Monday, December 31, 2007

You need to see this

Here's something to delight, amuse and brighten up long winter days. Go over to Cheat Neutral - a site dedicated to helping you because you can't help yourself. I recommend watching the film. It's only 13 minutes long and well worth it.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Hugo Awards 2007

I'm hopelessly behind the times here and only just listened to the episode of StarShipSofa that revealed this year's Hugo Award winner (it aired in September...). StarShipSofa is one of my favourite podcasts. Two guys, Tony and Ciaran, talk about science fiction authors in a very amusing and informative manner. The passion really shines through and I have actually learned loads during my listening career. Anyhow, this year's winner for the novel prize is Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End.

I'm excited about that because I've actually read the said book - even before I knew it was nominated, or indeed had won. Admittedly, I haven't read the other books that were nominated, but I think Rainbows End is a fantastic book. The described interaction of technology and humans seems to be a distinct possibility given the pervasiveness of our current web-culture. It is refreshing to have technology that merely is, there, as now, it's still the humans who drive things forward in a good or bad manner according to the needs of the story.

I've always found the Hugo Award winners list a good starting point if I'm ever wondering about some new reading material. Obviously the choice is also limited by what's available in the local library, but if the author has been nominated or has won it's usually a pretty safe bet that at least it'll be readable. I have to admit that I was surprised to see Rainbows End in my local library. I dream of one day living next to a library with a decently stocked sci-fi section, but that day has yet to come.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Fun with light

For a satisfying session of creating pictures take one digital camera, one torch, and follow the instructions from WeLikePlay and have fun... It is possible to do this with a candle but the wax flying everywhere isn't really worth the trouble!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Phantom of the Opera

Last night I had a work trip to see the Phantom of the Opera. (I know, I know, sometimes work can be such a drag... ) There was a huge group of us that jumped on the train to Waterloo and then onwards to the theatre just in time for the show to start. We had one incident where a boy refused to get off the train at Waterloo and so got escorted back to his parents, but other than that it was merely a matter of trying not to lose anyone. It is so difficult to count a group of 27!

I was first introduced to the music of the Phantom of the Opera when I was about 8 years old and in Nepal. A woman who was living with us in our flat had the CDs and I was entranced. During my teens I did buy a copy of the music and listened to it but I never saw either the play or the film until yesterday. It was interesting to try to allign the version in my head with the one unfolding in front of my eyes. They were surprisingly different. Not so much in essence as in the nuances. Also, I think the rather more adult themes glibly flew over my head when I was about 8...

It was a bit scary for some of our group, but we also did get renditions of the Phantom all the way back along with a fairly philosophical discussion on whether or not the Phantom is evil. One definition put forward by one of the volunteers was that the Phantom knew the difference between right and wrong which meant that he could be evil. Interesting thought.

On the way back we ended up waiting outside on an open air platform close to midnight for about half an hour for our train to come, which hasn't made my cold any better. In fact I've only just emerged out of bed and I don't know if I'm going to venture outdoors at all today. (Sniffle.) I might just try to find cookie receipies instead, as my Flat is hoping to make several batches for people as gifts.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Decorating trees

I got involved in hurling baubles at a 18 ft Christmas tree today hoping it would result in a beautiful tree. This is an unorthodox approach to decorating that I've never come across - but oh what fun! The tree stands rather majestically in St Matthias and fills the space well, and all things considered that's quite the feat. I spent an inordinate amount of time going up and down the massive ladder helping various little people go up as high as they felt comfortable going and hanging their decoration on a branch. Quite good excersise, and a good moment to teach the under 7s how to climb a ladder - and more importantly: how to get down again - safely. And, all in all, the tree looks good too!

It suddenly feels more Christmas-sy now, especially as we've limited the decorations at the Flat to an advent wreath (with purple candles and a pink candle, which again is new to me) and some fairy lights. Our Flat tree is about 25 cm tall and lacking in decoration as I haven't quite figured out decorations that are small enough for it. There's still a week though.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Spontaneous reaction

Last night I trundled over to the Teddington Studios to watch the last episode of the sitcom "Teenage Kicks" being filmed. The first episode hasn't aired yet, nor will it until March 2008, so I don't think many of us in the audience had much of an idea of what was going on. But that didn't really matter and we all were able to provide the "spontaneous reaction" required of us!

What a fascinating experience it is to see a programme being filmed infront of you. It's slightly like a very weird play. The set is layed out - pub on the right, house on the left - the actors take their places and say their lines in character, a director is hovering somewhere. Yet plays don't usually pause after every scene with the cast and crew reverting into their everyday roles, nor is there often a standup comedian MC threading the various bits together with bad jokes and explaining to the uninitiated what is going on.

I remember reading once that the laughter track on most sitcoms was recorded so many years ago that the people we hear laughing on our tv are dead now. Odd thought.

Watching the "Making of" was as interesting, if not more so, than the actual action. Seated in the audience we had the choice of seeing the unfolding plot on screens suspended from the roof at various points over our heads or watch it directly and unmediated. We also got the joy of seeing the scene being acted out again a few times when the first take didn't come up to scrap. That, more than anything, gave me the sense of the effort and work such a production involves. The ability of an actor to go back to a line halfway through the scene and pick up the action/emotion/idea again was fascinating to watch.

Ade Edmondson is the co-author and lead actor in "Teenage Kicks". It's Vyvyan (of the Young Ones) minus the studs and orange hair and all grown up (ish) with two teenagers and living in a under-the-stairs-cupboard! There were still strains of the punk woven in even if very much tamer and mostly in poster or t-shirt references. Who cares! I saw Vyvyan live! Sort of.

Friday, December 14, 2007

It's a new me and a new blog...template

I got tired of the old and rather sombre colour scheme and have gone for the lighter option. Lets see how confused I get with it all!

I am also very pleased that my addiction to the internet is now back in full swing after our connection was restored. It's been great catching up on all my favourite sites and finding some new ones as well.