Zoinks, Scoob!

Halloween is fast approaching. We always enjoy Halloween a little too much, mainly for the cuteness of the trick-or-treaters in these parts. And that was before we had our own offspring. Obviously Anna is still too young to participate this year (although Mummy and Daddy may have perpetrated a halloween babygrow… you’ll just have to wait until the day in question for the unforgiveable photos).

However I’m currently lacking anything spooky to watch. The trouble is my brain is too demanding. I’m a sceptic who desperately likes being creeped out but has to find things that sneak past my hokum-detectors and let me suspend my disbelief. I generally don’t like gory horror movies, I’m not remotely interesting in things like Saw, I can’t stand creduluous ‘documentary’ series about ghosts, and I’d rather gouge Derek Acorah’s eyes out than watch Most Haunted. If only there was a genuinely rigorous, scientifically minded documentary about the supernatural that could still leave me with chills I’d be very happy.

I like things that give me a little frisson of unease, and I’ve run out of inspiration. In past years we’ve watched Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape, Children of the Stones, the film version of Quatermass and the Pit, Night of the Demon, the Robert Wise version of The Haunting, and even The Horror of Fang Rock. Last Christmas I really enjoyed Mark Gatiss’s Crooked House, particularly the third and final part.

So, here’s a plea. Can anyone recommend anything along those lines to creep me out this Halloween?


My latest film watching is here. Wonderfully we’ve been able to sneak out and see films at the cinema two weekends in a row.

Anna’s been fantastically well-behaved recently, and even slept for five hours straight last night. That’s five whole hours of sleep. I know. Also she’s just started smiling a little bit, which is a huge psychological breakthrough. She particularly loves it if you imitate her little chirrups and gurgles, which results in a delighted smile. Most of the time she sounds suspiciously like a mogwai, which is slightly worrying since we’ve been feeding her after midnight.

All the mope ever

Tom McRae has released a live album through his website shop. He sounds great live, and it’s a decent track selection recorded at various venues around Europe last year. Mine’s already on order.

Meanwhile the irrepressible Dan “Don’t call me irrepressible” Hartland has a rootsy new EP out. But you knew that. I was lazy and bought it on iTunes.

Anyway, all this leaves me musing…

Dear (ebook) reader

My wife asks me to put the following issue to the enlightened denizens of LiveJournal. Since I don’t know any, I’m asking you lot.

For some time now (and specifically after seeing them on The Gadget Show) Janet has been considering getting an ebook reader.

You must understand that my wife reads a lot of books. She owns a lot of books. She owns a lot of books she hasn’t even read. She and books share an understanding. She even makes books. It’s not that she wants to replace books.

However she does think that it would be cool to download books: it would save on shelf space, and it would be handy when going on holiday. Now that ebook readers use ‘e-paper’ that doesn’t flicker or tire the eyes but looks just like printed text on a page, she’s getting really tempted. It’s this Sony model which has caught her eye.

On the plus side it looks decent, is small and light, gets good reviews and supports a variety of formats including the new standard “epub” file, audio and image files. Waterstones are promoting it and if she orders it by 3rd September you get 500 bonus points. They’ll have more than 25,000 ebooks to buy from September. She could download new books instantly, and cart them around. Plus she’d be living in Teh Futur.

On the down side it’s still pretty costly (circa £200), and the technology is still in its infancy so it could quickly become out of date (e.g. although it can display images the screen is currently only black and white). Also the files seem to generally come with DRM restricting how you can use them — i.e. a max of six devices — which seems like it goes against the spirit of a book. Most worrying of all, there are proprietary formats it can’t play (including Amazon Kindle) so you can’t necessarily just download ebooks from the US where they are plentiful. This last one is really what’s made her stop and think.

Personally I suspect that I’d love to own one of these but I’d never actually use it. I’m also incredibly materialistic and like having shelves full of *things*. I still buy CDs, even though I immediately convert them to mp3. I’m also not keen on the inverted “negative” image you get for a moment whenever the page changes, which can be seen on this video.

Opinions and anecdotes gratefully received. She’ll probably ignore you and do what she was going to do anyway, but you never know…

What’s it got in its pockets?

For reasons best known to my brain I’ve become fascinated by the new UK coinage in which each coin is a circular section out of a larger image.

Specifically I’m interested in the fact that I’ve still only seen 1p, 2p and 5p coins. Is this just brownian motion in action? Are there so many more of these coins compared to the others? Are the higher denominations simply not out yet? Is it because I live in The North where civilisation frays at the edges? Are you all hoarding them?

This calls for a poll. Which of these new coins have you actually seen?

Enquiring minds need to know.

The Hobbit 2: The Revenge

Guillermo Del Toro will be filming not one but two Hobbit movies. The first to be based on a book by J.R.R.Tolkien called “The Hobbit”. The second… less so. He states:

‘The Hobbit’, the book, is really one self-contained film, so for the second movie we sat down and worked it out. When we did this we got really excited because this second film is not a ‘tag on’, it’s not ‘filler’, it’s an integral part of telling the story of those 50 years of history lost in the narrative. There will be certain things that we will see from the first movie but from a different point of view, but it will feel like a volume, in the 5 volumes of the entire story. It will not feel like a bridge, I’ve been hearing it called ‘a bridge film’, it’s not, it’s an integral chapter of the story, and I think we’re all on the same page.

Which brings up the burning question: what will the second film be called? And burning questions call for polls. snowking has already suggested a few additional names which I’ve shamelessly tacked on the end.

This has the added advantage that if they use any of our titles we’ll clearly be paid off with a fat settlement.


Following on from the Battlefield Extraction Assist Robot (BEAR) (aka Johnny Five) the US military are developing yet another robot to do helpful things on the battlefield like run amok and kill everyone carry the soldiers’ kit. It’s called ‘BigDog’, presumably because ‘K-9’ was already taken.

This video is amazing. The way that it keeps its footing when it’s pushed or when it slips is quite uncanny. It’s also strangely creepy in the alive-but-not-alive signals it sends. The sinister buzzing noise is not helping.

Time for a poll, then.

Film 2007

I’ve already posted the outcome of one of last year’s resolutions, which was to Read More Books! Nine whole books. Kinda pitiful, ain’t it? You can say it.

Movie-wise I managed a more respectable 31 films seen for the first time last year. Only 15 of these were at the cinema, which is not quite enough to justify paying Cineworld £10.99 a month for the privilege of sitting at home feeling too knackered to go out.

Films I saw