Tuesday, February 20, 2007

... Long Journies Wear Me Out But I Know I Can't Live Without It...

Greeting, all.
I am actually posting this blog entry from my mate Tony Kenealy's spacious and palatial gaff in lovely, sunny San Diego as the eleventh day of Keith's 2007 Californian Adventures draws close and the time looms when I must get on the first on three seperate aeroplanes to come back my beloved Walker. And, to my own little flat, which'll probably be cold and damp by the time I get there. Cos it's February and it always, you know, is.
I come to the US for a couple of weeks each year around this time, mainly to attend the annual Gallifrey One Doctor Who/writers/General SF convention held for many years at the leaky-but-wonderful Airtel Plaza in Van Nuys but, these days, at the much-less-leaky-and-more-vast LAX Marriot in downtown Los Angeles.
For the last three years I've made what used to be about an eight day trip with a couple of days holiday either side of the convention into two week vacations with three or four days holiday either side staying with my friends Tony and Jane in San Diego. The idea is to stop any jet-lag from looming whilst I'm actually at the convention itself - and falling asleep in the middle of a panel, or somesuch nonsense (it's happened before!).
The generocity and friendship shown towards us British writers out here never ceases to amaze us and, as a consequence, each year we come back for more and usually drag a few new converts with us. Plus, it's always nice to see old friends and make some new ones.
This year's event was, as all of the previous nine I've attended have been, great fun with plenty of opportunity to meet and talk to fans with lots of out-of-hours socialising and being taken to nice places to eat (that Persian/Italian place on Manchester Blvd - check it out, it's sensational). I have to admit that, for some odd reason (possibly related to those 'February Blues' that I was talking about in the last posting) I spent a portion of the weekend feeling ... well, a bit melancholy, I guess. Nothing, I hasten to add, whatsoever to do with the con itself which was, as always, superbly organised by the committee; many of whom - Shaun, Suze, Ingrid, Dan, Robbie, Paul etc. - I now regard as close personal friends of mine as opposed to just "some people I meet once a year for a few days."
By the end of the weekend, however, I was as sad to see the end of the event as I always genuinely am. Conventions can be funny things - you're coccooned in your own little world for three or four days and everything that goes on away from it seems trivial whilst you're there.
I took part in just four panels this year - far less than usual. Perhaps I was getting afraid that people are becoming tired of the sound of my voice after all these years (that's the same reason i only did one autograph panel this year instead of the usual two - because, surely by now everyone who wants to get one of my books signed, has done!).
There was a genuinely fascinating discussion on the development and future of Battlestar Galactica with Paul Cornell, Shaun Lyon, Caroline Symcox and Graeme Burk, Jill Sherwin's amusingly irreverent Buffy and Other Vampires event with Lars and Christa from Mad Norwegian Press, the annual TV Shows on DVD presentation, moderated by my dear friend Clay Eichelberger and including my old mate from the BBC Steve Roberts, and a tribute panel to the late and much missed Craig Hinton which was attended by many of his contemporaries and friends. For much of the rest of the time, I checked out the dealers room (though, thankfully, this year I didn't come away with a bunch of novelty trinkets to clutter up my living room!), took in a few other panels from the floor, networked and chewed the fat in the Green Room, generally wandered the corridors bumping into many old friends and several new ones and held court in the bar on the subject of why $5.90 for a bottle of Heinekin is "an effing disgrace!"
I also ended up in an impromptu room party on Saturday night after Tony and Jane and Clay and Kim allowed me to take them to "that little Thai place on Manchester" that we discovered last year.
So all in all, yet again, Gally has managed to drag me kicking and screaming into a new year and rediscover my enthusiasm for fandom and for the TV shows that I, and other people love. As well as - with a bit of luck - touching base with some people who, one day, I could be working with/for.
In other news, just to note, for anyone interested, that the second of my seven "no really, these are the last Buffy articles I'll ever write, ever, honest" appears in Xpose issue 102 which is available in all good newsagents (and some very bad ones) today:

http://www.visimag.com/xpose/x102_display.htm

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Got Dem Old February Blues...

Oh, bloody February.

The single most frightful and miserable frigging month of the year.

I hate it. I really mean that.

You think you've got through the worst the winter can throw at you and then February comes along all "hey, don't worry, spring's just around the corner" ... just six more weeks of plunging, ball-freezing temperature and frost and harshness ... unless, like last year, February decides to spread it's influence into the middle of sodding April!

So, anyway, another day, another article completed and another day closer to me going on holiday. Hip-Hurrah!

I simply can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to getting over to GallyCon this year. It may be a sign of getting older, but these winters really are becoming harder and harder for me to handle each year. I used to dismiss the idea of S.A.D ("Seasonally Adjusted Disorder") as a right load of old pretentious twaddle for middle-class people who didn't like hard work. But, the last two or three years, I'm finding myself more and more depressed through the months of November, December, January and, especially, February. Still, you've got to laugh, haven't you?

Current viewing:-

US TV:
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip - funny, inventive, beautifully written and acted.
24 - back to its very best; tool-stiffeningly violent.
House - also back to its best after a strangely muted first few episodes. Hugh doing what Huge does best.
Veronica Mars - still clever and just a bit dangerous, although (seemingly) nobody's watching so catch it whilst you can.
Bones - CSI: Lite but with a nicely ironic edge that proves they're not taking it too seriously. And, proof that David Boreanaz can act (albeit, you know, not very well!)
CSI - still reliably, The Daddy.

UK TV:
Top Gear, of course... (Need you even ask!)
Time Team - always fun, informative and sharply funny.
Soul Britannia - astoundingly good first episode.
The Comedy Map of Britain - didn't quite know what to expect from this but it's turned out to be interesting and enlightening.
Waking the Dead - despite the odd "weird-as-Hell" episode, the best drama on British TV (when Doctor Who or Life on Mars aren't on)
Repeats of QI on UKTVG2 (because one can never get enough of Stephen Fry!)

Current Listening:-
james (must get myself tickets for the reunion tour gig at the Academy in April)
Nick Drake
Love
Mighty Mighty
Delia Derbyshire
Arab Strap
The Blue Aeroplanes
The Chemical Brothers
Dexy's Midnight Runners

... and lots of other loud abrasive noises on my MP3 player.

In other news... Everybody in my family seems to have pneumonia at the moment. (I, myself, have had a cough that can strip paint for nearly two months without it showing signs of going anywhere.)

And The Mighty Boys of British Football beat The Second-City-Scum 3-1 last week. And, lo, it was truly marvellous in my sight.

Yeah, all in all 2007 hasn't had a bad start so far. Watch, something's bound to go wrong now...

Oh, and just to confirm: As readers of Ask Keith Topping will know, this Blog is, and will remain hereafter and forever more, a Bald Ex-Milkman from Waalsend-Free Zone.

Just say "No" to Sting. You know it makes sense.

Help Make Sting History

And, now for the important stuff.

The January and February editions of The Book Club can both be heard using the BBCs "Listen Again" feature:-
Simply go to the link below and click what it tells you to.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/tyne/content/articles/2007/01/08/radio_newcastle_book_club_feature.shtml
Another page
http://www.bbc.co.uk/tyne/content/articles/2006/02/09/radio_newcastle_book_club_feature.shtml features several of the 2006 editions if you missed any of those:

The books featured in the January show were:-

Richie Unterberger - The Unreleased Beatles (Backbeat Books)
Brian Southall & Rupert Perry - Northern Songs (Omnibus)
Catrine Clay - King, Kaiser, Tsar (John Murray Publishing)
Derek Redmond - A State of Denmark (Serpent's Tail)
Graham McCann - Spike & Co: Inside the House of Fun with Milligan, Sykes, Galton & Simpson (Hodder & Stoughton)

whilst on February's show we had:-

Dylan Younger - Newcastle's Cult Heroes (Know The Score Publishing)
Ged Clarke - Fifty Years of Hurt (Mainstream)
Tony Visconti - Bowie, Bolan & the Brooklyn Boy (HarperCollins)
Magnus Magnusson - Fakers, Forgers & Phoneys (Mainstream)
Gerard DeGroot - The Dark Side of the Moon (Jonathan Cape)
Michael Ashcroft - Victoria Cross Heroes (Headline Review)

Also received during November, December and January were the following:-
Billie Piper - Growing Pains: An Autobiography (Hodder & Stoughton)
Robert Anwood - Bears Can't Run Down Hill (Ebury Press)
Mike O'Hare (ed) - Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze? (Profile)
Jeff Evans - The Pegnuin TV Companion (Penguin)
Dave Marsh - Bruce Springsteen on Tour 1968-2006 (Bloomsbury)
John Grisham - The Innocent Man (Century)
Geroge Low (ed) - Commando: True Brit (Carlton Books)
Gideon Haigh - The Book of Ashes Anecdotes (Mainstream)
J Shaun Lyon - Doctor Who: Second Flight (Telos Publishing)
Gary Russell - Doctor Who: The Inside Story (BBC Books)
Wendy Prahms - Newcastle Ragged & Industrial School (Tempus Books)
The Little Book of Rude Jokes for Older Girls (Zymurgy)
Ken Hutchinson - Images of England: Wallsend (Tempus Books)
The Little Book of What Men Don't Understand About Women (Zymurgy)
James Owen - A Serpent in Eden (Abacus)
Giles Milton - Edward Trengom's Nose (MacMillan)
Jeremy Simmonds - Number One In Heaven: Heroes Who Died for Rock n Roll (Penguin)
Rob Bailey & Ed Hurst - Rude World: 100 Rudest Place Names in the World (Boxtree)
Johnny Rogan - Lennon: The Albums (Omnibus)
Tess Stimson - The Adultery Club (Pan)
Billy Bragg - The Progressive Patriot (Bantam Press)
Vicki Hendricks - Cruel Poetry (Serpent's Tail)
Guy Adams & Lee Thompson - Life on Mars: The Official Companion (Simon & Shuster)
Jeremy Clarkson - Planet Dagenham (Carlton)
Duff Hart-Davies (ed) - King's Counsellor: Abdication & War - the Diaries of Sir Alan Lascelles (Wiedenfeld)
Zachary Leader - The Life of Kingsley Amis (Jonathan Cape)
Ben Lyttleton (ed) - Match of My Life: European Cup Finals (Know the Score)
Peter Morfoot - Burksey: The Autobiography of a Football God (Know the Score)
Ruth Graham - The Break Up Bible (Know the Score)
Gillian Orrell - New Boots in New Zealand (Know the Score)
Trevor Dann - Darker That the Deepest Sea: The Search For Nick Drake (Portrait)
Barney Hoskyns - Hotel California (Harper Perennial)
Kate Figes - The Big Fat Bitch Book for Grown-Up Girls (Virago)
Paul Wilson - The Quiet (MacMillan)
Tony Saint - The ASBO Show (Serpent's Tail)
Julia Green - Blue Moon (Puffin Books)
Robert Holden - Success Intelligence (Hodder Mobius)
Charlie Connolly - In Search of Elvis (LittleBrown)
Gil McNeil - Divas Don't Knit (Bloomsbury)
Ryu Murakami - Piercing (Bloomsbury)
Nancy Mathew & Vivien Smith - Dacing on Mara Dust (Vivien Clear Publishing)
Jean-Patrick Manchette - Three to Kill (Serpent's Tail)
Julia Baird - Imagine This: Growing Up With My Brother John Lennon (Hodder & Stoughton)
Martin Goodman - Rome & Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilisations (Penguin - Allen Lane) Ben MacIntyre - Agent Zigzag: The True Wartime Story of Eddie Chapman (Bloomsbury)
Barry Miles - Pink Floyd: The Early Years (Omnibus Press)
Tony Saint - Blag! (Serpent's Tail)
Marybeth Hamilton - In Search of the Blues (Jonathan Cape)

... and a quick note for regular listeners of The Julia Hankin Show and my own, very poor, contributions to it. I will be doing the telly previews this coming Thursday (great, I get to rabbit on about Life on Mars for several minutes at the tax-payers expense) but I'll then be missing for the next two shows so you get dear old Phil from the radiotimes instead.

See you all on the other side!