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!

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Discovering Podcasts: The Wierd World of "Rabbits"

I'm a little old lady exploring the smartphone world. Of course I had listened to podcasts before ... on my pc ... but now I am bravely entering the world of podcast apps and podcasts on my phone.

I tried one app which seemed easy to use. But it immediately refused to play my downloads if I wasn't connected to the internet...which didn't seem to be the point. And yes I did look under "settings". So I ditched that app and got another - PodcastAddict - so far so good. It does what it says on the tin: I download episodes and can listen to them anywhere. No more sitting next to my wi-fi box.

And so I've just started listening to "Rabbits"  - a US docudrama podcast produced by PRA. It's narrated by "a journalist investigating the sudden disappearance of a friend" as she becomes aware of that friend's involvement in a sinister, underground and ancient game known as the aforesaid "Rabbits" (think burrows and maybe even Alice, although the last is my idea and may be very wrong!!)

I admit that I can be a bit at sea in "Rabbits", being too old to have dived into gaming which is very much the background to this thriller ... But hey, I used to read William Gibson. I can cope.

Public Radio Alliance likes to describe itself as "creating television for your ears". And that sounds very fine to me. I shall be investigating their other podcast series.

Oh! And I have discovered the joy of falling to sleep to podcasts rather than audible books ... which is ... that when the episode finishes, the broadcast stops. I don't have to trawl backwards through the book to find my falling asleep spot! Though I expect there is an app for that.

How to Listen to Rabbits

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

MrsD's Criminal Reading: The Greek Wall by Nicolas Verdan

Mrs D has been reviewing again. This time it's a thriller by Swiss/Greek writer Nicolas Verdan called "The Greek Wall".  She enjoyed the novel's strong evocation of land and city-scapes, the plot's convolutions, character writing ... and getting a Greek view of some fairly recent events.You'll find her full review over at the Euro Crime Blog.

Nicolas Verdan will be taking part in "Literally Swiss" - a ticketed event billed as a "literary cabaret of writing from and about Switzerland" on Feb 9th 2018, 6pm at The Tabernacle in Notting Hill, London.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

The Loss of the Old Coast Path from Porthleven to Loe Bar

We think of the granite cliffs of Cornwall as standing against erosion - but things are fragile in times of storm and climate change ... and not all the cliffs of Cornwall are granite.

Part of one of my favourite local stretches of coastal path (Porthleven to Loe Bar) has disappeared, undercut and fallen away after recent storms. This means it is now too dangerous to walk and has been closed by the National Trust whilst they work out how to reinstate a route by taking it further inland.

So these are a few photos from a walk I can no longer take.

Being observed

Grass and sky
Looking west towards Rinsey