Monday, December 31, 2012


So that was 2012, personally an unremarkable year but not a totally wasted one either. When I reflect back over 2012 its been a year of highs and lows but neither at any great height or depth.

The low stuff? Well ongoing health issues, employment and love. Midway through the year I also hit a low patch, I wouldn't exactly call it depression and took no medication but there was a time when I struggled to be motivated and felt gloomy for a good duration. I think I only ever told a couple of people and I went around wearing a painted smile. It's hard to put into words how I felt but eventually I shook it off, I bounced back and now its behind me.

The highs? Becoming an unlikely male model photographed by a famous artist in London. Malta in spring. My Humanist blog, having the eye tattooed again and friends that made life ever enjoyable. There have been other good moments but the above are the ones that spring immediately to mind.

I think on the whole 2012 made me a better person inside. I certainly became stronger, absorbed more, became something of a rebel with causes yet remained balanced and able to realise when I was wrong and needed to re-align matters. Less beer has been consumed and more books have been read. Even when I momentarily glanced into the past I felt no emotion, a sure sign I'd moved on.

So what do I want for 2013, well apart from the usual health and happiness I want many things. I want to carry on building great friendships, I want to travel more and get my car back on the road. In these uncertain times I want stability (who doesn't!?) but I'm still going to speak out against issues many would rather avoid. Honestly speaking I don't have a concrete plan for 2013 but I've always liked to be flexible, I suspect the car being road worthy again and becoming fitter are immediate priorities though, then I'll take it from there.

So bring on 2013. I'm ready!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Of Facebook, Friends and Passions Bold

'Monsieur l'abbĂ©, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.' 

Was written by Voltaire in a letter to M. le Riche, February 6, 1770. It's often misquoted nowadays along the lines of 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it'. With that sentence said, and hopefully digested by anyone reading I want to write frankly about feelings, passions and that modern conundrum of social networking - Facebook.

I have to be honest and say I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. Like most human beings I'm inquisitive, so checking into Facebook regularly satisfies my thirst for knowledge and curiosity. Overall I think I like it mainly because it keeps all friends and associates alike in one place. I suspect some just have a large friends list to stroke their own ego though!

That said I don't always like what I see on there. I'll be candid for a moment and say I don't like a constant stream of updates by the same person. Then there's the things I have no interest in, babies, dogs, repeated posting of regurgitated imaged jokes that are still doing the rounds from Myspace and constant posting of music videos. 


That said I have nothing personally against the person posting, because to be honest, if I had kids I'd be passionate about them, I'd be proud and want the world to know about them. If I had a dog, the same would apply, as would a favourite musical band, and on it goes. So even though I grind my teeth about some things I'd always defend peoples right to post whatever they want. What do I like to see? Well I enjoy witty comments, jokes, holiday photos as I love travel and links to interesting articles. So I guess the likes offset the dislikes and you have to take into account we're all different, we can't all like the same thing - fact.

The reality is on platforms such as Facebook is that people don't do criticism well, who does really? Criticism and things like ridicule come in different forms of course and can be constructive as well as negative but when we do either - we reason. I recently told a female friend I thought she posted too many status updates and many seemed mundane or irrelevant. This of course didn't go down well and I woke the next day to find myself deleted as a friend. Oh well, my timing wasn't perfect but my criticism was that if I was finding minutiae and tedium in her status's then others may do but of course I realise she has every right to post status's as much as she likes. I don't mind being deleted and obviously my comments hit a nerve but in all honesty her constant stream of comments pointed towards insecurity and a desire to be popular when really she was likeable enough in the first place. Sometimes people need telling and in some circumstances its for the right reasons or we care.

This is where Facebook is used as a weapon though, an emotional base tool akin to infantile playground psychology 'I've suddenly decided I don't like you and I'm not your friend anymore'. We may all remove people from time to time on Facebook for varying valid reasons. I've done it myself but the usual reason for me is I don't really know the person, or they are the type to add you then never speak when they see you in the street. Would I delete someone for disagreeing or criticism of me? Highly unlikely.

I often clash with people on Facebook because some of my views are controversial, I seemingly have a faculty to disenchant people with my opinions and critical thinking. I'm pretty sure some of this is because people don't want think critically, they are comfortable in their bubble and stepping out of it can be unnerving. They may also disagree with me because they have genuine logical and legitimate reasons to do so, after all people do think differently, which is why I like debate so I can see different angles on things. Though I may have strong thoughts and passionate opinions I am not afraid to be outwitted or proved wrong.

Take for instance a recent status of mine in which I openly voiced opinion against the Pope and Queen. People didn't like it, knee jerk reactions occurred and strong counter opinions were voiced, some however were in total concurrence. The person that didn't like my comments is an ex military sort, excellent morals and not a bad bloke at all, the queen and country noble sort you might say and we seem to share a passion for dark humour. The irony was though whilst he was happy to defend religion he has been open about his feelings on Muslims etc in the past, some of which I share, especially on immigration. So the obvious counter argument would be you can defend one faith yet not another? Christianity can be a comfort to millions yet Islam cannot? I don't like any organised faith, though more of that shortly. He actually backed a comment once that I did on immigration but probably believes Britain is still great. I'd say we are both patriots in a different way.

Personally speaking, I don't like the Monarchy, I feel we are descending into neo-feudalism where the cultural and rich/poor divide is getting bigger. So inevitably what we may be come is something like a quasi medieval society and the historically minded will all know how grim those times were. Just look at Henry VIII, he used religion to his advantage, used ordinary men in wars to acquire territory and wealth and gorged on lavish banquets when many had nothing. I'm not saying the current monarchy is the same of course but they have many, many faults and we shouldn't blindly put so much emphasis on them as we do in my opinion, the days of the empire are long gone, we need to modernise and not keep giving rich people even more money.

Moving to religion, well that would take an age to explain my complete and utter revulsion of it. The pope preaches love and peace in his Christmas message yet openly takes a swipe at gay people, a contradiction in terms. The papacy is an organisation that is seeing thousands die in Africa by telling them using condoms is against gods will. How in rationalities name is this good??

My views on organised religion are so strong that I have been writing a Humanist blog since March of this year. I am wholehearted and passionately opposed to it for countless reasons.

So going full circle. Passion for things is what drives us, you are passionate, I am passionate, you have interests, I have interests, you have causes, I have causes and we all have different humour. The stigma attached to shorter people like me voicing opinions is that we have 'little man syndrome'. Any person under 5'5" kicking off is seemingly labelled with it. No such condition exists of course but its often used to denigrate the more vertically challenged of us should we get uppity and dare to have an opinion. I understand the term of course, and in some ways I agree it can be applicable, but only in the sense of a short person with real anger issues actively seeking physical confrontation to prove something, that is just folly. Maybe in my late teens and early twenties I may have been more like that, trying to stand shoulder to shoulder in the big wide world but you soon find out big people hurt when they hit (physics!) but that's not to say little people can't hurt back, Mike Tyson was never the tallest of boxers I believe. Fighting in any form, though necessary on occasion, should be avoided, I'd go for debate and dialogue every time. I realise I am diminutive in physical stature, I'm happy with that especially in my more mature years, wit and words have to be my weapons because brawn cannot be, I just wouldn't want to be the big sort who clobbered someone because they disagreed and could do so through sheer physical force. I guess I'm the Tyrion Lannister sort, for anyone that watches the Game of Thrones series or reads the books.

My passions, my angers, my beliefs are done via the medium of blogging and Facebook, with words and reasoning, done with honesty and done so all can see. Anyone who really knows me, knows the real me as a person despite my rants, opinions and dark satire. On many occasions I cross swords on Facebook with another friend but we always chat about views when we meet and we appreciate each others brevity on certain things.

I'm fortunate to live in a democracy and have free speech. On some occasions though I've been wrong, certain criticisms of the Fox & Crown come to mind but these were things I felt passionate about at the time but reacted to in haste and by listening to people whom perhaps I shouldn't but I'm human and I make mistakes. I deleted my blog on the pub and spoke to the people concerned, admittedly I should have perhaps done that in the first place. I know all don't agree with me, I don't expect them to but I hope the bonds of friendship transcends differences in opinions and they are mutually respected. I just want to end with the fact if you don't feel happy about something then don't be ever be afraid to say!

As Mark Twain once said; 'Our opinions do not really blossom into fruition until we have expressed them to someone else.'

I may not like everyone's views or opinions but like Voltaire I would defend their right to have them. Social Networking and blogging may not be everyone's proverbial cup of tea but it gives millions a voice - 'Vive la social revolution!'

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

So there I sat, a happy little hobbit waiting for a film I'd always wanted to see, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey though the reality is this isn't an unexpected review!

*Warning the following review has minor rants and contains spoilers*

The film starts well with Ian Holm reprising his role as the original Bilbo Baggins alongside Elijah Wood playing Frodo in what is a nice little prologue piece linking the movie to the past Lord of the Rings trilogy via Bilbo's memoirs.

Then more back story follows regarding the Dwarven kingdoms of Erebor before Gandalf presents himself at Bag End and invites the new Bilbo (Martin Freeman) 'On an adventure'. So far, so good and it gets better when the dwarves 'come-a-knockin' at the shy hobbit's round door. The atmosphere is infectious, the dwarves are brimming with character and a couple of songs add to the proceedings and light heartedness. Peter Jackson's script writers have also injected some humour in there which works well and has the audience laughing along.

Bone of contention #1

I'm surprised that despite his eye for detail Jackson fails to explain how Gandalf and Thorin have actually met, to omit something like that didn't sit well with me. They both actually meet at the Prancing Pony in Bree before the main story begins and travel together to the Shire, both discovering mutual goals. It would have been so easy for Jackson to have inserted a brief scene of them meeting in Bree to explain things but no, you're left to work that one out for yourself.

Proceedings move swiftly on to the dwarven mission and off we trot seemingly with little deliberation for Bilbo except for a few moments of silence when he gazes around his empty hobbit hole but this is only a small gripe on my part.

Bilbo soon sets off and we are out of the Shire, which leaves me wondering why Jackson rebuilt the entire Hobbiton village again, because we see little of it, if at all, unless we see more in a future film.

So, onto the road we go, some more back story on Thorin from the excellent Ken Stott who plays the aged dwarven veteran 'Balin'. We were promised more of Middle Earth and I felt Jackson could have done a CGI Bree in the distance for a fleeting scene before the party enter the Lonelands. Suddenly its into the Trollshaws and the Trolls. 

Bone of contention #2

Balin mentions more of the back story of Thorin and the battle of Azanulbizar in which Thorin was wounded after fighting Azog (allegedly) but gains his name from using an oak branch as a shield. The film distorts this beyond belief. Page 1410, Appendix A, states that Thorin was wounded in the battle along with Thrain and there's a footnote to Thorin getting his name from the oaken branch but that's as far as it goes for Thorin in the battle, he's only a young dwarf then after all. Azog the orc is actually slain in this battle by a young Dain Ironfoot after Azog slays Nain his father. Dain despite his young years slays Azog and beheads him, he's shaken by it all but goes onto greater things, but the battle is won even though the dwarven loses are grievous (Return of the King, page 1411 appendix A). Despite all this in the movie Azog is alive and well and hungry for more despite having had his head hewn off and thrust on a stake in the book. So the stage is now set in the movie for Azog to be Thorins nemesis and for a purist like me its unforgivable. It will be interesting to see how they portray Billy Connelly who plays Dain in a later film but any credit of him killing Azog has been stolen from him by the meddling Jackson.

Moving on, we meet the wizard Radagast the Brown who is played very adeptly by Sylvester McCoy and isn't as irritating as earlier reports suggested, however...

Bone of contention #3

How does Radagast move so quickly from Rhosgobel in Mirkwood over the Misty Mountains and bump into the company? Its a good old trek and bumping into the company by chance? I think not, there's fate and good luck but come on! I'm not against Radagast's appearance in the film but in the books he barely gets a line or two and the movie embellishes his role above and beyond its need.

So the trolls dealt with we have Azog in hot pursuit and suddenly the terrain changes from woodland to barren hills in the blink of an eye, the company descend into the safety of Rivendell and we get more story distortions on the council of the wise meeting etc, though it seems to work ok.

Thorin isn't a happy dwarf and heads off as he's working against the clock mission wise. So off the party head again and set about traversing the Misty Mountains. Not a wise move but the interlude where the giants enter is vastly over emphasised and adds nothing to the movie, its not a bone of contention I just didn't see the point in mountains moving and theatrics. The party take shelter, Bilbo isn't happy and then the goblins capture all but Bilbo.

Andy Serkis returns as Gollum, steals the show again and the riddle scene is faithfully recreated. The we get Gandalf returning to rescue the dwarves and like the mountain scene an overstated scene of escape in which rickety wooden platforms and rope bridges look more like a Keystone cops caper than able dwarves escaping, it doesn't feel right at all, though Barry Humpries works well as the Goblin king and there's some chuckles in there.

Bilbo having unwittingly discovered the one ring realises that it makes him invisible and makes his escape from the now maniacal Gollum and rejoins the dwarves. Though...

Bone of contention #4

Bilbo having gave Gollum the slip actually escapes from goblins and rejoins the dwarves, The Hobbit, Riddles in the Dark pages 85-86 but this is a minor moan really.

So on escaping Azog once again gives pursuit to our unlucky band having had a seemingly easier journey thus far. The dwarves get trapped up trees just like in the book but...

Bone of contention #5

Azog and Thorin bump heads and get it on and Bilbo joins in the battle with the rest of the dwarves before they are all rescued by the eagles. They do get rescued by the eagles in the book but the skirmish never actually occurs and of course Azog shouldn't even be there!

So, that really concludes the film and I guess if you're reading this that I didn't really enjoy it. On the contrary I did but I can't abide Jacksons meddling when it isn't necessary at all, the book provides plenty of material and so do later appendices and references. On a more positive note, when the closing credits came down my friend Dominic turned to me and said 'It feels like we've never been away'. He was right, it didn't, the one good thing despite new technological innovations is Middle Earth still feels familiar and that's a boon for the viewer and casual Tolkien fan. New Zealand does capture the feel of Middle Earth well but I can't help musing what if some bits had actually been filmed here in England, it would have been nice. 

Despite the bending of the original story the film works well enough, the actors hold the film up well, Ian McKellen being especially excellent as a returning Gandalf. Freeman is a revelation as Bilbo and fits the role fantastically and the actors playing the dwarves are all very commendable too, though some get more lines than others, of course this may change. I really liked Ken Stott playing the elder Dwarf Balin. The film is a little protracted but I never really felt bored as the pace moves along fairly well with the odd pause, Rivendell being the main one.

In all honesty it felt good to be back in Middle Earth, I suspect greater things will come (well I hope so) in later films and the characters will grow even more. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey isn't an epic but its not shabby either, Peter Jackson has taken many liberties with it and some of it works and for purists like me some is just downright wrong. I can't judge a whole trilogy on one film but it isn't a bad start all said and done but its nothing earth shattering either.

I can't help wondering what another director would do with it all but I guess that will never happen in my time. If I had to rate it out of 10, then I'd give it a solid 7 but I can't help feeling a little disenchanted by Jacksons meddling. I'll go see it again in 48 frames per second I suspect. The soundtrack is also noteworthy and like the LoTR's trilogy compliments things well.

So, to end with, not a bad movie experience by any means, I'd recommend it and I'd see it again but I think it'll be better to judge it as a trilogy than a one off film at the end of the day.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Final Countdown

The tickets are purchased and now the waiting and anticipation begins, I'm talking about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Soon the magical story from my childhood will grace the big screen and the characters from the book will spring to life as imagined by director Peter Jackson and Co. Whilst I am excited, I am also feeling tentative because being something of a Tolkien purist I want it to look and feel right whilst keeping to the original story. 

The reviews and feedback so far vary widely. Much is being debated from technical merits to the length of the film and opinion does seem divided though it does lean towards favourable. I always expected it to get some flak, after all Peter Jackson isn't everyone's cup of tea. Of course I'll have to wait until I see it for myself, and indeed I did have issues with the Lord of the Rings trilogy which I felt had genuine moments of cinematic greatness to dull and protracted interludes that added nothing to the story. The bottom line with books that become films is that they are adapted to suit the masses.

I'm looking forward to this movie, it feels very much like the movie(s) that I've always wanted and waited and now its all reality. Bilbo Baggins maybe an unlikely hero but he's always been my hero and now he's leaping from the pages of the book onto the screen. 

As I've mentioned before in past blogs, I read The Hobbit and then read the Lord of the Rings whilst on holiday in Yorkshire aged around 14. I remember being sat outside the farmhouse we stayed in steadily reading through the book, gazing at the maps and daydreaming about Middle Earth. There were always parts I never really understood and re-read but as I absorbed the pages I was flanked by the shimmering sea to my left and rolling wooded hills to my right. I would often stop reading and imagine characters from the books walking through the beautiful countryside around me. So whatever happens with the upcoming movies I will still have the books and the memories regardless.

So the countdown until Thursday and the movie begins. I expect my excitement will steadily mount and hopefully I will be able to do some kind of review come the end of this week.

Martin Freeman is Bilbo Baggins and he's going on an adventure!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012


The Lords of Midnight was a game that had me hooked as a youngster. So much so that in my final year of school in 1984 I'd stay up till almost the next day playing it on my Sinclair ZX Spectrum. It was an amazing strategy role playing game that will always stay with me as one of the most influential games I've ever played. Today a friend emailed me to say the creator of that game series had died, his name was Mike Singleton. This report in the Guardian describes the game better than I ever could. I do feel a tinge of sadness at his passing, of course I never knew him or anything about him personally but it was his game that had me hooked on a game genre that I cannot give up to this day, on reflection it really was a ground breaking game.

I fondly remember nights sat peering into a colour portable tv having loaded the game in via a clunky cassette recorder. I'd immerse myself in the game, plan strategies, make notes and replace the game cassette with something like Duran Duran. I still recall listening to The Chauffeur by them whilst playing the game, oddly it seemed to fit the pace and mystery of the game. Happy nostalgic memories, and to Mike Singleton, a true visionary - thank you for those memories and rest in peace.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Westward Bound?

'Move out of the way!' some tracksuit clad yob shouted as he ran down the alleyway in front of me.

I stepped aside slightly, not that I was exactly in his way and mused if he was a thief with the haste he was in. The next road was no better, a cyclist hurtling down the pavement with no regard for anyone. Arriving on the market square my eyes casually scan across it. I see lots of mothers with push chairs, many are of Eastern European origin chatting in their own native tongue that never seems to come up for air. Where ever I look there seems to be underclass type people in tracksuits despite the fact they aren't practical in this cold weather, they shout instead of talking in guttural slang, it barely resembles English. Perhaps I am being one sided here, but it is what I saw, and what I keep seeing on daily sojourns through the provincial market town I live in. In fact I've witnessed a few things recently, none that I can really draw positives from. In some respects it's a sign of the times and getting endemic in most towns across the country.

Reflecting back, I recall these type of people were one of the reasons I left the last town where I lived, not the main reason by any account but one of them.

Do I like where I live? The answer is yes, the simple argument being that there are worse places to live, though that said - there's better. I might be cynical but I really can't see things getting any better, as ignorant generation produces yet more increasingly ignorant generations. The social changes I've seen since I was a teenager have been quite frankly unnerving. I can't deny that I am feeling restless here.

For some time now I've looked to relocating to the coast, the south west coasts of Somerset and Devon really appeal to me for many reasons. The older I get the less interested in town life I am, a small place by or near the coast in a large historical village or small town is what I ideally want. The air would be better for my asthma, there'd be less idiots (though every place has them I confess) and it'd be a better environment generally. When you get older your priorities change and what I wanted before are changing. I don't want somewhere that has nothing but the basics will do fine, a sprinkling of nice pubs, a few shops, bank post office etc, I'm sure you get the idea, quiet and functional yet picturesque. I'm not a snob, I just want to escape to something more 'me'.

I guess this all sounds like a dream, a fantasy or wish, and I concede that in some respects it very much is. The thing is, if I don't look into these type of places, visit them, check them out for suitable jobs then I'll never know or make it happen.

Monday, October 15, 2012


I'm not going to lie, I don't like the Conservatives and never have done. In my opinion they have always been out of touch with the common man in the street. That said recent backing of gay marriages when a vote becomes available is to be commended by them. 

Anyway, the point I wish to gnash my teeth about is the fact the government is allocating £50 million to commemorate the centenary of Word War 1. I personally find it staggering that almost a 100 years on and in harsh economic times we are going to squander such a large amount.

Do I respect what the servicemen did during the great war? Of course I do, my great, great grandfather fought as a cavalry man in it but I think a war that was mainly about colonial powers jostling and bumping heads should now start to be committed to the history books more. Sure, have the memorials, remember the sacrifices, keep it alive in museums and classrooms so that new generations can understand and learn from it.

Let me put it in another perspective. Outside of Athens, just a short bus ride away is the site of the Battle of Marathon. On the shoreline graced with wooded pines is a triangular area with a hillock, inside that hillock Athenians citizen soldiery are buried that defended the fledgling democratic world from Persian dictatorship and tyranny. The battle of Marathon in 490BC is considered by historians as perhaps one of the most important battles of all time because of the implications of its outcome yet its dead lay in a simple setting and millions worldwide are unaware of their important sacrifice. 

Should we remember and honour our fallen, without doubt but we should also educate to classrooms the senseless slaughter and folly of that war too. We should have services and memorial ceremonies but seriously, in these dark times should we really be throwing £50 million on it? The government seems focused on bigging up Britain at the moment whilst the reality of what is really happening in the country is yet again glossed over.

I'm pretty sure the soldiers who died would want to be remembered and rightly so but they'd also want us to have a better country with money spent wisely.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

A Moral Regret

I was in town today, sat in market place drinking coffee outside Starbucks, coat buttoned up against the cold whilst talking to a friend. We noticed a man hovering around near us and when we paused in conversation he came forward and politely asked if he could ask us both a question? We both nodded and smiled and the man told us he was a Dutch guy who was over here with his girlfriend but had run into a problems. He went on to add he'd stayed at York and used his bank card with no problems whilst in a hotel, however he'd since been unable to find an ATM machine that would dispense money to him. He went on to enquire if we knew of any banks that would help him?

We pondered for a moment and then pointed out the major banks in our small town, the HSBC bank being the most well known internationally. He said he'd tried that one and they were unable to help. At that moment his girlfriend returned, they spoke quickly in Dutch and then thanked us for our help, adding he'd called home for assistance. His phone then rang and they wandered off.

Sitting musing the situation my friend and I pondered things. I added maybe if they were struggling I could have got them a coffee each, after all it was a cold day and a couple of coffees don't cost much. As we mused more questions arose, such as why didn't they carry cash or other cards? After all if you are going abroad there's many ways to carry cash in different forms. I'm not saying these guys didn't seem genuine, in fact they had probably just ran into bad luck and not prepared for their journey that well. I love Dutch people, they spoke in Dutch, I have a Dutch friend, in fact there seemed little to doubt.

A few minutes later they passed by us again at a distance and waved and smiled before vanishing from view, maybe the phone call he received was good news? My overriding thought was I wished I'd asked them to join us for a coffee and regretted not doing so. Was it right to be wary and cautious, I believe so to some degree but couldn't help feeling 'What if I ever needed help when abroad?'. As it happens I have, in Thailand once, and a Thai man helped me more than I could have imagined and yet today I felt at a loss after for not helping more apart from offering some advice. It's really funny how life throws us these little moral dilemmas at times and how they play on our minds after.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tolkien Week #5

Well Tolkien week is coming to a close, there's been lots of coverage in the media and especially on the internet. The new 'The Hobbit' trailer has been released and celebrations over the book have been world wide. The new movie is literally weeks away and hopefully Peter Jackson will deliver a great experience that finally brings the book to life. So, in closing I leave you with the new movie poster for The Hobbit!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tolkien Week #4

So today is where it all began 75 years ago with the publication of The Hobbit. As Tolkien would say 'The road goes ever on' and indeed it does with the forthcoming The Hobbit movie. Below, to celebrate the book are a selection of Hobbit covers past, present and foreign.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tolkien Week #3

So the new The Hobbit trailer has arrived at long last. Duration wise its a massive jump on the first teaser trailer released back at the end of last year, this one being two and a half minutes. Though it is longer Peter Jackson has still been canny with the content in it. It does feel like we've got an expanded version of the original teaser in the fact we've got more of the same with a few extras and nothing much being given away really. However that said we do get a few more lingering moments on characters and places such as Radagast the brown wizard and Dol Guldur in Mirkwood. All in all its a pleasing little trailer and I hope we'll see yet another trailer before the movie release because the content is there and I can't help feeling Jackson is holding back on some characters such as Beorn, the Goblin King and many others, not to mention Smaug.

My only bone of contention is the content really. Being a purist of the novels I did grind my teeth at what went into the Lord of the Rings and what was omitted. I suspect with The Hobbit not being anywhere as voluminous as its sequels this may not be a problem this time around (I hope).  

There is some talk from critics that because the film has been shot at a very high quality (I forget the tech term for it but it's on the movie blogs) and that this reveals too much detail in outfits and prosthetics which detracts from realism. Firstly, I'm not yet seeing that myself, much like with any fantasy genre movie you know ultimately prosthetics are used if CGI isn't, so I've got my head around it in that respect. That said I don't know what effect the high quality detail will have over the duration over the film, it may indeed be a point I flag up, though as I'll only be watching it in 2D I hope not, it remains to be seen though I guess.

I remain optimistic and hopeful Peter Jackson will deliver. He certainly has a great story content there, a whole cast of great actors and most likely some of the best production people in the business. Right up until the end credits role I will have reservations but right now I think its shaping up well.

Click HERE for the new trailer on itunes, its trailer 2 by the way.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tolkien Week #2

I think it will be two years next month that I've been playing Lord of the Rings Online or Lotro as it's abbreviated as. During that time I've made friends with people from all around the world, in what is a really friendly game community with an international flavour. I play several characters in the ever expanding online world of Middle Earth which relates (I think) to the books by Tolkien.

Part of me loves the gaming side of it but a part of me loves the chance to actually role play characters in such a richly detailed world. The new expansion for Lotro is released next month which opens up most of the Rohan area to explore and adventure in. I don't doubt that I will probably be playing Lotro in another two years time. Here are a few screen shots of my adventures.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tolkien Week #1

So Tolkien Week begins worldwide. It's seventy five years since the fantasy novel 'The Hobbit' was first published. The American Tolkien society first proclaimed Hobbit Day and Tolkien Week back in 1978 and it's been going over since, getting quite a bit of recognition by all accounts. Hobbit Day falls on the 22nd September and for those of you who haven't read the Lord of the Rings it's the joint birthday of hobbits called Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

I first fell in love with Tolkien's works back in the early 80s. How or why I came by the book titled The Hobbit is lost to memory now. I do know I found it in the school library aged around 14, of that much I am certain, whether I stumbled upon it or someone suggested it remains clouded in the folds of time.

Back then I wasn't the most academic of students but I read The Hobbit pretty voraciously being enthralled by the fantasy world Tolkien had created containing hobbits, dwarves, trolls, elven kings and mighty dragons. It awakened something inside me that stimulated me to read more and develop an interest in writing. My English went from strength to strength and I do recall coming top of my English class that year with my exam result. My English teacher was a lovely man and he encouraged me immensely though I was just at the beginning of a very long journey.

Next I read the Lord of the Rings. I remember taking all three volumes on a family holiday. We stayed in a farmhouse in the rural village of Scalby in North Yorkshire overlooking the coastal town of Scarborough. Every spare chance available I busily read through the many chapters. I can remember long walks with my dad, uncle and cousin Ben through forests and over hills and they were the perfect compliment to Tolkiens world and imagining it. Though I can't recall every detail of that holiday thirty years ago I can remember a good deal and it seemed magical.

Here I am all those years later, still reading, still writing and still in love as much as ever with Tolkien's books.

J.R.R. Tolkien I sincerely thank you !


Thursday, August 02, 2012

Back !

Yes I know, I've been absent without leave! I've been concentrating on my other specialised blog and neglecting this one a little. This is my 'life' blog yet I guess life has been getting in the way a little!

So hopefully over the next week or so I'll ease back into this one and bring readers (those that are interested!) up to speed on what has been going on an my opinions on things etc. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I'm Only Happy When It Rains

Today the Olympic torch passes through my town. As I look outside the sky is dark and foreboding, it feels like night is encroaching instead of it being the middle of the day. There is the odd growl of lazy thunder, gloom stained rain clouds hang low and rain is steadily falling. I'm happy.

The reason I am happy is because people out there who are going to watch the flame will probably give a thought to millions displaced from their homes by past and indeed future Olympics.

I feel the real spirit of the Olympics has gone, it originated in Greece and should stay there in my view, Greece certainly would benefit from being host right now with the financial hard times they are having.

I heard last week of the horrific charges for refreshments during Olympic events from a friend who knows someone involved in the catering for it, the prices are staggering. Hotels in London have hiked up their prices, many doubling them, it's all greed based. Sport fans are in for an expensive and crowded London and they'll have to deal with its antiquated transport system - good luck to them!

Will the London Olympics be a great sporting spectacle, I hope so for sports fans. Will it be a good advert for London as a capital? I guess that remains to be seen. I'd certainly be interested in what visitors think.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Flawed Diamond

So here in Britain we celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II this weekend, which is also a bank holiday. The irony is most of the populace are more interested in the extra days off instead of pondering the royal family and their alleged importance.

The media cover it relentlessly as the Queen shuffles from one public engagement to another and it's called 'public service'. I like to think I'm a patriot albeit in my own way but I cannot venerate a Queen that I no longer identify with. 

All this fuss by the middle and upper class to pay homage to someone that brings some extra money in via tourism. A woman that likes to race horses, watch Polo matches and does all the things the upper class revel in, has she really got anything in common with the average man in the street? Is she really representative of the total populace of this country?

The monarchy isn't really needed any more. People could argue that the royal family bring much money into the nation via tourism which states plainly to me she is more tourist attraction than any real use. She may visit places, she may cut ribbons and perform ceremonies and for that she gets paid far too much.

We need to wake up and smell the coffee, realise that the monarchy is a relic of the past and we no longer need it. As a nation we still have much to offer without them, hundreds of places of interest and beauty and we should look at promoting these over nostalgia of an empire, an empire that has long gone.

Other European monarchies are more low key, Scandinavian ones and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and that is the direction we should head. We won't though of course because we are too indoctrinated and wrapped in all of this nonsense to see beyond it. 

Am I filled with a sense of pride this weekend as the nation reveres the monarchy? No, not at all, I will remember the people who did and still do make this nation what it was and sometimes still is. They are the workers, the artists, the builders, the poets, the engineers, the scientists, the authors and countless others that have influenced and inspired me - none of them royalty.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Malta 2012

At the beginning of the month I went to Malta once again. Readers will know I've been a couple of times before though they were both winter visits. The weather there is still way more favourable than English weather that time of year.

Malta is still a mystery to me really. Why? Well because I never really feel I've gotten my head around the place and the people, though both are lovely. This visit I vowed to delve deeper into the island, see more and do more whilst fitting some relaxing and fact finding in, as my father was pondering moving out there now he's retired.

It had been almost a year and a half since my last sojourn to this little island of mystery and much has changed in the resort we usually stay at. For starters there European recession had firmly arrived, some bars had closed whilst other tacky ones had sprang up. Noticeably, English package tourists seemed more evident though sadly the sort that just want to get drunk and sing karaoke in bars selling cheap canned lager. The irony was that they seemed older tourists, 50+ at least though acting much younger, sometimes it took the term 'growing old disgracefully' to a new low level. Traditionally Malta has attracted older package British tourists eager for a warm quiet break, as well as diving enthusiasts or people with a general interest in the island and it's rich history. Now it seems the 'Benidorm' crowd as I would term it are creeping in, its a case of fun pubs over bars with charm and atmosphere.

The Maltese deserve a medal just for tolerating these types of good time package tourism and unsavoury Brits yet like any small island economy need them just the same. It often feels like the Maltese wear a painted smile and do their own socialising separate in many cases. 

To the uninitiated Maltese people seem stand offish and aloof but once you strike a friendship with them their cultural differences are more understandable. I started up a conversation with a young Maltese guy one day and after some subtle word work on my part he confessed that many Maltese though respectful of Brits are getting tired of drunken younger Brits which did seem more in abundance on this visit.

Moving on, the weather was amazing for the whole duration of the holiday. The hotel we stayed at was really nice though a little corporate. The facilities were great and we had a lovely balcony view overlooking the sea, it was a joy to wake up to. The food was lovely though breakfast wasn't that good to be fair, continentals don't always appreciate a good English breakfast, the continental option was fine though. Most holiday review sites seem to say whatever hotel you stay at in Malta then general reduce it by one star and having stayed there a few times now I do think that's fair, though that said, I am sure there's plenty of amazing hotels, don't let that put you off because my experiences have all been good thus far.

During the stay we explored the historic capital Valletta more but there is still much more to discover, it really is a lovely place. The Labour club in Valletta on Republic street is definitely worth a visit. We had spaghetti in rabbit sauce whilst drinking a beer and looking out over the balcony onto the bustling street below.

We also indulged in a day cruise to the northern islands of Comino and Gozo, taking in such sights as the fabled Blue Lagoon, James Bond cave and many others before doing a tour via mini bus of Gozo with Joe the tour guide (a real legend) before sailing back, it was a fantastic day and cost about €23, the boat departing from St Paul's bay at around 11am, returning around 6pm.

On another day we travelled to the south of the island to visit the fishing village of Marsaxlokk. To be honest there isn't that much there, though I hear on Sundays it has a good market. Its worth a visit to see the many boats in the harbour, have some food and maybe get a gift, I got a great fitting hat from a market stall so felt content with it all. You'd be hard pushed to spend more than a couple of hours there really. The area of Paolo south of Valletta that you pass through though seemed especially nice with some really interesting lamps adorning picture postcard streets festooned with celebration garlands. I really wanted to get off the Bus to explore.

This brings me to Maltese buses that have been replaced with new modern 'bendy' style buses now run by the Arriva company. An all day travel ticket in Malta is very cheap, I can't recall the exact price, around €2.70 I think, give or take a little which is very reasonable. That said, Malta can get very congested traffic wise (the Maltese love their cars) and buses don't always run on times though they try to. Don't ever tarry near the exit doors when getting off buses as the drivers don't wait for long at all before rapidly moving on. So, buses are a very hit and miss affair, cheap but a journey could be short if the traffic is favourable or painstakingly long otherwise. Taxi's are quite expensive so I'd avoid them if you can

One day towards the end of the holiday I was walking down a palm tree lined road when a football suddenly sprang out before me. I was slightly dazzled by the sun and when I looked down a small Maltese girl appeared in front of me chasing her ball. She stopped and regarded me with her cute face and fair hair in pig tails. "Sowwy" (Sorry) she said to me with her childlike voice and smiled. I'm not a child orientated person having never wanted to have kids but my heart melted and I reached out involuntary to pat her hair and say "It's ok, don't worry" before she sped off enjoying her fun. Maybe I'm getting soft in my old age.

On my last night I sat on the balcony reflecting about my holiday and life, the sun hung heavy over the west, it's orange glow fading slowly when suddenly my phone buzzed, it was a text from my friend Dom to say he was a father, baby 'Erin' had been born. I breathed the fresh air in as the sun began to vanish below the blue horizon. Smiling to myself at my friends good news I took in the lovely view before readying myself for a few beers on behalf of their excellent news and having had a good holiday.

So Malta still remains an enigma to me really. I heard an old guy at Valletta bus station say 'Take away the churches, flaky and unfinished buildings and there's not that much here.' but that is a very narrow minded and unfair view of Malta because it really is a beautiful place. I think next time I shall try and spend more time in the cosmopolitan area of Sliema or perhaps stay nearer to Valletta. Culturally I'd love to know more about the island and even more so it's people, I still say Maltese women rank as some of the worlds most beautiful and I've travelled a fair bit. I'm not sure when I'll return to Malta but I do know this, I will return.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Much Needed

It's been a while since I've had a holiday, and this little hobbit is in dire need of an adventure. So, off I go tomorrow for a much needed week away to Malta. Yep, I am going once again, this is my third time but the simple reason is I like the place, plus dad is looking to possibly retire out there so it's a holiday and fact finding mission too.

Holidays are also great chances to think as it lifts you out of your daily life and routine, you can reflect on things easier when you are removed from them. 

So I shall be catching plenty of sunshine (I hope), taking in the culture, having a beer or two, reading, looking at lovely Maltese girls and generally relaxing. If ever a holiday was much needed it's this one. I'll see you all soon and I'm sure there will be photos and blogs to follow of my adventures.

Monday, April 23, 2012

London And The Wizards Hat

Pain seared through my ankles as I rushed headlong to the train station, I was on the verge of being late. I arrived at the barrier and fumbled for my ticket, a member of staff noticed my haste and after checking my credentials told me my train had been cancelled but I could catch the next one which was due shortly after.

The fields were soon behind me and I was soon rolling into Kings Cross station. I decided to walk down to Euston and meet my friend Jane as there was no point bothering with the tube, the sun was out and the walk wouldn't take long.

Rendez-vous complete with Jane and we checked into the hotel and quickly headed back out and to Camden, I'd ordered an item of clothing on the internet from a shop there and wanted to pick it up. During a quick incursion into the Stables market area I introduced Jane to Cyberdog and I could tell she was impressed. Shortly after the heavens opened and we sought rest and drier surroundings in the nearby Hawley Arms and then the Hobgoblin pub before heading back to the hotel and grabbing some food.

A brief sleep followed and we freshened up before heading back to Camden and an evening of catching up over drinks. We stayed in the Elephants Head for a good while on Camden high street before heading across the road to the Oxford Arms and then to Inverness street to the Good Mixer, all the pubs have a nice relaxed 'local' feel to them, we also did the Hobgoblin again, it's very much a rock pub and locals are a typical rock/alternative crowd. It was a great evening of chat and Jack Daniels whiskey in my case and after some savoury rolls of Indian origin we headed back feeling quite content to the hotel.

A word of warning here, the Travelodge at Euston isn't the most quiet of hotels, especially if you get a window room facing the station. Across from you is also a bus terminal and around the corner is a fire station, the traffic noise is pretty horrendous and our double glazed window did little to dampen it, especially as it was faulty near the top. Fortunately having been to London many a time I'd taken some ear plugs along so slept fairly well, poor Jane however wasn't so lucky and made a point of buying some earplugs from a chemist the day after.

The next day came and it was once more off to Camden to carry on with our shopping quest and it yielded much in the way of new clothes and new shops we'd not discovered before. On using a cash point at nearby supermarket we were approached by a man begging. Having worked with alcoholics before I could see he was in need of a drink, his face told me so but I decided to refuse his request, and his story of losing his keys was far from convincing. On getting some money I found some loose change and relented, I decided to give him it and received no thanks at all, he almost snatched it and moved on to someone else. It would be really refreshing if they just told you the fact 'look I am an alcoholic and I really need a drink because I am shaking so bad'.

Back to the shopping and I noticed a face I'd seen before, then it dawned on me it was a guy that had been on the Take Me Out show, he had dreadlocks and hippy clothes and I distinctively remembered him. I decided to ask him outright and it was indeed him. We chatted and I asked how much of the show was edited etc before we said our goodbyes, he struck me as a really nice guy.

The next part of the plan for the day was to head up to Brick Lane in east London, I'd heard much about it from friends and programs on Tv so decided to see what the fuss was about, added to the fact I was still after a hat for my upcoming holiday after trawling Camden for one.

After dropping our bags off at the hotel we headed to Brick Lane on the tube and the journey didn't take too long. There was an incident at Euston station where I noticed some hoodies following people closely, making out they were swiping an oyster card and getting through the barriers for free. To add to the irony they had Liverpool accents*. It was obvious they were up to no good and they bumped into me but I was alert to their actions and they noted it, I warned an oblivious Jane but they took another tunnel to a different tube, the danger had passed. It did make me think how much the CCTV operators are aware, especially in light of the coming Olympics. I've heard them berate people for using camera's on the tube before and maybe on this occasion they could have been aware of the hoodies, I guess I'll never know.

We arrived at Aldgate east tube station and headed around the corner to the fabled Brick Lane. The first thing you notice about it is the very ethnic feel it has, curry houses are in abundance as are different cultural supermarkets. There's some good clothes shops too, and this was my last chance really of finding a holiday hat. The rain came hurtling down again and we ducked into a pub called The Archers. It took some time to order drinks as the barmaid spoke almost no English, no surprise the pub was empty really. It took a little while to be understood, even for universal sounding drinks like vodka and coke.

The shower soon passed and we carried up the very long Brick Lane and I have to be honest and say it really isn't very remarkable, it feels little different from some ethnic streets in places like Bradford or Leicester. Having reached the top we turned around and headed back and stumbled upon a rather bohemian second hand clothing store. We had a good nosey around and I tried a hat on, Jane commented I looked like a wizard which made me grin. Then suddenly she noticed a hat on a higher shelf and passed it down to me, it was perfect, just what I was looking for and a bargain at £6. Feeling very happy we headed back down the lane and were tempted by an Indian delicatessen serving baked rolls, pakoras and other Indian snacks and pastries.

We headed inside after deciding roughly what to order and the guy behind the counter noticed us but decided to serve another Indian guy that had come into the shop a few seconds after us. I thought nothing of it and we waited patiently. After the first guy was served another entered and he was served and we were again ignored, we carried on waiting. When he was served an Asian woman entered and we were yet again ignored, as he started to serve her I shouted 'whoaa!' annoyed at being blatantly blanked repeatedly but he continued to ignore us. I turned to Jane as said 'Forget it' then we walked out, it was a very weird feeling indeed, one of anger but something more, I think the feeling was a direct one of clear racism towards us and it's not easy to explain but I can tell you, it didn't feel very nice.

We headed back and I really didn't feel like doing much after such a busy day. Jane rallied me making the point we were only there for a couple of days so had better make the most of it. We headed to the familiar and comfortable territory of Camden again and for last evening of socialising.

The next day soon came around and our trains in opposite directions headed back around lunched time, after packing our bags and saying our goodbyes we parted and headed home. I walked back to the new Kings Cross departures station and was very impressed with how it was laid out, noticeably less busy too. The train journey home was uneventful and and I was soon back in my sleepy town, it felt good to be home after a very busy few days away.

(*People from Liverpool are often joked about in English culture as sometimes being thieves.)

Photos from top to bottom are; Street art in Brick Lane, Brick Lane, A Tolkien sign between Euston and Kings Cross and the Harry Potter platform at the new Kings Cross departures station. As for Camden I've posted many photos of it before!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Hunger Games Left Me Starving

Last Friday I decided to check out the new 'Hunger Games' movie. I'm fortunate that I live very close to a cinema so I generally know when it's quiet and can pop along in the afternoon if I'm not busy to catch a film. I'd only seen the trailer for Hunger Games but it looked good (don't all trailers?) and added to that it looked very dystopian which I like being generally a miserable and cynical person, well so people say!

Anyway, I was in luck, the cinema was virtually empty, a couple of people trickled in before the film began so it was nice and quiet as I like it. I was aware that the film was part of a trilogy of books but generally knew little else about it, so I settled down to soak it all in with an open but expectant mind.

So the film began in some back water mining town reminiscent of 1950s mid west America. You are quickly introduced to the heroine, her family and potential love interest. Then comes the lottery for the hunger games tournament which you are briefly made aware of at the beginning of the film and if you've seen the trailer you know what is possibly going to transpire. So off the heroine goes to the big city after taking the place of her younger sister. Sat in the very ostentatious carriage of the futuristic train she gets to rub shoulders with her male counterpart contestant and largely indifferent trainer/mentor played by Woody Harrelson. They soon arrive in the big capital city, imaginatively called the same and its down to gourmet banquets and training. Capital city is populated by very baroque people with gaudy hairstyles coloured with hues of electric blue etc.

We get to meet the president of capital city briefly (Donald Sutherland), do some quick training in a futuristic armoury/gym/Dojo and then impress so called 'sponsors' who seem to have little connection with the main story, what they actually sponsor or effect it has is left to the imagination.

Then its onto the Hunter Games, a Tv show where the aim of the game is to stay alive whilst killing the other contestants. The prize if you survive? a pat on the back from the president and a ticket home back to dumps-ville, albeit surrounded by lush country side.

Onto the games, well several kids fall quickly running for rucksacks of goodies or weapons, how stupid, didn't their trainers tell them to run away first, especially the younger ones? So a few quick deaths near the beginning of which you hardly see. This film is no gore fest and our heroine manages to grab a rucksack of goodies in the opening melee chaos and run into the nearby forest.

The other contestants have either done the same or have grouped to form a band of vile college kid type bullies intent on hunting the others down including our heroine. How they bond is unexplained but then this is a film lacking any decent dialogue. We then get a few adventures of the heroine evading the others whilst befriending an expendable character. All of her encounters are manipulated by the Tv station of Capitol city which is housed in a very sterile white a la Matrix department with super sophisticated gadgetry and devices capable of creating very real illusions and monsters to manipulate the games. So, we've gone from back water mid west America to baroque semi futuristic to far out total sci-fi, this is where it all fell down for me, not to mention the very dull games with no tension building at all.

Eventually our heroine the very twee named 'Katniss Everdeen', the others have twee names too, such as Effie and Primrose as well as a selection of old Roman names meets her fellow male contestant and they half fall in love. The games are then manipulated so they can both win it and they proceed to kick ass, the twist being the games again are changed at the end so they have to kill each other, they choose not to. This throws the spanner in the works, they are both announced as joint winner and they go home.

Yep, that's basically it. It doesn't feel very dystopian, the script is almost none existent, there doesn't seem to be any real Machiavellian bad guys and I ended up not caring if the heroine lived or died. Woody Harrelson and Donald Sutherland who I like as actors are there for an easy pay packet and their characters sadly contribute very little. Maybe the books evoke more but basically this is an action cutesy movie for girls aged 15. The more I thought about it after, the more I disliked it, I was clock watching near the end, a sure sign of something very bad.

Having read ahead about the books, book two contains yet another Hunger Games where the heroine has to fight again, book three is more about revolutionary stuff, I'll definitely avoid.

If you want films of the same dystopian genre go for the still very excellent The Running Man or dig out the original French film called Le Prix Du Danger which I was fortunate to see back in France in 83'. And of course the very excellent Japanese film Battle Royale is more than worth a watch.

Hunger Games is as dull as dishwater with a script that is just as murky. There's no suspense, no character building apart from a little on the heroine and the dystopian world doesn't really work or is portrayed very well. Good dystopia leaves you musing and thinking, this dystopian world reminded me of a Butlin's holiday camp with hyper active redcoats.

In closing, Hunger Games is an awful film that really did leave me mentally starving.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

It's April, I'm Gonna Be No Fool

March sinks slowly behind us as we stride into April. It's not been a bad month at all, weather wise it has probably been the best March I can recall and everyone has been lifted by it. The next two months ahead seem fairly busy. I've a short trip to London booked mid month and then my holiday to Malta in May.

On the downside because of finances I really have to pick and choose my forays out these days. Ironically its the time of year when lots of friends are having birthdays and such and I'm finding myself reluctantly saying 'no' to nights out, which bothers me but I simply can't afford to do everything.

Last week was kind of bitter-sweet. At the beginning of the week I someone revealed their true colours, it was unwelcome news but not entirely unexpected. True colours were finally revealed and after years of ignoring comments about said person I now have to acknowledge that maybe they were right and this person is self centred and hollow hearted. You live and learn I guess and I am the sort of person that generally ignores the comments of others and judges for myself regarding a persons merits, alas this person is the kind that says one thing and does another. It's hard to think you can feel so close to a person one minute and so distant the next.

Onto more positive news. On Friday I received a call telling me that my eye surgery has been approved and will take place in May. To be honest I didn't think it was going to happen as I mentioned in a previous blog because of the current state of the NHS. I was elated at the news so the week ended on a high.

March has also seen the growth of my other blog, the hobbit-humanist. I tentatively started it on another blogging platform and last month saw me posting twenty blogs to favourable feedback and responses.

Oh and lastly, April brings season two of Game of Thrones and I can't wait !

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March? Surely A Mistake !

Yep, spring is on it's way, strolling around town today it almost felt like late May, not March. It was lovely and warm with a sky bereft of clouds! I love spring time! Here is a photo of the sky line in the centre of town today.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Army Of Mushrooms

Judging by the bands posts on Facebook this looks to be the new cover art for the upcoming Infected Mushroom album entitled 'Army of Mushrooms'. Personally I can't wait and as soon as it gets released this hobbit will be ordering it! I don't think there is a day goes by when I don't listen to them, total brain candy!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Booked !

I've booked to go away on holiday in May and I can't wait. It's Malta (again!) but I really feel I haven't seen all of Malta yet. I can't really pin down why I like Malta, there's just something about it that resonates with me. Another reason for the holiday is something of a fact finding mission as my dad is very interested in moving there now he is retired, and who can blame him?

I'm hoping to go to London beforehand, do a bit of retail therapy before the Olympic madness starts. London is busy at the best of times, during the games I suspect it will be unbearable.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Zombies, Gladiators and Thrones

This week I've been catching up on Tv shows. I must say that The Walking Dead just gets better, it really is quality and compelling viewing. Not only does it have you on the edge of your seat but it evokes emotions as well as posing very heart searching 'What if that was me, what would I do?' questions. There's been less action in the second series but when there has beenit's has been truly nail biting knife edge stuff. Between the action we've had some great character building from a fine cast and some inspiring scripting to emphasise the psychological behaviour of a desperate few people facing a zombie apocalypse. This isn't a show just about killing zombies though, it is far deeper than that, every morale choice, every decision the small group makes has consequences and when people die you almost feel you are sharing their loss, it really is that emotive. It's an amazing piece of television drama.

On to Spartacus Vengeance. I'll admit, I'm a huge fan of the previous two series but feel the loss of Andy Whitfield has impacted the current show. I don't want to be too judgemental here and the new Spartacus Liam McIntyre is slowing easing into the role. There's been some other minor personnel changes within the show but to cut to the chase and state what I'm really missing and that's a Machiavellian bad guy with the stature of what John Hannah exuded playing Batiatus. Glaba played by Craig Parker isn't as calculating as the erstwhile Batiatus or as dynamic, it's almost like he has to rely on support from characters such as Asha or Lucretia for prompts and schemes. What we are getting with this series of Spartacus is much the same with less of the clout of the previous series outings. The action whilst being the usually quality gore-fest is now starting to feel a bit samey and has lost its edge (the sex is still great!). What's also lacking from this current series is plots and subterfuge, they are still there but with less 'OMG' moments as the plot is suddenly revealed. You really felt you were in for the ride on Batiatus's power trip before as he climbed the social ladder, you knew he was a bad guy but you empathised with him strangely. Sadly the Roman bad guys in this new series lack John Hannah's presence. charisma and screen vitality - they just seem a pontificating generic bunch and Lucy Lawless as Lucretia has very much sadly faded into the background a little (probably because she has less power this time around).

It's almost starting to feel cliche and reminiscent of other shows that graced out screens in the past. People get captured, rescue attempts take place, odd minor characters die and so it goes on. Some could argue the creators of the show have taken artistic licence with what's known about the real Spartacus of history but I don't think that's a bad thing, as we'll never ever know the details anyway. Will I still watch? Of course, I'm still a fan of the show I just think something is missing and I'm not entirely sure what. They need to build characters up more such as Peter Mensah (Doctore/Onomaus) among others. Maybe I am being too critical and I suspect more will come from the show regarding characters, plots and story lines, it could well be still early days on a series that could turn out to be here for the long haul but if that's the case they'll need to put substance before style.

Lastly I have to mention Game of Thrones second season. There's been a few teaser trailers for the forthcoming series starting this April and to be perfectly honest - I can't wait. I had started on the second book but decided to hold off, probably because I enjoyed the first series so much I didn't want to spoil the second one. I suspect it is going to eclipse any series of this year for me and I genuinely feel we are in for something truly special. Reflecting back to my opening on The Walking Dead and the fact I feel much is down to how real the characters and their worlds feel and the actors who portray them do it - that's where Game of Thrones excels. I love all three shows and it'll be interesting to see what directions they all go in.

Here's a trailer for the new season of Game of Thrones starting in April.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Middle Earth Mojo

As some readers and friends know I love playing Lord of the Rings Online or Lotro as it's abbreviated to by gamers in the community. Recently though I've not been playing as much, I feel like I've lost my mojo for it a little. There's been some changes within the game regarding the crowd of people I used to hang out with or 'Kinship' as they are known within the game. Within our kinship we had dwindled down to a core few players and the odd casual player popping in occasionally so we decided to merge with a larger more organised kinship. Our own leadership had largely lost interest and the remaining officers within the kinship began to lack motivation and this of course began to affect others. Added to this many had left the game to join the new Star Wars Old Republic massively multiplayer online role play game or 'mmorpg's as they are known.

So, after a meeting where we all had our say in an online group chat we merged with the new kin though my Dutch friend made me smile when he said sardonically he thought it was more an 'upgrade' than a merge. Things seem to have settled though the old kinship remains in limbo with some players remaining in it, which seems a sad situation but they did have the option to move with us. I'm not sure if we should have tried to re-structure and re-brand or the the merge was the best way to go. Either way with all the recent activity I felt I needed a break from it as I was just logging on and staring at the screen bereft of enthusiasm. I suspect a break will do me good and will only be for a short time anyway as I do have a genuine passion for the game and I'd miss the people I hang out with. Most reading this won't have a clue what I am rambling about. I'm a sad geek, I admit it!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

So, It Begins.

I'm pleased to announce my new (and long planned blog) is now up and running on the Wordpress platform. I purchased the domain name and posted the first blog yesterday but decided to hold off any announcement till today because of tweaks and getting used to how Wordpress actually works. To be honest Wordpress appears to be quite user friendly so far, though it uses a CSS (Cascading style sheets) based system instead of strait forward HTML for those who like to tweak and edit.

So, it begins. My foray into a more focused blog and contentious subject matter. It won't be to everyone's liking but that is unavoidable. I'll still be posting general day-to-day occasional blogs on here as per normal.

I chose yesterday as it was 85 years to the day that the atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell delivered his historic 'Why I am not a Christian' essay verbally to the South London Secular Society.

So, feel to have a read and hang in there with me during the early days as the blog is still work in progress. I'm no super genius or profess to be a great orator or academic - I'm just an average person with strong opinions about organised religion and theism.

The new blog can be found HERE.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Drink, Pain and Pretty Girls

So as the weeks fall off the calendar of 2012 I've managed to avoid alcohol this far, apart from a small blip at the end of January where I had probably 5 pints and a couple of whiskies over one weekend. At the beginning of the year I had quite intense stomach pain and other related problems. Medical advice had me taking more tablets for my stomach and these added to the pain killers I took just exacerbated things.

On reflection it occurred to me I'd been taking pain killers since leg surgery some years ago and also for my arthritic pain, the simple solution seemed to be to stop taking them completely and further medical advice confirmed my thoughts. I wouldn't say I was addicted to pain killers by any means but I'd been taking them for a good few years and sometimes in an involuntary way if I am being honest.

The latter half of January began with a concerted effort not to take any tablets at all and it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be but then after years of taking them the writing was really on the wall. A tough week ensued, gnawing headaches, inflaming arthritic pain and irritable biting urges to take tablets to get relief. I kept my resolve and self discipline and prevailed, for a whole week I took nothing and my stomach problems eased, normality was starting to return.

So here we are at the end of February and I'm feeling good, better than I have done in many a year. I avoided my strong pain killers largely, except for odd occasions and switched towards more anti inflammatory ones. As for drink? Well I was never a heavy or regular drinker, it has largely been confined to weekends for the last few years but not having any for the best part of two months has made feel much healthier.

I guess the whole experience has been an exercise in self discipline and a break for my body from certain substances. Will I still drink? Well of course, I'm a social creature after all but beer isn't as important as it once was in my youth. Will I still take pain killers? Well that's a yes also because some day's I'll just need them in order to function, arthritic pain is an ever unwanted companion and sometimes its nice to get some respite from it. The thing I will consider in future though is do I actually need them at that moment, can I tolerate it if I am say in the comfort of my home?

And what ties the pain killers and alcohol together? If I drink then I feel really tired and ache the next day or more, this adds to my arthritic pain and results in pain killer taking. The best solution I think is to just avoid alcohol as much as possible over the cold months, as I seem fine if I am abroad in warmer climates. The other obvious practicality is that as you get older even though you may drink less is that you still get hangovers (seemingly easier and on less alcohol) and a weekend on the beer takes longer to shake off.

So there we have it, a little confessional of sorts. I feel positive, I feel better within and I seem to have turned into some insouciant bohemian coffee shop 'bon vivant' in order to preserve my love of social surroundings and appreciation of pretty girls.