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If you want to talk to me you can find me on Dreamwidth or Tumblr, same name and journal name.

cmcmck has also migrated permanently to Dreamwidth, but cannot sign the TOS even temporarily. She has the same journal name there.

Catching up, slowly but surely
And on watching 'Rogue One' which we missed (like far too many things) at the cinema - this is much better than the overrated re-hash of 'A New Hope' that was 'The Force Awakens'. Sure, the characters are sketchy, but still likeable. Possibly considering the slaughter at the end, it might have been a good choice not to get the audience too invested in them.

Plot and action wise, it's excellent war movie. What's more, it held Ina's attention throughout, which action movies generally do not do. It also plugged a major plot hole in 'A New Hope' which was great. On the other hand, somehow Vader wasn't half as scary as he used to be/will be (depending on real life/movie timelines.) I didn't find Tarkin too 'Uncanny Valley' but, as the panel at Eastercon on the subject remarked, this is possibly because Peter Cushing had the sort of face that looks a bit not-quite-human to start with! Leia's de-aging, on the other hand, was pure Uncanny Valley.

On another subject, watching 'Tracks' ... there is a distinct style of Aussie film, at least the ones I see. This one, like 'Picnic at Hanging Rock', 'The Dish', 'Lantara', 'Walkabout' etc is beautifully shot, carefully characterised, respectful of the Indigenous Peoples, not so respectful of other Aussies and, you know, a bit slow, if thoughtful. (Fred to note this is a movie where the dog dies.)

This entry was originally posted at http://lil-shepherd.dreamwidth.org/700225.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

No wonder the fanfic writers can't get this right!
Oh my aunt. Rewatching Iron Man - which I love - only to notice for the the first time that the headline on the Time cover for Tony's taking over Stark Industries says "takes the reigns". Arrrgh! I know Time wouldn't do that, but whoever mocked up that cover wants a sharp lesson in correct spelling. I mean, how can you take a verb!? Or mistake a strip of leather used for controlling an animal for the period a monarch rules? Even metaphorically? I mean, they have reins in the US, but they don't have a reigning monarch.

Has Marvel No Damn Sensitivity at All?
So, I am going to comment on Marvel's latest stupidity. I do not care that this is a spoiler. I really do not. So, while I will put in a gap, I am NOT putting this under a cut. I am too damn angry - and comics readers need to be warned, particularly if they are Captain America fans in any universe or medium.


In the main comics verse, they have decided to retcon Captain America/Steve Rogers so that he has been an undercover Hydra agent - a Nazi - since he was a child. (I have no doubt it will be taken back at some stage, but that is not the point.) The last panel of #1 of the latest Steve Rogers: Captain America series has Steve saying "Hail Hydra" unironically. (Please note that Hail Hydra is similar to a certain other "HXXX HXXXXR" and it is no coincidence.)

Now, Steve Rogers has been -- mostly -- a beacon of decency among superheroes in much the same way Clark Kent is. But, more to the point, he was created by two Jewish comic creators - Joe Simon and Jack Kirby -- specifically to be opposed not just to Fascism and Hitler, but to those in America at the time who were working to keep the US out of the war and turn American opinion in favour of the Nazis. They have stated this.

A lot of Jewish comics fans who I follow on Tumblr are not unnaturally, damn upset about this. A lot of Captain America fans -- and I have been one since 1962 -- are also upset about it. It was bad enough when they had Doc Ock take over Peter Parker's body, or when they turned Tony Stark into a sadistic supervillain, but this is, to put it bluntly, unforgivable.

In addition, there is some speculation that they have done this to de-rail Kevin Feige, who got the Marvel Studios taken away from the same control as the comics publishing and TV arms. If this is true it is amazingly idiotic, as it is likely Disney -- who have overall control -- will be very displeased.

Useful resource

Kingsman DVD
inamac loves this film, so it was definitely time to stick it in the player.

Perhaps we should have bought this on Blu-Ray because it has the most sumptuous wide-screen cinematography and colour palettes. Indeed, as a comic book movie, it should. The lead character, Eggsy, is a joy and well-acted by Taron Egerton, holding his own in an all-star cast who more often than not seemed a little lost in their one-note characters. There were some good visual gags (though few verbal ones) and the fight scenes were imaginatively choreographed.

Beyond that, the plot is ludicrous, and not half as clever as they (the writer and director) think it is. Eggsy is, to be honest, the only character I cared about in the slightest. And aspects of the ending, as pointed out by both professional critics and audiences, were vile and made me swear at the screen.

Spoilers, and I am not kidding.Collapse )

This ending, described under the cut, has been excused by the director as being a parody of James Bond, Roger Moore era. Which is odd because in the unintentionally hilarious making-of documentary, which we also played, the director claims originality and lack of parody. There are other reasons why this doc is hilarious - in that Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman (we name the guilty parties) also claimed that the idea of having a secret organisation concealed behind a tailor's shop was 'original'. Fans of 'The Man From UNCLE' should boggle at this point. Also that the plot is 'feasible' (I don't know if the 'expert' they consulted was kidding them but no, just no. Gaia theory? Oh, I wish that was true. Unfortunately, all the evidence is against it. I haven't read 'The Secret Service', the book on which this script was (very, very loosely, according to the documentary) based but frankly, if you have a comic book by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, you should keep as much of their writing as possible. Because it is likely to be much better than yours.

So, very much a curate's egg of a film, though I can see why people (read Ina) liked it, though she remarked that it was a very different experience watching the TV with the subtitles than seeing it in the cinema where (having left her hearing aids at home) she couldn't hear all of the dialogue.

Addendum: I am reminded that the same team made 'Kick Ass' and, just for the record, I disliked that movie far more than I disliked this one. That time I was just bored out of my skull.

Comment Moderation on AO3
Comment moderation is being introduced to AO3 in the near future.


This reads as if it has been very well thought through.

Ex Machina
I bought the DVD copy of Ex Machina last June, and we have only just got around to watching it, mainly because we were never previously in the mood.

It is quite beautifully photographed. One of those things that you really want to put some music on and just watch the pretty pictures. On the other hand, it is really unimaginative, a joy to the eye but not to the mind. We have been here before, again and again and again and again. I am deeply fed up with AIs wanting to be human and free in movies, and even more with them being sexualised (usually as female, as here.)

There's a desperate attempt justify this continual sexualisation of AIs (honourable exception for 'Iron Man' et seq.). It does not work. I blame Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou myself.

(Oh, and the person who actually got what would, in fact, happen if a man was faced with an intelligent sex robot is Fritz Leiber in 'The Silver Eggheads' which involves a fear of castration...)

It's directed by the chap who wrote the deathly slow (and scientifically inaccurate) 'Sunshine'. Why am I not surprised?

Oh, and we all know where this is going...
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Update on Bren
Bren adult
Bren's skin has been particularly bad recently. We have taken to putting his T-shirt on each night to at least protect some parts of hid body from the damage his paws and teeth can cause. Unfortunately this does not include his paws, his hips and the skin round his eyes. Today we took him to the vet - not to the usual (and senior) vet (who is on holiday for another week) but to another member of the practice we know well. Not being as used to how Bren is he was shocked at his condition, and put him on trial to see if a new medication will help. (He's still on both the old medications.) Cross your fingers for my lovely boy...
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Watching Ant-Man
Watching 'Ant-Man'. Makes even less sense than the comics. Never have been able to stand Scott Lang - and Hope isn't a patch on Jan (who would have given this version of Hank hell for this caper.) It's also bloody misogynistic - "It proves that he loves you." (No, it proves that the people who wrote this script think women are only there as motivation for men. Fridging Jan, one of the best characters in the whole of Marvel, proves that.) Hank is even more of a selfish bastard here than in 616. What's more, there's only been one laugh and that one was in the trailer.

Some of the FX is nice, but the ants don't look real.

Incidentally, what is this thing Marvel have about bald villains????

Whoever wrote this had no idea that server farms are routinely protected against insects for good reason. (i.e. the original 'bug' was just that - an insect.)

Dear God, did no one do real research on flying ants? On how long they live? How far they can fly?

Ina has just describe this movie as 'an idea in search of a plot.'

This is supposed to be a comedy thriller! Not funny, not thrilling. I have no idea how much of Edgar Wright's script remains, though I suspect it is quite a lot. I'm so glad I didn't go with the blu-ray!

It also, like most superhero-movies, goes on for far, far too long.

Merry Christmas, everyone!
christmas 2915 copy

fakesheep-luna does the business to the Civil War Trailer - I can add no more...

(For those of you who don't know - though I daresay all those who read comics do - the reference to 'blowing up a school' comes from the comic book 'Civil War' arc, where the Superhero Registration Act was triggered into operation when a bunch of young superheroes were grandstanding for publicity cameras and ended up blowing up a school in Stanford.)

Gravity, Interstellar, and The Martian
I finally saw 'Gravity' several years after everyone else. I regret not seeing it on the big screen, but no regrets at all for missing the 3D version. If a film can't hold up on the TV screen in 2D then it is not worth seeing in the first place.

However, 'Gravity' held up very well indeed. Superb SFX, fine acting, beautifully paced and excellently directed, it's real fault was what Ina refers to as "that bloody awful intrusive music." (Which won what I, personally, consider one of the most misplaced Oscars of all time!)

It was one of the (surprisingly) many things this movie has in common with 'Interstellar' - so why did I love this movie (though not as much as I loved 'The Martian) and hate 'Interstellar'?

Ina's comment this morning when I voiced this question was, "It's a bloody sight shorter."

And that, indeed, is one of the reasons. 'Gravity' is a short film by modern blockbuster standards and feels even shorter, because it's a rollercoaster ride. 'Interstellar' is much longer, has less action and less plot, though lots more cod philosophy. Nolan just will not kill his babies. Whereas, in 'Gravity' there is no wasted action, no wasted words, 'Interstellar' just rambled on and on to very little purpose.

Before I started watching 'Gravity' I was already well briefed on some of its scientific and engineering problems, much better briefed than I had been on 'Interstellar's but it didn't bother me during or after the movie. (In fact, some of those were what made it SF rather than a straightforward drama.) There was no moment when you asked 'Why are these characters fuckin' doing that (stupid) thing?" because each action was as clear as day. What's more, the characters in 'Gravity' actually talked like, you know, people. Likeable people.

It took me a few minutes to work out why I much preferred the effects in 'Gravity' to those in 'Interstellar' and my first thought was that the latter were, well, dull. And why were they dull? I've come to the conclusion it was the colour palette and the colour grading. Though set in space, 'Gravity' was bright and beautful, it had the backdrop of space, and of Earth. It had the golden glitter of the solar arrays. It looked real because it was based on the familiar shapes of Earth built craft. And, God, it was lovely. 'Interstellar' was all greys and browns, and not bright ones at that. All the worlds were miserable - even Earth. ('The Martian' also had the glorious colours of the Martian landscape, probably exaggerated, but I do not, honestly, care. They were beautiful. I think the lack of beauty in 'Interstellar' may have been a choice, but it did mean that the interminable dialogue silences were made worse by there being little of interest for the eyes.

Then there was the acting. All three movies had genuine stars in the leads, but, let us be honest, Bullock and Clooney in 'Gravity' and Damon in 'The Martian' generated interest and sympathy in the way truly great movie stars do when given decent material - they all knocked Matthew McConaughey out of sight. Did anyone care about him? I certainly didn't.

Oh, and all that ridiculous business with the singularity and the bookshelves (which was deliberately obscure - probably because if it hadn't been it would have been laughable) wasn't, thank Ghu, present in 'Gravity' - even the one strange scene plainly an hallucination, right from the start. Everything in 'Gravity' was believable while you were viewing the film, while I spent most of the time watching 'Interstellar' going, "What???"

I note, with glee, that 'The Martian' has now passed 'Interstellar's total take in the US, and will probably surpass its total take when it opens in China and Japan. It's also got real legs. And cost a lot less. It won't, of course, surpass 'Gravity's take, or come near its Oscar haul but, you know, I am okay with that.

Discover Dogs
Bren adult
Spent yesterday at Discover Dogs, this year at Excel, which is more convenient for me, even if -- as yesterday - Docklands Light was out between Stratford and Canning Town, necessitating a diversion via Poplar, which added about twenty minutes to the journey time. By dint of a lot of "Yes, I'm certain," I managed to save a number of other visitors from the half mile or so walk through the Excel Centre by telling them they should stay on the train for another stop and get out at Prince Regent. (Thanks to inamac who e-mailed the Kennel Club to find out which entrance to use.)

I was there mainly to look at the merchandise and came home with a bright orange Equafleece coat for Bren, shampoo called "Fox Poo" for the poo-rolling Draco, some of the new Fish4Dogs treats, two freebee cans of food Bren can eat, some Greyhound rescue Christmas cards and a 'training pouch' that I can use as a dog-walking belt pouch.

I also had a great time meeting dogs and talking to other doggie people.

If (by some mischance) I lost Bren, or if we move to a house where we could have a third dog, I am very tempted to consider these,

P1010211 copy

Catalan Sheepdogs. Small, active, hardy, and smart. (I do like sheepdogs, it has to be admitted.) Apparently they are really hot at agility.

Or these:


The Cirneco dell'Etna, the Sicilian version of the ancient type of hound found around the Med, such as the Pharaoh and Ibizan Hounds. (And, incidentally, isn't that unit superbly dressed?) They are quite small and also do agility, but they are hounds and the local rabbit population would not appreciate them. Nor, I suspect, would the cats.

Plus, just for Fred, I met some lovely Lancashire Heelers.


More pictures here. https://www.flickr.com/photos/lilshepherd/albums/72157659952323972

Jurassic Park World in High Heels
Just so no one has to imagine dinosaurs in high heels any longer...

The Martian
gravity works
Ina and I went to see 'The Martian' at the local cinema yesterday. I haven't read the book (though it may well be my sort of thing) and the director, Ridley Scott, is someone about whom I am very, very ambivalent; all of his pictures are ravishingly shot, but he seems to loathe science and logic and historical research (or he picks screenwriters who do.) I still think Alien his best movie, but I am one of the two people in the world who dislikes every single cut of Blade Runner (the other one is my housemate, inamac), whose DVD index labels Black Hawk Down as CBATF (Can't be arsed to finish), and who put her foot down after Robin Hood (which Ina forced me to watch) as "No more Scott pseudo-historicals, please." This may be a little hypocritical of me, because I really liked Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven despite being full of bad history and so placed them in an 'alternate universe' category.

But the reviews said this was Scott's best movie in years, that it was clever and funny and, save for some named exceptions, scientifically accurate and that Matt Damon, of whom I am fond, was brilliant in it. Ina and I rarely have the same taste in movies, though I have learned to trust her judgement about some movies she walks out on (and am trusting it completely about The Man from UNCLE) but this time she wanted to see it too. (I suspect this was because there were not going to be any long fight/sex sequences in it and no big robots bashing each other.)

She didn't walk out. She didn't go to sleep. Her only complaint was that she couldn't hear some of the dialogue, which seeing as she had deliberately left her hearing aid at home...

And me? I loved it to bits. It reminded me forcefully of why I have always loved 'hard' science fiction - I am pretty sure that people like John W. Campbell Jr and Hal Clement would have adored it too. And the protagonist, Mark Watney, is surely a good example of Heinlein's 'competent man.' It is tense, interesting and often very funny and the Martian landscapes are stunningly portrayed.

On the other hand, if you are not interested in watching brilliant minds 'science their way out of this' then forget it. There is one action sequence towards the end, and another features one the acknowledged scientific inaccuracies - the force of a Martian wind - but without that one there would be no story. (And if, like Mark Watney, you hate 'disco' music, then you might well dislike the sound track, though the sound of rockets taking off shakes your seat superbly.)

Spoilers, sweetieCollapse )

Though most of the acting is competent enough, it is Damon who carries it on his shoulders, and it would take a real effort of will not to engage with his humour, his cheerfulness and his struggle to survive. But this is science fiction, which has always been the fiction of ideas, and it is the science and engineering that drive The Martian. Don't look for mental breakdowns, cheesy love stories, parent/child angst or eye-rollingly bad philosophy (and yes, Interstellar I'm looking at you) because you won't find those things (or bookcases on the other side of a Black Hole - sheesh!)

This is a fun movie! The new Star Wars movie is going to have to be very, very good indeed to beat it to the Hugo.

Star Spangled Greyhound
We were at a local fun dog event today, and spotted this greyhound (or possibly lurcher) in the ring.

What the hell would you call this colour combination, is it recognised, and if not, why not?

Spangled Greyhound

(no subject)
One thing about receiving a slightly outdated copy of Starburst in the pack at Nine Worlds (though maybe a pack of Starburst/Opal Fruits would have been more welcome) is that it really does highlight just how much is studio puff, rumour and uninformed speculation. I looked at a couple of articles, and...

There is a long piece on how fantastic the new FF film is going to be (8% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes in reality) which is pure studio puff. This is the July 2015 issue which will have come out in June - but the rumours of how much of a mess the movie was and that the director had been behaving badly on set had surfaced in January. By this time the reshoots had taken place and the studio had cancelled the 3D conversion.

The review of Jurassic World (picked because, hey, I'd actually seen it!) is also excessively kind - but they also give the same marking to 'The Human Centipede III' (17% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) which must rank as one of the largest mistakes since Empire gave four stars to The Phantom Menace.

A quick look at their news pages reveal that they still reckon that Asa Butterfield was "favourite to win the gig" as Spider-man when apparently, Tom Holland had already nailed it the auditions. Nothing to see there, either.

I gave up reading 'Starburst' a couple of years ago. Nothing in this issue convinces me I should ever give it the time of day.

Fred Bassett - this is the link for you
Does the dog (or any other pet) die in this film? If that worries you, there's a new resource...

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UK and Commonweath specific meme from cmcmck
1. Marmite- love or hate?

Hate it, though we have it in the house because Inamac loves it.

2. Marmalade - thick cut or thin cut?

Thick cut and home made.

3. Porridge- made with milk or water?

I use half water, half semi-skimmed milk.

4. Do you like salt, sugar or honey on your porridge?


5. Loose tea or teabags?

Normally tea bags, high quality single tea ones, and made in a pot.

6. Where on your door is your letterbox?

We have two. One on the central bar of a two part glass door, the other in the wall of the house - this is because we put on a new porch some years ago.

7. What's your favourite curry?

Chicken Tikka masala or chicken pasandana - both mild and both rather... er... British.

8. What age is the place where you live?

The house was built in 1967. The village has a few houses dating back to the middle ages, though the church is Victorian. And, of course, the Parish of which it is a part dates back much further. Mentioned in the Domesday book further.

9. Where do the folks running your local corner shop come from?

I think they are Indian in origin.

10. Instant or fresh coffee?

Instant, mostly.

11. How far are you from the sea?

About 30 miles.

12. Have you travelled via Eurostar?


13. If you were going to travel abroad, where's the nearest country to you?


14. If you're female (or possible even some males) do you carry a handbag?


15. Do you have a garden? What do you like growing?

We do. We try to keep it low maintenance.

16. Full cream, semi skimmed or skimmed?

Semi-skimmed. (Occasionally Channel Island whole milk for a treat.)

17. Which London terminal would you travel into if going to the capital?

I'd go by tube -- the Central Line -- but the nearest terminal is Liverpool Street which is my escape route if the tubes are out and I am in London.

18. Is there a local greasy spoon where you live?

No. This is the posh part of Essex. The local baker has a few tables and serves coffee, otherwise, it's pubs. Rather good ones.

19. Do you keep Euros in the house?

We have some, but only because we're lazy.

20. Does your home town have a Latin, Gaelic or Welsh alternative name?

No. The first mention of my home town - not the one where I currently live - is in Chaucer.

21. Do you have a well known local artist or author?

Well, the most famous of our local pubs was frequented by Churchill, Dickens and Dick Turpin. We have a lot of 'celebs' and probably a number of artists and authors (if rich enough) but I have no idea who they are.

22. Do you have a favourite Corrie character?

No. Don't watch soaps.

23. Are your kitchen sink taps separate or a mixer?


24. Do you have a favourite brand of blended tea?

Don't drink blended tea. Our usual is an Assam.

25. What's in your attic if you have one?

No idea. It used to be full of water tank...

26. If you go out for a cream tea, what jam do you like on your scone?

Strawberry or raspberry, if I have a choice.

27. Talking of scones- scon or scown? Jam or cream first?

Scown. I'm a northerner. Jam first.

28. Barth or bath?

Bath. (See above.)

29. Carstle or castle?

Castle (see above)!

30. What flavour of crisps do you favour?

Sea salt. Don't like other flavours.

31. If you go to the chippie, what do you like with your chips?

Nowadays, chicken. My old wonderful Greek chippie used to so a mixture of battered scampi and prawns. Yum. (And I have very, very fond memories of Doyles on the Beach in Sydney and their deep fried battered Moreton Bay Bugs. I could live on those.)

32. Take away, take out or carry out?

Take away. Though ours tend to deliver.

33. If you have one, what colour is your wheelie bin?

Green for green waste, black for rubbish, a blue box for glass and plastic bags for rest of the recycling.

34. What colour skips does your local skip hire use?

Depends on the company. There are a number.

35. Do you celebrate Guy Fawkes?


36. Dettol or TCP?


37. Do you have a bidet in the bathroom?

We would if we had the room.

38. Do you prefer courgettes or aubergines?

Corgettes, though neither are on the list of my favourites.

39. In the 'real world' Do you have friends of other nationalities? Which nationalities?

Not a question I find it easy to answer as most of my 'real life' friends of other nationalities were those I met through SF fandom.

40. Do you have a holy book of any sort in the house?

Several, because we are interested in myth. Also a number of books on the psychology and origins of religion.

41. Do you prefer a hankie or tissues?

Tissues. I lose hankies.

42. Are you a fan of crumpets? What do you like on them?


43. Doorbell, knocker or both?

Doorbell. Two, actually.

44. Do you own a car? What sort?

Yes. A Skoda Fabia estate. We take delivery of a new one tomorrow.

45. What sort of pants do you guys prefer? Y fronts or boxers?


46. Anyone still a fan of suspenders?

No. But I like a man in braces.

47. Do you have a favourite quote from the bard?

Loads. I like using insults from Henry IV Part I.

48. Do you like toasted muffins?

Take them or leave them.

49. Do you think a traditional trifle should contain jelly?

Yes. Though my mother used to make a separate trifle without sponges because neither my brother nor I liked them.

50. Do you attend regular religious worship? Of what kind?

No. Militant atheist here.