Friday, December 22, 2006

The 9/10ths Full of Penguins Review of the Year

It seems to me that just about everything and everyone is doing their 'review of the year' or their 'annual awards' at the moment. I felt that I may as well jump on the bandwagon and bore you with my best and worst things of the year.

Worst Moment
2006 has been a difficult year for me. It didn't start very well as I separated from my wife in January. This led to me having to reassess my whole life; where I was going, what I was doing, even to a certain extent who I was. It was a hugely painful time and in some ways I still miss her. However, our decision was mutual and both of us are much happier apart than we were together, although that doesn't mean it didn't hurt.

Best Moment
One of the things that arose from the situation above was a reconsidering of my career choices. I decided to apply for teacher training, got accepted and started my PGCE course in September. Its not easy, but I love teaching and so far have done very well. My best moment was a very simple thing. I was sitting at the staffroom work-table in my placement school writing up lesson plans and unbeknowst to myself I was humming. A teacher walked past and said that I sounded very chirpy for a man doing his paperwork. Without really thinking about it, I replied that it was because I was happy. On reflection I realised that I was indeed very happy with my life at the moment, which has made me understand that sometimes good things can come out of a difficult time.

Best TV
Probably the best TV series I've seen this year has been the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. It may seem geeky, but the Guardian recently crowned it the year's best contemporary political drama, which is in no way a joke. I've watched the whole of the first 2 seasons and am currently part way through the latest series. It is one of the darkest TV programmes I have ever seen, the last remnants of the human race battle for survival amid political corruption, military coups, terrorism, torture, suicide bombers and plans for genocide. Good sci-fi always reflects the present and if any fiction programme highlights the cost of US & UK foreign policy round the world this year better than Battlestar, I have yet to see it.

Honourable mentions also go to Planet Earth, Spooks, Top Gear, Torchwood & American Dad.

Dishonourable mentions go to the re-imagined Robin Hood, all the 'reality' shows (on principle, I luckily avoided watching any of them), ITV in general.


Best Film
Good Night & Good Luck
Also: Children of Men, Severance, United 93, The Departed

Worst Film
Crank


Best Book
Terry Pratchett - Thud!
I know its not highbrow, but it was the book I read this year that I loved the most. For something more intelligent, I read Ann Wroe's book on Pontius Pilate.

Best Album
Vices - Dead Poetic
Also: Muse - Black Holes & Revelations

Best News Story
A late entry, this great story. " I'm the Bishop of Southwark, its what I do" Genius!

Best Penguin Related Incident



Piglet the Stolen Penguin





Worst Penguin Related Incident
The continuing hijacking of the noble penguin by the Christian Right in America for political/religious propaganda with the dull as dishwater March of the Penguins. Penguins are not a Christian allegory, they are birds, they do not have morals! If you really must bring God into it, use them as just one more example of how wondrous this gift of our planet is. They are not a heartwarming model for life showcasing the moral high ground! Honestly....

Sorry, got carried away. Anyway, that was my 2006, roll on 2007....

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Planet Earth Again!

I can't begin to tell you how much I love this programme. It is one of the only two TV programmes I will make time to watch in the week.

The most wonderful thing about Planet Earth is that every week brings new and amazing things to the screen. Sometimes the images are breathtakingly powerful like this footage of a Great White Shark strike from last weeks programme.



But equally impressive were some of the shots of the Tiger Forest south of the Arctic in tonight's programme. This huge forest is the largest on the planet and contains more trees than all the rainforests combined and produces enough oxygen for the whole of Earth. Some of the close-in shots of these ice-encrusted pine trees in their setting of glittering snow were heartstoppingly beautiful.

I am preparing some lessons on the environment and its been great to start thinking about how to enthuse my classes with some of the natural wonders of the world.

Planet Earth is one of those great BBC projects that make paying the licence fee worthwhile.....shame they keep making crap like Strictly Come Dancing.


Patriot Games ****
Slither ***
Casino Royale ***
Night Watch *****
28 Days Later ****


Currently listening to:
Emery - Studying Politics

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Look, Look, Look!

I have found my new favourite blog:

(Drum Roll) The Dullest Blog in the World

It's great in every single way I can possibly think of. To give you a flavour, this entry was posted in May of this year.

"I was standing quite near to a wall. I turned my attention towards it for a few moments. Having done this for several seconds I turned away from it and carried on doing something else"

Also check out the hundreds of comments each post attracts. While you're there check out the link to the author's cartoon blog. Its rather amusing...

Movies:
Borat ****
Jurassic Park ****
Jurassic Park: The Lost World **
Jurassic Park 3 ***
(Yes, I got the Jurassic Park Ultimate boxset - its great, and I don't care what you say...)

Currently Listening to:
Jonezetta - Backstabber
Dead Poetic - Narcotic
Showbread - Oh Emetophobia

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Good TV Shock Horror!


Just a couple of quick words about the BBC programme Planet Earth. What a magnificent achievement it is! Tonight's programme was about the Arctic & Antartctic and covered two of my favourite animals; Polar Bears and of course, Penguins. Oh, and I'm also loving Torchwood as well, tonight's BBC Three episode was a cracker.


Currently listening to:
Derek Webb - A New Law
Mute Math - Typical

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Half terms are very good

Hmmmm, I've had my first experience of half term as a teacher.... I like it.
Apart from having rather large amounts of dull paperwork to catch up on, it was nice to just chill, see friends and watch movies. I saw a real mixed bag this week:

World Trade Center *

This film really annoyed me. This review in the Guardian sums up pretty well what I feel about it. I have seen films like this before, and they were the propaganda films of the WW2 years. For Oliver Stone to be making reactionary Bush-ist propaganda leaves a very unpleasant taste in the mouth, and is in no way a fitting tribute to those who died on 9/11. I was so irritated that I hired out Paul Greengrass' United 93, which is astonishing, almost unwatchable and gets everything right that Stone gets wrong in World Trade Center. I would strongly recommend you watch it instead of Stone's lumbering and dull monster.

United 93 *****
A Good Year ***
Not really the type of film I normally go and see, but the idea of a romantic comedy with Russell Crowe directed by Ridley Scott was too intriguing to miss. As you'd expect from Scott, it is beautifully shot and Crowe isn't too bad. I actually really enjoyed it, maybe I'm getting soft in my old age....
The Untouchables *****
Hellboy ****
LOTR:The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended) *****
Matrix Reloaded ***
Seven Samurai ****

Currently listening to:
Aberdeen City - God is Going to Get Sick Of Me
Sufjan Stevens -
The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Nooooooooo!!!!!

I have a confession to make.

I broke a very serious promise today...

I listened to Radio 4 as I had my breakfast before going to work today.

Now I had to sworn to myself that I wouldn't give in to listening to Radio 4 till I was at least 35, preferably 40. When I listen to the radio, I tend to listen to Radio 1 or XFM Manchester. It is my pathetic attempt to hold on desperately to what remains of my 'yoof'.

Thing is, the school I'm teaching in at the moment is about a 2 hour commute away so I have to get up really really early (at least for me), so my morning DJ of choice Chris Moyles, hasn't started his show yet. This meant that after one day of listening to JK & Joel drivel rubbishness on Radio 1, I gave in and switched to Radio 4. And you know what, I really enjoyed it...

Thats it now. I might as well start smoking a pipe, listening to Barry Manilow and drinking Horlicks. Middle age has come, and I'm only 29.

Lots of movies this week and a bit:
Apt Pupil ***
Talledega Nights **
The Matrix *****
Good Night & Good Luck *****
Lady Vengeance ****
The Departed ****
The Third Man *****
Lucky Number Slevin ***
Unleashed *
Revolver *
Raiders of the Lost Ark *****
Serenity *****

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Music

I realised the other day that I have yet to mention music on this blog. This is a curious omission as I love music. So to rectify....

Over the past 3 or 4 years I have been involved with an RSL (Restricted Service Licence) FM radio station called Refresh FM, which broadcasts around Easter for two weeks or so. For some unknown reason, they keep inviting myself and radio clone Eyan back to do more stuff. Last year we had the opportunity to present an evening music show for two weeks. Even more astounding was the fact that they gave us the complete freedom to indulge our various musical tastes. I also got the chance to present two weekend drivetime shows, one with the impressively coiffured and monikered Dan Dexter, and one flying solo.

I have been searching for music and some or all of the following will probably make an appearance at some point in Refresh 2007

Derek Webb
Derek Webb was the lead singer of a band called Caedmon's Call and his solo stuff is excellent. You can legally download his entire recent album through his website and its well worth a listen.
Sufjan Stevens
The Arcade Fire
Klaxons

I've also found new stuff from all of the following that I already really like and that will probably make an appearance at Easter:
Pedro the Lion
Mae
Ben Folds
Death Cab for Cutie
Sigur Ros
Muse, Thom Yorke(Radiohead), The Fratellis, Thievery Corporation, Mogwai, Panic! At the Disco, Motion City Soundtrack, The Violet Burning, Viva Voce. British Sea Power and Eisley.

Phew, I could go on all night, but I won't. I've put myspace links where I can because you can get a flavour of the bands and then go to their homepages from there....

Here are some movies I've seen this week:

The Night Listener ****
A Cock & Bull Story ****
Capote *****
Children of Men *****
(on seeing this a second time, I have added an extra star)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fluffy Penguin of Death

Following on from Nat's fluffy penguin. Fats of electronica fiddlyness fame (who clearly has far too much time on his hands - obviously he needs more gigs), created this evil penguin of death. Fear him all ye who enter here....

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Education, Education, Education

Now I am two weeks into my R.E teacher training, I have been pondering the purpose of Religious Education (R.E) in schools. I was reminded of this quote by Peter Drucker:


"When a subject becomes totally obsolete we make it a required course."


There is definitely some grains of truth in this statement I think. One of the questions I have been asking myself is whether R.E is an obsolete subject that has been made into a required course. Its a curious thing, but when people find out you are training to be an R.E teacher, they suddenly find within themselves the desire to engage you in deep and meaningful conversations. I certainly found this to be the case when I was a youth worker for the Church of England. But anyway, I have had many conversations over the last few weeks with people who are more than willing to tell me their opinions on R.E. These range from vehement, hate filled diatribes on the evils of R.E, through positive and openminded thoughts to vehement, hate filled diatribes on the evils of not exclusively teaching a particular religion

Some of the people I have spoken to have said that R.E has no place in today's schools because it is not relevant and raises too many difficult questions and issue. Well, I'm not sure I agree with that, (**caution - pretentious quote alert**) Aristotle once said "The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet." I think I can apply that to R.E, it may be hard or bitter but the fruit is sweet and more than worthwhile. As I've been pondering this question of whether R.E is worth teaching, I have come to realise that R.E is possibly more important than ever.

In today's overly secular society, giving young people the opportunity to look at things from an 'eternal' perspective is vital. The chance to see how people of different faiths live their lives is an amazing privilege both for teacher and pupil. We had a course trip out to the Jewish Museum at Cheetham Hill. It was absolutely fascinating to see this place which is still laid out like a synagogue and to talk to the Jewish gentleman about his faith. It brought it alive in a way that just reading about Judaism could never do.

Anway, enough seriousness, I think I will return to this topic when I have thought about it a bit more. Here are some movies

Kung Fu Hustle ****
The Mummy Returns **
(Watched with my Dad and 3 bottles of wine at some silly time in the morning! Interesting)
Inside Man ****
Wal Mart: The High Cost of Low Price ****
Children of Men ****

Monday, September 18, 2006

Fluffyness AND Penguins


Here is a fluffy penguin picture that Nat sent to me. I did say my next post would have fluffyness and penguins.

Great, now I can rant on my next post. It would have been hard to do a nice fluffy one...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Spooked

Now I don't often blog about TV , except to complain about it. I'm not really a massive fan of TV as most of it is drivel like bloody X-Factor, Big Brother or soap operas. But every now and then something comes along which really grabs my attention.

I have just finished watching the first two episodes of the new series of Spooks. If you are unfamiliar with said programme, it follows the activities of a group of MI5 agents. I won't bore you with the details except to say that I have been watching this since its first season and that is very unusual for me. One of the things I have always liked about it is that despite its glossy silliness, it does create some really interesting and tense scenarios.

The two episodes tonight involved a conspiracy at the highest level of the British government and intelligence agencies to seize power. Now it may sound very silly and implausible and for all I know, it probably is. However, the way the story was set up really resonated with current events and seemed all too terrifyingly plausible! I know that its just entertainment, but it did actually make me think...

I think the the idea that in order to catch terrorists we need to keep eroding people's legal rights is one that really bears close attention. The programme tonight featured a move by the (fictional) government to remove the legal rights of those detained under suspicion of terrorism and to directly appoint and influence the judiciary. Worringly, similar (although considerably less extreme) measures have already been defeated in the House of Commons. I don't for a moment think that I have the level of knowledge and expertise to decide how best to protect Britain from terrorists. However, if the 'War on Terror' is a battle of ideologies as well as a physical one, surely keeping those parts of our ideologies that protect all peoples' freedom is vital.

Forcing everyone to carry ID cards (although I don't feel particularly strongly about that as I carry several forms of ID already!) and allowing people to be kept indefinitely without charge or trial (which has been suggested to and by senior figures in this country) are the start of a worrying trend. For example, someone may say "Oh, if they are a suspected terrorist, of course they should be held indefinitely without charge or trial." Well, thats all well and good, but what if they came for you and held you for a year without charge or trial on the say so of some 'intelligence'? How much damage would that do to your life? Would you keep your job, house and family? Just because we are lucky enough to have a government that on the whole is decent and law abiding (much as it pains me to admit it!), doesn't mean we will always have one, and granting powers that remove freedoms is asking for trouble in the future.

We will never beat terrorists by removing all our freedoms and the freedoms of others. If we do that, we are letting them win. In fact, we are not just letting them win, we are helping them to do it.

Good grief, that was a bit serious. My next post will be full of fluffyness and penguins. I promise. Oh and I won't rant either.

Probably....

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A terrifying freight train

I have just completed my first week as a trainee RE teacher. I'm not too sure how I feel about it just yet...

I think I would describe it as similar to being hit by a runaway freight train travelling at high speed and then being dragged along by said train screaming for it to slow down. I'm finding out early next week which school I will be doing my induction days in. I think I may blog more fully about my experiences then.

In the meantime, here is a marvellous penguin related thing:

OK - I've sorted my gifts for everyone I know this Christmas. Click on the picture for more crazy things. Just a little warning - there are some rude things, so if you are easily offended click this link instead

Due to aforementioned freight train-like experiences I haven't watched as many movies this week as I normally do, still here are a few:

Napoleon Dynamite ****
Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels ****
Hunt for Red October ****
Spellbound *****

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Movie Game

While ambling back from a hearty meal the other night, myself and a friend thought of a fun movie game (I realise that this game has probably been thought of by countless people round the world already, however, neither of us had heard of it before).

Take two movie stars. For example,


Sean Connery & Harrison Ford







Now you take 6 of the various characters the actors have played and decide who would win in a fight. So in a battle between these two you'd have:

Sean
James Bond
King Arthur (First Knight)
Indiana Jones' Dad
King Agamemnon (Time Bandits)
Robin Hood (Robin & Marion)
Allan Quartermain (LXG)

Harrison
Indiana Jones
Jack Ryan (Patriot Games)
US President (Air Force One)
Rick Deckard (Blade Runner)
Han Solo (Star Wars)
Dr Richard Kimble (The Fugitive)


It's a close run battle, but I think Sean just shades it. This game is best played with lots of alcohol and lots of heated discussion about whether Ghost Dog would beat the Highlander in a scrap. In such ways do us nerds pass our time.

By the way, we decided that Christopher Lee would probably be the ultimate unbeatable character. With Dracula, Saruman, Count Dooku, Scaramanga, Death, Rameses I, Sherlock Holmes, Odin, Lord Summerisle, Fu Manchu, the Mummy, Sir Henry Baskerville and erm Prince Phillip all on his CV, I don't think he can be beaten. If you can think of someone who would beat him - please post and let me know!

Anyhoo - Here are some movies I've watched recently:
Severance *****
Crank *
The Motorcycle Diaries *****
The Fantastic Four **
The Station Agent *****
LOTR:Two Towers Extended *****

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Trying Train Rides

I was visiting Taff and his wife Ann in Braintree, which is just a bit north of London. Although apparently it requires more effort to travel there from Manchester than it does to mount an Apollo mission to the Moon. It also costs as nearly much as a moon mission as well.

I knew I was in for trouble when the journey from Manchester to London Euston was actually pleasant. In my experience travelling on Virgin trains is normally about as much fun as removing my own eyeballs with a blunt and dirty spoon. However, this time I had a comfortable seat in an air conditioned carriage (last time I had to sit in the corridor between carriages for 3 hours), and more importantly it only took 2 hours and 5 minutes. Inconceivable!

It couldn't last, having blundered my way around the Tube at rush hour, I arrived bleary eyed and shell-shocked at London Liverpool St. I don't know how people in London cope with it, I have never been around so many rude and pushy people. You could tell I was just a visitor, at one point as I got on what I hoped was the correct Tube train, I stopped to let a lady go ahead of me. The shock on the woman's face was a picture, mirrored no doubt on my own as half a dozen business suited men took advantage of my largesse and barged in front of me. Anyway, on arrival at Liverpool St, I crammed myself on to a train going up towards Chelmsford. I sat huddled on the floor of the carriage with hundreds of others waiting in vain for the train to move. Here's why it didn't...

Due to a line failure all trains going up were stopped and I had to remove myself and trail disconsolately about till an announcement led me towards the only train going anywhere. Which would go only half as far as I needed it to and because it was the only train, it was packed. I was literally chest to chest with people around me. You didn't need to hold onto anything as your immediate neighbours propped you up very effectively. I ended up having a fascinating conversation with the two gentlemen facing me. We wondered why it was that in situations such as that we were currently experiencing, you never end up squashed up against an attractive member of the opposite sex.

For example, if you are male you end up in terrifyingly close quarters with big sweaty men. This is not pleasant. This then led to a debate as to whether you would want to be that close to an attractive member of the opposite sex in such a situation as we found ourselves. Due to the sheer number of bodies crammed in the carriage, the temperature was possibly in the region of the heat of the Sun. This meant that everyone was sweating like pigs and not at their most presentable. A young lady crammed up against the door a few feet and several human layers away from us chirped up to say, that she certainly wouldn't want to be crammed against fat sweaty men, if she could possibly avoid it. A comment with which most, including it must be said, us three fat sweaty men wholeheartedly agreed with.

The whole journey from London Euston to Liverpool St and then on to Shenfield took nearly four hours, double the time it took to get from Manchester to Euston. And Taff still had to come down to Shenfield to meet me! Still, it gave me an opportunity to drink ridicuously expensive lager while I waited for him (why oh why can they not put a head on a pint of beer?). Oh well, it was worth it in the end, I got to coo over baby Joshua (who still hasn't vomited on me - good lad), drink beer, talk randomness and watch bad movies.

Oh and on the way back on Sunday, huge chunks of the Tube were shut just to make the journey back that little bit more unpleasant!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Movies

Quick Movie Update:

V for Vendetta ****
Freed from the hype - this is pretty good.
The Proposition *****
Superb. See it now
Population 436 ***
Firewall **
Harrison, Harrison, Harrison. Stop wasting our time with cack like this and get on with Indy IV, before you really do need a zimmer to do it.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Working with Auntie @ Greenbelt

Last weekend I was at the Greenbelt Festival in Cheltenham. Greenbelt is a wonderful thing and I encourage you to check out the website here. While there, I lent my meagre talents to the festival radio station Greenbelt FM.

Well it was really hard work, but I had an amazing time and I ended up gettting the opportunity to do some really cool stuff! I pre-produced and then live produced a daily morning show called Greenbelt Today, live produced an insanely busy one-off lunchtime show and then presented my own daily evening music show. It was a bit strange flying solo from regular radio partner in crime Fat Roland who was also working for the station, but still very good.

The BBC help Greenbelt with the radio station and provide equipment (mmmm nice toys!) and professional staff (mmmm professional BBC... sorry, I'll stop that now) to work alongside a team of volunteers. I think they try and run the station as close as they can to a real BBC station, but encourage us volunteers to do as much ourselves while being available to help us when we need it. This is often! I'd never had the chance to do any radio producing before, and it was a eye-opener into how professional radio stations work. For your delectation I will run through a day in my life as a Greenbelt FMer.

7am. In the studio to finish my pre-production for Greenbelt Today, this would entail writing all the cues and information for all the pre-recorded items I'd ventured out to record the previous day as well as tweaking the show's running order to make sure there was enough to fill the show. If we had any live guests, I would finish sorting information and questions for the presenter. I'd collect the music playlist and cds from the music team and then make sure everything we needed was together. This would normally take till...

9am. Live producing the show. This meant making sure the show ran to the schedule and that the presenter had all the information and music he needed. I'd liase with guests when they arrived, checking through what they were there to be talking about and introducing them to the presenter. I'd also liase with Super Charlie the Engineer about what we needed when we had live musicians on the show. I would also run round like a headless chicken from time to time. This, I am assured by professionals, is a key and regular part of the job...

10am. Once the show had finished I would probably mainline some coffee then take part in production meetings for the next day's shows. This would then lead to me spending a few hours sorting out guests and interviews with the press team and then bobbing off with a groovy BBC recorder to interview some lovely people. Including over the weekend: Martyn Joseph, Dr Simon Mordern - a genuine rocket scientist , very affable author Nick Thorpe and festival bigwig and ex Eden Burning legend Paul Northrup. I'd then come back to the studio and get the editing geniuses to help me turn the rather rough interviews into something useful (they really are amazing, they managed through the editing process, to take my patented 'stuttering moron' interview style and turn it into something approaching normal! I'd normally be pretty busy till about...

2pm. Escape with Fat Roland for some lunch and try and catch something around the festival before nipping back to the studio at 4ish to do some pre-booked interviews and then get ready for my show at..

6pm. Ha Ha Ha Ha (Evil laugh) Unleashed upon a microphone at last! In my evening music show I played lots of music obviously and had a selection of excellent guests live in the studio. Often they would have come straight from playing mainstage or stage 2. I had yFriday, LZ7, Stop! Thief! and my personal favourites, Fire Fly along over the weekend. I'd just like to say here that yFriday were absolutely lovely, particularly as they had literally just come off mainstage and staggered up to the studio to talk to me. LZ7 were a tad chaotic (Lindz was riding a chopper around the studio man! )and I entered into a contest to improve Daniel Bedingfield's (festival headliner!) Gotta Get Thru This with heavy-metal roaring with Fire Fly. Predictably, I lost horribly. After my show at...

7pm. I would start pre-production for the following day's Greenbelt Today and also finish off any items I'd done for the Breakfast show. I'd normally do this till about...

10pm-10.30pm. At which point I would either check out something alternative worshippy and then head to the organic beer tent or cut out the middleman and then go straight to the organic beer tent. Once at the tent I would catch up with friends I'd not seen for ages, talk with my fellow radio bods or randomly talk to complete strangers (a greenbelt tradition) and generally consume far too much strong organic beer and have a great time till about 3am. I would then stagger back to my tent to catch a few hours sleep before starting again in the morning.

It may sound like just hard work, but I had more fun than I have in ages. Highlights not mentioned include watching Fat Roland chase an escaped goat at the petting farm in an attempt to secure an interview (not with the goat of course!), drinking unusual tea in the legendary Tiny Tea Tent at some silly time in the morning talking nonsense with great people and many others too numerous to mention.

I have learnt loads about radio which I can take into my Refresh FM shows at Easter 2007, I met loads of cool people and had a ridiculously good time into the bargain. Big up to Mary Corfield and the BBC team. Look out for Fat's & Lee's Greenbelt podcast that pulls together some of the stuff we both did over the weekend in next month or so.

Roll on Greenbelt 2007!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Waiters....

I had an odd experience on Sunday evening.

My unfeasibly tall friend Taff was visiting from down South, to show off he and his wife's recently spawned offspring. This delightful little creation (the offspring of course, not Taff, I don't think many would consider him a 'delightful little creation') earned himself serious brownie points by being very cute, sleeping most of the time I saw him and not vomiting on my sofa.

Now, possibly due to a surfeit of time devoted to changing nappies and other pungent activities related to small babies, Taff wanted to do manly things like drink beer, watch bad movies and eat curry. Now, as I am a good friend, I of course agreed reluctantly to indulge in those three very things.

The movie was very bad, the beer was good and the curry was odd....

The curry house in question is in East Didsbury and apparently is recommended by celebrities. This led us to wonder which celebrities they were and what they may have eaten. This conversation reached an ubrupt halt when the thought of Jade Goody ploughing through a Chicken Korma was suggested.

Once inside, a further meaningless conversation (that was to recur unresolved throughout the evening) ensued. Is there anything that cheese will not go with? Also, do bananas also go with everything? Such trifles occupied us over beer and poppadoms until the waiter hove ominously into sight....

Allow me to put the scene in to context. Taff is a very imposing gentleman, well in excess of 6ft. He is also a R.E teacher and unlikely to be browbeaten into anything (except by his wife). I have seen him control a room of unruly Year 9s with a raised eyebrow and the word 'erm'. Yet both he and I were completely bamboozled by the young waiter (whose beard was no where near as luxuriant as mine, indeed the word 'straggly' would not go amiss). Both of us had an exact idea of what we wanted to eat and the accompanying side dishes, yet 5 minutes later we were both broken men, having ordered not what we had intended, but rather what our waiter wished us to order. For example, Taff wanted a Pathia, but ended up ordering a Samber. We wanted 2 portions of rice and an interesting nan bread, but we ordered one rice and one plain nan bread.

The thing is, our straggly bearded friend was not pushy or rude or inattentive. He appeared to have special mind powers. Had we been playing chess, Taff and I would have submitted to the legendary beginners 3 move checkmate ploy in the face of such cranial power. It was like the twilight zone.

Anyway, I had a banana curry and for the record all the food was outstanding. Maybe the waiter read our minds and chose what we needed, rather than what we wanted.

Oh and our conclusion with regards to cheese is that there is a form of cheese that will go with anything, even cornflakes. However, bananas are not as versatile.

Week this mainly watching I have been

Superman Returns (On IMAX! With certain scenes in 3D!) Woo Hoo! *****

Snakes on a Plane ***
So bad its good - although I was worried it wouldn't be bad enough, but my fears were quickly laid to rest. Oh btw, if you see this film and are male, I guarantee that for the next week you WILL be checking the toliet very carefully...


The Football Factory ****
Very powerful film. Danny Dyer (who will be in upcoming comedy horror Severence) is very good.

Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country ****
I don't care what you think, I liked it. So there...

The Cooler ****
William H Macy, who is watchable in just about anything, is superb and finally, one of the million Baldwin brothers gives a good performance.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Best. Website. Ever.

There's nothing like religion to bring the crazy people out of the woodwork.

If you are familiar with certain wings of the Christian church, you will be aware that there can be an awful lot of interest in 'End Times'. In the US, the dreadful Left Behind book series (which seems to have at least 5000 different books in it) has stoked interest to unprecedented levels. Come to think of it they also did a Left Behind movie so bad, it transcended crapness into something quite extraordinary.

So, it was with great interest that I came across this website:

http://www.nonraptured.com/

tagline
Jesus will come for the
saints any day now...
Your odds of being among them are not good

The website tells you what to do in the event of you missing out on the Rapture. Rather than telling you to pray, cross your fingers and hope for the best, it gives some altogether more practical advice. This website will give you tips on everything; from what stocks will boom while commerce is controlled by the anti-Christ, to how you can minimize inheritance tax on gifts left by raptured relatives.

Absolute genius in every way. I think my personal favourite is the FAQ section, one highlight being this question:

The Mark of the Beast sounds unsightly. Will ordinary makeup conceal this if it is as unattractive as some believe?

If you are interested in finding out more about religious fruitcakes, you could do worse than visit www.ship-of-fools.com and click on the Fruitcake Zone.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to speak to my financial advisor

ITV scrapes the barrel...

ITV is dreadful, absolutely dreadful. It's full of so much mind-numbing awfulness that I get on my knees and thank the almighty Himself that I am spared ITV. Luckily, the vagaries of my bargain freeview box mean that I can't actually pick up any of the ITV channels. So that means that I never even accidentally watch it. There is so much drivel shown on the channel, but even so things like Love Island float to the top of the cesspool.

But even the execrable Love Island pales into insignificance next to ITV's latest venture.

A primetime drama about the "Downfall of John Prescott" - Bloody hell....



"You just couldn't have made this story up," said ITV's controller of features, Jane Rogerson.





No kidding love. Apparently it will be "a compelling insight into the off-camera moments of public figures and their entourages."

Much as I dislike the pretty contemptible Prescott, at least ITV could have waited until his 'downfall' was actually complete. As far as I'm aware, he's still Deputy Prime Minister and regardless of what happens to him in the next few weeks and months, ITV have missed a trick. At the moment, the story is a lurid kiss and tell with no chance of redemption for the main character. If ITV waited till the resolution of 'Prescott-gate' they may find a way to spin a more satisfying ending.

As it is they say the programme will provide "an innovative and entertaining look at the upstairs downstairs world of Westminster". Oh dear... but there's worse to come. Apparently, the programme is part of an attempt to make ITV more 'risky' and its output "contemporary, less predictable". Heaven help us all.

And the worst thing.... the name of the damn thing will be 'Prezza'.

Class....

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I've been tagged.... Hmmmm Books

Now normally, I despise the email/posts that go round and ask you lots of questions and then get you to forward them. The problem is, they are normally full of crap questions like "when did you last get drunk?" and "which celebrity is your pet hamster most like?" Then you have to send your own meaningless and terminally vacuous answers to a whole selection of people who frankly deserve better.

However, this questionnaire forwarded to me by electronica peddler Fat Roland, is a bit different as it actually held my attention for more then 2 milliseconds. So here are my answers:


One book that changed your life: Mere Christianity by CS Lewis

>One book you've read more than once: No Logo by Naomi Klein

>One book you'd want on a desert island: The Lord of the Rings

>One book that made you laugh: The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams.

>One book that made you cry: The Lovely Bones by Alice Seabold

>One book you wish had been written: 1984 by George Orwell

>One book you wish had never been written: The Da Vinci Code (not because its controversial, but because its crap...)

>One book you're currently reading: Pompeii by Robert Harris

>One book you've been meaning to read: The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake (a friend bought it for my birthday years ago, but I still haven't got round to reading it. If Taff ever reads this, I'm sorry...)



Burnt for being a crap and wildly overrated book...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

This week I have been mainly watching....

As mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I watch lots of movies. So I've decided to start recording what I've watched and what I thought about it. Partly because I want to share information with the 3 people who have the misfortune to read this blog from time to time and partly because I forget what I've watched sometimes and this will be a record.

It's dead simple; 5 stars = a near perfect film, 1 star = Men in Black 2 (officially the worst film I've ever seen at the cinema (although Ocean's 12 gave it a run for its money). Plus, if its a film that is a bit out of the mainstream I might post a link to more info about it.


NausicaƤ of the Valley of Wind ****
Dead Man's Shoes ****
The Quiet American ***
It would have got 2 stars if not for Michael Caine, who is superb
Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan ****
I know its geeky, but I got it on Special Edition DVD and its just as good as I remember it 10 years ago. A proper guilty pleasure...

Also:
I Robot **
Jurassic Park 2 **
From Russia with Love ****
Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai *****

More next week

Monday, August 07, 2006

The wilful misuse of penguins

Penguins are great. There is no doubt about it. Penguins are remarkable creatures able to survive and thrive in environments that would cause humans to lie down and die horribly without hugely expensive survival gear. I defy anyone to watch penguins hurling themselves up sheer cliffs and icebergs to get out of the sea and not be massively impressed. Or watch them 'flying' under water and not be warmed by their grace and speed.

However, penguins have a problem, they are not glamourous. Compared to say, a Golden Eagle, penguins get a raw deal. Who heard of a penguin being a symbol of freedom? The problem is penguins are funny. Very funny. As an example, look at this picture of penguins looking at a cuddly toy:



See, they aren't even trying to be funny. Jim Davidson would give his eye teeth to be half as funny as these penguins.

However, due to the natural humour of the penguin people feel they can use them to create humour where there is none. See below:



Now much as I approve of the sentiment of knocking George Bush, the wilful misuse of the noble penguin is not right. Penguins should only be used to support genuinely funny jokes or ideas. Like this.....


Take note penguin abusers....

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Prog rock is back!

Something that has cheered me up enormously in the last week or so is the new album by Muse, Black Holes & Revelations.

It's a completely magnificent, over the top, excessive, messy and glorious piece of work. Its prog rock for the noughties (I really hate that word).

The album really shouldn't work. Its a blend of mighty guitars, synths, walls of dense sound, apocalyptic sci-fi imagery and Matt Bellamy's soaring high pitched voice. But it DOES work wonderfully, particularly on the politically charged Exo-politics and the immense Take a Bow - sample lyrics:
Corrupt
You're corrupt
Bring corruption to all that you touch
Hold
You behold
And beholden for all that you've done
And spin
Cast a spell
Cast a spell on the country you run
And risk
You will risk
You will risk all their lives and their souls

And burn
You will burn
You will burn in hell, yeah you'll burn in hell)


Not really a mixture to capture the hearts of Galaxy radio listeners! Imagine a band that combines Queen, Radiohead & Hawkwind with a frontman who is amazing (while being as mad as a bag of hammers). Go and get the album, then you can say you got it before the bandwagon started picking up speed!

Depressing Inevitability

Once more the dust settles on yet another dispiriting and ill-fated English attempt to win the World Cup. I think what depresses me most about the whole thing was how close my predictions in an earlier post were. Let's examine those predictions:
"England's injury crisis will continue to worsen."
Check

"England will struggle in the early stages against the might of Trinidad & Tobago while retaining an unshakeable confidence that we can win the tournament."
Check

"England will qualify for the group stages, just."
Well, we qualified comfortably but England played so badly in those group games that had we faced better teams we would have been going home early; so sort of Check

"Cue near hysteria in the British media as normally sensible journalists and sports broadcasters start enthusing about how the team is "bringing football home" and that this year is the best chance of winning since we last won in 1966."
Lots of talk about this being our best chance since 1966 so Check! However, there was an unusual level of healthy pessimism this time round.

"England will face an 'old enemy' e.g Germany, Argentina etc. The team will JUST about scrape a win on blood and guts."
We didn't face an old enemy (although we just missed out on facing Germany at this stage, so I was close!). We did however, just scrape past the mighty Ecuador so Check (ish)

"England will crash out in the quarter-finals (probably on penalties - Steven Gerrard will miss one and Pizza Hut will be on the phone immediately )to either Brazil or any country with a tactically astute manager."
Yup - thats one big CHECK there. (Although I don't know about Pizza Hut....the call must be coming Stevie, Frank & Jamie)

I should have put money on it. The thing that makes me most sad is that I really, really wanted England to do well, I was cheering like the rest of the country. But these ridiculously privileged players let us all down, with the notable exception of Owen Hargreaves and one or two others. They receive outrageous wages to play football, and while I don't necessarily begrudge them those wages (after all, its not their fault people want to pay them upward of 30k a week), the least I'd expect to see would be some bloody effort to rise to their billing.

At least Sven is finally gone, what a waste he was. I'm not a massive football expert, but even I can see that taking 2 half-fit strikers and then sending your backups home, while keeping superfluous midfielders and a player still in nappies is a little foolhardy. However, I'm not being paid £4 million quid to think of these things...

Never mind, at least I've got the cricket to cheer me up.... What's that? A 5-0 whitewash at the hands of Sri Lanka and a painfully drawn first test against Pakistan? Oh bugger... roll on the next winter Olympics - at least I can cheer the Scots on in Curling. Apparently, they're quite good.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Penguins are for life not just tenuous Christian allegory

hmmm






From http://www.faithmouse.com

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

No, that’s not an invitation...

Now, I watch a lot of movies - at least 3 or 4 most weeks. I love movies almost to the point of anorakdom. I watch a wide range of movies; the good, the bad and the indifferent. I like arthouse, blockbusters, documentaries, subtitled movies from various continents, animations - in short just about anything.

Having said all that I find that my palate is sometimes jaded, particularly when it comes to 'Hollywood' movies. I find that sometimes they've got all the money and precious little originality to go with it. For example, watch frankly anything by Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away) and it knocks the spots off practically any big US animation (Madagascar anyone?) Pixar are, of course, honourable exceptions to this rule. I have found myself more and more turning to European and Asian (especially Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Thai) cinema. Indeed, the most astonishing (but disturbing) film of the last year or so for me was a German film called Downfall.

Yet, every time I write Hollywood off, it comes roaring back and makes me eat my words. Films like The Constant Gardener, Munich, Batman Begins, Good Night & Good Luck, Serenity and King Kong have had me entertained, enthralled and provided me with great enjoyment. Into this category I'd like to insert Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. I've just finished watching this absolute joy of a movie. I thought it was wonderful from start to finish and it was criminally ignored by the Oscars. Val Kilmer was brilliant as Gay Perry, Robert Downey Jr proved he can still act and Shane Black showed us that Lethal Weapon was not by any means a fluke. It was smart, funny and hugely enjoyable. If you haven't seen it - watch it. Go now; borrow my car to get to the video shop!

Sorry, got a bit carried away there...


P.S While I'm recommending movies... Go and see The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones. It is fantastic.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Impending World Cup

World Cup fever is getting ready to descend on the country. *big sigh*

I'm not sure I can handle the inevitable crushing disappointment. The tournament will go something like this:

1)England's injury crisis will continue to worsen.
2)England will struggle in the early stages against the might of Trinidad & Tobago while retaining an unshakeable confidence that we can win the tournament.
3)England will qualify for the group stages, just.
4)Cue near hysteria in the British media as normally sensible journalists and sports broadcasters start enthusing about how the team is "bringing football home" and that this year is the best chance of winning since we last won in 1966.
5)England will face an 'old enemy' e.g Germany, Argentina etc. The team will JUST about scrape a win on blood and guts.
6)The British media will move up to a higher level of hysteria and hyperbole.
7)England will crash out in the quarter-finals (probably on penalties - Steven Gerrard will miss one and Pizza Hut will be on the phone immediately )to either Brazil or any country with a tactically astute manager.
8)Recriminations will begin. Sven Goran Eriksson will finally leave.
9)The whole process will begin again for the European Championships in 2008


Maybe I'll start watching Crown Green Bowls instead. Then at least I don't have to be constantly worrying about Wayne Rooney's metatarsal, Michael Owen's bionic foot or Rio Ferdinand's inability to concentrate for more than 45 minutes....

Oh, who am I kidding.....?

COME ON ENGLAND!!!


(You know, I think this is our best chance to win since 1966....)




The inside of Michael Owen's bionic foot

The dreaded coming of summer....

Now I've lived in the North of England for most of my life so, frankly, I'm used to bad weather. In fact, that winter often lasts till well after Spring is supposed to have sprung doesn't worry me at all. I like autumn and winter more than spring or summer. However, as evenings begin to get lighter and the days warmer I begin to feel a familiar dread.

Wasps

I hate wasps, and I dread the day I see the first wasps of the year. That day was yesterday. I was walking home from work, enjoying the balmy sunshine in South Manchester when all of a sudden a veritable swarm of the little yellow and black buggers ambushed me from inside a wheely bin some moron had filled with beer bottles then left open. As a long term sufferer of wasp-fear I have found ways to cope over the years and rarely run screaming like a baby anymore.

However, because this was the first appearance of the year from the little bastards, it took me completely by surprise and I found myself cowering down the pavement windmilling my arms like some sort of crazy person. Which of course made the rather dozy wasps think I had something worth investigating and they proceeded to abandon their wheely bin and follow me down the road.

Bastards

Roll on winter....