Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Mon, 11 Jan 2010

And Another Thing...

I must have been reading and listening to various incarnations of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for nearly 30 years now. I've re-read all the books, listened to the radio series, watched the TV series and film and played the adventure game. I'm currently reading the books to my daughter. Sadly Douglas Adams died tragically young and so didn't get the see the (disappointing) film completed, or finish the third Dirk Gently book. Now the H2G2 series has been continued by Eoin Colfer whose Artemis Fowl books my daughter also enjoys.

This volume continues the adventures of Arthur, Ford, Zaphod and Trillian with more Vogon encounters, some deities and various other species. The style is similar to that of the later DNA books with lots of extra little details. It was enjoyable, but lacked a certain spark. I felt there wasn't enough of Arthur. Maybe I identify with him, Sign of middle age? It's worth a read if you have read the others, but may be confusing if you haven't. Friends can borrow my copy.

I'm currently reading Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals. This time it's about football and is also fun. Full report when I find time to finish it.

In parllel I'm also reading Cory Doctorow's Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town. I have this as an ebook on my phone from Feedbooks. It's there to pass the time when I and stuck somewhere with nothing else to do. It's a good, geeky read about our evolving society, with some magical elements.

[21:47] | [] | Comments | G

Thu, 23 Jul 2009

Harry Potter 6

Saw it last night. Mini review on Multiply. Basically it's a good, if dark film. Purely for the fans and setting up for the last book which is coming out in two parts. Oh, and the kids' hormones kick in big time, i.e. lots of snogging.

[19:42] | [] | Comments | G

Sat, 03 Jan 2009

Anathem

I've read just about everything by Neal Stephenson. His books are pretty geeky and that's what I like. This one is different in that it is set on another planet, but it's not that alien. Civilisation there has split between the general populace and orders of monk-like 'Avout' who cut themselves off in their 'Concents' (monasteries) for powers of 10 years to study science, philosophy etc, but with little 'modern' technology. Their long-term thinking has chimed with the Long Now Foundation who helped to launch the book.

The story follows a young avout through various adventures as his stable lifestyle is disrupted by world-shaking events. It's a fun adventure, but is seriously stretched out by lots of philosophical discussion. Some of that went over my head. By the time I got to the end I had lost track of who some of the characters were, but I may do better on a second read. The book includes a useful glossary for the many words he has made up and some appendices expanding on thought experiments mentioned in the story.

I enjoyed the book. It could have been shorter, but at least he managed a better ending than he usually does. I would recommend working through his earlier books before tackling this one.

I'll update the details on my book list. The concept has been expanded to include a CD of music that the avout would use in their ceremonies. Not sure I'd listen to it for fun.

I'm not sure what I will read next. We have various books that I've not read yet, but I also have some magazines that I've not got around to reading. I spend far too much time trying to keep up with all the interesting stuff on the web. We are being overwhelmed with data. Even if you filter out the crap there is still too much for any one person to deal with, even within a limited field.

[15:11] | [] | Comments | G

Wed, 29 Aug 2007

More Book Reviews

I'm still logging my reading on my booklist. You can see the latest listed down the right side of my page. I've managed over a dozen so far this year, which is good going for me. I still have a backlog to get through. We have a 'library' at work of books people no longer want and that has provided a couple of reads for me. I'm generally into not buying so much stuff these days, so that is perfect for my needs. The problem is that I am less inclined to get rid of my own books, but I ought to clear the shelves a bit. If I'm honest then there are plenty that I will never read again, but there will be some that I can imagine re-reading. Besides, Tanya likes to re-read things like the Pratchetts and the kids may read them one day. I like the idea of minimalist living, but my hoarding instinct is stronger.

[12:46] | [] | Comments | G

Wed, 04 Jul 2007

Arcadia

I first heard of this play whilst reading Brian Eno's diary. It sounded interesting as it featured discussion of mathematics, including chaos theory. It was broadcast on Radio 4 as the Saturday Play last weekend. You can listen to it there for a few more days, but that page will get overwritten soon.

The Wikipedia page has some links to various articles about the play and the mathematics.

I listened to it yesterday and it was great fun. It switches between the early 19th and late 20th centuries, with both played out in the same room of a country house. The people in the later time frame are trying to work out what went on in the earlier. This gets a bit confusing in parts as the switches can be very rapid and radio lacks the visual cues as to who is speaking. It made me laugh in places due to some witty dialogue. The mathematics is not too intrusive, but made it more interesting for me. I worked out a couple of the twists before they were explained, but others caught me by surprise. I may have missed some of the subtleties, but then there is so much going on.

The acting was nothing spectacular. Fairly typical radio/stage acting where everything is overstated, as opposed to the naturalism you get in most TV. I would still be interested to see it on the stage.

On the technical front, I recorded the broadcast via my Hauppauge Freeview card using ZapDVB to set up a timed recording and convert it to Ogg Vorbis audio. I listened on my Acer n35 PDA using GSPlayer. Free software and formats all the way. The resulting audio quality was excellent.

[12:58] | [] | Comments | G

Thu, 18 Jan 2007

A Year in Books

I've just been updating my list of what I've been reading recently. I did quite well for books last year, even if a lot of it was re-reading some old favourites. After reading the Douglas Adams biography I decided to go through my collection of his books. It was enjoyable to read them again. I did a few biographies and travel books that were great fun. I generally do most of my reading in the half hour before going to sleep, but things speed up if I'm doing a lot of plane or train travel. I got a couple of new books for Xmas, but still have quite a few at home I haven't read. I don't bother with the library these days.

I generally go for books that are fun and/or interesting. I don't have time to waste on the vast number of books that just seem to be there to pass the time.

[13:49] | [] | Comments | G

Sat, 24 Jun 2006

Eels at the Astoria

I've been listening to Eels for a few years, but had not seen them perform live apart from on TV, e.g. Later, so I wasn't sure what to expect from this gig.

We got the train down to London. Had a quick dinner in the Smollensky's burger place just up from the venue. Nice food. For some reason there were a bunch of goths hanging around outside the Astoria. I'm not sure they were there for the gig. We went upstairs and positioned ourselves right in the middle. Unfortunately all the seats were taken.

First up were female keyboard/drums duo Smoosh. They made a nice racket, but I couldn't understand a word of the lyrics due to the usual dodgy sound. The stage was very bare with just the instruments and flight cases piled up at the back. I guess there is just no spare space there. The support kit was cleared pretty quickly and then the lights went down...

First on stage was a very tall 'security' guy who checked the place out and then called out the band. E and his fellow guitarist came on with guitars blaring out noise like a squadron of helicopters. Both were in military jumpsuits and sunglasses with E sporting a flying helmet and goggles. The drummer was done up like Fidel Castro. They then went into a rapid series of great songs, most of which I recognised. The 'security' man was actually part of the act and introduced each song with some cryptic statement and danced along with some martial arts and boxing moves. He also played some percussion, keyboards and guitar. Unusually there was no bass player apart from at least one song where E played bass whilst the guitarist sang.

They really rocked! Over about 100 minutes they played loads of songs including a lightning version of My Beloved Monster and covers of You Put A Spell On Me and That's life. Smoosh came on and danced through an encore of Cancer For The Cure. I thought the gig was over when the lights came up and the PA started playing an instrumental version of Saturday Morning, but then the band came back on and played that song themselves.

It was a more theatrical performance than I expected. E hardly spoke and let security man go and slap hands with the crowd and feed them squirty cream(?). This didn't detract from the brilliant music and they even managed to make the lyrics clear enough. I have to say that I have never heard so much use of feedback at a gig.

I don't bother taking my camera to gigs, but there are already plenty of pictures up on Flickr. I've not yet found videos of this gig, but others from the tour are on Youtube and again and again.

[14:15] | [] | Comments | G

Mon, 06 Feb 2006

Book:33 1/3 Led Zeppelin 4 by Erik Davis 3/5

The name of this book cannot be properly written in ASCII text as it actually consists of the four runes that appear on this classic album. Technically the album doesn't have any name, but it seems the band felt they could sell millions without any writing on the outer cover.

I must confess I don't actually own a copy, but my sister did. I have a few other LZ vinyl albums, but don't have anything set up to play them on. I'm not sure my kids have ever used a 'record player'.

This small book is an extended essay about the 'meaning' of the album. It delves into the obsessions of the band, especially Jimmy Page's with the occult. It proposes various theories about each song and how, together, they tell a story. He also writes about those who think it is a work of 'evil', full of satanic messages, some recorded backwards.

On the other hand, it may just be a great rock album, but there's tracks on other albums that I prefer to some of these. Stairway to Heaven has acquired a status way beyond it's musical quality, but I'm not above playing in on my guitar now and then. Mr Page still rates as one of the best rock guitarists in my opinion.

The book is a brief, but fairly interesting read. For more details of the band's depraved lifestyles see Hammer of the Gods

[20:52] | [] | Comments | G

Sat, 04 Feb 2006

Book:Thud! by Terry Pratchett 4/5

It seems it was about a year since I reviewed the previous Pratchett book, Going Postal. This time he's back with the Ankh-Morpork City Watch led by Sam Vimes. There's unrest among the dwarves and trolls over the anniversary of a battle between their races. Someone important gets killed and the watch have to solve the case to prevent a war.

The Watch stories are generally good. There are some strong characters, with some new additions this time. There is some mysticism involved, but it boils down to an old copper using his wits. It's probably more Sweeney than Morse. Really it's about people who happen to live in a magical world. I probably missed a lot of references, but there is a running one to The Da Vinci Code.

I really enjoyed it, but then I've read most of his books. It's not to be taken too seriously, but it rewards a little thought.

[19:18] | [] | Comments | G

Sun, 15 Jan 2006

Film:Love Actually 4/5

This Richard Curtis film did quite well on it's release, but as usual we didn't get around to it. We were able to borrow the DVD and watched it last night.

It's a multi-threaded story of various people showing different aspects of love (sounds like a name for a musical!). There are lots of familiar faces there, but no main lead characters. This reminded me a little of Magnolia, including the way that the threads joined up at the end, but this was funnier. It doesn't get too sentimental and manages to stay fairly realistic. Not all the stories have happy endings.

It's a fun film overall. Heart-warming without making you cringe, apart possibly from one 'star' appearance near the end. Curtis seems to have just the right touch for these things.

There's not much to say about the technical quality of the DVD. The picture is good, but you don't expect much in the way of surround sound from this sort of film. There's a commentary and a few extras, but I haven't checked them all out yet.

[12:44] | [] | Comments | G

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