Staying at home 8: What’s on the box?

You’d have thought, maybe, that given the circumstances, I’d have knocked-out several tens of thousands of words by now; Blog pieces, chapters of that book I’m supposed to be writing… Well, not so much a book as short story, a little Sci-Fi escapade based in Iain M Banks universe of The Culture. Too ambitious? I didn’t think so, I mean, surely, if I can read the stuff, I can write it?
Ah, if only it were that simple…

Anyway, the point is that thanks to COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 and now the mutations… and if that doesn’t sound like a Sci-Fi novel then I don’t know what does, I’ve had more than enough time to pull my bloomin’ finger put, knuckle down and get writing.
But I haven’t.

I blamed writer’s block, I blamed a lot of things.
I’ve been reading more that I had pre-pandemic and, siting in the garden, in the sunshine, I’ve been enjoying it – weather permitting. Then it was winter, now it’s spring.

I recently bought two, second hand, books by Iaasc Asimov, ‘The Caves of Steel’ and ‘The Naked Sun’, books that I had read and enjoyed as a young boy, pre-teens I think, and when the good weather kicks in (it snowed yesterday) I will sit out in the garden and once again lose myself in an Asimov.

I was spurred on by ‘discovering’ that those good people that make iPhones and iPods and iPads and iDon’t know what all else have taken to providing on-demand telly services, like Netflix et al. but no doubt different because those good iPeople always do things differently, and they are to produce an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ series of books.

When I first encountered Isaac Asimov I was maybe 9 or 10 years old. I was off on a school trip to North Wales and I wanted something to read on the way. I was in the local Post Office, local to where we lived, we had such things back in those days, and I was thumbing through the paperbacks when this image of a spaceship caught my attention. It was the Chris Foss artwork on the cover to ‘Foundation’ by Isaac Asimov. I bought the book, on the coach to the Pen-y-pass youth hostel, I got stuck-in.

I liked science fiction, I still do but up until then my diet of Sci-Fi was mostly along the lines of evil aliens wanting to take-over; Doctor Who, Star Trek, War Of The Worlds, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, The Invaders and so on, telly stuff. I had also read one or two Sci-Fi books which were in a similar vein.

Asimov introduced me to a more, dare I say, grown-up Sci-Fi. It was fiction with lots of science but no monsters, well, unless you count “The Mule” (If you don’t know, go and read the Foundation trilogy). I was seduced, as I dare say many have been, by the Chris Foss image on the cover but once I’d started reading, I was enthralled.

It wasn’t ‘space opera’ – Star Wars was still years in the future, but it was an intriguing story and I wanted to find out what happened at the end. I bought the next book in the series, it was as I intimated above, a trilogy, and when I’d finished that I bought the next. Sometime later in the 1980’s Asimov wrote two prequels and two sequels to his original trilogy making it, what? A septilogy?

[Googles ‘series of seven books’]

No; a septology or heptalogy, anyway, when I encountered Foundation, it was a trilogy, now there are seven books. By the time the nineteen eighties rolled around I’d grown out of the habit of ravenously devouring books so I’ve not read the prequels and sequels, maybe it’s time I did. But I’ve bought two Asimov books that I’d enjoyed first time around and I fully intend to enjoy them again.

I’ve been watching old black and white films on TV, I’ve been searching for and watching old British films from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. There is a fabulous collection on YouTube which is easily accessed via a so-called Smart TV. And yes, there is a Freeview channel called ‘Talking Pictures’ which shows old films, but that isn’t available from the local transmitter and as I believe I’ve written before, buggered if I’m going to spend money on a subscription to Sky or Virgin or whoever just for that.

That line of reasoning then also rules out the Apple TV thing too, so when their production of Foundation airs later in the year, I won’t be watching that either. Unless I hear that it’s very, very good…

So many old films on YouTube and so far, the majority that I have watched have been very good. I often wonder when I see that BBC2 (for example) are showing Snow White and the Huntsman (another, example) again for the umpteenth time, why the ‘major’ terrestrial channels, BBC, ITV, Channel 4 etc. don’t show more of those old films.

Gainsborough films, they’re usually good, better than just ‘good’ I’d say but a lot of these films seem to have slipped off of the radar when it comes to terrestrial TV.

Philip’s gone, bless him
Mind you, he wasn’t looking too chipper the last time we saw him.
Watching the box yesterday I have to admit to a slight moistening of the old eyes there.

Shortly after the Asimov epiphany (that not all Sci-Fi is about green, bug-eyed monsters), in 1969 when I was all of ten and a half years old, I was a royalist. I had photos cut from the newspapers of Prince Charles’ investiture as Prince of Wales, pinned on the bedroom wall. Colour pictures, in the newspapers! This really was the wonderful future when even newspapers could be in colour.

Over the years I fell out of love with the notion of royalty, the royal family… Various marriage breakups and fiascos just went to show that ‘they’ were just like ‘us’, not worthy…

The Queen though always stayed there in my affections, well, as long as I’d been old enough to appreciate money, she’d been all over it.

Yeah, glib comment, but for some reason, Her Majesty has indeed stayed in my affections, Philip too I suppose, if only because sometimes we were just waiting for, ‘What’s he said and who’s he upset now?’ Still, at least he was a public figure who spoke his mind and said as he saw and we should be grateful for that I suppose.

I have to say that I was quite impressed that for a large chunk of the day, after the announcement of Philip’s death, all five major terrestrial TV channels were on the case, wall to wall Duke of Edinburgh. It began to wear a bit thin though towards the middle of the evening. Thank goodness for streaming and on-demand services. Not that I begrudge Philip the coverage on BBC 1 and ITV but for the Beeb to show the same thing on two other channels was I think a bit over the top. And what was the game with BBC 4? Some sort of advert to watch ladies’ football on the internet? We ‘streamed’ something.

I fell out of love with the notion of royalty. Dopey Di and Dodi, what a carry on.

Over the years though, as I said, the Queen was just alright by me, the Queen is just alright, oh yeah. Around midnight I was laying on the sofa watching one of the many Prince Philip tributes that had been on. The program was interesting, the guy was an interesting guy.

There was talk of his involvement in the marriage break-up twixt Di and Charles, apparently, he gave Diana wise and supporting counsel. And there was us thinking (in lax moments and probably uncharitably) that he’d arranged the ‘accident’ in the tunnel. Him or the Queen Mum.

And now he’s gone and people die every day and those two doors down don’t even know but this man accorded overlapping coverage on national television.
And rightly so.

I’ve also been watching Sci-Fi serials and films; Amazon, YouTube, Netflix.
I enjoyed the re-hash of “Lost In Space” having fond memories of the original series, ‘Danger, Will Robinson’ and all that. The new series seemed to have a ‘vison’ and , shall we say, good story telling, that not all Sci-Fi does. I was a little confused though that on their journey from Earth to the Alpha Centauri system their ship is attacked and they have to evacuate to a nearby habitable planet…
At which point I’m yelling at the screen; ‘There’s nothing between here and Alpha Centauri!’
Shades of Khan; ‘THIS IS CETI APLHA FIVE!’
Anyway, overall, I enjoyed series 1 and 2 and just waiting now for the release of series three.

I also watched a series called ‘Salvation’ which is nominally about the race to come up with a solution to destroy an asteroid on collision course with the Earth. Everybody gets lost in their own personal crises and it drags on into a second series which is probably unnecessary; I say probably because about a third of the way through the second series I skipped to the last episode and wasn’t impressed; having thought to myself that something like how it ended was probably going to happen anyway. I wasn’t disappointed but neither was I impressed.

I’m currently watching ‘Altered Carbon’ which is a bit more difficult to summarise but once again, for me at least, this ticks many Sci-Fi boxes. The story, the characters, the – dare I say it – special effects which are I think just ‘effects’ these days as they all seem to be so good.

I’m about two thirds of the way through series 2 and I’m taking my time to reach the end of the series. And yes, I know that the show has been cancelled by Netflix so no series 3 and that is why I’m taking my time. Bummer really when you consider that something like ‘Salvation’ made it to the end of the story.
Ah well, there’s always books…

5 thoughts on “Staying at home 8: What’s on the box?

  1. Your mention of ‘CETI’ got me remembering how I had to leave my PC on to gather info about a little green man who was meant to be trying to contacting me.
    Anyway, one of us got fed up with it all. It is so long ago now that I can’t remember whether it was him or me that walked first.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The first and last sci fi I ever read was Kemlo. I think that’s right. I enjoyed it I seem to remember. But that was it. I feel I should read Polaris as it was written by a contemporary from Lwów of my dad.
    Sad about the Prince. It’s the beginning of a new era I think
    Talking of new eras have you seen any of the Deutschland 83 86 89 series?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes excellent I think. Te story is confusing enough to be gripping but what is really fascinating are the interiors. East Germany in the eighties! It’s also quite quirkily filmed with some subtle or perhaps not so subtle irony and humour

        Liked by 1 person

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