Tuesday, 23 February 2010

"Moon": More good news

I was chuffed to see that Duncan Jones got a Bafta for "Moon", the other night.

Having enjoyed the film enough to post about it last month, it was a pleasant surprise when I heard that Jones had got the award for "Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer".

If you want to see the video clip of him getting His Bafta, you'll find it at this link.

As the child of a famous parent (David Bowie), Duncan Jones seems refreshingly sensible. If you watch the DVD of his film, amongst the extras there's a "making of the movie" feature where you get an opportunity to see him at work. This is a worthwhile bonus as it not only shows the mechanism of film-making, but it also gives an idea of the atmosphere within the working environment. Jones comes across as leader rather than a tyrant, and it seems that this style has paid off handsomely.

I suppose it should not be a surprise that he comes over as unpretentious. He was, after all, sensible enough to change his name to Duncan Jones, having been lumbered at birth with the wince-inducing Zowie Bowie.

I blame the parents...

Sunday, 21 February 2010

This will upset Dr Beeching

About a year ago, I mentioned that I'd rescued my abortive attempt to build a model railway layout, from the spidery gloom of our loft. Over the last week I've finally got around to starting the rebuild.

The image of railway modelling is not good. If ever there was a pastime that seems to epitomise nerdy geekness, building and running model railways would probably only be second to train-spotting. At any gathering there are few quicker ways of committing social suicide than to let slip that you've been re-wiring the signalling on your model of Boghampstead Junction. Even if you try to redefine the hobby as model engineering, as soon as you admit that the particular engineering that you are modelling is a Great Western Railways Castle Class locomotive, you might as well put on your anorak and leave by the nearest exit.

I can't understand why there is such a willingness to sneer at this sort of endeavour.
What is the difference between somebody painting a landscape to hang on their living room wall and someone painting the scenic background for a railway layout? Why is it deemed "peculiar" for somebody to spend many hours building a tiny, working replica of a diesel locomotive and yet if the same person was to spend the same time crafting jewelry it would be seen as "artistic"?
Even computer geeks are less derided than railway modellers.

...but I digress...

The good news is that my model railway layout has finally got off the drawing board and I have even managed to get some of the track stuck down onto the baseboard.
OK, the speed of development is laughable, but it is only slightly slower than that of the proposed West Coast High Speed Rail link from London to Glasgow.

For those who aren't too embarrassed to be interested:
  • The baseboard is a 4ft. by 2ft. piece of MDF, glued to a simple wooden framework of 2"x1".
  • The track is mostly Peco Code 80 Flextrack with Medium Radius electrofrog points, although I've used some lengths of Set-track on the sections that will be "behind the scenes".
  • I've glued down the track onto cork sheeting.
  • The small wooden pillars are to support the upper level of track, which will be the next thing to be added.
  • The rectangular hole is to allow access to the underside of the upper level when it is in position.
  • The curved hole at the lower left of the picture is where the incline to the upper layer begins.

For anyone too young to remember Dr Beeching and his impact on the British rail network, this link will take you to his Wikipedia page.

Monday, 15 February 2010

I can't believe I hadn't noticed...

I'm sure most of us are familiar with those wierd little pictures where you are asked, "What can you see here?"
Quite what the answer that you give is supposed to say about you or your state of mind, I've no idea, but I'm not a psychiatrist... Well, I believe I'm not a psychiatrist.

Apparently this image is either two people looking at each other, or it's a vase... or two people looking at a vase, I suppose.

So what has brought this on?

I listen to quite a lot of music and although I've nattered on about Prog Rock in several posts, I'm also very keen on female vocal artists. With iTunes set to 'Shuffle', the pomp complexities of Pink Floyd, Spock's Beard, Porcupine Tree and all the other unusual suspects are offset by the simpler clarity of Sandy Denny, Kirsty MacColl, Kate Rusby and Judie Tzuke.

...and then there's Joni Mitchell.
I think the first time I became aware of her was in 1969, when a bunch of us went to the local cinema to see "Alice's Restuarant". As this was the first "18" rated film that I'd managed to get to see, it was always going to have a disproportionate impact on me, but although all the subversive-hippie-free-love-commune-anarchy action was heady stuff indeed for this seventeen year-old, it was "Songs to ageing children", sung by Joni Mitchell that really moved me.

Since then, I've bought most of her albums and was even lucky enough to see her play live at Wembley Stadium in the 1970s, so I guess that makes me a fan.

She can paint a bit as well.
Many Joni Mitchell albums have cover artwork that are reproductions of her paintings, including "Both Sides Now", which was released in 2000.
This is an unusual album, comprising mostly cover versions of jazz standards and a couple from her own back catalogue, with full orchestral arrangements. The individual songs are strung together to tell the story of a love affair, from the enfatuation of "You're my thrill", through the doubts of "You've changed" and the despair of "Stormy weather", to the hopefulness of "I wish I were in love again" and the resigned philosophy of "Both sides now". 

Even though it's a fairly melancholy selection, I was pleased to hear a track come on today as I was idling at the PC. I glanced at the image of the album cover on the iTunes display and suddenly noticed something I had never seen before.

I cannot believe that I'm the first person to see that she is wearing her heart on her sleeve.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Things break...

We seem to be going through one of those periods when stuff starts breaking down or falling to bits. The latest addition to the remorselessly lengthening list of casualties is Blight-of-my-life's car.

As she removed the oil-filler cap to give the engine a top-up earlier today, she discovered that there was a rather unpleasant custardy sludge around the filler.

I was called out of the house to look under the little, blue Vauxhall's bonnet.
"That's not very good, is it", she said
My heart didn't actually sink, but it was certainly holed below the water-line.
I've seen this puss-like glop before. It's the sort of emulsion you get when oil and water are vigourously mixed by an engine that generally indicates that cooling water is finding a way into the engine's oil system. It usually means that the cylinder head gasket has failed.
"Err, no. That's not very good at all..."
"Should I stop driving it then?"
"I dunno," I said, wondering just how long it had been since the oil was last checked, "You're having it MOT'd soon. Have a word with the garage blokes and see what they say."

One 'phone call later...
"They said don't drive it and take it down for them to look at on Friday."
I was unable to stop myself from pointing out the inconsistency of this advice, but once our uncontrollable mirth had subsided, we started trying to decide how much we would be prepared to fork out for a repair before it would be more sensible to start thinking about a replacement car.
With a bit of luck, the chaps at the garage will come up with a bearable quotation. They have earned our respect over the years and kept several of our vehicles soldiering on well beyond the point that I'd have given up hope of any possibility of economic repair. So even though our finances are bound to take a hit, we have some cause for optimism.

One cheering aspect of this situation is that Blight is having to use the Land Rover.
Now, I'll be able to blame the Mystery Smell on something horse related that will inevitably get transferred from the farm into the driver's footwell.

A cunning plan indeed.