Monday, 31 August 2015

TV Series Review: The A Team

Until recently our bedtime viewing has been The A Team, chosen by Mr Click, and following on quite nicely from The Dukes of Hazzard and Starsky and Hutch what with the car chases and crashes and explosions.

The A Team ran during the eighties for five seasons, featuring a group of four Vietnam vets on the run from the law who want to lock them up for a crime they never committed. In the first couple of series they're occasionally joined by a female companion, though this concept was eventually abandoned leaving the four guys to deal with the case of the week by themselves. Even though they're considered to be wanted criminals, they don't let that stop them from helping out other people who are in trouble, and each episode sees them going out of their way to help the poor people who are being persecuted, bullied or otherwise abused.

They're led by Hannibal, who can usually be seen chomping on a cigar and frequently acts as a large lizard in B-movies. The rest of the team is made up of Face, a conman; Murdock, the only one of the team not on the run but only because he's been committed to an institution which he has to break out of before embarking on any A Team venture; and B.A. Baracus, who is basically there to drive them around and act as the muscle. The unofficial fifth member of the team is the incredibly distinctive black van with a red stripe that they drive around in. Personally if I was on the run I'd maybe try and drive something a little more low-key.

The final series also added a couple of extra characters; Frankie who worked on films and was able to help them out with special effect, like explosions, and General Stockwell, who became their new boss and gave them a number of assignments.

The episodes were fairly formulaic. Someone would be having a problem, so we'd see their shop being vandalised by local hoodlums or the poor townspeople being hounded for money or some unfortunate person getting involved in something too big for them to handle. They would go through some rigmarole to find the A Team (because they couldn't advertise openly otherwise they would be tracked down). The A Team would show up, put together some hare-brained scheme, usually involving a montage of things being welded together as they create a weapon or armoured vehicle out of whatever they have to hand at that moment. Then they would triumph and whatever fee they were charging for their services would be waived for some reason.

It was predictable, but it was also quite a lot of fun because they seemed to get that it was all a bit silly. There are really ridiculous things, like how they have to keep breaking Murdock out of the veterans' hospital or getting B.A. on a plane when he has a crippling phobia of flying. It's daft, but it kind of works.

The way that it plays out is pretty much as a live action cartoon. I could probably count on one hand the number of times you saw anyone actually being injured or appearing to die. Honestly, through all the car crashes, explosions and gun fire you always see them walking away at the end. Even when the car has flipped and rolled half a dozen times after exploding, you'll still see the occupants getting up and walking away. It keeps it from becoming too serious.

The last series did see a little bit of a change. The fourth series seemed like the very end and then it came back with a way more serious three-part episode which looked like it was the end for the A Team. Except it wasn't, and Robert Vaughn showed up (in fact, so did David McCallum in a bizarre sort of Man From U.N.C.L.E. reunion episode). By the time I was really getting into the way of things in the fifth series, it ended which was almost a shame, and yet at the same time I think they'd done everything they could with the show.

I do have to give a special mention to my most memorable episode; Cowboy George, in which the A Team have booked Cowboy George to play for a cowboy bar. Except there's a mix up and Boy George gets off the plane. Cue Boy George playing to a room full of bemused cowboys, much to their disgust, until he wins them all over to the point where they're all cheering and singing along. It really is television gold.

Now we're onto my choice for the bedtime viewing; M*A*S*H. Something which Mr Click is really enjoying seeing for the first time and I'm enjoying seeing episodes that I've not seen for years and years. We're getting through it really quickly because we're both enjoying it so much.

It's a pretty long series though, so it might be a while before I get a review up of that.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Film Review: The Two Towers, Part 6

As you're currently reading this, I'm in Wales preparing to go out to lunch in Cardiff. Quite a change from my usual Saturday lunch (which is frequently spent with my laptop balanced on my lap while I write blog posts for the coming week).

This is the last in the series of film review posts for The Two Towers. We will be very shortly moving on to The Return of the King. Hopefully next week, depending on how busy I am once I return to Scotland.

When we ended things last week it was not looking at all good for the guys at Helm's Deep, so this week we're going to see how that ends. Merry was also decidedly disappointed with Treebeard's decision not to do anything about Saruman and Isengard, so we'll see what happens next there as well. Oh, and Faramir's still got Frodo, Sam and Gollum at Osgiliath, but that'll change this week as well.

273. Treebeard's going to drop Merry and Pippin on the outskirts of the forest so they can make their way home. But that gives Pippin an idea; he figures Saruman won't be looking for them near Isengard, so that's a far more logical place to drop them. That's a little confusing for Treebeard, but he figures Hobbit brains must work quicker than his and can't argue with this plan.

274. Pippin's up to something, but he's not telling Merry what he's thinking.

275. And now we're seeing Faramir and the other two Hobbits. Things aren't looking good for Osgiliath.

276. Pippin's request to go South results in Treebeard stumbling into what can only be described as a massacre, when you're an Ent and most of your friends are trees. This makes Treebeard very angry.

277. So two days of debating with other Ents results in a no vote. A thirty second glimpse of a destroyed forest and Treebeard decides to attack. Who said Ents aren't hasty?

278. I do love the march of the Ents. Tolkien was right, that's so much more impressive than a bunch of guys disguised as trees.

279. Back to Osgiliath. They've basically taken their prisoners into an active war zone. Surely it'd be easier to have just killed the Hobbits and their companion, then take the Ring, rather than leading them here.

280. I'm guessing Faramir doesn't want to do the dirty work, he's passing them onto his father to let him do what he wants with him. I get it, it's because Faramir is a better person than his father.

281. Sam tells Faramir some home truths about Boromir and then Frodo gets his Carol Anne on and tells everyone 'They're here' whilst his eyes roll back in his head.

282. Oh look, it's the Nazgûl. This is getting better and better. Looks like Gondor wouldn't have come to Rohan's aid even if they'd asked for it.

283. Back at Helm's Deep Théoden has pretty much given up. Aragorn's having to force him into action, trying to come up with a way for the women and children to get out.

284. Eventually a suicide mission is about all that prompts him into action. Aragorn convinces Théoden to go out in glory.

285. And then we hear Gandalf's voice. When did he say he would be back?

286. Since Gimli's not much use on a horse, he gets the job of blowing the big horn to announce they're coming out.

287. It's like Uruk Hai bowling as they ride down the causeway.

288. It really is a suicide mission. There's about eight of them against about a bazillion Uruk Hai.

289. Luckily Gandalf's shown up. And he's brought Éomer with him, along with a freaking huge army. Yay!

290. Although you wouldn't catch me riding down that slope. I'm not sure you'd actually be able to stop at the bottom! It seems better suited to Legolas's shield surfing trick.

291. I wish the Ents attacking Isengard was longer because I love watching them do battle. They way they just toss bits of masonry around is brilliant. Even Merry and Pippin get in on the action.

292. I do feel sorry for the Ent who gets set on fire though.

293. Saruman really did not anticipate this happening, did he? Should've been nicer to the trees, mate.

294. How brilliant is it that when Isengard floods all the Ents stand still and brace themselves, except the one who was set alight? He runs into it to put himself out. I love it.

295. Trees and water win. Nature's going to do it every time.

296. Meanwhile, in Osgiliath, Frodo is giving in to the forces of evil. The Nazgûl is hovering overhead and Frodo's just merrily waving the Ring around. That is until Sam knocks him over and nearly gets stabbed in the process.

297. Frodo does seem a little shocked by his behaviour so he's not gone entirely over to the dark side yet.

298. Hehe, 'It's all wrong, by rights we shouldn't be here." No Sam, you shouldn't.

299. I love the 'great stories' quote. It's one of those ones that I always look forward to in the book.

300. Meanwhile we get a glimpse of Helm's Deep where the battle is turning for the better (and the shot of Aragorn has been flipped), and Isengard is being drenched, much to Saruman's dismay.

301. Love, love, love this quote.

302. "What are we holding onto Sam?" "That there's some good in this world, Mr Frodo, and it's worth fighting for." This gives me so many feels.

303. It's given Faramir feels too. He's been listening in to this conversation and he's decided, regardless of what his dad might to do him, he's going to let the little guys go so they can finish their mission.

304. And Helm's Deep has suddenly been surrounded by a forest that wasn't there before. The Uruks run into it, there's some shuddering and screaming and then it all goes quiet.

305. That was almost an Aragorn/Éowyn kiss right there. Be still my shippy heart.

306. Final results for the competition between Gimli and Legolas: it's a tie, but only because Legolas decided to finish off the Uruk that Gimli had already killed.

307. Merry and Pippin are elbow deep in water, observing that Saruman doesn't look too happy.

308. I love that when Pippin spots an apple in the water, he looks up. After all, that is where the last one came from.

309. And they've got pipe weed. All is right with the world again. I love Merry's reasoning as to why they shouldn't share it with Treebeard.

310. Hehe, and Treebeard investigating when the smoke comes out the doorway.

311. Faramir's sending the Hobbits out through the sewer. Sam comments on how noble their former captor is. If he was that noble, I think he'd find somewhere a little more pleasant than a sewer for their escape.

312. Sounds like Frodo's path into Mordor is going to be a dangerous one. That'll make the next film interesting then.

313. Before he lets the trio go on, Faramir gives Gollum some words of warning. If I were Faramir I think I'd go along with them, rather than go back and face my father.

314. Aww, Sam's even trying to Gollum now. Too bad that it's too late for that now.

315. "The battle for Helm's Deep is over. The battle for Middle-earth is about to begin." Way to kill the moment, Gandalf. Give them a moment longer to enjoy their victory.

316. Oh and this bit about the story of Frodo and Samwise the Brave is another of my favourite quotes from the book. I like this piece of music as well. It's all optimistic and hopeful.

317. Too bad Sméagol's decided to listen to the Gollum side since Frodo betrayed him. Frodo handed him over to Faramir, so Gollum's going to hand Frodo and Sam over to Her. Just who 'she' is, unless you've read the book, you'll have to wait until the next film. That was a bit of bummer when the next film was a whole year away.

318. I like how this film ends with a shot of Mordor, just like the last one, except this time it's a hell of a lot closer.

319. Oh and then we get a creepy song for the end credits. It's good, but it's my least favourite of the three end credit songs for this trilogy.

And thus ends The Two Towers.

Now I am aiming to have first part of the review of The Return of the King up next week, but it depends on how time and internet access works out when I get back from Wales. If it's not up next week, it'll definitely be the following week. I promise.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off for some lunch.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: Twilight, Chapter 23

I've just got the one Chapter-by-Chapter post for today because I'm hoping that I'll be able to get the post for Chapter 24 up by itself next Friday. I make no guarantees. I may fail miserably, but I'm just telling you what the plan is, just in case.

The last chapter of Twilight saw Bella escaping from her vampire bodyguards and rushing to her mum's house. From there it was a short dash to the dance studio where she found that the tracker had been messing with her and didn't have her mum at all. Her joy at this was short lived though, because that was when he started attacking her.

On with Chapter 23: The Angel.

What Happens?

The Cullens find Bella and presumably see off the tracker. Bella is injured and has been bitten so, after a brief deliberation, Edward sucks out the poison to help make her better.

Thoughts as I read:

My money is on the angel being a vampire. It's got to be Edward, hasn't it?

As is traditional, Bella is unconscious at the start of the chapter:

As I drifted, I dreamed.

I think by this stage of the book we'd be surprised if Bella didn't begin a chapter waking up.

Bella's having some sort of strange dream, presumably the weird snarling noise she hears is either the tracker being attacked by the Cullens, or Edward getting annoyed at finding the tracker nomming on his girlfriend. I think it's Edward because a second later someone, who she believes is an angel, calls her name. This is quickly followed by some more nasty sounds:

A vicious bass growling, a shocking snapping sound, and a high keening, suddenly breaking off…

This puts me in mind of a couple of dogs fighting. Hopefully it means that the tracker and his friend have been dealt with.

I do kind of like this bit:

"Bella, please! Bella, listen to me, please, please, Bella, please!" he begged.
Yes, I wanted to say. Anything. But I couldn't find my lips.

We get a little more evidence that the angel is Edward as it calls out for Carlisle. The one thing that makes me wonder if perhaps it might be someone else is that the voice is crying. That seems like a very unEdwardly thing to do. Whoever they are, they've obviously disposed of the tracker.

I'm kind of disappointed that we missed the showdown, though there's another chapter after this one so perhaps they've just scared him off and that's where things get really dramatic. It is a much longer chapter.

Despite being in pain, Bella's not too badly injured aside from blood loss from a head wound and the broken leg. Oh and judging from the pain in her side, she's got some broken ribs as well. And then, rather randomly, her hand starts burning. By this point she's decided that the angel is definitely Edward (yay! I was right about something) so she tries to call his name. And she's right because he immediately tells her he loves her.

At this point I thought that perhaps the burning in Bella's hand was because Edward was holding it and he was burning with rage. You know, he's usually freezing cold but having a tracker try to chow down on his girlfriend actually manages to raise his temperature.

While I'm pondering this there's a rather confusing conversation going on between the Cullens. I guess that makes sense in the situation because Bella's just been attacked by a vampire and is feeling confused. Just why is Carlisle telling Alice to hold her breath though?

Then we establish that Bella's hand is burning because the tracker bit her. Everyone is horrified by this. Alice tells Edward that he has to 'do it'. She's not talking innuendo though, 'it' here means sucking the venom out. I guess vampires are immune to each other's venom, or they're not and this might end badly for our dear Edweird.

Of course, there's no knowing if this will work. And Edward really seems to be having doubts about it. He either thinks that having a vampire girlfriend will be cool, or he's realised that this might be a good way to get rid of Bella. She is proving to be more trouble than she's worth!

It takes about half a page for Edward to decide he have too much explaining to do if Bella die/turns into a vampire, so he starts sucking (well, he's been sucking for the past two hundred and something pages, but now he literally starts sucking). This makes the pain so much worse for Bella. As it gets better she starts to lose consciousness again.

"Is it all out?" Carlisle asked from somewhere far away.
"Her blood tastes clean," Edward said quietly. "I can taste the morphine."


Bella's feeling much better now. Aside from feeling drained, and I'm not talking figuratively here. She tells Edward the tracker tricked her but then remembers something important that she needs to tell Alice. Unfortunately for Alice, she's distracted by the smell of gasoline and then falls asleep in Edward's arms.

I'm guessing that they're going to burn down the studio to hide all the evidence, and possibly the body of the tracker if they have in fact killed him.

I normally like the shorter chapters but I wish that this was longer (not least because the next chapter seems to just go on forever!) Right now we haven't got a clue what happened to the tracker and this chapter kind of just feels like filler. Somehow I don't think they've killed the tracker (because the next chapter is so long, there's obviously a lot in there to cover) plus hopefully we'll find out just how he links to Alice and whether being bitten will have any lasting effects on Bella.

For such a short chapter it's raising a lot of questions, and we're running out of time to get answers:
  • Is the angel Edward? Looks like it.
  • Who was snarling?
  • Is the burning in Bella's hand because Edward is holding it and burning with rage? Naw.
  • Why did Carlisle tell Alice to hold her breath?
  • Are vampires immune to vampire venom?
  • What has happened to the tracker?
  • Will we find out what happened between Alice and the tracker?
  • Will being bitten by the tracker have any lasting effects for Bella?

That's actually more questions than pages in this chapter!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Gone to Wales, Back Later

In approximately twelve hours time I will officially be on my way to Wales.

Off to see these guys, and also my family.
Hopefully I've packed everything I needed to pack. I have a bit of a tendency to focus on things, like what books I'm going to take, and so overlook the (some would say more important) things like how many pairs of socks I'm going to need. I make a very extensive list last week so I'm fairly certain I've got everything covered.

I'm only away for a long weekend. My return journey is on Tuesday and it's slightly shorter than the one going. I'm probably going to be carrying a heavier load though, I've got clothes and possibly craft supplies and books to pick up while I'm away. A major part of my packing has involved selecting clothes which don't take up too much room in my suitcase to give me plenty of room for bringing stuff back.

What this does mean is that my blogging schedule is likely to be somewhat sporadic over the coming week. I've scheduled a few blog posts so there'll still be plenty for the beginning of the week. It's the more time consuming stuff that comes at the end of the week that might go AWOL.

Don't worry, it doesn't mean I fell off my bus. It's just that I've been squeezing blogging time in between laundry, packing, more laundry, sorting books, frantically reading The Lord of the Rings (so I don't have carry that plus my Reading Challenge book of the week, plus the book for when I finish my Reading Challenge book of the week), doing a little more laundry, trying to get BBC radio plays onto my Kindle, knitting (and mourning the fact that my Nativity project really isn't all that portable), doing the last minute bits and pieces of laundry that I really need to pack, and a whole host of other little important tasks that need to be done before you go away.

Basically, things might be a little quiet for a few days next week. But I'll get back on top of things the week after.

And I'm sure I'll have plenty to blog about to make up for it!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Book 64 of 2014: The Simarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

I have now officially reached the end of my book reviews for last year! The last book that I read in 2014 was J.R.R. Tolkien's The Simarillion. It was a slightly foolish venture, starting Tolkien's Middle-earth epic on Boxing Day when I am so determined to finish the books I start before the end of the year, but I managed it, finishing just a few hours before the end of the year.

The Silmarillion is the book that Tolkien wanted to publish after The Hobbit though he never got to see it in print in his lifetime. It goes right back to the very beginning, the actual creation of Middle-earth by the spirits that operate in the background but are never actually seen in The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. It's actually a collection of shorter stories which together give an incredible depth to the world, some of which is only glimpsed on a very small scale in the more well-known works, like the story of Beren and Luthien.

The Popsugar Reading Challenge has broken my usual strict hierarchy of reading (where I work my way down my bookshelves, reading one book from each shelf until I reach the end and go back to the beginning again) but at the end of last year The Simlarillion wound up being the next book that I was supposed to read. And I was worried that I wouldn't get it finished before the clock struck twelve on New Year's Eve.

I wound up carrying this book everywhere with me, reading it whenever I got a moment to myself; in the car on the way to work, at work in breaks, waiting for tea, waiting for Jules Holland's Hootenanny to start on TV. And it worked. I managed to finish it with a few hours to spare. The one problem with this approach was that I had packed away my cheap paperback edition of the book, so I had to read my rather valuable first edition copy. Normally it doesn't leave the house.

As with all my regular rereads, I found myself focusing on different characters. On this read through I really enjoyed Galadriel's story, particularly her time with Melian. I love the understanding that this book gives you of some of the characters in The Lord of the Rings; I get the impression that Galadriel modelled herself and Lothlorien on The Girdle of Melian.

I did find the beginning a bit slow and heavy-going but once the action got underway I got through it quicker. It's funny because in the past I've loved the way it's almost like poetry, I guess this time around I wanted the action aspect. Another thing that I found kind of funny was the fact that the whole of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is basically summed up in the last three pages (when together they equal somewhere in the region of two thousand)!

Monday, 24 August 2015

How I rank my books

Almost a month ago I posted an update of my progress with the Popsugar Reading Challenge. That week, during my weekly phone call to my Mum we had a discussion about how I rank books and just what my star system means. I told her that I would write a blog post to try and explain myself, so here goes.

When I got my first Moleskine book journal, at the bottom of each page were five stars for you to rank your books. Before that I used to give them marks out of ten in a little spreadsheet on my computer, but when I switched to the book journal I switched to five stars (which is kind of the same as ten stars because I allow myself half stars). Even though I use my own pretty or plain notebooks as book journals now, I still use the five star system.

Five Stars are for books that I love. They're the ones that make your chest ache, that make you hold your breath as you get to the end, that make you read so quickly because you don't want to put them down until you near the end and then read so slowly because you don't want them to end. These are the books that are afforded the auspicious title of 'My Favourite Books'. They are the ones that I recommend to friends and family, or force on them if I think they're one of those books you should read before you die. Examples of Five Star books: The Other Side of Truth, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, The Fault In Our Stars.

Four Stars are for books that I really like. They're the ones that you return to time after time because they're comfortable and familiar, which you know the characters as well as your own friends (sometimes even better), that might not be staggering examples of English literature but which are special in their own way. These are often books which I've read before and which may have started out as five stars on a previous read through but which seem slightly less shiny on a second or third go round, or which are almost a five star book but for a character I don't like, a plot point that annoyed me, or a writing style which just doesn't quite grab me. They are the ones which stay on my bookcase long after I've read them and will suggest to people who express an interest in similar books. Examples of Four Star books: And it's goodnight from him…, Johnny and the Bomb, She Who Remembers.

Three Stars are for books that I enjoy or are generally okay. They're the ones that you want to read most of the time because they don't require a huge amount of thought or concentration, that are just a good fun read or interesting, conversely they might be long and a little slow but are worthwhile reading just so you can say you have. These are also books that I occasionally return to, though maybe not quite so often as the four star ones. They quite often wind up being classics or books which are enjoyable though heavy-going or difficult in places. They are often the ones that I've received for free on my Kindle, or have picked up from charity shops second hand in which they may go back there when I'm finished with them. Examples of Three Star books: The Three Musketeers, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, The Beekeeper's Apprentice.

Two Stars are for books that I feel are lacking something. They're the ones that are mostly good but are missing something that makes them a truly good book, that you might have picked up on a whim or to fulfil some target on a reading challenge, that I just picked up at the wrong time to fully appreciate. They are occasionally books that have been recommended to me by other which just don't grab me for whatever reason. Sometimes they're free ebooks which might have been better had they seen more of an editor. Examples of Two Star books: Secret Santa (A Bluegrass Series Novella), The First Christmas Tree A Story of the Forest, Christmas Eve.

One Star is for books that I really didn't enjoy. They're the ones that you finish because you hate to leave a book unfinished, that hopefully has at least one redeeming quality, that just didn't do it for you for whatever reason. They are almost always one of two books; ones which have been foisted on me by people who think I will like them, or free ebooks which just don't do it at all. These are the books that I am relieved to finish and have absolutely no intentions of going back and rereading. Luckily they are few and far between. Examples of One Star books: Filth (1.5 stars), The Guardian of Athmore (1.5 stars).

I use half stars when a book isn't quite entirely in one category or another. In the examples for my One Star books neither one was quite bad enough to be given a single star (in the last twenty months I've not given a single book just one star and those are the only two I've given one and a half to); but neither book was quite good enough to be a full two stars.

It's an entirely unscientific process as well. A book that I mark as three star book one week might have been a four star book had I read it a week earlier. Two star books may occasionally become a one star book on a reread (and vice versa, occasionally) and books can move between five and four, or four and three; I think it's pretty much unheard of for a reread to jump from a one to a three (mainly because I don't tend to reread one star books) or a two to a four.

So when I mark a book as being three stars, I'm not saying it's a bad book. It's a good book, it's just not a great or spectacular book.

How do you rank your books?

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Weekly Rundown: Out for a walk

I'll keep this week's post short as in a little while I'm off with some colleagues for a walk. It was originally going to be up a hill but since then we've found a different route to take, so instead of having the usual Sunday roast I'm going to be toddling off and have a chicken sandwich when we pause for a rest. I foresee a lot of chatting and laughing.

I actually had a bit of a warm up walk yesterday.

On the way home from getting my hair cut in town we stopped at Kerrycroy beach and threw Tara in the sea for a while. Both Mr Click and Tara got thoroughly soaked. Then I walked her home in the rain and got pretty wet myself. The walk home was actually intended to dry out the labrador but I think we both ended up wetter than ever. I had to keep wiping my nose, not because it was running but because water kept dripping off the end of it.

On the plus side, I have found some earphones that work with my phone. My cheap ones I use with my Kindle and mp3 player don't seem to get on with my Samsung phone. I've been putting music onto my phone again (I had a few songs on it before I wiped it, but for some reason when I backed everything up they weren't included). I think I've been driving Mr Click crazy playing the same three songs over and over again, so I've add some of the songs from The Hobbit film soundtracks to vary it a little.

Speaking of adding tracks to media devices, I had a fun weekend trying to get my BBC radio production of The Lord of the Rings onto my Kindle.

Last year, when I travelled to Gloucester by bus, I knew I would have a twelve hour journey so figured it would be the perfect time to crack out the 13+ hours of Lord of the Rings which I've owned for years but am yet to make it all the way through. As I settled in for the long journey on the bus I started trying to play it, only to discover that as I'd ripped the twelve CDs in the set into the same folder (rather than titling them CD1, CD2, etc.) they automatically sorted themselves into tracks. So I had track 1 of CD1, then track 1 of CD2, then track 1 of CD3, and so on.

It was a disaster. A disaster which was further compounded by my earphones blowing up on me.
Now I'm preparing for another long bus journey in the coming week, I figured perhaps it was time to put this past issue to bed and have another go and ripping The Lord of the Rings to my Kindle.
Friday night I sat up way past my bedtime, carefully coping out all the track titles. This time I was wiser. Before copying out the title of each track I added a three-digit number so I knew where it came in the sequence. I was going to beat it this time.

Three hours later I had everything done.

While the final CD, a music one, was ripping, I copied across the files I'd done so far. Fired up the Kindle Fire and tried to find the BBC Radio folder I'd created. And it wasn't there. When I went to recently added files all I could see were the last six tracks I'd added, none of which were the story of The Lord of the Rings. And then it dawned on me. I'd ripped them all as .wma files, instead of .mp3 and my Kindle wouldn't recognise them.

I went to bed in a bit of a huff with the whole enterprise.

The story does have a happy ending though.

I got up early on Saturday and tried all over again, making extra sure that I was ripping them in the correct format. And this time it worked. There was a slight hiccup when I was making the playlist and I realised that at one point I got to file 069 and followed it up with a second set of 060 to 069. Once I'd figured out which 060 should come first and which should come second it was fine.

So now I'm nearly ready to go. I still have to finish packing, which means I still have to get my washing dry. But other than that, I'm practically ready for Wales.

I can't wait.

P.S. Remember my bookcase from last week's post?

Well now it looks like this:

Also, notice how closely cropped the top picture is compared to the bottom one. That's because the room was a bit of a mess. Now I've been able to pull out those boxes of books from the cupboard upstairs and put the other stuff in the cupboard instead.

It's perfect.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Film Review: The Two Towers, Part 5

Each Saturday I like to post part of a review of a film and at the moment I'm working my way through the Lord of the Rings trilogy. We're currently just a couple of posts away from the end of The Two Towers.

Last week's post saw the exodus from Edoras as well as Faramir getting to know Frodo and Sam a little better. Now we're going to see the beginning of the battle at Helm's Deep as well as catching up with Merry and Pippin while they attend the Entmoot.

227. No army's ever breached the Deeping Wall. Well, there's a first time for everything, Théoden.

228. Théoden's really overconfident. He's going to get a nasty shock in the next twenty minutes or so.

229. Aragorn's like a stubborn child. He's so convinced that Gondor will come if they call. Uh, mate, you've not been there for a while, things have kinda changed.

230. Back to Merry and Pippin. It's time for an Ent Moot. Merry wonders what sort of gathering an Ent Moot might be... I'll give you a clue. It involves Ents.

231. I love how all the Ents look like different sorts of trees. They're really not an attractive race though.

232. Éowyn pleads with Aragorn, hoping that he'll side with her when she asks to fight alongside him. She all but says that she loves him, then apologises for it. Poor Éowyn.

233. According to the commentary there are loads of family members of the cast and crew in this scene. The only ones I ever recognise are Billy and Katie Jackson.

234. Think that's one of the behind the scenes guys in the background there. I want to say he's something to do with art or production or something.

235. Aragorn really needs to learn when to speak Elvish and when to speak Common Speech.

236. I love this scene with Théoden preparing himself for battle and saying the poem. Oh and the little boys and old men getting ready for the fight. It's all so well done.

237. Back to the Ent Moot. It's nigh time and the Hobbits are getting bored. They've not actually gotten any further than saying Good Morning. By the time they decide whether or not to go to war, the war'll be over and Saruman and Sauron will be trying to decide who gets to be boss.

238. And there's Viggo Mortensen's son. I love listening to the commentary and having them point out all the relatives of the cast and crew.

239. Haleth could probably have gotten out of fighting by pretending to be a girl, he's got lovely hair.

240. Aragorn's clothes look really complicated.

241. Legolas makes up with Aragorn and the trio have a friendly moment before they're interrupted by a horn. This is where I start humming the Badger Badger Badger song.

242. For anyone who's watching these films who hasn't read the book, this bit also isn't in it. The Battle of Helm's Deep lasts for about eleven pages, making it one of the shortest chapters in the book.
243. All the same, it's not really a bad thing to see Haldir again.

244. I'm so glad they've got Gimli as the comic relief otherwise this would be really depressing right about now.

245. I like the plinky plonky sound of the rain on the metal. It's the antithesis of the heavy marching of the Uruk Hai.

246. Jackson kids again.

247. The Uruk Hair decide to start the fight with some intimidation tactics. Bit of banging and stamping to get the party started.

248. Then an old man accidentally lets loose an arrow and that kicks everything off: "So it begins."

249. And indeed it does. Battle scenes are kind of tricky to review like this, since I know absolutely nothing about them. The rest of this review is likely to be along the lines of: someone dies, Wilhelm Scream, ugly Uruk, more people die. Seriously, that's what's happening right now.

250. At least we've still got Legolas and Gimli's competition to keep us entertained. Gotta feel sorry for the Uruk Hai that Gimli goes after in a groin attack after he learns Legolas is winning.

251. And a quick break from the fighting to catch up with the trees. Treebeard lets Merry and Pippin know that they've now come to the conclusion that the Hobbits aren't Orcs.

252. Still no word on whether or not they're going to do anything about the war though.

253. Gimli's into double figures in the competition now.

254. Did no one notice all the Orcs marching up the causeway?

255. Also, Théoden, the words 'tempting fate' spring to mind. Saruman is about to conjure up something really fun for you.

256. It's nice that they included Uruk Hai in the Olympic Torch relay. Those guys always get forgotten in these big events.

257. What were you saying about the Deeping Wall never being breached, Théoden?

258. Look, he's actually speechless.

259. And there's Peter Jackson again. I knew he was in the battle somewhere.

260. Aragorn wakes up just in time to be saved by Gimli, who is promptly taken out by an invading Uruk.

261. Now for some more Legolas acrobatics. This time it's shield surfing downstairs. Don't try that at home, kids.

262. Treebeard's got another update for the Hobbits. They've decided not to get involved. They didn't start the war so it's not their place to finish it.

263. Merry is shocked by this decision and so calls them on it. It has absolutely no effect whatsoever.

264. Pippin tries to console Merry. I think this conversation is deliberately written so that it could apply to any number of things in the world today: It doesn't affect me right now, so why should I get involved. Even though someday it might affect you and by then it'll be too late to change it.

265. Back to Helm's Deep where you know that things are going badly because the soundtrack has gone all muted and people are fighting in slow motion.

266. Then Haldir takes an axe to the head. Remember, dying in battle is one of the ways that immortal Elves can be killed. And there's a lot of dead Elves in this battle.

267. Aragorn doesn't have long to say goodbye though because the music is swelling and there's another attack coming on.

268. The brass section are really giving it their all.

269. Aragorn and Gimli are nipping out the side door to try and clear the causeway in order to give the fighters time to repair the gate. Unfortunately for Gimli this means another trip via beard swing.

270. I love that a whole army of Men can't fight off a bunch of Uruk Hai, but Aragorn and Gimli are able to do it themselves without too much difficulty.

271. Even though they've blown a ruddy great hole in the side of the wall, the Uruk Hair are still sending up ladders onto the walls and trying to get to the gate up the causeway.

272. Oh dear. Théoden's decided that it's time to retreat. They don't really have anywhere much to retreat to.

So we'll leave them there in Edoras, they can keep on retreating until next week when we'll wrap this whole thing up as the battle for Helm's Deep ends, Merry and Pippin get to visit Isengard, and Faramir realises that Frodo and Sam never actually went to Osgiliath in the book and sets things straight.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: Twilight, Chapter 22

Yay! Both Chapter-by-Chapter posts are scheduled before Friday. I feel like we should crack open a bottle of something bubbly and some cake to celebrate this momentous occasion.

Now we've got that out the way, let's recap what happened in the last chapter of Twilight. The tracker, James, made contact with Bella to let her know that he has her mum. He gives her very strict instructions on what she has to do next, namely getting away from Alice and Jasper so she can make her way, alone, to her mother's house.

On with Chapter 22: Hide-And-Seek

What Happens?

Bella manages to escape from Alice and Jasper at the airport. She follows the instructions from the tracker which leads her to the dance studio. The tracker reveals Renee is safe, cold comfort since he starts attacking Bella shortly afterwards.

Thoughts as I read:

I'm guessing this chapter's title describes Bella's meeting with the tracker. Or maybe trying to get away from Alice and Jasper. I suspect there's going to be a lot of seeking going on.

In the hotel room, Alice is having another vision. It's clearly about Bella. She probably saw Bella leaving them and going to the tracker. Whatever she saw, I don't think she's going to admit it to Bella, especially as she claims that she just saw the same room again. It seems like Bella's developing some super senses of her own now, since she knows that Alice wants her out of the room to discuss Bella with Jasper. Bella obliges.

Jasper uses his powers to calm Bella and soon they're on their way to the airport. This is the perfect time for Bella to ask how the visions work. I'm glad she's asked because I've been wondering this myself. Some things that Alice sees are certain, like forecasting weather. I take exception to this, since not even the weather forecasters are particularly certain about what the weather will do from one day to the next. People are harder for visions since they're more swift to change their minds, these visions are more flexible as people change their minds.

So presumably she's seen Bella in the mirror room, since that's what Bella's decided to do now. Now that they know she's going to try it, it'll be harder for her to do it as they'll be expecting her to make a break and can be prepared to stop her.

At the airport Bella waits for the chance to get away:

Alice and Jasper spent a long time looking at the departing flights board. I could hear them discussing the pros and cons of New York, Atlanta, Chicago. Places I'd never seen. And would never see.

She gives Alice the letter to her 'mum'. They wait some more. Eventually it looks like the plane will land early so Bella says she wants food and needs Jasper to go with her to help her stay calm. Nice one, Bella.

And then comes her opportunity for escape: the ladies toilets. Specifically this particular loos because there are two exits. That's convenient. This enables her to slip away from Jasper without him noticing her making her getaway. And she does, running all the way and miraculously not killing herself or anyone else. It's odd how in P.E. she can't run to save her life and yet when she is running to save someone else's life, she manages it without a hiccough.

She manages to hop onto a shuttle to 'the Hyatt' which I guess is a hotel. There she gets into a cab, which she takes her to Scottsdale, this is where her mum's house is. She's got twenty minutes to kill so she imagines she's with Edward at the airport; meeting him again, travelling into hiding, being with him. It occupies her until they reach the house.

As she was told, there's a number waiting by the phone for her. I'm wondering whether or nor Alice has realised what Bella is up because I'm sure once she figures it out they won't take that long to get to her. I can't imagine they would hang around the airport once Bella doesn't come out of the toilets and they can move really fast when they want to.

My fingers stumbled over the keypad, making mistakes. I had to hang up and start again. I concentrated only on the buttons this time, carefully pressing each one in turn.

My job is basically dialling numbers and I have days like this. In the last week double numbers have been giving me especial trouble.

She gets there eventually and is given instructions to go to the dance studio, which we kind of already knew anyway. So that's where she heads, having a few memories of better times on the way, better times when a vampire wasn't about to eat her.

The sun was hot on my skin, too bright as it bounced off the white concrete and blinded me. I felt dangerously exposed. More fiercely than I would have dreamed I was capable of, I wished for the green, protective forests of Forks… of home.

She's changed her tune now.

At the studio the door is unlocked though the building's closed for summer. Why take the trouble to go there? Why not stay in the house? It seems like once you've got Bella to her mother's house alone, you could do what you wanted to there, rather than having her run off somewhere else. The other vampires could catch up with her in that time and go after the tracker instead.

She hears her mum's voice as soon as she gets to the dance studio, but it's on a tape playing on the TV. And there's our friend the tracker. Turns out he never had her mum at all, he's just been using the video tapes to lead Bella on. Well, that's kind of a relief, though probably not so much for Bella considering she's about to get eaten.

Bella is actually relieved by this because that means she's not going to bring any more harm to her family. James will do what he wants with her and then just move on somewhere else. Does Bella really think that her being eaten isn't going to hurt her family? Will her parents not be devastated by her death?

Whatever, Bella is feeling very noble. She's also asked Edward not to do anything for revenge. The conversation she and James are having actually makes more sense than most of the conversations between her and Edward. So Meyer can write conversations, she just can't write conversations between Bella and Edward that make sense.

The tracker explains how he came to be here. He had Victoria investigate her, taunting her about her human predictability. Victoria figured out where she was when Edward got on a plane. Well done, Edward, you've really dropped her in it. James is even planning on leaving a note of his own for Edward, in the form of a video to encourage him to get revenge. Apparently James wants to have the pleasure of getting rid of Edward next.

Somehow the reason he's doing this is because of Alice. She was his prey once who got away from him. Does that mean that he was the one who turned Alice? I want to read Alice's story! It seems so much more interesting than all this stuff with Bella and Edward. James still wants Alice but he's willing to get over her if he can have Bella instead. Personally I'd rather we had more of Alice than Bella.

Then James compliments Bella on her smell. It's floral, apparently.

And then it's time for the attack. Bella tries to get away but it's no use. He throws her into the mirrors to stop her. They shatter and he's pleased because that'll make his video more dramatic. While she's lying there he stands on her and breaks her leg, because he's seriously evil. Then he hits her and cuts her head open on the glass. It's all very violent.

Let it be quick now, was all I could hope as the flow of blood from my head sucked my consciousness away with it. My eyes were closing.
I heard, as if from underwater, the final growl of the hunter. I could see, through the long tunnels my eyes had become, his dark shape coming toward me. With my last effort, my hand instinctively raised to protect my face. My eyes closed, and I drifted.

This chapter wasn't too bad, though it's a little bit contrived with Bella getting away from Jasper at the airport. I also don't get why the tracker felt the need for Bella to go from her mum's house to the dance studio when he could've just got her at the house. He's really gone to a lot of trouble to draw her out. And she's obviously not going to die because I'm fairly certain she's going to crop up in the rest of the series.

Very few questions in this chapter now, I think things are finally being resolved:

  • Why did James feel the need to go to the dance studio instead of just staying at Renee's house?
  • Does Bella not think that her parents will be hurt by her death?
  • Was James the one who turned Alice into a vampire?

Chapter-by-Chapter: Twilight, Chapter 21

This is the post which should have gone live last week. If I'd actually got it typed up and posted properly. I don't want to fall too far behind now as we're so close to the end now. Things are getting really dramatic now.

In the last chapter we saw Bella hanging out in a hotel room with Alice and Jasper, waiting to hear from Edward. When he does call it's not with good news. Also in the not good news category is the vision that Alice has of Bella's old dance studio; turned out the tracker was going to make for Bella's mum.

Next up is Chapter 21: Phone Call.

What Happens?

Edward prepares to hop on a place to catch up with Bella since the tracker is planning to go to Renee's house. The tracker gets there first and calls to let Bella know she has to do whatever he wants, otherwise Renee's going to get it.

Thoughts as I read:

I'm going to guess that in this chapter someone will call Bella. Or perhaps Bella will call someone. Perhaps her mum will make contact. Whoever it is, it's not a long chapter so I'm guessing it won't be a long call.

Can anyone guess how this chapter begins?

I could feel it was too early again when I woke, and I knew I was getting the schedule of my days and nights slowly reversed. I lay in my bed and listened to the quiet voices of Alice and Jasper in the other room.

Yup, that's right. Bella has just woken up.

Once up Bella learns Alice has had another vision. This time the tracker turned on the lights in the room so she was able to get a better look at the place. It's the room with the VCR so she sets to sketching what she's seen. I'd suck at this since I can't draw to save my life, it could end up looking like anything!

Luckily this is not the case with Alice. Bella watches as her mum's house takes shape. This is a worrying development.

Side note, how weird is the line:

Two pairs of eternal eyes stared at me.

I can't put my finger on exactly what is weird about it. I think it's the 'eternal eyes' thing, it just seems like an odd description.

Alice promptly calls Edward. That'd be our phone call then. Update: Edward is coming for Bella. I'm sure this is important but I'm distracted by more weird wording:

Uncharacteristically, Jasper slid closer to me. He lightly touched his hand to my shoulder, and the physical contact seemed to make his calming influence stronger.

I'm not even sure why this reads as odd for me. It seems like something I would write during NaNoWriMo, when I'm trying to get extra words; why not just say 'he lightly touched my shoulder'?

While I've been wondering about the writing, the guys in the book have been formulating a new plan. That is, Carlisle, Emmett and Edward are going to hide Bella somewhere. Will they hide Charlie and Renee too? It sure doesn't sound like they're safe either. Ah, they half answer my question, Jasper and Alice are staying here to keep Renee safe. I'm not entirely sure that that's going to work.

Bella's figured out that the tracker is after people she loves. That'll draw her out so he can get her. Why do they keep calling him 'the tracker'? I keep having to check back what his name actually is. It's James. I just checked. Is it because having Jasper and James getting mentioned in the one chapter will be confusing for readers?

When Bella protested too much they try to psychically force her to sleep. Vampires really have no idea about boundaries, do they? Bella is able to resist it and heads back into her room in a strop. She doesn't come out until Edward announces he's boarding the plane. That'd be another phone call.

I can't help but wonder if this isn't all a big trap being laid by the tracker (gah, they've got me at it now!) Perhaps he wants to make them think that's where he's going, but he's actually going to draw Bella out and get her that way.

And now it's another phone call. Perhaps this chapter should have been called 'Phone calls'. This time it's Renee. Unsurprisingly, she's a little worried. A major reason for this is probably the fact that the tracker has already got to her. I'd say that's a reason to worry. He feeds Bella lines to keep anyone who's listening to her side of the conversation from becoming suspicious. Of course if anyone was listening in on another line, this would all be pointless, luckily for him they don't have another line. Also luckily for him, Jasper is out so he can't do his emotion sensing thing.

The tracker fills Bella in. Renee got back sooner than planned so he wants Bella to get away from her minders so he can meet up with her. Ooh, this book is finally getting interesting!

Bella's given instructions to go to her mother's house. Alone. He'll leave a number by the phone for her to call. He's apparently planning on taking her to the dance studio, which is where she's going to end up dying. And look, he's actually mentioned by name. At last, presumably because Jasper is currently out of the hotel, so we can't get confused.

And as I guessed, Jasper is out because otherwise he'd sense that something was wrong with Bella. At least this way she just has to fool Alice. She gets down to formulating a plan straight away, asking if Alice can leave a note at the house for Renee. She actually writes the note to Edward. We get to see that in a funky font; Bella has curlier handwriting than I imagined.

In the note Bella apologises to Edward, tells him to thank Alice and Jasper for her, and begs him not to come after her because this is the only way she can save her mum.

I folded the letter carefully, and sealed it in the envelope. Eventually he would find it. I only hoped he would understand, and listen to me just this once.
And then I carefully sealed away my heart.


I think we are finally getting to the meat of the story. I kind of like this twist and I'm actually looking forward to seeing what happens next. And I've learnt some things since I began this book, so I'm also kind of expecting to be disappointed.

Just a few questions raised in this chapter:

  • Is is just me or is the writing slightly clunky in this chapter?
  • Are Charlie and Renee going to be hidden as well as Bella?
  • Why do they keep calling the tracker 'the tracker' instead of his actual name?

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Meet Joseph

Seeing as I'm still knitting over journal wrecking and book finishing at the moment I might as well continue to use my Thursdays for sharing my progress as I knit my way through the Nativity.

My current figure that I'm working on is Joseph (of the non Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat variety). He's a rather drab looking figure after spending so much time on my wonderfully brightly colours Wise Men. On the plus side, he's knitting up incredibly quickly by comparison because he doesn't have any added extras.

I feel like I'm really getting the hang of the faces of these characters now. As usual, the Jean Greenhowe instructions are perfectly clear, but things like embroidery take more than a little effort on the part of the crafter. I think Joseph's facial features are the best so far. He's certainly the first one who hasn't had his eyes and nose unpicked several times before I give him up as done.

For his eyes I've found that if I do the first stitch over one knitted stitch and don't pull it too tight, then do the second stitch over two it makes the eyes look a lot more even. Plus it makes it easier to make sure that they're level (at least one of the Wise Men has slightly wonky eyes).

I'm still struggling a little with the noses, possibly because I'm overthinking them or because the pink yarn is very thin and really needs twice as many stitches to give the nose any sort of definition. But even on Joseph this worked out well. I worked it over a little square of four knit stitches, first across, then diagonal, then up and down, then across again, plus one tight stitch on either side to help make it stand out. Doing this meant using rather more stitches than the pattern actually called for, but it helped pull the nose out and it looks a lot neater than Balthazar and Melchior's noses. I have to remember this for the shepherds.

I've also just about finished my planning for adapting this basic figure to make an angel. Since I'll be making the donkey I feel like I need an angel for the whole nativity story. I may even make a figure to act as an innkeeper. I'm getting a little carried away with myself, perhaps once I've finished the actual ones in the pattern I'll be fed up with them all, but it's a nice idea. As long as I get them all done before Christmas and I'm well on track right now.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Book 63 of 2014: The Christmas Story from David Harum, by Edward Noyes Westcott

You'll be pleased to know, what with it being halfway through August, that this is the last of my Christmas book review posts for the time being. It's also the second to last book that I read last year. I don't normally read Christmas books after Christmas Day, but this one was okay because I read it on Christmas Day and Boxing Day; after that point I like to get back to my regular reading schedule.

The Christmas Story from David Harum by Edward Noyes Westcott is available as a free Kindle ebook. First published in 1900, it tells the story of a man who has a bit of a bad reputation but, in a show of true Christmas spirit, does a little good at Christmas. This is an extract from a longer work.

On the whole it was a nice festive little read for Christmas. I didn't want to start something too long on Christmas Day as it would mean I could end up reading it well after Christmas. Not necessarily a bad thing, but once the festive period is over, I like to start thinking about the new year (and last year that meant gearing up for the start of the Popsugar Reading Challenge). Plus I hate to end the year on an unfinished book. A new year is a new start (in the past it meant a new book journal as well, so carrying a book forward from the previous year could be untidy and awkward).

I was expecting it to be in a similar sort of vein to A Christmas Carol though in an American setting rather than a British one. The basic gist of the story is that David Harum decided to be generous to Widow Cullom at Christmas, mainly because Widow Cullom's husband had been kind to David as a child. I guess it's the same sort of the general message as A Christmas Carol; Christmas is the time to be good to others. That said, I'm not sure why Harum decided to be kind to her at this point rather than earlier.

I did struggle a little with the dialect at first. Some words were written as they were said, which made it hard to fathom out the meaning. It took me a moment to work out that 'hull' meant 'whole'. It didn't spoil my enjoyment at all, but it did slow me down a fair bit.

I'm not sure it's a book I'll read again at any point, but it does make for a quick little read if you're looking for a bitesize Christmas read.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Film Review: Inside Out

Our island is lucky enough to have a small cinema which recently underwent an upgrade to enable it to show digital films; previously to that we had to wait for other bigger cinemas to be done with film reels before we could get them. This sometimes meant that they weren't in the best of shape before they came to us, usually about a month or so after they were in cinemas in the rest of the country.

Now we get them a lot sooner. And we've got new seats as well. They've got padding and cupholders and everything. You would not believe how excited I was to see the cupholders when we went on the 8th to see the Disney Pixar film, Inside Out.

It follows the five emotions inside eleven-year-old Riley's mind as she moves across the country. Joy has always run the show, but when Sadness starts turning happy memories sad, Joy and Sadness wind up getting lost in the depths of Riley's mind. Meanwhile Disgust, Anger and Fear are left running the show, causing all sorts of problems back in the real world for Riley. Joy and Sadness have to save Riley's Core Memories and get back to to headquarters before Riley winds up in serious trouble.


Seriously. It's just a beautiful, wonderful film. And it just made me feel all the feelings!

To be honest, when I first heard about Inside Out I thought about it in the same way as I thought about WALL-E; interesting concept, I'll pick it up when it comes out. This should have been my first clue that I was making a mistake. The more I read about it though, the more I wanted to see it. I mean, it's such a bizarre and clever concept that I wanted to see it to see how they made it work.

Then my Mum went to see it and told me how amazing it was and so I knew I had to see it.

We had been keeping half an eye out for it at the local cinema when I heard it was on a matinee. So we made a quick decision one Saturday to go see it. I think I was more excited than the children in the cinema. Mr Click and I were the only adults there who hadn't brought at least one small person to see the film.

In short, it gave my Joy and Sadness a work out. The main character, Joy, is responsible for helping to keep Riley happy and Riley is a very happy kid. Unfortunately Joy doesn't seem to realise that it's not enough for a person to be happy all the time, the other emotions are there for a reason and everyone needs a turn to help Riley become well rounded emotionally. Through the film Joy learns that there's actually a place for all of them.

Riley is basically just starting to enter puberty so it's a storyline that pretty much everyone can relate to. In Riley's case the move prompts a change in her personality as she struggles to come to terms with her new surroundings. Everyone's had moments in their lives when they feel conflicted or have unexpected emotional reactions. I challenge anyone who has seen it to not start thinking about the five emotions running riot inside their mind in the following days.

The way that emotions in the Inside Out world seems to work is that one is ultimately the 'lead emotion', so I've been thinking of all the people I know and wondering what their lead emotions are or what emotions might be in charge at any one moment; like when we left Tara at home to go to the cinema her Fear and Sadness were in charge, but when we came back it was her Joy all the way!

It's really clever how they conceived the world inside the mind as well. I especially like the way the memories are stored and Imagination Land. I couldn't help but be reminded of The Sims in the way that the core memories shape the different 'personality islands' but again, it's very clever. I suspect that I must have a 'Bookworm Island' which probably has a connecting bridge to 'Tolkien Island'.

As with all Disney Pixar films, part of the fun of watching it is looking out for the little hidden references to other things. It's one of my favourite things to do on rewatches because even after seeing it three or four times you can still find more. I spotted the birds from a Pixar short right at the beginning, Nemo on a board game, the Luxor ball, and a dinosaur (which I think is a reference to the next Disney Pixar film which is due out later this year).

It's definitely one I'm going to want to see again and again and again. I'm hoping it might be out on blu-ray in time for Christmas. I think it's a film that children and adults can enjoy on different levels and perhaps it'll help some people to talk about their feelings when they don't necessarily have the words to explain how they feel.

Go on, watch it. Give your Joy and Sadness a work out too.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Weekly Rundown: Another New Bookcase

I've had a pretty busy week this week. Aren't they all? After starting my blogging week relatively well and being organised with everything, it all fell apart somewhere around Wednesday so I didn't actually manage to get my Chapter-by-Chapter posts up. This may have actually worked out in my favour by putting me ahead by a week in my draft posts. I'm hoping I can use this to my advantage and get back on track.

A friend of mine is partly to blame for my disorganisation. I got a message from her on Wednesday to let me know that she'd found a Tolkien book and wanted to know whether I had it. It was a copy of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil & Farmer Giles of Ham. I replied yes and no as I already own a beautiful copy of the former, but not the latter. So she brought it round a short while later.

Which meant that instead of typing up my thoughts on the latest chapters of Twilight I ended up chatting about charity shop finds, books, the differences between editions and imprints and other important things. And so we came around to the subject of a bookcase that she was looking to rehome.

After a bit of a conflab with Mr Click we established that if we got rid of the desk upstairs, we'd have room for another bookcase up there. But where to get rid of the desk? As chance would have it, the same friend's daughter was looking for a desk. And so a deal was struck; one desk for one bookcase.

Clearing the desk was a daunting task, since it's been used as a general dumping ground. It's where I put stuff I want to list on eBay, stationery supplies, stuff that should probably be put away somewhere permanently but isn't, finished knitting projects, unfinished knitting projects, stuff that should have been binned but hasn't, as well as make up, hair stuff, and other assorted doodads, thingies and whatsits. Armed with a roll of bin bags, a duster and furniture polish, I set to work.

And it didn't actually take that long.

I still have a bin bag of stuff to sort through to decide whether to keep, donate or bin, but on the whole it was a relatively quick task.

It was actually kind of ironic. Once I'd cleared all the rubbish off the desk and saw it in all its uncluttered glory, I realised that actually it could be quite a useful piece of furniture. All the same, I think we made a good trade because the bookcase has been in the hour for a little over twelve hours and it's already getting quite a lot of use.

It looked like the sort of bookcase you would find in a church. It's old and made out of solid oak. The one slight problem we had when we received it was that two of the supports for the bottom shelf were missing. Luckily for us I missed my true calling as a Blue Peter presenter. A couple of bend split pins later and I had it fixed.

As it's so old I'm using it for my classics and older books. The top shelf is just the right size for Penguin Classics paperbacks. I'm also thinking of moving some of my vintage knitting books up there as well because that'll make them more easily accessible and stop them from getting crushed in my mess of a knitting cupboard. At some point soon I will need to pull out all of my books from the boxes they're stored in and play musical bookcases again.

Is it wrong that I'm really looking forward to that?

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Film Review: The Two Towers, Part 4

I nearly didn't get to watch any of The Lord of the Rings this week since we ended up having an impromptu cinema trip to see Inside Out. I should also add that it's very confusing watching The Two Towers when you've just started reading The Fellowship of the Ring.

In last week's installment we saw Theoden looking quite a bit younger and Frodo ran into someone who wasn't too friendly. This week Rohan's being evacuated, Aragorn takes a tumble, and Frodo and Sam learn about Boromir's death.

172. Straight into the second half of The Two Towers. The people of Rohan are leaving for Helm's Deep while Gimli gives Éowyn a lesson in gender differences between male and female Dwarves; it's tricky business since they both have beards.

173. Théoden ships Aragorn and Éowyn as well. I'm so not alone.

174. Éowyn is definitely my favourite female character in this film. I'd say my level of cookery skills is probably Éowyn level.

175. Random fact: Aragorn is really, really old. Older than Théoden. He's eighty-seven and looking damn good for his age!

176. It's gotta be tough to be seeing an Elf chic seeing as she can visit you in your dreams. I mean, it'd be handy at times, but might be a bit of a buzz kill when you're fantasising about the hot Rohan girl and your Elven girlfriend shows up halfway through.

177. Arwen's dress is kind of revealing.

178. Aragorn has a bit of an ear fetish.

179. We're getting a bit of a recap of what's going on with Arwen, Elrond and the rest of the romance in this story. Daddy disapproves so Aragorn tried to end it.

180. Oh, hello Legolas. Wondered where you'd got to.

181. And they're about to be ambushed by Wargs. Lucky Legolas was there to finish off the second one.

182. Oh look, there's more of them.

183. Théoden's put Eowyn in her place. She's a woman so she's not allowed to fight. But first a meaningful look between her and Aragorn.

184. And now for some crazy Elven acrobatics.

185. Dwarf down! Dwarf down!

186. I do love the competition between Legolas and Gimli.

187. There's more fighting. There's really not much else I can say about this.

188. Then Aragorn gets himself stuck on a Warg that falls off a cliff. That totally doesn't happen in the book.

189. Great, you've lost the King of Gondor!

190. It's really gross how the Orcs have bits of metal holding their faces together. I'm not entirely sure how that even works.

191. Legolas is having feelings right now.

192. The bit of mountain Helm's Deep is built into looks an awful lot like the Lonely Mountain where the Dwarves go in The Hobbit.

193. Aww, Éothain and Freya are reunited with their mum. At least they've got a happy ending. For now.

194. Gimli gets to break the news about Aragorn to Éowyn. She takes it about as well as is to be expected.

195. Oh look, rattles!

196. I love Saruman's reaction to Wormtongue leaning over the explosive with his candle. Saruman's basically invented modern warfare.

197. "There will be no dawn for Men" ooh, so sinister.

198. Oh, Merry and Pippin, I'd forgotten about you guys. They've spotted the smoke from Isengard as well as the MASSIVE army heading out.

199. And there's Aragorn, just out for a drift down a river.

200. Don't you hate it when you dream you're kissing someone really hot, then wake up and discover it's your horse.

201. That's what Tara does to me if she wants to go out and doesn't think I'm getting up quick enough.

202. I'm guessing that the fact Arwen speaks to her father in Common Speech is a sign that she's rebelling against the Elvish ways. Or maybe I'm reading too much into these things.

203. You'd think Elrond could just leave a boat for Arwen so she can have her time with Aragorn and then head to Valinor when he's died. Yeah, I know, it kind of defeats the whole 'giving it all up for love' message of this story.

204. So she's off. Elves really do not travel in the most practical way, do they?

205. Time for a little mindmeld moment between Elrond and the mother-in-law. I suppose you have to use what you can when you've not got phone lines. This is also useful for people who haven't read the books and need to know what the deal is with Faramir and Gondor.

206. Galadriel's kind of just given away the ending for us all as well.

207. The Gondorian Rangers take a break from rangering to play that old favourite party game, Pass the Hobbit.

208. Who made that map? It's Dagorlad, not Dagorland.

209. Frodo and Sam just seem so small when they're surrounded by Men in that cave.

210. "Your bodyguard?" "His gardener." Hehe.

211. Time to get Frodo up to speed on what's been going on with his friends since he left. Namely that Boromir is dead. I always forget that Frodo doesn't know what we know.

212. I like that they included the vision of Boromir in the boat. I like that bit in the book.

213. Clearly this next bit is a flashback because Boromir is alive again. Turns out he was quite good at fighting battles and stuff, seeing as he and his guys reclaimed Osgiliath.

214. And there's Walter from Fringe. I mean, Denethor. He's a bit of a jerk to his younger son. Correction, he's a lot of a jerk to his younger son!

215. If he hated Faramir so much, he should've sent him to Rivendell. Though, then again, if Boromir had run into Frodo when Faramir did then the Ring would've been well and truly doomed. Thinking about these things make my head hurt.

216. Osgiliath looks a bit like Dale in The Hobbit.

217. Uh, Frodo, you know that companion you claimed not to have. Well, he's found his way to the Rangers' hidden pool. Do you want to rethink your answer to Faramir's earlier question?

218. I love Sméagol's little song. I don't like the whacking the fish into the rock so much though.

219. I know this is really weird, and cute isn't really a word you'd associate with Gollum, but the way he carries the fish in his mouth as he leaves the pool is kind of cute.

220. The whole Gollum/Sméagol conversation thing is done really well here as well. I especially like the way he strokes his shoulder. Definitely not cute now.

221. Frodo's realising a lot of things right now. Like the fact that he's losing the fight against the Ring. This can only end badly, especially considering what Galadriel said earlier.

222. You could read all sorts of sexual subtext into Faramir poking at the Ring with his sword. I'm not going to say anything about that though.

223. Sam asks Faramir to help him. Faramir decides not to.

224. Oh dear. That's a very big army heading towards Helm's Deep. Thankfully the sight of it kind of wakes Aragorn up and he heads off to Helm's Deep ahead of them. Nothing quite like an advance warning.

225. I love Gimli's reaction to seeing Aragorn. And Legolas: 'You're late. You look terrible.' Only true friends could react to someone not being dead like that.

226. I also love the shot of Aragorn pushing open the doors to the hall, though he's pretty drippy. I hope he's just had a wash before seeing the king and isn't just really gross and sweaty.

And that seems like as good a place as any to end this post this week. We can all just sit and dribble over Aragorn until next week when the battle of Helm's Deep gets properly underway, while Merry and Pippin get to go to an Ent Moot.