Sunday, 6 November 2011

I'll Never Forget Whats-His-Name...

Today I spent a frustrating 45 minutes (the reason's not important) trying to recall the name of this man:

I could tell you anything else about him - that he spent 27 years in prison as a political prisoner; became South Africa's first black President, was played, in the film Invictus, by Morgan Freeman, and many other things.

But the name 'Nelson Mandela' simply would not come to my mind.

This happens me from time to time; it's something I call 'Brad Dexter Syndrome', after the actor who played Harry Luck in 'The Magnificent Seven' and whose name I always had trouble remembering (with apologies to Mr. Dexter) when asked to identify the cast of that film.

And I hate when it does, because I have to stop myself from resorting to the Web to find the name of the individual concerned because I'm determined to recall it for myself and not rely on external assistance.

I did some research into the cause of such a memory block (and that's what it is, not some form of incipient dementia) and there was a suggestion that it can occur as the result of stress, or of active memory centres of the brain preventing retrieval from other areas (I'm an interplanetary adventurer, not a neuroscientist, so I'm not even going to attempt to analyse that).

But invariably the name (and it's always a name, never anything else) comes to me, even if I have to use a more circular approach to find it.

It doesn't happen often, but damn, it's annoying...

Monday, 1 August 2011

A Movie For Every Year: The 70s...

I've been going through some draft posts, and it seems I failed to complete a meme about a movie for every year of my life thus far. If only because I hate leaving things unfinished, here's the next part - gods alone know when I'll submit the '80s list (although it may be short)...

Note: I know it was supposed to be only one for each year, but I love movies and couldn't choose, so here are some of my favourites from each year of the 1970s: 

1970 (I know, technically it's part of the '60s)
The Aristocats - Everybody wants to be a cat...
Kelly's Heroes - Never in the course of human conflict has so much been so easily calculated by so few...
M*A*S*H* - Poor Henry...

The Andromeda Strain - Took a couple of viewings, but it grew on me like a - culture...
Big Jake - Did I hate it? Not hardly...
Diamonds Are Forever - Not my favourite Bond movie, but there were some good jokes...
Dirty Harry - D'you feel lucky, punk?
Duel - Spielberg's first movie; scary...
The French Connection - Didya' ever pick your feet in Poughkeepsie? 

The Omega Man - Charlton Heston vs the World - music by Ron Grainer

Man of La Mancha - To dream the Impossible Dream

The Poseidon Adventure - The last of the great disaster movies
The Godfather - Respect.

The Day of The Jackal - Edward Fox as Forsyth's fictional hitman
Don't Look Now - A scary movie - I had nightmares for a long time after seeing this
Magnum Force - "A man's got to know his limitations..."
Paper Moon - An excellent drama, tragi-comic, starring Ryan O'Neal and daughter Tatum
Soylent Green - Edward G Robinson's final role, and Charlton Heston Vs the World (again)
The Sting - Newman and Redford - together again...
Westworld - Not a bad sci-fi piece, with Richard Benjamin an unlikely hero and Yul Brynner looking like 13 years had not passed since he first wore black with guns

Blazing Saddles - "There was a peaceful town called Rock Ridge..."
Chinatown - Nicholson as JJ Gittes; an excellent character...
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad - Ray Harryhausen's special effects and Caroline Munro's equally-special effects...
The Longest Yard - Burt Reynolds vs Eddie Albert in the original football-in-prison movie...
McQ - John Wayne driving a Pontiac Firebird around Seattle to an Elmer Bernstein soundtrack - unbelievable but not bad...
The Taking of Pelham 123 - Robert Shaw as ruthless killer, Walter Matthau as transit cop, Martin Balsam as Man with a cold...
The Three Musketeers - The best version of the story - ever!
Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too! - Just, y'know, because...
Young Frankenstein - It's pronounced 'Fronkensteen'...

The Eiger Sanction - Clint Eastwood as an art-loving, mountain-climbing hitman. I can see that...
Farewell, My Lovely - Robert Mitchum, the man born to be Philip Marlowe, in Dick Richards's excellent period piece. Chandler would have approved.
The Four Musketeers - The boys are back in town...
The Great Waldo Pepper - Robert Redford as post-WWI circus flier with regret issues.
Jaws - "I think we're gonna need a bigger boat..."
Monty Python and the Holy Grail - "Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!"
The Return of the Pink Panther - and a bumbling detective, and a twitching eye, and comedy...
Rollerball - "In the not-too-distant future there will be no more wars..."

Three Days of the Condor - Robert Redford goes for lunch and finds himself on the run from Max Von Sydow...

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: "I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey..."

Assault on Precinct 13 - John Carpenter's riveting debut piece
The Eagle Has Landed - Michael Caine in WWII plot to kidnap Churchill

Bugsy Malone - Sets made to scale for Alan Ladd...
Logan's Run - Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan in post-Apocalypse tale of population control
Marathon Man - "Is it safe?"
Rocky - "Adriaaannn!!"
The Outlaw Josey Wales - "A man's got to do something to make a living." "Dying's not much of a living, boy."
The Shootist - John Wayne's last ride, straight into the sunset...

A Bridge Too Far - The story of Montgomery's ego-trip...
Close Encounters of the Third Kind - I believe.
The Deep - Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water after Jaws and The Poseidon Adventure
High Anxiety - Mel Brooks's take on Hitchcock - priceless.

Star Wars - A Long Time Ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

Capricorn One - Man on Mars? Not yet...

Force 10 from Navarone - Gung-ho Yanks, smug Brits, dastardly Nazis and Barbara Bach.
Heaven Can Wait - Warren Beatty, James Mason and Julie Christie in remake of '40s classic - not bad at all
Hooper - The greatest stuntman ever - ever!
Jaws 2 - Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water without Jacqueline Bisset...
Superman - I believed it then, I believe it now: Christopher Reeve is Superman

10 - Wherein I develop a new-found respect for classical music, and in particular the work of late 19th-Century Spanish composers named Ravel...
Alien - Actually, in space, I can hear you scream (if I'm tuned to the proper wavelength)...
...And Justice for All - Pacino, brilliant.
Love At First Bite - "I do not drink - vine. And I do not smoke - shit..."
Monty Python's Life of Brian - "How blessed are the cheesemakers..."
The Muppet Movie - "Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what's on the other side?"
Rocky II - "Adriaaannn!!!"
Star Trek:The Motion Picture  - "Unknown, Captain..."

Tune in again when I may, as noted above, get to the '80s...

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Golf? You Could Call It That...

Yesterday, I played my first serious round of golf.

Nothing much to be blogging about, one might think, until one takes into account that it was I who was playing.

My dad, who enjoys his golf and is a member at a course in Co. Kildare, has been encouraging me to go with him for a round for some time, but until now I've been reluctant to accept knowing my lack of coordination would be an embarrassment to both of us.

But he has been patient with me as I practiced at the local driving range, to the point where he felt that the only way to get any better was to bite the bullet and go out on a course.

So yesterday I went with him to Castlewarden and walked out onto the first tee box.

The day began warm but overcast, which I'm told is ideal. Rain was not expected, though we had driven through a brief shower on our way to the course. Booked to tee off at 10:03, we were early so went out straight away.

The first tee is a difficult one for the novice - a water hazard sits in front of it. Dad's advice was to aim wide to the right, which I did, and sliced my shot sharply left, losing my ball on the first shot.

I was under no illusions as to my abilities but ploughed ahead anyway, discovering, in spite of my embarrassment, that I was Having A Good Time.

It was good to watch my dad play, as well. He's genuinely good, to my eye, but given that he's been playing for thirty years or so, I'm not surprised. He hit some excellent shots and made them look easy, so I was pleased when he praised some of my efforts.

I hit four bunkers, but got out of three and onto the green with single shots; on one occasion the ball rebounded off the edge of the bunker and rolled back down. A second shot took care of that.

Putting wasn't bad either; I managed a couple of eight-to-ten foot putts that impressed my dad (and surprised the hell out of me) but my accuracy diminished as we progressed.

My best performance was on a par three hole that I finished in five shots, which, if I had been playing with a handicap, would have counted as a par. There isn't, however, a term in golf to describe the bogey multiplier to be applied on the other 17 holes, to the point where I stopped counting shots early in the round. Suffice to say that if I broke 100, I was doing very well...

So (now that I can move again) what have I learnt?

1. I can't use a driver;
2. I can barely use an iron;
3. My long game needs a lot of work;
4. So does my short game; and
5. It's worth the effort.

Back to the driving range...

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Great DC Reboot - What I'll Be Reading...

As DC Comics embarks upon their great adventure, my local comics store provided me with this handy list of the 52 new titles and invited me to reserve some.

Having read the free preview book that came with it, and Lee's thoughts on the subject, I've decided to start with these and see how they go:

Three months, perhaps, and changes may be made.

Things I'm looking forward to are the return of Sinestro as a Green Lantern and - well, that's it so far. Let's hope they don't f**k it up...

Monday, 11 July 2011

Only 2 More Years Till Retirement...

Today is Neptunian New Year, as calculated by being about 164.8 Earth years since it was discovered jointly by Verrier and Adams in 1846 as it passed the Sun.

My contract as Hero of Neptune runs for 3 years (but I didn't read the small print), so only have another 2 Neptunian (or about 329.6 Earth) years to go to retirement and the inevitable book and media tours.

For those of you who may never have seen my adopted world, here's a photo (taken by my nPhone):

Pretty, isn't it?

Anyhow, the commute's a little shorter these days because we're a bit closer to Earth, so that's a bonus, and there's always something to do on Triton if it gets boring.

So Happy New Year, Earthlings, or indeed "Zamzam Aktiklag" as we say out here on the Bigger Blue Marble...

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Behold, The God of Thunder!!!

Today, my nephew took me (!) to see THOR.

We've been going to movies - especially superhero movies - since he was about 8 years old, and we always have a great time, and this year promises to be just as good, with (besides Thor) X-Men, Captain America and Green Lantern to look forward to, as well as Harry Potter.

Anyhow, Thor was a hero I never expected to see on the big screen, so I was excited when it was announced that none other than Kenneth Branagh would be behind the megaphone for this project. Somehow, it seemed right.

The last time the God of Thunder (Marvel's version, anyway) made it to any screen in live format was, I believe, on TV in 'The Incredible Hulk Returns' in which a large actor with a small hammer played the character most unconvincingly.

The new version, happily, is epic, with the added bonus of an appearance by Rene Russo.

For those of you who've spent the last 18 months in Ulfheim, the Thunder God is portrayed by Chris Hemsworth, last seen on the large screen as one George Kirk, father of James T., in J.J. Abrams's Star Trek.

He looks like this:

The story centres on how Thor, son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), is banished from Asgard and stripped of his powers for his arrogance in going to war against the Frost Giants. He will regain his powers, and the hammer Mjolnir, only when he has learnt humility and wisdom.

As we all should.

There are a number of comic moments as Thor finds his feet on Earth, with the help of physicist Jane Foster, played by the lovely Natalie Portman, aided by Stellan Skarsgaard and Kat Dennings (whose role appears to be so Jane can explain what an Einstein-Rosen bridge is), and intervention by the Lady Sif and The Warriors Three against the machinations of Thor's brother, Loki (God of Mischief) and Agent Coulson of SHIELD (remember him?).

In any event, it all works out without the use of iambic pentameter, setting up for a sequel and Thor's appearance in the upcoming Avengers movie.

There's also an appearance by Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, Marvel's answer to Green Arrow, but it doesn't detract from the story.

All in all, not a bad way to spend 114 minutes.

Thanks, Mitch - next one's on me...

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Elisabeth Sladen...

Somewhat late, but I felt I couldn't allow the passing of Elisabeth Sladen to go without comment of my own.

As a ten-year-old, Sarah Jane Smith was the first of The Doctor's companions that I can really recall, travelling first with Jon Pertwee and then Tom Baker in that amazing blue box.

At teatime every Saturday we'd watch as their adventures unfolded, the cliffhanger invariably involving Sarah Jane either screaming or calling "Doctor!" in panic. Yet the character was both strong and resourceful, on more than one occasion rescuing the Time Lord himself from almost-certain death.

Thus it was a treat to see Elisabeth Sladen return to reprise her role with David Tennant's Doctor (even with K-9) and even more so when she got her own show, which ran for four seasons and introduced her and the character she brought to life to a whole new generation of young fans.

The success with which the character of Sarah Jane returned to the consciousness of fans everywhere is a tribute to the actress and, indeed, what makes Ms. Sladen's passing all the more poignant. Her death last week, from cancer at the relatively young age of 63, took most by surprise.

Russell T Davies, the man responsible for bringing Elisabeth Sladen (and Sarah Jane Smith)back to the Doctor Who universe, said that "...The universe was lucky to have Sarah Jane Smith and the world was lucky to have Lis."

Both will be missed.

One Law To Rule Them All, One Law For Us...

In a bizarre turn of events, the website, part of the Syfy group, owned by NBC Universal, has posted a spoiler for the post-credits "Easter Egg" to be found following the forthcoming 'Thor' movie.

(I'd post the link here, but it shares the whole thing - go to and search for Thor...)

Does anyone but me find it odd (and not a little hypocritical) that a studio should be pointing people towards a video which would appear (from the posted screenshot) to have been recorded illegally, for a movie by a competitor that does not go on release in the USA until April 27th?

In cinemas and on DVDs there are anti-piracy adverts that warn of stiff penalties for piracy of movies. Here we appear to have a case where a studio-owned website is endorsing the practise at the expense of a competitor.

The lawyers are circling - there's blood in the water...

Sunday, 3 April 2011

In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night...

It's about time Hal got his own movie, and on June 17th, he will.

The good people at Film School Rejects released the following WonderCon footage, which I felt ought to be propagated a bit:

Beware his power...

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Read Books...

So there I was, Stumbling through the great Web of a Sunday morning, when I came upon one of those sites with lists of "Things You Shouldn't Do Because They Annoy Me".

You know the type - people decide what they don't like about a subject or activity and post it in the form of a '50 things' list.

In this particular one, from the website "Three Guys One Book", four guys present a list of 40 things they'd rather one avoid as a writer. Apparently running short of ideas, they invite comments from the public to make up the numbers.

Anyhow, my attention was caught by the first couple of 'don'ts', "Don't use italics for more than one line," and "Don't tell me what someone looks like if it doesn't matter," and, struck by the sheer wisdom and clarity of thought, I continued past such pearls as " Don't tell the story with your head, tell it with your body. Even if it's cerebral" (what does that even mean?) and "Don’t glue your story to a cause or a distrupted (sic) group or country and call it a novel. I call that bad reporting." Not a Hemingway fan, then.

Of course, the comments were all subjective and there were the usual caveats, like "Don't listen to me", etc., but all in all it seemed a little self-indulgent.

But if I thought that was bad, the next site I came across was this one, where the writer, expressing her frequent disappointment with the content of books, prefers to admire the covers instead.

W, as they say, TF?

I should explain that the writer, Kirsty Logan, is herself a published author; however I find it strange that she should never have read those books which in her article she claims have influenced her work or otherwise resonated with her in some way.

And while I cannot deny that I agree with her feelings regarding bookshops and libraries, in that they are among my favourite places to visit, I have to wonder at an author's claim that imagining how a story should go is preferable to being disappointed by the reality.

I mean, how difficult can it be?

1. Pick up book.
2. Read first page.
3. If interested, acquire and continue.

It's not rocket science.

At least it wasn't, up to now...