Daily Archives: Sunday, 26th Jul 2015

Weight and Stuff Report – 26 July 2015

I’m not at all sure about today’s weight figure. Either I’ve added a few pounds, or the scale is having one of its little jokes…

I decided to have a quiet day in today. Caught up with some bits of paperwork, did a few posts here, then dealt with ironing mountain, while cursing past me for leaving it for present me, or future me as he was probably thinking of.

Here’s another one from the air show. The Royal Navy’s Black Cats helicopter display team were reduced to a single Lynx last year, which meant they couldn’t do some of their most crowd-pleasing tricks. Well, they’re back up to the usual pair, with their new Wildcats, which did all the usual stuff, plus a bit of nifty backwards flying. Here they are, getting a wee bit close:

Black Cats

Black Cats

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/8
Shutter speed: 1/1100s
Focal length: 140mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 25 July, 2015

The Day the Earth Caught Fire – Blu-ray

It didn’t seem that long to me since I wrote about an earlier DVD release of this 1961 movie, but apparently it was over seven years ago, proving time flies, or something. So when I saw the Blu-ray version, I mentally filed it. And set up a price alert on camelcamelcamel, which I do with things that I’d like to get but which are currently a wee bit too expensive. Anyway, the price eventually dropped to a quite sensible £8.50, and I ordered it.

This is a newly remastered version – done by the conservation experts at the British Film Institute (BFI) with the care and skill they’re known for. They were able to go back to the original film negatives for most of the work, using a positive print for sections where the negatives weren’t up to standard. The usual levels of repair and restoration were done, and the whole thing looks quite lovely in glorious black and white, with that colour overlay for the opening and closing scenes.

I covered the film itself in my previous post, so this is more about the extras, which are numerous.

There’s a new documentary about the making of the movie, which helpfully corrects some misconceptions I had previously – the Express editor is played by the recently retired former editor rather than the contemporary one, and while the entrance and print room seen on screen are the real thing, the newsroom is a precisely recreated set. The documentary includes information about the restoration and the usual array of talking heads, but as one of the heads doing the talking is that of Kim Newman, this is a Good Thing.

There’s a gallery of production stills, the interview with Leo McKern that was on the DVD, a commentary (which I haven’t heard yet, even though I think it’s the same one as on the DVD) and a short audio piece which I also need to listen to.

Also included are some suitably relevant archive films. There’s a 1968 interview with director Val Guest and his wife Yolande Dolan, covering much of his career including this movie. There’s an only slightly scary 1952 documentary, Operation Hurricane, on the testing of Britain’s first atomic bomb. There’s a bloody petrifying 1956 training film called The H-Bomb, intended to teach civil defence and fire service personnel what to expect in the event of British cities being attacked (helpful explanations about blast radius, fallout and so on….), with the typical advice of the time about white-washing your windows. There’s a 1962 film, The Hole in the Ground, which shows how the Warning and Monitoring Organisation would deal with a nuclear attack. Made more than a little silly by the use of Also Sprach Zarathustra (six years before 2001: A Space Odyssey) and the total lack of anyone running around in circles shouting OhShitOhShitOhShit, which seems a much more realistic reaction to the news that several cities have just been flattened.

And finally, there’s an old TV spot from 1978 in which Edward Judd, whose career never really went that far after this movie, tells drivers to watch out for motorbikes.

So, not an essential upgrade if you have the previous DVD release, but much better value with all the juicy extras, not to mention being nicely HD (the transfer was done in 4K, so watch out for an upgraded upgrade once people work out how to distribute that kind of thing….).

Reds Arriving

I’ve got loads of photos to work through from yesterday’s air show, but I thought I’d post this one now. The Red Arrows arriving in their usual way from behind the crowd.

Reds Arrive

Reds Arrive

Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/9
Shutter speed: 1/1700s
Focal length: 50mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 25 July, 2015

Charles Stross – The Annihilation Score

And it’s back to fun and games with the Laundry, the mostly secret government department that deals with extra-dimensional entities, paranormal wossnames and worst of all, the HR department. But this time, we’re not in the familiar hands of Bob Howard. If you’ve read The Rhesus Chart, you’ll recall that having coped with a little matter of don’t be silly, there’s no such thing as vampires, Bob ran into a little domestic difficulty when his wife Mo (aka professor Dominique O’Brien, Laundry agent and academic, current holder of a rather special violin) got back after a rather taxing mission of her own. That special violin (Mo calls it Lecter, which isn’t it’s real name) took a dislike to Bob, and since it’s known for sucking the souls of of people, this wasn’t altogether conducive to domestic harmony. It didn’t help that Bob’s former boss, the entity known as Angleton, was killed in an attack on the Laundry, which left Bob as the new, err, Eater of Souls (very handy for dealing with occult menaces, but the eyes glowing in the dark can be a wee bit disconcerting). So Bob’s moved out of home, leaving Mo to narrate the story.

So. As regular readers of the series will recall, things are getting close to the condition known as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, which is pretty much what HP Lovecraft was talking about (stars are right, things from the Dungeon Dimensions[1] return, Bad Things happen, etc). And as a result of this, some people are, well, getting, umm, superpowers. And people being people, this results in some people doing Very Bad Things. Worse still, some of them wear lycra while doing their particular Bad Things.

So, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to her, Mo is appointed to head up a new organisation to deal with the Superpower Menace. Working with Jim Grey, a police liaison officer, who has a power or two of his own, she has to set up a team to recruit suitably well-behaved, err, superheroes and combat supervillains.

Things are complicated by the presence of Bob’s ex Mhari (who we mustn’t call a vampire) and another old friend.

And much fun follows. Missions go Badly Wrong. There’s a mysterious supervillain  who seems to be running rings around Mo and her team, and her violin is getting more demanding (doing the best Feeeeeeeed Meeeeee routine since Audrey 2).

But never mind. Mo’s getting on well with Jim, who manages to get tickets for the Last Night of the Proms. Won’t that be nice? Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, well. No. In a unprecedented change to the programme, Mo finds herself compelled to play a rather unusual piece on Lecter…

And that’s all I’m telling you. Fun, frolics, and really nasty things are involved. And it’s the usual level of enormous fun. If you’re wondering about Bob, he does make a few guest appearances, but this one really is Mo’s story, and we get to know her a lot better. And her own superpower is developing nicely.

As with previous books in the series, the only significant problem is that there’s not enough of it, and it’ll probably be another year (or more!!) before the next one.

Good stuff, totally recommended. And if you haven’t read the previous books in the series, there’s a list on my Charlie Stross page.

[1] Yes, Charlie does use Terry Pratchett’s expression there