Tuesday 31 July 2018

A Kind Of Last Post

I have been thinking long and hard about this.
As I get older and The Old Man gets older, I spend so much time being angry about stuff that words fail me. And I don't find so much to laugh about. Of course this could be the consequences of old age and a long memory whilst I still have one.
This blog and your company have helped me through some rough patches, in particular during the early days (2010) when The Old Man became suddenly and seriously ill.

You can read those posts at "Heart Surgery" though remember they will run back to front chronologically.

But now The Doll and The Old Man are packing up the blog bags for a while. Mrs D will miss me (The Doll) I know... and The Old Man ... naturally! 
Meanwhile she continues with her own Syb&Me site where she struggles with learning animation and other things creative.

So for now, in this place, it's time for me and The Old Man to say "Good Bye, my dears. Take care. Keep safe. And Thank You."

Monday 9 July 2018

Sun, Crime and Podcasts

The weather is still hot and dry. 
Unbelievable for misty old Cornwall. 
We hide in the granity darkness of our sitting room. Walks have to be taken before 9 in the morning or after 7 in the evening. I was watering the vegetables in the garden the other evening  and looking up at our cherry tree saw that, to my horror, even this tall tree's leaves were wilting. Alors! What will survive this dry, hot spell.

I have another review posted on the Euro Crime site. This time it is a crime novel by Greek writer Pol Koutsakis. "Baby Blue" is the second in his series featuring self-styled "caretaker" Stratos Gazis. Greatly inspired by the American Noir films that Gazis quotes by heart, this one involves a hunt for the killer of a journalist and is set in contemporary Athens. Head to the review to find out more.

Meanwhile I am still hooked on listening to fictionalised podcasts.  Still following "Tanis" (see the "Tanis Post") I have also subscribed to PRA's "The Black Tapes" which actually preceded "Tanis" and ran for three series from 2015 to 2017. 

It's another drama played as investigative journalism. "Alex Reagan" (voiced by Lori Henry) and her producer research demons, ghosts and the work and life of the supremely sceptical Dr Richard Strand. Will the podcast return for another series? Is there a rumour out there? Whatever happens, the beauty of podcasts is that you can still listen in as they bob about in the podcast interspace!

Meanwhile The Old Man uses Wimbledon as an excuse for sitting in the dark watching telly all day.

Tuesday 26 June 2018

Mid Summer - And More Criminal Reading

It's hot. Dry. The other day a bee swarm flew through the garden looking for a new home .. chasing that queen.

In fact it is too hot for The Old Man in his current state. At least, this is what he says, as he sits indoors in the dark watching tennis on telly and occasionally making it out to the frosty air of a local, air-conditioned supermarket.
But actually I believe him.

And then there's all that waking up at 4 in the morning... tossing and turning. Not long after that... the dawn chorus starts and it grows light. Though I don't really mind. There is a blackbird whose distinctive song I seem to have heard for years. Is birdsong hereditary? No. I don't really think so. It must be an old bird ... just like I.

So ... all of this contemplation of time passing and the aging process has made me a little reluctant to post recently. Alors! Also - so much makes me angry these days. Brrrr! Whaaa! What to do with it.

I have another book review up - over on the Euro Crime blog. This is for "The Memory of Evil" third in Roberto Costantini's weighty Italian-Libyan trilogy of "Evil" built around Commissario Michele Balistreri of the Rome Murder Squad - from his childhood and youth in pre-Gaddafi Libya through to  his police career in Rome and on up to 2011 and the fall of Gaddafi, and his search for resolution of his own past and that of his blood-brother gang in 1960s Libya. The trilogy is impressive and not for the faint-hearted on many counts. For further detail - pop over to Euro Crime via the above link and read the detail.

Meanwhile... I'm off to drink some more water and contemplate a slice of watermelon for lunch.

Wednesday 16 May 2018

Criminal Activities: Reading & Watching

My latest review on Euro Crime is for James Wolff's first novel "Beside The Syrian Sea". It's set in the Middle East and involves a son's attempts to get his father, an ISIS hostage, released from captivity. The father is an earnestly moral cleric and the son is a desperately introverted intelligence worker finding himself suddenly without the boundaries he has so carefully maintained and quite literally in a new land.
I was gripped by it, not just by plot and thrill but by  its characters and their relationships. I also somehow found it "terribly British" ... in the nicest possible way. Read the review in full detail here at Euro Crime.

Meanwhile, as they say, there has been much to watch on telly. I haven't really enjoyed Season 2 of the Belgian thriller "Salamander" but I still watched it through. Nor, I must say, am I enamoured of Belgian thriller "Rough Justice" either. But still watching. Perhaps my dissatisfaction lies in the completely straight-faced, lugubrious main characters of each series? My Belgian favourite? (Sounds like a variety of iris, don't it.) When it comes to Belgian thrillers on British screens over the last 12 months - my highlight remains Season One of "Professor T". Not at all to everybody's taste, (sigh) it was to mine. The Old Man gave up on its fantasy musical breaks and opted for the washing up, but I was hooked. Although ... I realise now ... it carries the motif of straight-faced Belgian leads to bizarre extremes with its emotionally locked-in, germ-obsessive, forensic genius that is Prof T. Yes I know there have been other series predicated on emotionally damaged, clever-clogs analysts - but they don't have fantasy musical numbers! End of.

Aah! Not Belgian I know - but I forgot  season Four of "The Bridge". Now there's another "straight-faced" lead  - but no fantasy musical numbers - yet.
Am I watching? Of course I am.

Sunday 6 May 2018

Time Flies: The Doll Catches Up

What a difference a month makes. And where have I been? Not on a luxury cruise. Not in a remote corner of the Far East. I have been at home. Not sleeping, staring at the rain and feeling anxious.
But now (ta-da fanfare) the sun is shining. And here I am.

Why am I anxious? You ask. I grow old, I reply. And I don't like the way the world is going. Enough!

I am still reviewing crime fiction. Yes, me: The Doll, Mrs D (aka Lynn Harvey) -- ils sont tout moi. And you will find my review of Antti Tuomainen's "The Mine" over at the Euro crime blog. 
I am a fan of Finnish writer Tuomainen's crime books. Each different (so far) and each written from a fresh point of view. I am trying to catch up on the ones I have missed. So the next on my list is "The Man Who Died".

I am also still exploring dramatised fiction podcasts and hope to recommend some more series to you. Although I remain addicted to "Tanis" and find it difficult, frankly, to find something else that matches up ... but I have a few in mind to try.

As for Mrs D? It is hard to pry her/me away from her animation efforts. I/she ... am/is really excited about the possibilities of GIFs or animation loops. She says "At last something where I don't get bogged down in the narrative but can stay with the image... more like a poem or a painting than a film". (And no ... I am not including the chopped up videos of celebrity bloopers or gestures here). So the Mrs D part of me is embarking on a GIF series over at Syb & Me. It's based on imagery that started out as lino cuts that I made years ago. A childhood theme featuring a character I like to call Queenie. Please take a look.

And at the same time? The swallows are back and the sun is shining. My potatoes and broad beans are up in the garden... and I'm trying not to be anxious.
No. Don't mention Trump ...Brexit ... Climate Change ... the UK Government. Don't mention the Health Service... Social Care....
Don't mention any of it do you understand?

Friday 6 April 2018

Animated Goings On and Smartphone Obsessions: PicsArt Animator

I have become so obsessed with my smartphone as a mini computer that I am getting warning notices from my supplier that I am exceeding "my bundle usage". Truth is, being an old ginner and new to this area of consumption, I don't know what such people are talking about. Except that up to now this sin has only cost me an extra 50p. I blame Tanis (see previous post) for my abused bundle. But I don't care and will continue to download this podcast with devotion.

I have installed an animation app: PicsArt Animator. (Maybe this exhausts my poor little old bundle?) It is fun ... as advertised. Although the animations you produce are watermarked "PicsArt". I tried FlipaClip which is pretty good too. But it also watermarks your animation. So for now I will stay with PicsArt ... it being the devil I know. As an animation app PicsArt Animator seems geared to creating GIFs but it does a lot for its size. Its instructions are cryptic to non-existent, so good luck with that.
(I seem to spend my days battling with cryptic instructions. Of course, this could mean the onset of dementia ... the bugaboo that is driving all of us old ginners into the corner from fear. Hey! Want to exercise your brain? Try mastering a smartphone with no phone-savvy people by your side I say.)

Perhaps I am the only idiot trying to make animations by pawing at their smartphone with fingers like bananas ... but do you know what? I just treat it like a sketchbook. Which is very helpful. AND it has reintroduced me to GIFs. Which I first tried to make in the 1990s...

DOLL:"Well, hello stranger."
GIF: (Blink. Blink.)
DOLL: "I see you are all kitted out as hot stuff now."
GIF: (Blink. Blink.)
DOLL: "Well who would have thunk it."
GIF: (Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink .......)

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Discovering Podcasts: More Wierdness with "Tanis" from PRA

I am still hooked on my smartphone and listening to podcasts. Having finished "Rabbits" (see that post) from the wonderful Public Radio Alliance ... I am catching up on their earlier show "Tanis" which happily for me and my obsession has just started Season Four.

If Rabbits gave me game-playing conspiracy with a hint of spook - then Tanis gives me horror, myth and murder set in the Pacific North West of America. It's "presented" by podcast host Nic Silver and is constructed as an investigation into the weirdness of Tanis. Which is what? A cult? An entity? Its dark goings-on are said to shift place every 400 years or so. But its current location is ... Yes indeed, Twin Peaks territory. Which does make an old Peaky comme moi very happy.

PRA has made a show full of gripping style: mysterious woods, dark beings, alternate spaces, conspiracy and serial murder. What an elegant shivery stew. PRA calls it: "what happens when science and fiction start to blur".  (Sigh) I am just so hooked.

How to Listen to Tanis

Thursday 22 March 2018

A Night Out At The English Touring Opera - Puccini's Gianni Schicchi

Just last week The Old Man and me did potter off to The Opera at the Hall for Cornwall in Truro ... which by the way is due to close this summer for at least 20 months whilst being redeveloped into a bigger and better venue ... they do say.
Where will us West Cornwall opera folks get to see an opera in the meantime?

But I do digress. English Touring Opera never fail. They are a great company that do save our opera-going bacon. This time we attended their version of two of Puccini's short operas: the dramatic and moving "Il Tabarro" (The Cloak) set aboard a barge on the Seine ... and the comic "Gianni Schicchi".

Despite viral throats having struck some of the singers, I was duly moved by the tragic Il Tabarro with its minimal, rusty iron, dockside setting.
But Gianni Schicchi did steal the evening. Everything about this ETO production - sets, costumes, singing, movement, acting were as ensemble, sharp, and knockout as can be. Stylised, yes, but it triumphed. The audience laughed out loud - and not just polite titters. Really - if you get a chance to see this version of a comic tale of scoundrel scam vs. rampant greed, you must give it a go. You've got till June!