Monday, March 05, 2007


Arthur C. Clarke obviously still holds a fascination for me, since I got through "Jupiter Five" last night between going to bed and putting the light out. I haven't done that for a couple of years.

It's a wonderfully entertaining story, though maybe a little low-key by modern standards. A scientific expedition to the moons of Jupiter makes an amazing discovery, as illustrated on the cover of IF in 1953.

Thanks to the Centrepoint newsagent for helping me get re-acquainted with Clarke. If it hadn't been for them including Reach for Tomorrow among their bargain paperbacks, I might have taken years to getting around to re-reading him.

One of my readers was surprised to see me write a piece about Clarke without mentioning 2001. I guess that's because I'd read all Clarke's novels and short stories before that famous movie was released.

I remember getting a letter about 1969 from Gary Woodman in Melbourne (whatever happened to him?) saying "I've just seen the most extraordinary movie. You've got to see it, even if you have to fly to Melbourne."

That wasn't necessary -- I was in the audience as soon as the film was released in this state, and sat there stunned as the end credits ran up. In fact I think I sat there for a couple of minutes before I could collect myself enough to leave the cinema.

The end of February has brought with it some milder conditions. And about time too. Last week not only were we plagued with an invasion of tiny little flies that followed us everywhere, but the humid weather made life very tiresome. One night the humidity reading was still 90% at midnight, which is almost unheard of.

Roll on autumn, that "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness."

"Hiro, there are tweleve and a half million people in this city. Not one of them can bend space and time. Why do you want to be different?!"

Yes, I've been watching Heroes on television. I've only seen the first five episodes, but it certainly is an intriguing show.

The plot is complex and involved, but what struck me was the whole ambience of the story.

Let me explain. Heroes makes no bones about being in the style of super-hero comic books, frequently referring to them in its dialogue, though it isn't based on a comic book itself.

And that's what intrigues me. Over the years I've seen many comic books adapted for movies or television and seldom have they captured the essence of the original. Lots of colour and movement and people in funny costumes seems to be enough, they feel. (The makers of The Flash television show had to fight the network every inch of the way to try and make their show more like the comic book.)

But Heroes succeeds to a surprising extent in replicating the experience of reading one of those complex story arcs that used to be all the rage in Marvel Comics when I was a teenager.

Whether it manages to keep up this standard or not remains to be seen. But I for one shall certainly be watching next week.

Sheridan Morley died recently and his Sunday night slot on BBC Radio 2 has been taken over by Alan Titchmarsh to present Melodies For You. The programme remains, as ever, a pleasant mix of light classics and show tunes and has been extended to a full two hours.

But by the vagaries of scheduling, this means that there is now a news bulletin at the 135 minute hour mark before the show resumes for its final 20 minutes.

It seems to be one of the pillars of public broadcasting around the world that everything stops for the news. I remember the furore that was caused a few years ago when ABC television cut away from the final moments of a cricket test match because it was time for the evening news!

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