dc: Me, in a pub.  (Default)

Bowie. Funny, I never used to think I was a Bowie fan. I listened to the music, of course, but... fan? Then one day I looked at just how many of his albums I had. And I reflected on the films he'd been in I'd seen (I made sure, I remember, that I got in to see The Man Who Fell to Earth at the GFT the first chance I got), and acquired in various formats. Really, I couldn't pretend to be anything other than a fan.

I'm remembering it all again today, now he's, unbelievably, gone.

I recall the journeys I spent with earphones plugged in, passing the time listening to his music - on cassette, first, later CD, eventually as software. I recall clearly how on a couple of lengthy flights I listened to Tin Machine repeatedly.

I recall, too, just how often I had played Changesonebowie - how that disc never wore out I don't know. And then there was Diamond Dogs. And Ziggy Stardust. Aladdin Sane. At one point I did have all his albums except the very first one on the Deram label.

I remember the first time I bought a music video on VHS, it was Bowie's music from Tonight - now there's an album I thought was all right on its release which I have thought steadily more of as years go by.

There was the time there was a major cock-up in an exam at Uni, three quarters of the class (and there were about 200 of us in the class) were up for a pass/fail viva. I wasn't one of them - fortunately, I had worked out what the question was supposed to be saying as opposed to what it did say - but I ended up in the Extension bar comforting one of those who was and was freaking out. The music playing was "Heroes".

I remember all the times I listened to his music to lift my spirits, or console me. And I remember thinking of much of this on Saturday when I listened to Blackstar, now his last album, only released days ago. This one, I felt, would grow on me.

Beyond the music and his films, he was the first person I ever heard of who was identified as "bisexual". With Marc Bolan (with whom I saw him sing "Heroes" on Bolan's TV show), he showed that people didn't need to be constrained within traditionally sterotyped gender roles. Just seeing him on TV (I recall the Top of the Pops when he sang Starman - WOW!) expanded the ideas of how people could be.

I've been listening to his music since before I was a teenager. And now I can't get my head around him being dead. It's been a pretty awful time recently for good people dying, but somehow I never thought he would go; silly, I know. He seemed to operate by different rules.

Just... Damn.
dc: The Doctor looking out from Laurel & Hardy film (fez)

A couple of health problems which enforced some rest gave an opportunity to watch Series 13 in fairly short order. It generally feels like an organic continuation of the Doctor as we'd seen him in Series 12. Doctor Who continues its tradition of drawing inspiration from any sources it can lay its hands on, and often to very good effect. This series, there's more than a touch of Hammer, some Forbidden Planet, a hint of Westworld, an enormous dollop of Frankenstein, and it finishes with a mélange of Quatermass, The Thing, and an Avengers episode*. It also features the last appearances of U.N.I.T. for many years (oddly, in three out of six stories, though I never remember this series like that).

It's a lot of fun. Quality seems more even, on the whole, and if nothing is quite at the peak of Genesis, Pyramids is pretty close. Only the U.N.I.T. stuff feels a little out of place, out of time perhaps, and if there's a really weak story it is The Android Invasion; it really feels like well-trodden ground. Particularly odd is the way the Doctor enters the action in Seeds - almost as though he's his predecessor, basically stuck on Earth (and it's quite an odd continuity slip that the Tardis takes them “back” to Antarctica at the end when it didn't take them there in the first place). Tom Baker is fully inhabiting the role, which is no surprise, really. because he pretty much did that from Robot. Elisabeth Sladen is very settled in as Sarah and the two play off each other beautifully. Some of the guest cast do particularly well, notably Tony Beckley as the completley unhinged Harrison Chase, Sylvia Coleridge as the eccentric but sharp artist Amelia Ducat, and the lovely Michael Sheard as Laurence Scarman, tortured by what has happened to his brother and unable to accept it. As always, effects and sets could be the weak link (no one mention the Skarasen!), but the jungle set for Planet of Evil is exceptionally good, a beautifully atmospheric set.

What I always remember about watching Who back then was that it wasn't always good, there were disappointing stories or even episodes, but there was always the expectation, each week, that the next episode would be good. This season pretty much bears that up, even the poorer episodes are entertaining, and the Doctor and Sarah work very well together. As when it was broadcast, I finished looking forward to seeing the next series; unlike then, I'm slightly sad that Series 14 will (already!) be Philip Hinchlciffe's final as producer.

*The Man-Eater of Surrey Green

dc: The Doctor looking out from Laurel & Hardy film (Dr Who)

My leisurely rewatch of Doctor Who continues. I’ve enjoyed almost all of it so far; yes, each era has its lower points, but mostly they’re not too low. I’ve come to Series 12, and it’s basically fun, even if it has the (until then) worst Cybermen the series had seen. It has the advantage of a return to something very close to the formula of the original premise, of the wanderer in time and space, something very welcome after the heavily Earth-centric Pertwee years (for all that they were very enjoyable).

In fact, I remember liking that aspect of it at the time of first broadcast, liking it very much. I also remember, odd as it seems now, being very unsure of this new Doctor. It’s easy to forget just how popular Pertwee had been, and how tightly identified with the role. This new chap, “all teeth and curls,” was very different and his first episode presented him as very… eccentric. After that, though, he settled down a bit and it’s striking how quickly and smoothly Baker slipped into the role. By his second story, he’s inhabiting the part as though no one else has ever played it.

It hadn’t really struck me before, but Series 12 feels a lot like an encapsulation of the series’ history so far. It opens with a fairly standard (well, slightly sub-standard) UNIT story that could have featured Pertwee. The next two stories, featuring  survivors of humanity in the far future facing threats, are reminscent of Hartnell’s days; the setup of the two Nerva-based stories calls to mind the “base under threat” stories Troughton faced so frequently; and, of course, there are three returning enemies, especially the Daleks. I can see now just why I enjoyed the series so much back then, despite the relatively poor opening and closing stories and some breaks in continuity. I still smile at the memory of ending the series slightly unsure about this new guy.

I’ve seen some people complain about recent Doctors when they say something rude or unkind; that made me laugh out loud at the scene where Baker’s Doctor, lying on his back in the caverns of Voga, yells at the top of his voice, “Harry Sullivan is an imbecile!” (Not the only time he was dismissive of or acerbic to Sullivan.) The interplay between the Doctor and his companions is very well handled all round, especially between him and Sarah Jane (who looks so young!).

I’m looking forward to rewatching Series 13 now.

dc: The Doctor's library card (Library card)
A new bookshop is always a pleasant discovery, so I was very pleased early in 2014 to stumble across Watermark Books in King's Cross Station (I was down in London for a couple of things, including Nordicana and to celebrate a friend's birthday). Watermark isn't a huge bookshop, so I didn't expect a lot from it. However, it turned out they pack a lot into their small shop. I knew it was good as soon as I saw the table of translated fiction. That wasn't the last time I visited there, and on each occasion I came away with something interesting to read. Basically, whenever I was in London I made sure I took the opportunity to pop in (and since last year's Worldcon was in London, I was down more than usual).

You can imagine how disappointed (to use understatement) I was to hear that they are closing down soon. I believe they will be open for the whole of July, but I may have misunderstood that. This isn't, as far as I can gather, because they aren't doing good business, but because the site's owners want to change the use of the space. Whatever the reason, it's a real shame. I don't know when I am likely to be in London again, but I'm really not pleased that whenever I'm next there I won't be able to pop in to Watermark and see what unexpected goodies they have on their shelves.

It's always annoying when somewhere you like closes down (several of us still mourn the loss of Glasgow's Biblocafe, and that's been closed a few years now), but to me it seems worse when that's a good bookshop. And Watermark is a good bookshop.
dc: The Doctor looking out from Laurel & Hardy film (Dr Who)
I actually started writing this a month or more ago. Other things got in the way, including some health problems (sinusitis so I couldn't really read well didn't help).

Dysprosium, this year's Eastercon, was at Heathrow in a hotel I hadn't previously been in.  It had a slightly odd layout, but was friendly and comfortable enough. The con was fun. I saw some programme (I know!), it was interesting and amusing, did some Ops shifts — the usual, really. The main fun is hanging out with old and new friends, and there were plenty of them.

Next year's Eastercon.... They are supposed to be bid for two years in advance, but last year no one bid for 2016. There was quite a bit of chat about this in the hotel bar on the Thursday. The indefatigable Dave Lally had done some preparatory work and been in touch with VisitManchester. This blossomed into the Mancunicon bid, led by Pat McMurray. This literally was brought into being on the Thursday night before Dysprosium, and voted in at the Sunday bid session. It will be held in Manchester from the 25th March to the 28th. Hotel is still to be finalised, but the team is looking at four potential venues in the city. The The con will be held in the Hilton Deansgate, in probably the most striking building in the city. Guests of Honour are Aliette de BodardDave ClementsIan McDonald, and Sarah Pinborough.

The year after, Eastercon will be in Cardiff. Pasgon (it's pronounced pass-con, basically). Now I can talk about something which stunned me speechless (I tell no lie, ask those who saw me at the time) at Loncon III. The Pasgon team have asked me to be one of their Guests of Honour. This is an immense honour, and quite humbling. The other GoHs are Jo WaltonLyndon Evans and Judith Clute. I am looking forward to this immensely... when I can get my attention away from the ever-approaching Mancunicon.

dc: The Doctor looking out from Laurel & Hardy film (Dr Who)
 I'm amazingly wiped out, possibly after having the 'flu vaccination at the weekend. Or it could just be the change in the weather. (This time last week I could still get away with T-shirt and a light jacket; this week, it's more heavy jacket weather.) 

There's a wee season of SF films at the GFT. Tonight is Death Watch - the 1980 Bertrand Tavernier film, starring Harvey Keitel and Romy Schneider, based on D.G. Compton's The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe and filmed in Glasgow. I'm tempted to go to see it (and Alphaville and The Thing and Frau im Mond...) despite having it on disc. On the other hand, I could easily crawl back into bed and sleep. :-)
dc: Me, in a pub.  (Default)
The English translation of Stanisław Lem's Solaris that's on sale everywhere is widely known to be not very good. (Lem himself was not happy with it.) Hardly surprising when it's a a translation of a French translation from the Polish that's apparently not brilliant. A guy called Bill Johnston has produced a new translation, more faithful to the original... but the catch is that the rights to the book are not owned by Lem's heirs but by the publisher, so it can't be published as a book. An audio book, though, is a different matter, and it's available.

The really good news is ebooks are also a different matter, so the new translation is available for Kindle and other readers. Nice! I have only had time to glance at it, but it seems fine with one or two small formatting errors (adjacent words run together; it's occasional, not constant from what I've looked at). It is pretty inexpensive, too. Other reader formats can be found via Premier Digital Publishing.
dc: Me, in a pub.  (RetroCam)
Hope everyone has been enjoying whichever midwinter festival they celebrate, even if it's just the chance to not work and slob out in front of the TV. I ended with with more in the way of presents than I expected, including something I wanted but wouldn't have bought for myself, and four Doctor Who DVDs (Colony in Space, Day of the Daleks, The Sun Makers, and The Two Doctors). That's not a bad haul. Oh, and not forgetting the M*A*S*H box set and Castle S3... It's nice to be able to slob out in front of TV without being dependent on the vagaries of the broadcasters. The special edition of Day of the Daleks is pretty well done, by the way.

Cooking dinner yesterday for mother and me went basically OK — it was the first time I'd used that oven, so its idiosyncracies were an unknown quantity. The roast was 80% perfect despite that. Mother's quite tired, but she seemed to enjoy it, and she did have a good appetite. I suspect I will be spending New Year with mother, too.

State of Me

Jul. 3rd, 2011 10:39 pm
dc: The Doctor looking out from Laurel & Hardy film (fez)
The past month or so seems to have been a string of hospital appointments, either for me or taking my mother. (She has a respiratory  clinic this week, slightly bad timing but we should at least find out what's happening with the lesion found by chance last year.) It's been quite fatiguing. My payback/recovery period after exertion has definitely deteriorated, This is a pain. I've still been getting out when possible, but it's been harder work.

After Eastercon, I thought I would read some of David Weber's stuff, and I think I am with [livejournal.com profile] pogodragon (I think it was) who said that having met him she wished she liked his books better. But they are unchallenging reads (if you can swallow the chunks of right wing politics) which are good enough for occupying train journeys.

Talking of train journeys, the new route linking the North Clyde Line through to Edinburgh (so you can get on at Partick or Queen St. Low Level and go through to Haymarket or Waverley via Airdrie, Bathgate and Edinburgh Park) is rather useful. It takes longer (from Queen St.) than the direct shuttle service from the main platforms, maybe 15 minutes longer, but at off peak times it is much quieter, so despite it being more basic it's actually more pleasant than the crammed coaches of the main service.

By the way, if you are in Edinburgh and you like chilli, Illegal Jack's is the place to go. Best chilli ever. It's better than mine. It's on Lothian Road, just across from the Odeon.

Oh, and I have discovered a new indicator of extreme fatigue: when you are having difficulty holding a Kindle...

dc: Me, in a pub.  (Sideways)
After the other day's post, I was checking up bus times in the city centre and I noticed another weird street renaming. Glaswegians, take a look on Google Maps at what you and I know as Nelson Mandela Place (and, for that matter, the bit of W. George St. just west of Nelson Mandela Place).
dc: Me, in a pub.  (Sideways)
I remember when Google Maps first appeared I said I would never use it for somewhere I didn't know well myself. That kind of still applies, although Street View makes up for a lot of its deficiencies, since whatever the map shows, the pictures record pretty much what's there. (Though an unfortunately parked van did foil my use of it to identify a particular restaurant's location once.) Still, though, if I really want a good idea about street layout in an area I don't know, I would rather use Streetmap, which is much more accurate.

What baffles me is when Google Maps decides to rename a road. Not talking about small streets or lanes here, either. The first time I came across this was in 2005 when I discovered Google Maps was under the impression that Great Western Road (one of the main arterial routes into Glasgow) was called “Inverquhomery Road” — a street name you won't find anywhere in the city.

They're at it again. Checking up on the location of a place in Bloomsbury, I discovered that Google Maps thinks that the road running south from Russell Square to the junction with High Holborn and Kingsway is called Northampton Row.

Seriously, WTF?

dc: QR Code (QR code)
One of the things which made Eastercon go very smoothly for me was not having to worry too much about what I ate. I did have to be wary of anything with too much fibre, which to be honest isn't that difficult in a hotel like that, but I picked up some lactase pills in Birmingham and made good use of them over the weekend. It made a huge difference to how well I felt over the course of the weekend, since getting completely lactose-free food in a hotel is not usually easy. This is something I shall do again at future cons.

I think I mentioned before that Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London was a good read, urban fantasy with a very well-presented London sense of humour (in particular, he's nailed the way policemen talk, it's beautifully done); the sequel, Moon Over Soho, is just as good. Can't wait for the next book in the series, which I think should be published in November, if I recall correctly.

I am not sure whether I should be excited or nervous about the discovery that a film of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is in the works. On the whole, I think nervous, especially since it's apparently going to star George Clooney (I am assuming as Napoleon Solo, though I don't know for sure; wonder who would be Ilya Kuryakin...).

Back to books, and another rather good read is S.M. Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers. It's 2025, and a dastardly plot is under way to destabilise the British Raj... which is ruled from Delhi. In this world, a cometary impact took out chunks of the northern hemisphere and caused major climatic upsets. The Raj is the major power in the world, its main competitors Greater Nippon and a deeply unpleasant Russian Empire. France outre-mer is a potential ally. There's no real surprises in the way the story is resolved, it is pretty much a straightforward, old-fashioned adventure with no pretensions to being deeply thought provoking, but it is well-told (in particular, the action sequences are well-done). Plus, analytical engines and dirigibles!

There's just been an ad on TV mentioning a luxury weekend break in a converted jail... I don't think I've eaten any strange mushrooms...
dc: The Doctor looking out from Laurel & Hardy film (fez)
It's difficult enough getting back into the rhythm of regularly updating without dropped internet connections and Dreamwidth eating a (complete!) entry. This is the third attempt at updating since Eastercon... fingers crossed.

Anyway, I went to Eastercon — Illustrious, held at the Birmingham Hilton Metropole (or some arrangement of those words) by the NEC. If you want the one-line summary, I can't beat Dave Langford's: a pleasant weekend in a painfully pricy venue.

The long version. )


May. 9th, 2011 03:00 am
dc: Me, in a pub.  (Dematerialisation circuit)
Just tried to do an update... and accidentally hit backspace; navigated back to update page and text was gone, restore from draft restored... a blank page. It seems (judging by the "Autosaved draft at..." note) that Dreamwidth backed up the blank page as soon as I went back to the update page, before asking if I wanted to restore from draft, so that was what was restored rather than the fairly large amount of text I had entered (and which I had thought was backed up).


dc: Me, in a pub.  (RetroCam)
I saw it coming, but I can't believe the deluge of royal wank that's filling the TV ad breaks and news bulletins. I am so pleased I hardly ever watch broadcast TV, but even time-shifted stuff exposes me to some of this drivel. Who is the grinning Irish ninny on ITV who is insisting the whole world's watching? I don't know anyone, and when I say anyone I mean anyone — that includes passing acquaintances and people with very different political views — who is even slightly interested in this wedding. I haven't even heard any conversations on buses or trains about it. There was some group in Glasgow planning a street party (the only one in Glasgow) which has been cancelled because of extreme disinterest.

So why are we getting all this fuckwitted royal crap all the time? And it's going to get worse over the next two weeks...


Apr. 16th, 2011 12:03 am
dc: Me, in a pub.  (Drama Llama)
Within the past six hours, Amazon has changed the layout of its order confirmation page. *WAHHHH* I am too tired for this...
dc: Me, in a pub.  (Dematerialisation circuit)
The other day I was saying how much I was not impressed by Unity, the desktop Canonical are planning to replace Gnome with. I have switched the small shiny box back to Gnome because Unity was just making getting anything done too fiddly. It also makes keeping track of what is going on more difficult than it should be, and is some ways is just less usable. You can't even set the clock on the panel — I say panel, but it isn't really a panel any more — to display in 24 hour format. If Ubuntu goes off on the Unity road, I think I won't be going with it.
dc: Life? Don't talk to me about life... (Marvin)
Earlier, at my mother's getting my stuff together after accidentally staying overnight (sounds better than saying I fell asleep in the chair and woke up at 4a.m.), she had the TV on while they were getting ready for the Grand National. (She wasn't watching it, in fact she was asleep, I think, which is pretty common these days). There was a list of all the runners; my eye ran down the list and when I read Bellabriggs (actually, I think it's Ballabriggs, but I misread it at the time) I thought, That'll be the winner, then. I left before the race started.

Why do I never get thoughts like that when I am near a betting shop or otherwise able to do something about it?


Apr. 9th, 2011 01:00 pm
dc: The Doctor's library card (Library card)
I like LJ less and less, though using Firefox on my usual boxes it's OK, because that's adblocked to the gills. When I have to use another browser or even FF on another machine, which occasionally happens, the experience is bloody awful. In fact, the last time I did I gave up because the site was unreachable behind an ad layer that wouldn't go away. Things like that piss me off. DDoS does too, but that isn't LJ's fault. Obtrusive ads, that's LJ's fault. If I didn't have decent adblocking plugins, I would be off.

But I'm not going away. Yes, I have a Dreamwidth account. That's where I post stuff, actually, including this, it just automatically crossposts to LJ. (If you are wondering, my username there is DC.) I don't mention it all the time because where you want to blog/read is your business, and I am not going to leave LJ, there are too many people here I want to keep in touch with. Just saying that in case a prolonged silence leads you to think I've buggered off.

dc: Me, in a pub.  (Sideways)
My mother should be getting out of hospital today. She's much improved. The leg problem seems to be cellulitis which is responding to antibiotics. The lung problem seems to have been a small pulmonary embolus and she is being started on subcut heparin.

The slight worry is the incidental finding of a very small nodule in the other lung. The concern is obviously that this might be cancer, so she's going to be seen as an out-patient to have that investigated. If it is neoplastic, then it's really a bit of luck it has been found so early.

She is looking a lot better and, obviously, jumping at the bit to get home.

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