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Monday, September 18, 2023

Just Finished Viewing… Rogers The Musical!

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Some time ago, I watched the six part Disney Plus series Hawkeye, about one of Marvel’s Avengers, Clint Barton. As superheroes go, he had no special powers, he was just very, very good with a bow, though he did have trick arrows. He had lost his wife and children during the “Blip” in which half of the life in the universe vanished, and, in his grief and anger, became a vigilante. Now, post the Blip, when everyone returned, he has taken his children to New York for a pre Christmas treat, including a Broadway show, Rogers: The Musical, about Captain America who is, of course, a real person in that universe. Apparently the song was inspired by real world musical Hamilton. It was composed by Marc Sharman and Scott Wittman.

Clint can’t cope with it, during a bouncy number,  “Save The City” remembering his dearest friend, Natasha Romanoff(Black Widow), who had died in front of him, sacrificing herself to save the world; he leaves the theatre before the song is over. At the end of the series there was a full version of “Save The City” in the mid-credits. 

It was such a delightful performance, I thought that if it had been a real show I’d be booking tickets already.

This year, there was, indeed, a short version of Rogers: The Musical, including “Save The City” and five new songs, performed at Disney California Adventure. I was a bit disappointed that, at 37 minutes, it was never going to be touring the world and arriving in Australia. 

However, I stumbled across the show on YouTube and happily watched it. It’s a very condensed version of Captain America: The First Avenger, with music. I have just watched it for the second time tonight and enjoyed it all over again. 

It will probably mean more if you have seen the original film, but the songs are a delight and maybe it will make you curious to see the film.

Here is a link for you.


Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Just Finished Reading… Of Blood Descended By Steven Veerapen. Edinburgh: Polygon, 2022


The year: 1522. The place: England. Henry VIII is welcoming his nephew, Emperor Charles V, to his court. As part of the welcome, a special masque is being prepared, organised by Cardinal Wolsey. It’s on an Arthurian theme because Henry is obsessed with his supposed descent from King Arthur. 

But there is a murder; the royal historian, Pietro Gonzaga, who has been working on proving Henry’s Arthurian descent, is found dead on the lawns of Hampton Court. And there will be more murders in the course of the novel.

The sleuth here is Anthony Blanke, a music teacher who was once one of Wolsey’s trumpeters. He is the son of late royal trumpeter John Blanke, an African musician who arrived in England with Catherine of Aragon. Anthony is at Wolsey’s palace of Hampton Court when the first murder happens, having been sent for to play a role in the masque.

After several murders and having been assaulted himself, Anthony finds the killer…

John Blanke was a real person, whose image is shown in a couple of paintings, sitting on a horse and blowing a fanfare, but there is little known of him after he retired from the job and married, so why not give him a son?

The guy with the turban was probably John Blanke. Public domain

It’s an intriguing story. There is a lot of detail about the work that needed to be done to prepare for a masque. Wolsey, in this novel, is at his height of power, several years before his downfall. Anne Boleyn is there, taking part in the masque, but not yet being courted by Henry.  

Steven Veerapen has written some historical non fiction, but there are two novels in this series so far, as well as the Ned Savage Elizabethan thrillers. I am definitely planning to read the sequel to this novel, Of Judgement Fallen!

Available in both ebook and print.

Friday, September 08, 2023

Happy Star Trek Day!

 Today is the birthday of Elizabeth I. I suppose I could write a massive post about Elizabeth I in fiction, but I’m too tired to think about it right now, so maybe another time.

Today is another anniversary: the first showing of Star Trek. Not Star Trek: TOS, or even Classic Trek as it was called for a while, but Star Trek. Who would have thought, way back then, that this  series which was cancelled after only three seasons, would become so huge? I confess to having lost track of it. There are entire Trek spin-offs that I haven’t ever seen and probably never will. Others, such as Strange New Worlds and Lower Decks I have seen large chunks of and enjoyed, but just had no time to catch up with.

But I fell in love with it as a teenager. My first episode was “Mudd’s Women” in which the con artist Harry Mudd is taking three women to get husbands. (One of the three was in an episode of Get Smart!) I quickly grew addicted to it. My favourite character was, of course, Mr Spock. My first piece of fan fiction, written for English(the teacher gave us the task of writing a fan fic)was about how Kirk overturns the umpteenth matriarchy and is not appreciated by anyone. 

I wrote quite a few fan fics over the years until I started to be paid for my writing. I know a lot of pro writers still do fan fiction under pen names, but I just couldn’t do both. 

For those of you who don’t know the details, Gene Roddenberry created the series and pitched it as “Wagon Train To The Stars.” The original pilot, “The Cage” didn’t sell, though bits of it were later used in an episode called “The menagerie”, and he was told to get rid of the female second in command and the Vulcan. He got rid of Number One, the female second in command, for the second pilot, but the actress came back as Nurse Chapel and the Enterprise computer voice and did a lot of episodes of STNG and Deep Space Nine as Lwxana Troi, the likeable, cheeky and strong mother of Deanna Troi, ship’s Counsellor. And Number One turned up again in Strange New Worlds, aboard Captain Christopher Pike’s Enterprise. Times have changed, for the better, since the 1960s Enterprise set off on its five year mission. 

Despite all that and although I adore the spin-offs I’ve seen, and the films, the 1960s show has always been my Trek, the Star Trek of my heart. When the first film came out, my friends and I decided to dress beautifully for an opening night, not in costume. That may have been the last time there were no costumed fans in the audience, but it was a very special night for us. 

I have been enjoying the bits I have seen of the spin-offs recently, though, “Strange New Worlds” especially. We see a young Nyota Uhura, a cadet learning the ropes, absolutely not saying “Hailing frequencies open”. She speaks thirty-seven languages, among other things. We see a young Spock, played by the grandson of Gregory Peck, who has some of his grandfather’s mannerisms, but he is Spock. He has managed to get Leonard Nimoy’s voice right. He and T’Pring, the woman we saw rejecting him for another man in the original series, are lovers. Dr M’Benga, who appeared in two episodes of the original series, has a back story and replaces Dr Boyce, the comfortable middle aged ship’s doctor of “The Cage”. 

Picard is another show I liked, and was originally written by Michael Chabon, author of a novel I loved, The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Klay. It had Romulan ninja nuns who had raised a young boy and taught him as much as a man was allowed to learn. 

Lower Decks is animated and very funny. It’s set aboard a ship that isn’t the top ship in the fleet. The adventures are seen from the viewpoint of a group of Ensigns, not the Captain(one of the Ensigns is her daughter, though, and drives her crazy!)

I thoroughly enjoyed the three films in the Kelvin timeline, about the early years of the original series crew. The role of McCoy was played by Kiwi actor Karl Urban, whom I last saw as Eomer in Lord Of The Rings. He got DeForrest Kelly, the original McCoy,  absolutely spot-on. Even the voice was convincing. Zoe Saldana, whom I later saw in the Marvel films as Gamora, adopted daughter of the villain, Thanos, was Uhura and her relationship with Spock was made canon. Well, in the Kelvin timeline, anyway. Zachary Quinto, the villain of Heroes, was a very good Spock. 

Chris Hemsworth, whom you probably know best as Thor, appeared briefly as Kirk’s father, killed about ten minutes into the film…

Kirk, p.aged by Christopher Pine, grew as a character through the three films, and became the Kirk we know and love from the original series. 

Just finishing this with a personal thing involving Mr Pine.

This evening, on X, formerly Twitter, I got a follow from someone who called himself Chris Pine, actor, with a Hollywood address and tweets with photos. Okay, seems to be the real thing, I thought, though puzzled by his small number of followers. I followed back anyway, then got a DM. It was polite enough, but I have had a LOT of DMs immediately after a follow back, and I replied asking him what I ask them, not to DM unless there is something he needs to discuss in private. 

Well! Turns out it was him, wanting to have a personal account because his publicity team does the official stuff on his behalf. This was his first go at it - he only joined last year. He was terribly offended! I apologised, explained and we had a brief chat before I said good night. 

So, I got a follow from “ Captain Kirk”!  Who would think it? 

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Just Finished Reading… The Left-Handed Booksellers Of London: Melbourne, Allen And Unwin, 2022

I have had this in ebook for some time, but forgot to read it. Then I did, because I absentmindedly bought a print copy of the sequel. And having read it, I’m kicking myself for leaving it this long.

The setting: England in 1983(the year Garth Nix first visited England).  But not quite our 1983. In the TV series The Professionals, Bodie and Doyle, are female, for starters, something the female fans of my acquaintance would hate - they love to drool over the male characters! 

More important, the booksellers of the title are an extended family of magic users, who actually do sell books because, as one of them says early in the novel when asked, they do have to make a living. But their two bookshops are used in their magic practice. They seem to be long-lived too, as one of the matriarchs of the family complains that another stole her “young man” a couple of centuries ago. They have arrangements with the London police, who don’t particularly like them, but accept that what they’re doing is necessary.

Eighteen year old Susan Arkshaw has been living with her mother outside of Bath. She doesn’t know who her father was, though she has a couple of items belonging to him, and her mother can’t or won’t tell her. 

But when she goes to  London to study art, she soon finds out that she is important to someone nasty, and the baddies are after her. Fortunately for her, she is helped by left-handed bookseller Merlin and his sister Vivien, a right hander. Left and right handedness isn’t regular handedness as we know it - it’s more a job description; the magical hand is silver and the left-handers do one thing, the right another.

While Susan’s father’s cigarette case and library card are being researched and tested by booksellers, she and her new friends have a number of adventures including kidnapping by beings from the Old World of which her father was a part. There is a probability that one of the booksellers is a traitor…

The novel is great fun. The characters are likeable. Merlin, who starts the novel by rescuing Susan from a criminal working for the Old World villains, enjoys shape shifting to female form and wearing nice clothes in either gender. He and Vivien are both working to protect Susan, sometimes from their own family, who have a tendency to kill off children of Old World beings in case these children might be inconvenient.  

Susan doesn’t need much rescuing, except from situations she has no way of knowing about. Sometimes she manages to rescue herself from those situations anyway. By the end of the novel she is beginning to be confident in her new magical powers.

The style of this book reminds me somewhat of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers Of London series, so if you enjoy those novels you should enjoy this.

Available at all good bookshops and websites.