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I went to see 'Jurassic World.'
Jurassic World' - the only movie where the dinosaurs have more character than the humans - and are more likeable. Also, come on, who can outrun a T-Rex in five inch heels?

Also, the pacing was... not good.
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(no subject)
Yesterday and today were Quite Interesting. Went to see the Practice Nurse for a medication review and agreed to have a go at losing some weight (which I was going to do anyway) in return for getting my medication renewed and some advice on other things.

Ina picked me up in the Lidl's car park (where traffic came to a standstill as a bloke tried to save himself a 20 yard drive by going the wrong way round the one way system just as others were coming in. In some car parks you can do this safely and without causing a traffic jam, but not this one!

We then walked the dogs on Fairlop Plain, went to Sainsbury's for Ina to get the security tag removed from the skirt she bought two days ago, and I headed for the dentist and a consultation that continued with me writing a cheque for several hundred nicker, then being in the chair for root canal work for nearly an hour.

Finally, Bren refused to do anything at agility unless forced. It was hot, but...

Today we got a phone call saying our various glasses were ready for collection and headed for Ilford, only to be caught up in a huge traffic jam along the A12, where someone had been silly and crashed at the junction with Aldborough Hatch Road. Even an hour and a half later (we were... er... delayed by a half price sale at the fashion department of Debenhams) police cars and ambulances were still dashing for the junction, so more had plainly happened.

Home now, and happy to be so, even though drugged up with Ibuprofen on dentist's orders. (400mgs every six hours for at least two days...)

Can someone please identify this flower
I think this is one of the milkworts, but plants on chalk are not my thing, so...


Avengers Movies: the Monsters and the Tumblr critics
black widow
Recently, I went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron for a second time. It was less than twenty-four hours before that I had seen The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble if you must) on television, there being very little else to watch that evening, and Ina being busy knitting.

I ended up changing some of my views on the former*, and feeling sorry for Joss Whedon, who ended up being vilified because that scene between Bruce and Natasha wasn't seen not just in the context surrounding their conversation or that of A:AoU (of which more in a moment) but in the context of the major themes of both movies.

SpoilersCollapse )

Didn't see this at the cinema, for various reasons.

First impressions are: beautiful cinematography, sound utterly crap. (Which is one of the reasons, given its rep for this, that we are happy to be watching with subtitles.) Script pretty good, plot hopeless. Acting good. No comment yet on the astronomy or the physics or, for that matter, the engineering, but the biology is also crap. (No understanding of ecology.)

Too much bloody mysticism.

The robot is quite ridiculous.

"Most famous solo yachtsmen in the world don't know how to swim." Twaddle.

Excuse me, but if that planet is that close to a huge black hole then it is going to fall into the Black Hole eventually, so why the fuck are you all worrying about the time dilation effect when it is plainly NO USE as a colony.


Didn't it occur to anyone that a planet with oceans orbiting a Black Hole would have tides of extreme intensity? (And that, of course, is a real tidal wave, not a tsunami. Lovely special effect, shame about the stupidity of the crew.

And I'm not happy about the one woman crewmember supposedly basing her judgement on love... stereotypes, anyone

Meanwhile, Ina states she cannot posit a universe in which they get Murphy's Law wrong.

And the pacing is off. Too much pseudo-philosophical twaddle.


Someone just said the equivalent of "There are some things man was never meant to know."

And some folks already think they have come close to reconciling General and Special Relativity with Quantum Mechanics.

"Do you have an idea?"

"A feeling."

SCREAMS even louder!!!!

None of these planets feel in the least alien. And they are dreadfully unimaginative, compared with the reality within the planets and moons of our own solar system.

Oh, ghod, this is Nolan unable to kill his babies again. These long space sequences are pretty but plain boring, and that music is just... just... not good.

Here we go, the good ol' slingshot effect. *sigh* I wish I could believe that this is a Trek tribute.

Y'know, I thought they had a scientific advisor on this. This is all pushing coincidence and special pleading too far.

Now we've got a typical deus ex machina.

The 'power of love'.


Ina, in disgust: "This movie is all clichés." She then blamed a nationality which isn't Nolan's. I'm not sure if she just mean "bloody Hollywood suits". Then she added, "This makes 2001 look compact."

And the sound is, indeed, totally crap.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.
Blimey! A BBC fantasy adaptation that cuts right to the heart of the novel, necessarily stripping away some of the richness, but laying bare the strong bones. Wonderfully cast, beautifully filmed, and instantly comprehensible. I am going to be glued to the TV every Sunday for the next six weeks.
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Just to Finish Things off: Battle of the Five Armies

It isn't one continual battle, but it feels like it is. And those individual battles go on and on and on and on.

At least Richard Armitage gets to show some acting chops, but in the main this is so effects heavy it is almost Michael Bay-ish in places. And so doom laden that, to be quite frank, when Billy Connolly's Dain made his entrance he had us commenting, "Now that's my idea of a Dwarf!"

The fight in Dol Guldur was, to put it frankly, hilariously bad. So was Orlando Bloom.

Smaug's death was wasted.

And what the heck happened to the fifth army? I must have blinked and missed them.

Look, Peter J, if you want to remake Tremors go get the rights.

Is that the entire justification of the inclusion of Radagast? Because if so, he wasn't at all necessary. And this demeans Eagles, who in both 'The Hobbit' and 'LotR' do not need a wizard to decide what they ought to do.

I liked the goats, though.

And Bilbo was a bright spot.

Ina commented, at the end, "Why don't we watch LotR again now." Well, it will take the bad taste out of my mouth.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Well, that was a bit better, mainly because there was no singing and no fart jokes, and even Radagast seemed a bit less stupid - though not by much. The dwarves, save for Thorin (brooding), Kili (pretty) and Balin (sensible) -- not to forget Bombur (fat) - remain pretty much indistinguishable.

Bloom's Legolas seemed to have lost all his personality from LotR (maybe he had a transplant between these movies and FotR) though an occasional Leggy-moment (TM) enlivened some of the fight sequences. But everyone seemed very one-note and Bilbo's transformation from tongue-tied klutz (particularly in the scenes at Bag End, where he should have been most confident) to silver-tongued burglar seemed just a bit sudden, and most of it seemed to take place between movies. Thranduil is just plain nasty, with not a hint of any redeeming feature, Beorn isn't in it enough to make any impression, Bard is, again, fairly one-note (though very pretty) and Fry is dreadful as the Master of Laketown.

I can see why they added Tauriel, but female Captains of the Guard (or even female guards) are not very Tolkien, even in LotR, let alone The Hobbit and I just cannot buy the 'romance' with Kili or even Legolas. I get the impression that Jackson and the writers didn't quite know how to deal with the elves in 'The Hobbit' who have no connection with the elves in LotR save the name.

Many of the other problems with An Unexpected Journey are still here. The tone is all over the place. For pity's sake, Mr Jackson, make up your mind whether you are making funny kid's movie or a prequel to an epic!

The CGI (and the make-up!) is occasionally very, very obvious (I think because this is the highest of high definitions) and there are occasional moments (and not just Leggy moments) where the movement is sick making (God knows what it was like in 3D). I really think this must be an occasional result of the transfer from the higher frame-rate. And the action sequences went on and on and on until it became almost impossible to suspend disbelief. (Ina, interjecting, "Almost????") The 'barrel' sequence, in particular, had exactly the same problems as the fight in the goblin caves in that it was video-gamish, with no sense of peril. (One began to wonder if the dwarves were prototype Ultrons.)

Which is not true of the Bilbo's encounter with Smaug (though it is exceedingly true the moment the dwarves enter the halls.) The conversation between the pair of them and the FX that accompanies it are, to put it simply, brilliant - clever, funny and exciting, with a real sense of peril. (None of this is true of Smaug's pursuit of the dwarves which is so OTT that even Legolas might boggle.) Cumberbatch is plainly enjoying his voice over, and does a splendid job, and this time Bilbo is note-perfect. Of course, a lot of this sequence is mainly Tolkien, which helps. And it has been pointed out that there isn't as much gold in the world (even adding that in the Earth's crust) as Smaug has collected.

I am trying not to speak of Gandalf's trip to Dol Guldur. There is so much in this movie that looks like a cheap version of something in LotR, and this is one of those scenes. All the magic of places and people in LotR is missing - there is nothing, nothing to compare with the first sights of Rivendell, Moria, Lorien, Edoras or Minas Tirith. Dol Guldur has nothing of the menace of either Mordor or Isengard. The complexity of a Boromir, a Theoden or Denethor is totally missing.

Glad I've seen this, because of that scene with Smaug. Other than that, a pleasant enough time filler, but the lack of imagination on the part of the writers and director is all too apparent.

The Hobbit
Having seen 'An Unexpected Journey' at the cinema, I avoided parts 2 and 3 in favour of waiting for the DVD. So two days ago I bought the collected theatrical release box set in blu-ray (on the usual basis that something so effects heavy needed the blu-ray. I have no intention of watching something even more overblown than the theatrical releases, so am not going anywhere near the extended edition.

Currently, because Ina didn't see it, we are watching 'An Unexpected Journey'. I do not expect to watch it for a third time. I only hope the next two episodes are not as boring, do not have snot and fart jokes, have better CGI and a lot more tension in the fight scenes. And less Radagast.


Incidentally, there seem to be a lot of revised outakes from 'The Two Towers' in the sequence where the wargs and orcs chase the dwarves (until Elrond arrives with the cavalry.) That scenery looks awfully familiar.

Monday in Ongar
This lovely girl has been trained to guard her boss's scooter while he is shopping

Guarding the Scooter

Greensted church, one of the oldest in the country.

Greensted Church 1

The black timbers you can see along the sides are the remains of the original Saxon church.

Greensted Church Porch

Amazon reaps what they sows
Steve Arms Folded
A few days ago at lot of my friends got really excited on Facebook because Amazon had sent them a puff e-mail for them to "Pre-order 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' which would contain an 'extended version' and an 'alternate ending'.

This led to everyone yelling that they expected inclusion of their particular favourite...

Now most of these folk

(a) Should have remembered that days before the release of the UK DVD and Blu-Ray of 'Avengers Assemble' everyone, but particularly Amazon, was telling us all it would include the director's commentary, when the word had been out for weeks that this had not been made in time to be included. This resulted in a lot of us ordering ours from the States (on advice from Disney, no less!) and

(b) as a lot of them were on Tumblr, should have been aware of the interview with Joss Whedon in which he said that he might - might - change the version of one or two scenes but they would be essentially the same, and that this would not amount to a director's cut because there would not be one, but there would be a lot of deleted scenes.

I spent some time adding a note of caution to these posts.

Today, we all (I presume) received this email from Amazon.


We recently sent you an e-mail about the Avengers: Age of Ultron
which said that these items included an extended version and alternate ending.
As the studio hasn’t yet confirmed which special features will be included with
these items, this information may not be correct. We're sorry for any
inconvenience our e-mail caused.

I suspect the long arm of the Disney lawyers...

Avengers: Age of Ultron first impressions
Possible spoilers - though mild ones.Collapse )

In Bedfords Park...
This Red Deer Hind and the rabbit appear to have formed an alliance.

Guarding Her Friend

Two half days make one, or something. Sunday and Monday am at Eastercon
Internal clock well out of wack, so didn't get much sleep Sunday night.

Sunday morning, managed to see the art show. Some lovely artwork, much of it too rich for our blood in price and nothing that screamed 'Buy me! Buy me!" except a set of the 'sf places' postcards, gorgeous and hilarious. Of note - to look up SMS/Scuzzy's book "If I had a dog," and that Tom Nanson/Fantom is getting really good. Herr Doktor's models are utterly fabulous.

'Truth Justice and the Home Office' had the benefit of Charlie Stross (author of the fabulous 'Laundry' dark fantasy/horror novels, which I love to bits) but a lack of Seanan McGuire. On the other hand, it had a moderator who actually works for Thames Valley police, so the discussion of what the relevant authorities - and which government department was the relevant authority - proceeded with much contribution from the audience, while Jim Butcher wore what had become a normal confused expression.

I had meant to go to talk by a tornado-chaser but rumours were flying that someone had pulled together a bid for next year's Eastercon (which would otherwise have been a no show) so we went to the bid session and were glad we did. Dave Lally and Pat McMurray had managed, in three days, to put together an Eastercon committee, had got their chosen city (Manchester) tourist's board actively on board with a choice of several suitable one-site hotels, and a list of excellent guests. In three days they had put together a presentation much better than that of the bid for 2017. We all want to go to Cardiff, but the bid was not well presented or well thought out (though the guest list which includes Jo Walton is great.) It was accepted but not without a substantial hold-over vote.

We then had lunch with an old friend, before heading out for Seanan McGuire's GoH speech - yes, I know that I never go to GoH speeches but Seanan is hilarious and wise and clever... and I was reminded most of all here of Pterry's old Novacon 'Terry and an audience' sessions. Whether talking passionately about her involvement with social justice or telling stories about her cats, she is one of SF's great entertainers.

I should have gone on to a panel on 'Putting the Fantasy into History or History into Fantasy' with a couple of my friends on it, but I decided that it would be ruder to yawn throughout the proceedings than not to turn up, so I went to bed before I fell asleep.

I spent the evening watching bad TV and reading while Ina went to the masquerade.

On Monday we loaded the car with our gear, worked out how to get out of the car park and back to the M4 and then the M25, checked out, registered for Mancunicon next year, and then I went to the Milford attendees reunion. (God, I remember that mackerel and mushroom pie, which I managed to avoid because I don't do fish.) After that, we went to a demo of 'Fencing for writers: Swashbucklers and Bravos."

Rapier and Dagger 1

Rapier and Buckler 2

And home.

On the second day of the convention...
Because of a mixup/misprint in the Read Me about the timings of breakfast, the queues went on forever, but the breakfast wasn't bad. Ina and I have decided to eat as little of the overpriced hotel food as possible. The beer and cider in the fan bar (arranged by Martin Hoare) are, however, excellent.

I bought books.

I did not manage to get to the art show.

The triumph of the con so far has been the programming, which was excellent.Cut for detailCollapse )

We then went shopping, both in and out of the con, talked to lots of people, and came back to our room to watch The New Thunderbirds Are Go

Cut for annoyed comment.Collapse )

The evening was meant to end for myself and Ina with GoH's Seanan McGuire's concert, supported by Playing Rapunzel and Talis Kimberley and whatever band she has at the moment. Unfortunately, Seanan had lost her voice during a trip across the Atlantic that had left her jet-lagged to hell. Her part, therefore, was as compere, introducing sets by the two bands. I was sorry we didn't get to hear Seanan who is well known in the filk community on both sides of the Atlantic as a filking talent, but she has also done stand-up and I have yet to see her being less than hilarious. Her story of capturing frogs in Talis's garden had howls of laughter shaking the hall. And it is always a joy to hear both Playing Rapunzel and Talis. (Though it has to be said that I was singing the chorus of the former's "Someone on the Internet Is Wrong" all morning and this is all their fault.)

We went to bed late and inspired. Which is why this afternoon I had to quit because I was yawning so much. However, that is another story.

On the first day of the convention...
Well, time to retire to our room after:

1) finding all sorts of things that had to be done before we left home.

2) the M25 ('nuff said)

3) trying to find a car parking space at the hotel (thanks Stephen Davies​)

4) long booking in and fast and efficient registration process

5) finding Chad to hand over tiffin

6) waving to many friends in passing

7) finding various things we could not do without (Avengers earrings, painted bags, book. Probably more books.)

8) Panel on Terry Pratchett. Jim Butcher trying to keep order, Seanan McGuire hilarious on the subject of being thrown into pool, Farah throwing in razor-sharp analysis of literary style, Edward remembering his close friend.

9) Panel on MCU turns out to be me and Mike Carey, plus a great audience, for whom much love,

10) Many locked out of Bill Sellers' talk on animation of how dinosaurs moved. Could have told the concom this needed a bigger room. Those locked out missed fascinating presentation.

11) Panel on 'is this the Golden Age of SFF television' dominated by person co-opted in bar who talked over everyone, but particularly Ina and Ming. No conclusion reached by restive audience.

12) Highly expensive and unsatisfactory meal.

13) At least hotel Wifi working.

They've all got it in for me... or at least the Tube has.
Waffle about nothing in particular behind cut.Collapse )

You can be in tears and damn angry at the same time!
Bren adult
Watching 'Supervet' last night, I was deeply sorry for the lady with the GSD pup who agreed to have it put to sleep on the recommendation of Noel-I-hate-the-supervet-label-Fitzpatrick because even he can do nothing with severe hip dysplasia plus other problems - until she bought another pup from the exact same breeding! Does she not know that this is inherited? And that responsible GSD (and other) breeders have their dogs hip scored before they breed from them? And what are the breeders thinking?

Nipping over to the Supervet page on Facebook I am relieved to see that amid all the 'rainbow bridge'-style comments there are a number of people with the same opinion.
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Jagger the Setter was not poisoned at Crufts.
As has been widely speculated by the vets, it turns out that the setter supposedly poisoned at Crufts was, in fact, almost certainly fed the meat - with fast acting poison - in Belgium not long before his death.

Also, there have still been no confirmed or properly sourced reports of any other dogs being poisoned at Crufts either.


Goodbye to Terry
I first became aware of Terry Pratchett when he attended a long-ago Novacon, just as The Colour of Magic was published. He soon became an established member of fandom, well known for his 'Terry-and-an-audience' sessions, where he expounded something controversial and we yelled back at him. (He also noted any witty heckles for use in his books.) Then there was the weekend he quit his day job and went around yelling, "Free! Free!"

He was a great con participant, friendly with everyone, whether they read his books or not, witty and wise. I never met anyone who disliked him, and his courage when faced with early onset Alzheimer's was inspiring.

Also, he wrote books. Funny, biting, witty books.

DEATH came for him today.

And our community is very, very sad.