Tuesday, 13 March 2012

This blog has now moved

My blog has now been moved to my personal website, and this blogspot page will no longer be updated.  You can view my new site here: http://www.ianbriggs.co.uk/blog

Monday, 2 January 2012

Favourite Books of 2011

Following on from my previous post on my favourite films of the year, here is a list of the favourite books I read in 2011...never thought I would ever compile such a list!

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Brilliant story about a hermaphrodite growing up with Greek family in Detroit, USA.  Gripping historical facts, observations and social history added to the difficulties of growing up in the wrong body.

The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld
Not quite as good as his first novel, The Interpretation of Murder, but still a good read well worth the effort.

Nicholas Nickelby by Charles Dickens
Possibly not his best book, but still it was my introduction to Dickens and I loved it.

Germinal by Emile Zola
Incredible story of the French Revolution from the miners point of view.  Realistic, graphic and in parts horrible.  Fantastic book.

Dr Yes by Colin Bateman
Again, not my favourite Bateman book but still full of humour and wit maing it a worthwhile read.

Caught by Harlan Coben
The only book I've ever read in a day!  I love Coben's style of writing...fast paced, short episodes and 'real' characters.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
A much harder read than Nicholas Nickelby; the first quarter was quite difficult to get in to, but ultimately as the storylines came together it was a rewarding read.

I'll hopefully be putting my Kindle to good use in 2012 too!

Favourite Films of 2011

After much deliberation, here is a brief run down of my five top films from 2011. In no particular order:

The King's Speech
A surprisingly entertaining film full of laugh-out-loud moments and swings of emotion.

Little White Lies
A nice film from one of my favourite actor/directors (Guillaume Canet). Had a real independent feel to it and a pleasant enough story.

A great documentary whether you are a Formula 1 fan or not.  Full of adrelalin, emotion and suspense mixed with genuine tragedy.

Treacle Jr
One of the standouts from this year's Belfast Film Festival. Aidan Gillen gave a brilliant performance which is both fun and incredibly sad in parts.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
A great, slow, British(ish) film with another of my favourites, Gary Oldman playing the lead role of George Smiley.  An unexpected hit for me.

Some other films from 2011 that i saw included:

A Screaming Man
A truly beautiful film that was a real surprise at the Belfast Film Festival. Understated and brilliantly portraying struggles in life against a backdrop of civil war.

The Ides of March
George Clooney makes a much better director than actor as Ryan Gosling gives a great performance in a political thriller reminiscent of the more tense moments of The West Wing.

The Tree of Life
Hmmm...should have been brilliant, an was in parts, but greatly undermined by the oddness and implausibility of the dinosaurs and the unsubtle similarities between the life of the characters and the life of the planet.

13 Assassins
Another hit from the Belfast Film Festival.  A surprisingly modern feel to the traditional samurai film. Typically graphic but still likeable.

The Big Picture
A slightly weird film but a nice story with beautiful cinematography and a good performance from Romain Duris.

The Way
Martin Sheen plays the lead character going on a pilgrimage in memory of his son. A bit contrived in parts but still a lovely picture and a starring role for James Nesbitt.

Black Swan
Overall, disappointing. I seemed to be one the few who didn't 'get it' despite liking some of Darren Aronofsky's previous films. 

Largely the same story as one of Liam Neeson's previous film, Taken, which was considerably better due to Luc Besson's involvement.

Finally, some other films from 2010 that I also finally managed to catch were:

The Social Network
I'm a big fan of Aaron Sorkin's writing and this was his best to date.  Fast, witty, smart...what cinema should be about.

Blown away by the effects and the acting wasn't bad.  It definitely sticks in the mind.

Looking forward to some great films released in 2012...

Friday, 15 July 2011


So we are almost two thirds of the way through our holidays and having not written anything on here for a while, I have some time to update on what we have done so far...

We started with four days camping in the Lake District and found a beautiful campsite right on the banks of Lake Ullswater. Great views of the distant hills and the relaxing hum of the steamer boats chuffing up and down the lake made this a nice relaxing start to the holiday.

We also did some good walking here including an 8-mile trek across the hills alongside the lake. However this was followed by a cream-tea so the health benefits were maybe wasted!

We then headed across to Norfolk and spent our wedding anniversary in Norwich - a city we really miss since moving away from England. On our way back to our hotel there was a fantastic firework display to celebrate the lord mayor's show.

This was followed by some camping up on the north Norfolk coast and another mammoth 7-mile walk along Blakeley point to sea the seals. This was a great experience and although the walk was tough (having to walk on a single beach because the tide came in) it was well worth it. We were also treated to a surprise concert in Cromer of The New Squadronaires Orchestra which is an RAF Big Band. They were stunning and the lead clarinettist was particularly amazing!

So now we are in our old haunting ground in and around Cambridge and have been visiting places we never managed to go when we did live here...the botanic gardens and the wonderful Fitzwilliam Museum.

A week left of our holidays before heading on the big drive back up to Scotland to catch the boat...some more camping and meeting old friends is in store so we're just hoping the weather stays good and that my hayfever goes away!

More soon...hopefully.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

MuseScore music notation software

Just a quick update to tell you about MuseScore.  It is a free, cross-platform music notation software package that I have been trying this last few weeks and I have been really impressed by the way it works so far.  

The most attractive thing about it is that it is free and the fact that it is open-source means that it should hopefully get updated fairly regularly as bugs get ironed out. 

My experience so far is that it provides a sound alternative to the expensive equivalents like Sibelius.  There are obviously a few bugs that are annoying but given the seemingly early stages of development they are easy to overlook given its overall capability. 

The ability to save to its native format, as well as XML, and PDF means some impressive-looking scores can be obtained fairly easily.

To anyone who writes music, it is certainly worth a look if you don't want to shell out for the more well-known options.