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I completey forgot to post this!  Here's our recap of the True Blood series finale.

It's predominately negative.  The show used to be such an outrageous and funny celebration of the unconventional, so to have it end in this mundane way seemed unbelievably unimaginative.

It seems that Mr. King and I share a dislike for the phrase, "At the end of the day".  I shudder just to type it.  I despise the way that people throw it in before a statement as if it somehow magically gives them the final word in an argument.

Other words/expressions I loathe...

"It's my prerogative" - Too easily bandied about, and often misspelt or mispronounced.  .
"Trigger warning" - I realise these are often there for a valid reason, but the internet seems to have become oversaturated with them recently, to the point where a fairly innocuous post might have a warning that states it contains, say, catweasels or Marmite or buttons.
"I could care less" - Instead of "I couldn't care less", which is what the phrase actually means.
"Literally" - When something is not literal.
"Random" - When something is not at all random.
"110%" - Mathematically impossible.
"Yummy mummy" - Ugh, this is like saying "Oh hey, I see you have a child and yet somehow manage not to look like a coma patient.  Good for you."

Apparently it's going to be announced today that Microsoft will be buying Minecraft developer Mojang for the insane sum of 2.5 BILLION dollars.  This perturbs me, because I play Minecraft on PS3/PS4, and it appears that the ability for PS3 users to transfer their saves to their PS4 consoles has been delayed.  I can't help but wondering if the dark overlords of Microsoft are planning to screw Playstation gamers for not buying their horrendous X-Bone console.  There's also the more unsettling rumour that Minecraft 2 will be a Microsoft exclusive.  Grrrr, those scheming fuckers.

A new book comes out today purporting to reveal the true identity of Jack the Ripper as Polish Jew Aaron Kosminski, a prime suspect at the time of the murders.  Kosminski was a schizophrenic who lived in Whitechapel and was later incarcerated in a mental asylum, where he later died.

Author Russell Edwards obtained a Victorian shawl at auction, which allegedly belonged to victim Catherine Eddowes.  Though unverified, the shawl's owners claimed that it was taken from the scene by a police officer and then stored in a box as his wife was too horrified to wear it.  Edwards worked with DNA analyst Dr Jari Louhelainen, who took DNA samples from descendents of Eddowes and Kosminksi and matched them to blood and semen found on the shawl.

The full story can be found on the Daily Mail website: Jack the Ripper Unmasked

I’m dubious about this.  Reasons:
- Aaron Kosminski had an eating disorder that meant he only weighed about 90 pounds. How could a sickly waif overpower and suffocate women, so quickly that they wouldn’t have time to make a noise, and then butcher their bodies and evade the police?
- The semen on the shawl could mean he was a punter, not necessarily the murderer. It’s always been thought that the Ripper’s motive was not sexual, and there was no evidence that he’d had sex with any of the victims.
- The last of the canonical five murders was in 1888, and Kosminkski wasn’t put in an asylum until almost three years later.  Taking into account the Ripper’s MO, it seems unlikely he would randomly stop killing so abruptly.
- The DNA evidence has not been independently verified, and this scientist’s method does not yet have the full support of the scientific community.  It is possible that cross-contamination has taken place.
- The provenance of the shawl has not been proven.
- I can’t help but be a little cynical about two guys with a book to sell, and suspect them of colluding to falsify evidence in order to make money.

On the other hand…
- Kosminski WAS named by the Metropolitan Police as one of their main suspects.
- He was a schizophrenic with paranoid delusions and an alleged compulsion for “self abuse” (masturbation).
- He lived in the Whitechapel area and could conceivably have had sufficient knowledge of the maze of alleyways and courts to avoid the police and witnesses.
- He fits the historical descriptions of the killer and witness statements (though these give slightly varied physical descriptions), and the assertion by the police and public opinion at the time that the killer was a Jewish immigrant (though it’s entirely plausible that this belief was born out of deep-rooted anti-Semitism prevalent at the time).
- I’ve seen some comments doubting that Eddowes would have been able to afford the high quality shawl, but that assumption fails to take into account that clothing was often sold second hand, pawned and stolen in this era.

Conclusion: This could be a major breakthrough, or as big a hoax as the Ripper Diary.

goth aphroditemf

I have a sister-in-law!

Posted on 2014.08.31 at 08:44
Tags: ,
My brother Jim and his American fiancée Angela got married last week on a beach in Bali!  They met a couple of years ago while teaching in South Korea and have been travelling South-East Asia for the last few months.

How gorgeous does their wedding look?!  Jim hates clothes, so it doesn't surprise me at all that he got married in shorts and flip-flops, haha!

They're going to have a family wedding at some point in the future when they've finished travelling, but I don't know whether that will be here in England or in America.

Jim writes a blog about his travels, if anyone's interested.

We sold the X-Box 360 and purchased a PS4 a couple of months ago but I've waited this long to post about it because I thought I'd play a few different games in order to get a reasonable impression of its capabilities and functionality.

The bundle we purchased from Game cost £399 and consisted of the 500gb console with joypad, a set of peripherals consisting of a vertical stand, duel joypad charger and headset, two games - Call of Duty: Ghosts and the special "Occupied" edition of Wolfenstein: The New Order, and The Wolf of Wall Street on blu-ray.  Since the console alone usually retails at around £349, this seemed like a pretty sweet deal.

The console itself is sleek and shiny and a much more aesthetically pleasing bit of kit than the rather, erm, boxy X-Box One.  The light on top co-ordinates with the colour-changing light on the joypad, which is dead sexy.  The touch-sensitive on/off and eject buttons seem to function better than the ones on the PS3.

The joypad feels much sturdier than it's PS3 predecessor, which always felt a little too small (moreso for Paul than for me, with my tiny child hands) and breakable.  This PS4 joypad is more ergonomic, with longer grips, increased responsiveness in the buttons, and and bevelled edges on the sticks.  Rather than the classic "Select" and "Start" buttons in the centre of the controller, there is now a large touch-sensitive pad that also functions as an additional button, flanked by "Options" and "Share", which make more sense.  I'm yet to utilise the "Share" function (I'm waiting for Minecraft on the PS4 for that), but apparently you can share your last 15 of gameplay or stills, or save them to your hard drive for editing.  I like the way that the rear light changes colour according to your health in the game, or according to which user happens to be playing (dependant on the game).

UPDATE: I spoke too soon!  After I started writing this entry, the R2 button on the joypad came loose and kept sticking.  I was playing a first person shooter at the time and it was wasting all my bullets!  We took it back to game who informed us that it's a common fault with these joypads and exchanged it for a new one.

The user interface has been updated, with a new variant on the old "Xross Media Bar" design.  The new version is more pleasing to the eye and easier to navigate, but still suffers in comparison to the more child-friendly X-Box interface.  The way that all the games are listed separately in amongst the TV/music apps is messy, it would have been better to have a dedicated tab for games.  The PS4's graphical user interface does at least make concessions in regard to online gaming, making it easier to link your PSN account with your Facebook and share your gaming activity, trophies or videos/stills online.

PSN membership is now necessary for online play (as opposed to being an optional extra on the PS3), and because of this you'd think that the monthly free games available would be of a better quality than previously.  However, while the games on offer to PS3 and PSVita gamers are still of a reasonable quality (fairly recent releases, high-quality indie games), the free PSN games for the PS4 are just not up to scratch.  Obviously the PS4 has only been out a short while, so although the number of available games is severely limited at the moment, with time and more developers working on next-gen games the free downloadable PSN subscriber games will be of a higher quality.  Fortunately, we also own PS3 and PSVita, so we feel like we're still getting our money's worth from PSN.

Speaking of the PSVita, the "crossplay" function whereby one can play PS4 games on the PSVita is pretty ingenious, though having to use the rear touch screen of the Vita in place of the L2 and R2 buttons on the PS4 controller is a little fiddly.

Games I've played so far:

Call of Duty: GhostsCollapse )

Wolfenstein: The New OrderCollapse )

The Last of Us RemasteredCollapse )

Destiny BetaCollapse )

Silent Hills playable teaserCollapse )


On Tuesday I went along to an art history lecture at Valence House, our local museum.  The speaker was Karen Hearn, a renowned art historian and curator and University College London.  One of her areas of expertise is the portrayal of pregnancy in European art, and this lecture looked specifically at the Elizabethan/Jacobean pregnancy portraits by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (1561-1636).  The reason the lecture took place at Valence House is that it has in one of its galleries a painting by Gheeraerts, of the heavily pregnant Anne Fanshawe (not the famous one who wrote about the civil war, but a close relative).  The Fanshawe family used to own Valence House, and in the early twentieth century one of them bequeathed the family art collection to the local borough.
The prime focus of the lecture was that throughout history pregnant women have been almost completely absent from European portraiture, but for a brief spell in England during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I a number of prominent men had their heavily pregnant wives painted by court artist Gheeraerts. The motivation for this, it is believed, was to show off the fertility of both husband and wife and their commitment to doing God’s work through reproduction. Another, more disturbing notion is that the high mortality rate during childbirth meant that men were keen to have their wives painted before they died birthing an heir.

It was a very enjoyable lecture because it covered a lot of subjects I'm interested in - art, the Tudor/Stuart era, local history, historical fashion, and the role of women in historical societies.

Something else intriguing was that Karen Hearn briefly touched upon the technical side of portraiture, in the regard that an artist would have a studio and would have a number of apprentices who might complete certain parts of a painting under the artist's supervision.  Also (and this is something I recalled from reading Samuel Pepys' diary) the subject of a portrait would not be expected to sit for it for long periods of time; Most of the work would be carried out at the artist's studio, with the subject not present.  This, combined with time constraints and a desire in the commissioner of the work to have something that was obviously painted by a particular fashionable artist, led to situations like this:

The lady on the left is Anne Fanshawe (I have seen the painting in the flesh many times and can attest that it is much more impressive and cleaner looking than this image would suggest), painted by Gheerhaerts in 1628, and the other is Anne Hale, painted the following year.  So obviously there was a bit of cheating going on!
A few other Pregnant Tudor ladiesCollapse )

goth aphroditemf

Writing on iPad

Posted on 2014.08.04 at 12:13
Tags: , , , , ,
I usually do all of my writing on my desktop PC, but recently I've been wondering if perhaps I should do some on the iPad instead.  The reasoning behind this is that I am a lazy bastard and sometimes I just can't be arsed to turn the PC on in the evening and sit there tapping away in the office chair, but if I could sit on the comfy sofa with the iPad then I might actually get more writing done.  Also, this would mean increased portability so I could write anywhere.

So I've just ordered this Logitech solar-powered keyboard which is compatible with the iPhone and iPad.  You can switch between up to three devices instantly at the flick of a switch, so Paul and I will be able to pair it with both of our phones and the iPad mini.  It was £34.99, which seems a little pricey for a keyboard I suppose, but since I touch type at a furious rate I needed one that was particularly responsive and ergonomically designed.  

Now I need to decide on what is the best word processing app or website to use so that I can switch between the iPad, iPhone and desktop PC.  I was looking at the My Writing Spot iPad/iPhone apps and companion website, which looks like potentially a no-nonsense word processor that will save my writing to a cloud (I'm increasingly worried about the age and reliability of my two external hard drives).

Another option I'm looking at is using Google Docs.  I've had a play around with it and it seems straightforward enough, plus there'd be no need to download apps or anything.  However, I've heard that some people have concerns about Google's security, not to mention their slightly alarming privacy policy.

A third option is the Pages app, which is slightly pricey for phone/tablet app, but is apparently a good word processor:

If anyone knows anything about this stuff I'd be very grateful for some advice!

This week I purchased what I'm calling The McConnaissance Box Set, which actually bears the much more mundane title "The Matthew McConaughey Collection".  It was only £15, which I thought was a bargain for three fairly recent and critically acclaimed films on DVD.  Now compare this to an older set that is also a collection of Matthew McConaughey movies and you will see how remarkably successful his image makeover really has been in terms of how his work is marketed:  

Although, I suppose this is all relative to taste, because if you happen to be a big fan of his rom-com work then you're probably lamenting his move towards Oscar-baiting drama and weeping over how skinny and weird he looks in all his movies nowadays.

Anyway, last night we watched Dallas Buyers Club, which in case you live under a rock is the 1980s-set AIDS biopic that bagged three Oscars earlier this year.   McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, a hard-drinking, rodeo-riding, drug-dealing man-slut of an electrician.  Ron is diagnosed with AIDS in 1985 and given a month to live.  His utter ignorance of the virus (symptomatic of the time, as well as his situation and personality) leads initially to denial of his condition, especially as he is deeply homophobic and under the misconception that only homosexuals can catch AIDS.  The revelation of his condition results in his friends ostracising and ridiculing him, and the loss of his job and home.  Eventually conceding that he needs some form of medication to prolong his life, he meets obstacles in the form of the FDA and the local hospital, who reveal that HIV and AIDS drug testing is still underway and he will most likely be long-dead before any drugs are approved.
Ron's determination to learn more about potential treatments leads him to undergo drastic lifestyle changes, forgoing sex, drugs, alcohol and unhealthy foods and going on a quest around the world, meeting doctors and studying research papers in order to find the optimum treatment plan for sufferers.

While this is, at first, an entirely selfish exercise, once Ron starts dealing untested drugs to other AIDS sufferers in order to make a living, he develops a new found compassion for the fellow AIDS sufferers that he meets at support meetings and in gay bars.  In particular he becomes good friends and later business partners with Rayon, a drug-addicted transgender woman played by an almost unrecognisable Jared Leto.  Ron's attitude to Rayon goes from absolute revulsion to something approaching love, and their relationship is the core of the film.

What could have been a horribly bleak film is actually made very uplifting as you witness Ron's transformation from a deeply unlikeable rogue to a selfless and passionate hero who takes on the FDA and pharmaceutical companies in his quest to find decent treatment for AIDS sufferers.

It's no surprise that both McConaughey and Leto won Oscar awards for their roles in this film (for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively).  Their performances are riveting and nuanced, and both men ooze charisma.

goth aphroditemf

Belated World Cup Post

Posted on 2014.07.15 at 09:22
Tags: , , , , ,
Germany won the World Cup, yay!  I'd been cheering them on ever since England failed to make it past the group stage.  I actually really fancied Germany to win, going on their early form, so it came as no surprise.  I'd also had a strong feeling that England wouldn't have a single win in the group stage, which turned out, unfortunately, to be correct.  Maybe I should relax my stance against gambling?!

The sweetest thing about Germany winning the tournament was that three Arsenal players are in their squad - Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil.  I'm hoping that their players' international victory, combined with Arsenal's triumph in last season's FA cup, will spur the club to greater things in the 2014-15 season.

Here's the Arsenal boys with the trophy... WTF is that lion tattoo on Ozil's arm?!  It reminds me of the "grabbing the bull by the horns" painting that Ben Stiller's character has in Dodgeball.

Another podcast in the can!  It doesn't feel as hard work as it did last season (where we gave up after three episodes), partly because I'm not heavily pregnant, but mostly because this season is more enjoyable and I feel more inclined to talk about it at length than I did season six.

I blame this guy for my loathing of season six:

Ugh.  Just looking at his face annoys me.  The rest of season six was tolerable, but the whole Sookie/Warlow romance veered between vomit-inducing and tedious, with frequent excursions into the realm of implausibility.  I don't think it helped that the actor used to play a particularly irritating character in Eastenders.  Whenever he was onscreen I couldn't quite shake off the memories of his dire acting as his fuckwitted and deeply unlikeable character tried to drown his girlfriend and baby in a lake or attempted to bury Max Branning alive (Max Branning is one of my favourite Eastenders characters and I can only despise anyone in the warped and hilariously inaccurate version of East London that is Eastenders-land who tries to do that ginger baldy sex god any harm).

Enough about Eastenders, here's the podcast:

I recently spent a couple of days organising my book collection.  They were two-rows deep on one bookshelf, so I had to clear a ton of crap off of two other sets of shelves and fill those with the excess books from the overcrowded shelves.  

Then I gave away a ton of Scarlett's books that she deemed "too babyish" that were also too Disney Princess-y to be kept for Dylan (I know this is reinforcing gender stereotypes, but honestly he's got so many books already, at age 9 months, that he doesn't need a stack of princess and fairy books too).  I moved all my young-adult/children's classic books into Scarlett's room so now she's got a nice collection of books to read.  Not that she will, because she's not a bookish sort of child, must to my dismay.

So the books are now all much more accessible, arranged somewhat thematically (in a system that is logical to me and probably no one else) and displayed in a more pleasing way, although my flat is increasingly resembling a second-hand book store.

Photos... I haven't included the photo of the Stephen King collection because that's so immense now that it requires a second post.

BOOKS!Collapse )

I don't think of myself as being particularly romantic, and then I see photos like this...

...and the revelation that Ripper Street actors Charlene McKenna and Adam Rothenberg are dating in real life just makes me melt into a big puddle of goo.  How feckin' cute do they look?!

This is what their Victorian alter-egos look like, by the way:

I found a few more old family photos that my nan's cousin had posted on  These ones are particularly delightful to me because of my obsession with the history of London, particularly the East End in the 19th century.  

Here's my great-great-great-grandfather, Joseph Coffee, who was born in Islington, North London in 1845 and died in Hackney in 1914 (perhaps of Spanish Influenza, as there was a widespread outbreak in London in that year).  Also pictured is his wife, Emma Coffee (1848-1893), my great-great-great-grandmother.  Together they had eleven children, including Louisa, my paternal grandmother's grandmother.

I'm guessing these photos were taken circa 1875-1880, judging by their ages and the clothes - Emma's dress doesn't have the excessively pronounced bustle of the early 1870s, the skirt is relatively tight and without any crinoline, the bodice is long, and her hair is not elaborately styled.  

The Masonic sash that Joseph wears gives the name "Liberty Lodge", but I haven't been able to find a record of a lodge with this name in Hackney or the surrounding area.

Here's another photo of Joseph later in life.  Apparently he went blind (or perhaps he was blind as a young man too?) and became a newspaper seller in London.  It looks as though this was taken in Islington, as the sign behind him says Canonbury.

The reference to a king and not a queen in the headline indicates that it was taken during the reign of Queen Victoria's heir, King Edward VII, who reigned from 1901 until 1910.  

Initially I thought that "WAR DANCE BEFORE THE KING" dated the photo as being taken in September 1906, as King Edward VII was visited by a group of native Americans at Buckingham Palace that year.  But then I noticed there's a reference to Empire Day, which is on 24th May.  Further research found that Empire Day started in 1904, at the instigation of Lord Meath, and it appears that the headline reads "EMPIRE DAY - SPECIAL ARTICLE BY [LORD M]EATH".

(Apparently the King visited Waterford in Ireland during this time, so it is possible that the WAR DANCE headline is a reference to something that took place during that visit.)

So this dates the photo, with certainty, as being taken in Canonbury around the 24th of May 1904.

When I read this on Livejournal, I was understandably sceptical at first, but then I saw (David Gilmour's wife and sometime Pink Floyd lyricist) Polly Samson's tweet:

Although I don't have high hopes (little Floyd joke there for all you fans!) for this record, in terms of it even nearing the quality of previous releases, it's good news that they are working on new material.  I'm happy mainly because of the publicity this will give to the band and in particular to David and Roger's forthcoming solo records, and also because of how it will invigorate the fan community.  There's only so much pondering of re-releases that we can do!

Obviously I would have been wetting my knickers with delight if Roger had been involved, but alas, that is not to be.  It's a shame - even if he, understandably, does not want to take time out and potential material from his eternally forthcoming solo album. I would have liked to have seen some involvement from Roger in some capacity, if only because this is almost certainly the band's swan song and it seems appropriate that his contribution to their history should be acknowledged.  Not only that, but for all the flaws in his recent songwriting exploits (and I'm as willing to admit them as the next fan, despite any bias) Roger's still a better songwriter than Dave or Polly, and I don't believe that, had he been involved in this album, he'd have used it as an opportunity to put out half a dozen songs about the mistreatment of Palestinians.
You know what would also be cool? If some archival Syd material was used in the assembly in a similar way to Ricks. Then it would be possible to have a final song, on a final album, that featured all five members.  But now I'm just daydreaming about the possibilities, and ignoring the realistic expectation that this will be a weak, mostly instrumental, slightly dated affair that will resemble David's blandly inoffensive On an Island more than it could ever resemble anything pre-1983 (The Final Cut being the last truly great Pink Floyd album, in my eyes).

Episode 2 in the can!

We drank some Korean rice wine during the episode, so we get progressively more drunk throughout...

I found this podcast interview with Jerome Flynn:!/Entries/2014/6/26_Talk_2_Me_Jerome_Flynn.html

He talks about his charity work, lifestyle, philosophies and roles in Game of Thrones and Ripper Street, and comes across as a thoroughly fuckable pleasant chap.

The weird thing is, his voice sounds EXACTLY like Roger Waters'! The accent, intonation, and passionate-yet-rambling grandad style of talking are eerily similar, to the point where Paul and I were imagining that it was Roger talking about saving the lions instead of the Palestinians.

Big Game of Thrones show and book spoilers under the cut...

Read more...Collapse )

Some early concept art for Ron Howard's Dark Tower movie/TV adaptation has surfaced on the net.  Its unpolished appearance, not to mention the deviations it makes from some readers' preconceptions of what the design of locations should be, has led to inevitable controversy.  The fact that this has surfaced at all has caused fans to speculate that the project has been completely shelved, though recent comments from Howard would indicate that it has just been temporarily mothballed until further negotiations take place.  Stephen King has also spoken about the adaptation recently, stating that he was absolutely behind Howard's vision, and that his idea was to have the films cover the events that occur with adult Roland and his ka-tet (posse, for non-readers) from 20th century New York, while the two seasons of TV show would cover all the flashbacks to Roland's youth.  This is the first time I recall reading exactly how the film/TV structure was going to work, and I have to say it makes a lot of sense to do it that way.

As for the pictures, well, they have a decidedly unprofessional look, but I suppose they are a few years old now and were just the initial prototypes that were made.  Here's a couple of examples (spoilers from the books are only minor):

Tull (Book 1, The Gunslinger)

I approve of this.  Although I've seen fans complaining that it doesn't look as "Wild West" as they were hoping, I rather like the post-apocalyptic, decayed-modern look.  It seems appropriate to envisage Tull as such seeing as across the desert is a dilapidated alternate universe version of New York.  A huge theme of the books is that it's set in a universe where things on Earth are falling apart, and this reflects that.

The Speaking Ring (book 1, The Gunslinger)

This looks appropriately creep-tastic.  Again, there's certainly the feel of a world that's gone to the dogs.

The Manni village (book 5, The Wolves of the Calla)

The two obvious HUGE controversies here are that Suzanne is walking, with legs (she has lost both her lower legs in an accident in the books, and uses a wheelchair), and that there is no Oy (their pet/companion, a small, hyper-intelligent  mammal that doesn't exist on our Earth).  I can only assume that if these WERE changes that they were considering making for the films, then it was because of budgeting constraints.  But it would have pissed a LOT of people off.  Surely a reasonable compromise would have been to have Suzanne be wheelchair bound because of a spinal injury, if they really couldn't find a way to use special effects to hide an actress's legs?  Or couldn't they cast an actual amputee?!  The fact that she appears to be styled in a 1970s fashion is also worrying, since a huge part of her character is that she is a civil rights activist who has experienced extreme racism in the 1950s/early 60s.  Also, it's a very relevant part of her relationship with Eddie that she is from a different time period (and universe) to him, so in the "real" world their relationship could never exist.

I'm also perplexed about why there is a large city visible in the background - this scene takes place near Calla Bryn Sturgis, a small rural town, and there's no city near there as far as I remember.  Unless the picture has been labelled incorrectly and this is actually the village that they encounter on the way to the city of Ludd, which would make more sense.  But that would be in the desert...

Anyway, the Manni are supposedly like the Amish, so I don't really think the representation of their homes makes sense - not to mention they look really impractical.

Devar Toi (book 7, The Dark Tower)

This looks like it was knocked together in five minutes on an Amiga 500 in the mid-1990s.  On the other hand, it does at least conform to expectation in regard to the descriptions of this location in the book.

Overall, these pictures don't exactly inspire confidence in the proposed adaptation, but on the other hand they are early drafts and aren't necessarily representative of the final product.  I suppose that one can't make assumptions based on any of this evidence - for one, Oy's absence in the illustrations doesn't mean that he won't be in the films, just that they perhaps haven't come to a decision regarding his design just yet.

You can see all the pictures here:

Our podcast is back!  Here's our take on the opening episode of season seven of True Blood:

In the Heart of the Sea has been called one of the greatest history books ever written, and after reading it I can vouch that it is thoroughly deserving of this praise.  It tells the true story of the crew of the Essex, a whaling ship that sailed from the island of Nantucket off the coast of New England in 1819, rounded the Souther tip of South America, sailed in to the Pacific whaling grounds and was attacked by a sperm whale. Adrift in the middle of the Pacific in three small boats, thousands of miles from land and with limited supplies, the twenty survivors slowly started to die of starvation and dehydration.  Those who lived on had to make the difficult decision whether or not to eat their dead shipmates.  After ninety days there were only eight men left, who were rescued by passing ships.  Their rescuers found them in a raving, skeletal state, surrounded by the bones of the dead friends they'd devoured in their desperation.  The book then covers their return to their tight-knit whaling community and the effect that the legend of the sailors who turned cannibal to survive would have on Nantucket Island.

Philbrick doesn't shy away from the distasteful aspects of this tale - the bloody job of dismembering both human and whale corpses is explained in great detail, along with the horrendous symptoms of extreme starvation and dehydration that the men would have suffered from, as well as the psychological effects.

It's a story so powerful and compelling that it reads almost like fiction.  There are well-defined characters at the centre of things and Philbrick builds up a strong picture of the backgrounds and motivations of these men - the inexperienced captain whose failure to be steadfast and poor decision-making leads to the disaster, the obnoxious first mate who ultimately turns out to be a born leader, the green cabin boy who is eager to set off on adventure, the harpooner whose abilities come into doubt but later proves himself, the old black sailor who comforts the younger men by leading them in prayer despite the racial tensions that had underlined events.

It's no surprise then, that Ron Howard has shot a big-budget film of this exemplary piece of storytelling. Thor's Chris Hemsworth is first mate Owen Chase, Benjamin Walker (who played the titular role in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) is Captain Pollard, Cillian Murphy (who I'm a long-time fan of) is second mate Matthew Joy, Joseph Mawle (of Ripper Street and Game of Thrones, who also played Walker's dad in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) is harpooner Benjamin Lawrence, and Gary Beadle (who played Paul Trueman, my all-time favourite Eastenders character!) is ship's cook William Bond.

I first heard about this film when I listened to a radio interview with Joseph Mawle in which he explained how the cast had to go on an extreme diet in order to convincingly portray the men at the point of starvation.  He said he lost around 35 lbs, and Cillian Murphy also talked about losing 15 lbs for the role.

Given the superb source material as well as Ron Howard's involvement and the excellent casting gives me high hopes for this movie and I can't wait to see it when it comes out next year.

Movie production photosCollapse )  

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