Battlestar Galactica: Series 3

"It's gonna be OK."

That's the new "reimagined" version, Dad. I don't really do much television, and for 2006, downloads of Battlestar was pretty much the only exception. It's edgy and well-written, and it leaves me breathlessly excited, and yes it had that lull on New Caprica about five episodes in, but then it blossomed again, experimenting with one-off shows, cool ideas, and great characters that remain emotive and involving while staying well clear of Dawson's Creek. And what a series finale! Blowing the whole stack of Cylon sleeper agents all at once, the awful yawning realisation as they each heard the activation signal in the back of their minds, all drawn to converge on the same room, what a headfuck, with the psychedelic nebula backdrops all around, to the rising strains of All Along the Watchtower, as Apollo discovers Starbuck is still alive. Hooray! Loved it loved it loved it. 8/10.

The Straight Story

The Straight Story

by David Lynch (1999)

Aw, heck, I dunno. It's kinda down to Earth and charming, but also plain and slow-moving. And sure, that was deliberate, it wanted to tell a simple, powerful story in the terms of its protagonists, within the context of rural life. But I couldn't really get into it, despite really wanting to. Some of the acting was a bit lacking. IMDB informs me that it's a true story. Fair enough. It's still 4/10.

Ocean's 13

Don Cheadle in Ocean's 13

Directed by Steven Soderbergh (2007) imdb

I really, really loved 12, despite the Mockney accent. I thought the script was just immaculate. I think I'm in a minority on that. Anyhow, I really hated this one, with its witless Godfather references. Rubbish all over. 3/10.

Kill Bill (Vol 2)

Kill Bill Vol 2

by Quentin Tarantino (2004)

Speaking of not having read Hamlet, did you see that awful Tarantino quote recently? Something along the lines of "I mean, I haven't read any Shakespeare, but people are keep comparing me to him, it's kinda uncanny, you know?" Twazzock. 7/10.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Blink, cover

by Malcome Gladwell (2005)

Blink is by the same guy who wrote Tipping Point, which I never read, and was another foolish airport buy, induced by the sheer peer pressure of it being popular. It features enough content to fill three or four fairly interesting blog posts about the under-utilised ability of the subconscious mind to come to rapid decisions which are sometimes inordinately useful but rarely trusted in our left-brain dominated society. This was then padded out to the length of an entirely unnecessary paperback. 3/10.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

by Tom Stoppard (1990)

I just can't decide how I feel about this. Part brilliant, part awful, my most bipolar experience since Everything and More. I guess I should 'fess up that I've never actually seen or read Hamlet, either, which obviously means I'm entirely unqualified to judge. Why was I even watching it? Oh deary. er... 5/10.

Slaughterhouse 5

Slaughterhouse 5, cover

by Kurt Vonnegut, 1969.

I'm falling way behind in my avowed intention to write up all the books and movies I'm subjected to. Primarily for my own benefit, rather than yours, here the first of a flurry of quick annotations that I'll never otherwise get around to. This fell off the shelf into my hands once more upon the news of his death in April. So it goes.

Still touching and funny and brilliant. 8/10.

From Hell

From Hell

by Alan Moore (author), Eddie Campbell (artist) (1989)

Moore has almost single-handedly transformed the definition of the comic industry in the last 20 years, and this fetishistically researched comic-book dramatisation of the dark and macabre Jack the Ripper murders is no exception to his visionary high standards.


Moore plunges headlong into the sensational conspiracy theory that Royal Physician, Dr. William Gull, killed East End prostitutes to silence the story of an illegitimate royal baby, under the direct orders of the implacable Queen Victoria herself.

Dr Gull regards his mission as the great work of his life, which will not only quash the threat to the crown, but also fulfil ancient pagan destinies, reasserting the male dominance over matriarchy that began when the Romans reclaimed London and slew Queen Boadicea. Gull knows this because he has knelt before his God, who told him just what needed to be done. As a doctor, Gull knows that these visions are madness, brought about by his stroke of the previous year. As a man, however, he responds that "If this is madness, who'd be sane?", and, embracing the subjective reality of his hallucinations, he goes about his work with gusto, confiding along the way in his witless coachman and reluctant accomplice, Nettley.

Dr Gull and coachman Nettley

The story is a tapestry, woven on many levels. The iniquities of wealth and power are richly depicted as the poverty-stricken residents of the East End are contrasted with the powers-that-be, who move swiftly and decisively to ensure that Gull is never caught nor found out, for fear of scandal, even while he goes on killing with impunity.

The appalling violence of the murders and dismemberment of the victims is shown in unflinching detail, one pivotal 34-page chapter "The Best of all Tailors", consisting solely of the actions of Gull, a renowned surgeon, with his victim in a tiny, squalid room, which made me profoundly grateful that the sketches are only in black-and-white.

Such graphic nastiness is not for no reason. Gull is convinced that the act of violence is a pivotal part of the ancient and grisly prophesies he is enacting. Under the psychological strain of each successive murder, Gull experiences increasingly vivid hallucinations, symptoms of his condition. But then, something altogether strange starts to happen. As his visions become more vivid, Gull begins to experience glimpses of the future. Visions of our time. At times and places where people have historically claimed to have seen the ghost of Jack the Ripper, Moore cunningly reverses the perspective, allowing Gull to see them also. By the end, Gull's visions have him stalking the sterile hallways of the modern world in blood-soaked shirtsleeves, roaring at oblivious office workers, exhorting them to look up and remember the history from which our century was birthed in blood. The ancient magic that Gull raved about was real, while we have lost our connection to our violent and animal past, and with it, our very humanity.

Nettley's coach - harbinger of doom.

Rating: 10/10. Cor blimey it's a classic.

My Cacophony

Google Calendar tells me that I've now had 8 piano lessons with the esteemed Marios. It's been heaps of fun, and it's long past time I shared my progress to date, in the form of some ghastly midi files. Download at your peril, they are truly awful - only of interest as a record of my progress.

Beautiful Brown Eyes

First, a tune labelled as 'Beautiful Brown Eyes'. This is from a couple of weeks ago, the first time I managed to record a midi file. The timing's very sloppy - I haven't been learning any pieces by heart, so I'm struggling to read the music fast enough to play the tune. I'm trying to play as many different pieces as I can by reading the sheet music, rather than learning a few by heart, since that will hopefully exercise my ability to read music, albeit at the cost of sounding much less polished for the time being. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

MIDI icon 28 Jun

Alpine Melody

Next up, an even simpler tune, which means I have less difficulty reading the music and so the timing's a bit better.

MIDI icon 16 Jul


Finally, the music from the computer game Tetris. This is a fairly new tune to me, and it's obvious that it's a real struggle. I'm not used to reading such large melodic intervals, and the notes extends over a broader pitch range than anything I've done before, so I can scarcely place my fingers on the right keys, never mind in time. Hopefully this will get better with practice.

MIDI icon 16 Jul

MIDI icon 21 Jul

The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) at Latitude

Latitude Festival

It's summertime again, even in sodden old England, and that means it's festival season. True to its image as one of the newer and smaller festivals in the UK, Latitude had a good-natured crowd, diverse music - albeit without many big-name bands, was laid-back and eclectic, and not too muddy.

Prince Achmed

The defining highlight for me was a showing of The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) (IMDB, Wikipedia), a beautiful rendition of tales from Arabian Nights, using stop-motion shadow-puppetry, accompanied by a haunting live musical soundtrack by Little Sparta. I've wanted to see the movie for ages - it is the oldest surviving feature-length animation, and was brought about by the dedication of one woman, Lotte Reiniger who single-handedly constructed all the cutouts in the movie using nothing more than scissors, and then animated them all by hand.