Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Howl's Moving Castle

Went to see Hayao Miyazaki's latest animated tale, Howl's Moving Castle, last night and really enjoyed it.

It's based on a book by Diana Wynne Jones and follows the story of young Sophie who works in a hat shop and seems fated to remain there forever, being the older plainer sister. However, after a chance meeting with the wizard Howl, she is cursed by the Witch of the Waste who turns her into an old woman. With nothing to lose she sets off in search of the strange moving castle inhabited by Howl, who is said by all to eat the hearts of pretty young girls, and seek his help but Howl is also cursed and he in turn needs her help.

The background artwork is superb and, as expected, Miyazaki's screenplay and direction are excellent. If you're a Miyazaki fan (Spirited Away, Castle In The Sky, Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke), then you'll love this one. Definately one for the DVD collection when it hits the stores.

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction.
My Rating: 9/10

Monday, September 26, 2005

Pride & Prejudice

Being a bloke, I was worried when this was released as I just knew my partner Lorna would want to go and see it on the big screen, especially after the 1995 BBC television version was so popular (doesn't seem like it was ten years ago). I think it was one of those books I had to read at school so I was a bit reticent and had managed to avoid watching the telly version.

Anyway, got persuaded to take her so we went to see it at the weekend and it was actually not a bad few hours. Lorna said it's not quite as good as the BBC one, which was much longer and more detailed, but pretty good nevertheless and she certainly enjoyed it. It's always difficult to translate an entire novel, especially a well known classic, to a few hours of film but I think they did an excellent job with this one.

The absolutely elfin Keira Knightley gives an excellent performance as Lizzie, Matthew MacFayden does a reasonable job of the haughty Mr. Darcy and Brenda Blethyn and Donald Sutherland give great support as Lizzie's parents. The acting, direction, sets and cinematography can't be faulted and the script mixes a good blend of drama and romance with a few comic moments so it's well worth seeing.

Genre: Drama, Romance.
My Rating: 7/10

Friday, September 23, 2005

My Life: Origins

Born in Glasgow (Scotland) in 1955, Duke Street Hospital to be exact, I grew up in Maryhill in what you'd call a standard working class family. We weren't exactly poor but money was something that was carefully looked after.

Home, Sweet Home

Home for mum, dad and myself was in Hinshaw Street. We lived up a close, two floors up in a standard Glasgow tenement in what was known as a "room and kitchen", which was exactly what it sounds like, a single bedroom and a kitchen that also had a bed recess. It also had a small lobby and associated coal bunker and I can still remember the sooty, coaly smell of it even now. Each close and landing was lit by a gas lamp at night, which helped light the stairs as well.

We had no hot running water and the toilet was outside, down the stairs on the half landing. If you wanted a wash, it had to be in the kitchen sink with water boiled in the kettle and no, it wasn't an electric one. If I wanted to "go" after dark, then it was a creepy walk down the stairs in the diminishing light of the gas lamp and a serious run back up before the boogey man got me.

The advent of central heating hadn't materialised for most of us Glaswegians at that time but we had a real coal fire in the kitchen and I can remember spending hours in front of it watching the coals burn, the flames flickering in and out with little cracking and popping noises. Of course, having a real fire meant that we had a real chimney and that always meant stockings on the fireplace at Christmas and a note popped up the lum, telling Santa what I wanted.

The Back

The tenement block had a central, enclosed courtyard commonly referred to as "The Back" and this is where most of the local kids played. It was pretty big, a wasteland by today's standards, but it also contained the communal wash-houses and middens. The wash-houses were unused in my youth, having been a throw back to a time before the local Steamie, and were more or less derelict but provided useful cover when playing such games as "Hide-and-Seek", "Japs'n'Americans or "Cowboys and Indians" - all concepts probably alien, and a bit non-PC, to the kids of today. We had no computers, games consoles or internet in those days, we didn't even have a television until 1963 and that was black and white and only got the BBC.

The middens were another endless resource of fun and it was pretty common for a group of us to go midgie raking to see if there was anything useful a small boy could salvage such as old toys, broken clocks or radios, comics, wheels, etc. I know it sounds terrible nowadays and we used to get into terrible trouble if we got caught at it but that wee hint of danger and the possibility of discovering some "treasure" made it a worthwhile adventure for an under-ten year old boy. We'd even occasionally go on raking expeditions to the back courts of some of our more affluent neighnours as they always threw out better quality stuff. Of course, more often than not there was nothing useful to be found and all you got was covered in ashes or if you were really unlucky, some rotten vegetables.

My pool of friends came from different streets so the territory covered a few blocks and we could be found playing in any one of several streets or backs, only coming home for dinner, tea or occasionally shouting up for "piece", which would be thrown out of the window wrapped in paper to make sure it didn't get dirty hitting the ground. Great was the kudos if you caught the falling sandwich but that was a rare occurrence.

Another great source of fun were puddles but I've written enough for today so until Chapter Two...

The First Entry...

Okay, this is the first entry in The Jumbled Box - so what to write about? Okay how about a bit about me...

I'm 50 and live in Glasgow (Scotland) along with my partner Lorna. I have two kids, Jacqueline and David, and they live with my ex in Dumbarton. Jacqueline is training to be an accountant (sad init!) and David wants to be a rock star (but if that fails, he'll try engineering).

I manage a small systems support team and have been a software developer, computer games developer, computer sales person and laboratory technician in past times. I even worked behind a disco bar for several years as an evening job.

I like hill walking, a bit of fishing, taking photographs, reading, watching movies, technology, surfing the net and scones. I hate noisy neighbours (you know who you are), toothpaste tubes that have been squeezed in the middle, BMW owners and DIY. Other than that I think I'm fairly normal.

I think I'll serialize the story of my life in later postings.