Friday, 25 April 2008

Top 5 Spaceships

Space is cool. Spaceships are cool. I was 9 in 1977 and, I suspect like many other boys and girls of a similar age, Star Wars changed my life. Before Star Wars I went to the cinema to watch Disney films, after Star Wars all I cared about was spaceships and lasers and aliens and explosions and ... well you get my drift.

1. X-Wing Fighter (Star Wars) - The Ford Capri of space fighters. The X-Wing doesn't appear until well over half way through the original film but steals the show when it does. The battle to destroy the Death Star is a glorious climax to the only film of the saga that can really be considered a self-contained story and is reminiscent of classic war films. The X-Wing plays it's role as the Rebel Alliance's Spitfire against the Empire's Messerschmitt equivalent, the Tie-Fighter, winning the day for the heroes with the bombing run that leads to the Death Star's destruction. I spent most of the next five years drawing pictures or building models of X-Wing fighters and my appreciation of it is yet to dim.

2. Liberator (Blake's 7) - Blake's 7 may of been produced on a shoestring budget but following in the wake of Star Wars this was a dark tale of rebel outlaws fighting running skirmishes with a totalitarian Federation. In the early episodes it was a genuinely scary show and the talk of the playgrounds. The Liberator was a stolen alien ship that provided Blake and his crew of escaped convicts the upper hand against Servalan's forces of evil. It was faster and better equipped than anything the Federation could muster. It also looked cooler.

3. Eagle Transporter (Space: 1999) - The Eagle transporters were not the prettiest spaceships ever designed but there was something totally believable about them. Even today they look genuinely like something NASA might build if we were going to inhabit the moon. Space 1999 was at times a little too serious for a seven year old expecting the thrills and spills of a "live-action Thunderbirds" but the scenes with the Eagles quenched my thirst for space action and were always a highlight.

4. Millennium Falcon (Star Wars) - I was torn for a while between going for this or an Imperial Star Destroyer. The Star Destroyer is physically impressive and sets the tone for the whole saga with that slowly expanding opening shot. However, it's the Millennium Falcon's general decrepitude that wins me over. The constant need for Chewbacca or Han to fix things or hit something hard with a wrench, the expectation that at any moment something might break and that in Han Solo's own words "it may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts" all combined to make the Falcon a firm favourite.

5. U.S.S. Enterprise (Star Trek) - The original 60's design rather than any of the subsequent redesigns, proving that sometimes budget isn't everything. Whoever came up with the original design (Matt Jefferies I've just discovered via Wikipedia) created one of the most enduring images of my generation. It didn't look like any flying machine I had ever seen before and really could only have existed in space. Whilst the eventual movies and spin-off shows found ways to make the ship look smarter and faster they were merely fine tuning a design classic.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Top 5 "Ukulele Man" Videos from YouTube

I have no musical talent of any sort and despite having long held the desire to play guitar I've never had the patience or the aptitude to actually do so. I'm 40 in June and had set myself the target of finally learning (nothing fancy, just a couple of songs with a few basic chords) by the time I reached that milestone. It's not going well. However, should I fail, I may just go out and buy a Ukulele instead. My friend John introduced me to these YouTube clips by the Ukulele Man (Gus) and his pal. There are over 40 currently available, these are my favourites but pretty much every single one is great. Enjoy.

1. Jack The Ripper - Link Wray

2. Down Down - Status Quo

3. Blitzkrieg Bop - Ramones

4. Get Carter theme - Roy Budd

5. Ruby - Kenny Rogers

Friday, 4 April 2008

Top 5 FA Cup Semi-Finals

Seeing as it's FA Cup Semi-Final weekend and I hadn't really got another topic lined up I'm afraid (for the non-Footy fans) it's another football topic. I knocked this up quickly for my friend Andy's blog Wick to Wembley?, which follows his attempt to follow the road to Wembley from an Extra Preliminary Round match at his hometown of Chertsey to the Wembley Final. He's already reached Wembley actually as he's off to see Cardiff play Barnsley in the Semi Final on Sunday. Anyway, this was written and ready and gives me a bit of thinking time for a new topic next week.

1. Birmingham 0 Fulham 1 (1975) - Obvious reasons for this, our only semi-final win and the game that led to my first contact with Football and Fulham. In securing our only Final appearance Fulham played more games (Twelve) than any other team to reach the final. If the Final was year zero for my love of football, then John Mitchell's goal to put us there was the big bang!

2. Crystal Palace 4 Liverpool 3 (1990) - One of those games that I can still remember vividly even though it didn't involve my own team. A game that just gripped you the longer it went on and led to one of the most remarkable results in cup history.

3. Middlesbrough 3 Chesterfield 3 (1997) - Chesterfield had an incredible run that year and were amazingly close to reaching the final. In the end this game ended all square and 'Boro went on to win the replay 3-0.

4. Liverpool 0 Arsenal 1 (1980) - Not so much this particular game, which was the third replay, more the whole series. In the pre-penalties era they had to keep replaying the game until they got a result. Arsenal took four attempts to get past Liverpool this year and having finally done so were beaten in the final by West Ham.

5. Man United 2 Arsenal 1 (1998) - I think this was also a replay, and is most remembered for that mazy dribble and goal from Giggs at the end (and thanks to Baddiel and Skinner, his hairy chest). I'm not that big a fan of the goal but this was a cracking game.