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You?ll either love or hate this film. In one way it is similar to Independence Day, that is to say it makes quite a good ?B? movie. Set in the United Kingdom in a future not too distant from now, the world has been devastated by the reappearance of giant fire breathing dragons. Very quickly the whole planet is laid waste and only a few ?colonies? of humans survive on the fringes living under cover for the most part only scurrying out from the safety of cover to try and harvest what meagre food crops as they can grow in a cold and barren landscape which looks as if it had been exposed to the effects of nuclear war. The film follows the fortunes of Quin (Christian Bale. Empire of the Sun, American Psycho), a cockney who is in charge of a small band of survivors, who gives shelter to a band of American ?Dragon Slayers?, led by Matthew McConaughey (Contact, U253). The American group are equipped with a Varity of high tech devices for the killing of the flying furies but as the story unfolds it becomes quite obvious that the humans are barely in control of any encounter they have with the dragons. SPOILER (Miss the next paragraph if you intend to go and see the film) McConaughey?s character has realised that the dragon?s weakness lies in the fact that there is only one male dragon and that if he can destroy it the dragons will be doomed to extinction. At first he tries to persuade Quin?s people to join him in his quest to kill the male but when their reluctance and Quin?s intervention prevents all but four volunteers from coming forward McConaughey ?conscripts? all the able bodied individuals and forces them to follow him after he fights and beats Quin. Needless to say, the male dragon ambushes McConaughey?s convey some sixty miles from London where the giant dragon?s liar is believed to be. All but McConaughey, his female helicopter pilot and one of the soldiers are killed. Meanwhile the remnants of Quin?s colony receive a
visit from the male and Quin?s friend is killed whilst they try to save the colony?s children. McConaughey and the Pilot return to the colony and the trio decide to go to London to find and kill the Male dragon. Quin, as we are shown early in the film is actually the first person to have seen and survived the male dragon when it kill his mother during its escape from its lair all those years before. The three human?s take on and beat the beast in a derelict area near the Thames in Central London and McConaughey is killed acting as a decoy for the others. The film ends with Quin and the pilot back in Quin?s colony where they have constructed a radio antenna which has picked up French transmissions. Are the humans safe, maybe but I think there is a sequel in the pipeline. SPOILER FINISHED So what did I think of Reign of Fire? Well high art it is not, but if you want a ripping yarn with a techno-fantasy feel to it, you would not be disappointed by this film. The act was okay Christian Bale?s accent was reasonably convincing and McCaughey played it large. A kind of ?Captain Ahab on Speed.? In fact I have to say that at one levels this is almost a rerun of Moby Dick only McCaughey?s white whale is giant brown bat with the most amazing flame thrower and instead of the dead captain beckoning his crew to their death, he leaps into the jaws of death to test his fate. The CGI for the film is very good, there are a number of flying scenes including sky diving soldiers that are quite breath taking and the general landscape seems quite convincing. The film?s atmosphere starts particularly well with some fairly tense moments while we wait for the beasts to appear. Apart from the female pilot, the other female characters are very much in the background and it the film tends to be rather macho with lots of daring do, blood and sweat. There was quite a good little salute to Star Wars when Quin and his friend put on a little play for the kids of th
e colony and the pilot and Quin exchange a few meaningful glances along the way, but the film is mostly action. Would I recommend it? As long as you don?t expect too much from the story then it makes quite good entertainment, if you don?t see it at the pictures it would certainly be worth hiring the video.
Why not try Late Junction? This Radio 3 programme is transmitted Monday to Thursday from 22:15 to Midnight and its website can be accessed by using the link below. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/world/latejunction.shtml Why do I think its worth recommending? Well quoting what it says about it's self on it's home page: "A laid-back, esoteric mix of music from across the globe, ranging from Mali to Bali, and from medieval chant to 21st-century electronica. Presented by Fiona Talkington and Verity Sharp." I have been listening to it now for a few weeks and I have to say I'm becoming something of a fan. I enjoy a wide range of different music and this programme certainly caters to that taste. You will find on a typical evening classical pieces rubbing shoulders with rock, folk, ethnic and progressive music the only thing that doesn't seem to get an airing, thankfully is the current pop (i.e. boy bans etc.). If the music has a common thread then you might be forgiven for thinking that its mostly laid back ideal for relaxing to. I know that some of the regular listeners will dispair seeing Late Junction as yet another invader within the hallowed halls of Classical music, but as I said it is well represented in all its forms from mediaeval right through to modern. Unless your a purist you'll welcome this little meeting of the musical ways as I have. I strongly recommend you give late Junction a go.
I have been listening to Radio 4 for years and I view it as an old friend. However, due to a change in my circumstances, getting to hear some of my favourite programmes has been all but impossible. So until now I have been forced to miss such things as "Start the Week" and "All in the Mind". No more! If you have a link to the web, and I assume anyone reading this review has, then by using the following link: - http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/progs/listenagain.shtml you can listen to most of the programmes that Radio 4 has previously broadcast that week at your leisure. By going to the "Listen Again" web page you are taken to an alphabetical list of the week's listening and via "Realplayer" you can either listen to the complete programme, as I did with "Start the Week" or in the case of "Bookclub" be redirected to a dedicate website where you can listen to a selection of excerpts from past programmes. I cannot stress enough how good I think this facility is, well done the BBC! Why not make available some of the many radio plays you must have archived?
This is a must for anyone who has read the book and enjoyed it as I did. It is true that there have been a couple of “tweaks” to the story line, one of which allows one of the female characters to take a more prominent role in the story than she did in Tolkien’s book, but I don’t feel that this spoils the story. It is a long film lasting something like three hours, with a very spectacular introduction, and centres on the exploits of a “hobbit” called Frodo Baggins, the custodian of an evil and powerful ring. For a good proportion of the film we follow Frodo and his companions as they attempt to avoid capture by the dark forces loyal to the Evil, Sauron. I am reluctant to say any more about the plot, not wanting to spoil it for those who haven’t seen this film yet or read J. R. R. Tolkien’s book, but I will say something about the quality of the film itself. It is quite simply fantastic. I was worried that it would turn out to be as bigger disappointment as the cartoon version made some years ago but I needn’t have because this version is excellent. People very often say that the book is much better than the film and I have to agree because the images painted by the author’s words come from one’s own experiences and imagination and that must always offer powerful support to a story. But this film’s imagery comes close to what I saw in my “mind’s eye”. I was particularly worried how the elves and “The Balrog”, a powerful demon, would be portrayed for they are central to the success of the films “believability” for want of a better word. As the film progresses and we are exposed to the various “races” of “Middle Earth”, you find yourself taking them in your stride, from the clever and understated way that the hobbits are portrayed, through the elegant “other worldliness” of the elves, the rough
earthiness of the dwarfs and humans to the sinister and evilness of their foes we follow the heroes in their breakneck flight into ever more dangerous situations, through some absolutely stunning scenery which pays homage to Tolkien’s original creation. If you enjoy fantasy films then this The Lord of the Rings is an absolute must, if you enjoyed the book it will delight you, and if you enjoy a good adventure film then you’ll want to take the journey too. One word of caution though, the film has a warning that it may be unsuitable under 8s, I have to say I think the Film would have been better rated PG, there are some fairly gruesome, bloody and scary moments in this film and younger children of a nervous disposition above the age of eight, might find it quite scary. I myself found some of the scenes on the staircases in “The Mines of Moria” quite hard to stomach, one might say that a good head for heights might be useful. I strongly recommend this film.
Penguin ISBN 0-140-01385-7 First Published in 1956 this collection of ten short stories were written, in John Wyndham's own words, "over a fifteen year period" as "experiments in adapting the science-fiction motif to various styles of short story." In short, "they are experiments on the theme: I wonder what might happen if..."" So what are these stories? What follows is a brief description of each story that I hope gives you a flavour of their content without giving away the plot too much. I have entered John Wyndham's description of each story in brackets to give you a feel for the experimental nature of these works. He was, from the impression given in his introduction, clearly trying to break into what, I assume, must have been a lucrative market of American Science-Fiction magazines. Some people might like to skip the numbered paragraphs below as they do tend to give the game away. Below the short descriptions I give my opinions about the stories. 1 Chronoclasm (A romantic comedy) This story, which to me is closest to his style in such books as the Day of the Triffids, centres on the mysterious appearance of a woman in the life of the narrator. She is dressed strangely, clearly knows the hero and is distressed when it appears that he doesn't know her. What follows is a series of meeting with both the girl and a collection of other individuals clearly bent on preventing any further contact between the two. 2 Time to rest (Pastoral) What if Mars was inhabited by an indigenous race and what if an Earth space ship, with a large crew, were stranded on Mars with no hope of a return to Earth? 3 Meteor (Adventure) The earliest of the stories, this tale poses the question what would happen if an Alien race, intent on colonising Earth, forgot to check the relative scale of their intended target? Shades of the Hitch Hiker's Guide here, maybe. 4 Survival (Style of the Eng
lish short story in its heyday) Here we have another story about colonisation gone wrong, as we follow the twists and turns of a mother's efforts to protect and nurture the life of her child. 5 Pawley's Peepholes (satirical farce). What if someday in the not to distant future someone managed to make a time machine that could allow people to go back and see how their ancestors lived? How would the ancestors feel? Could they do anything about it? 6 Opposite Number (The light presentation of a somewhat complicated idea.) Here is a tale in which JW plays around with the idea of a multiverse, multiple realities, in which the lives of people take different courses. What effect might there be if people from one reality visited their "opposite number" in another reality. A chance to put things right perhaps? 7 Pillar to Post (Written to suit the American style). What if a bored, sterile and superior race found a way to transfer the essence of a person, through time and space, between two bodies? What if the person picked for transfer was a paraplegic in great pain? 8 Dumb Martian (Style of the English short story in its hey day) Here is a story written through the eyes of a murderous bully, who underestimates the quite demeanor of the Martian wife that he bought. 9 Compassion Circuit (Short Horror story) Robots [Androids in modern terms] are physically and mentally superior to their frail masters, so what is the only solution when humans get sick? 10 Wild Flower (In the form of the modern short story) a story told through the senses of an English teacher who is a technophobe, perhaps. JW tries to contrast her world with that of technology and show how each effects the other. Who will win? A latter day environmentalist's tale perhaps. As with any science-fiction the reader is obliged to suspend belief to one degree or another and with this collection of stories that suspension is even more necessary. Our "modern&quo
t; knowledge of such things as space flight, the nature of Mars as a habitat and the almost insurmountable technical problems with producing a time machine will make these tales seem naive. But that aside they are enjoyable and give the reader an interesting insight into the mind of John Wyndham and his view of the world. I don't know enough about his work to be able to place these works in context with his more famous novels, but there do seem to be trends concerning the effect of technology on peoples lives, colonisation and the interaction between species evident here that might have been experiments in some of the themes tackled by such books as Midwich Cuckoos, The Kraken Awakes and Day of the Triffids. The stories come over "dreadfully British" (although I suspect John Wyndham might have preferred to use the word "English") and some people might have trouble with the characterisation of most of the women in the stories. They have a tendency to be overcome emotionally with events, or be preoccupied with having tea at the correct time, or become obsessed with such things as "the other woman's" choice of drapes. But don't hold these old fashioned prejudices against him, the stories make a good read. I recommend The Seeds of Time as an easy read in the old style.
I looked forward to this film very much. As a fan of Kubrick, Speilberg and science fiction I was very optimistic. The film has left me with very mixed feelings, stunning visual effects both overt and understated, I had to remind myself several times that "Teddy" was an animation for almost all of the time. The casting and acting seemed very good particularly by the actors playing David and Gigolo Joe, a cheesy robotic "love robot". But the story left me wanting more. No! Wanting different. At times it seemed easy to see Kubrick's influence but, since Speilberg wholly directed the film, I assume this influence was actually Speilberg's salute to Kubrick's style. The dark and brooding scene where David comes face to face with his beginnings seemed like something out of the Shining or Bowman's walk through the stateroom environment of 2001. Later in the film a short flight sequence through a future ice age Manhattan put me in mind of Bowman?s flight through the Stargate in 2001. So what was wrong with such a good film? The theme? I need to read Brian Aldiss' short story "Supertoys last all summer long" I think. What would his theme have been? William Hurt playing David's designer says, "God created Adam to keep him company," as a way of justifying the construction of a child "mecha" (the term used in the film to describe any robot or android) who appeared to be about 10 years old. A mecha child who could offer unconditional love to the person onto whom it imprints for...ever. What a monster, imagine being the object of a 10 year old's love for the rest of your life. Isn't part of the experience of life the journey through that life and the lives of those around you? The ever-changing interactions for good or bad as you and your sibling evolve, grow old and die. It?s difficult to say too much about the plot without spoiling its surprises along the way. F
or me it would have been interesting to see how Kubrick would have made it. There would have been a little less of Pinocchio I think and less dialogue I suspect, he'd have made us work for our money. Speilberg spoils it with a cloying sentimentality in places that might have been replaced with a darker more pessimistic approach. Who is this film going to appeal to? Well, people who like sci-fi, people who like sad melodramas with a happy endings, it might even suit people who like to have a box of kleenex handy for those weepy moments. Who won't like it? Probably those who like fast paced action, people who like to look closely at what a film has to say and in doing so finding a coherent and logical argument with no lose ends. There were a couple of times when I found myself asking whether Teddy was going to turn out to be some kind sentient being because he seemed wise beyond his "supertoy" status and what can David, a 10 year old capable of love and of "going to that place where we all dream" and not physically growing up, do next? Did his designer think of David's ultimate fate, to be truly human and trapped in a child's body and psychology forever? When are we going to get a film that truly engages the problem of the nature of self and what it means to try and produce A.I. I'm sure Kubrick would have done it differently. Go and see A.I. you may not like it but it'll make you think and I can see Brian Aldiss' sales going up.
ISBN: 0-85177-703-1 I have always lived reasonably close to Greenwich and Woolwich which are areas of Greater London that are steaped in the history of Britain and the world at large. So when I found out that HMS Beagle, of Charles Darwin and the Origin of Species fame, was built in Woolwich Dockyards in 1818, I began to take an interest in this famous British Navy "little ship". In searching for information and an image of the Beagle my first stop was the internet, but apart from references to it as a foot note to its famous passenger, I found it quite difficult to find any tangible information on the Beagle until I came upon the book above, and what an excellent book it is too. Written by Karl Heinz Marquardt, HMS Beagle is an excellent resource for anyone interested in such things as the history and "build" of naval vessels. It will be of obvious interested to model makers, artists and writers and offers a wealth of detailed information about the structure and layout of the vessel, its sails and appearance at different times in its career as first a survey vessel and later as a customs watch vessel. The book is broken up into a number of sub-sections such as the history of the ship, including details of the various survey voyages that the Beagle undertook and moves on to an examination of Beagle's design before attempting a detailed discussion of the various elements of the ship with the aid of sketches and diagrams produced by the original crew that sailed on her. There is a section made up of photographs of a model constructed by the author followed by a large number of very finely detailed drawings of the design of the ship showing the three different configurations that successive refits wrought on her appearance as she went about the various and different naval roles during her life. What strikes me most from my studies of this little 10 gun brig is that in it's day people wou
ld not have given it a second glance, only ninety feet long and about 235 tons, the beagle would seem like a dingy along side such ships as the HMS Victory. But in it's own, quite and unassuming way it is one of the gaints of maritime history. From HMS Beagles' role as transport for Darwin to intrepid survey ship under Commander Robert FitzRoy, who charted some of the most far flung and dangerous coastlines, this little ship has had as significant impact on history and this beautiful book goes a long way towards bringing it out of the shadows of time and into the limelight. I think this book is well worth getting from your library or, if like me, you have more than a passing interest in the Beagle it is excellent value for money for the drawings alone.
I've been reading the New Scientist for years now and have enjoyed the experience very much. As a layman who has always been interested in the "big questions in science" the New Scientist has always offered interesting and relatively easy explanations for all of the scientific fields currently under examination. Whether you are interested in the origins of the universe or the frontiers of mathematics or the environment or biology, it is all covered in this magazine. I especially like the book reviews and have bought a number of books as a result of reading them. My wife enjoys the letters page, opinion, feedback and "The Last Word" in which readers' questions about science are answered by readers with expertise in the subject. Whilst I have enjoyed reading the interviews with some of science's leading, and sometimes controversial, scientists. The editorials at the beginning of the magazine are very useful sometimes at helping to present issues clearly when science is thrust into the headlines and it is difficult to seperate out fact from emotive politics, for an example, such issues as global warming and foot and mouth have been covered recently. Finally, if you were to subscribe to the New Scientist (there are special rates for students) then via the magazine's web site you can gain access to an archive of all of the magazine's past articles (at least ten years worth I think).
Penguin books. ISBN 0141181478 Set maybe a thousand years into the future after planet Earth and the human race have been decimated by nuclear war, the inhabitants of Waznuk (Northwest Canada?) operate a "zero tolerance" towards "deviations from the norm". Animals are slaughtered, children sterilised and banished to "the fringes" to fend for their selves as best they can. Into such a world is born a small group of telepaths who live lives of secrecy until events conspire to make the wider community aware of their existence beginning a race against time in their attempt to reach safety. This book written in 1955 still offers a good read despite having a slightly old "British" feel to it the characters are reasonably well drawn with quite "believable" descriptions of what it might be like to be a telepath. The pace of the story is good and is only spoilt by a slightly "preachy" monologue by one of the characters at the end. I would recommend this to anyone who likes science fiction and particularly stories about telepaths and/or the old post apocalyptic stories so popular in the 60s and 70s.
Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy is like a warm bath to read, a mixture of great charcterisation and clever plot. The three books, available as a collection under one cover and published by Penguin, revolve around the mysterious death of a Canadian Millionaire and spans most of the first three quarters of the 20th Centuary. Each book revolves around the view points of a particular character who, in their own way have been intimately involved with the deceased millionaire. The First, a childhood and adult friend, the second, his son and the third, a magician from the same small Canadian town of Deptford which gives the trilogy its name. The first book deals with the early history of the various characters and helps to set the scene for later events. The second book manages to move the plot along whilst exploring the nature of Jungian psycho-analysis and the final book chronicals the rise to fame of the magician from the rejection of small town Canada to world aclaim. The third book in particular looks at the nature of life in entertainment and at the under belly of the travelling fair and theatre particularly. It is difficult to say more without giving away the plot of these three books. I will say however, that I particularly enjoyed the first two books and found the third book interesting. Quite frankly I didn't care so much about who killed the millionaire as about enjoying the "read" itself. These books have something for everyone who enjoys "a good read".
I have had a Gateway machine for just under two years now and I am well pleased with its performance. What I want to draw peoples attention to is Gateway's excellent aftersales support. I have, on a number of occassions, needed to get in touch with Gateway's technical support as the result of a number of technical problems. These "problems" have been a mixture of situations brought about by myself, like trying to use Norton System Works to "move" Microsoft Office from one small partician to a larger partician with more room, result...huge crash. The technicians at Gateways telephone help centre talked me through sorting out the mess. On other occassions they have helped with the installation of hardware (A read writer, which we bought from Gateway. I don't think they would support the installation of rival hardware) or correcting hardware conflicts (the modem wasn't working properly when I first got the machine). What prompted this review was my "rescue" yesterday after another major crash brought about by a conflict between Norton and the installation wizard for USB devices. As I was trying to install a new peripheral "Crashguard" (one of Norton's utilities) intercepted a crash (Why I'm not sure?)...huge crash...The CD drives and most of the other peripherals, except my Zip drive had vanished from the machine. After two phone calls each lasting about three hours, I think, the machine is working again okay. The point I'm making here is that Gateway were willing to help sort out the mess caused by myself and software that they had not supplied after my warrantee had expired, indeed this is the second occassion they have helped me since it expired. I would recommend Gateway to anyone, okay they probably aren't the cheapest, and not offering their machines with all manner of extras; but, the truth of the matter is that machines and their software (not to
mention pilot error!) do have a habit of going wrong (I know this from the machines I use in the course of my work) and Gateway provide a very good backup service. Its worth noting that for "simpler" problems there is an automated help facility at their web site (gateway.com) which is probably quicker than talking to someone if you don't need to.
www.edge.org Update 08.01.01 The site described below now offers Video clips of it's various contributors talking about their views and theories so you get the information from the horse's mouth as it were. Two examples are Paul Davies talking about the possibilities and problems of time travel and David Deutsch talking about Quantum Computation. After reading an article in the Sunday Times "Culture" suppliment today I took a look at this site. It will be of interest to anyone interested in philosophy and/or some of the big questions in science. I copied the quote below from their website because it gives a clearer description of their purpose. "The mandate of Edge Foundation is to promote inquiry into and discussion of intellectual, philosophical, artistic, and literary issues, as well as to work for the intellectual and social achievement of society." There are a number of famous Scietists publishing copyright protected articles on the site. The ones I looked at were concerned with evolution, cognitive psychology and philosophy. Edge seems like an excellent resource for students of philosophy and the sciences, I wish I had heard about it before. It would have made good background reading for my philosophy course.
I went to see the X-men this afternoon and enjoyed every minute of it. This film, based on the famous Marvel Comic series, follows the conflict between good and evil mutants as the evil mutants try to take control of the World away from Homo Sapiens. I won't go into the story too much because of spoiling the plot for those of you that want to go and see it at the pictures. But I will say that I was impressed with the casting. Patrick Stewart (Star Trek) and Ian KcKellen (Richard III) play their parts very well and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine stands out. Of the badies Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos)is one of the strongest characters and the special effects surrounding her and the others are almost believable. The director seems to have gone for a slightly serious note for the tone of the film, with light relief being provided by Wolverine and Cyclops' rivalry. It seems obvious that the X-men are destined to appear in a number of sequels. If you enjoy science fiction, super hero films, fantasy you'll enjoy this film. I'm not sure how it would be received by fans of the comics, not having read any myself, but I think they would probably enjoy it. It seems useful to say that this film is rated 12 so it is not for all the family.
http://www.ivory.org/index.html/ Whisper 32 for windows 9x & NT Created by Shaun Ivory This freeware password generator and storage utility is, in my opinion, really useful. Whisper 32 works on a number of levels, the two main ones are:- 1 Password generator. This part of the programme allows you to creat passwords randomly from a mixture of letters, symbols and numbers, you are left to decide how complex you want to make the password. The programme can remind you that a password is due to expire and the layout of "storage form" is such that you can keep of other relevant information with the password. 2 Whisper 32 also allows you to save and organise your passwords in a secure way which includes a backup. You can create a number of sub-directories for such things as stowage of passwords by subject or family/users and each sub-directory can be password protected for added security. As an added precaution I save my whisper files and backups to a seperate and removable zip disc, which I do not use when my computer is online. Finally if you have some where secure to keep them Whisper can be used to print out the passwords and their associated services and additonal information in a report formate which guards against loss of information should either your PC or zip/CD backups fail.
Telephone: 01708 730555 In the past I have asked friends and family to give me a lift to and from Gatwick Airport. But the last few times we have been off to sunnier climes the take off times have not really suited everyone. So we started using the Gatwick Flyer. The Gatwick Flyer is a bus service which originates in Essex and makes pickups there before moving onto South London and Kent. For £21 each from the Bexley area (1999 prices) either a Minibus or Coach, depending on demand, will pick you up, along with your luggage, and get you to the Airport with time to spare. You have to book a week in advance to be guaranteed a seat but if you don't mind gambling, you can leave it as late as the day before. One way or return bookings are available and they work to a timetable once every two hours out of season and more frequently in season. It is worth remembering that if the Gatwick Flyer is delayed by heavy traffic on such roads as the M25 and you miss your flight, your holiday insurance may cover you where it wouldn't if a friend or family member gave you a lift to the Airport.