July 2009


Great. So now, at last, I can access my MobileMe files from my iPhone … but I can’t edit them. So, we’re doing this in baby steps, are we?

More good news on the short story front. The Spirit of Shackleton, which recently appeared in Menda City Review, will be reprinted in The Story Garden 8. TSG is a “best of” compilation from the Scrawl website. More details as and when, but seeing as this is my first reprint, I was too excited to wait.

Quick note to say that A View From A Parking Lot In The Rain went live today over at The Legendary. It’s another cracking issue from Jim & Katie with more than enough fiction there to make you feel a little itchy and in need of a shower or a drink or a drink in the shower. Great photos, too.

harry_potter_and_the_half_blood_prince_potter-_poster2It’s all my mum’s fault. She’s the one that likes Harry Potter. She’s the one who dragged me along to see the movies with her when none of her friends expressed an interest. So, you see, it was her who made me read the first five books and then queue outside supermarkets at midnight to pick up the last two books on their release. I have no interest in it whatsoever.

That’s the official party line and that’s the one we’ll be sticking to. Okay? Okay.

Unofficially, I love the Harry Potter books and particularly Stephen Fry’s narration on the audiobooks so it’s perhaps unsurprising that I dragged me old mum along to see Half Blood Prince during its release weekend.

There are many things to admire about the latest movie. Emma Watson’s acting has come on leaps and bounds since the start and I think this was the first movie where her delivery of at least one line didn’t made me cringe and die inside a little bit. Rupert Grint has been excellent throughout anyway, but he was particularly amusing in HBP and pretty much single-handedly made quidditch interesting to watch. The pick of the bunch, though, as far as the youngsters is concerned was Tom Felton who plays Draco Malfoy. Part of the credit has to go to the director and cinematographer, but he gave a very eerie performance which reminded me in a lot of ways of the hi-jackers in United 93. He definitely has that sort of suicide bomber vibe happening. And Ginny Weasley even delivers a line with such detachment and ennui that it wouldn’t be out of place in a Bret Easton Ellis novel: “He’s covered in blood again. Why is it he’s always covered in blood?”

The Harry Potter films have always managed to attract top quality actors for supporting and cameo roles. From John Cleese in Philosopher’s Stone, through Gary Oldman, Brendan Gleeson and Imelda Staunton. But Jim Broadbent, who has been hugely watchable in most things I’ve seen him in, delivers a spellbinding performance as Slughorn.

It’s a long movie at two-and-a-half hours but there’s probably only a ten minute segment in the middle — a pointlessly contrived action setpiece which sees The Burrow blown to smithereens — that would be worthy of a cut. The story moves along with more purpose than Order of the Phoenix, it’s infinitely more entertaining than Goblet of Fire and, well, it’s got to be better than the first two Disneyesque efforts. Which just leaves Prisoner of Azkaban. Perhaps surprisingly, Azkaban remains the best Potter movie, although it was a close run thing and if it wasn’t for the last 15 minutes, I’d say Half Blood Prince was the better movie.

In the book, the identity of the Half Blood Prince is a big deal and a main subplot. You’d expect it to be; it’s in the title after all. For it not to be a big deal would be like Jaws to not really be that fussed about sharks. The movie, however, gives this mystery little more than a cursory glance so when there’s the big reveal in the denouement, there’s no tension and it’s, well, a bit rubbishy.

But the main problem with the end is, in a change from another vital plot point in the book, Harry doesn’t react to something HE REALLY WOULD REACT TO. In the book, there’s a very good reason for this and it’s a reason that adds to the emotion of the ending. He doesn’t react because he can’t. In the movie, he chooses not to react. The difference is all the difference and it’s a shame because there are some other aspects of the end that work very well and pull on the old heartstrings.

My only other criticism would be, if you hadn’t read the book beforehand, I suspect a lot of the movie wouldn’t make a lot of sense.

So. Lousy ending, superfluous 10 minutes in the middle and maybe a bit too fanboy. Other than that, top marks, and very much looking forward to seeing what the same director will do with the Deathly Hallows double-header.

We all promise to remember the ofiicial party line, though, don’t we? Good.

Good news waiting in the Inbox this morning. Loose Yarns, a new online publication, has bought Winter Pays For Summer.

In my 70 odd strong collection of short stories, there are a lot that I haven’t read since I put down the final full stop and there are a few that I go back to every now and again just to read. Winter Pays For Summer is one of the latter so I’m thrilled that it’s found a home.

Publication date and associated excitement to follow in due course.

A couple of linky links to enjoy on your Saturday morning:

Tweefax — my mate Steve (hiya, Steve) and his little coding monkeys at Innoware have come up with this rather dashing Twitter Trend Reader, based on the BBC Ceefax look. In the interests of balance, I look forward to their Oracle version. May I suggest Tworacle? (The cantering page counter at the top was my idea — I imagine the cheque is on its way).

Thirst For Fire is a literary publication looking for new submissions. Nate Tyree, a fellow Scrawler and inhabitant of my Blogroll, is Solicitor General of the mag, which I think means he gets to burn witches at the stake or something. Check it out and send them your finest work.

el_dogSomething good’s been happening recently with Scottish music, and music in general, in that I’ve starting finding bands I like that haven’t disbanded four years ago.

June may have belonged to Frightened Rabbit, but July looks like it might end up belonging to the creature that startled the poor wee bunny in the first place.

El Dog’s debut release, The Lamps of Terrahead, is a very solid piece of work that frequently manages to go in surprising directions just when you think you’ve got it sussed.

Comparisons have been drawn with Muse and Mogwai and while that’s probably true to a point, there are elements of early Placebo, Nada Surf, Death Cab For Cutie and the aforementioned Rabbit thrown in there, too. And what a satisfying mix it is.

Favourites are -00-, Sham Rock and Rebecca’s Spine, but even on first listen my finger was comfortably distant from the skip button.

Looking forward to this puppy providing the soundtrack to the summer.

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