Thursday, 27 April 2017

#RetroToys - Power Rangers Ultrazord

Oh my this bad boy is HUGE!

Power Rangers were one of my all time favourite kids TV shows, and though it's dated rather noticeably the toys are arguably still quite epic, in both premise and prowess. The 'Ultrazord' shown here is a combination of all the 'Zords' from the original series - Megazord plus Dragonzord equals Megadragonzord, plus Titanus = ULTRAZORD! Grrr.... Check it out below! 

Despite some yellowing and a few missing bits in the way of one wing from the Pterodactyl Dinozord; the tip of Tyrannosaur’s' tail; the horns from Triceratops and Titanus’ chain, the set is in pretty good nick! Unfortunately, the years seem to have eaten the Megazord sword, too.

Check it out below!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Shakespeare's Birthday Parade - Stratford-upon-Avon

For those who follow me on Twitter, you may have seen that I recently got back into playing my flute, something I've wanted to do for ages!

After playing in my first year of Uni for my course, and then playing in the Concert Band for a couple of years, since then I had played very little. Just occasionally and just on my own. I did make an attempt to join an orchestra a while later, but they always seemed to be inundated with flautists.

A good friend of mine, who was teaching music in one of the school's I support, pointed me in the direction of the Birmingham West Midlands Fire Service Band who had arranged an open rehearsal for potential new players on an informal basis. Since then, I've been going to rehearsals regularly and partaking in band socials and concerts in Fire Service Band attire.

It's been a great mix of music, and though it's been challenging going from almost no playing to some quite difficult pieces in a short space of time, I've really enjoyed it and the eclectic repertoire ranging from sweeping classical scores to more popular film music has meant it's always been interesting.

As a self funded institution, the BWMFSB are also a marching band! And because the marches are very popular gigs, this is how they generate a lot of their funding. It's therefor expected (and rightfully so) for members to participate in these! And participate I did!

It's not practical to march with a flute, so I've had to take up the Piccolo which I've played I think about twice before, and not well! It's very difficult, as whilst the fingering is the same producing a decent sound has been much harder for me than I find on the flute. I've put in some practice when time has allowed and can manage at perform a few of the marching pieces with at least some recognisability.

Which is just as well, as this leaves me to attempt to march successfully! Who'd have thought that essentially WALKING would be so difficult!

There are cues to acknowledge when marching, some audio in the form of bass drum rhythms, and some visual in the form of symbols from the band leader using a baton/staff. These indicate when to stop or start playing or marching. The trouble is, between concentrating on that as well as trying to read the miniscule music and play in tune doing all simultaneously is surprisingly difficult! It's a good job the band leader and conductor have been so helpful and friendly, as I may have run for the hills by now...

The first marching gig for me and a lot of the other new players was Sunday just gone, in the Parade celebrating Shakespeare's birthday in the lovely town of Stratford-Upon-Avon. The weather was brisk yet sunny, the crowds out in force and the confetti canon sufficiently loaded.

It was an excellent day, and I was pleased with how much playing I actually did! After a very anxious start, and a few missteps I eventually became more comfortable and felt I did an acceptable job for my first go.

It's difficult getting back into step when for whatever reason you end up on the wrong foot, and reading that small music is nightmarish! Hopefully with some more practice I'll be better at not needing to rely so heavily on the manuscript during marches. It's also significantly more difficult marching in full uniform. The helmet in particular makes things hard as it's so heavy!

As a band we all looked good though, and I've been told we even sounded good, too! So much so even BBC and ITV were able to get some decent audio for the local news.

And so, as one of my recent life goals of joining a wind band again comes to fruition and a regular hobby of mine once again, I feel content in myself that I'm making the effort to engage in a more varied range of activities, broadening my social circles and generally becoming less of a hermit.

I'd call that a success.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

#SwordAndLaser anthology Spoiler Free Mini Review

I bought the Sword & Laser anthology ages ago after reading the Press Start To Play sci-fi anthology and stumbling upon this in my amazon recomended purchases.

The first half of the book is dedicated to Fantasy fiction, or the Sword section. The latter is the Laser section, dedicated to sci-fi stories. 

Rather than rate every single story, I thought i'd simply just say how I got on with the book. The introduction by Tom Merritt details his experience from past anthologies, and how useful they are at helping emerging writing talent break into the mainstream, whilst also being a haven for quite simply, naff stories to get into print. Hence deciding to compile this anthology of fantasy and science fiction stories. He blatantly states that not every story will be everyones taste, and whilst this is probably true I found there wasn't a story I didn't enjoy or find interesting at least on some level.

The stories cross a variety of genres; experimenting with time travel, big monsters, space travel, humor, sea creatures and so on. There were some of the stories which started me of thinking 'this really isn't for me' but I'd definitely stay stick with them, as persuing led me to find some of the more enjoyable stories in an unlikely (for me at least) tale. 

It's always nice discovering new authors, and a good anthology is a great way to do it en masse, and thanks to the time and thought put in by Merritt and Belmont, the selection here is all of high quality and fans of science fiction and fantasy are bound to find at least something that appeals to them. Recommended. 

Monday, 3 April 2017

#TheRestaurantAtTheEndOfTheUniverse spoiler free impressions

Douglas Adams' sequel to the infamous Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy is just as magically ludicrous as the first begin where the former ends. Our favourite bi-headed alien Zaphod and familiar crew are persued to the point of destruction by a Vogon ship, unable to escape using the Improbibility drive thanks to our resident dressing-gown clad human confusing the computer by tasking it with making a decent cup of tea. Of course, it takes the spectral ancestor of Zaphod to save they day, splitting up the crew in a very bizarre fashion, and eventually shedding some light on why Zaphod may have the mahoosive ego he has, even for a two headed alien. 

Using many humerous themes from the previous book, the storys not hard to read, though can be a little tricky to follow, but is always entertaining, and had me smiling during the read a lot! It's also nice and short, and the book is physically small making it easy to read on a train or such. Not intrinsic to reviewing a story but I always find that a nice benefit!

So, if you're going to witness the end of the universe and everything, then why not stop at the restaurant at the end of the Universe for breakfast, first? Definitely worth a read - fans of the first book, Red Dwarf, Spaced etc,,,

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