Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells… What Did Santa Bring Me For Christmas?

I’ve had a nice, quiet few days, spent with family and friends. The food and booze have been flowing thick and fast, and I feel like an overstuffed turkey right now. I’ve put on a few pounds, as is usual at this time of year, and now I have to spend the next couple of months exercising and cutting back on the eating, so I can get rid of the weight that I’ve put on over a few short days. It’s always a heckuva lot easier to put it on than it is to get it off again.

So what did Santa bring me for Christmas? Well, I’m waiting until the New Year to get the expensive stuff – I’ve got my eye on a nice 10 inch tablet computer and a 27 inch flatscreen monitor for my desktop – so this year’s Christmas haul is pretty much made up of lots of small things, mostly books and DVDs.

DVDs:

  • Kick-Ass
  • X-Men: First Class
  • District 9
  • Prometheus
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  • The Pirates in an Adventure with Scientists (animated film by the creators of Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit)
  • Hanna Barbera 4 DVD Bumper Pack (Box Set containing Dastardly & Muttley Vol. 1, Wacky Races Vol. 1, Top Cat Vol. 1 and Hong Kong Phooey Vol. 1)

MUSIC DVDs:

  • Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense
  • Genesis – The Genesis Songbook
  • Siouxsie & the Banshees – Siouxsie Finale (The Last Mantaray & More Show)
  • Marilyn Manson – Live Trash
  • Video Music Awards – Rock (Lenny Kravitz, Blink 182, The Vines, Marilyn Manson, Pink, Silverchair, Stone Temple Pilots, Jewel, INXS, U2)
  • Hard Rock Collection Vol 2 (Lynyrd Skynyrd, UFO, Uriah Heep, Asia, Focus, Jack Bruce)

BOOKs:

  • Destroyer of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner (prequel to Ringworld) [hardback]
  • Doctor Who – The Coming of the Terraphiles by Michael Moorcock [hardback]
  • Space (MK/Miles Kelly book of facts and information about space)
  • Painting Box Learn to Paint Landscapes & Figures (box set of two practical painting books)
  • Paint & Paper – A Masterclass in Colour and Light by David Oliver (large oversized hardback)
  • Ultimate Creative Crafts – Step-by-step instructions for over 70 creative crafts projects

That’s quite a nice haul of Christmas presents, if I do say so myself. It’s going to take me a while going through this lot. 🙂

Some New Books

I’ve built up a new stash of recently acquired books to add to my ever-growing “To Read” pile. If I can acquire a couple of extra lifetimes, I might even get to read a few of them.

First up is a large hardback anthology, Machines That Think, edited by Isaac Asimov, Patricia S. Warwick and Martin H. Greenberg. This one contains twenty-nine stories about robots and computers. Next up is The Year’s Best Fantasy, Second Annual Collection, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. I’m not nearly as big a fan of fantasy as I am of SF, but these two ladies always put together a decent anthology.

Third on our list is 18 Greatest Science Fiction Stories, edited by Laurence M. Janifer, followed by Not the Only Planet – Science Fiction Travel Stories, edited by Damien Broderick. And last up are two novels, which is a rarity for me these days (I tend to read a lot more short fiction than I do novels). The hardback of Mining the Oort, by Frederik Pohl looks very interesting indeed. And the final book is a novel by Edward Eager, The Time Garden, a kid’s/YA fantasy novel written back in 1958. Looks a bit of an oddity, but interesting.

Also, I must get another chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows under my belt. I’m about six chapters into it, and enjoying it so far.

Lots of good reading ahead…

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I’ve just recently bought the hardback of the final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It’s been sitting in front of me for about a week now, and I’m trying to get up the nerve to actually read it. And it’s proving more difficult than even I’d imagined it would be.

My son, Philip, died on 19th April 2006, at the tender age of only 14 years and 9 months, from complications caused by terminal cancer. He was a huge Harry Potter fan. I had read the first three Potter novels to him when he was younger, at one chapter a night – he loved his latest bedtime installment of Potter – and read books 4, 5 and 6 to him as he lay ill in hospital. We hung on, hoping against hope that the final HP novel would be released, in time for him to reach the end of the story. But it wasn’t to be. He died before the final book was published, and one of my most poignant regrets is that he never got to find out how it all ended.

I made a promise to myself, and to my son, the day he died. I swore that, when the final HP book was released, I’d read it out aloud, one chapter per night, in the hope that he might just finally hear the end of the story “up there”, or wherever else he may be. I’ve avoided all spoilers like the plague. I haven’t even glanced at the back of the dust jacket. I know absolutely nothing about the story, other than the nebulous “somebody dies” that I’ve seen floating around the internet. So whatever happens, it’ll come as a complete surprise.

But now that I’ve finally got the book, I’m finding it very difficult to carry out my promise. There’s something, an internal fear holding me back. It’s like an invisible forcefield, a mountain I have to climb before I can open the book for the first time. It’s incredible how something as untouchable, as unsolid as the mind, the emotions, can feel so physically real, like a giant pair of hands, holding me back. I really need my kid right now, both in person and to give me a much-needed metaphysical push in the back.

Well, I’ve made up my mind. By the time the coming weekend is out, come hell or high water, I’ll have broken the ice, the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be well and truly behind me, and I’ll be moving through the book at a regular chapter per night.

And at last, if there’s any justice at all, and any such place as an afterlife, my son (and I) will find some sort of closure with the end of the Harry Potter saga.

A Good Day at the Shops

I’ve had an interesting and fruitful day at the shops. Picked up a load of DVDs, a book, and a new set of plug-in earphones.

The book is the new hardback release of the final Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which my local Tesco’s was selling at a huge 50% discount.

The earphones (bought at my local HMV) are the absolutely gorgeous Sennheiser CX300 plug-in ear-canal earphones, to go with my equally gorgeous Cowon iAudio X5 DAP. I needed phones to do the excellent sound quality of the X5 justice (the iAudio X5 blows the iPod out of the water, when it comes to sound quality). The earphones cost just under £40, and are worth every penny. You’ll be lucky to find anything better under £100.

Finally, to the bulk of today’s haul: five Doctor Who DVDs from my local Virgin store, at only £9 each (most Doctor Who DVDs are selling at over twice that amount right now). Genesis of the Daleks, Revelation of the Daleks, The Hand of Fear, Earthshock, and the 1996 Paul McGann Doctor Who TV movie.

I’m a huge fan of both the classic Doctor Who series and the new series, and Genesis of the Daleks and The Hand of Fear are particular favourites of mine from the classic series. So I’m well chuffed with this lot. Now, if only the rest of the classic Doctor Who DVDs would come down from their relatively high price of around £20 apiece, I can start replacing my tatty old Doctor Who VHS video collection with a bunch of pristine new DVDs.

It’s going to be an enjoyable week going through this lot. A load of nice music, DVDs, and a good book… what more could any self-respecting geek ask for?