Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Journey of a Man

While visiting my parents I came across a stack of old photos that chronicle my embarrassing ascent to manhood. However, before I get to the point of this blog post I need to do a bit of housekeeping.

Avid readers of this blog (are there any of those?) may recall a post back in 2007 where I shared my terrifying experience at the hands (paws?) of some vicious monkeys. Now, some sceptics doubted the veracity of my 5 year old recollections. But in the aforementioned photos I discovered some corroboration.
Anyway, on with business. As I move tentatively into my third decade my thoughts have turned to how I'm progressing in the overall scheme of things. I don't mean in the more mundane ways you might think. I'm not that worried about my career or my financial prospects, I'm comfortable with the fact I don't have any children and I'm rather relieved that I don't have a house to worry about. No, what has been making me think is how I have progressed in a myriad of small and insignificant ways.

Can I juggle yet? (No) Have I breathed fire? (Yes) Have I been best man at someone's wedding? (Yes) Have I ever visited Weston-super-mare? (No) Have I eaten an Israeli Dragon Fruit? (Yes) Have I jumped out of a plane? (Yes) Have I abseiled down a tall building? (No) Can I play a musical instrument? (No) Have I adopted a penguin? (Not yet)

These, and so many others, have been crowding my head for ages. This got me thinking - how can I gauge my progress as a man? When I saw the following photos, I realised it was all so simple. (apologies to Paul for ripping off his 1st letter to the Corinthians)

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child and I screamed the place down when I sat on Father Christmas' knee....
However, when I became a man I put away childish things and made small children cry in terror as Father Christmas...
It may amuse you to know that I have actually 'been' Father Christmas twice in my life. On each occasion I was helping out after regular Santas pulled out with beard strain or something equally improbable. I learned a valuable lesson on each occasion. The first time I learned that young children never want to meet Santa, it happens simply because cruel parents want a cutesy photograph with which to humiliate their offspring in the future. The second time, I learned to never hold a nervous child on your knee, particularly if that child has been stuffed full of party food and jiggled around by its unthinking mother as part of some hideously cheesy christmas party game. Suffice it to say, the result was neither cute nor amusing despite what a room full of middle aged mothers thought...

Event Horizon ***
The Prestige ***
Family Guy: Blue Harvest ****
The Fly ****
West Wing Season 1 *****

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Its OK

Delirious (one of my favourite bands of the last 10 years) are on their farewell tour....

This is from when they were properly good...the video isn't amazing, but I love the song.

(And yes, I know its not a proper blog post. Having a lazy sunday)

Dark Knight *****
X Files - I Want to Believe **
She's All That *
Hellboy 2 ****
Kung Fu Panda ***
Babylon AD **
The Happening *
Iron Man ****
Sleepy Hollow ***
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang ****

Friday, September 05, 2008


I have been very disturbed recently by my seemingly unstoppable slide into cynicism. I'm not sure when it started getting appreciably worse. I've always felt that I had merely a healthy dose of the old C-Y-N, but I now recognise that I'm actually riddled with the stuff.

In some ways, this is no bad thing. A cynic can glean much greater enjoyment from the acid words of the likes of the refreshing grouchy Charlie Brooker (read this) than the sunny optimists amongst us. A cynic is also much less likely to fall for the scams that the hapless victims on the Real Hustle seem powerless to avoid. This is because we know beyond the shadow of a doubt that if something sounds too good to be true, it always is.

Let me give you examples of my newly increased cynicism:

1) The appointment of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate for the US presidential elections. Which is not in anyway an attempt to make people who would have voted for Hillary Clinton switch to the Republicans. A closer look at National Rifle Association member Palin reveals her to be so right-wing that she probably flagellates her own left side for not being hardline enough. This is a woman who supports gun education in school while opposing sexual health education. A woman who tried to sue the attempts to list Polar bears as an endangered species because it might affect Alaskan oil drilling. A woman who thinks that capital punishment and carrying guns is ok, but same-sex marriage is evil. Here's a gratuitous picture of her on a moose hunt.
I don't know what's worse, the thought that the Republicans have tried to pick up the 'Hillary' vote with Palin or that it might actually work with some moron who will fall for the 'I'm just a small-town hockey mom - just like you....' schtick.

2) My first thought when Labour announced its decision to scrap stamp duty on properties under £175,000 for 12 months, was not 'Ooo, what a boost to a flagging market'. Rather it was hollow laughter at such a blatant attempt to bribe voters into believing Gordon Brown isn't a useless lump of playdough as Prime Minster.

This overwhelming cynicism is seeping gradually into all aspects of my life in an alarming way. Luckily, there are a few things halting my headlong rush into complete bitterness.

One of these is my discovery of the marvelous Band Marino. I recently obtained their gorgeous album The Sea & The Beast which is a wonderfully whimsical concoction of quirky, clever indie tunes flavoured with a hint of folkiness. Enjoy this performance of the nattily named Every Time I Make a Girl Cry I Know I've Done My Job.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Great Summer Blockbuster Post

Greetings all, I apologise for the lengthy absence. Since the end of term I have been doing very little that includes words as I try to distance myself from everything to do with school or learning (writing actual words falling very much into that category).

One way I have been happily wasting my holiday time is catching up on a load of movies I have been meaning to see for ages. So I thought I would burden you with a bumper movie post. For ease of consumption I have divided it into two distinct sections. The first is movies that I hoped would be good. The second is films I watched knowing they would be terrible but that I saw because I find really really bad movies highly entertaining.

Every year during the summer blockbuster season I find that there are movies that I get very excited about as a fully paid up movie nerd. And every year I am, on the whole, disappointed. It is entirely my own fault of course, if I hadn't built up my expectations so high, I wouldn't be disappointed. However, this summer I have been very pleasantly surprised by how many of the big summer films have entirely matched or exceeded my expectations. The four films that immediately spring to mind are Wanted, Dark Knight, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army and Journey to the Centre of the Earth 3D.

If you haven't seen these four fantastic films - you should go right now. Go on, don't bother finishing the rest of the post, just go to the cinema now.......

Go on.....

Dum dee dum...

Right, they're all gone now. Just between us, the first three are brilliant - Journey to the Centre of the Earth 3D is bloody awful...... All joking aside, you really should go and see at least Hellboy - it is fabulous. Imagine the first Hellboy movie crossed with Pan's Labyrinth. Let this trailer whet your appetite.

Section 1
Planet Terror **
Apocalypto ***
Hancock ***
Dark Knight *****
Hot Fuzz *****
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army ****
Superbad **
Doomsday ***

Section 2
War of the Worlds 2 *
Starship Troopers 3 ***
27 Dresses *
Doom: Extended Edition ***
Stargate Continuum ***
Underworld: Evolution *

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Phrase of the Day

Just a brief post to celebrate what was possibly the funniest thing I have ever heard on a training course.

During the course of today's training we were shown a Powerpoint presentation designed to show in schools during National Anti-Bullying Week in November. The theme of this presentation was tackling homophobia in schools. A most admirable aim, I'm sure you will agree and as education professionals our feedback was sought on its suitability.

The lady leading the feedback suggested that it would not be suitable for use with younger students without careful preparation. She suggested that discussions could lead to awkward places. Her exact words were as follows:

"We need to be careful as we could be entering the Arena of Sodomy"

What an intriguing picture that presents......

An arena yesterday......

Prince Caspian ***
Wanted ****
Untraceable ***

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Seething with rage....

I feel I haven't been angry enough recently on this blog. Just as I felt I've been mellowing and getting soft in my old age, something comes along that makes me properly angry and feeling all energised again. The thing in question occurred tonight while making an exceedingly rare visit to E4 to watch the new Smallville series (its OK, but disappointingly teeny - nowhere near dark enough). I saw a trailer for a new series skulking its vile way on to our airwaves. That programme is Gok's Fashion Fix. Now, just the trailer had me hopping mad. Here's a precis from the Channel 4 website.

"Looking for exclusive access to celebs and their wardrobes? Insider access to top end fashion and the best designers on the block? Trying to achieve 'that' look for less? Well look no further, as the fashion juggernaut that is Gok's Fashion Fix has arrived! "

Long-term readers of Nine Tenths Full of Penguins will know I despise the whole 'fashion' thing(those who have met me in person will also know I am one of the least fashionable people to walk this fair earth).
For some reason that escapes me, normal people queue up to take fashion advice from this man, his coterie of Z-list nobodies and a co-presenter who looks disturbingly like a coat hanger. Just look at him, I want to take that self satisfied smirk and smash it into a wall.

I am sick to death of people on TV and in real-life telling me what to do.

"Wear this, don't wear that, have your hair cut like this, don't have a beard - its soooo 90s" blah, blah, blah......

I don't need anyone's advice or to follow anyone's fashion 'rules'. If I like it, I will wear it - I don't care if its out of date or if it makes me look older than I am. I apply the same rules to the films & TV I watch, the books I read, the computer games I play and the music I listen to.

There seems to be a weakness in some people that doesn't allow them to make their own choices. They will moo contentedly at Heat magazine or Big Brother and allow f***ing idiots like Gok Wan to dictate their wardrobe and lifestyle contents while their brains and free will dribble out of their ears.

By way of example, I was speaking to someone a couple of weeks ago who asked me if I'd been watching Big Brother. I was delighted to be able to say that I haven't watched any of it. They asked me why, in tones that suggested I was clearly criminally insane to have missed a houseful of misfits making toast and bitching about one another for 24 hours every day. When I replied (diplomatically I thought) that it wasn't really my thing; they asked what was on TV that I liked. I thought for a moment and said I was really enjoying Dr Who and Battlestar Galactica. They looked at me with pitying eyes and said "Oh, nerd programmes"

So I brutally beat them about the head with their own copy of Heat....

After which I felt an awful lot better.

I love being considered a nerd by 'trendy' people. I like that I have the freedom to like whatever I want. So here is a list of some of the things I like (some or all of them nerdy), and I don't care if you don't like them. You can sneer all you want. You have my permission.

Battlestar Galactica
Top Gear
Dr Who
Reading actual books
Good movies
Really bad movies
My goatee beard (12 years old and counting!)
World of Warcraft
Sigur Ros
Mock the Week repeats on Dave
Comfortable shirts
My games consoles
That I'd rather go to my local with a few mates than go clubbing
Wildlife documentaries
Playing cards or Yahtzee with H
My mad scientist eyebrows and the fact I'm starting to get grey hairs

Yes, feel much better now.....

Friday, June 13, 2008

20/20 Vision

Cricket is an acquired taste. Luckily, it is one I acquired many years ago. Having recently girded my ethical loins and passed over 30 pieces of silver to Rupert Murdoch for Sky TV, I have been able to once again watch cricket on my telly box

There is, of course, a new fangled form of God's Own Game known as Twenty20. In recent days it has been hailed as the saviour of world cricket in the media. This is mainly because it can take as little as 2-3 hours to play a match instead of 5 days, you can put cheerleaders in the breaks and it doesn't tax the attention span of today's discerning sport fan.

Now I like cheerleaders as much as the next man (or woman - 9/10ths full of penguins is an open-minded blog), however, I have got a bit of a problem with the branding of Twenty20. Its pitched as this high tempo excitement-fest of action with a side helping of power-hitting. I have seen a number of Twenty20 games of the last couple of years and aside from one or two notable exceptions they have been hugely dull affairs.

Take for example the recent game between Kent Spitfires and the Sussex Something or Others, who played out an entirely forgettable match. The problem is that the batting side need to accumulate large amounts of runs very quickly, while the bowling side needs to curtail those runs. This should lead to scintillating strokeplay and aggressive bowling. However, captains will often bowl average spinners and seamers chucking down medium pace dibbly-dobblers because slower bowling is harder to hit to the boundaries. This means that for much of the time you are watching boring medium pacers being hit for 4 or 5 singles every over.

Hmmmmm. Not thrilling in any way. But at least there are cheerleaders.......

Maybe there is something to this Twenty20 lark after all.....

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Theatre of Noise 2008 A-Z Part the Second

Phew. Back now. I do apologise for the delay in bringing you the second part of The Theatre of Noise 2008 A-Z. Here is a link to the first. The first Theatre of Noise podcasts from 2008's Refresh FM Manchester are now available. Find them here, they're full of crunchy goodness and entertaining silliness.

Here is J-Z. If you click on the name of the band it will whisk you to their website (if they have one) and if you click on the song name it should take you to a video of said ditty.

J. SufJan Stevens - John Wayne Gacy Jnr
A slice of customary odd gorgeousness.
K. Nine BlacK Alps - Unsatisfied
I know its a few years old now, but I don't mind hearing from this great Manchester band again
L. The Prayer Chain - Bendy Line
Sadly, a band that effectively ceased to exist in the mid 90s. I was unable to find a video of the magnificent Bendy Line which we played quite a lot, so have a performance of Sky High instead
M. Monarch - Perform
One of my favourite songs of the broadcast - very very sad though...
N. Number One Gun - Wake Me Up
From their new album the North Pole Project.
O. BecOming the Archetype - Epigone
A song intro so loopy, we nabbed a bit of it for the Theatre of Noise jingle.
P. Project 86 - Evil (Chorus of Resistance)
"Eeeeeeeeevvvvviiiiiiiiiiiilllllllllll" Fantastic! Plus the video is hilarious.
R. Beat Rabbi & Deepspace 5 - Deepspace Soul
Yo Yo Yo - and that....
S. Soulsavers - Revival
The video for this wonderful song is well worth a look.
T. Dashboard Confessional - Thick as Thieves
A song so annoyingly catchy that even Jeremy Clarkson would fall for it.
U. FebrUary Remaining - Samson
The lead singer of February Remaining dropped in to see us on the Theatre of Noise. And a jolly nice chap he is.
W. Does it Offend You Yeah? - We Are Rockstars
I first heard this while listening to Fearne Cotton on Radio 1 (don't let that put you off though, its quite good. Really)
X. Secret & Whisper - XOXOXO
A man with either a unnaturally high voice or tight trousers. You decide which...
Z. Neon Horse - Speed KillZ
I couldn't find a video for Speed Killz, so enjoy the equally marvellous Cuckoo.

The Lives of Others *****
Iron Man ***
In the Name of the King *
Mission to Mars **
Payback ***
Stargate Ark of Truth **
Dragon Wars ****
Indiana Jones: Crystal Skull...
Before last 20 mins ****
Last 20 mins *

Saturday, April 26, 2008

RIP Humph.

I was lucky enough to see the Radio 4 programme I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue live at the Lowry in Salford recently.

Humphrey Lyttleton will be sorely missed.....

Torchwood Series 2 ****
Cloverfield ***
Golden Compass **

Monday, April 14, 2008

Theatre of Noise 2008 A-Z Part the First

The Theatre of Noise has closed its radio curtains after a destruction-filled 3 weeks over Easter. This year's broadcast on Refresh FM was bigger and better than ever, encompassing Manchester on FM and the whole world via the netweb.

In my previous ramblings I promised a post dedicated to the music that lurked within the Theatre of Noise's inner reaches. Here it is, (drum roll) the first part of The Theatre of Noise 2008 A-Z. If you click on the name of the band it will whisk you to their website (if they have one) and if you click on the song name it should take you to a video of said ditty.
A thoroughly enjoyable toe tapper.
Slightly retro rock feel, with some properly crunchy guitar-ness.
Clicking will take you to a page where you can listen to samples. I've always loved The Choir and I took every chance I could to play stuff from their 2005 album O, How the Mighty Have Fallen.
D. The Dream Pilots - One More Time
I liked it very much, Eyan decided half way through the 3 weeks he didn't. Cue much musical bickering that didn't produce a single reason why he didn't like it. It's slightly derivative, but still rather good.
It was such a shame. Emery have long been a Theatre of Noise favourite. However, their new album, while not bad, is not a patch on their earlier release The Question.
This sneaked in tacked on to the end of a deeply average album by Falling Up. This song however, is far from average. After a deceptively gentle start it explodes into an epic chorus before fading out Vangelis style.
G. Grey Holiday - Glorious
A bit U2-ish, but fun nontheless.
A song that divided opinions in the studio everytime we played it. Some people loved it, some people hated it. Its a marmite song.
I. ScroobIus Pip - Letter From God to Man
A magnificently written song that we criminally underplayed over the 3 weeks. The video I've chosen makes the lyrics very easy to follow.

J. onwards will be come in later posts.

We took lots of pictures this year and they will be appearing soon at the slightly unfinished Theatre of Noise website - To whet your appetite here are a couple of said pictures. In this one, resident tool expert Fil the Destroyer prepares to terminate a stack of 11 CDs in perennial show favourite, the Chainsaw Challenge.
Here, Fil & I play cricket with McFly's Greatest Hits album. It didn't last as long as a normal cricket ball would, but it did shatter most satisfyingly.

Ratatouille *****
Come & See ****
Battlestar Galactica:Razor *****
Alien Vs Predator:Requiem. Unrated version *
No Country for Old Men *****
So so so good - if you haven't seen the latest Coen Brothers film, you really must. I doubt you will see a better film all year

Monday, March 24, 2008

Adventures in Radio 2008 Vol 1

I am more excited than a bucket of monkeys running over a bagful of hamsters at the moment.

(Thats quite excited...)

I am currently one week into a three week radio adventure with Refresh FM in Manchester. Along with long-term radio comrade Eyan, I am presenting the Theatre of Noise 9-11pm every week night till the 4th April. If you live in Manchester you can apply your ears to 87.7FM. Everywhere else on the planet you can stream the madness live here.
The Theatre of Noise has a website - which you should tentatively inspect. I have found lots of terribly exciting music that I will dedicate a post to in the near future.

As I am currently on my Easter break (sometimes working in a school is marvellous!) I have been attempting to catch up on movies I've bought, but haven't had time to watch yet, so...

The Transporter 2 **
Superman Returns ****
Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer ***
The Devil's Backbone ****
The Lives of Others *****
Zodiac ****
Planet of the Apes (1968) ****
Planet of the Apes (2001) *

Saturday, March 08, 2008

"You're a very nice tall man..."

Now I don't really talk about religion that much on this here blog, mainly because it bores most people to tears. But as an RE teacher and a (reasonably sane) Christian, I do have significant interest in that particular topic area. I was reading sarahcontrary's moving thoughts on her faith today (click here to go there) and it made me think about how people explore and communicate what they believe. However, not everyone does that in a positive way.

Sometimes you come across people so vile that you feel genuinely replused by them and by their beliefs. Fred Phelps and his cronies at the Westboro Baptist Church (you may find their site distasteful) in the US are just such people. You may have seen them on TV waving their 'God hates fags' and 'God hates cripple soldiers' banners around at funerals. They hate everyone; gay people, Jews, the Irish, Sweden(!) and many many others with such a frightening passion that it makes me deeply ashamed that I apply the same basic label of 'Christian' to myself.

However, Phelps would also hate me as the only people he doesn't hate are the 100 odd people who go to his church (intriguingly, most of whom are related to him by blood or marriage). These happy few are the only people going to heaven apparently.

As with any self-important, petty minded bigot; the best way to bring them down a peg or nine is not to engage in sensible argument with them. It has even been suggested by some of Phelp's estranged children, who have sensibly left their father's church, that Westboro exists solely to feed Phelp's addiction to hatred. Below is a video of Fred Phelp's Jnr being interviewed. The Australian interviewer take a novel approach to tackling the big questions....

"You're a very nice tall man..." Genius!

God bless that interviewer (in the proper sense of the word). If Phelps and his ilk make me ashamed to be a Christian sometimes, the reporter makes me feel proud to be a human being.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A musing on movies

Is this man a criminal?
If you see his latest movie, National Treasure:Book of Secrets, you will probably think so. Any money spent seeing it is definitely daylight robbery.

I went to the cinema the other day with a friend and due to the vagaries of half-term cinema times we were stuck with a choice of National Treasure or a 3 hour wait till Cloverfield. So we took a deep breath, set our expectations to sub Men in Black 2 levels and took the plunge.

As the trailers rolled I reflected on the cast. As Nicholas Cage has been frankly dreadful in just about everything since Raising Arizona I didn't hope for much from him. However, there are some quality actors here - Helen Mirren, Ed Harris, Harvey Keitel & Jon Voight. This gave me hope for gleaning some enjoyment out of the film.

These hopes were rapidly dashed. I don't believe I have EVER seen a film as bad as National Treasure: Book of Secrets at the cinema. It was so bad that it has replaced Men in Black 2 as officially the worst film I've ever paid to see at the cinema. Admittedly, you don't expect gritty realism in a popcorn-muncher like this, but still this film stretched the boundaries. On three occasions Cage and his moronic sidekicks were required to get themselves out of plot dead ends by doing the most ridiculous things. Firstly, breaking into Buckingham Palace to get a look at the Queen's Resolute Desk(which incidentally appeared to be an 18th century Rubiks cube). Then they had to break into the Oval Office to sneak a look at the President's desk and finally and most inconceivably they had to kidnap the President to get a look at his 'Secret President's Book' (I'm really not kidding).

I have rarely seen a film that treats its viewers with such brazen contempt. It wasn't even 'so bad its good'. I suppose that none of this should come as a surprise when you look at the names of the screenwriters.The Wibberleys? No wonder its awful. It appears to have been written by Australian children's TV presenter rejects. Anyhoo, have a trailer for the upcoming Hellboy 2. Its a film which I'm very much looking forward to, particularly as director Guillermo del Toro has brought his Pan's Labyrinth box of monster tricks to the party..

National Treasure: Book of Secrets (no stars) first film to ever receive no stars.
Hitman ***
Charlie Wilson's War ****
Tom Hanks really should be Oscar nominated for his role in this...
Curse of the Broken Flower ****

Monday, January 21, 2008

What is music for?

I have been thinking about music quite a lot recently. I've been inspired by posts at Cultural Snow and My Nut Free Life to think about what music is for.

I was talking to someone other day and they couldn't understand why I dislike so called 'dinner party music'. You see, I hate bland music, I almost prefer something to be terrible than just shoulder-shruggingly OK. At the very least music that is genuinely awful ilicits some sort of response from you.

The whole conversation got me thinking about the moments in my life when a song or a piece of music has grabbed me and forced me to pay attention. They are extraordinary moments that only ever happen once when you listen to that song. Every time you listen to it again, you know what is coming and no matter how arresting it is, it will never have the impact of that first moment.

It may well be pleasant to hear James Taylor, Norah Jones, Damien Rice et al burbling competently quietly in the background but they will never have the impact of the truly great. Great music refuses to stay in the background, it demands your attention. They are musical moments that make you realise what music is for. Moments that I look back on with a bit of sadness because the exact way I was feeling would never be repeated.

When I think about my moments I remember hearing Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit. and Radiohead's Let Down for the first time. Mahler's Tenth Symphony, Bob Marley's Redemption Song and the sheer swagger of Rock'n'Roll Star by Oasis all had a great impact on me.

To illustrate what I mean, here is a more recent song that just blew me away the first time I heard it. This is Glosoli by Sigur Ros. Sigur Ros can be something of an acquired taste with their ethereal meoldies and lead singer Jónsi’s falsetto voice. However, it is a taste well worth acquiring as this extraordinary song demonstrates. I would encourage you to listen to it first before you read what I've written underneath the video.

The song starts quietly and gradually builds and builds before exploding at 4.41 (thats the moment!) into a wall of sound with tumultuous guitars and the skirling falsetto soaring over the top. When I heard that for the first time, it sent almighty tingles down my spine and it may sound ridiculous, but it made me feel 3 foot taller.

In the end, I think that is what music is for. It should make you feel. It should make you feel happy, sad, angry, peaceful or any number of other feelings or emotions. The best music changes how we feel, everything else is just aural wallpaper...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Quiz like its 2008

Last night saw the resumption of my monthly pub quiz in a shiny new venue in East Didsbury. To see posts relating to previous quiz shenanigans click here.

If you are exceptionally lucky, my fellow quizmaster Eyan may post his questions on his blog at some point. I treated a selection of South Manchester's finest to two epic rounds of questioning that are presented below for your edufication.

1) How many stomachs does a cow have?
2) Where on a horse do you find its poll?
3) What is the only bird that is capable of seeing the colour blue?
4) The following adjectives refer to which animals?
a) Vulpine b) Hippocampine c) Chelonian
5) How many claws does a house cat have?
6) What is the name for a group of goldfish? A troubling, a dole or a bloat?
7) How many legs does a lobster have?
8) Which insects account for most human deaths?
9) Who recorded an early description of a reindeer in the 1st Century BC?
10) Why are penguins black and white?

The answers to the following questions each contain the model of a car - past or present
1) What is the only sport where left-handed play is banned?
2) Which one word describes a book title by Frederick Forsyth, a class of British escort carrier and a role played by Diana Rigg in the 1960s?
3) Former Big Brother contestant Jade Goody believed which area of the UK was abroad?
4) What is the word used to describe narrowed attention on a specific thing?
5) Gracie Fields owned a villa on which island?
6) What is the musical term for “quick or lively”?
7) Which one word describes a Yorkshire TV documentary series of the 1970s, a space shuttle, and a number one album by ELO?
8) What name is specifically given to a Mediterranean wind that comes from the Sahara and reaches hurricane speeds in North Africa and Southern Europe?
9) In rowing, what is the name of the short-sleeved T-shirt with a front opening, where the opening and sleeve ends are trimmed in the colours of the club?
10) Which animal has varieties called trapdoor, yellow sac, and chinese bird?

Answers sometimes next week. Oh, by the way, for every answer you google a fairy will die....

* Update - Answers are now in the comments

I Am Legend ***
The Holiday ***
Night Watch *****
Jason & The Argonauts ****
Star Trek:First Contact ***
Notting Hill **
Heima *****

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Biggest Movies of 2007

Permit me to blow my own trumpet for a moment.

Paaaaaarrrrrpppppp *

Thank you.

Now, I have excellent taste in movies, so I'd like to run through the top ten grossing movies of 2007 with you. As usual I will give a star rating for each one, do let me know if you disagree...

1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (£49,420,484) ****
Possibly the best of the Potter movies so far with the acting of the young leads improving, a much darker tone and a spectacular duelling sequence between the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters.
2. Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End (£42,237,960) **
Flabby dross with very few redeeming qualities at all.
3. Shrek the Third (£38,620,659) **
Forgetting everything that made the first two Shrek movies watchable.
4. The Simpsons Movie (£38,544,114) ***
Some very funny gags - sadly not the masterpiece we were all hoping for.
5. Spider-Man 3 (£33,547,946) *
Indescribably awful in just about every way
6. Ratatouille (£24,716,887) ****
Pixar strikes gold one more time. The dud that was Cars fades away...
7. The Bourne Ultimatum (£23,703,150) *****
Best action film for ages - The setpieces in Waterloo station and over the rooftops and houses on Tangiers were nothing short of breathtaking.
8. Transformers (£22,863,864) ***
Big and very dumb fun
9. Mr Bean's Holiday (£22,142,332) *
Don't even go there......
10. Hot Fuzz (£21,005,064) *****
My film of the year. Hands down

It depresses me greatly that most of the films on that list are either crushingly predictable or utterly dreadful. There were some superb films released this year that were totally ignored by people scurrying to see the latest Shrek film. And in what sane world does the funniest film of the year come one place behind the inexplicably popular Mr Bean's Holiday? Where does that get fun?

I think I can see the problem. People like to go for things that are familiar (I am the same), and frankly, the cost of the cinema is so extortionate that people aren't that willing to take risks on movies anymore. It means that magnificent oddities like Daywatch for example, are shown in cinemas for one or two weeks at best. While tripe like Mr Bean or Pirates are shown for months on end. This leaves no room for word of mouth growth. By the time I have seen a really good movie and let people know about it, its already out of the cinemas.

I just wish that cinema chains would charge less for the offbeat or arty films. They can continue charging outrageous sums for the big blockbusters, people will still lap them up regardless (and I count myself in that number). However, if I could go and see something quirky and off the beaten track for a few quid instead of paying on the unpleasant side of £6, I'd be in the cinema much more often, which surely only benefits the business side of things.

* I know trumpets don't make this noise. I am open to suggestions at how I should represent the sound of a trumpet in text form.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Around this time last year, I subjected the t'interweb to my 2006 review of the year. In the interests of symmetry (I like that word so much, I'd like you to read more about it here), I thought I should do something similar for 2007.

Best Moment
2007 has been a surprisingly good year so there have been many moments to choose from. Completing my PGCE and getting a job in a school and my radio shows on Refresh FM at Easter were both great. However, the winner is this year's Greenbelt festival. This year's festival was probably the best I've been to. The weather was magnificent, the atmosphere was amazing and I had a great time working for the festival radio station Greenbelt FM. The single best moment (in a pure ego trip stylee) was taking part in a live radio show at the YMCA venue whereby myself and radio partner in crime Fat Roland were given license to unleash our Theatre of Noise games Chainsaw Challenge and Sackcloth & Bashes on an unsuspecting Greenbelt. Much hilarity and destruction ensued.

Best Film
There was some great movies this year - some very worthy, some guilty pleasures. In the end, the brilliance and sheer rewatchability of Hot Fuzz gets my vote. Honourable mentions also go to the beautifully shot Sunshine, the fascinating Zodiac, the thrilling Bourne Ultimatum, the brutal 28 Weeks Later and the frankly bonkers Daywatch.

Worst Film
The excreble Spiderman 3. Read my thoughts at the time here.

Best TV
Top Gear & Spooks became unmissable TV for me this year. Top Gear made me laugh like a drain - even though I can't stand Jeremy Clarkson. Spooks was a thrillingly entertaining and slick creation. This year's Dr Who series was a bit hit and miss. When it was wrong (human daleks? come on) it was pretty poor, but when it was right it was glorious (Weeping Angels? Even I found them rather unnerving).

Worst TV
The moment it was announced that Catherine Am-I-Bovvered Tate would be in the whole of the next Dr Who series.

Best Album
Mae - Singularity

Best Book
Even though it was written in 1954, I have only just read it this year. Richard Matheson's I Am Legend is brilliant. Forget the Will Smith film, the book is much darker, much bleaker and much more unnerving. I also liked 2004's The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, mainly due to the sparkling dialogue between Daniel and Fermin, which is a joy to read.

Best Penguin related story of 2007
This marvellous story about Roxy the Rockhopper penguin who turned to the t'interweb to find love. Read it here.

Blogs of the Year
Here are my five favourite blogs of the year in no particular order with links to their latest posts.
Fat Roland - the surreal ramblings of a proper gentleman.
Quinquireme - The erudite Patroclus was considering laying her blog to rest. The t'interweb breathed a sigh of relief when she was convinced otherwise.
Postsecret - PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard. It can be funny, disturbing, uplifting and sometimes heartbreaking.
The Manchizzle - an essential Manchester blogging hub....
Cultural Snow - A blog that wears its brain openly on its sleeve.

Also worth a mention are Midnight Candle & Blue Cat.

Here's to 2008 - Happy New Year!