Archive for May 2012
Thank you to Peter Evans for writing this book about the very brilliant late Peter Sellers.
Peter Sellers was a very talented mimic and all round actor. He had a wicked sense of humour and was married multiple times. These were the things we saw as the public but there was a lot going on behind the scenes and in his head. When I picked up this book I expected to read about the many gorgeous women he’d taken on dates and the many parties he’d been to and how successful he knew he was. I had conflicting emotions when picking up this book, on the one hand I was ambivalent about when I ‘knew’ I was going to read about and on the other hand I really wanted to find out more about the man. I got so much more than I bargained for. Peter Evans was a close friend of Sellers and he managed to give us the man warts and all, there seems to be more warts than anything else. In this book Sellers is depicted as being very hard to define as he doesn’t know how to be himself, he apparently came very close to playing himself as Chance, the gardener in Being There.
He was very dogmatic and superstitious, consulting a clairvoyant at key times and non-key times. Very hard to be work with, if he saw the wrong look in your eye he insisted you be sacked and that happened on far too many occasions.
The book starts with his death in 1964 and then ends with his death in 1974. They managed to revive him the first time but it made no difference, he didn’t change his ways. It’s a very sad book, to start with the death of a much loved actor, I felt as if from them on we were reviewing everything from that point of view. There is much about his time with Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe in The Goons. We also get to read about his exploits in the army and how he masqueraded as an officer on many occasions, even drinking in the officers’ mess with real officers and fooling them completely. Sellers came from a theatrical family, both his parents and at least one grandparent were in the business, his mother was very much in control and remained an enormous part of his life even after her death.
I loved this book as it showed us someone I’ve loved and admired for a very long time. We see him in all his glory and see how he went from being a mediocre actor to being one of the best there have ever been. I’m sure there are other ooks out there about Peter Sellers and one day I might read them but this one will do for the present.
A new regular feature here is Mondayitis, published every Tuesday, it features guests discussing a series of questions. People have their own view of the questions and some use them as a starting point while others actually answer them, in their own particular way.
What do you read?
All books that I can find, particularly ones written by humans. The genres of science-fiction and fantasy hold the most attraction for me.
Why do you read?
I find it fascinating to read works by human authors, and it passes the time while I am out of water.
Do you read for work or pleasure?
I read because I enjoy doing so; why else would one read?
Can you do the Safety Dance while reading?
Easily. If I understand it correctly, it only requires two limbs, leaving at least two free to hold the book. Although, if I must walk while doing so, I would have to use my other eye.
Are you a Discworld/Twilight/Harry Potter fan?
I have read some of the books in question. I did enjoy the Discworld books, while the Harry Potter books were intriguing. I have not yet gotten my tentacles on a copy of the Twilight series, but the opinions I have heard have generally not been favourable.
Would you attend a flash mob dressed as your favourite character?
I would certainly be willing to try, if no unfortunate events occurred along the way. It may be difficult to represent my preferred character accurately, as we have different quantities of limbs.
The preceding was found in a bottle, washed up in the sink. It was written in beautiful cursive handwriting. No proof of its origins have been found. However, Squid Ink is a webcomic, and its author can be found on twitter.
This is one of the series of the Cat Who mysteries with Jim Qwilleran. If you love cats and agree on how clever they are then you’ll love this series. I don’t have a cat but my family had them and my Mum now has a very clever cat with a rather siamese sounding meow, I can certainly see him doing some of the things Koko does. The only thing Koko doesn’t do is tell us how to solve the mystery, that’s only because he can’t speak English, if he could he’d then carefully drag out the clues keeping us in suspense rather than telling us quickly.
Anyway, back to the book. Jim Qwilleran is a reporter and it looks like he’s been demoted to the interior design pages, a world away from his normal base of operations, crime, but he seems to have a knack for finding the crime in the story and finds himself doing a feature on a very clever murderer. Koko helps him, of course, and collects a new companion along the way by the name of Yum Yum. At the end of the book Qwilleran has two siamese cats and it will be interesting to see how they run his life.
I thought this book was a nice marriage between a cat book and a murder mystery. All the clues were there and we only had to read them to make sense of the whole, something I rarely manage to do, I’ve read a lot of Agatha Christie and haven’t managed to pick the murderer yet. The writing was good and it was all packaged within 215 pages so there are no superfluous scenes and you have to read carefully as each word is important.
My only problem is finding time to read the rest of the series.
As today is Towel Day it’s fitting I desert the floor for Jason from the Melbourne Science Fiction Club. They’re celebrating their 62nd year and funnily enough so is the Queen. Take it away, Jason.
The Melbourne Science Fiction Club (MSFC) was formed way back in 1952, making it the second oldest continuing operating science fiction Club in the world! Its original and continuing mission is to promote sci- fi in its many forms. People can get together and discuss the ideas and beliefs behind them. Originally it was mostly in books – over this period of time the club has accumulated a massive collection of thousands of books and magazines from its earliest days -to movies and other forums. Over time the club has moved its base from members’ homes to Mc Gills Book Sellers to Space Age Books. The Club is presently and has been for over 10 years at St David’s Church Hall where it has recently celebrated its 60 Anniversary.
The Club meets every Friday night except good Friday at 74 Melville Road, West Brunswick, Melways map 29 c5, route 55 stop 36 from City.
Thank you, Jason.
You can get more information from their website, I’m partial to their history page which has a wealth of information including a lengthy and interesting article by Race Mathews. The MSFC is for young and old, I can attest to their fabulous library as I’ve seen it myself. Most years they hold a day only Mini Con, it’s a bare bones Con but is well worth attending as you can find lots of tables from various different clubs and conventions around Melbourne, some out of towners even manage to make it there, and the sessions are always interesting.
I know you’re all eagerly anticipating Mondayitis to see who is up next but I’m going to keep you waiting for another week. Today I’m talking about the slightly different direction I’m going in.
It’s an interesting time for me at present. I’m trying to do some studies online to get some qualifications. Not terribly challenging qualifications for someone who’s already run offices and currently runs their own business but definitely interesting. I’m on the last handful of modules and hope to finish in the next couple of weeks depending on time. I’m not enjoying studying online, I much prefer being in a class with people interaction. I’ve also managed to get myself involved in a 20 session webinar on social media which means sitting down at my computer twice a week and listening closely. I have access to these later so I can listen again and do the things they suggest which is good as I’ll need to stop the recording and put the action in process before continuing on to the next bit, something I can’t do when it’s live. Two time consuming studies, time? what’s that?
At the Digital Parents Conference a few weeks ago I met up with the lovely people at Hardie Grant Egmont who gave me two books to read and review. I think they were meant for my kids but I wasn’t going to delegate when reading’s involved. You can read the reviews here and here. They were delighted and have signed me up to review more books for them. I got a bit carried away and used my Dymocks voucher on the second and third books in The Phoenix Files by Chris Morphew so they sent me books four and five just to complete the series and also Hunger by Michael Grant, the sequel to Gone. This means I’ll have to review more books here, I don’t want to lose Mondayitis or Squid Ink at present so I might end up having to publish articles on the weekend as well which I’ll only do if I have too much to write about.
Just to add to the mix, I’ve also become part of the marketing strategy for a PR company who specialise in children’s toys. There will be words written about the toys they send me and also some giveaways. I promise to try and get books into every article I write about toys but it won’t always be possible. I suggest you visit frequently, maybe even getting on my mailing list by putting your email into the subscribe box near the top right of the screen as I’ll be resurrecting the newsletter to ensure everyone knows about the competitions.
Thanks to the kids for borrowing this fabulous book from the library!
They talk about authors writing better as they age and there’s been discussion about Agatha Christie and how her writing became a little less great as she aged and probably acquired Alzheimers or some other form of dementia. They talk about writers’ becoming better writers due to writing more. What I’ve never heard about how some writers transcend all health problems and produce their best work yet.
Snuff is ostensibly about Commander Sam Vimes and his holiday. He didn’t want to go on holiday, he was very reluctant and only pretended to hand his badge over, arranged by his wife, Lady Sybil Ramkin, and Lord Vetinari, it’s hinted they did this as there were problems in the area where Vimes now owns land. Vimes very reluctantly drives down there and even more reluctantly tries to do the right thing and spend time with his family. While there he felt it incumbent on himself to try and find the missing blacksmith, the man who was supposed to meet him at midnight and give him some information, the fact that he’d been framed for murder might have something to do with it.
What this is really about is race relations and how some races look down on others as subhuman and therefore feel it’s okay to use them as slaves and work them until they die. This has happened so many times in the real world it’s impossible to count and it will continue to happen until the message gets through that we are all equal.
In this book Pratchett makes the point very clearly and I couldn’t help admiring how he did this. As many people know Pratchett has Alzheimers and that means his brain cells are deteriorating and his memory is going which logically means his writing will deteriorate as well. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Snuff. This book blew me away, I felt it was his best book ever and I want to go on record as saying this is Pratchett writing as if he’s come of age. Every other book before this now feels as if he was in his adolescence but this is adult writing and it’s superb!
I first reviewed the original I Am Legend book back in October 2011, it was a really great book but there were things I didn’t understand at the time, some of them were explained nicely in the movie but some are still left hanging.
Here be spoilers, but as I’m sure you’ve already seen the movie it won’t matter much.
The premise of I Am Legend, the movie starring Will Smith is very similar. There is a new cure for cancer which causes a plague, 90% of the population around the world die while most of the rest become very aggressive to the point of throwing themselves at their target, whether it be a person or a wall, until it breaks, not the person but the object, the others are immune. Robert Neville, played by Will Smith, is an army scientist and immune. His family were accidentally killed while being evacuated from New York city, he is left alone with his daughter’s puppy there seem to be no other immune survivors. He uses his own blood to help find a cure and manages to do so just in time to pass it on to Anna and Ethan who have heard his message of hope broadcast every day, they then take it to a survivor’s colony while he protects them.
This helps. If Neville is already a scientist and understands the virus before the book/movie begins then it makes enormous sense for him to continue working on the process of finding a cure, it wasn’t clear in the book what his occupation beforehand was and how it would help him work through the chemistry needed.
There were many differences between the movie and the book but it made no difference to my enjoyment of both of them. They’ve taken the essence of the book, distilled it and made it into a really good movie. Yes, I know I’m partial to Will Smith and that’s one of the reasons I had to see it but it is still a good movie. It has all the horror of being the only person alive while other beings are trying to kill you, it shows animals roaming the streets, it has some awesome special effects and it shows how nature will take over a city when people vacate it.
I bought the DVD and watched some of the extras as well which were well worth it. The movie only looks at the situation from a specific viewpoint in one specific city, it does its best to show some old news programmes showing the problem being replicated world wide and Neville does explain using some numbers how it’s affected the entire world but it still seems rather distant. The extras change that. They’ve been organised by Smith’s wife, Jada Plunkett-Smith, who is a very good actor in her own right, and they are four animated stories of different people in different cities around the world. They show stories of immune survivors and of plague ravished survivors, they are really powerful in their own right and support the main film immensely. I sat back having watched the movie and all four back to back stunned, in shock, it was challenging to come back to normal life. One of them was written by Orson Scott Card who is an excellent science fiction author in his own right but also co-authored The Abyss with James Cameron, you can find this book and two others by Orson Scott Card available for sale here.