Monday, March 26, 2007

The world is doomed.... DOOMED I tell you!

How smart are you?

This is why.

Apparently I am smarter than over 78% of the world. This does not bode well for our planet's future....

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Where's the finish line....

I am having a very confusing few days..... I have been mulling various things over in the mental equivalent of a vat of mulled wine gently warming on the hob at Christmas. *

In the early parts of the week I spent 3 days at school when every lesson I taught was a struggle, and then on Thursday after a day in university I felt so dispirited that I was seriously considering not carrying on into teaching after PGCE. The last few weeks have just been a constant tiring slog and my frame of mind has not been massively positive. However, on Friday after a couple of good lessons and a good chat with my school mentor, I felt much better.

However, as I approach the final straight, I have to start making decisons. Where do I look for jobs? I love Manchester and really want to stay, but at the same time I realise I may have to look further afield for a good job.

I have other decisions to make as well and I'm feeling rather confused about them too, but I won't bore you with those...

The Illusionist ****

Having seen both the Prestige & The Illusionist (both period stage magician movies) fairly recently, it was interesting to compare the two. I think that the Illusionist benefits from having one man (Edward Norton) as the main focus, as well as a superb turn from Paul Giamatti as Chief Inspector Uhl. Rufus Sewell chews the scenery very effectively as the movie's villain and the whole thing moves at a admirably stately pace.

The Prestige on the other hand was fascinating and looked just as good as Christopher Nolan's movies always do. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman were both excellent as the key protagonists and Michael Caine turned in a very dignified performance. However, the only problem for me was that the 'twist' was telegraphed extremely early in the film and by the time the film got to its third act (or Prestige if you will), there was no surprise when the 'secret' was revealed.

Anyway, I watched the Illusionist in great luxury last night, as on the spur of the moment myself and the friend I was with decided to watch it in something called the Gallery at the Printworks in the city centre. It was a very agreeably grown up way to watch a film in a very agreeable evening

*You know, that is a terrible simile. More so because I hate mulled wine...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Arcade Fire vs Radiohead


A couple of weeks ago, I got the new album by the Arcade Fire - Neon Bible. It is very very good, particularly the grand Intervention (it has pipe organs on it!!) which will get plenty of airing when I venture on to the airwaves of South Manchester on Refresh FM. But then I made a mistake. You see, it is such a good album that it got me thinking about others that have grabbed my attention in the same way in the past. That then got me thinking about OK Computer by Radiohead. So I toddled off and listened to Neon Bible and OK Computer back to back.

Now why, I hear you cry, is that a mistake?

Well, the problem is that as good as Neon Bible is, it pales into insignifiance next to OK Computer, which is simply so much better than anything else.

OK Computer is now coming up to being 10 years old and is still one of the few albums that I can sit down and listen to while doing nothing else. It is a magnificently rich and complex album that rewards many repeat listens. There is not a wasted lyric, note, distortion, string or bleep anywhere on it, it is one of those rare occasions when everything is spot on. Despite the intervening decade it has barely dated and still sounds fresh.

It has so many great songs on it; the furious Electioneering, the beautifully melancholic No Surprises, the epic Let Down as well as Karma Police and Paranoid Android. It also signalled Radiohead's transformation from a great rock band into the musical pioneers that they have become. It is the sound of a band at their absolute peak. I wonder if some of the melancholy feeling on the album comes from the realisation that no matter what they produced after this, they would probably never scale these heights again. And despite the enviously high quality of Radiohead's output since OK Computer, none of it is as good.

OK Computer has been lauded far and wide since its release. If you have never heard it, then I implore you, as it comes up to its 10th birthday to seek out a copy and revel in what is, in my opinion - and that of many many others, simply the greatest album of all time....

Monday, March 19, 2007

Up until the Wii small hours

I recently bribed several European marmots to go to elaborate lengths to obtain for me a shiny new Nintendo Wii from Germany. I was forced to this extreme end because Nintendo appear to release about 3 consoles a month in the UK, which makes buying one here a tad difficult without permanently camping outside GAME in the Trafford Centre.

Anyhoo. It is an indecent amount of fun to play with. I have spent many hours paralysed with hysterical laughter with my housemates playing Wii Sports and Wario Ware Smooth Movies. It is simply the best console system I have played, the remote wireless controllers are infinitely more intuitive than normal gamepads. Right, I must go now. Currently ambling around a colossal but very pretty field in Zelda wondering what on earth I'm supposed to be doing....

Cronos ****
The Manchurian Candidate ***

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

#Quizzing time is here again...#

Quiz related activities resurfaced in East Didsbury last week like a Humpback Whale erupting from the sea for air. Once more Eyan, Dan and myself terrorised the genteel people of South Manchester with our unique blend of trivia and vague silliness.

Here are Dan's general knowledge round and my theme round (which this month was a personal favourite - Saint or Aint)

1. Quantas is the National Airline of which Country?
2. Which branch of science and technology, dealing with very small systems and devices, takes its name from the Greek word for Dwarf?
3. What is the county town of Shropshire?
4. In which century did diarist Samuel Pepys die?
5. What is the Latin name for the Southern Lights, the high atmosphere effects seen in high latitude Southern Hemisphere regions?
6. Which famous spy, executed by the French in 1917, was formerly a stripper in Berlin?
7. Which sea port famous for the attack of the Italian fleet by the Royal Navy in 1940 is situated between the toe and heel of Italy?
8. Who was the bully in Tom Browns School Days?
9. Who was the female star of Barbarella and Cat Ballou
10. Which unit of measurement is equal to 6080ft?

Saint or Aint
The following saints are either real or I have completely made them up. So decide whether they are a saint or whether they aint.

1) Archangel Gabriel – Patron St of messengers
2) Ambrose of Milan – Patron St of Bee Keepers
3) Francis of Norwich – Patron Saint of Chefs
4) Genesius – Patron St of the theatrical profession
5) Madrona – Patron St of Librarians
6) Guy of Dubois – Patron St of dentists
7) Florian – Patron St of Water, danger from.
8) Hubert of Liege – Patron St of dog bites.
9) Decima – Patron St of abacus manufacturers
10) According to the Catholic feast day calendar. How many saints have their feast days on
the 7th March?

Answers early next week

*Edit Monday 19th March - Answers now in the comments*

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Absence makes the heart grow fonder...

Due to the rather insane workload that afflicts me at present, I have been unable to post for over a week.
But I wanted to briefly mention a movie I watched last night. I saw Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth and loved it.

It is absolutely magnificent in just about every way I can think of.
Watch it now.....

Pan's Labyrinth *****
Blade 2 ***
Hero ****
An Inconvenient Truth *****

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Is this man an idiot?

I don't admit to fully understanding the way the American poiltical system works, but I do keep a weather eye out for the major players. At the moment the road to the 2008 US elections is clogged with people from all sides of the political spectrum throwing their hats into the ring. However, for me, the most interesting character is Democrat Senator Barack Obama. I first came across Obama when he was interviewed on the Daily Show and he was just as funny as Jon Stewart (no mean feat). Since then I have been quite impressed by him (he certainly seems better equipped morally to be President than George Bush - but then a so is a chimpanzee...)

But certain parts of the US media have already begun the hatchet job on Obama. Wild stories and distortions of parts of his past have been hysterically screamed by Fox in particular (no surprise there).
(so what....unless they are cynically playing up to people's fears)
(Otherwise known as, the islamic name for a school - a sensible, none-extremist school, as the reporters who actually went to the school discovered)
(ooh, there we go, back to cynically exploiting fear again. Fox captioned a news item on Obama with Osama "by mistake")

and worst of all
(Genuine quote on Fox "Do we really want a man like that [who smokes] in the White House?")

Now a new question has entered the ring. Clearly Obama, as you can see from the picture here, is black:
But is he black enough? Obama's Ivy League education and Mid-western accent has led many to question his credentials to be America's first black president. While being interviewed by CBS' Steve Kroft, whose picture adorns the beginning of this post, the following exchange occurred:

Kroft: Your mother was white. Your father was African?
Obama: Right.
Kroft: You spent most of your life in a white household?
Obama: Yeah.
Kroft: I mean, you grew up white.
Obama: I'm not sure that would be true. I think what would be true is that I don't have the typical background of African-Americans . . .
Kroft: You were raised in a white household?
Obama: Right.
Kroft: Yet at some point, you decided that you were black?

Perhaps I'm missing something here, but for goodness sake Mr Kroft, the man is sitting in front of you! Maybe his upbringing is not typically what you expected (which seems a little condescending by the way), but surely you can use your eyes to see that he didn't have to 'decide' on the colour of his skin!

Read this very interesting article from this weeks Guardian G2 that sparked this post.

It all seems crazy to me......

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The last shall be first....

Formula 1. It's a bit of an enigma.
On the one hand, it is a sport so devoid of humour and fun that it makes golf look like base-jumping. However, it does have a curious, yet undeniable glamour as evidenced by the colossal sums of money and attention given to the top drivers. I myself have spent many a Sunday afternoon watching Grand Prix from amazing locations all over the world. Admittedly, after about the first 5 laps, I tend to slip into a deep sleep and start drooling copiously all over myself.

And that is the main problem, Formula 1 (apart from the mad dash from the starting line to the first corner) is crushingly dull for the most part. In recent years one man has bestrode the sport like a Prussian colossus, eclipsing all other drivers with his inhuman ability to drive in circles very quickly. Michael Schumacher will no doubt be looked upon as one of the greatest drivers to ever sit in a car, however in his domination he has practically killed the sport off as a spectacle because he seemed to win every single race.

Perhaps his retirement at the end of last season will lead to a more interesting contest. But even if it doesn't, Eyan of Fat Roland fame has found a way to make F1 interesting - a fantasy league.

Whats interesting about that, I hear you cry? Well, this league is slightly different as it doesn't champion the few winning drivers and cars, but rather the losers. So the worse your selected drivers and constructors do, the better your team does. Its a great idea and cracking fun. Look at the site here and consider signing up for this year. It only takes a few minutes and costs a few pounds to enter, but all the money goes into the prize fund.

If you needed more evidence of the inherent craziness of F1, you need look no further than the story behind the new Honda's paintjob. Apparently, in order to save the earth, Honda has nobly removed advertising from the car and hope that the 'Earth Car' paint job will encourage people to look after the environment. Most admirable sentiments undermined completely by the fact that the cars will be responsible for emitting over 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide this season. That is over five times the amount emitted by the average UK driver in 12 months. Clearly the person who thought that marketing idea up is a total moron....

Read the full story here

Movies:'s Chad Vader Day Shift Manager **** Genius! Watch it now!
Fight Club *****
The Prestige ***