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    Tuesday, 22 July 2014

    "...legen - wait for it - dary..."

    I've probably seen the How I Met Your Mother finale at least one time too many now (any wag that says "oh, you've seen it just the once, then" gets a slap!), and kinda want to get down some thoughts on it...

    ...but before I do please beware that if you have not yet seen it and are planning to do so, please stop reading. Here be spoilers that will tell you how it all ends...

    There has been an element of controversy over the nature of the ending, in particular the very last moments of the episode with the kids... 

    The thing is, though, the ending they worked towards is one they've been heading to from the start. The kids' bit in the finale was actually filmed during the second season, which is why that scene looks a bit disjointed as Ted's bits were filmed 7 years later... 

    So, all along the mother was destined to die, and Ted was always going to end up with Robin. I have seen much criticism over this, who think that Ted and the mother should have ended up together, and there are edits of the finale on YouTube, and various suggestions that have the mother living on until 2030, and popping up in the final scene. 

    But that was never the plan.

    My main issue with the finale is not with the actual story beats - the mother's death, and Ted ending up with Robin - but rather how they were realised on screen. As we're getting close to the end, we get Ted's final speech in which he's so eloquent about his love for the mother, and how sad he was when she died, and then... ah, we get the scene at the train station where they finally meet, a moment that's had so much build up and anticipation.

    And it's wonderful. A beautifully written and acted scene that was just about perfect; as Ted and Tracey talked you really felt them making a connection, and it was worth the build up. It felt so very right. Oh, the smile on my face, yet still with tears coming from my eyes, when Ted said "And that, kids, is how i met your mother"... just brilliant. 

    But what came next was misjudged. For Ted six years had passed since Tracey died; but for us, the viewers, moments ago we'd just had Ted talking about her death, then we see him meeting her... and all of a sudden it's all about Aunt Robin, and she's all the kids are talking about. 

    As a viewing experience it was just too sudden, and too jarring. It's entirely right that Ted got a happy ending with Robin, heck six years had passed so he deserved happiness, and he has to move on and think about the future for both him and his kids. He couldn't just mope forever, as he'd end up going crazy. 

    But I'd have liked a bit more in there. They filmed something of Tracey's funeral for the episode, but cut it out. There just should have been more in there, maybe showing Ted grieving and coming to terms with Tracey's death, just something more in there so that Ted rushing to Robin's apartment with the blue horn didn't seem so rushed and sudden, from the viewers' perspective. 

    'Cos that very last moment with Robin and Ted was actually quite wonderful and heartwarming. You just know everything will turn out well for the two of them...

    Saturday, 7 June 2014

    "...through the darkness of futures past..."

    I think of all the superhero movies I've seen the one I've had highest hopes for would be the latest X-Men film, Days of Future Past. Largely because the issues of the comic on which it's based were two of the greatest issues of superhero comics ever. Therefore, it's had a load of high hopes for it to live up to.

    Clearly there would need to be changes between comic and film, and indeed there are; the most notable being that in the comics it's Kitty who is sent back in time, whereas here it's Wolverine. 

    The basic premise remains the same, though, in that we start in a dystopic future where mutants are hunted by the ruthless Sentinels, who are determined to wipe out all mutants. They manage to work out a way to send the consciousness of one of them back in time in order to change the past and stop the future happening. This moment was when Mystique assassinated a key individual; in the comics it's Senator Kelly, whereas here it's Bolivar Trask, the man who initiated the Sentinels project. Talking of whom; Dinklage is just brilliant here. Just wish he was in it a bit more...

    The movie takes the initial premise and fleshes it out, giving it a little more depth than the comics (after all 48 pages of comic won't last across a two hour film), as well as more spectacle. There's some great set pieces here to showcase the various mutant powers. Just wonderful. Magneto in full force... whoah. 

    It's also an excuse to do a film, properly, with both the original, Patrick Stewart led cast and the newer First Class, James McAvoy led cast (we obviously had Wolverine in the First Class film; but just a cameo...). And, whilst casts are by necessity kept apart by fifty years of time travel, it works really well. It's great to see Stewart and McKellan light up the screen again, for what's likely to be their last time, I would think, as well as Halle Berry's Storm, Anna Paquin's Rogue (though if you blink in the wrong place, you'll miss her), as well as... well, wait and see. 

    So, it's a movie that has a lot to live up to, and it manages it. It's certainly the best X-Men film so far, and is one of my very favourite superhero films. It does help that in no way at all is it an origin story; just you take a look back at superhero films, and you'll see that something like 90% are either origin stories for the hero, or the villain. 

    In fact, there's really only two things that I really disliked about the film;

    1 - with it being Wolverine who goes back in time, it means we're denied the iconic cover of X-Men #142 in the film. Ah... imagine how great that would have been...
    2 - Wolverine's bone claws. I maintain that in the entire history of Marvel comics, the most idiotic decision ever made was when they said "hey, wouldn't it be great if it turned out Wolverine was born with bone claws?" No. It wouldn't. It's a shit idea. 

    Anyhow, it was a corker of a film.

    Now, bring on the apocalypse... :)

    Saturday, 15 February 2014

    "...and there's no time..."

    I do try to write stories. I really do. I have many ideas, and kind of half arsedly think about them, make notes, and write the occasional drafts of chapters of epic novels, or even series of novels, that exist in my head in a state of quantum maybeness. Little bits here and there, fragments of worlds that might one day exist... but there's very little in the way of completed stories.

    There are a couple of short stories, though, both of which were all set to be spun out in to full length novels; at least until the maybeness, and the doubt, and the "oh, why in the name of sanity am I writing this, it's not fit to lick The Catcher in the Rye's boots" thinking. 

    And if you will permit me to digress slightly (well I say permit; it's my blog and it's frickin' called digression...) that's clearly the wrong way to think; you should always read the worst professionally published writing you can get your hands on, and read that thinking "strewth, I can do better than that load of old Tottenham...!" I'll never write anything as good as Catcher, but I can certainly string something better than some of the stuff out there. Just, the stamina... they have it, and I seem to be lacking...

    So, a couple of shorts stories.... one was called The Vampire Incident, and that dates back to the 90s. If you happened to read the fanzine I used to do, you'll have read it. Maybe one day it'll make it online. It was intended to be funny, but re-reading it recently some of it did make me wince a little...

    Then, there was [edit]...

    [edit] was never published anywhere, and concerned a chap who, all of a sudden, found he could jump back in time and edit his lifetime. The thing is, he could only go back in time, not forward at all, and couldn't go beyond a certain point. The main bulk of the story centred around a couple of incidents, the one that set it off, and another later, with only brief mentions of the various things he got up to in between. 

    I liked the story and had always intended to return to it one day, flesh it out, go in to a lot more detail of the things he got up to, how he could do, essentially, whatever he wanted, and essentially live life with no consequences again and again. I'm sure it wasn't a spectacularly original idea even then, about ten years ago. I guess Groundhog Day immediately springs to mind, but that was just going back one day, and involuntary...

    So, a few days ago I finally got around to watching About Time... And... wow... someone who can time travel within his own life time and change anything he wants to. Although, this chap can go forward in time. 

    [Incidentally; I will be giving away whopping great spoilers here. Don't read on if you don't want to know how it ends... really...]

    And here the time travel is used really thoughtfully; the chap travelling in time never really does anything massively extravagant, his changes are usually small in nature. The movies chugs along reasonably well... boy meets girl (Charlotte), boy travels in time to make girl fall in love with him, doesn't work. Boy meets other girl (Mary), travels in time to make girl fall in love with him, works. And for the most part it's fairly standard fare, despite the time travel...

    There were a few times watching it, where I'd probably have done things differently. For a start, later when Tim meets Charlotte out on the town, and she invites him back to her hotel room I'd have had them getting down and jiggy with each other, only for Tim to be full of guilt and go back in time so that it didn't happen. Might have added a bit of friction in there...

    So, the film chugs along and it's seemingly pootling along with its romance, and then, bam...

    ...Tim's dad goes and dies, and suddenly it's one sucker punch after another. It's sad enough when he dies, but hey, he's a time traveler, and he can go back and visit him when he wants. The scene where he's at the funeral and goes back is just wonderful. 

    But, then it gets worse... 

    To explain; one of the rules being that you can't go back to before when your children are born (although clearly this should be, when they are conceived) as any minor change will see a different sperm meet the egg and a different child be born..., not long after he dies, Mary gets pregnant again. In this time travel paradigm, this means Tim can no longer go back to a time when his dad's alive, so he'll never be able to see him again. The moment he goes back, and tells his dad this is the last time he'll be able go back is just heart breaking. It helps by Bill Nighy being so damn good in every scene he's in. 

    And it made me think that, really, even if I were to revisit [edit], I'd never be able to come up with anything a wonderful as that with this sort of time travel concept. The last half hour of this film is just the best use for it. It can't be topped. I'll probably try to think of something that would top it, but I doubt I will...

    Having said that, though, there are a couple of whopping errors in there; the scene where he does go back before his first child's birth, and then find he's got a different kid, and then somehow manages to go back and get the original back is rather illogical; and in any case, should negate everything about the last half hour... it's a sequence that should have been snipped and replaced with some chat with ol' dad... 

    And, that very last bit on the beach at the end breaks every rule as well! :)

    You set up your time travel rules, you need to follow them! 

    Whether I do go back to [edit] I don't know... maybe. I'll not be going back to The Vampire Incident. Though, I am sure there were a few more stories, but I just can't think of them...

    Wednesday, 5 February 2014

    "...a half finished lifetime of underachievement and misunderstanding..."

    Way back in the day I used to do a fanzine. It never quite achieved what I intended it to do, and just when it was getting decent circumstance meant I had to stop it. I shan't bore you with the details. One of the things I liked about it was that I used to try to get a whole wodge of different things in it each month, so you never really knew what you would expect. It had its running strands, but I never wanted it to stay the same. 

    I got sent a good few demo tapes by up and coming band to review, and they tended to range from a bit naff to pretty average. There were a few that were okay, but mostly... I mean, there were even a couple that didn't even make it in to the pages of the zine as they were so dreadful. But, there was one demo CD that stood head and shoulders above everything else. That was by Pop Threat

    It was a three track CD with blisteringly good music on; wonderfully scuzzy guitars, and vocals to die for. The tracks were Falling Spike, The Last Resort, and D 4th S. I forget the order they were in, as I long ago lost the CD. 

    Of these tracks to me the best one was D 4th S; which is one of those tracks with two sets of parallel lyrics. It had an Atta Girl vibe to it, without actually sounding anything like it at all. The lyrics here almost feel like they're about to be drained out by the swirling guitars at any time. Sometimes you feel it's best to let the lyrics wash over you as once you pay attention to what they're actually saying, you almost wish you hadn't paid that attention. It's heartbreaking. Halfway through, the song becomes an instrumental. You can imagine this being played live with the reverb and feedback up to the max, and being bashed out of the instruments until they bleed. Just wonderful. Wonderful. 

    On the basis of D 4th S alone Pop Threat should have been massive. But, sadly, this wasn't to be the case. They lasted a mere four years, releasing a handful of singles, and an album, which didn't hit the shelves until after the split. 

    And I never did get to see them live. 

    The other day I was listening to music on my iPod on shuffle, and D 4th S came on. Made me smile. Just for the hell of it I googled Pop Threat, and found there was a compilation CD released in 2011, containing most of their songs including many I'd not heard in a while, and some I'd never heard before. It took me moments before I'd ordered the CD. And then moments later, thought... I wonder if it's on iTunes. It was! So, I bought another copy from there.

    And... oh, it's great. I'm listening to it right now and loving it. Frankly every single one of you out there that hasn't already got a copy, which will be most of you let's be honest, must go and buy a copy NOW! It's called dirt 'n' dust, and is great. I mean, you only have to click here to go to the website to order the CD... And it's only £3.50!

    If you want the iTunes release that's £7.99. Which is still a bargain for these 23 songs... 

    Go on. Buy it. You MUST!

    Wednesday, 29 January 2014

    "...the clocks were striking thirteen..."

    I've just been surfing the channels, and happened to come across the Big Brother final, and it's down to the last three, who are some chap called Olly, who I've never heard of, some dappy twat called Dappy (last seen losing a fight with a horse), and Jim Davison... 

    Surely, there is something wrong with the world when the least worst option for a winner is Jim Davison?

    Part of me thinks I should actually have watched more of this series, as various people have said it was quite good. And I have watched several series of the show in the past... but as with every series it does somewhat stretch the definition of "celebrity" with the usual collection of has beens and never weres... It does seem that in this ever changing world in which we live in any talentless half wit can be a celebrity. 

    I long for the old days. When we had proper celebrities. 

    Like Keith Chegwin.

    Or Keith Harris and Orville.

    Or that bloke who did the dodgy microphone routine...

    Tuesday, 28 January 2014

    "...I'm as blank as a fart..."

    It's funny the things that come in to your mind as you're sat in front of an empty screen with a cursor blinking at you. And, then, what it can spark. Typing the quote above instantly draws me to Twin Peaks, but I think I should hold off on the Peaks stuff for the time being as there'll be lots of that later in the year, once we get to Feb 24th, and the subsequent Blu release a few weeks later. With FWWM deleted scenes. 

    Trouble is with these blog posts, I know all the things I should say... but it's so hard and I'm not sure I want to, anyway. 

    On a different day...

    ...which, of course, links back to yesterday; when, I was mad. And quite prepared to give up everything. Which is an intriguing notion; to give up everything. We accumulate so much stuff in our lifetime, but of how much worth is it? The things we build up just act to constrain us, when we should be able to just not worry. Does it matter that so much money has been sunk in to the piles of DVDs, Blus, books, etc? Heck; in terms of books I've already bought more than I'll ever get around to reading on my Kindle, and that's so beautifully compact. After all, it's the content that matters, not the pieces of dead tree...

    ...but imagine if one of those pieces of dead tree happened to be a first edition, first printing of Catcher in the Rye? One of the ones that had the picture on the back, before JDS got it removed. That would be worth having. Especially if signed. But... I've not got one of those, and to buy one would be such silly money it's not worth thinking about. 

    You could buy me one, if you like... 

    Monday, 27 January 2014

    " was twenty years ago today..."

    Well, actually, it wasn't it was more like 20 and a half years ago today. In any case, I don't recall the exact date, but we're talking late June/early July 1993...

    That was when I first heard Heavenly. 

    It was on the John Peel show over the Glastonbury weekend. At least, I think it was. That's what my memory tells me anyway. And memories are, as we know, perfect; just ask all those people who saw Bugs Bunny at Disneyland... 

    So, he's about to play this song, and he's trying to decide how it's meant to be said; the title on the sleeve says it's "P.U.N.K. Girl", and he's undecided as to whether or not he should say each letter of P.U.N.K. individually, or as the word "Punk"... and he plays the song, and I am enraptured by it. Enraptured. 

    That was when I first heard Heavenly. 

    I heard it again once more on his show, and decided I must buy the song. (Incidentally; I'm also pretty sure on one of these shows I also heard the stunning Blue Eyes Deceiving Me, by Even as we Speak.)

    A couple of weeks later, I'm in Swindon in HMV, and flick through a box of 7 inch singles on the counter, and BAM! There it is. A single copy of P.U.N.K. Girl, by Heavenly. I had to buy it. I recall also looking for Blue Eyes Deceiving Me, but they didn't have it. What they did also have, though, was a 7 inch of Her Jazz, by Huggy Bear; which, at the time, I had heard about, but hadn't actually heard, so I bought that, too.

    Oh, that Heavenly 7 inch... I played it so many times. The a-side was just bliss. And the b-side, Hearts and Crosses, was so heartbreakingly sad. And there was a time when I figured that even if I never heard another song by Heavenly that this single would in itself be a perfect snapshot of the bad.

    But, soon I found more; cassettes of a couple of their albums in HMV and Our Price... it seemed so normal then, but looking at music shops these days I do wonder that if Sarah Records were around today would they even be able to get their music in HMV? With the internet, would they even need to?

    Soon after this, in 1995, came There and Back Again Lane, the final release, a 21 track CD compilation, from Sarah Records. Track 2 was a Heavenly track; Atta Girl... and I was blown away. It's a song that so very quickly wormed its way in to my head to become my favourite ever song; an accolade it holds to this day.

    This was all just the start, and Heavenly sort of became Marine Research, which sort of became Tender Trap. And back further Heavenly had, sort of, previously been Talulah Gosh... oh, such joy. 

    At the core of all of these bands is the beautiful voice of Amelia Fletcher, who could, frankly, sing I Wish I Could Fly, and make it sound beautiful. Heck, when John Peel did a carol concert one Christmas, the Marine Research contribution transformed In The Bleak Midwinter from a song I'd always thought a bit dull to a think of great, great, beauty. 

    Frankly, if you've not bought any stuff by these bands, you're missing out. I'd suggest starting with;

    • This Is Heavenly. (Compilation with most Heavenly singles on.)
    • The Decline and Fall of Heavenly. (8 Tracks of sheer perfection.)
    • Marine Research; Sounds From the Gulf Stream. (Actually, probably the best of the list. Really.)
    • Talulah Gosh; Was It Just a Dream? (Compilation of pretty much everything they did...)
    And if you don't like these, then you have no soul!

    Oh, and the answer to Peel's question; you spell it out! :)

    Sunday, 26 January 2014

    "...I'm not looking for a New England..."

    The only thing I want to post today is this quote I very recently came across from George Bernard Shaw;

    "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

    Makes perfect sense. Maybe I should start being more... unreasonable...