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Get the Gringo… or How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Mel Gibson at the cannes film festival

Mel Gibson at the cannes film festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Well it was bedtime at El Pueblito, but it looked like all the good pieces of dirt were taken…”


Mel Gibson has had a rough time in the past few years (after his drunken rant) despite the fact he’s an oscar winning director and one of the biggest action stars of the past few decades. So forget the Mad Max films and the Lethal Weapons and focus on the Bravehearts and Apocalyptos of this world – and look up one of his best movies you might have missed (barring Edge of Darkness).


Billed by many as the unofficial sequel to Payback Get The Gringo (or Kill The Gringo or How I Spent My Summer Vacation) is a mexican prison movie starring Mel in a tight action/drama piece that reminds us how big a star he is. After The Expendables 3 Mel might let his star shine bright again, but if you’ve passed this one up it’s well worth a viewing and seeking out.


Mel is on top form as our unnamed protagonist (“Richard Johnson” (or Dick Dick..) ) in a brilliantly paced movie that has oodles of deadpan humor among the realistic action pieces as we discover just why he’s incarcerated and how he’s going to solve his dilemma. You get the feel that this isn’t a throwaway comeback (I’m looking at you Arnie!) even if it doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t. Mel Gibson knows what makes an exciting film, and perhaps more importantly understands what audiences want to see, as everything from the mariachi soundtrack through the gritty hellhole chic reminds us that exciting quality action cinema doesn’t have to be dross.


It’s the internal dialogue that makes the film. Mel Gibson’s deadpan narrative shows everything from his resignation through survival as he susses out what makes the prison tick and you can’t help but chuckle and wince in equal parts. As prison dramas go this is up there with Midnight Express if you manage to mate the darkness with the comedy, and  it shows that Mel Gibson is still a force to be reckoned with – remember his hollywood “exile” was self imposed as he still largely has the comfort of being able to finance and make his own movies!





I’m On Goodreads

Yes, like many “bloggers” I can get pretty loose with the actual blogging part. It’s not unusual to go weeks, months – even years – without a post. It’s not really procrastination, lack of motivation, laziness, or disinterest. It’s just firing up the web browser and typing something, without getting distracted. Let’s chalk it down to that modern malady of the internet age… pretty poor attention spans.

But I still love to read, and lately I’ve been keeping track of the books I’ve read with Goodreads , a social reading group of sorts, not that I actually use the social part much, but feel free to add me!. I’ve been rating the books I’ve enjoyed and entering some quick reviews if I remember to. I’ve also been adding in those books I can remember reading from the past, i.e. pre-goodreads.

This is actually pretty helpful. You can keep track of your reads, sure, but you can also notice other users who like the books you did. You can follow these reviewers or befriend them. You can also become a fan of your favorite authors. There’s lots of lists there too to help you see what’s popular, as well as quizzes and other frivolous stuff, but the best part is all those ratings you diligently enter will help the Goodreads recommendation engine find you something cool to read next.

Of course recommendation engines aren’t perfect, but this one is pretty darned good. With the lists and other reviewers you’ll never waste time on a useless book or miss an excellent one again. Your mileage may vary.

Anyway. There’s a few techniques I use to find new stuff to read, from award winners (e.g. Hugo and Nebula for scifi), recommendations from blogs, bestsellers, newsworthy titles, even that tried and tested Cool Cover coin toss, but Goodreads makes it all nice and simple. You may even find that holy grail, a new author you love with a long and interesting series of books you’ve yet to sample… No more waiting for the next title, yay!

Goodreads is part of the Amazon empire these days (a controversial step for some) and there’s also a good app for Android / Apple which is doubly good if you read on a tablet.

Here’s a widget from Goodreads and I’ve also put a button on the sidebar. See you there 😉

Stuart’s bookshelf: read

5 of 5 stars
This is one of the classics of cyberpunk literature along with William Gibson’s "Sprawl" trilogy that started with Neuromancer. It’s also one of the books I put off reading for whatever reason, but I’m so glad I did get around to it now….

5 of 5 stars
Ok. I’m guessing this "review" will be pretty similar to others here. Basically, if you meet the target demographic, you’ll love this.

That is, if you’re a geeky 80’s kid and love technology, gaming, classic arcade machines, eighties mu…


5 of 5 stars
Avery Cates is a Gunner, a hitman for hire in a grimy slum that was once New York City. Post Unification, the world is policed by the System Cops ("Pigs") who answer to no-one except their head of internal affairs, Richard Marin – the re…

5 of 5 stars
Set in a post apocalypse London (Metrozone) Samuel Petrovitch keeps his past a secret as he carves out a career as a brilliant physicist.

Since the civilized world has been devastated by a series of bomb attacks by Armageddonists much …


5 of 5 stars
In my eyes this is the best of the Dagmar Shaw series (so far?) even though here we really follow Sean Makin in first person and Dagmar is relegated to a bit player, albeit an important one.

Sean is a washed up ex-child star, appearing …

sci-fi and crime

3 of 5 stars
If you liked "This Is Not A Game" then you’ll *maybe* like this. Most of the characters from the first book return, but this time Dagmar is head of Great Big Idea and she’s running an ARG in Turkey – first to promote the new James Bond m…
crime and sci-fi

4 of 5 stars
Very interesting, and although I came to this from the Dread Empires Fall series by Walter Jon Williams I wasn’t disappointed in the least that it’s a totally different beast!

Dagmar Shaw runs ARGs – Actual Reality Games – but after bei…

sci-fi and crime

The Web is 25 Years Old


Tim Berners-Lee’s “Information Management: A Proposal” was written in March 1989 and it launched what we now think of as the World Wide Web , a hyperlinked document system providing a much more user friendly experience than previous internet technologies.


Tim Berners-Lee: The World Wide Web - Opportun...

Tim Berners-Lee: The World Wide Web – Opportunity, Challenge, Responsibility (Photo credit: Anna L. Schiller)

The web is now incorporated pretty tightly into our daily lives. We use it for entertainment in all it’s forms such as gaming, watching video, reading, and listening. We use it for shopping, allowing us unparalleled access to massive catalogs of goods and a way to find the best prices possible. We use it to simplify our lives, to keep in contact with people, and as a source of all knowledge. It’s still evolving, and the scale of the content out there is pretty mind boggling – even if sometimes its incorrect, or even shared without our knowledge. Never have we been so eager to reveal so much about ourselves!


Congratulations Sir Tim, the original ethos of a free web still stands even if it has had to shrug off a few blows. Where would we be without our Wikipedia, Ebay, Facebook and Google? The future is going to be even more exciting with semantic web technologies making use of the torrent of data – what will it be like when it hits 50…?





The Web, circa 1998

The Official Space Jam Website


I couldn’t tell whether it’s a parody or not, but it’s on the warner brothers domain. Repeating background, frames, low res, waves, even realaudio. Yep, this ticks all the boxes!


C’mon, we all had sites like this once… *cough* on geocities *cough*


(PS. The movie wasn’t much cop either)


Space Jam

Space Jam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Ashens and the quest for the Gamechild / Knightmare

Ok. This is an exclusive, full length movie exclusively on Youtube . It’s really a no-budget film , released on TheMultiverse Youtube Channel that was started by Warwick Davis . It’s also part of Youtube’s Geek Week.

The plot concerns Ashens, a collector of “tat”, seeking out the elusive Gamechild. It stars various Youtube characters (plus special guests), especially Stuart Ashen (famous for his reviews of junk gadgets).  I was really quite impressed by the filming and camera work and it reminded me a lot of the Simon Pegg / Nick Frost style, with perhaps a smattering of The Mighty Boosh. It has that slightly left-field British comedic feel. As they say YMMV but I was entertained for the full hour-and-a-half, which I can’t say is true for many recent releases!

The best way to watch this is probably to download the HD version with a Youtube tool, since Youtube’s buffering seems to be a bit hit and miss these days.


There’s a lot of other interesting stuff in the same Geek Week vein including the Knightmare one-off (a childrens TV staple for those of a certain age). That was filmed with the original dungeon master, in the original studios!




Graham Hughes Odyssey

Graham Hughes managed to travel around the entire world, without using air transport . He did this in the period Jan 1st 2009 to November 2012. He holds the Guinness World Record for this feat.

On a tight budget Hughes traveled by public transport including trains, buses, boats and whatever he could blag. His accommodation was similarly sourced. He kept a video blog which has been published via YouTube and also used for a National Geographic Channel series.

In his epic journey Graham Hughes managed to visit all the UN recognized countries plus a few extras, totalling 201 nations. He managed to visit 133 in one year. As he states, ten years ago this wouldn’t have been possible, but in todays climate [albeit with a few hiccups] the world is a much freer place.

Here’s the start of his video blog, and you can follow the entire journey via Youtube…


The Galaxy Song

Monty Python Sings

Monty Python Sings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Whenever life gets you down, Mrs. Brown…”

And so begins one of Eric Idle ‘s most memorable songs from Monty Pythons Meaning Of Life. A fun little dittie about how special we all are. Or worthless. Take your pick…

Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
That’s orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it’s reckoned,
A sun that is the source of all our power.
The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm , at forty thousand miles an hour,
Of the galaxy we call the ‘ Milky Way ‘.
Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
It’s a hundred thousand light years side to side.
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
But out by us, it’s just three thousand light years wide.
We’re thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
We go ’round every two hundred million years,
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe .

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute, and that’s the fastest speed there is.
So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space,
‘Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth .

It works better if you see it, so here’s a clip from the always dependable YouTube.



UK viewers may also remember this advert for  Courts furnishers




I’m not sure how accurate the song is, and I did wonder (as you do) and turned to Wikipedia. However, there’s no need. A study by Paul Kohlmiller shows it’s pretty damned accurate, or accurate enough to work lyrically at least!

Well done, Eric.


P.S. A reworked version called the ” Galaxy DNA Song ” is just as good, about, well, biology and life as opposed to physics… This was written for Professor Brian Cox ‘s TV series.




Holy Flying Circus

monty_pythons_flying_circus_uk-show There’s not enough Monty Python on TV, so I set my Tivo to record anything from the boys, and it came up with this gem.

Holy Flying Circus  is a strange kind of meta-dramatisation of the events just after the launch of Life Of Brian . It is a surreal look at how church groups orchestrated a partial ban of the film in it’s home market. It is, in effect, a drama about Monty Python in the style of Monty Python.

The acting is top notch. The film focuses on John Cleese (played by Darren Boyd ) and Michael Palin (Charles Edwards) , but these are very exaggerated versions of the real life Pythons, a fact acknowledged by the drama in various asides and “fourth wall” breaking mentions of the world outside the dramatised re-enactment, including gags about BBC4 (who commissioned this). Steve Punt also provides an excellent Eric Idle , and the actors playing Terry Gilliam and Graham Chapman also do sterling work. Rufus Jones, as Terry Jones, also plays Palins wife – a common Python trope where the guys plays the gals. The nods to the films and TV series continues throughout, such as the use of speech impediments. In fact, apart from Eric Idle himself in the opening sequence no actual members of the comedy troupe are involved.

The drama starts in 1979 with the Monty Python crew returned from Tunisia, feel buoyed by the little movie they just made. Although aware that Brian’s content may prove controversial they still believe that, through comedy, they’ve made an important point about religion. And anyway, everyone knows Brian is not Jesus – so there’s no problem.

Soon the American launch makes the headlines, and the British premiere likewise. Alan Dick, an over the top TV programmer hits on the idea of cashing in on this outrage and getting the Monty Python crew into a debate with some religious types.

The discussion in the UK about freedom of speech and religion was really quite important, but also quickly forgotten. There are some insightful points made here with the over the top profanity and “bad taste” one liners, but I guess at the time censorship was a big issue. This film benefits massively from hindsight. Stephen Fry, as God, has some interesting things to say in his cameo, but as I said it’s really the portrayal of the Pythons in their heyday that makes this TV gold.

It’s a hard job to follow or even emulate the Monty Python gang but I think this nails it perfectly. 9/10.




You’ll find YouTube is full of Monty Python (it’s own channel) and you’ll find the original TV debate here .



How Tiny We Are


I  suppose we all know how vast time and space is, and how insignificant our place in it seems.

But knowing and really comprehending are two different things, our minds struggle to accept infinity.

You might have seen the clock model of our time on earth for example, or how brief it’s been since ALL life has been on earth.

The simple animation at “Here Is Today” shows it as a bar graph, and “today” looks tiny even as a percentage of the year, let alone all time…

If you want to see how our tiny we are in space, as usual YouTube is full of stuff like…




So really all this is so vast it doesn’t matter to us, we’re the only ones who care. Barring the existence of other life within reach of us, or more unlikely, within the same time as us, there’s no external observer. So the only time that matters is your own, the reality your brain has made for you…

Or – let Brian Cox explain it all 😀



Person Of Interest

This is one of my current favourite TV series.  Developed by Jonathan Nolan (“Dark Knight” Christopher Nolan’s brother) it concerns a crime fighting duo who act on secret information to protect – or apprehend – the aforementioned person.

This information is provided by Harold Finch – the nom de plume of a secretive billionaire who developed a  suspiciously echelon-like system for the US government after 9-11. Finch,  played by Lost’s Michael Emerson, acts on the social security numbers of those people deemed to insignificant by the machine which is only concerned with the bigger picture of preventing  terrorism.

Aiding him is ex-CIA black operative John Reese played by Jim Calviezel. Again a man with a shadowy past but one who needed a mission like this.

What could have been a “crime of the week” show is elevated by the drip fed histories of Finch and Reese as well as some interesting recurring characters.  There’s also the very grey area of who’s a perp and who is a victim that makes for some interesting shows.

As well as Emerson lost’s J J Abrams serves as executive producer and sometimes it feels as if seeds are planted just to be figured later. But still,  conspiracies,  action,  moral dilemma,  technology. .. What’s not to love?

With Lost long gone,  Fringe likewise,  and some of the current crop of genre shows not quite filling the gap this is a refreshing change.  And as a bonus. .. I haven’t seen it from the start so I’m in catch up mode – the best way to avoid next-episode blues.

So Game Of Thrones and Person Of Interest , genre TV at its best .

PS this is typed on the Android WordPress app. Not the easiest way to post,  because of the keyboard,  but swiping type input helps. Phones are probably best left for Twitter level short posts !