for Mashing) - 50p from Tesco
200g Bacon Lardons - £1 from Tesco.
1l Water - Overpriced from BWWSL
2 veg stock cubes.

Boil the water, adding seasoning (salt, pepper, herbs, etc) and the crumbled stock cubes.
Add the veg.
Bring back to the boil, cover and simmer.

Preheat a small frying pan, lightly oil and add the lardons, cover and gently fry for 5 mins.
Turn up the heat to full to boil off the excess water.
Drain off the fat, and add the large and medium-sized lardons to the soup.
Keep the small ones to one side.

Let the soup simmer for 1 hour.
Blend the soup until a few veg chunks remain visible.
Add the remaining bacon.

Stir and serve with buttered granary toast.
  • Current Music
    Jon and Vangelis
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Maelstrom Ev1 2009

Well, I got back on Tuesday eve.  It was a hell of a weekend.  It did a lot for my confidence, and the preceding months of psychotherapy did a lot for helping me deal with Paul, Gimby and Wookie - my fellow refs.  That probably sounds harsh on them, it's not meant to, the therapy helped me deal with rejection and criticism.  These are things which would have come out through my SI in the past, but are now things I can accept.

It was a shock to find that we only had four refs for the event.  Gimby is now a Head Ref, alongside Paul.  Wookie is also a trader and has to balance the ref duties with the needs of Kangena/Mandala.  I am trainee ref, learning things on the job, and still making huge mistakes, although making less of them as the weekend went on.


If you were the guy with the 'clawed shield' at weapon check on Friday, I was dead wrong, you can't use it as a weapon at all.  Sorry.

And if you were the owner of the chest, thanks for ponying up the potions, it meant I only got bollocked for giving you the chest back without properly reading Paul's indecipherable handwriting.

It was great to see Jerry and Jo again after so long.  I'm glad they're moving to the player base, and not leaving the system altogether.  I saw them out in ophidian kit (on Monday?) and the chemistry was electric.  It was great to drum with everyone again, after so many years.  Hope I'll remember to do more at home, I've got four here afterall.

The event was challenging.  Power, wate and network issues made it feel like we were just starting out, rather than that we had been going for five years.  But it all came together.  Matt's speech from his 'chariot' said it all.  We *ARE* the best team in LRP!
  • Current Music
    Ben Folds
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Ryan Inglis

Ryan Inglis is a singer-songwriter we saw performing last night.  He was the interval act at Vamps Comedy Night in WsM.  His style is laidback acoustic guitar and bluesy vocals.  I bought his album, worth way more than the fiver he was charging.  Frankly, he was the highlight of the evening.  I'm looking forward to catching him at The Bottle Bar over the summer.
  • Current Music
    Hypernova + Ryan Inglis
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When did it become so awkward to paste a URL into WhineJournal? :(

Anyhoo, the URL above should take you to the splendid video for Hypernova's song Fairy Tales. Hypernova are no-shit indie rock band from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Now, rock music is considered by the Iranian government to be un-islamic, and thus is banned. However, acording to a CNN report this week, Tehran has a thriving underground indie scene. Their report featured the up-and-coming Yellow Dogs, but mentioned Hypernova as an Iranian act that had already broken through in the US. So, while I trackdown a Yellow Dogs video, please enjoy Hypernova and give them lots of Youtube hits.
  • Current Music
    Hypernova + Ryan Inglis
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Battlestar Galactica

When, some years back, a friend told me there was a reworked BSG coming out, I was sceptical and excited at the same time.  I'm not a fan of all things sci-fi, and most of the reworkings or recent years are just comedy pisstakes, take Starsky and Hutch as an example.  But on the other hand, the original was so rich and so alien, that nobody would take it on without wanting to do something really special, right?

It's about four years on since I bought the first series on DVD from Woolies in Eltham High Street.  I didn't find the miniseries for another year or so, but that's another story.  The first episode, 33, had me on the edge of my seat throughout.  I watched the remaining episodes over a long weekend, then watched it all again.  I was hooked.

So I've still not seen all of it, the third series eluded me, owing to not having Sky, or the money to buy the DVDs, but even so, I had the chance to watch the fourth series and took it.  The irritating hiatus, courtesy of the American writers' strike led me to think that I should consider it done at that point, but I still watched the remainder eagerly.

It came to an end last night, or for me this afternoon when I actually watched it.  I was not disappointed, in fact I was overwhelmed.  It wasn't the ending I expected, or even hoped for.  If anything, being and old cynic with some experience of TV production, I was quite pessimistic.  The genre is packed with TV screenwriting glitterati who over reach themselves, their budgets and audiences.  Things drag out to anticlimactic finales, loaded with fan-focussed bananlities, or crash into dwindling audience figures and critical poundings that result in abrupt cancellations.

BSG has been different to that.  It has achieved what so few series of any type even approach.  It has been great drama.  It has managed the expectations of the audience and the critics.  It might have missed out some of the nuances that sci-fi fandom demands of its entertainment, but these might well have mired it into an early demise.

It told the story of a people, through the eyes of its leaders, and of its enemies, both within and without.  It carried along its audience on the waves of the story, giving them highs and lows.  While there have been long overarching plots, there have also been the staples of a good story: lust, greed, hate...and the rest.

There has also been homour, but without the overt comedy character so often found in modern sci-fi tales.  I'm thinking here of the Neelix and Jar-Jar Binks variety.  The show has kept its own sensibilities throughout, much like another modern success, Life on Mars.  It has created its own icons, and not dwelt on anything too long.

For me, it ticked all the boxes for great entertainment.  It took me for a long ride, where I never found the desire to ask 'are we there yet?'  I hope there is more like this to come.

I read last year that another series that heavily imprinted my teenage years, V, might get a similar revamp.  That would be a big challenge, but not an insurmountable one, given what has been achieved with Battlestar Galactica.

  • Current Music
    NIN/JA 2009
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Quotes this week

Peter, regarding my being in therapy: "Well, it's about fucking time!"

Ludwig, regarding Dario's espresso: "What's the point of drinking this?  Just inject it into your eyeball or something."

Neil, referring to Ludwig and Dario: "Where did the axis powers get to?"

The most excellent Mark Twain: "Heaven for climate, Hell for company."

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Generation Kill

There's something about war reporting that is unusually interesting.  The 'embedding' idea was something that the US military messed up in Kuwait and the Balkans in the 90's, so the world's media didn't trust it for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  This lead to Chris Ayres, the Times' Hollywood fluff correspondent, being embedded with a US Marine Artillery unit.  His book, War Reporting for Cowards, was my top book of a few years ago.

Evan Wright, a Rolling Stone journalist who had previously worked on the Hustler porn magazine.  He was embedded for 3 weeks with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion of the US Marines.  As such, he often rode in a Humvee at the head of the American advance.  His reports, and subsequent book have been described as insightful and shocking.  The title, Generation Kill, refers to the youth of 1st Recon's soldiers.

In 2008, HBO dramatised the book as a seven-part TV series, in a similar style to Band of Brothers in 2000.  The series has just aired in the UK on the FX digital channel, and has been an eye-opener.  The idea of portraying real people, some of whom are still serving soldiers is quite novel.  It has  different level of responsibility from even dealing with retired soldiers in a film such as Tumbledown.  In particular, the portrayal of Tromley, Hasser and other soldiers involved in civillian shootings was sensitive, within the context of the darkly comic atmosphere of the piece.

That darkly comic aspect is something unavoidable in any war story.  From the trench newspapers of the Great War, to Alan Whicker's accounts of Italy in World War 2, to PJ O'Rourke's Give War a Chance, humour and conflict go hand in hand, with humour helping to balance out the daily horror of violence.

More later.
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New Start

It's been a while since the last entry.  Nothing particularly special about that, no special reason or anything like that.  It's just not been the thing most on my mind.  But I should probably come back to it.  This time maybe I'll keep going for longer.
  • Current Music