Sunday 30 September 2012

Georgia On My Mind

Performed by Chris Buckwell at a social event at the Brompton Unionist Club a week ago. I was there and witnessed this perfomance on soprano saxophone, which has been described by the performer as "slightly off the wall". I don't know the piece, so see what you think...

Friday 28 September 2012

Actors in American Sci-Fi

It is interesting to keep an eye out for guest (and sometimes semi-regular) high-quality actors in American Sci-Fi series.

Some of the more recent series, such as Earth: Final Conflict and the new versions of V and Battlestar Galactica, have previously unknown (at least to most of us) performers more-or-less throughout, although the latter did have the excellent Michelle Forbes guesting as Captain Caine of the Pegasus for a couple of episodes. I first encountered Michelle as the Bajoran ensign Ro Laren in Star Trek: The Next Generation some years earlier.

Other series, such as Andromeda and Stargate SG-1 have featured easily-recognisable actors like Peter Wingfield, Sam J. Jones, Tony Todd, John Savage, Carmen Argenziano, Hiro Kanagawa and Kevin Durand, among others. If you want to see what I mean, pick a name from that list and take a look in Google Images and you'll immediately say to yourself "Oh, him!' and probably follow that with 'I wondered what his name was..." Betcha!

I, of course, have (predictably!) been storing these names mentally for years, and a large number of others too, starting decades ago with names that most people alive today wouldn't recognise, such as Jeff Corey (not a brilliant actor, by the way, but always enjoyable to watch, funnily enough) and Michael Cavanaugh.

The series are good showcases for acting talents, as the characters are often more interesting than parts in other genres. For example, Sam J. Jones – hardly one of the greats in terms of acting – had an excellent outing in SG-1 as a bounty hunter in one episode. It really suited his style! It was certainly a long way from the movie Flash Gordon he played all those years ago, opposite Brian Blessed and Timothy Dalton...

Sometimes bringing relatively unknown names into prominence in a big production can work – and sometimes it just doesn't. The new V was cancelled after two seasons owing to poor viewing ratings (all-important in American TV!), and I am reasonably certain that this was largely down to the relatively low acting standard and lack of believability of the main characters – apart from the always-excellent Morena Baccarin as Anna, who was the only name I recognised from the entire cast.

Mind you, Christopher Sher who plays Marcus looks to have potential, but the only other really good performer had his character killed off in the very first episode (Alan Tudyk, who was great in both Firefly and Dollhouse).

Conversely, the Galactica cast turned out to be generally up to the challenges, so that despite the dodgy (almost free-wheeling) writing style of the series, it did go all the way to the story's conclusion. Some of the regular cast made names for themselves in that series and have since appeared elsewhere – perhaps most unexpectedly 'Baltar' becoming Merlin in one production(!)

It's a funny old business, though; and the tendency of series to be cancelled after just one or two series (anything with Eric Close in it seems to last just one season, such as Dark Skies and Now and Again) means that one should never get too deeply into an American series because of the risk of being left hanging.

It can happen here too, though it is relatively uncommon. For example, a number of years ago, two of the three stories of The Tripods were made into a series each, but the third and final story was never made. That was frustrating, as it had become far more interesting during the second season than the first.

I bought the book, though, so I know what happens!

Chatham Buck's Fizz

I have just learned that we here in Chatham, Kent have our own (less expensive!) variant of Buck's Fizz.

The original is (apparently) two parts orange juice to one part Champagne.

The Chatham version is half a glass of Lucozade on top of which is poured half a glass of Cava. I gather it's important that it is done that way round. The result is presumably 'stirred, not shaken'.

Hmm... I don't think I'll bother with it myself – actually I don't really fancy the original either – but offer it as a way for even the chavvy folk of my home area to participate in the idea at a more readily affordable cost.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Fol-De-Rol 2012

I have written about on-line 'trolls' (as they are known) on previous occasions, and my attitude toward them is well known.

Although I have never experienced anything like what Leo Traynor has recently been put through by one such, it is only a matter of degree between any one such troll and any other: if someone has that attitude that underlies all such behaviour, then that can be thought of as a 'Minority Report' kind of situation.

Just because it hasn't yet escalated into the more extreme realms is no reason to believe it won't – and I have observed several on-line trolls ramping up their boldness and becoming more nasty, even bordering on an indirect form of threatening style over a period of time.

Do read Leo's post: although in this case it turned out to be someone he already knew (and I wonder whether that is something that's more common in this business than is yet known?) the point remains that no matter who it is, there is no excuse for trolling at any level, aimed at anyone.

Sunday 23 September 2012

True Blue at Brompton

The vocal/saxophone duo of the two Chris-es – (Parish Councillor) Chris Buckwell and (Borough Councillor) Chris Irvine – entertained us again at the Brompton Unionist Club last night.

Here's a photo of Chris Irvine and myself at the event, taken on his 'phone. Note our (true) blue attire...

Friday 21 September 2012

Being Different

A lot of lip service is paid to tolerance of the differences of others – something for which the political Left (as generally the most intolerant people on the planet) always say the words but react in the opposite manner all too frequently. Of course, their entire lives are driven thus, so they can't help it...

Anyway, these words of wisdom might help understand why we were all made to be different from each other...

14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.
16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.
17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?
18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.
19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?
20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don‘t need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don‘t need you!"
22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,
23 and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,
24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it, 
25 so that there should be no division in the body,
26 but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
(NIV 1 Cor 12:14—27)

It is also a good reminder of how much everyday practical wisdom and sensible thinking there is in the Holy Bible, which is one of many clues as to its validity and authenticity.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Thames Estuary Man-made Coastal Reserve

That's how this huge and splendid new initiative is being billed (duck-billed?) but don't get any hopes up that today's launch of this project will mean that the Estuary Airport ideas are thus undermined. It's actually at Wallasea Island in Essex, some ten or more kilometres north of the area where such an airport would be built.

Yes, it's still close enough to add a fraction more risk of dangers such as bird strike, and no doubt would require a trimming of some flight/stacking paths, but I doubt it'd be sufficiently material to make any difference in the aviation decision-making process. It's still a very welcome project, though, so well done to all who brought this into being!

Meanwhile, also in the news today, the Deputy Mayor of London, Victoria Borwick, is coming for talks with the leader of Medway Council and the Director of Regeneration (and other matters) on the very topic of the estuary (or similar) airport, for which there are now no fewer than three distinct proposals publicly known – and, for all I know, others still being prepared, though possibly not. This will be in about ten weeks from now.

Councillor Chambers and Mr Cooper have promised to be "robust" in their dealings with the Deputy Mayor, and they plan to take her on a little tour of the Hoo Peninsula so that it will not be possible for her to claim to be unaware of the true nature of the impact such an airport would have. This is politically astute on Medway's part, and the visit could well become a defining moment in the area's dealings with regard to this ten-year-old threat that still hasn't (yet) gone away.

I think it might have to, after the Deputy Mayor's visit, but we shall see...

Page Three

Not a subject that appeals to me, but the recent Twitter debate over the Sun's famous (infamous?) page 3 imagery, of at least thirty years' vintage now, has prompted our local Ginger Liberal to write on the topic. I suggest you read what he has written, as it seems (to this novice) to be considered and reasonable.

The only reason I am picking up on it is because it is a good reminder of how markets operate. If people don't like something, they won't buy it. In a market such as newspapers, appealing to the lowest common denominator will always give the best chance of high sales.

When I worked at ASDA by Bridgewood roundabout, I normally dealt with receiving, checking and putting out for sale the Saturday newspapers. Believe me, this was the largest number of the week, with Sunday coming second. Here are the quantities of each Saturday paper, in alphabetical order, all taken from memory (I'm a little uncertain about the Independent and Daily Star figures – and now The Guardian which I had omitted by accident, but the others are all spot-on)...
  • Daily Express –35
  • Daily Mirror – 90
  • Daily Star – 40
  • Daily Telegraph – 65
  • Guardian –55
  • Independent – 30
  • Sun – 530
  • Times – 45
Note the vast gulf between The Sun's figure and everything else. Its sales were also helped by the TV Guide magazine that came with it, covering almost entirely the soaps and reality shows (especially Big Brother). Again we see the lowest common denominator tactic working for the title – but all of it works only because there are all those people out there who buy that stuff.

That is the lesson that all those outraged or otherwise upset about The Sun's success need to learn – especially as it's all such old hat now anyway. If there had been a genuine problem it would have been dealt with decisively many years ago.

The truth is that it's primarily the working class males who have always bought that paper, especially during the years it supported Tony Blair, and any sudden initiative of the kind that apparently raged on Twitter a couple of evenings ago was probably instigated by those with a political agenda who are now anti-Murdoch because The Sun switched sides. After all, that war has been going on ever since that happened (but not before, note) as evidenced by the activities of those such as Tom Watson.

Thus the Page Three business was, in all probability, just the next stage in that political battle – although it might have been nothing to do with it. That seems unlikely, though it would have been well camouflaged so not immediately obvious.

Anyway, it's yet another non-story in practice. I avoid that paper myself, partly because I am not keen on under-dressed females. I just don't find it appealing; and if something happens in a place I can't avoid, I deploy one of my optical tricks, called a travelling matte.

This obscures part of my scene of view, has variable opacity and can 'pixellate' the obscured part if wanted, and of course it 'travels' with the subject it is obscuring. It is why in such situations I usually appear to be looking in a 'funny' direction, seemingly at nothing. A couple of people have noticed this, but when asked I usually brush it off with something about my poor and one-sided eyesight. It's very difficult to explain, actually...

Oh yes, and the naming of 'Uncle Travelling Matt' in Fraggle Rock was almost certainly a TV industry in-joke!

Sunday 16 September 2012

Will Adams Festival 2012

I was back at this year's Will Adams Festival, nowadays held in Gillingham Park, after missing last year's as I was then still not well enough after my hospitalisation.

It was the same of event as in previous years – naturally, as the story is a part of our history and is thus unchanging. I had mixed feelings about the change in venue: it works well generally in the park, but lacks the ready-made indoor facilities of what was then called the Black Lion Centre when it was held there. Now it has to be emulated in tents and on the grass, which seems to work okay.

Anyway, I shan't say any more, but let the photographs I took (this is a little over half of them) speak for themselves...

Thursday 13 September 2012

Grange Walkabout 2012

Reckoning that yesterday's problems couldn't really recur so soon as the day after, I decided to revisit Grange in Gillingham – this time with a camera, as I had promised myself. Thus, as with Hillyfields yesterday, this is primarily a photo-essay with a little explanation here and there.

I decided to model the walkabout on last year's first visit, but not copy the route. Indeed, although I went over much of the same ground, I made a point of taking alternative paths and exploring places I had spotted last time. There was also a place outside of Grange, across the main road, which I shall cover separately.

Here's my start point, just around the corner from the route 176 'bus stop where I arrived...

Not just the church, but the extensive grounds as well, comprising a park-like greenspace  with a children's play area, and some of the monuments are spaced around this area...

In one corner to the north is an exit to Layfield Road...

This leads to The Barge public house, which is looking much better these days than when the Google camera car went down there, as these 'then and now' images (the former from Google Street View) show...

Just around the corner in Court Lodge Road, partly sunken into the ground and overlooking the main road from its elevated location is The Ship Inn...

 It is so much more peaceful up there than down on the often (but not always!) busy main road...

Heading back into Grange itself, Court Lodge Road takes one along the eastern side of the churchyard-cum-park,  arriving at this corner shop at the junction with Grange Road. It's one of those shops of this kind that just seem to be appropriate in their location, somehow...

Turning left past the shop entrance and continuing on a short way, one comes across this unusual scene of the road passing above a cul-de-sac below, which can be accessed by one of two ramps. This is Dial Road...

Note that the solar panels in the roof of that house (and there are more in the roof's front) weren't there when the Google car snapped the scene, so they are a fairly recent addition.

One of my favourite features of Grange is the 'village stores' shop a little further along the top road. Again, it just works there and that place would definitely be missing something without it...

At this point I decided that I had done enough for today and headed back on the next (frequent!) 176 'bus from a stop back toward the Premier corner shop pictured above. I had gone down a number of other roads and checked out a close or two, but there was nothing really photo-worthy from any of that.

I still very much like this whole area, and was so pleased to be back there, especially on a brilliantly sunny day. I was beaming almost non-stop!

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Hillyfields Walkabout

I was determined to go for a walkabout to and around Hillyfields Country Park in Gillingham today – and despite a series of obstacles, I actually managed to achieve this.

First, I was held up by a series of tweet to-ing and fro-ing with Medway Labour's Tristan Osborne regarding my previous-but-one post here.

Then, the 'bus I was on made a poor turn at the hospital turn-off from Rock Avenue and scuppered its suspension. After limping along (and juddering over rough bits) as far as St Mark's Church, the driver realised he had a real problem and that was the end of that. The vehicle was left there for at least two hours.

As I looked up when exiting the 'bus, I saw that the sky was much more 'dodgy' weather-wise than even the most recent forecast for the area had indicated, just a few hours earlier.

It was beginning to look as though my planned trip out was jinxed...

Yes, it is what I call a "Puff-Pack" after its licence number – in this case, it was Puff-Pack 272. Poor old thing! It's a hard worker too: I have frequently seen this particular vehicle in operation...

UPDATE 15 September: it is now back in operation, as I witnessed on Chatham Hill this afternoon.

Anyway, instead of my original plan to approach Hillyfields Country Park from the stop at the northern end of Richmond Road and walking around the corner to (and up) Rosebery Road, a hastily-devised Plan B took me along Gillingham High Street to a series of back streets (James Street, Jeffery St, Gardiner St, Saunders St and Victoria St) to Burnt Oak Terrace and along to Parr Avenue where the entrance I sought to the park was situated...

I found the park interesting: not so much its ground-level playing field...

...but certainly the elevated orchard, up these 42 steps (these are just the top few, and a view looking back down from the top)...

There's a good panoramic river view from up there, as this guide shows...

Now, what's in those woodlands back there...

Well, there was quite a lot, actually, including a fair amount of litter, I noticed. At least I was able to avoid most of it in the photograph above.

After exhausting all the little ways that were passable 'up top', I came back down the steps and headed south, toward the entrance at Greenfield Road. This is accessed via another set of steps, and has a poetical inscription set into the paving at their summit...

After exiting the park and wandering more back streets (Railway Street, crossing the road at Gillingham Station and taking the footpath to the south of the railway line) I ended up at Balmoral Gardens Community Healthy Living Centre, tucked away from general public/street view yet spectacularly visible once one came upon it...

That was quite a serendipitous find for me, so with yet another back street trek (Randolph Road, Gorst Street and Trafalgar Street) I found myself in Canterbury Street so decided to catch the 'bus back home. It had been an interesting enough trip out – and I was intrigued to find my 'incoming' 'bus still there where I had disembarked a couple of hours earlier – so I took that photo of it as shown at the top of this post!