Monthly Archives: December 2009

2009 Round-up

In a noble tradition stretching back to, oooooh, 2007, here’s a quick round-up of the year.

Weight

This all went a bit pear-shaped this year, as indeed did I. At the start of the year, I weighed 216 pounds (15 stone 6 pounds, 98 kg), and I now weigh 228 pounds (16 stone 4 pounds, 103.4 kg), a slightly alarming increase of 12 pounds (5.4 kg), or an average of a pound each month. Worse still, that’s just 7 pounds less than I was when I started trying to lose weight in late 2003.

Posting

Somewhat down on recent years.

2003: 2 posts
2004: 515 posts
2005: 576 posts
2006: 620 posts
2007: 747 posts
2008: 833 posts
2009: 718 posts

You can see the monthly totals on the Archives page, if you’re interested in such details.

And finally…

Happy New Year to anyone and everyone who reads this stuff. Let’s hope for a good one….

December 2009 Round-up

Yes, this is appearing a little late, as I didn’t have the wossnames to do it yesterday[1]. Anyway, here we go again, with the eagerly-awaited[6] end of month report:

Weight

Having not taken a weight measurement since the end of September, I thought I should bite the metaphorical bullet and put in an end of year figure. Well, it’s technically a start of year figure, but let’s just pretend, OK?

September 30: 221 pounds (15 stone 11 pounds, 100.2 kg)
December 31: 228 pounds (16 stone 4 pounds, 103.4 kg)
Difference: A rise of 7 pounds in three months

Eating

With the odd spot of naughtiness here and there, I’ve generally been avoiding the sausage rolls at lunchtime, and not generally eating too much.

Exercise

I’ve managed a few walks to work and even one or two walks home, but I haven’t managed to get myself on the exercise bike since my last report.

Posting

Well, it was a slow start, but as you might have seen, I’ve started making some longer posts recently. The total for this month will be 13 (there’s another post to come after this), which is more than last month, but still very low by my standards.

Stuff

Well, a bit of a mixture. I’ve made some moderate progress on my new photo site, with more planned over the next few days before I go back to work. Otherwise, I’ve been moderately inactive.

[1] Any suggestion that my failure to post on the last day of the year had anything to do with having a glass[2] or two[3] of wine at lunch[4] will of course, be denied
[2] Or bottle
[3] Or four[5]
[4] Looooong lunch
[5] Not on my own, I hasten to add
[6] Or not

Sherlock Holmes – Movie Mutterings

I’ve mentioned once or twice before that I’m a Sherlock Holmes fan. That’s a fan of the original books rather than any movie or TV interpretations, you understand. While I’ll generally enjoy watching a Holmes movie or TV show, they rarely manage to capture the spirit of Conan Doyle’s stories, and all too often fall into the trap of copying from earlier (bad) movies rather than looking at the source material. Personally, I detest the classic Basil Rathbone movies – not so much for the tendency to have Holmes wearing a deerstalker hat at, err, the drop of a hat, but for portraying Watson as a bumbling idiot, which in the stories he most definitely is not – he may seem dim at times, but that’s because he’s standing next to Holmes, and everyone seems a bit dim when he’s around.

For me, the most honourable exception to this was the moderately long running TV series starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes. The adaptations were mostly faithful to the original stories[1], and Brett played Holmes in a manner which suggested that he’d actually read the source material. And Watson, played initially by David Burke, then by Edward Hardwicke, was far from being a fool. All very well done, and the standard by which all Holmes adaptations should be judged.

There were some moderately good adaptations made in the 1960s, with Peter Cushing as Holmes – not badly done, but some of the changes to the stories were odd. I can understand longer stories being simplified to fit the time available, but having done that, odd side plots were actually added in some cases, which made little sense to me.

All of which leads me up to the new Sherlock Holmes movie. I’d heard about this some time ago, and initial reports led me to believe this might be something I wouldn’t appreciate. Directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey, Jr as Holmes, it sounded suspiciously like it might be a silly action-fest…

I saw TV ads and trailers which looked intriguing enough to persuade me to book a ticket[2]. Besides, it was a good excuse to see the shiny new Odeon at the MetroCentre. Getting there took a while, as the bus was stuck in traffic. And the cinema was busy, with a long queue at the box office, and even long queues at the fancy self-service machines. But I got my ticket in plenty of time and sat down to watch the movie.

And, well. You know, for a twenty-first century actionish take on Holmes, it wasn’t at all bad. Certainly liberties were taken – Downey’s Holmes was a little too scruffy all the time, rather than just some of the time. The buddy movie bickering between Holmes and Watson was pure Hollyweird rather than genuine Victorian gentleman stuff, but it did manage to establish the mutual respect and affection that the men had, which would have been harder to establish otherwise. Jude Law’s Watson, however, was frankly bloody excellent – intelligent, charming, and a useful man to have at your side when there’s trouble around.

There is, of course, a lot of trouble around, which is where the movie makes its biggest departure from the source. In the original stories, most of the crimes are small-scale villainy, and in some no crimes at all are committed. But this is a blockbuster movie, so there has to be a seriously big and seriously fiendish plot, with a Evil Villain out to take over the country, and subsequently the world. The villain has some tricks, and a Fiendish Device, and is clearly what you might call a bit differently sane. In short, he’s a nineteenth century Bond Villain. All of which isn’t very Conan Doyle, but it does end up being enormous fun.

Supporting characters include Holmes’s old adversary Irene Adler – in an unknown adventure, their paths have crossed for a second time after the events of A Scandal in Bohemia, and it seems she outwitted him that time, too. They clearly have a fascination for each other, but who is her secretive employer[3], and what does he want?

Also along for the ride is Mary Morstan, soon to marry Watson. Her original appearance was in The Sign of Four, but that’s been dropped – here, she’s just someone that Watson has met. Watson is preparing to move out of Baker Street, and Holmes is not at all happy about it, which is the source of much of the movie’s humour.

And of course, there’s London itself. Lovingly created, with streets full of mud and horse poop, and Tower Bridge under construction, it forms the perfect backdrop to the story.

So, overall, this was a nicely entertaining movie. Not particularly authentic in terms of the original stories, but getting the spirit of them far more right than I was expecting, even down to including authentic lines of Holmes dialogue from time to time. I’ll be quite happy to watch it again when the DVD comes out.

[1] Some changes were made here and there, but none were too annoying
[2] Did it online while I was in Wales last week
[3] OK, it’s not actually a secret, but I’m trying to keep this spoiler-free.

The New Annotated “Dracula”


You might recall me mentioning the quite lovely New Annotated Sherlock Holmes a while ago[1]. When I read those books, I was impressed with both the content and the presentation. Having had enormous fun by working from the premise that Sherlock Holmes was a real person, and that the stories are disguised accounts of real events[2], editor Leslie S Klinger decided that he’d like another project. And so he turned his attention to that other key figure of the late 19th Century: Count Dracula.

The book is produced to the same beautiful standard as the Holmes volumes – no slipcase this time, but it’s big, on good quality paper with clear print and numerous illustrations.

Klinger analyses the numerous documents (diaries, letters, newspaper reports…) that make up Bram Stoker’s novel, and attempts to make sense of them – what has been disguised, what has been omitted and why. He compares the published novel to the manuscript, Stoker’s notes and the little-known 1901 abridged edition.

And having done his research (based, of course, on the assumption that the novel is a disguised account of real events[3]), he draws some alarming conclusions. Dracula (not his real name, of course) not only was real, but was not destroyed as the novel claimed.

Quite apart from the notes throughout the text – all nicely laid out to keep page-flipping to a minimum – there are essays on the dating of the events, Dracula’s appearances in print and on screen, and more.

If you’ve ever read and enjoyed the original book, you may well enjoy this. If you only know the Count (not his real title, of course) through movies, this might be the ideal opportunity to learn a lot more about him.

Seriously good stuff, strongly recommended.

[1] Oh. It seems it was nearly four years ago, so you’ll be forgiven if you don’t remember
[2] It made the notes and supporting material a lot more interesting and fun
[3] When interviewed in Fortean Times why he did this, he replied “because it’s fun”. Good answer.

Latest New Look

Yes, I know this site seems to get new looks more often than I shave, but it’s all part of the wossname. Thingy. Process. Or something.

What I’ve been trying for is a much simpler, cleaner layout that supports all the current entertaining features of WordPress, like threaded comments. My own Frankentheme was falling apart under the weight of numerous edits, adaptations, tweaks, twists, experiments and the like. That’s what led me to try a few things like Sandbox, then Carrington and most recently, Evanescence.

All of them had their strong points, but somehow weren’t quite what I was after. Then I discovered the quite remarkably clever Elastic Theme Editor plugin. It’s still in the early stages of development, but what there is so far is very nice indeed. The plugin lets you choose the layout for a theme – number, width and position of columns, and lets you control basic font settings. Once you’ve done that, you can save it as a new theme. You’ll probably want to make some edits to the themes you create, but they make a good starting point.

I’ve tweaked this one, which I call Loose Elastic[1] to have a much smaller header, and to change a few things here and there.

It may change some more, of course…

[1] Losing it[1], Elastic, etc…

Doctor Who – The End of Time, Part One

Ooooooooh! Now that was FUN.

I’ll avoid the plot summary and anything spoilerish until after next week’s concluding part, but I can safely say the following, which isn’t at all secret:

The Master is back and more gloriously bonkers than ever. You might have thought John Simm turned the knobs up all the way the last time we saw him, but he appears to have found a new set of knobs which go all the way up to, oooh, several billion, and was in danger of breaking them…

As always, he’s got an Evil (and indeed, Cunning) Plan, designed to make the Doctor unhappy, with unfortunate side-effects for several[1] other people.

There’s a mysterious alien artifact, some disguised aliens, a moderately large explosion[2], the Master has some new tricks, the Doctor’s got a new trick of his own, the Ood are still a bit ood odd, and Wilf[3] is still quite wonderful.

Now all that would be quite a good start for a nicely dramatic two-parter, but there is, as you might expect from Russell T Davies, more. For a start, you might be wondering about that bloke doing the narration. Who is he, and how does he know so much? And just what is it that is apparently coming back?

Well, I had my guesses, and a few on-set photos I’d seen had led me to suspect, and it appears I was right[4]. Something’s coming back indeed, and it looks like it’s going to be causing even more trouble for the Doctor.

The final part is on New Year’s Day at 6pm on BBC One and the BBC HD Channel, and is a wee bit longer than the usual special at 75 minutes. A full review with actual, you know, details, will follow after that.

[1] This may be a moderate understatement. I do that now and then.
[2] See previous footnote
[3] Donna’s grandfather, do keep up…
[4] But obviously, I’m not giving any details away. Other sites may differ.

Photography Site Update

Update: There is now a new new photography site Les Bessant Photography

As I mentioned recently, I’ve been working on my new photo site. In fact, I’ve been making some moderately significant progress since then.

As you’ll see if you visit Les Bessant Photography, I’ve built up the Gallery Index page to include most of the top level galleries. Not all of them lead to any content, but I’m adding albums now, so keep checking[1].

There are a reasonable number of pictures to see, and you can either view individual images or relax and enjoy a slideshow.

I’ll be adding even more pictures over the next week or so.

[1] Should you be so inclined. It’s not compulsory.

WideMail is Back!!

As I mentioned when I upgraded to Snow Leopard, one of the problems was that the excellent Mail.app add-in Widemail didn’t work any more. I found something else that does a similar job, but not quite in the way I found useful about Widemail. Dane Harnett, the developer said at the time that he was working on a new version and finding it tricky, but with no updates since late August, I’d begun to think he’d moved on to other projects…

So imagine my surprise when an update to the Widemail site popped up in NetNewsWire this morning. As an extra special Christmas treat, Dane has released a beta of Widemail 2.0, which is for Snow Leopard only. I removed the other wide thingy I was using and installed the beta almost immediately.

And Woo! Hoo! It works! No observed issues with it so far, and now I have mail displaying things in a format I find much more useful.

So, what’s going on, then?

As you might have gathered from the relative silence around here, I’ve been spending a lot less time writing stuff this year. Partly it’s a motivation thing, partly a having other things to do, and partly the kind of wossnameness[1] that sets in after running a site for over five years.

I’m considering starting a new blog which will live with the new photo site – and I’ll be adding more content to that over the next couple of happily work-free weeks. That won’t be a frequently updated one, but it’ll have my photography-related stuff on it, and perhaps the occasional mutter. This site will stay where it is, complete with the old photo galleries[2]. If I find some tuits, I’ll get back to the DVD, book and music reviews, but don’t hold your breath…

[1] You know – thingy
[2] The alternative would be editing hundreds of old posts, removing links to Gallery, inserting new links to the new site, and would be quite tedious.