Monday, 25 July 2011

Reading & Seeing 3

Two brilliant beardy fellows who have provided me with my most recent reading escapades.

First, the older gent to the left - Frank Herbert - hugely respected and influential Science Fiction author, that's right folks I finally read Dune. It is awesome. In all honestly, it took me a little while to get into the story - there are a lot of character names to remember and a good few unusual places and customs to pronounce - but once these were mastered, I was able to engross myself with the desert planet Arrakis - it's people, the spice and of course the sandworms. Although I'd never want to live in such conditions (I probably wouldn't survive) I love the concept of a world without water (or v.little of it) and the inventions born out of such a climate, the imagination behind the technology, particularly the stillsuits, is ingenious. The plot itself is epic, dealing with various story-lines running parallel before culminating in the final stand-off where all the different groups come face to face. I would say that the very ending, the last page in fact, where the Lady Jessica verbally bitch-slaps Paul's (our hero's) wife to be is a little odd but thankfully it doesn't have to end like that. There are sequels and prequels all about the Dune universe. If you like your sci-fi and just haven't got round to it: Read This Book. If you're not a big sci-fi fan but you want to try it out: Read This Book. There's a reason why it's so acclaimed. Word of warning: keep a glass/bottle of water to hand when reading, it's thirsty work reading about a desert planet.

The younger bearded man to the right is Robert Kirkman creator of The Walking Dead comics, upon which the Frank Darabont TV series of the same name is based. For those who've seen the first season, you'll be happy to know that the next televised installment is due in October (for the USA and soon after for the UK), the trailer looks awesome. If you, like me, found the gap too long to wait for some zombie related goodness, you might like to read it. The series has steered away from the plot of the comics so that when I picked up vol. 2 I embarked on a alternative story with the same set of characters. Even though Simon Pegg's afterword says: 'Savour it, think about it, re-evaluate it and like the best zombies, take it slow', it's a page turner and you'll devour it super quickly, I'd advise maybe getting two or three volumes at once.

These two fellas (also supporting excellent facial hair) both appear in the two preoccupations of my TV viewing.

On the left we have Joel Kinnaman star of the US remake of the Danish series sensation, The Killing. Now I know that I might have screwed up here and I should have watched the Danish one (everyone keeps telling me it is immense) but the problem I have is that I've started the US one and I'm completely sucked in. I like the mix of social worlds clashing within the overall plot, the rainy but atmospheric Seattle setting and most of all the character interactions between the two case offices, Linden (Mireille Enos) and Holder (Kinnaman). It is truly compelling viewing. I can't remember the last time I was so impatient to see the next episode of a show. If I could I'd watch all of it in one go. I'd probably be severely depressed and needing a good dosage of sunlight, happiness and cake at the end of it because, let's face it, it's pretty grim, but I've got to know who killed Rosie Larsen.

Baldie/beardy combo on the right is Bryan Cranston returning to the role of Walter White in Breaking Bad. Cranston plays the chemistry teacher diagnosed with cancer who, in order to make some money to support his family (wife, disabled son, new baby) after he dies, enters into a partnership with a former student to cook and sell crystal meth (as you do). It's as mental as it sounds but after scooping a few Emmy Awards last Summer, it's back for the fourth season and things are, as you'd imagine in the drug world, getting completely out of hand.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Front to the Back: LOVEBOX

Last weekend was the musical feast and all round festival extravaganza that is Lovebox. We like thousands of others flocked to east London's leafy Victoria Park for three days of dancing,boozing, random-stall persuing, muching and general merriment. (Although Lovebox was over three days, we only attended the Friday and Saturday instalments but I'm guessing from theline-up that Sunday was just as fabulous.)

 Lovebox started in 2002 as Groove Armada's club residency and has been growing ever since. Although it was originally a dance based festival the variety of live music has also expanded with several stages and a couple of smaller pop-up musical outlets/tents, not to mention the stalls selling clothes,crafts,jewellery,even recycled bits turned into festival essentials (thanks to Scrap Dragon for my Juliper beer top earing, it's a fitting souvenir) and of course food. So. Much. Choice.

Friday's highlights: it was super hot on the first day and not as busy as it would get during the rest of the weekend. NYC Downlow  - a life size ruin of a nyc housing block with amazing music happening inside. We managed to catch the end of Photek Live (awesome). Metronomy - v.much liking their newer stuff but was I particulary happy to hear 'you could easily have me' and 'thing for me'. Beatboxing Champs - in the tent next to the Gaymers bar and stage we witnessed some rather impressive beatboxing. The sound the guys can produce is pretty cool, especially when three of them were improvising at the same time - crazy! We ended the night in the garage tent (the wombats were closing/headlining, which was a bit of a disappointment in my opinion, are they really that big/good? The crowd seemed to think so at least).

Saturday's highlights: it rained a lot in the early afternoon and the park was a bit of a muddy bog but with wellies and anorak on the weather didn't stop me. Santogold on the main stage - easily the best performance over the two days. She put on an excellent show (I love her voice/attitude - the whole ensemble) The crowd got her awesome tunes from the first album, the appearance of a pantomime horse and the chance (some 8 or so lucky people) to get up on stage and dance (mostly badly but who cares) to a drum pounding rendition of 'Creator'. Lykke Li - a new album heavy performance (not a bad thing in the slightest) but she did sing 'Little Bit' (my fav) and 'Dance, dance, dance'. And of course, Snoop Dogg and the gang. We were left in some suspense waiting for Snoop to come out on stage and, aside from him actually arriving and performing lots of old school stuff, the best bit was the short little films that played as a precursor to each song. Snoop is a man of many talents.

Oh yeah, beard update: it's coming along nicely.

Friday, 15 July 2011

"Great Scott" - I met the legend

For the third year running, I spent a day being suitably geeky at the London Film & Comic Convention held at Earls Court. Although this year was not as busy or packed full of stuff compared to previous years it was, of course, an awesome day, starting with the queue to get in. There we were minding our own business when some storm troopers decided to come over and pick on Mitch (he had possibly made fun of the lead one's height - he was shorter that me). After emptying his pockets he ordered Mitch to get on his knees to which Mitch replied 'I hope you're not going to ask me to shine your helmet'. A little more taunting and a gentle slap in the face later the gang moved on. I think Mitch learned his lesson.
Once inside there were stalls to look at, comics to peruse, other enthusiasts to chat to, Q&As to attend and of course celebs to meet. Like the last two years there is always one thing in particular that drives me to attend LFCC and this year was most definitely Christopher Lloyd and all the Back to the Future goodness that came with it. Firstly we went to the Q&A session which also involved Lea Thompson. Next we sat in the Delorean (amazing!). And then we met the Doc himself. Brief though it was, all I managed was 'hello!' and 'it was great to meet you! Thank you', it was supremely cool. He's not just the Doc, he was Uncle Fester Adams, the voice of Rasputin and Judge Doom (obv. there are so many more).
On a side note - impressive facial hair from the guys (I'm letting the team down in this one).

I just wanted to mention this: The Star Wars Holiday Special. I only found out about it this year. I am appalled and amused, particularly as there were so many copies of it available at the convention, and I thought Lucas had destroyed them all...

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Messages tied to the Apple Tree

Wedding number 4.
Technically the wedding ceremony actually took place in one of Norwich's Cathedrals (the city has two - cue wedding guest confusion, arguing couples and mad dashes across Norwich to find the other Cathedral, thankfully we didn't make that mistake).

This was the marriage between my cousin and her long-term boyfriend (who she has two gorgeous kids with) and what an awesome day it was too. After a rather brief ceremony (yay) we made our way to Great Melton just outside Norwich where, in a little wooded area, we all gathered for the reception. The setting was picturesque - a clearing amongst the trees (save for the apple tree in the centre) where tents had been put up with toadstools, bales of hay and sofas inside them. We were greeted with a glass of pear cider (or pink lemonade) and a little label to tie around our glass. The label served two purposes: 1) Something to write our name on - the glass was yours for the remainder of the day. 2) At the end we could write a message on it to the happy couple (wishing them happiness etc - mine was a drunken scrawl of genuine sentiment and inebriated babble, we left late) which we could then tie to the apple tree. Beautiful idea.

The catering was just as cute, an afternoon tea with sandwiches and cupcakes, ensuring we didn't starve whilst waiting for a pretty substantial BBQ in the evening. But it wasn't just the setting or the labels or even the food (we were offered a variety of cake) that made the day, it was all the extras...

Archery. I guess some people might need convincing that archery belongs at a wedding - not me. As soon as it was announced my sister and I were off to try it out. Verdict: It's awesome, especially in the woods with the wind in the trees, I felt like Maid Marion.

The Folk Band. A DJ would have been completely out of place amongst the greenery but the band were perfect. We all danced for a good few hours to folky versions of old school tunes and they even took requests.

Lanterns. I am a totally sucker for these. They look so beautiful; little blobs of light in a clear night sky. This was the last surprise of the evening and after we watched all the lanterns (apart one that got stuck in a tree and caught light) disappear into the distance we made our way back to the hotel.

The next day I felt super rough (apparently I'd drunk more wine than previously thought) thus rendering me grumpy, exhausted and useless. We made a couple of stops along the way, a visit to my grandparents' and a model and toy expo - the latter being entirely my dad's persuasion, and what with the traffic in s.w London, I arrived in Surbiton late. By which point I was even more exhausted and utterly useless, two characteristics entirely unsuitable for the Rollerderby Championship Final and so I missed it. However I can happily say that the Steam Rollers won! V.good news!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Have your cake and eat it too

These past couple of weeks I've been indulging in a little bit of well as doing other fun stuff.

The cake in question is a Chocolate and Guinness Cake (happily) baked for Mitch's birthday. The title of this post is of course refering to the famous phrase about someone having the best of both worlds. It was first used in the mid 1500s and although the saying has been corrupted thoughout the centuries the meaning remains the same.

Also in my etymology search I also found the French and Italian equivalents:

vouloir le beurre et l'argent du beurre (et le sourire de la crémière) 
wanting the butter and the money for the butter (and the smile of the female butter-maker)

vuoi la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca
you want your bottle full of wine and your wife drunk

I quite like how the English one is about cake.

Aside from eating cake (and going to the pub), we also celebrated Mitch's birthday by spending a day at Thorpe Park (cue several awful ride photos of me looking like a man with a loose toupee). But, despite the weather and the uncool pictures it was an awesome day. After going on most rides (but not Samurai - I don't think I'll have the guts to) I felt suitably shaken up and exhaused. Running about, eating burger king and being quite damp (damn those water rides and the english weather) you could've mistaken me for my 14 year old self (save better dress sense and a decent haircut). The rollercoasters - Stealth, Saw and Colossus - are my favourites.

The earliest Rollercoasters can be attributed to the thrill seeking and inovative Russians during the 15th century, at which time they were called 'Russian Mountains'. These 'mountains' were specifically built from snow and ice, reinforced by a wooden structure, which riders would slide down on something that resembled a sledge. 'Russian Mountains' still remains the term for rollercoasters in several languages including Spanish.

This was wedding number 3, a lovely affair in a renovated barn just outside of Basingstoke. They had a three tiered cake (each one was different) and provided chips and sausages for us guests who were a little worse for wear later in the evening - v.good idea.

'Wedding' comes from the anlgo-saxon word 'wed' refering to two things: 1) a man vowing to marry a woman. 2) the money/bartering process between the groom and the bride's father. Hmmm, romantic. Hence the tradition of the father of the bride 'giving away' his daughter. Nice.

Lastly I went to see the Glee Live tour at the o2 arena which was fabulous, made extra special by appearances from The Warblers and...Holly Holliday (aka gweny paltrow)! This was also my first trip to the o2 arena. It is gargantuan, not to mention terrifying. Our seats were three rows from the back and it took me nearly the entire show to muster the courage to stand up.

Last little fact: in a Latin sense the word 'arena' meant sand. In classical amphitheatres, sand was used in the central 'stage' area in order to soak up the blood of competitors taking part in contests. And so, by extension, the arena became the term for a central area in an enclosed performance space.

Class dismissed :)
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