Saturday, September 30, 2006


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

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
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


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.


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:

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

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


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.