Books meme

Books I am currently reading:

‘Confessions of a Conjuror’ – Derren Brown. I’m not very far through it, but so far it’s part autobiography, part free association — an intriguingly stream of consciousness collection of thoughts and observations on magic, life, art and Brown’s own past. The observations are framed by a well-written, painstakingly detailed account of an evening spent roving a restaurant as the house magician.

I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction recently. The last fiction book I read was probably ‘The Naming of the Beasts’ by Mike Carey, the fourth in the enjoyable and intelligently pulpy Felix Castor series.

Book I am currently writing:

None unless you count my twitter account. (I did once write a fantasy novel in my teens, but the least said about that the better.)

Books I love most:

Tough call this. There are books I read and re-read obsessively in my youth, books that have moved me to tears, and books that have dazzled me. But the one that made the biggest impact on me in the last decade was undoubtedly ‘The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark’ by Carl Sagan. It’s a book about open-minded skepticism, the spirit of scientific enquiry and the debunking of pseudoscientific thinking. It chimed with my views on the Universe so precisely, and helped to crystalise them. I’ve read other similar books since, but none that bettered it.

The last book I received as a gift:

‘Why Evolution is True’ – Jerry A. Coyne, probably the best pop science book I’ve read on evolution. Some of Dawkin’s evolution books (such as Climbing Mount Improbable) are more rewardingly in-depth and feature more mind-blowingly complex examples. However as a comprehensive introduction to, and collation of the evidence for, evolution by natural selection this is far superior to Dawkins’ ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’. It’s just a shame it’s unlikely to ever be read by anyone who isn’t already convinced.

The last book I gave as a gift:

‘Emily Brown and the Elephant Emergency’ by Cressida Cowell. A gift for my daughter whose seemingly inexhaustible thirst for ‘stories’ is highly pleasing (even if she’s more than slightly obsessed with Miffy at the moment). We saw David Tennant read this book on CBeebies Bedtime Hour over Christmas, which he did brilliantly, subsequently dipped our toe in the water with the other books in the series, and followed up this one. A droll and witty book full of surreal imagination and a firm ‘self-rescuing’ type of heroine.

The nearest book on my desk:

‘Servant of the Underworld’ by Aliette de Bodard. It belongs to my wife whose seemingly inexhaustible thirst for books of all genres out-strips even our daughter’s. According to the cover quote it’s about an Aztec priest of the dead who tries to solve a murder mystery so I’m guessing it’s the pre-Columbian equivalent of Cadfael.

Last book I bought for myself:

‘The Final Solution’ – Michael Chabon. A spare, elegant tale of Sherlock Holmes in extreme old age, and the spectre of the Holocaust.

But seriously

I’m not about to defend whatever bad taste prank Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross inflicted on Andrew Sachs, but really this whole thing is snowballing quite ridiculously. Apparently Ross has apologised and Sachs is happy with that, but the number of complaints by people outraged on his behalf is still going up — about a radio show that aired nearly a fortnight ago, and which most people complaining have not even heard. Suddenly, eleven days later, there are calls for the two ‘stars’ to resign. Or even for the DG of the BBC to resign. And now we have Gordon Brown and David Cameron weighing in; no doubt in a desperate attempt from both to appear relevant and in touch with the common folk.

My mob-mentality sense is tingling. We’re in one of those horrendous, self-righteous tabloid feedback loops where public opinion and media coverage escalate in lock-step. That’s not to say I like Russell Brand or approve of making offensive phone calls, but seriously folks.

Me and My Movies

Ooh. I’ve been nominated by weyoun_one

1) Total number of films I own on DVD/video:

Just over 100 on DVD, plus loads of TV shows. I feel like I’m still building my collection. I do still have another 80-odd movies on VHS tapes, but they don’t count. 🙂 No doubt in 5 years time I’ll be replacing my current DVDs with high definition versions…

2) The last film I bought:

The Two Jakes. (I showed Janet Chinatown, which she liked, so I figured the slightly inferior sequel was worth a go). Also Kagemusha (The Shadow Warrior) and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Now there’s a mix.

3) The last film I watched:

Kingdom of Heaven, and before that, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

4) Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me:

I should really have five SF movies and five other movies, as I’m liable to squander all my choices on bad skiffy. 🙂

The Empire Strikes Back The film I’ve watched the most is easily Star Wars, but I’ll pick Empire because it’s just So Damn Good. Also, the film they f*cked up least in the Special Edition.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I am unashamed and unrepentant in my love for The Wrath of Khan, my next most-watched movie. Despite being pure pulp fiction from start to finish it does at least combine great characterisation, loads of neat little literary references, and cool space battles in equal measure. Plus it actually lets Kirk grow up, before later movies turn him back into a caricature.

The Third Man. It’s ages since I last saw this film, but it’s always a wonderful experience. Incredible black and white cinematography, an interesting plot, a lovely desperate mood, and some smart dialogue. Not to mention the sewer chase at the end, and oh yes that bloke who sounds like The Brain.

Miller’s Crossing. Easily my favourite Cohen Brothers movie, and a great gangster film. The score is marvellous (even if they did nick it for Murphy’s commercials) and the sheer emotional sweep and set pieces are to die for. Gabriel Byrne is a great protagonist and makes the most of a really snappy script.

Jaws Unlike the sequels, it’s not really a monster movie (at least for me) but a unique blend of buddy movie and rites of passage drama in which the stars are three middle aged blokes. It’s the cast who make it: I can wallow in the character interplay in this film. I should also praise all the great bits of John Williams’ score that aren’t the famous bit.

I was thinking of putting North by Northwest, Curse of the Demon, Quatermass and the Pit, The French Connection and Forbidden Planet in here too, plus about 90 other movies…

5) Pick on five people and have them put this in their journal:

Hokay… people who don’t talk about movies much seem to include: ajp, tinimaus, veggiesu, mattia, and majuran.