I, Robot? Aye.
I really enjoyed this book.
I had seen the movie and, as the book had Will Smith on the cover of the book, I presumed it was the same story and was presently surprised to find it was anything but.
The book is a different entity and is far more wide reaching, exploring the impact of Robots and AI on the world – perfectly set out by the author Issac Asimov.
Set in the near-ish future, the world had been on its knees with disease and famine but has divided into ‘blocks’ for easy governance.
You have the subject of the story travelling around interviewing different people in different roles about their contribution to how the world now runs.
This runs along side a couple of side plots involving some of the characters growing up, their experiences with robots and how this impacts on their current life.
It goes on to explore the rules of robotics and ends up expanding on an outcome where these rules are interpreted in way I did not forsee.
It was eye opening and made sense – oddly
The good, the bad and the ugly side of rock and roll.
This is the autobiographical account of the life and times of Michael ‘Duff’ McKagan, bass guitarist with American rock band Guns ‘n’ Roses.
I first heard about the band 30 years ago visiting my mother in the West Midlands one summer. They were just a rumble then. Not the behemoth they would become.
Being a hotbed for rock music, G’n’R had been found early by the Midlands and I picked up in this band and bootlegs of their music. I would get the album, Appetite for Destruction for another few months.
At that time I wanted to be in a band. A rock band.
My father was VERY musically minded and can play multiple instruments. Me? Too lazy to stick at learning the guitar.
I kept trying but couldn’t get it to stick – 6 strings was clearly too many.
Now, a bass guitar, four strings, seemed easier but I could never get my hands on a bass but, for some reason, the bass guitarist in a band was always the one I wanted to be.
In G’n’R that man was Duff McKagan.
When I saw the autobiography, it was something I wanted to read. I know the band and its members had had their problems and it had all ended pretty badly but I was interested to find out how the band I’d idolised had come about and then destroyed itself.
The story starts out with the authors current day reflections on his own fatherhood and how different his own was compared to his family growing up.
It’s clear that he comes from a close, large family and this, along with friendship, is a thick vein running through the story.
It goes on to early age drug use and criminality, the move to L.A. and early band work before the band comes together.
This is interesting with all the personalities floating about and their influence on matters but the resounding feeling is of 5 young men, tight as a group and their desire to succeed.
The band eventually go on to stellar success and it’s then the cracks develop.
Learning about the personality changes, the drinking, the drugs and all other rock related problems – you wonder how he’s survived. At times it can seem a bit cliched but, as the author suggests, times and the music industry have changed.
Although the egos are still there, the industry seems fine tuned to milk the most out of the customers. A lot more controlled in order to get the most out of an artist.
There is also a major part about recovery and the unorthodox approach to cure taken by McKagan and, ultimately, finding exactly what he was looking for.
It has an happy ending which, at times, you don’t expect. It’s an interesting story and definitely worth a read if your a fan.
Some work to do but still a great visit.
Set in mid-Staffordshire, Shugborough Hall is the ancestral home of the Earls of Lichfield
The hall and grounds have recently been taken over by the National Trust as, as you might expect, things are not fully up to speed.
Being a dog, I’m not allowed in the house so just the grounds for me but I have to say they are some of the better one I have been around.
There are (partially) defined paths to follow around and areas where dogs can run free, thankfully. They were great.
There are some beautiful sights as you amble around but my folks got lost quite quickly due to poor path marking. We all muddled through okay though and made it back to the modern world.
There are a large number of ‘follys’ (follies?) around the grounds but there used to be a lot more, 11 in fact.
The gatehouse leads you along the road to the deer/cattle grazing areas which are vast.
There is an art ‘thing’ going on around the grounds as well where you can look into these viewers, below, and watch an art house piece relating to the history of the park and the two brother that brought ‘paradise’ to the grounds in the shape these follies. Inspiration taken from their travels the area was transformed.
Unfortunately, many of these were destroyed or neglected over time leaving only a few remaining which can be found about.
The arch of Hadrian, above, is the most visible one remaining but there are still the Doric Temple, The Tower of the Winds, The Shepherd’s Monument and more to see.
We did make use of the fabulous tea room though. That clotted cream was lovely.
A nice park and well worth a visit. Not seen the house yet but we’ll go back. The grounds still have some way to go but still a nice spot.
The cat/dog that got the cream….
So, apparently, depending on Devon style or Cornish style, you apply the clotted cream to jam or vice versa.
Which are you?
George isn’t fussed BUT he does prefer the cream. Clearly.
Is there life on Mars?
Another book or film review here.
The Martian, by Andy Weir, is a story about an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars.
Mark Watney is a botanist abord a an expedition to Mars that gets cancelled mid-mission due to environmental problems. A massive storm threatens the whole crew and one their way to the capsule to leave the planets, Watney get hit by debris and is though, by the rest of the crew, to have been killed.
It is only after the capsule has left that Watney regains consciousness to find he is the lone resident of the planet.
The story follows Watney’s efforts to survive, to adapt and, ultimately, get home and follows him through the trials and tribulations of doing this.
It is, often, a funny story. Not belly laughs but still funny and covers Watney’s exploits on Mars, NASA’s actions back home and those of the remaining mission crew.
I am not going to say this is one of those ‘i could do that’ stories that you are going to feel empowered by, energised to go out and beat the odds. Watney has the brains, skills, luck and support to get through this, all of which i lack at the level he has them (i am aware he is a fictional character BTW) but still you find yourself rooting for him. Willing him to fight, to survive.
I have seen the film of the book which is also entertaining and, obviously, written slightly differently to keep the excitement levels up.
This doesn’t mean the book is dull or slow, far from it, but the movie is a different media.
Even though it is ‘science fiction’ it could easy have been set on a deserted island and been a similar tale so don’t be put off by the location of the story.
Nonetheless, watch the film, read the book, you will be entertained by each.
A National Trust day trip gem.
We went in a group, with my friends, Elsa, Pip and Bob.
Dogs are welcome in the gardens and grounds but not in the house so we had a good run out there instead.
The restored parkland is a joy to walk around and, having been designed so well it has an interesting layout with some great views.
On the day we visited, in between sporadic showers that had us darting for cover, we took advantage of the deckchairs set out around the lake, positioned to take in the best views whilst waiting for our picnic to turn up!