rashbre central: 2021

Monday 27 December 2021

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Quack

 I usually produce pictures of Boris Johnson as cartoon or clown artwork. This time, I think the whole walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...cynical story needs to be presented. 

With suitable acknowledgements to The Mirror, The Observer, ITV News and BBC.

Saturday 11 December 2021

Last Night in Soho

Edgar Wright has previous form with looming zombie apocalypse kind of movies (World's End?) and I was intrigued to see what he would do with 60's London and the headspace of Eloise from Redruth going to that there London to make it in fashion.

The staging and sets of London in the 60s were exquisite, and although I can't particularly remember it in that era, there was enough of it left in the 70s to still look realistic. It is interesting to see how much the cleanup of some -er -colourful areas has progressed. 

And the film opens with Rita Tushingham explaining 'London can be a lot' and features - yes - Terence Stamp and Diana Rigg at various points within. 

Then there were the songs - definitely those old 45s with the big holes in the centre, and played on a Dansette.

There were also recognisable scenes of crowded London flat-living and not so much bedsit-life as lodger-life. Although I found the ease with which she ringed an advert in the Standard and then bagged the flat somewhat astonishing.

But of course, this nostalgia evocation wasn't the main direction of the plot. We get brash neon lights and echoes of other London films: The Pleasure Girls, The Party’s Over, Absolute Beginners - and more. We see the blurring of realities and spend some time in the head of Eloise as she connects with the spirits of the 60s including roughed-over wannabe singer Sandie played by Anya Taylor-Joy. And the rougher-upper is Matt Smith playing a cockney geezer. By the 4th reel, the movie gets very dark and drifts into Suspira territory.

There's plenty of staged references to other movies and scenes whilst Wright sharpens his blades towards the end.

I can still remember seeing Absolute Beginners in the West End and then leaving the cinema and walking right back into what felt like a continuation of the film set. 'It's the same old London underneath,' says a cabbie in this Edgar Wright movie, which is kind of what I was thinking, almost more than the shocks from the movie.

Thursday 9 December 2021

Pantomime neuralysers and dead cats

[No available pictures from any of the the parties]

The chump gets another episode after the party debacle. He throws a dead cat onto the table and we all look at that instead of the latest malfeasance. I think the American phrase for his view of the partying is plausible deniability.  Maybe we should ask the Deputy Director of Communications?
Just because Carrie Johnson and a few of her Departmental friends might be having an alleged party downstairs doesn't mean Mr Johnson has to know about it. And the fear culture must pervade the government, because no-one has broken ranks to admit anything. Maybe they deserve an award or something? The Men in Black must be running around with their neuralyser mind-zappers.
So, like the vaccine, here's we get another example of an alternative item (Plan B) to come along and run interference.  

A reminder of the last few items on the conveyor belt...
  • That non-reported donation of £67,801.72 used for his flat redecoration 
  • Clowning around at Cop26
  • Forgetting his lines
  • The Peppa Pig incident
  • The alleged multiplicity of parties during lockdown
  • Apologising for something that he apparently did not have a hand in.
and the pantomime response of British electorate: 'Yeah, but it's Boris!'

With all this recent attention on the Beatles, I'm reminded of that Lennon song called 'gimme some truth'. He wrote it around September 1971.

I'm sick and tired of hearin' things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded, hypocritics
All I want is the truthJust gimme some truth

I've had enough of readin' things
By neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians
All I want is the truthJust gimme some truth

I've had enough of watchin' scenes
Of schizophrenic, egocentric, paranoiac prima donnas
All I want is the truth now, now
Just gimme some truth

Friday 26 November 2021

Get Back


Despite all the talk of 4k and 8k video, it was fascinating to watch that 16mm Peter Jackson documentary of The Beatles prepping for a gig ordained to contain 14 new songs and be performed live, from 1969. That was the premise of the ill-fated Get Back sessions, set against a countdown clock ticking for two weeks. Based in a loaned Twickenham studio, they huddled up to one end, someone rigged white photo session screening and some splashes of coloured lights. Despite this, the resultant filmstock has been polished to look 21st century and aside from the interesting choices of clothing and a few vintage bits of kit, it could be contemporary. An alnost current 'in the room with the Beatles' kind of vibe.


I read somewhere that they had to resync all of the sound with the silent film footage too, and yet the audio comes out remarkably well, with good music and well-captured (if occasionally mis-synchronised) chatter from the band. It could have been a dramatisation in places, showing the messy way that an album gets built. Except that these were no actors and no ordinary albums. It was The Beatles, jaded, yet ready to invent and then play more new music. Yet music for which we all know the words.

As you pick through the lengthy session and banter, there's a dazzling amount of new tunes and lyrics. That the Beatles could write most of Let It Be, Abbey Road and a few solo projects by Day 7 of their confinement to the studio shows incredible productivity. And fascinating in all of this is the push that McCartney gives to the process. More a spirited cajoling coupled with a work ethic that didn't stop. He seemed to believe in the project the most, despite the warped 'Live from the Sahara' vibes coming from the people standing around.

That was a bugbear of mine. The extra people in the sessions didn't seem to know how to stand around properly. I've been in on band sessions and even when doing something significant, you have to know how far back to stand. Some of these people just didn't and so sometimes we get an organic Beatles huddle cramped by the extras. Only Linda Eastman, George Martin and a Hare Krishna man seemed to know how to do it properly. 

From this circle of chairs we get the organic beginnings of Get Back, Don't Let Me Down, I've Got a Feeling, (a re-vamped) One After 909, Dig a Pony and most of side two of Abbey Road, plus a few of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass album. 

A moment of joy in this era of B1.1.529.

I assume this documentary merges with the well-known Let It Be Abbey Road sessions in Part Two and then the Savile Row rooftop session. 

They passed the audition.

Sunday 21 November 2021

Ear age test

Interesting. My ears are about the right age, but my left one is older than my right one!

Saturday 20 November 2021

The Watcher - Cover choices

Time for the next novel. I've reached 200 pages and managed to round it off. The Watcher is an entity as old as time. That's Big Bang to Almighty Whimper. I decided to add this one into the available slot preceding Pulse, so it does, in a way, follow into that novel. And my inspiration was that monument The Watchers on the Tomintoul Road, in Royal Deeside. 

I've been getting opinions about cover designs recently, and apart from a particularly off-beat one from my family - not grammatically correct - needs to be more cheerful - how about adding a kitten?


 - the rest of the variations are largely in a similar line.

There was the dragon/serpent, which almost didn't finally make it to the cover art at all:

This would have worked if I'd wanted a school text book design, I think, but I had a similar problem with my first cover for The Triangle, which did look a little too much like a math textbook. Curiuously enough, I was at a party the other day and someone I didn't know very well introduced me as an author (ho ho). Then the other person to whom I was being introduced replied, 'Oh and what is your subject?' (Gulp). But back to cover designs. We had some ideas about Kali. Including the famous statue at CERN. A good idea, but only fleetingly relevant.
I suppose the dragon made it to the first prototype:
But it wouldn't get much further. I wanted to add some knowledge shards falling and a bit of earth in plight.
However, the graphic of the Watcher gets lost at small size in this colourway, so time to experiment. But before that, I was asked to try a different theme:.
But we were already along the right lines, so the next one cama along as:
And so for a back cover.
Now we need to get it published.

Sunday 14 November 2021

Cold war Courier vs Old vs Invasion

I just watched and hated the movie 'Old' directed and written etc.etc. by M. Night Shyamalan of the Sixth Sense among other movies. I can understand that he is trying to recreate the movie moment of that earlier film where Bruce Willis suddenly realises something significant. 

This one (no spoiler) has everyone on a beach resort holiday where things start to get troublesome. It's the kind of resort where you arrive on a luxury minibus driven by Shyamalan, and are greeted with unusual cocktails then to meet the suave maître d'hôtel  who has only great personalised recommendations for everyone.
It turns into a kind of towering inferno script later when various family units have to resolve unexpected events and it is from around the occurrence of the first one that my brain engaged with the 'other possibilities' thinking, which is a characteristic of Shyamalan's movie making. 

I managed to speculate the 'other possibility' rather early in this case, but I won't explain it here. I really thought this movie more a misfire than anything towering. 

Speaking of towering inferno for a moment, it's also the playbook used in Invasion, a mini series which I found equivalently irritating, with its divergent cast all in various forms of jeopardy.
Sam Neill is the gnarly Sheriff in it and after a retirement from duty in the first episode, he seems to have gone Missing In Action for the next three reels. It is like he is in a different movie from everyone else. Apple must have a lot of money to throw at their productions, if this anything to go by. And now they have debugged everything with this one, they could be all set to make something brilliant. For this one, despite the epic trailers, I must confess to giving up 26 minutes from the end of Episode Four. 
I can't help but contrast this with the action and razor sharp story telling in that classic Fargo Series Two, when gnarly Sheriff Ted Danson gets to investigate the burger joint killings and that space object appears. 
So I was quite pleased to watch a properly good movie on Saturday night. It was the Benedict Cumberbatch cold war film set in a convincingly good 1960s London and Moscow, here Cumberbatch acts as a - er - courier for MI6. 

There is a timelessness to the scripting and direction of the piece which I found enjoyable. The modern camerawork, digital sheen and clever color grading give away that it is from the 21st Century, but the screenplay could be anytime. I think I'll watch it again in black and white. Cumberbatch plays a simple salesman/middleman fixer who knows the moves (be able to drink a lot, lose golf to the clients, show them the best clubs, do them little favours) and gets persuaded by an impressively empowered female from the CIA who manipulates the older men around her to get her way. 

It is supposed to be based upon the Greville Wynne and Oleg Penkovsky story of 5000 documents being slipped to the British and American secret services at around the time of the Cuban missile crisis.   I didn't know of this breach at all, less publicised than the Kim Philby and Cambridge spy ring stories, and it still gave room for trade-craft and back-stories, which may be scripted licence. As a simple check, the pivotal woman from America was a fabrication and used to contrast old-boy network MI6 with the whipper-snapper upstart CIA.

An enjoyable modern classic.



Wednesday 10 November 2021

Around the world with Dodger and the Sopranos

Bridge those gaps 
Pull out all the stops 
Why Level it when you can Jet it? 
Sometimes it's important to give people the illusion of being in control That’s what being a boss is. 
You steer the ship the best way you know. Sometimes it’s smooth. Sometimes you hit the rocks. 
I find I have to be the sad clown: laughing on the outside, crying on the inside.

Tuesday 9 November 2021

Podcasting The Circle by Ed Adams

I'm still trying out that Artificial Intelligence system to assist with publishing my books as audiobooks. First of all, I've taken The Circle and am converting it into a podcast, which is all over Apple, Spotify and the other usual suspects.
Once I've completed the loading - I reckon I'm around half way through at the moment - then I'll re-edit the audio into around 3 or 4 longer segments. At the moment each mini podcast section (typically 6-8 minutes) has a bit of guitar music at both ends, but I'll remove that from the audiobook version. I'll also neeed to relisten to it, because the AI has a problem with certain words and phrases. Fulham F (pause) C. Complex. But I'll eventually teach it how to speak proper.

I'm realistic enough to know my listenership is going to be low, but a couple of episodes are up near 100 listens, and I guess that's when I've mentioned it somewhere. Oh, well...Here goes!
And yes, the scrolling list goes right the way back to my early recordings of The Triange and The Square, as well as throwing ina few 'observations' about the process.

Saturday 6 November 2021

jingle

I expect, like many, I have already been seasonally trapped in a venue with insufficient TV options. By that I mean I'm too lazy to configure box-set-binging and so I'm watching regular channels.

The obvious go-to thing to do at this time of year is to seek out the free Xmas Movie channels.

There are already plenty of them available, and they are pumping out stories about (usually) the city slicker who is displaced to a small town where she meets an old flame and hilarity and confusion ensues. Sometimes we get alternative reality rules - a kind of fledgling metaverse invoked aftera a train/stormy plane ride.

I'll guess these movies are made in a part of Canada configured to look like the United States, with those single track wooden bridges and all.

There is usually a compelling event - retrieve the McGyver, get something annulled, unless it is all a dream sequence - Jimmy - we know you are reading this.

And then there are two must haves. Cute Guy In Jumper and Cute Dog With Nothing To Do.

My rating system for these movies is somewhat like Xmas Bingo, with the CGIJ at x minutes and the CDWNTD at y minutes. To be honest the dog is usually brought in when the storyline starts to flag, so if it is too early then it is a dire warning about the rest of the movie. 

A few movies, like 'The Holiday' (Two cute women swap homes. Godalming and L.A) - they play with the tropes, and there is even an explanation thrown in in about a meet cute between old friendly guy and one of the women.


But let's be honest. It is still too early for The Holiday to show up. Or Scrooged. Or anything with Steve Martin. Maybe Nightmare before Xmas (even that has a dog, despite being a great movie). And I think Bruce managed to pull off 'no cute dogs' in Die Hard? If that counts as a Christmas movie?

Thursday 4 November 2021

Memory loss and taking the sleazy way out

I reckon the blundering buffoon must have accidentally stumbled into one of the control rooms at Number 10. There's a few James Bond-like buttons there with things like 'Eject' written on them and he can't resist pressing them.

It probably started when his missus decided to redecorate and had everywhere lined with expensive golden wallpaper. 

Imagine returning from a holiday villa on the Caribbean island of Mustique funded by the Carphone Warehouse founder David Ross, only to find that he'd been rumbled by Kathryn Stone – the parliamentary standards commissioner who said his getaway wasn't declared. One press of the 'Exonerate' button and all was well.  The ruling was subsequently overturned by the parliamentary commission for standards.

But why stop there? 

All of that independent scrutiny of potentially damaging Tory sleaze scandals is a bit much. The parliamentary standards committee hopper is currently bursting with everything from dodgy Covid contracts  to the refurbishment of Boris Johnson’s flat. 

Far better to use the decoy of horse enthusiast Owen Paterson's contract awards situation  to make parliament’s watchdog toothless so it can no longer properly hold MP's to account. Leverage. For Patterson's paymasters, £100,000 assists generate £133m for testing kits and an untendered award of £347m six months later. Nothing wrong with that.

And let's not forget that Boris doesn't want an independent watchdog crawling all over his own 'forgetful' improprieties.

So in rolls the fall guy. Or maybe the diversion. It is fascinating to see that Owen Patterson could use the 'word in ear' method of influence to Ministers, rather than blowing a whistle on known problems, and that the Parliamentary Commissioner on Standards had noted at least 14 breaches of the rules. Patterson was recommending his own paymasters to fix things (allegedly). To be that dim yet able to trouser £100,000 for consultancy to the two companies he lobbied in favour of seems incredible. 

We saw that pillar of society Jacob Rees-Mogg ask for another committee to support particularly stupid MPs and to come to a different conclusion. Conclusions which could let Owen off - Well he didn't quite say that, but if you look through the pompous excess verbiage it is what he intended. 

For the whole plan to work required the Buffoon to force all of the MPs to vote to get their man off the hook. Then Andrea Leadsom could ask for a new (de-facto) Tory controlled committee to selectively look into things. 

With a single button press it also clears Mark Francois, Craig Mackinlay and four other Tory MPs whose suspensions had been recommended by the commissioner. 

Maybe he devised other repainting manoeuvres whilst returning to London on a private-hire A321 Airbus, ironically from the 'save the planet' COP26 Summit. He's been using it to get around Europe recently and it has been repainted in the same style as his 200 foot long Voyager. 

Still - he could visit his gentleman's club with ex-Telegraph editor and climate change disbeliever Lord Charles Moore.

Easy Peasy, Lemon Sleazy!

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Squiddle

I thought I'd better take a look at the phenomenon of Squid Game. It's a South Korean-made Hunger Games where the down-and-out players are trying to win huge amounts of money by playing children's playground games in pastel tinted surroundings.

Everyone has been saying how marvellous and satirical it is, although I have to admit to not really liking it.

Our main protagonist is a gambling addict loser who shouts everything on a setting of 10. It is as if the director has said 'I want you to be angrier in this scene than the last one.'

Then there is the excessive body count, often involving people who have already been given a few lines. It is not like Star Trek, where they take the expendable and speech-less crew member to the new planet surface, only to see him gobbled up by the human-eating plant or crushed by the unexpected avalanche. This is like a loop of the summary execution of Nguyễn Văn Lém during the Vietnam War. 

I realise that the screenplay has been translated from Korean and re-dubbed in English, and that some of it must have been a Netflix rush job to assist boost their share price. Now that's a thought, given that the theme of the show seems to be 'runaway capitalism is bad.'

The production company took over a South Korean town to make the movie all without CGI, although with lavish sets and hundreds of extras. Then, as a small counterpoint, they have a refugee from North Korea in the band of players, although she must be wondering whether this is even more totalitarian than up north.

And, as Simon Cowell would probably say, 'There can only be one winner'.  {Korean trailer with English subtitles}

Monday 18 October 2021

New lamps for old?

Another of the current Government's schemes just in time for COP26 is to replace traditional boilers with heat-pump based systems. There is supposed to be a £5,000 rebate available to the householder, who would merely need to shell out £2,500-3,000 (according to the Tory press), but there are a couple of not-talked about catches.
Firstly, there is still a unit about the same size as a conventional boiler, which will hold water. But then, there is another device about the size of a washing machine, which has to be situated outdoors. And the pipework from it, to the inside boiler device must be insulated. 

Or, alternatively, a ground source heat pump, which merely requires the digging up of the back garden to lay at 30cm-60cm depth, curled pipework to harvest the ground temperature. To relay the patio, masonry and turf is probably around £5k alone.

Now let's say the unit can be installed.

Take a look at the pre-existing boiler. It will have a number like C24 or C30. It's the model number, but as importantly it is the heat output of the combi unit in kilowatts. For example 24, or 30 kilowatts. Our well-insulated house has a 24kW appliance. 

Now take a look at the Heat Pumps. They top out at about 18Kw and cost (with a boiler substitute) around £10k. 

Something is wrong with this. I'd get £5k from the government, then pay £10k for some equipment which was less heating-efficient than the equipment I'm replacing.

Add to that the labour charges, maybe it is only a few pipes around the outside of the house, plus commissioning, but I can't see it costing less than £2k, what with the two specialists who would be called in to fit it all together.

The new, greener system might then heat our house, but it will take longer and be less cosy, using the lower output from the heat pump.

And I. like many in the UK will have shelled out at least £7 or £8k for the privilege, assuming it all works, unlike the government-provisioned smart meters we have had at this house and the last one, and which never worked.

Thursday 7 October 2021

billy bunter's bombastic buffoonery

They said in F*r*i*e*n*d*s scriptwriting that every line needed to end with a gag. It looks as if our straining comic-book Prime Minister was trying for something similar yesterday. It wasn't bad as a club warm-up act, but somehow it didn't reveal any policy nor acknowledge the latest erupting issues. 

I know, they would be mere detail to such an august leader as Boris, like his example of 'Levelling Up' using, confusingly Stoke Poges which isn't even north of Watford. Come to think of it, it's only 7 miles from Uxbridge, which is Boris' constituency. And I've aloways thought that levelling up is something from a Super Mario game.

It was a joke heavy but detail light speech. No mention of the same day removal of the UC £20 - which should replenish the deficit created by the comforting 'The meals on Rishi deal' after the first lockdown. Then there's the 30%+ rise in spot gas prices. Or any number of other isuues skittered over in favour of crowd-pleasing jokes about Hereward the Woke. I seem to recollect that Hereward the Wake was a prototype for Robin Hood? 

Not quite the 'take from rich and give to poor' model being used for NI contributions by our man at the top as he presides over skill shortages and long lines awaiting Post-Brexit supplies.



Tuesday 14 September 2021

Artificial Intelligence and Podcasts

I'm trying out some Artificial Intelligence software to see what kind of a job it can do with a couple of my novels. Not to write them, but to turn them into Audiobooks. My first step is processing them as Podcasts and getting them published on the usual platforms. Then I'll try to reconstruct the Podcasts into longer episode suitable for an audiobook. 

I'm trying to figure out how to insert some dynamic content for each episode too, so that I have one familiar ident for each Episode. More of that later!

I decided to go back to Book 3 of The Triangle. It's the Circle, and so far I've got the first eight parts. Once again, like with my earlier experiments with Podcasting, I'm trying not to go back over the same piece more than once, so I'm trying to teach the AI software to behave and correctly interpret the typing.

I suppose really I should try this with Edge or one of the other novels which incorporate cybernetics.

Onward! 

Tuesday 31 August 2021

Zero Insertion Force



I can remember when laptop computers had clip on batteries that were easy to exchange. Then the fashion slipped towards thinner types where the battery gets spread around the innards of the machine. Apple is a case in point with their MacBooks, which contain six slimmed down batteries linked together.

Cue the Right to Repair initiative in Europe, which affects white goods costing, say, £400 but doesn't extend to computers costing, say, £1000 plus.

Then think of the parts in a computer requring renewal. 

The most obvious is the battery, which will become less effective after about 200 duty cycles of charge. It wouldn't be too difficult to have a plug in battery connector so that even a fiddly 6 part battery could be changed, but that would be too obvious. 

Instead the machine has a threaded battery woven into the motherboard, and it sends data to the computer's motherboard along a 6 line cable with is about as thick as a magnetic recording tape (ie thinner than paper). It plugs into a Zero Insertion Force socket on the mother board.

It is not designed to be end-user serviceable, instead requiring a costly visit to the main store to get the battery swapped over. 

Note the S-shaped thin tape which is part of the battery replacement process. 

Right to repair? I don't think so. 

Thursday 26 August 2021

Angel - a

I'm still working out the main elements of The Watcher about a being watching earth's timeline. Then I stumbled across this little movie. 

It could be 'la fille sur la pont', in disguise, or even a heavily stripped back version of the story in The Fifth Element. Cute Girl meets Messy Boy. 

They both have secrets which gradually reveal. It's a light, fun watch, with unreliable narration from the first frame. Then it becomes the story of how a small-time Moroccan in Paris befriends a hot blonde woman with a world-beating attitude. 

 And a Monochrome Paris is rich with poise and just the right kind of danger.