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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Just Finished Reading: Life Moves Pretty Fast – The Lessons we Learned from Eighties Movies (& Why We Don’t Learn Them from Movies Any More) by Hadley Freeman (FP: 2015)

I tend not to judge a book by its cover but a good one will certainly attract my attention. This one (shown in the cover art above) looked just like a VCR cassette – same shape, size and (probably) weight. It immediately made me do a double take and then smile at its cleverness. Half sold already. Of course the subject matter helped – 80’s movies. As someone who (well, almost) grew up with 80’s movies – I was in my 20’s, living away from home and, at least for the early part of the decade at university with a VCR machine and a nearby video store. Needless to say I developed a deep and abiding love for the teen movies of the time and much more besides.

The author of this interesting, funny but admittedly hit and miss homage to the time and genre had a bit of a different exposure. She saw her first 80’s movie aged 8 or 9 so had a much different route into the subject at hand which shows in her pick of movies reviewed and honestly gushed over. For example she starts off with Dirty Dancing. To be honest I don’t think I’ve seen the whole movie so I learnt a lot from her description and her analysis of its cultural and social place in the 80’s scheme of things. On to The Princess Bride (which I have seen at least once or twice) which I agreed was a good film although maybe not as good as many people think it is. Then Pretty in Pink. OK, I’m a HUGE John Hughes fan and I like Molly Ringwald as much as the next person but again PinP wouldn’t normally have made my Top 20. I did find the background of the film interesting – as well as the discussion of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (I’m looking at you Zoe Deschanel) – which made me laugh. I was more than a little creeped out by Hughes’s relationship with Ringwald though…. Then one of my all-time favourite films and one of the best comedies ever made – When Harry Met Sally. Quite brilliant. I realised that there were feminist themes in the movie (obviously) but enjoyed it myself because of the realism of the relationship between the two leads. Then onto another of my all-time favourite movies – Ghostbusters. Again both very funny and very clever. As with the other films – even the ones I wasn’t greatly interested in – the author provided some good insights and background information 90% of which I was completely unaware of. Naturally at some point we had to get to the movie where the title of the book came from: Ferris Bueller’s Day off. I watched it recently after finishing this book. In any list it’d probably be in my Top 20 favourite movies. I LOVE it to death – as does the author (naturally). I found myself agreeing with much of her analysis and hoovering up the movie trivia around it. Then she lost me completely with Steel Magnolias which I knew existed but have never seen. Then (as if in recompense) was another film that I love dearly – Back to the Future. I’ve seen that movie many times and the sequels almost as much. I still quote it from time to time. After that the book got a bit….. vague, looking first at Batman movies and then at Eddie Murphy who I always thought to be rather hit and miss. Some of the reason behind that was explain here.   

Although far from a perfect book about far from a perfect movie era (a significant number of 80’s movies were SO bad I believe they actually warped space-time and probably destroyed whole alternative universes – I’m looking at YOU Buckaroo Banzai). It was fun travelling down such a nostalgic path even with someone else leading the way. My version of the book would’ve been rather different (more Schwarzenegger for one thing!) and would’ve covered the 80’s films that ended up defining my life like:

The Breakfast Club
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Terminator
Die Hard
Gremlins (which me and the guys are seeing tomorrow on the BIG screen)
Bladerunner (which I’ve seen over 60 times)
Top Gun
The Lost Boys
Weird Science
Risky Business
Escape from New York……..

Definitely a fun read for all 80’s movies fans but this is very much a personal journey looking back at a childhood spent watching iconic movies whilst growing up lonely in New York. Recommended with caveats.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Meanwhile... In the North of England more rain is expected.....
The Sunshine Blogger Meme Thingy….. (Nominated by Sarah from All The Book Blog Names Are Taken)

What genres do you prefer? Why?

Science Fiction (Never ending storytelling, mind expanding, open ended universe), Crime/Mystery (Puzzle solving), Historical (Getting ideas what to read next in non-fiction history), History (Finding out how & why we got here), Philosophy (Ideas!), Politics (The natural human condition), Science (Finding out how the Universe works).

What genres do you refuse to read? Why?

Romance… ICKY! Full of kissing & love and stuff….. [shudder]

What is the easiest thing about blogging for you? The hardest?

The easiest thing is finding stuff to post or re-post. The hardest thing is producing original content on a regular basis. Being tagged really helps!

If you could become a character in any book, which book and why?

Probably the hero’s side-kick, or his/her side-kick’s side-kick. Definitely not the hero. Too much effort involved and heroes tend to get other people killed. Too much pressure!

If you could travel to any period in history, which would it be, and why?

To visit? Probably early 20th century Europe circa 1910. Just before it all started going wrong. When Western civilisation still had confidence and hope in the future. Before we screwed everything up. That’d be nice, to see things how they might have been…..

Do you ever DNF books? What makes you DNF?

VERY occasionally. I’m normally very good at picking books that I’ll at least read. Odds are probably 1 in 60 or higher of a DNF. Reasons: REALLY bad or BORING writing.

Who are your favourite authors?

Bernard Cornwell, Larry Niven, Jane Austin, Alison Weir, Mark Mills… and countless others. I just love good story telling.

How important is book cover quality to you? Why?

I like the look of a good book cover and a bad one might put me off buying a book but covers are relatively unimportant compared to subject/plot and author. 

Name a character that you would want to be best friends with, and why.

I keep bringing her up but I do think that I could be fast friends with Elizabeth Bennett – even after she married D’arcy. She’s smart, funny, witty, good natured (mostly) and most likely a great deal of fun to spend any time with.

Name a character who would become your mortal enemy, should you ever cross paths in real life.

Oh, I don’t do the whole mortal enemy thing. Life is just too short. It would be a very strange world indeed where I dedicated a portion of my waking hours to doing bad things to someone. I’m really not that person.

Which authors would you invite to a dinner party? (never mind silly things like death)

Iain Banks & Philip Pullman, Ian Kershaw, Margaret MacMillan, James Holland. That’d make for some seriously good conversations late into the night!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Antarctica: Metal meteorite quest set to get under way

By Jonathan Amos, BBC Science Correspondent

29 November 2019

A team of British scientists has arrived in the Antarctic to try to find the continent's "missing meteorites". The group, from the University of Manchester, will spend six weeks scouring a remote region for lumps of iron that have fallen from the sky. These pieces of metal represent the shattered remains of small planet-like objects that were destroyed in the early years of the Solar System. Iron meteorites are rare, however, especially in Antarctica. Less than 1% of all the space rocks recovered in searches on the continent are of the metal type, compared with about 5% elsewhere in the world. But the Manchester researchers believe they know the reason for this statistical deficit. Their modelling work suggests the iron meteorites are out there; they've simply buried themselves in the ice in the Antarctic sunshine. "Iron meteorites have a higher thermal conductivity than chondrites, or stony meteorites," explained mathematician Dr Geoff Evatt. "That means they can warm and melt the ice around them more efficiently. So we expect them to be there, hanging just below the surface," he told BBC News.

The scientists arrived this week at the British Antarctic Survey's (BAS) Rothera station to begin preparations. They'll be heading out into the field very shortly, taking with them a specially designed metal-detecting system that will be dragged behind a couple of snowmobiles. Whenever this technology is alerted to an interesting signal, the team will jump off its vehicles and dig down into the ice. Over the 15-20 sq km that will be surveyed, the researchers hope to find four or five iron meteorites. This would enable some great science, said Dr Katie Joy. "By looking at the age, structure and chemistry of iron meteorites, we can understand the timing of the processes that occurred in the early Solar System - and the numbers and diversity of these small planets that were forming. And all of that information can help us understand how we got big planets like Earth, Mars and Venus." The expedition is the culmination of three years' hard graft for the team. After winning the funding to attempt to prove the idea of a buried population of iron meteorites, the scientists then had to design, build and test its detection technology; and identify the most suitable location to deploy it.

The snowmobile-dragged array incorporates a lot of the electronics found in standard mine-detection equipment. It has had to be made more hard-wearing, however, to cope with the bashing it will receive when bouncing across solid ice. Operation in sub-zero temperatures was also factored into the design. Dr Evatt successfully put a prototype through its paces at the BAS Sky Blu fuel depot a year ago. At the same time Dr Joy ventured into the Antarctic's deep interior to inspect favourable meteorite-hunting grounds. The continent is helpful to scientists in that the flow of the ice tends to aggregate fallen space rocks against ridges and mountains. Dr Joy picked up more than 30 surface stony meteorites in her travels, and settled on a place now called the Outer Recovery Ice Fields for the upcoming iron quest. "It would be really exciting if we could find a lunar or Martian meteorite. That would be the cherry on the cake. But hopefully we can find about 80 surface meteorites made up of different asteroid types. And if we can find that many, this implies that beneath the ice surface we may have four or five iron-rich meteorites - if our theory is correct." The Manchester-led project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust with logistic support from BAS.

[Interesting that they’re re-using landmine detection equipment in this way. Plus let’s hope they find a buried crashed UFO while they’re looking. You never can tell….!!!]