Posted in books, films & DVD, Humour, Television


MarvinParanoidAndroid-rich_7652The first radio episode of comic science fiction series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, was transmitted on BBC Radio 4 on 8th March 1978. Originally a radio comedy The title is the name of a fictional, eccentric, electronic travel guide, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, prominently featured in the series. The story was later adapted to other formats, and over several years it gradually became an international multi-media phenomenon. Adaptations have included stage shows, a “trilogy” of five books published between 1979 and 1992, a sixth novel penned by Eoin Colfer in 2009, a 1981 TV series and three series of three-part comic book adaptations of the first three novels published by DC Comics between 1993 and 1996. A Hollywood-funded film version, produced and filmed in the UK, was released in April 2005, and radio adaptations of the third, fourth, and fifth novels were broadcast from 2004 to 2005. Adams himself did many of these adaptations, including the novels, the TV series, the computer game, and the earliest drafts of the Hollywood film’s screenplay, and some of the stage shows introduced new material written by Adams.

The book begins when contractors arrive at Arthur Dent’s house, in order to demolish it to make way for a bypass. His friend, Ford Prefect, arrives while Arthur is lying in front of the bulldozers, to keep them from demolishing it. He tries to explain to Arthur that the Earth is about to be demolished by The Vogons, an alien race who intend to destroy Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass.The two escape by stowing away on one of the Vogon demolition ships. Unfortunately they are discovered and are tortured with Vogon poetry, (Feetled gruntbuggly …..ARRGGGHH!)  the third worst in the known Universe, and then thrown into space. They are, very improbably, picked up by the Heart of Gold, a ship powered by an infinite improbability drive, which has been stolen by Ford’s semi-cousin and President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox. Zaphod, accompanied by Trillian and the chronically depressed robot Marvin, is searching for the legendary planet of Magrathea, which is rumoured to have manufactured luxury planets. Ford is initially skeptical, but they do, in fact, find Magrathea.

There, Arthur, after being separated from the rest of the group, is taken into the interior of the planet by a native, Slartibartfast. The others are kidnapped. Slartibartfast explains to Arthur that the Earth was actually a supercomputer commissioned and paid for by a race of “hyper-intelligent,” “pan-dimensional” beings. These creatures had earlier built a supercomputer called Deep Thought to calculate the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. This computer, after seven and a half million years of calculation, had announced that the Answer is in fact 42. Being unsatisfied with the Answer, they set about finding the Question which would give the Answer meaning, whereupon Deep Thought designed the Earth, to calculate it. However, ten million years later, and just five minutes before the completion of the program Earth was designed to execute, the Earth is demolished by the Vogons. Two of these beings, Frankie Mouse and Benjy Mouse, had arrived on Magrathea on the Heart of Gold, in the form of Trillian’s pet mice.The mice realize that a latent version of the question, or something very like it, must exist in Arthur’s brain since he is a late-generation organic product of the computer, and offer to buy his brain from him, unsurprisingly Arthur declines, and a fight ensues which is interrupted when The galactic police arrive on the planet to arrest Zaphod and the group is attacked by two officers who abruptly die when the life support systems in their spacesuits fail: Marvin had been talking to their ship, which was linked to their suits, and as a result it had become so depressed that it committed suicide…

Posted in books

Tribute to Kenneth Grahame – Wind in the Willows

Best known for writing the classic novel “Wind in the Willows”, the English Author Kenneth Grahame was born 8th March 1859. The  Wind in the Willows was first published in 1908 and focuses on the adventures of four anthropomorphous animal characters  in a pastoral version of England. It is notable for its mixture of mysticism, adventure, morality, and camaraderie and celebrated for its evocation of the nature of the Thames valley. In 1908 Grahame retired from his position as secretary of the Bank of England. He moved back to Cookham, Berkshire, where he had been brought up and spent his time by the River Thames doing  much as the animal characters in his book do—namely, as one of the most famous phrases from the book says, “simply messing about in boats”—and wrote down the bed-time stories he had been telling his son Alistair.

The story starts during Spring, when Mole, one of the characters decides to do a bit of spring cleaning but gets bored so he sets out to enjoy the sunshine and take in the air above ground instead. He ends up at the river, which he has never seen before and meets Ratty (a water Vole), who at this time of year spends all his days in, on and close by the river. Rat takes Mole for a ride in his rowing boat. They get along well and spend many more days boating, with Rat teaching Mole the ways of the river. One summer day shortly thereafter, Rat and Mole find themselves near the grand Toad Hall and pay a visit to their incorrigible friend  Toad.

Toad is rich (having inherited wealth from his father): jovial, friendly and kind-hearted but aimless and conceited, he regularly becomes obsessed with current fads, only to abandon them as quickly as he took them up. Having only recently given up boating, Toad’s current craze is his horse-drawn caravan. In fact, he is about to go on a trip, and persuades the reluctant Rat and willing Mole to join him. The following day (after Toad has already tired of the realities of camp life and sleeps-in to avoid chores), a passing motor car scares the horse, causing the caravan to overturn into a ditch. Rat does a war dance and threatens to have the law on the motor car drivers, but this marks the immediate end of Toad’s craze for caravan travel, to be replaced with an obsession for motor cars. When the three animals get to the nearest town, they have Toad go to the police station to make a complaint against the vandals and their motor car and thence to a blacksmith to retrieve and mend the caravan. Toad – in thrall to the experience of his encounter – refuses. Rat and Mole find an inn from where they organise the necessary steps.

Meanwhile, Toad makes no effort to help, and orders himself a motor car instead.Mole wants to meet the respected but elusive Badger, who lives deep in the Wild Wood, but Rat -knowing that Badger does not appreciate visits – refuses to take him, telling Mole to be patient and wait and Badger will pay them a visit himself. Nevertheless, on a snowy winter’s day, whilst the seasonally somnolent Ratty dozes unaware, Mole impulsively goes to the Wild Wood to explore, hoping to meet Badger. He gets lost in the woods, sees many “evil faces” among the wood’s less-welcoming denizens, succumbs to fright and panic and hides, trying to stay warm, amongst the sheltering roots of a tree. Rat, upon awakening and finding Mole gone,guesses his mission from the direction of Mole’s tracks and, equipping himself with a pistol and a stout stick, goes in search, finding him as snow begins to fall in earnest. Attempting to find their way home, Rat and Mole quite literally stumble across Badger’s home — Mole barks his shin upon the boot scraper on Badger’s doorstep. Rat finds it and a doormat, knowing they are an obvious sign of hope, but Mole thinks Rat has gone crazy, only to believe him when the digging reveals a door. Badger – en route to bed in his dressing-gown and slippers -nonetheless warmly welcomes Rat and Mole to his large and cosy underground home and hastens to give them hot food and dry clothes. Badger learns from his visitors that Toad has crashed six cars, has been hospitalised three times, and has spent a fortune on fines. Though nothing can be done at the moment (it being winter), they resolve that once spring arrives they will make a plan to protect Toad from himself; they are, after all, his friends and are worried for his well-being.With the arrival of spring, Badger visits Mole and Rat to do something about Toad’s self-destructive obsession. The three of them go to visit Toad, and Badger tries to make him see sense eventually putting Toad under house arrest, with themselves as the guards, until Toad changes his mind. Feigning illness, Toad manages to escape, steals a car, which he drives recklessly and is caught by the police. and sent to prison for twenty-years.

During Toad’s absence Badger and Mole continue to look after Toad Hall in the hope that Toad may return. Meanwhile in prison, Toad gains the sympathy of the Jailer’s Daughter who helps him to escape disguised as a washerwoman. However Toad is without money or possessions, and is being pursued by the police. Still disguised as a washerwoman he comes across a horse-drawn barge, whose Owner offers him a lift in exchange for Toad’s services as a “washer woman”. This does not go well and Toad finds himself tossed into the canal. However he manages to steal the barge horse, which he then sells to a gypsy, Toad flags down a passing car, which happens to be the very one which he stole earlier. The car owners, not recognizing Toad disguised as a washerwoman, permit him to drive their car. Once behind the wheel, he is repossessed by his former passion and drives furiously, declaring his true identity to the outraged passengers who try to seize him. This leads to an accident, after which Toad flees once more. Pursued by police, he runs accidentally into a river, which carries him by sheer chance to the house of the Water Rat. Toad now hears from Rat that Toad Hall has been taken over by weasels, stoats and ferrets from the Wild Wood, who have driven out its former custodians, Mole and Badger. Badger then comes up with a plan to drive the unsuspecting weasels out while they are holding a party in honour of their leader, and reclaim Toad Hall.

Posted in books, Television

Alien Nation

I would like to watch BBC4’s ambitious and fascinating new documentary series  Alien Nation which should Not be confused with the film of the same name. It features six programs incorporating the latest filming techniquesv to reveal how insects work, how they live and how this alien nation might ultimately be the true lords of the universe. The first program Planet Ant, which is Presented by Dr George McGavin and Dr Adam Hart, unearths the natural home of the Leafcutter ant Beneath the Glasgow Science Tower which is the biggest manufactured colony in Europe and is built to mimic the natural home of the Leafcutter ant. Combined with footage from the UK, the USA and Trinidad , the program shows in vivid detail just how individual ants, from queens to workers, live within one of the most mysterious and complex societies on Earth and reveals just how crucial ants are to ecosystems all over the world and how the study of ants is leading to breakthroughs in computing, industrial manufacturing and even the way we communicate with each other.

The second program Insect Dissection is presented by Dr James Logan and Brendan Dumphy and reveals the anatomies of insects via dissection coupled with cutting edge imaging technology, which takes anatomy to micro-level and reveals what makes bugs tick and how they were able take over the Earth. They outnumber us 200 million to one, thriving in environments where humans wouldn’t last minutes. This unique documentary will strip back the exoskeleton to reveal how insects work and discover the hidden blueprint behind their global domination. Using an arsenal of cutting edge imaging technology, to reveal and incredible world of ingenuity and precision engineering hidden inside these extraordinary creatures and discover that without bugs, ecosystems would collapse, crops would disappear and waste would pile high.

The third program Can Eating Insects Save The World? is presented by presenter and food writer Stefan Gates, who explores whether insect cuisine could be the key to our future and whether insects could offer a real solution to the global food crisis, where millions go hungry every day whilst the meat consumption of the rich draws vast amounts of grain out of the global food chain. He also meets people in Thailand and Cambodia that hunt, eat and sell edible insects for a living, from stalking grasshoppers at night to catching fiercely biting ants and hunting Tarantuala’s to bug farming on a massive scale.This documentary also reveals how science is now using the findings from the insect testing ground to inspire technology that is transforming our world.

The next program, The Incredible Story Of The Monarch Butterfly: Four Wings And A Prayer focuses on the miraculous migration of the mysterious and beautiful Monarch butterfly. Based on the critically acclaimed book by Sue Halpern and narrated by Academy nominated Kristin Scott Thomas, it follows the truly incredible migration of the Monarch butterfly from its birthplace in Canada more than 3,000 miles to its wintering site in the rainforests of Mexico across land it has never seen. Its journey is filled with peril, many never make it and those that do will never return. It takes three more generations to make the journey back the following spring. No generation has ever made the journey before, and will never make it again. The great mystery is how they do it.

The next episode Metamorphosis is presented by Presenter and author David Malone who investigates the natural world of metamorphosis which seems like the ultimate evolutionary magic trick: the amazing transformation of one living creature into a totally different animal. One life, two bodies.Using cutting edge filming techniques he also uncovers the answers to questions such as; what is the hidden science at the heart of such ingenious transformation? What light can it shed on how we are all made? And how has the idea of shape-shifting populated our culture, our dreams and our nightmares?

Fronted by natural history filmmaker Charlie Hamilton-James, The next episode Edwardian Insects tells the story of one of the great unsung heroes of natural history filmmaking – Percy Smith, who whilst working during the first half of the 20th century, produced dozens of short but brilliant films on seemingly mundane subjects like flies and slime mould. Charlie explores the life and work of this forefather of form, searching out classic Smith archive, revisiting the key locations and came up with an innovative way of filming insects doing remarkable things in order to recreate the filmic experiments that led to such classics as The Acrobatic Fly and The Birth of a Flower. Charlie also meets other passionate wildlife practitioners to share filmmaker tips and wonder at the technical ingenuity of Smith. and explores the impact of Smith’s trail blazing career on future landmark Natural History hits such as The Private Life Of Plants, Life In The Undergrowth and Planet Earth.

Posted in films & DVD

Jack the Giant Slayer

I would also like to go an see the fantasy—adventure film Jack the Giant Slayer which is eventually released 22nd March 2013 after a troubled production, during which the oiginal Director left and it was completely rewritten. The film is based on the fairy tales, “Jack the Giant Killer” and “Jack and the Beanstalk”, directed by Bryan Singer and stars Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy and Ewan McGregor with a screenplay written by Darren Lemke, Christopher McQuarrie and Dan Studney.

The film takes place in the Kingdom of Cloister and tells the story of Jack, (Hoult) a young farmhand who is fascinated by the legend of Erik, an ancient king who defeated an army of invading giants from a realm in the sky by controlling them with a magical crown. At the same time, Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) becomes fascinated with the same legend.10 years later, Jack goes into town to sell his horse to support his uncle’s farm. There, Jack spots Isabelle and defends her from a group of thugs. Meanwhile, Lord Roderick (Stanley Tucci) returns to his study, only to find that he has been robbed by a monk. The monk offers Jack some magic beans that he stole from Roderick as collateral for his horse. Back at the castle, Isabelle quarrels with her father, King Brahmwell  (Ian McShane), as she wants to explore the kingdom, but he wants her to marry Roderick. Likewise, Jack’s uncle scolds him for being foolish before throwing the beans on the floor and leaving the house.

Determined to be free, Isabelle sneaks out of castle and seeks shelter from the rain in Jack’s house. However during the rain, one of the beans takes root and grows into a massive beanstalk that carries the house and Isabelle into the sky as Jack falls to the ground. Jack, Roderick, and Roderick’s attendant, Wicke, volunteer to join the king’s knights, led by Elmont (Ewan McGregor) and his second in-command, Crawe, to climb the beanstalk in search of Isabelle. When they reach the top, they discover the giants’ realm and decide to investigate and sadly though Jack’s group gets trapped by a giant, who takes everyone prisoner except him, and Roderick’s group encounter two other giants. So Jack tries to rescue them and finds Isabelle, Elmont and the rest of them in great peril and soon learns that the Giants, led by Fallon, the two headed leader, intend to attack to descend and Cloister at dawn, so The trio makes for the beanstalk, to warn the people of Cloister and Brahmwell orders the beanstalk cut down to avoid an invasion by the giants. Jack warns that the giants are using beans to create beanstalks to descend down to Earth and attack Cloister. The giants then chase Jack, Isabelle, and Brahmwell and prepare to attack Cloister and the castle….