Look to Windward

I was absolutely gutted this week to learn that my favourite author Iain (M) Banks is on his way out thanks to cancer. I’ve read all of his books and am always so excited when a new one is released. From the amazingly sick imagination of The Wasp Factory which is by turns hilarious and disgusting to the absolute scale of Look To Windward, a story about revenge and loss on a galactic scale, Iain’s books have shaped my entire approach to life. When I day-dream now you can be sure that the Culture is there in my thoughts, making me wish that this is humanities future (and mine of course, somehow).

Also passing this week was the great film critic Roger Ebert and I truly loved this article of his about death.

From Roger…

‘Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

From my favourite Culture story…

Our lives are about development, mutation and the possibility of change; that is almost a definition of what life is: change… If you disable change, if you effectively stop time, if you prevent the possibility of the alteration of an individual’s circumstances — and that must include at least the possibility that they alter for the worse — then you don’t have life after death; you just have death.



Lambing and not broodiness

  1. Disgusting smells of poo everywhere
  2. Placentas and blood dangling from animals
  3. Bags of… I have no idea what… possibly amniotic fluid?!?! also dangling from animals

Sounds like a typical night out in Portsmouth to many of you, but definitely not the sort of thing that I’d ever be caught near. However…

I see’d a baby lamb being born!!!!!

Bleaghhh awwwww

Coombes Farm near Lancing (like many farms recently it seems) has an annual opportunity to go along and see the new lambs. On possibly one of the coldest days of the year I must say I could not have been much happier than when I saw hundreds of baby lambs all cuddled up to or hopping over their mums in the sheds/barns/whatever-they-are. We were also really lucky to see one being born, it was covered in blood and ickkkkk but it was so cool. I think maybe I’ll have one of those baby things now. Hahahahahahahahaa. No.

I king of castle!


Urrr, cooking?!?!?!

Well, let’s not get carried away here. It is true that I make a stunning French Onion Soup and I can boil an egg to soldiery perfection, but this post is about Recipease in Brighton… four of us recently attended the “Unbeatable Filled Pasta” course (mainly as it was the only course available on that date).

There is a maximum of 16 people (in the Brighton location) and it’s incredibly cheap, 35quid for about 2hrs and you get to eat what you make (so it’s important to at least try) with a glass of wine thrown in. They even do a two for one offer during the week.

The actually cookery instructions themselves started off brilliantly and in no time at all we were all squidging out rolls of pasta in our machines without too much swearing. It did go a little haywire later on when the chef was telling us how to make the sauce whilst we were all still concentrating on making the ravioli and tortellini shapes so most of what he said went in one ear and out of the other. However he was a great instructor and came along to help with lots of advice at all times.

£35quid for dinner and a good laugh is pretty unbeatable! By the way, squidging is the correct Italian term for making pasta. Honest.

Recipease Brighton

Perfect Life of Pi

It’s taken me a long time to be able to write about this film… it was so (almost) perfectly perfect in every way that it tunnelled straight through my heart and out the other side – and has managed to cement the book as my favourite of all time.

In the trailer you see the moments before the most pivotal and important scene in the book… when Richard Parker leaves without looking back, without saying goodbye, completely botching the farewell. I don’t think I took a single breath in the minutes up to this moment in the film, would they make it into a sickly Hollywood style happy clappy version? Thankfully, they didn’t, it was the most perfect moment ever and I blubbed through it entirely. I wonder what you thought about it and what you felt?

“What a terrible thing it is to botch a farewell. I am a person who believes in form, in the harmony of order. Where we can, we must give things a meaningful shape. For example – I wonder – could you tell my jumbled story in exactly one hundred chapters, not one more, not one less? I’ll tell you, that’s one thing I hate about my nickname, the way the number runs on forever. It’s important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse. That bungled goodbye hurts me to this day. I wish so much that I’d had one last look at him in the lifeboat, that I’d provoked him a little, so that I was on his mind. I wish I had said to him then – yes, I know, to a tiger, but still – I wish I had said, “Richard Parker, it’s over. We have survived. Can you believe it? I owe you more gratitude than I can express I couldn’t have done it without you. I would like to say it formally: Richard Parker, thank you. Thank you for saving my life. And now go where you must. You have known the confined freedom of a zoo most of your life; now you will know the free confinement of a jungle. I wish you all the best with it. Watch out for Man. He is not your friend. But I hope you will remember me as a friend. I will never forget you , that is certain. You will always be with me, in my heart. What is that hiss? Ah, our boat has touched sand. So farewell, Richard Parker, farewell. God be with you.”

The rest of the film was almost faultless, it didn’t need the girl in it but that’s just the way it is with appealing to demographics, all of the casting was spot on and the computer graphics… wow! It fully deserved its Oscar success for making the unfilmable, filmable.

Funny Life of Pi Cover

John Dies at the End

With a title like John Dies at the End, how could I not want to read this story? (note that the authors next book is called “This book is full of spiders. Seriously, Dude, don’t touch it”!). The story lives up to the title as well, a completely whacky comic horror story with an excellent mix of scary, hideous, hilarious and even touching moments.

Set in an American town labelled “Undisclosed” the story follows two guys, David and John, who meet a freaky guy at a party and end up taking a mind altering substance labeled Soy Sauce which can allow them to basically comprehend the entire unfiltered universe. One of the moments on the soy sauce was my favourite in the book and gives a great flavour of the writing style…

“I said to John, ‘You know that if you walked around the world, your hat would travel thirty-one feet farther than your shoes?’.   John said, ‘I dunno, Dave, but before we make a bomb I have to shave half the dog'”

See! Anyway, the two guys somehow find a link between a parallel universe full of evil and unwillingly begin an adventure to save the world. It’s a really fun story and I’m hoping it’s going to make a great film – especially the monster that is made up of joints of meat to resemble a man, ewww.

Calvin and Hobbes

You know, not a week goes by without me thinking about Calvin and Hobbes, something about the comics really managed to speak to me. I remember sharing the fake last episodes (where Calvin has been taking tablets to help him concentrate and they turn Hobbes back into a stuffed toy) and being incredibly depressed.

Two good things though, firstly the KickStarters project “Dear Mr Watterson” looks like it might be a great film, aiming to discover how the brilliant cartoon strip managed to have such an impact on so many people. Part of me really wants them to be able to interview Bill Watterson, but I know he loves his privacy and has completely leg go of Calvin. But I wonder if he still thinks of him? Secondly, even though there are only currently four comics, I really thought that the “Pants are Overrated” Calvin and Hobbes tributes managed to capture the essence of the originals very well.

I wonder if Calvin and Susie got together? Would that have been far too obvious and sickly sweet? Maybe, but I think it would have been right. Then again him never growing up was probably the best thing possible.

If you’re feeling strong enough, here is the fake cartoon…

The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautiful book that really reminded me of The Memory of Running. The story is incredibly simple, quite twee and predicable but completely and overwhelmingly carried along by Enzo – the dog who narrates the tale. He knows he’s not like other dogs, being able to understand humans after educating himself watching daytime TV while his owner Denny goes off to work and yet he is still very much a dog rather an a human in a dogs body.

The story almost isn’t important, a life story about his owner and his child and wife and various trials they have to go through but I still can’t recommend the book enough. I can’t stand dogs yet Enzo won me over completely and I blubbed through parts of the story without any hope of dignity. The parallels to motor racing (trust me it is not a book about cars!) and how rules of driving on a track in a race can mirror the challenges that life throws up against you are very well done. Buy it and let me know if you loved it, you will!

Hydrogen Sonata

Am sat in sunny and grungy Key West in Florida and have just finished the latest Iain M Banks novel ‘The Hydrogen Sonata‘… It was a brilliant read! But first of all I have to state that the Kindle edition was over 9quid, more than the hardback! So, dear publisher, even though I love his books I hereby promise I’m going to read a pirated version of his next book as a protest.

The story centred on two key concepts of the Culture that I just don’t get… subliming and living forever. Subliming is the process where an entire species or civilisation can decide it’s had enough of life and moves as a whole into a sort of ‘heaven’ where everything is much more perfect. I liked the explanation that this was possible because after subliming you moved into a matter rich dimension so anything was unlimited. In our universe most of it is a vacuum so the opportunities for constant expansion and capability is very much more limited. But still.. It seems odd that an entire civilisation could get so bored of life that it decides to just give up, surely every few years there is a new generation of children being denied their right to live? I can understand that the civilisation might be in a rut but surely not the individuals?

My second confusion comes from one of the characters who seems to be the oldest living person in history… i.e. several thousand years old! Typically in the advanced civilisation of the Culture people only live for a few hundred years… Which again I just don’t get?!?! Surely if you can modify yourself to become any sex or creature you want and live any type of dream life you can imagine without any risk of injury or disease or ageing then MOST people would live for thousands of years?

Anyway, the story itself was fantastic and the humour of the ship Minds really carried the story along. There were also some awesome ship/avatar type battles that I secretly find the best part of his books as it fits well with my mental age of 15. The ending was a bit predicable, well who am I kidding, the ending was predicted from almost the beginning of the book so it’d have been nice to have more of a twist, but overall it was another hit for my favourite author.

Wanders off to a bay with pirates in it

Every colour and then some

I failed miserably to get Olympic tickets in the ballot earlier this year and kind of thought “oh well, it’ll probably be a bit of a joke anyway, Britain won’t get it right”.

Then I watched the opening ceremony in total shock and awe.

Then it got better and better with some amazing sporting events, really positive press and a ridiculous number of gold medals for TeamGB.

And of course Jessica Ennis is pretty cute (as well as Mo of course)

So I spent the final week of the Olympics thinking, shall I buy tickets to the closing ceremony as there were a few very expensive tickets left. My thought patterns went from Yes, No, Yes, Yes, No, No, No every single day as I kept trying (the completely rubbish) for availability of events.

In the end I could resist no longer and a couple of days before the event I bought the tickets and proceeded to PANIC. What if my seats were accidently allocated to someone else? What if the queue to collect the tickets is so long that I don’t get in in time? (rational huh).

Of course I then proceeded to be very calm and chilled out – well… I got to London on Sunday at 10am and went straight to the ticket desk (no queues at all!) and then mooched around the stadium for SIX HOURS before the gates opened (ignoring a quick trip to Tower Hill to catch the marathon runners). I was at the front of the queue for the park entrance, then the front of the queue for the stadium entrance and managed to get to my seat a good 3 hours before the event started, calm eh!

The seats were amazing and apart from nearly killing myself by falling down 43 flights of stairs by leaning on the LED thingie that lit up behind everyones seat only to find it was held on with a cable tie I tried to remain calm. We were all instructed by the pre-show compere of what was expected of us, dancing, waving, single particular lines of songs etc and then the countdown began.

From then on it was pretty much a sensual overload. I seem to remember some bits – Eric Idle, the John Lennon and Freddie Mercury bits, the Kaisers being awesome, crying a lot and screaming a lot more, the beautiful Damien Hirst flag on the stadium floor, the beautiful phoenix covered in flames. But much of the rest of it was a blur of awesomeness.

Then, I realised that I was IN THE SAME ROOM (ok, admittedly I was sharing this ‘room’ with 85000 other people) as Alessandra Ambrosio! It couldn’t get any better than that… apart from the stunning fireworks at the end. I like to think the fireworks went off when she caught my eye, right?


OK so I’m going to bundle all three of these stunning trailers into one post so you can overdose on their beauty…

First up the actual trailer for the Life of Pi movie… one of my favourite books of all time as I’ve mentioned many times before. The trailer is incredibly beautiful… but… is it almost TOO colourful? I did love it but have a slight worry that it’s going to look like CGI (which of course it is) too much. Spoiler warning, it even has the most beautiful scene from the book, the moment when Richard Parker leaves Pi.

Second up we have the 6 minute long trailer of Cloud Atlas, a book I struggled with on the first read, mainly because I was a bit dim when it came to threading all the stories together. However the film looks stunning and reminds me to read the book again before it comes out. Also unsurprisingly features “Jim Broadbent looking confused”…

p.s. This trailer may wall disappear as there seem to be a lot of take-down requests going on at Youtube

Finally if stories are just too much like hard work then Samsara might just be the thing for you. It’s by Ron Fricke, the same guy who filmed the amazingly titled Koyaanisqatsi which is just an amazing visual and audible experience to have on in the background on a big TV. Samsara (which means ‘The ever turning wheel of life’) has taken 5 years to make over 25 countries and is a showcase for all that is amazing about mankind. Also interesting is that it was filmed, yes filmed, on 70mm!

I can’t embed this one so just follow the link