Tales from the Bitface (version 4.0)

Our Man Flint, 1966 - ★★½

 

I remember seeing this as a kid and absolutely loving it. We talked about it at school, probably played at being Flint.

It’s a Bond spoof. James Coburn as Flint is a super agent who is brought out of retirement to save the world from some mad scientists who are controlling the weather.

I only remembered two thing about it. His ability to stop his heart for maximum rest, and the device in his watch that got him started again; and his lighter, with ‘82 functions… 83 if you want to light a cigar.’

It’s daft nonsense, but fun in places. There’s even a lesser agent called 0008 (Triple Oh Eight) who tells him ‘It’s bigger than SPECTRE.)

Watched on Saturday February 4, 2023.


Tár, 2022 - ★★★★

Tár is a much-discussed, disputed, disagreed-upon tour de force. Not since Moonlight have I read so much about a film after seeing it.

Lydia Tár is a conductor who is rehearsing with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for what should be the pinnacle of her career, a live recording of Mahler's Symphony No 5. But she has a past, and it's coming to get her.

Perhaps my favourite interpretation is the too-long-titled 'Tár Is the Most-Talked-About Movie of the Year. So Why Is Everyone Talking About It All Wrong?', from Slate. It posits that the last third or so is, essentially, fantasy, hallucination, or similar.

There's a lot to get out of this — not least encouraging me to listen to Mahler's Fifth — and I'm looking forward to watching it again.


Currently reading: Poems by Iain Banks and Ken MacLeod 📚


Us old types are told that youngsters don’t like punctuation. Full stops in texts sound angry, etc. But I find an unpunctuated message incomplete. You’re left hanging, waiting for the rest. I just got a message at work that said:

Great

Great what? Balls of fire?


It’s the 31st of January, and daffodils are out.


The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua (Books 2023, 3) 📚

Fantastic graphic novel about the inventor of the Difference and Analytical Engines and the first programmer.

Together they fight crime.

Well, not quite. But they do meet Wellington, Brunel, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), Mary Ann Evans (George Elliot), and other famous Victorians, and have adventures.

A fabulous romp.


Bomber Jackson Does Some by Bob Boyton (Books 2023, 2) 📚

First, cards on the table, Bob is a friend of mine. Bomber Jackson Does Some is his first novel, self-published in 2012. He gave us a copy back then, and it’s taken me till now to read it.

Just because of the size of my to-read piles, not any quality concerns.

Bomber is an ex-boxer and an alcoholic. At the start of the novel he has just got out of prison. As you might imagine from such a setup, things largely go downhill from there. His thoughts include a fair amount of slang, some of which I didn’t understand, but the meaning was usually clear from context. For example, he refers to two homeless men as ‘real old-fashioned paraffins’. Paraffin lamp = tramp, I assume.

It’s written in first person, present tense, which I think is quite a hard voice to sustain. Bob does a good job of getting us inside Bomber’s head, and the story flows along at fine old rate.

All in all, top stuff. Recommended if you can get hold of a copy.


All Quiet on the Western Front, 2022 - ★★★

Watched on Saturday January 21, 2023.


The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years, 2016 - ★★★★½

Watched on Tuesday January 17, 2023.


Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, 2022 - ★★★

The usual Marvel daftness. I enjoyed it, but really, there's just so much of this stuff now that it's become ridiculous.

And I kind of hate what they've done to Wanda between this and WandaVision, which this kind of follows straight on from


The first snowdrops are out in London.


Summer of Soul (...or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), 2021 - ★★★★

Excellent documentary about the Harlem Cultural Festival, an outdoor music festival in 1969. The same year as Woodstock, but much less well-known. The footage was shot at the time, but lay in a basement for fifty years, because the then-filmmakers couldn't get it broadcast.

We get Nina Simone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Sly & the Family Stone, Mahalia Jackson, Stevie Wonder…

If I have a complaint it's that I'd like there to be more of the music and less of the interviews. Or not less of them: the interviews are good. I especially liked the ones that started with some of the surviving performers watching their younger selves. But for most of the acts we just get one song, and an interview gets superimposed over part of it.

Well worth a watch, though.


Together We Will Go by J Michael Straczynski (Books 2023, 1) 📚

Content warning: suicide

The first book of the year. JMS of Babylon 5 fame tells the story of a group of people who, each for their own varied reason, want to end their life.

One of their number arranges a final bus trip, across the USA, with the plan being to drive off a cliff in California. There are legal implications, so the law gets involved.

It’s desperately sad, yet happy and life-affirming at the same time. It’s told through first-person accounts of each of the characters, who have been asked to journal their experience. They’re very well-developed and you grow attached to them.

So you don’t want them to die. But you do want them to make it.


Went for the first swim of the year this morning. And if the app for the pool is to be believed, I haven’t been since March last year (not counting holidays). That whole ‘work getting in the way of things’ I was talking about yesterday. Or being a good excuse, at least.

They had a sign up warning that the pool temperature was only 23.7°C. It was fine once I got going, though.


A Look Back at my 2022

The Year in Blogging

Only 98 posts in 2022, broken down as follows.

Month Posts
Jan 11
Feb 11
Mar 7
Apr 5
May 2
Jun 5
Jul 4
Aug 6
Sep 11
Oct 7
Nov 11
Dec 18

I’m shocked that I posted less than 100 times, but there you go. I’ve been busy with other things.

Other Things

Writing a Novel

What time I had for writing outside of work, I tried to spend mainly on completing my novel. You’ll recall that I did a Creative Writing MA in 2020–21. I graduated in May 2022. My dissertation was essentially the first 15,000 words of a novel (along with a preface on how it had all come together). I promised myself that I’d finish it by the end of the year. I haven’t quite achieved that goal, but I expect to in the next couple of weeks.

New Job

But to that ‘outside of work’, above: I started a new job in February. I never quite got round to writing about it here, except on my /now page, which is an infrequently-maintained page that’s meant to say what I’m up to at any time. I was and am glad to have it, of course, but it’s amazing how much working 9–5:30 again takes away from your ability to do other things.

The job itself? I was employed as a Java Developer — that’s literally in my job title — and I have written precisely zero lines of Java.

Instead, I found myself plunged into the exciting new world of infrastructure as code, or IaC, and the Terraform language. I might write more about that at some point, but in short, it seems I work in DevOps now, and I’m enjoying it.

Digression: On Writing at Work

I’ve written over 70,000 words of a novel over the past year-and-a-half or so. But since February I’ve written something like 100,000 words at work. This comes from keeping copious notes on what I’ve being doing and what I’ve learned, and so on. I thank Obsidian for making it easy to do so, and for working in a way that matches how I want to work. But I wonder: why didn’t I keep notes like this before? I always wrote things down, of course, but not this systematically, this comprehensively.

It’s a mystery.

Jury Duty

In May I spent three weeks on a Jury at Wood Green Crown Court. That was an interesting experience. I might write more about it one day.

Etc

And all the other things that make up life. Hey, I even read 33 books last year!


RRR, 2022 - ★★★½

A mad, wild ride, by turns gruesome and hilarious. It's essentially a superhero bromance set in India during the Raj.

A lot of fun, but maybe just a tad too long at over three hours? Good way to see out the old year and see in the new, though.


Happy New Year!!!


The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (Books 2022, 33) 📚

Not just another murder mystery, but an undeniably cosy one. OK, the deaths aren’t cosy, obviously, but the mood and vibe of the book certainly is.

The club in question is made up of four residents at a retirement village. They start out by speculatively investigating cold cases that a former member, who had been a police officer, had records of. But soon a hot case lands right in front of them, and things get interesting.

It’s hilarious in places, moving, well-plotted, and, let’s face it, a tad unconvincing. But you don’t let that bother you while you’re reading it.

Which you should do.


Knives Out, 2019 - ★★★★

Watching the sequel the other day led us to a rewatch of the original. I see I only gave it three and a half stars (though no comments) in 2019. I’d probably tend toward four now, because I’m feeling more generous.

A murder mystery. If it wasn’t for alliteration, would that be such a popular genre?


Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, 2022 - ★★★★

Fun murder mystery.


The Perfume Burned His Eyes by Michael Imperioli (Books 2022, 32) 📚

As any fan will realise instantly, the title of this comes from Lou Reed’s ‘Romeo Had Juliet’. So that’s going to draw my interest right away. Then from the blurb we learn that Lou himself is a character in the story.

Turns out it’s a kind of coming-of-age novel about a seventeen-year-old boy from Queens in 1976 or so, who moves with his mother to Manhattan, and into the block where Lou Reed is also living. The boy, Matt, becomes something of a friend/assistant to Lou for a while.

In a parallel narrative, Matt falls for a girl at his new school, who might be involved in some withcrafty kind of stuff. It’s not obvious exactly how the timelines of the two strands relate, but things come to a head — or a couple of heads, you could say.

The book closes with a chapter entitled ‘Afterwords’ (note the plural) in which the narrator — or the author — writes after Lou’s death. This section makes it seem as if the early section was based on real events. The author is a successful actor, so who knows?

I want to quote this from that last section, about Lou’s music, because I love it:

And more than anything else, it was punk. Which should come as no surprise since you were its creator. I don’t care what Detroit says, you were doing it when Iggy was a mere Osterberg and Kramer was trying to figure out who the other four would be. As for the lads from my neck of the woods (famous for their “One, two, three, four” count-off and three power chords) who are considered by some as the progenitors of the movement… well, that just makes no sense chronologically or otherwise. Not to mention (but I will) that they basically wrote the same song over and over again. And however great a song it may be, it renders deep catalog cuts redundant. Sorry, kids, I guess you had to be there—on the Bowery when it happened. But I wasn’t.

And the same goes for the little London boy. Just the first few sentences you speak to the audience on Take No Prisoners relegates John-John to a corner with some crayons and a finger up his nose. The revolution you started was one of art and intellect. It inspired the defeat of tyranny in Czechoslovakia, for Christ’s sake. God save the queen, indeed.

‘The little London boy.’ 😀

Something about the length, the writing style, and the age of the narrator, suggests that this book should or would be considered young-adult (YA). But the Lou Reed connection makes it much more likely that people in my age group will be drawn to it. I don’t know what that means.

I enjoyed it, anyway. And it was a Christmas present from my daughter.


Nothing Compares, 2022 - ★★★½

Great documentary about the wonderful Sinéad O’Connor.

A bit light on her music, mainly having fragments of live performances and TV appearances like Whistle Test and Top of the Pops

I was assuming that was because they couldn’t get the rights, and at the end they said in a caption that Prince’s estate had refused to let them use the near-titular ‘2U’ track. Which is a bit wanky of them.


🅦🅞🅡🅓🄸🄿🄻🅈 #6
🌟 Length Score: 78%
🚀 Letter Score: 68
🔗 Play Wordiply: www.wordiply.com
🎬 Today’s starter: 🄲🄰🅃


The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2014 - ★★★★

So after downgrading this the last time we watched it as a family, a Boxing Day re-rewatch leads me to boost it back up you four stars. 

Mood and state of mind can have a large effect on enjoyment, clearly. Who’d have thought?


Rocannon's World by Ursula Le Guin (Books 2022, 31) 📚

I’m quite pleased to have read as many as 31 books this year. Not sure quite how I’ve managed it, what with writing my own, and starting a new job, and all. Partly a lot of rereading of page-turners, of course.

Le Guin’s Rocannon’s World was not a reread for me, though I’ve had it on my shelf for years. Bought second-hand, I’m sure, I don’t recall where or when, but it’s an edition from 1978. And it’s a super-slim volume. It probably wouldn’t be classified as a novel at all, in today’s publishing world. It’s kind of a slight story, about a person from an advanced species — an Earth-human, essentially — getting stranded on a planet at bronze-age levels of technology, with various species of native humanoid.

The titular Rocannon has to make his way across the world to find the other high-level aliens who have caused him to be stranded, avenge himself, warn his people about their aggression, and maybe try to get rescued.

It’s not bad, but it’s maybe most notable for being, I believe, the place where Le Guin first used the term Ansible for s faster-than-light communicaiton device. She went on to use it in many other novels, and other SF authors adopted it.

And now it’s also the name for something in IT automation. Infrastructure as code. Of which concept, though not Ansible, more later, probably.