Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Christmas!

My last post for a few weeks, since I'll be splitting my time between Bromsgrove and Harrow over this holiday period. Have a great Christmas, and let's hope the human race gets through 2006!

Bon Nöel.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

John Spencer: 1946-2005

A sad time for fans of The West Wing - and I count myself as one of them, if only during the first 4 series. John Spencer, who played Leo McGarry - Bartlett's Chief of Staff, and more recently the Democratic VP - died of a heart attack yesterday. It's sad for many reasons; firstly because Spencer was an accomplished actor who appeared on the small and big screen (from LA Law to The Rock), secondly because the similarities between Spencer and his character were acute - both were recovering alcoholics, and in series 6 of The West Wing McGarry suffered a heart attack and survived - and thirdly because John Spencer was the only thing worth watching during these later, tepid years of the show. Whether it was the embarrassed smile or the casual shuffle of a walk, his mannerisms made Leo a human figure in a show that had seemed to have more and more actors simply sleepwalking through their roles as it progressed. I hope the writers do his character the courtesy he deserves and give Leo (and John) a fitting send off over the coming weeks.

It's been over a month since my last entry...time flies, eh? I finish work on Monday until Jan 3rd. It's going to be a hectic Christmas period. I'm at Lou and James's 24th - 27th, then on the 28th I have the Bushido Turkey Burn-off where I'll most likely pass out from 2 hours of solid “exercise” (read: Hell on earth), then I'm at Gilly's from the 29th to the 2nd for New Year.

TV:- I'm on to series 3 of Everwood, a series that is becoming more and more like a comfort blanket - something to slip into when you just want to chill out and let a small town wash over you.

West Wing seems to have hit the "mundane" button on the keyboard. Series 4 is where this show should have ended. Familiarity with the characters, a will to see it out to the end and now the unhappy loss of Leo is the only thing that's keeping me watching.

Commander in Chief is still finding its feet, whilst Bones feels a little ancient now, even with all the high tech and improbable gizmos on display. The real surprise is Alias which just kicked into an unexpected plot twist in its final series. I doubt much of the Rambaldi plot will be explained but at least it will go out on a high. Hopefully. Joey has been put on hiatus until March, and since the recent episodes have been pretty lackluster, I can’t see it staying for a 3rd series. Lost had a slow start but is finally kicking into a decent plotline. Unfortunately, I’ll have forgotten what it is by the time the Christmas period is over. Thank goodness for recaps, eh?

I finally completed The Longest Journey and am now working through Syberia 2. Gilly’s already completed it, but then that’s because she cheats and looks at online solutions. Pah. Some people have no willpower.

I’ve started studying Zen philosophy (not to be confused with Zen Buddhism, which has a more religious aspect). I’m currently reading “Nothing Special – Living Zen” by Charlotte Joko Beck. She has an interest take on life, but as any Zen philosopher would tell you, Zen can’t be learned by reading a book – all it will do is give you some background to the general concept. But if you’re interested, it’s well worth a read. It ties in well to the philosophy I’ve also started looking at in Bushido.

All my Christmas presents are bought, all the wine and chocolates are ready to go, and I have one more day left at work. I beat Nadeem 5-4 at table tennis today, which surprised me since I haven’t picked up a bat for 6 months, and he’s something of a regular. Henbury Leisure Centre is new, and the paint fumes were starting to get to me after an hour, not an experience I’ll be repeating weekly, but a rematch is in order in January.

On Tuesday it’s the Christmas do of the people that run our offices, they invite all the resident buildings down to the main office for wine and a buffet. I’ll be heading in for that despite my holiday, firstly because I wouldn’t dream of turning down free wine and secondly because I’m lining up a 4 player game of LOTR Risk straight after in our office. Nadeem, Lucy and Mark are the other contenders, but I am determined that Middle Earth will be MINE. Mwahaha. Gilly’s pretty good at it too. I think she's a closet geek.

Last Friday we had the WHA Christmas do. We went 4x4 off-roading in Chew Magna which was great fun (link to photos to follow soon), and that was followed by a great meal at The Hunter’s Rest. It looks like a great place to stay for a quiet break too.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Tis the season to be...ill

Ah, the approach to Christmas. Coldness. Not being able to breathe through my nose. Incessant sneezing. No, this really isn't my favourite time of the year. It makes me thankful that my room is so small, it keeps the warmth in nicely.

New shows ahoy! I've been catching up with some of the new US shows released this fall (sorry, autumn):

Bones - David Boreanaz in "not typecast" shocker! OK, so he basically does what he did in Angel but he gets to wear cool shades and walk around in the sun. The show's not bad either, a refreshing change to the glut of CSI sequels and clones hanging around of late.

Commander In Chief - I tried not to compare it to The West Wing. I really did. But 7 episodes in, and it just seems like West Wing Lite. Rod Lurie is certainly no Aaron Sorkin. It's also a miracle you can understand Geena Davis as she mumbles through her clenched teeth and trout lips. All said though, it's growing on me. The West Wing would have you believe that the White House occupants did nothing but have meetings, work late and look stressed. This show seems to have the president hanging around the kitchen sipping tea and going out on lakes, whilst doing that official-type stuff in her spare time. I'm not sure which to believe, but my relief at Donald Sutherland managing to get a role and not ham it up has been tempered by his character's insistence on saying "Bloody hell" every episode. William Hill should set up the "Nathan Templeton Sweepstake" - person closest to the minute he says it each week, wins.

Everwood - Not strictly new, but new to the UK (although we decided inexplicably to change the name to "Our New Life In Everwood"). This one is intriguing - a "family drama" where very little happens each episode, but it still manages to get a grip without resorting to melodrama. That said, I've only seen two episodes thus far, and both have brought tears to my eyes. I can't think of another show that's ever done that, but then I guess there isn't another show that has a family situation so close to my own. It's well-written, funny and moving.

Aside from this, there's the usual weeklies of Lost (this week's episode was a bit of a shock - at least to me, since I avoid all spoilers), Alias (improving slightly now that we have some sort of boo-able bad guy), The West Wing (the live debate episode was excellent), and Joey (umm...never mind).

I also found time to watch William Hartnell's second Time Lord appearance in Doctor Who and the Daleks. Unfortunately, the show was appalling. I can't imagine who would willingly want to watch the black and white Doctor Who shows now, since they are so ridiculously dated. But onwards, I must press, if only to get some decent backstory.

On the bookshelf these days? Well, Wayne recommended me "The Dumas Club" by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, and in return I pointed him to "A Game of Thrones" which he seems to be enjoying very much. In between illness, TV and work, I've not had much time to read Dumas but I'll be sitting down with it soon enough.

Games-wise - GTA: San Andreas is a big improvement over Vice City. I know I had my reservations at first, but it's so much better in every respect that I'm really not sure where they can take the series from here.

Anyway, my bed awaits and I have Bushido tomorrow night. Toodle pipski.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Or is it "Acapella"?

I quite enjoy a capella, there's something a bit special about it. Even more so when the music covered is a little bit different.

Another musical discovery made this weekend - The Sweet. I can't believe I've overlooked these guys, especially as Def Leppard were big fans. They're probably best known for "The Ballroom Blitz" but their Greatest Hits had a few surprises. For instance, I didn't know they did "Wig Wam Bam", a classic party tune that takes me back to my birthday parties when my mother would used to slam on my "Party Party!" record by Black Lace which covered this and many more gems - including "Locomotion", "The Conga", and the utterly despised "Agadoo". Still trying to understand why the last of these was voted worst song ever. Interestingly, a Beatles song topped an online poll with "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da" and this song was also on that treasured bit of vinyl from my younger years. People really surprise me sometimes, hasn't anyone heard "Mr Blobby"?

Thursday, October 20, 2005


I've felt odd all day. My head feels really light, and I have no idea what's causing it. I don't have any other symptoms, just...light-headedness. Maybe I've caught bird flu from the chicken sandwich I ate this lunchtime. Apparently when it hits these shores, bird flu will target people aged 20 - 40. How they came by this statistic I have no idea, since it hasn't even mutated into a disease that is spreadable by humans yet, let alone one that chooses its prey based on age. Also, we have to wait 6 months after the first infection before a vaccine is created. So that'll be 6 months worth of deaths will it? Why exactly is no-one going to the countries already infected and seeing what it mutates into over there? Maybe they are, and I'm being ignorant, but on the whole the government of this isle seems to prefer the "wait till it gets here" approach rather than the "stop it even getting close to here" mindset.

Looks like it's David vs David in the final of the Tory slugfest. Personally, the two people I thought might make good Tory leaders (if this isn't considered an oxymoron) are now out. Clarke's certainly got enough experience, and Fox had some interesting ideas. Seems like the choice is now either a Tony Blair clone, or another monotonous IDS replicant. I think Labour may yet stay in power for a few years, at least until someone in the Lib Dem party actually gets off their arse and decides to do something.

Anyway, the room is swaying so to bed I must adjourn.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


A while since my last post, it seems. So much for twice a week. Hell, I can barely manage twice a month. Anyhoo... Serenity kicked ass. Admittedly, you're going to get far more out of it if you have seen Firefly but if you haven't, then you'll still enjoy it - as my boss and his fianceé would tell you, along with my flatmate and a couple of other people I've convinced to see it. For fans of the series, it pulls no punches. There are some nasty moments in there, and I came out reeling from one particular turn that set up the final half hour to be the most heart-clenching 30 minutes I've seen on screen for some time; I've never felt as tense watching a film since Phone Booth. Joss certainly did a great job transferring the characters to the big screen, but it's just a shame that he was forced to condense a full season's worth of story into two hours. The potential is right up there, every plot thread, every possible arc, all of it. It's just a shame that (it looks like) it's not going to generate the box office sales needed for either a sequel or a new series. I hope I'm proven wrong. Damn you, Fox.

Since it's Autumn, all the big shows are making a return to the small screen. Here's a rundown of what I've been watching (spoilers ahead):

The West Wing - the seventh and final series is an improvement of last season's mundane storyline, but then that's not saying much. Toby's betrayal in the last episode seems a bit too easy for my liking, especially since he makes an appearance in the first episode AFTER the new president is elected. We shall see. There's mutterings of Rob Lowe coming back for the final few episodes, and Aaron Sorkin too - but I think both of these are wishful thinking on the part of those people that remember when The West Wing was actually must-see TV.

Lost - Talking of must-see TV, the show that gripped me earlier this year is back, advancing its plot as slowly as ever yet still making for compelling viewing. Little wonder it's been a hit in the UK. I really hope they advance beyond the "pushing a button for no apparent reason" storyline sometime soon, though.

Joey - Still dumb, still fairly funny.

Alias - Now there's a quandry. Garner gets knocked up after dumping her co-star boyfriend and getting together with Ben Affleck, then gets her co-star ex-boyfriend removed from the show. Result: one less bland character on an increasingly band show. She probably did him a favour. Not really sure what happened after series 2, but the changes were not good.

Ah, for the good old days...

Gilly took me to see my first ever Gilbert and Sullivan play on Saturday - Pirates of Penzance. Superb. She's going to be appearing in Iolanthe with her drama and music group at uni next March. Can't wait to see that! Hopefully she'll get a big part, and I can be the proud boyfriend when I watch her on the final night. :)

George R R Martin's latest book A Feast for Crows is in stores - I'm waiting for it to get stocked at Even Borders can't match the £10.99 inc. delivery price.

On the gaming front, I'm up to Chapter 8 in The Longest Journey, trying to catch up with Gilly who is racing ahead. Curses. I also finished Vice City and moved on to San Andreas - a grittier game, but I'm still undecided whether it's an improvement. Time to find out!

Bon nuit.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

"Take my love, take my land...."

Firefly. Why was this show cancelled??? WHY???
Old Joss can't seem to get a break with TV these days. With this superb series not being given the recognition or support it deserved, and then having to cope with Angel getting canned, despite being the joint winner of the Saturn "Best Network TV Series" award alongside CSI, Mr. Whedon could have been forgiven for calling it a day. Thankfully though, he didn't - and now Firefly is destined to live on in the upcoming movie Serenity. The reason the movie got made? Fans of Firefly snapped up DVD boxsets to the tune of 200,000 units. So, think about this. The show is pulled because it had poor ratings (nice one, Fox). Why did it have poor ratings? Let's see.
1.) Fox played the series episodes out of order. Yes, they skipped over the 90 minute pilot which had the minor inconvenience of introducing the characters and there was that small matter of establishing a plot, and went straight to episode two about a train heist with little backstory. No wonder people didn't have a bloody clue what was going on. Fox's excuse for this absurdity? "There wasn't enough action in the pilot." Ahhh, of course. Who wants to have that pesky 'exposition' nonsense when you can dive straight into a series with NO CLUE AS TO WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON. Good one. Maybe that's why every single episode of 24 (that I can recall) has someone in it being shot or dying. It all becomes clear. Plot = bad. Death = good.
2.) Fox didn't advertise the show. This is a program by Joss Whedon. He is responsible for those minor TV shows Buffy and Angel. So of course, Firefly was destined to be insignificant too, I guess. Why these networks don't advertise new "cult" shows is beyond me. Warner Brothers scrapped Angel despite the most ridiculously huge fan appeal seen for a TV show on record. We're talking mobile billboards and sending cakes to the producers. Perhaps they're so busy making CSI spin-offs, they believe that something a bit more original than another cop show won't be of interest. Can't wait until CSI: Scunthorpe hits the screens. Fact: 200,000 DVD sales can't be wrong.
3.) Fox kept moving the timeslot. Hey, we've got a new show! What's the best way to attract viewers? Move the timeslot so they don't know when the F**K it's going to be on. Nice one. That'll establish a regular base of ... umm ... channel hoppers. I really despair sometimes.
Interesting isn't it. You sell 200k of boxsets, and suddenly people are interested in your show again. So interested in fact, that they're willing to give you $45 MILLION to make a film. A sum that could easily have made two more series. The figures don't add up. The reviews certainly do though - I've not seen an SF magazine/site that has given it less than a 5 star rating. Here's an example. And (thank the gods), it has a 15 rating so we can actually see more adult themes. I, for one, will be heading to the big screen to watch this. That's assuming the cinemas don't class it as a "cult" movie and portion it off to a one-week, one-screen showing, leaving independents to laud its efforts. Now, if only I can convince Gilly to come along. Well, I sat through Pride and Prejudice and was forced to look at Keira Knightley for 2 hours so I think she owes me. She may even be surprised and like the film, as I did with hers.
What else has been in the news recently? Well, it looks like Michelle "all chin, no talent" Rodriguez of SWAT and Resident Evil infamy will be a new recurring character on Lost. Why? WHY? (I ask that a lot these days). There are things in my fridge that could act better. I really hope she doesn't put me off the show - the first episode of the new season was stonking, and she hasn't appeared yet. Episode 3 is the one to watch out for apparently. Can't wait.
Also, I'm writing a sitcom with my good friend Wayne. Highly top secret and highly hilarious, it will take about likely 2 years to write the first episode, put together as it is via the medium of emails and ideas hastily written over every lunch break. More detail to follow. In about 6 months, probably.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

And it was all yellllllllllow

That would be my shoulder, after being shot about fifteen times in the same place with paintballs. I still love paintball though. I just can't see how other similar war games like airsoft (with plastic pellets) or laser games can compete with the actual thrill of paintball. With the former, there's no "marks" left, so it's quite easy to get shot and pretend you weren't hit. With lasers, there's no danger and no adrenaline rush. Anyway, a good time was had by all, and Chris got suitably drunk so the mission was accomplished. He really needs to get to uni though, and harden up his alcohol system ;o)

Friday was fun. I went to Oxford for the Deal or No Deal audition. To start, we watched the French version, which to be honest, was bloody good TV. Very tense, but also enjoyable - a word I never thought I'd use to describe French media. Anyway, after that the first thing they made us all do was charades - I pulled "skydiver" out of a hat, and expertly acted it out by hurling myself on the floor. They got it straight away. Maybe I should go into film. Then there was "Wheel of Doom" where you played a version of Russian roulette on a cardboard wheel (hole in one wheel, 16 symbols underneath, 15 good, 1 bad) - you had to decide whether to move it on one place or stick where you were. I played a woman, and she lost. Yes, it was that exciting! Then we had a psychology questionnaire to find out if you are a team player. Then there was a general knowledge paper (20 questions) with such taxing queries as "What is the capital of Australia?", and "In what book did Captain Nemo pilot the Nautilus?" The only one I got stuck on was "What is number 1 in the charts?" - didn't have a clue. To be honest, I'm quite proud of that. Then there was a 30 second interview where you have to talk about yourself. I hate doing that. Luckily, I got prompted - "what do you enjoy doing?" - so was able to prattle on for the remaining time. No idea if I got on the show - the last thing they ask is "Are you likely to be available for a 3 or 4 week period?" Erm, yes - I like nothing better than sitting in a hotel for a month, waiting to see if I MAY have got on a show. They said they knew it was unlikely for most people - I think they were looking for people to cover pull-outs.

On the train back to Bristol, I arrived at Bristol Parkway and asked three staff when the next train to Temple Meads was. "Oh, this delayed one - should be here at 17:35." So I jumped on it. After 20 minutes, we were still going, so I was getting a bit concerned. I asked a woman next to me what the next stop was. "Newport". Superb. How difficult is it to work out where a train stops? I wouldn't mind but there were THREE PEOPLE on the platform and they had a big discussion about it before telling me to get on the wrong train! So I then got off at Newport and luckily there was a direct train back to Temple Meads. But on the way back, two miles from the station, a group of 10 kids on an embankment hurled a brick at the train, and the window 3 places in front of me got hit. Luckily it was tough so it splintered and took the brunt, and only a few pieces of glass fell onto the inside. For a minute though, it was quite worrying. I thought someone had splattered themselves on the top of the train after jumping off a bridge. The train dropped to a crawl and I managed to get back to Bristol about 2 hours later than intended. Joy.

So now it's a case of waiting for a call from Endemol, which probably won't come (I like to be pessimistic; there's more chance of being pleasantly surprised). In the meantime, I've gotten hold of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City so I'm working my way through the missions. The radio controlled helicopter mission is possibly the most frustrating thing I've ever seen on a PC game though. Some Playstation ports really need to be thought about a bit more carefully.

Ok, time to whack some scum. Later!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Frantic... the only way to describe the coming week. On Tuesday, I'm going to Poole with Mark for training on a new CMS that we've bought for the company. I'll be staying in a hotel until Thursday, and then driving back Thursday night. The following morning I've got a trip to Oxford, for a quiz show audition. Yes indeed, Gameshow Rob is looking to top his current winning quiz run of 2 for 2 by auditioning for Endemol's new quiz imported from Australia: Deal or No Deal. It looks like a cross between Millionaire and Take Your Pick - a more detailed breakdown of the Oz version is here.

The top prize for the UK show is, I believe, £100,000. This amount would sit quite nicely in my bank account, or so my financial advisor tells me. Anyway, unlike Brainteaser and Memory Bank where I answered 20 questions on the phone, this is a full blown audition with
up to 50 people. My chances of getting on to the show are therefore slim, and the chance of winning is even slimmer. But still, can't hurt to try.

After that, I'll be travelling back to Bristol to pack up some things before heading down for a weekend in Plymouth. It's Chris's 18th, so we'll be paintballing from morning to evening on the Saturday. Then I'll be travelling back to Bristol on the Sunday. I am going to be utterly knackered.

I started playing Shining Wisdom this weekend on the Saturn. Not a bad little Zelda clone, and it still has the unique feel of the Shining series thanks to Team Sonic. I think it's going to be a little bigger than I originally thought, though. My intention was to play through the 5 RPGs I have on the Saturn and then sell it off and make enough cash on eBay to fund a Playstation 2. But now that Sony have announced that the Playstation 3 will be backwards compatible with both PS2 and PS1 games, I may just have to hold out and get one of those. Hopefully by that time I'll have won £100,000 so a new console will be but a drop in the ocean. One can dream, no?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Things You Do For Your Art

I passed my yellow belt Bushido grading today. Three and a half hours of torture. Luckily, the actual grading was only 30 minutes, but that only stopped just on the point where I was about to collapse. After performing the yellow belt kata (Bushido Sho) and the Geri Waza for the 7th time, my legs almost fell off. Well, they felt like they did, anyway. Unfortunately, I arrived home fully intending to sleep...but found myself too tired to do so. I'm probably still too psyched up, which is going to be fun, since I'm up at 7am tomorrow for a trip back to Whitchurch.

Today's post title is also a reference to The Machinist - a film where Christian Bale literally starved himself and lost almost 4 stone of weight to play a factory worker who may or may not be losing his mind. The film builds up to a revelation that was more "ohhhhh, ok" rather than "Wow!", but it's worth seeing just for Bale's performance - even better than American Psycho. It's a grimy, bleak picture painted in assorted greys, browns and blacks, but it has imagery that will burn itself indelibly into your memory.

I would write more, but I am far too tired right now. My bed awaits.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


If you haven’t already checked it out, take a look at Beaver and Steve – thanks to Gilly for the link to this superb strip. While we’re on the subject, also check out Penny Arcade and CtrlAltDel, two excellent gaming strips.

A few more records made it into my search for the “Perfect Album”:

ELO – Time

A true classic, not only was it ahead of its time in terms of both sound and production, but it still holds its own brilliantly today. ELO’s best album, it was a move away from their prog-rock roots and into the territory of popular music – incredibly, this album is almost 25 years old but seems as fresh today as it was back then, mainly because of the quality of its tracks. When you have hook-laden offerings such as Twilight, and Hold On Tight mingled with more poignant songs like Ticket To The Moon, Rain Is Falling and the oddly affecting Yours Truly, 2095 (about the future of man’s "relationship" with computers), and with a dash of political statement (Here Is The News), you have an album that is both well-written, exquisitely produced and ultimately satisfying.

Feeder – Echo Park

Like Ash, 2001 was the year for creating something a little bit special – and for Feeder, it was Echo Park that finally kicked them into the spotlight. Creating a sound unlike anything they’d produced before, and coupling it with some atrocious lyrics (example - “Get up, shut up, give me Nurofen Plus”), the album worked. Why? Because it was so damn catchy. Every single track on this record is a stonking achievement of sound over substance. Melodic riffs and punk pop abound, with more table-banging singles than you can throw a small horde of students at. Do the lyrics make sense? No. Does it sound like the band exhausted every page of the Acme™ Rhyming Dictionary? Yes. Do we care? Hell, no. Ask yourself when you’re manically jumping up and down and screaming “CD PLAYER-PLAYER-PLAYER!!!” in the Student’s Union whether you stopped to think about the words coming out of your mouth. I’d bet the answer would be “no”. That, my friend, is why this album is utterly superb.

More to come soon.

What else has happened recently? Well, last weekend Gilly took me to see some of London's...umm..sights, including the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Natural History Museum and Science Museum. This was followed by a Sunday lunch at the Duck in the Pond, where the staff succeeded in providing me a roast chicken dinner (including potatoes, stuffing, beans and Yorkshire Pudding). I didn't want carrots or parsnips, so I asked for everything except that. Easy enough, eh? No, they forgot to give me the stuffing. Or the Yorkshire Pudding. Or, get this, the chicken. So I sat there dumbfounded, staring at my plate of potatoes and green beans, trying to comprehend what must have gone through the head of the kitchen worker who was piling my plate up. "Wow, so he ordered a roast chicken dinner, but he doesn't want anything but potatoes and green beans? OK, no problem." What I'd actually said was "The only veg I want is potatoes and green beans." It's tough sometimes. Still, the Pinot Grigio took the edge off the situation.

My Bushido yellow belt grading is on Sunday. It's amazing how different this martial art is to the Kung Fu I did at university. It's a lot more involved, and I've learned far more in the 5 months I've been doing this than I did in the whole 2 years I did Kung Fu. In fact I probably learned more in the first month. Hopefully the grading will go OK, fingers crossed. I better go practice some more.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

On The Jukebox Tonight:

This Kiss - big props to Faith Hill for managing to write a song that rhymed "centrifugal", "perpetual", "pivotal" and "subliminal". Shame she's not done much else since. I also think I deserve some praise for using the phrase "big props" in that first sentence. Props, as you all know, is a US term meaning "proper respect". I'm trying to resist the urge to append the word "innit".

I've been thinking recently about music and more importantly, The Perfect Album. That is to say, an album so incredibly good that it has not one single track that could be labelled either "filler" or "crap". It's a hard task to find such an album, and I've heard many in the short quarter of a life I've lead thus far. But I've come up with a few candidates. This is of course, hugely subjective. Then again, a blog is just that anyway, so I'm not going to apologise.

1.) Pearl Jam - Ten

An album so utterly well produced, that it sends shivers down my spine each and every time I listen to it. Not a single track is wasted, from the stunning opening of Once to Even Flow, Garden, Black .... hell, they're all good. Not only that, but it is without a doubt the greatest debut album of any band in the history of the world, ever. There would be nothing Pearl Jam could do that would ever top this phenomenal record, and though they tried, Ys and Yield just couldn't match it. If I'd have been them, I would have retired then and there.

2.) Jon Bon Jovi - Destination Anywhere

Taking a break from their strutting arena pop-rock, Jon and Richie went their separate ways for a while to record solo studio albums. Jon certainly should have stayed away. This is far and away the most brilliant thing he has ever created. It's not your usual big lickin' riff-happy crowd-pleasin' amalgamation. Indeed, it's a lot darker and moodier than anything Bon Jovi ever produced and may be the reason why it was criminally rejected by the mainstream crowd despite critical acclamation. Tracks like August 7, 4:15 (a song about the murder of his manager's daughter). Midnight in Chelsea and my personal favourite Little City give you a brooding feeling of small-town depression, whilst the pick-me-ups such as Queen of New Orleans and the title track balance things out nicely. Even non-Bon Jovi fans should like this album, and that's a big statement to make.

3.) Ash - Free All Angels

2001 - the year that Ash finally got things right, before saying "sod this" and flitting back into relatively heavy Indie rock territory. But the brief hiatus from their normal guitar slamming allowed Tim Wheeler and Co. to create one of the best pop-punk albums of the last 10 years. Not even Green Day have an album that can match the infectious freshness that Free All Angels washes lovingly over your CD player. Kicking off with possibly one of the best opening tracks on any album (yes, yes, Smells Like Teen Spirit was pretty good too...) Walking Barefoot was clearly a winner of a single. Except, it didn't get released. Wheeler didn't seem to think a song about summer would sit too well in the charts around the Christmas period. Personally, I'd have held off on the album for 6 months before pumping that baby out there. Still, Burn Baby Burn, arguably one of the most infectious guitar pop tracks ever produced, made it into the top 3. And when you're a band like Ash, who will never make it big in the UK singles chart, that's pretty good going. They can take heart from the fact that Bon Jovi have never gotten past number 2 either, and they're not short of a bob or two. Even the (comparably) weaker tracks such as Shark and Candy are eminently catchy. It's an album that lifts you up and fills you with summer joy...something that seems to be missing these days amidst the constant covers and droning R+B.

Anyway, that's three that spring to mind. I have a couple more that I'm considering labelling as Perfect Albums, but I think I need to give them another listen first.

Until next time, pop-pickers!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Henry Porter and the Incredibly Obvious Ending

Book 6 of Henry wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be, despite the fact that it was an awfully big book for 500 pages of sod all to happen in, followed by a climax signposted so brazenly that you may as well only read the first three chapters and then skip to the final two. JK still hasn't managed to capture the magic (groan) of the first three books though, which were tightly plotted and with far less exposition than the next three. The final book will undoubtedly decide whether she's made of sterner stuff than I previously gave her credit for; I'm hoping Harry gets the chop. I love unhappy endings.

I went to Swindon yesterday to visit Nick who I've not seen for over 3 years since leaving Intel. It's quite worrying, he's now engaged and has a mortgage, a dog and a vegetable patch. I was expecting him to dress in tweed and run the local golf and country club, but thankfully that slice of suburbia hasn't settled on him. Yet. It was great to catch up - Swindon's still full of the type of nightlife I had no regrets about leaving behind, but it's definitely improved in a lot of places. I've invited him and his girlfr...fianceé... over to experience Bristol hospitality, so when Gilly comes over, we can do the whole "going to dinner as two couples" thing. Wow, I feel old.

On our return last night to his newly built house, we found time to fit in 2 Fast 2 Furious and I impressed myself by managing to stay awake for at least a quarter of it! I think Mr. Diesel knew a bad thing when he saw one. The same can't be said for Samuel L Jackson, in SWAT. The alarm bells should have started ringing when he heard the film tagline, which has to rank as one of the worst in the history of cinema: "Even cops dial 911". Pur-lease. With a twist so obvious that even JK will be taking notes and, in Colin Farrell, a performance so bland it makes Seagal look charismatic, SWAT was one of those generic action films that had the chance to be so much better but ultimately played it safe. And most of the time, incomprehensible. Case in point 1: the chief in charge of the SWAT team wants it to fail, just to score points against Jackson's character. Ummm...ok? Case in point 2: It takes HOW many days for one of the world's most wanted criminals to sit in a police cell, before someone realises who he is? Great policework, guys! Throw into the team some generic white guys (one has a moustache so you can tell them apart), a rapper trying to act (what IS it with that these days?) and a latino woman who does little but snarl and stomp round whilst glaring at her colleagues menacingly (Michelle Rodriguez, reprising the exact same role from Resident Evil), and you have the perfect ingredients for wasting a lot of studio dollars. Ah well Sammy, you can't win them all.

Here's a little game I'm hooked on, in between FF8 stints: Acrophobia. Fiendishly simple, I used to play this during the second year of uni before it simply disappeared into a void. But it's been resurrected by Uproar (set pop-up blocker to "Kill"), and the format is exactly the same. So go and make up some funny definitions of acronyms and earn the respect of your peers.


Friday, July 29, 2005


Wow. That was a long break. Finally moved in to the new place and, incredibly, condensed all of my stuff into a room half the size of my old one. The new place is great. Far, far less "studenty", this place actually has carpets in the living room and hall! It's also nice to get away from a house that consistently stunk of smoke due to Kasia's habit of lighting up in the kitching and living room. And it's CLEAN! Not a mouse in sight, awesome. No more Polish meals using up 3 pans and thirty plates; I'm in heaven. I will state here for the record: I will never, EVER live with an Eastern European again. And congratulations Kasia, you've put me off ever wanting to visit your country.

So life continues ever onward. Once I've got my finances in order and the bond is back in my account from the old house, I've decided to start fencing. No, I don't mean with hammer and nails, I mean with a sword and a sieve on my face. For £30, I get 6 lessons followed by a month's membership. Bargain. If I hate it, it's cost me the same as two Bushido lessons. Speaking of which, my first Bushido grading is on August 27th. I am pretty sure I won't be ready for it. It's a mere 4 weeks away! Last Monday I got taught a little Aikido which was awesome. I much prefer it to the karate side of Bushido - a big guy can take a few kicks without pause, but if you get him in a wrist lock and he weighs 20 stone, he is going DOWN (and a lot faster than a smaller person).

Tonight I'm taking Gilly to San Carlo on Corn Street. It's supposed to be a quality Italian restaurant, with all the staff and owners having moved over from there. My experience with shrimp in Skiathos has given me the taste for seafood, so I'll probably end up choosing something fishy...but they are also supposed to do a great steak too. Ah, the choices.

Final Fantasy 8 progresses, disc 2 and counting. I'll soon be looking to play the next one, but instead of getting a PS1, I'll probably just skip a generation and get a PS2. They're backwards compatible so it makes more sense. And I've not seen a console churn out more quality RPGs than the Playstation, not since the Megadrive/SNES days anyway. So if anyone has a PS2 for sale, let me know. They'll be coming down in price soon anyway with the imminent release of the PS3. Wonder if the PS3 is going to be backwards compatible too?


Sunday, July 17, 2005


It's been a while, as the last week has been so damn hectic. We've finally got a deposit down on a house. Whilst not perfect (one of the rooms is pretty small, so it'll be in the lap of the gods as to who gets it), it's really nicely decorated and with the absence of any Polish hurricanes this time round, it may well stay that way. Moving in date: next Saturday, if all goes well. That will then give us another week to shift remaining stuff over there, and clean up the existing place. God knows what Kasia's room is going to look like...from the outside looking in, you can barely see anything thanks to the perpetual fog of cigarette smoke lingering in the room like a Jehovah's Witness who just won't take a hint.

Decided to boot up Final Fantasy 8 again, and instantly lost myself for 2 and a half hours this afternoon. They could easily make a spin-off based around the card mini-game in it, that alone could eat up hours of your life. Then again, maybe they have. I'm not as up to date on the gaming scene as I once was. Maybe when I finally get enough cash saved for a new PC, things will be different. But along with a PC, I could really use around 6 months holiday a year. That would be nice.

A Clash of Kings progresses well. The start was a little slow, as Martin is trying to re-introduce all the characters again. I'm sure it'll kick in soon though. The new Henry Porter book was released yesterday to gaggles of screaming teenagers, some of whom had been queueing for up to 18 hours. Yes, EIGHTEEN HOURS in a queue, just to get a damn book. Now THAT, my friends, is the power of marketing. By all accounts, the reviews are not pretty. "Chundering", "stale" and "disjointed" are what I've heard so far, which tallies up with the state of the last book. Luckily, I won't need to buy it as Gilly pre-ordered hers about 3 months ago. Still, old J.K. can rest assured in the knowledge that even if the last book bombs, she'll still have over half a billion quid tucked away for a rainy day. Not bad for someone who has had just 6 books published. Apparently Book 7 may be some time because the movie franchise needs to catch up (they are currently 2 books behind, if you take into account that film 4 is out this year). Methinks a change of cast may be needed, unless you want 17 year old Henry to be played by a middle-aged chap with drooping jowls and a water retention problem. OK, so the actors may not be that old by then, but I've developed a taste for hyperbole and I'm going to wield it like a member of the Opposition.

Anyway, I think I may head up to the White Bear with Andy for the quiz a bit later and see if I can inject some monetary adrenaline into my flagging bank account.

Toodle pip.

Monday, July 11, 2005

War of the Worlds vs Batman Begins

I really wanted to love War of the Worlds. I did. The problem is, it was too well-promoted for me to expect anything less than a classic film. Therein, I was disappointed. Maybe if I'd read the book, I'd have been aware of how it ends and so not left gaping at the screen with an "Uh?" expression on my face. When I say "ends", I mean "cuts off". Finito, done, dusted, over. Like a guillotine through the film's tape. A quick explanation, then rolling credits. You think "hmm...ok." Then you think about the film, and you think about Tom Cruise's character.

“Hey, let’s drive our stolen minivan through that enormous throng of desperate pedestrians -- that sure won’t cause us any hardship!”

“Y’know, since those multiple, unstoppable, fast-approaching death machines are mercilessly attacking us, let’s all climb aboard this extremely vulnerable ferryboat -- they’ll never catch us then!”

“Gee, let’s all scuffle about behind this 48-inch tall antique mirror -- then that persistent, evil, well-lighted camera-sensor-tentacle thingy certainly won’t notice us!”

Come on. Spielberg can do decent sci-fi. Close Encounters (a little over-rated) and Minority Report proved that. So instead of turning a thoughtful science fiction novel (albeit with the same lax ending) into a schmaltzy treatise about parenting, why not give the audience something less sickly to get engrossed in? Independence Day worked because it was a) cheesy, b) fun and c) mixed them both with decent thrills. WOTW takes itself way too seriously, and as such, loses a lot of credibility.

Batman Begins, on the other hand, is superb. Every detail, from Christian Bale's brooding hero to Liam Neeson's morality-choked villain, via Gary Oldman's superb playing-against-type Sergeant Gordon, is fantastic. Like Michael Keaton, Bale has the quirkiness to fit the role - something that Kilmer and Clooney's pretty-but-empty presences lacked. Even the plot was a lot more plausible, albeit very similar to the original film's chemical shenanigans. And despite the fact that Christopher "Memento" Nolan rewrote Wayne's parent/Joker link, the film still works. Something that works in favour of the film is the way all the science is explained. Bruce Wayne isn't an invulnerable superhero, he's a guy that kicks ass purely because he put himself in situations where he got beaten up and had to defend himself. He doesn't have awesome technology just lying around, it's been taken from the scientific research department of his company and manufactured to fit his alter-ego and funded by his vast wealth. Most films expect you to assume this no questions asked...that's why this film is different, and therefore a little bit special.

Here's hoping the Bale/Nolan partnership continues for many films to come.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Whatever happens, we will NEVER live in a climate of fear

British people are nothing if not resolute. Today's attacks by Al-Qaeda terrorists will not have the intended results. Just like September 11th brought renewed resilience in New York and the US, the determination to carry on with normal lives will be forthright tomorrow, and in the coming weeks amongst the British people. The problem terrorists have with trying to dampen our spirit is that we're so damn downhearted most of the time anyway, an event like this only serves to bring us closer together. It would be good if some other changes come about after this though - such as clamping down our borders and kicking out the hate-spewing fanatics littering Britain's city streets.

The British people will only be made stronger by today's events.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

He's gone! He's back! He's gone! He's back!

I no longer care! As far as I'm concerned, if Steven Gerrard can't make up his mind whether he wants to play for a team that just won the Champions League then he shouldn't play, it's that simple. A man who claims to want to stay, yet rejects a wage that exceeds the GNP of many countries on the globe only to have a "change of heart" at the eleventh hour is not someone I would want to be passing a ball to if I were in that team. Apparently, he's not going to change his mind again but I'll be damned if I believe that. Give the captain's armband to someone who knows where his roots lie, like Jamie Carragher, and have done with it.

Congratulations to Lord Coe for winning us the Olympics. I bet the London borough councils were loving that. More tax increases, higher house prices, more public money diverted to fund numerous buildings that will become white elephants after a few weeks, and a shedload of people heading over here from other countries (a minority of which, I'm sure, will slip quietly through the cracks of immigration enforcement into the country's underworld). Woo.

On a more positive note, I've finally got my hands on book two of George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings. It's taken me two weeks but I'm sure it is going to be worth the wait. I'm off to bed to get some reading done.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Live 8

I've just managed to drag myself out of bed after one of those nights where you go for a quiet drink and end up absolutely blotto. Perhaps mixing wine and different types of cider isn't the best thing to do if you want a settled stomach. Ah well, I did get to try 4 different ciders before staggering home from Cotham Porter Stores with Stu and Andy. We also saw the majority of the UK Live 8 broadcast, but by the time it got to the Philadelphia show, I was too tired so in the end I missed the act I wanted to see - Def Leppard. Luckily AOL are rebroadcasting the whole event, and in a few days you should even be able to pick the artists/songs you want to listen to.

So will the concert make a difference? It certainly raised awareness of the plight in Africa, but whether or not it will be concerning the leaders at the G8 Summit is another matter. These people are politicians after all. It seems these days that the only people who use their power, wealth and influence to do anything worthwhile are rock stars. World rulers will do what they want, and be damned with the consequences. Just like Bush cares nothing for the amount of pollution his country is producing, so our leaders will only look after their best interests. The voters are finally speaking up though, the European referendum farce may well be the start of something bigger. People are starting to make their views known, and aren't content with being pushed around by politicians like Blair and Chirac. So maybe Live 8 will make an impact on some level, time will tell I guess.

Friday, July 01, 2005

War of the Words

The 12A certification debate rages on. The Daily Mail has launched a campaign to "unmask" the censors who watched War of the Worlds and deemed it suitable for kids of any age to watch it (as long as they're accompanied by an adult). I've not yet seen the film as it is on this weekend's to-do list, but it apparently contains "sustained menace" and scenes of moderate horror. Several children under 12 who have seen it have been "left traumatised". So the Daily Mail's solution? Find out the names of the bastards wot done it and give 'em a good shoein'. Or at least, the middle-class tabloid equivalent. After all, pillorying two people because their opinion about the suitability of a film differs to that of a self-righteous daily rag is perfectly acceptable behaviour. The Sun does it all the time, right?

What the Mail fails to mention is that it was the one behind the campaign to get the 12A rating instated in the first place. When Spiderman came out, the paper couldn't believe the idiotic censor board had given something so harmless a "12" rating. Of course, the violence in Spiderman is just "fine" because it's all comic-book style fisticuffs with not an inch of real menace. Totally suitable for children under 12 apparently, despite the BBFC's decision that it was the most violent film aimed at a young audience that the BBFC has classified. So off they went, campaigning away and eventually the board relented and re-released it as 12A. This certificate is known around the reviewing community with some distate as "12-fuckin'-A", due to the fact that one or two strong words are allowed to be used at this level of certification before it gets bumped up to a "15". Hell's teeth - with all the swearing edited out, I've seen Beverly Hills Cop 2 on TV at 5:30, and John Woo's Broken Arrow showing at midday. So the hypocrisy surrounding this latest vindictive attack is beyond belief. What will printing the names of these two reviewers do, except for stirring up vigilante protesters? It's the board of film classification that passes the films. If you want to talk to someone, try the two people who have their names plastered all over the certificate you see before each film - Quentin Thomas and David Cooke. I'm sure they'd be happy to hear the views of a belligerent Tory tabloid that helped foist the 12A certificate onto the public.

My opinion won't change after I see the film. The certification system is flaky at best - a halfway house between full enforcement and simple resignation to the fact that kids will find a way to see the films they want to see. "12A" is no more than a glorified "PG" - the only difference being that you need to be with an adult to see the former, yet when it comes out on video you have to actually be 12 to buy it since "12A" is a cinema classification and doesn't exist in the video world, thereby contradicting the whole point of the new certificate. Utter madness.

Anyway, that's this Friday's rant over with. Hope it helped your insomnia.


Thursday, June 30, 2005

Silent protest

They were filming a scene for an upcoming episode of Casualty in the road outside our office today. All the extras were playing protesters, complete with placards. The plot has something to do with paedophiles according to their slogans. The weirdest thing was watching them protest though; since they apparently add the sound later, the extras were waving their fists and signs but were completely silent. It was surreal to watch. I assume the same thing happens in scenes set in dance clubs for a series such as Alias. All these people dancing away randomly to nothing - I couldn't do it, dancing without music is just weird.

I'm listening to Tori Amos as I write this. One day, I may actually hear a song of hers where I understand what she says all the way through. I'm also playing Minesweeper Flags with Gilly who clearly cheats, but does it in such an adorable way that I let it slide. Either that, or I'm just crap. Women have more of a knack for puzzle-type games. My mother used to thrash me at Columns on the Sega Megadrive. She was also addicted to fruit machine simulators on my Amstrad. All of the excitement, none of the risk apparently. And what a team we made playing Streets of Rage, her as Blaze and me as Axel. She rocked.

I need a new badminton racquet. Mine has a handle that's been carefully taped up with Stu's gaffer tape, and it weighs a ton compared to other racquets. Still, it cost me all of £2.50 and has lasted 6 months. You gotta love Sports Soccer.


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The first rule... that no matter how many times you watch Fight Club it will always rock your pants. Gloriously anarchic and at the same time anti-violent, it's one of those films where repeated viewings deliver more of the message than the first time round. For all the critics that panned it for being bloodthirsty and shallow (this was the first mainstream "violent" movie release after Columbine), perhaps you should try seeing a film for what it is and not what you want it to be.

Heroes 4 progresses nicely. Accustomed to the changes in battles as I am now, I can start to enjoy the little touches that really mark it as one of the best and most enduring series to hit PC. A quick glance at my shelf tells me that I've still got a hell of a lot more games to get through yet before I can justify getting a new computer though. When that happens, and I do actually get to play Half Life 2 as it was meant to be played, it will probably be so far in the future that I'll need something like SCUMM to get it working, just like you need for old LucasArts point and clickies. Speaking of which, Gilly lent me Curse of Monkey Island when we got back from hols, and I booted it up on Friday and finished it on Sunday. I was sure it would be tougher. Ok, so I lied about having no time to blog, but dammit - I type all day at work! She's currently getting narked with the builder in Paris in Broken Sword (which I lent her in exchange for Monkey Island) but it's nice to finally have a girlfriend who is interested in games. I'm sure she'll be asking to borrow the sequel soon...

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Crash! Boom! Bang!

Despite being a rather catchy Roxette number, that's exactly what it's doing outside right now. I've not heard a storm like it for a few years. Greece has sun, we have rain. Sounds about right for summer.

House hunting progresses slowly. The problem with a democratic house is we're too democratic. Everyone knows exactly what they want, and doesn't really want to budge. I think it'd be easier to get a bill passed in the House of Lords than to compromise on our preferences for the new house. If we leave it much longer though, the decision will be made for us - it'll be whatever is left for us to take. Not ideal.

Forgot to mention yesterday that Jon is leaving WebHost Automation. A sad day indeed. Still, he will most likely be doing some contracting for us, so there will be ample chance to exchange pretentious barbs and self-congratulatory witticisms across the McDonald's table.


Monday, June 27, 2005

Long time, no blog

Finally got some time to post my first blog since returning from Greece. Had an awesome time, two weeks of sun, sea, sand and DOLPHINS baby! On one of the trips between Alonissos and Skiathos we had a school of four dolphins chasing just ahead of the boat. Absolutely incredible - if the photos turn out well, I'll get them scanned in here. Skiathos was an amazing island, incredibly laid back and with stupendous restaurants. Some of the best meals we had though were in the taverna at the apartments we stayed at. Kristos (who owns the Hermes Apartments and a restaurant and a sports centre in town too) was great. He had apparently poached the chef from one of the restaurants in the town and we didn't have a bad meal while we were there. The room was great: clean, comfortable, loads of space and everything you could need. There was even a hairdryer, much to Gilly's delight. My suitcase (which, like many fond possessions, had been in the family for over 30 years) decided to fall to pieces as we got off the bus at the hotel, so I had to get another one in town. One of the people on the bus with us told me on the way home that I should claim on the insurance. So I went to the service desk in Gatwick to try my luck. And luck was with me - apparently I needed to have filled out a report about the luggage (but it was the start of my hol and couldn't be bothered). She was in a nice mood though, so said "I'll pretend it got damaged in Gatwick, and you can get sent a new suitcase. What was it like?" Now, I knew it was a plastic-coated expandable cardboardy type thing as was popular in the pinnacle of "style" that was the 1970s, but Gilly had other ideas - "It's a hard plastic case!" she exclaimed. I pointed out that it wasn't hard plastic, but by then the nice lady was pointing on a chart at a Samsonite case ... so I went with the flow. Hell, I deserved a decent case. The one I bought in Skiathos already had a hole in it. And no, I don't feel guilty. Back to the holiday. There was a pool, a pool bar/taverna, and a games room on site, where I thrashed Gilly at table tennis every so often. There were two beaches 5 minutes away from the resort and we were bang in the middle of the bus route which meant it was only 1 Euro to pretty much anywhere. Skiathos is a great island if you want to get away from chavs, ladettes and English people with beer guts the size of Mount Olympus (I'm including women here) that can often be found in Crete/Rhodes/Corfu.

I read voraciously over the holiday, getting through Shadows Fall and A Game of Thrones in two weeks. The first was a nice "alternative" fantasy/mystery/theological amalgamation spoiled by a bit of a sappy ending, but the latter was stupendous. I've never got through an 800 page book so quickly in my life. If you've even got the smallest interest of fantasy, I cannot recommend this highly enough. I've now ordered books 2 and 3 via eBay but I have a feeling they won't last me that long once they arrive. Book 4 is out in September at least. And there's that other thing out in July that people are on about - Henry Porter or something like that. Apparently it's quite a popular series...

If I went to Greece again, it'd be in September. Same weather as June, but the sea will have warmed up. Mind you, with the temperature at the heat it was, I was quite glad of a cool dip every so often. If only the water wasn't so damn salty...ick. Next year I think Croatia is on the cards. Great views off the Dalmatian coast and even cheaper food. When she found out that ice cream was about 35p a scoop, Gilly nearly booked a holiday then and there. I'll definitely be heading back to Skiathos in a few years though. Pack the sun cream though, especially for July and August - I burnt in June so I'd probably be toast if I went any later (I did last 11 days before burning though, which has to be a record).

Anyway, I'm all Bushido'd out so I'm heading to bed. Nighty night.

Monday, June 06, 2005

As they say in Greece..."Bye".

This'll be my last post for over two weeks as Gilly and I are heading to Greece. Two weeks with beaches, swimming pools, table tennis, books, monasteries and restaurants. No computers though...damn, I'm going to get withdrawals, I can feel it now.

Anyway, see you in a fortnight. Cheerio.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Light(saber) Fantastic

Congratulations George, you finally directed a decent Star Wars film! And yes, I am including A New Hope here. Oh come on, pick your jaws up. Everyone knows Episode IV was a bit poo. The only thing worth watching was Harrison Ford. My favourite film (Ewoks aside) was Return of the Jedi. Maybe because it was the first one I ever saw, or maybe because it was simply fun from beginning to end. Revenge of the Sith comes pretty close to beating it.

After a somewhat shaky start, where thousands upon thousands of dollars are flung at us in the form of special effects (so much so, that you just cannot focus), Anakin's descent to the Dark Side starts to kick in. Aside from a dubious "What have I DONE?" to a "Yes, Master" conversion in 30 seconds flat (no joke), the film surpasses all expectations I had of it. Maybe my expectations were unnaturally low because Episodes 1 and 2 can I put it...shit?

This film ties everything together, and actually has something missing from the previous two - emotion. Anyone who fails to be moved by the climactic Skywalker/Kenobi fight has a heart of blackest granite. Ok - yes, Lucas can't write for toffee and yes, the worlds that the characters populate are so incredibly sanitised that it defies logic (does no-one eat? Does no-one have natural bodily functions to take care of? How on EARTH did Amidala get pregnant - I'm assuming by IVF since the chemistry between her and Anakin is zip...), but hell - the guy can direct a battle. Whether it's Yoda vs Palpatine or Palpatine vs Windu, the fights have to be seen to be believed. This is the kind of stuff that kids dream about, and the kind of thing they wish they could do as they wave their sticks around in the playground whilst making "zzzzmmm" noises.

Revenge is also the darkest of all six films. There are limbs scattered amidst some quite nasty lightsaber amputations. No blood though of course, it'd spoil the ambience of the sanitised sets. In my opinion though, dark is good. It's one of the reasons why Angel was so much better than Buffy. I think the series would have benefited a lot more from a more adult overtone, especially these first three films where the 12A certificate would have allowed a little more freedom than a PG. I know I remarked on the abundance of 12A action films recently, but this latest addition is one that actually needs a dark side (sorry) if it is to effectively convey the endgame that fans have been gagging to see for three years. It makes no apologies, and rightly so. And it segues into the following three films that I've got the urge to go and re-watch them. Now that's either clever marketing, or a damn fine prequel to a series. Maybe a bit of both.

I'll forgive George the last two slip-ups. Go and see this, and believe the hype.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Wanted - a Bag of Holding

Baldur's Gate's greatest creation would certainly come in handy right now. A 20KG limit on luggage for a 2 week holiday? Seriously, it's just not happening at the moment. I'm resigned to either leaving behind half of the clothes I bought for holiday, or paying an excess charge. It just can't be done. Maybe I could fit some sort of miniature anti-grav pack to the case so it loses a few kilos when they are weighing it. It's as plausible as my original idea, I guess.

Finally finished Frank Skinner's autobiography. The first autobiography I've read, and I'm quite happy I did so. Why anyone would want to go into so much personal detail is beyond me though. He lays out his soul on those pages; I can't believe it's just to shift an extra few thousand units. Anyway, check it out.

I've decided on my holiday reading:
Shadows Fall by Simon R. Green
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin and
Orcs by Stan Nicholls

All fairly meaty books, I'm looking forward to Martin's though. I've been meaning to pick up his stuff for a while now and my brother-in-law James has raved about him for some time, so we shall see. That is, if I get time to do any reading in Greece. I may be too busy scouring monasteries and ruins. Or, more likely, asleep on the beach. It's a tough life.

Went to the Highbury Vaults tonight for a pint with Andy, a TARDIS of a pub that seems to stretch back for miles. It is further benefitted by the inclusion of a Bar Billiards table in the corner, an utterly superb pub game which is, in my opinion, far more enjoyable than pool. And it lasts longer too. This is only the second pub I've seen that has one - if i owned a pub, I'd definitely get one in. If you've not played, come down to Bristol, introduce yourself to the landlord of the Highbury Vaults and say Rob sent you. He won't have a damn clue what you're on about, but it'd be good for a laugh. You could act all mysterious, wear a carnation in your lapel...that sort of thing.

Toodle pip.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Please...don't make Thirteen

Don't get me wrong. I liked Ocean's Eleven. It was flashy, sure - lots of style and a cast to die for. But it also had some semblance of a plot, and the audience was always in on the joke. Here's a dozen movie stars, brought together for a bit of a giggle and to have a good time making a remake of a film that the audience can enjoy.

The same can't be said for Ocean's Twelve. This time we have the same plot, moved to Amsterdam, and with a slightly different reason (Andy Garcia's character wants his money back, else everyone dies) and all the original characters have to come up with a plan to make enough to stay alive. This time round though, none of the cast appear interested. Pitt and Clooney stand around looking smug whilst the rest of the cast dial in their performances and collect a pay cheque. Half of them don't even get to DO anything. Bernie Mac spends half the film in prison. Basher doesn't get to blow anything up. In fact none of the characters except for Vincent Cassel (looking remarkably like Frankie Dettori) appear to be interested - they just sit around and look pleased with themselves.

Instead of Eleven's slow reveals, we have a couple of twists coming out of left-field for no purpose other than to hide them to the end and shove them in the audience's face screaming "PLOT TWIST!!". Would that the reveals were actually any good. No, this time we get a couple of fake robberies and the ultimate twist - gasp - a switch on a train. Holding it all together is a back-slapping, self-congratulatory cringefest of a script where everyone appears to be in on the joke, except the audience. Even director Steven Soderbergh seems to be bored as he switches from angled shots to black and white frames, with locations flashing up in different typefaces - possibly in an attempt to stop the viewer from nodding off by inducing some sort of epileptic reaction. Most of the scenes end with close-ups of characters assuming either an annoyed/shocked pose, or a puzzled look. Indeed, there's so much mugging going on, I had to check my pocket to make sure my wallet hadn't been lifted.

This is a disjointed mess of a film where the enjoyment is clearly kept between the cast and crew at arm's length, and away from any viewer unfortunate enough to sit through the whole 120 minutes in the hope of a decent pay-off. As the end credits roll, you'll feel cheated. It's saying something when I borrow a DVD from a friend and then feel bad for them that they've spent money on it. If you liked the original film, you won't find anything worth watching in this.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

A Slight Tangent

I missed today's blog, so I am hastily trying to backdate it. The problem is, I have no idea what I did on Thursday. My memory is so awful, that I can barely remember the last hour, let alone the last day. So instead, here are the events of Neil Tate's Thursday - one of the Milton crew, who also manages to beat me at Scrabble every so often (shh!).

"- Came home from work after not working for the last week.
- Made a curry. Not just any curry, but a Madhuban curry - the best curry sauce I have tasted outside of a restaurant or takeaway.
- Watched War at the Door and Airport whilst doing some ironing (methinks Mr. Tate is becoming a bit too domesticated. Seriously....Airport??? - Rob).
- Meanwhile, Gemma [Neil's girlfriend] tidied the house.
- Went to bed."

And there you have it. Let it not be said that this blog does not contain variety.

Oh - I just remembered: the oven got fixed today. Huzzah!

Over and out.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Good job I took Gilly out for a big lunch today since (quelle surprise) the cooker hadn't been fixed. I left a ratty voicemail for them to pick up tomorrow and I'll ring them first thing tomorrow. I can cope with eating sandwiches at night for one day, but not two.

After dropping her at the station (woo...only one week until we're off to Greece!), I went out for a pint with the house. Kasia was very drunk which is always amusing, and bitched about Olesya all night, which was even more amusing. Her favourite earrings went missing, leading Kasia to believe that Olesya is involved. So she invited us to turn her room upside down to find them. So we did. If anyone remembers that old Neil Buchanan show Finders Keepers you will get the idea of what it was like. Drawers ripped out, shelves overturned, chairs thrown around..."look high, look low!". All we needed was a big blue arrow pointing at the location, and we would have been sorted. Stu was in his element. It's always fun to trash someone's room when it isn't your own.

Didn't find the earrings though.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sizzle and Urrrrrrrrgh

Our cooker packed up tonight. Luckily, this was after Gilly had cooked us both an awesome Thai curry (Tip - try Loyd Grossman's stuff). Still, when Andy went to use it there was a rather nasty sizzle under one of the hob dials followed by acrid smoke and melting plastic. Then the damn thing got jammed on. So we had to switch the oven off completely. Methinks Jacksons will be getting a call tomorrow. Wonder how long it will take them to get it fixed? EDIT- I have been asked to point out that the cooking of a delicious meal and the disintegration of our hob's controls is purely coincidental, and has absolutely NOTHING to do with the cook.

The search for a new house continues. How hard can it be to find a 4-bedroom house for £1500-1800 a month, less than 2 miles from the centre? Very, actually. We've got just over a month and a half to do so.

Watched National Treasure tonight, a fairly enjoyable throwaway flick with Nicholas Cage and Sean Bean. This has to be only the second action film I've seen where Sean manages to make it to the end credits still drawing breath, so congratulations to him. It was certainly a nicely rounded family film, with the emphasis on family. This was strictly Walt Disney kid-friendly PG material, with little action and none of the mediocrity that has accompanied the glut of 12A-rated mildly gore-filled action films hitting the big screen recently. In fact, it was quite refreshing. Cage seemed a little untested though, he works far better when he has a more complex character to deal with. In a linear Indy-lite role, he could have quite easily sleepwalked through the entire thing, but thankfully he did try and put a bit of effort in. The end result was a farly forgettable, but fun, two-ish hours. I've still not seen Sahara, but I've heard that it is pretty similar - will be taking a look soon.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Monday Lunch

Bank Holiday Monday roasts seem to be turning into a regular thing. At the start of the month I cooked myself and Gilly a superb joint of beef with all the trimmings (I forgot the gravy though...), and today I went for garlic chicken. I did cheat a little though, and buy the chicken pre-cooked from Tesco, but it was soooooo good. And I remembered the gravy. So, Brownie points all round. What exactly did people do with Brownie points anyway? Could you cash them in at the Brownie shop? Or are they as meaningful as the points on Whose Line Is It Anyway? I do wonder.

In the evening (after a rather manic Bushido lesson, where I learnt the Geri Waza, and also learnt how to turn around. No, seriously...) we headed to the local quiz. This is at the Kings Arms just up the road, and the last time we went, Andy and I picked up a cracking £40 for winning. I say winning, but half of the answers came from Google on my phone. This time we won again, but only £20 - split between 5 of us. It's all about picking the right envelope at the end. If only I had some x-ray specs, then I could cheat at that too. Note that I do not feel even slightly guilty about cheating to win this quiz. This is because everyone in the pub does it - some more blatantly than others. One woman sat no more than 10 feet away was bellowing one of the questions down the phone to her husband. Shame he didn't know the answer...

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Lost? I certainly am.

So, the build up to the Lost finale was all about a.) what is in the hatch and b.) whether the whole raft idea will work. This is what we found out:

a.) A big hole
b.) No.

As season finales go, I don't think I've seen one that actually made me swear at the screen before. It's so damn frustrating. I get the feeling that if J.J. isn't careful, he's going to end up with another version of The Prisoner, complete with people hurling abuse over the incredulity of the ending. Only, this is the 21st Century, so instead of the British public writing strongly-worded letters to the television broadcaster and Mr. McGoohan, someone will probably just pop a cap in J.J's ass. I guess that would be one way to escalate the show to cult status...although I maintain that it deserves that anyway, as it is easily one of the best character-driven shows I've seen Babylon 5.

Now we've got to wait until Autumn for the next series. In fact, the only thing worth starting soon worth watching is the 4400. It's going to be a lean summer.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

I'll have a tub of salt with that, please.

Hey hey Alias fans, looks like another long wait to find out the next insane twist. Who is Vaughn? Since everyone in the damn show appears to be related, I'm going to guess he is Sydney's brother. That would be hysterical. It's one of those shows that isn't quite comedic, but is too ridiculous to take seriously. It's quite an unfortunate balance really, at least 24 plays it straight all the way through. Alias is an enjoyable spy pastiche but too many episodes appear to be making the show into the joke, rather than keeping it at an arm's length "knowing nod". It seems to be turning into a caricature of itself. The first two series were utterly gripping...but it seems to have lost it since then. Zombie water and memory implants? Floating red balls and more spy sisters than a Cold War convent? Mmmm.

Went shopping with Gilly for our forthcoming Grecian excursion. Man, it's going to be scorching. I'm going to fry. I spent a stupid amount on holiday clothes but was redeemed when a flurry of bids on my mobile phone in the dying minutes bumped the final price up to £85. Smashing. I love eBay.

Friday, May 27, 2005

1 day, 16 hours and 56 minutes...

...and my auction ends. Not a single bid - not even a single person watching. This is a £150 phone being sold for £29.99, people! What do you want, the moon on a stick? Is it GREEEEEEN jelly? Don't forget, you can drink your weak lemon drink now, or save it for later! Whilst I'm safe in the knowledge that most of you reading this think I may not be 100% compos mentis at least Rick will understand my "Fist of Fun" references. Where would the world be without Simon Quinlank?

It is Friday, and it is a bank holiday weekend. This means two things - 1.) I'm slightly inebriated, and 2.) Gilly will be coming to visit tomorrow. Luckily, her train doesn't arrive until half eleven, so I've got a lovely lie-in to enjoy, much to her chagrin. Ah well, I have to cope with such things, thus is the burden of Rob.

I have both Lost and Alias ready to view. The question is whether I can stay awake to watch them tonight or whether I should admit defeat and try tomorrow.

I'll give Alias a shot, but first...I need to brush my teeth.


Thursday, May 26, 2005


It turns out that the 60s was a pretty dull era. I've obviously been spoilt by the modern technology of the current age, because after watching the very first episode of Doctor Who (100,000 BC), I came away feeling like I'd lost an hour and a half of my life. Maybe kids loved it because they could put off bathtime for half an hour longer, I really don't know. But it was shockingly bad. And not in a nostalgic "Ahh, so bad it's good" sense either. William Hartnell certainly captured the quirky essence of the Doctor, but that is about as much praise as I'm going to bestow.

Next stop on the Who tour - The Daleks. 161 minutes over 7 episodes. I'm not sure I'll be able to last the distance. At least the theme tune rocks.


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Utterly Incredible

Words really don't do justice the Liverpool team of tonight's victory in the Champions League final. 3-0 down at half-time, most would have written their chances of winning. It would have been a brave man putting on a bet at William Hill for them to win after 45 minutes. Brave, or lacking in sense. But they came onto the pitch, and they battled their hearts out, and clawed back those three goals. And when it came to the moments that mattered - the inevitable penalty shoot-out - they showed the true class and grit that has pushed them, round after round, through this competition. Dudek's antics on the goal-line were sensational, both in the match itself (denying two shots from Shevchenko with incredible reaction saves) and in the shoot-out, where he emulated Grobelaar's 1984 wobbly-legs shenanigans and added his own flapping style to put off Serginho. Awesome stuff. Will Steven Gerrard stay? He hinted at it...what can Chelsea offer that Benitez can't provide? One season, one European cup. If the lad has sense, he'll be staying put. The only Special One is the one currently residing at Anfield. And we (permanently) have the trophy to prove it. Will UEFA let Liverpool defend the trophy next season? How can they not? The competition would become a mockery if the winners couldn't try to hold on to their title as European Champions. I'm sure something will get thrashed out, Mr. Blatter is unpopular enough already without having another mauling by the English press (and fans) to deal with.

An exhausting night, but a memorable one. I'm glad I stayed in to watch the match. Liverpool seem to do better when I don't go to the pub. I was in when we beat Alaves 5-4 for the Cup Winners Cup, and I was out when Liverpool lost to Chelsea in the Carling Cup. Superstitions are build on such coincidences. For those that don't get spammed with this stuff, I'll share with you some more coincidences for the curious:

1978:- Liverpool won the European Cup.

- Wales won the Grand Slam
- The Pope died.

1981:- Liverpool won the European Cup.

- Prince Charles married.
- There was a new Doctor Who.
- Ken and Deidre from Coronation Street married.
- Norwich and Crystal Palace got relegated.
- Liverpool won 17 games and came 5th in the league.

2005:- Liverpool won the European Cup.

- Wales won the Grand Slam
- The Pope died.
- Prince Charles married.
- There was a new Doctor Who.
- Ken and Deidre from Coronation Street married.
- Norwich and Crystal Palace got relegated.
- Liverpool won 17 games and came 5th in the league.

Also, every European Cup victory for Liverpool has been them in red playing the opposition in white. Guess what colours the teams wore tonight...

I love stuff like this. It's so subjective, but so fascinating.

You'll never walk alone. Not on today's streets, anyway.

Sweet dreams.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The longest 8 months of my life...

Season 5 of 24 was picked up today and rightly so. Whilst the ending of the 4th season was a little less satisfying than I'd hoped, it still made for great viewing and I was happy to see a bit more political intrigue to counter all of the blam-blam-boom-"PUT YOUR WEAPON DOWN" shenanigans of the previous ... umm ... 23 hours. Sherri was definitely missed. And I'm even warming to Chloe. What a team Edgar and her make.

Chloe - "Run a correlation matrix."
Edgar - "What good would that do?"
Chloe - "Just do it, Edgar!"

Tap tap tap tap.

Edgar - "I told you it wouldn't work!"
Chloe - (snort, withering glare) "That's because you didn't EXPAND THE PARAMETER!"

Now Edgar, surely everyone knows that you have to EXPAND THE PARAMETER when running a correlation matrix? Ya know, so that you can...correlate...on a wider...scale? Sigh. Such a rookie. This level of meaningless technobabble is one of the reasons I love 24 so much. "Quick, let's insert some random computing terms here to fool the dumb-ass public (naming no nationalities here) who will be impressed, whilst simultaneously not caring what was said!" Genius. They must have pulled some of the scriptwriters off the Star Trek sets. I was just gagging for Jack to scream at Chloe to power up the triilithium crystals, whilst Edgar sat shaking his head mumbling "It cannae be done, sir." For all its foibles though, 24 rocks. But I haven't been as excited about the season finale quite as much as I have for my new love - Lost. Two glorious hours of...more questions and head-scratching await on Thursday. Will the jungle version of ED209 make an appearance? What's in the hatch? Will the raft end up turning round and getting dumped back on the island? Will a host of polar bears come and eat everyone? I can't wait.

All of this covered the fact that the last episode of Revelations ended with all the excitement of an hour's worth of Big Brother. Nothing got answered. Nothing even happened of note. After all the build-up to an apocalyptical finale, what do we get? A bad guy who "could" be alive and a goat giving birth to a child. Superb. The problem with a mini-series like this is, they're so desperate to be picked up for a full season, that they deliberately leave things open ended. Sometimes it works (á la The 4400), and sometimes it doesn't. Like Revelations. So all we now have is 6 meaningless episodes of something that could have been an interesting take on Christianity vs Satanism, but instead turned into The Omen vs The Last Castle. Such a waste.

Current reading - Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series which is getting better by the page, and Frank Skinner's autobiography which turns out to be a lot, lot better than my brother-in-law gave it credit for.

Dentist tomorrow, for my second ever filling. Technically my third, since the dentist made a balls-up on my second one the first time round, but it's the same tooth so I'm looking forward to not being able to feel my tongue again. Gah.


Monday, May 23, 2005

Those fizzy little bubbles

I'm sipping away at new Tango Clear (a Lemon and Kiwi sugar-free alternative), and it's pretty damn tasty. Allegedly made from the juice of real Kiwis, I never imagined that I would find the taste of blended New Zealanders so appealing. I saw an advert for Fanta Z on a bus stop today and it took me 20 minutes to work out that the name was supposed to be a pun on the word "Fantasy". The problem is that when you're a Brit and say "Z" as "zed", the cleverness doesn't really work. Plus it's got those new controversial ads where people try the old Diet Fanta (or Fanta Light for our trans-Atlantic friends) and spit it out. SHOCK! DISMAY! Surely this is teaching our young ones that it's permissible to spit?!?!?! Gosh! And what about those KFC adverts that clearly teach them it's fine to talk with your mouth full? Since Mary Whitehouse complained her way off this mortal coil, the standard of advertising has gone down the pan, right? Well...actually no. People are so entrenched in the dual banes of compensation culture and political correctness these days that they will use any possible reason to gain a few extra quid. "That advert made my son ill, and now he refuses to go to school!". No, love, you're just a lazy parent who can't be bothered to take responsibility for your undisciplined little brat. It's got bugger all to do with what they saw on TV, in much the same way that video games don't breed killers. If some whining middle-class twit of a mother comes crying to the Daily Mail about how disgraceful it is that 12-year old little Kevin has turned into a sullen, aggressive hoody-wearing yob since she gave Grand Theft Auto: Vice City to him for his birthday, maybe she should be dealt with by social services for supplying an age-restricted item to a minor. Yes, there is mature content. Yes, there is violence and swearing. But yes, there is a huge sodding 18 certificate plastered all over the damn box. Get a grip and take some responsibility.

Anyway, after that little side-rant, back to the soft drinks. Fanta Z - where people spit out old Fanta and fall in love with the new one. Hmm. So basically what you're saying there is "Our last product was complete shite, even though we have the might of a huge multi-national corporation behind us. But this one? This one is ACE. Trust us." Yeah...umm...ok. If you don't have confidence in your own products, why should I? It's like washing powder. They bring out Daz, and show how white clothes get compared to Brand X. Not a stain in sight. Then they bring out Daz Ultra, and compare it to Daz. Lo and behold - there's a huge fricking STAIN on the clothes washed in old Daz, but Daz Ultra is shiny and white. Wait a second, so you LIED in your last advert about how good your product is? Is that what you're saying? I think it is. Now where is that phone number for Watchdog? I feel the need to get some compensation for my ruined clothes.

So yeah, this Tango Clear stuff. Pretty nice.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Nokia 6600 for sale!

Quick! Quick! Snap up this little puppy at a ridiculously cheap price:

Once it's gone, it's gone! You've got to be in it to win it! There's nothing in this game for two in a bed! Insert other clichés here!

After being landed with a 6 month backdated broadband bill by BT (whoa...alliteration overload), it has come to my attention that I'm rather poor. As Blackadder once put it, I'm as poor as a church mouse, that's just had an enormous tax bill on the very day his wife ran off with another mouse, taking all the cheese. So here starts my drive to increase funds before my trip to Greece. This does unfortunately mean that I'll not be able to attend Collette's birthday in Lancaster since, as these things always seem to come in threes, not only do I now have to find money for a bond for a new house, but my car has suddenly developed a puncture. I'm a big believer in karma - and if something is not meant to be, then I'm damned if I'm going to fight it. Not that I could afford to fight it right now. So, I'll be missing another Milton meeting; hopefully when Msr. Huby gets his house in order (literally), we can arrange a decent housewarming party in Huddersfield avec BBQ, football and merriment.

As much as I despise moving house, I'm looking forward to getting a place with (hopefully) a bigger room. Either a bigger bedroom, or a bigger reception room. Just somewhere I can practice Bushido without falling over chairs, CD cases or wires. This will have been my 4th house move in 2 years. With the majority of letting agents only giving you 6 month rolling contracts, there's no guarantee that come January I won't be out on my arse again. Joy.

Heroes 4 is developing nicely. Initial impressions have given way to somewhat begrudging admiration in how 3DO have vastly improved on the 3rd game but with little loss to the gameplay. The differences between 2 and 3 were negligible, but this third sequel (albeit with a confusing and hectic three-quarter down view during battles) seems to have totally revitalised the main component that holds the series together - fun. You fight leprechauns who toss their hats in the air when they're not fighting. The world screen is littered with hundreds of different things to collect, and the new lick of paint accompanying the game means that the wonder of finding out what's in the next chest is back again. The crucial update though, is the ability for your Heroes to fight in battle. This adds a certain attachment to your army that was lacking in the previous games, as you strive to keep your Hero alive and kick ass at the same time. Just one more game...


Saturday, May 21, 2005

Day One. we go. I've finally jumped on the blog bandwagon. My site is still being built, but I figured I've left it long enough without some sort of outlet for my random thoughts. Incidentally, the title for this entry is also the name of a song (and album) by Sarah Slean - a pretty fine singer. Check her out.

So, what's been cooking in the hotpan of Rob's conscious today? Weeeeell, I saw episode 5 of the 6-part mini series Revelations today. And huzzah! It's starting to get a little more interesting. Bill Pullman has been a disappointment though, his job consists of mainly standing around with a sceptical look on his face, eyes squinting in some straight-man homage to "3rd Rock's" Harry. I don't know whether this is the look of a man who is thinking "I really should have stayed in the film business", or just someone bored by the repetitive lines he has to deliver. "Yada yada, daughter. Yada yada, Hawk. Yada yada, science." Gimme Spaceballs and Independence Day any day. The only one enjoying himself appears to be Michael Massee in a far more fleshed out (sorry, bad pun) role than he had in 24. I still stand by my opinion that Ira Gaines would have made an infinitely more interesting bad guy than Dennis "you keeeled my vife und daughtaah" Hopper. Bad facial hair and an appalling German/Dutch/Romanian accent do not a convincing nemesis make.

(24 Season 4 [and 2 and 3] Spoiler alert follows!! Skip to next paragraph if you don't want to read this...)

Speaking of 24...anyone else amazed by the proximity of CTU to every single location of interest in LA? Five to ten minutes, and these guys can be at terrorist strongholds, hospitals, abandoned warehouses - you name it. I can only hope no other road users get in the way of these guys when they're in crisis mode, since at the pace they must drive I doubt there'd be time for the pleasantries of exchanging insurance details. Aaaaanyway, aside from this, I'll be interested to see how the writers will end the current series. There's a nuclear missile headed towards...somewhere in the US, and now Tony's being held hostage by Mandy (she of "explode-plane-to-get-ID-card" and "shaky-hands-with-Palmer-and-give-disease" fame). Oh, and Marwan has escaped. Again. The guy has more lives than a cat sanctuary. Now, seeing that Tony and Michelle survived last season, I'm not giving too much hope to Tony getting through this one. Especially when you consider that no-one of note has snuffed it so far (I'm not counting Ronnie, the Jack-wannabe who blatantly deserved bumping off; nor any of the numerous CTU agents that clearly have a death wish by volunteering to tag along with Jack. Why not stick a red Star Trek jumper on them, and have done with it?). Yup, with the last two episodes being aired Monday, it's going to be an interesting finale. But this is America, and since we have the double whammy of a) Roland Emmerich not being behind the camera and b) a nuke going off in season 2 already, it's not likely to happen this season. And you can quote me on that.

My workmate Mark Neil very kindly lent me the 1st season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine a few weeks back, and I've only just got round to watching it. Having seen a lot of it during it's first run on TV, I have to say I'm impressed that it hasn't aged badly at all. Despite the similarities in overall theme to Babylon 5, it has definitely got deep "Trek" rootage even if, at times, that does mean some of the episodes are a little twee and saccharine. I'm looking forward to the next few months and getting through the rest of the series (assuming Mark goes out and gets them).

Hmm...what else? Well, we're still looking for a new house. 2 and a bit months left - nothing so far. 5-bed houses are either stupidly far away, or really expensive. I rang Sarah Kenny lettings today, and asked them if they knew if their website was down. I got hold of the Saturday girl whose skills appear to consist of photocopying and making coffee. Didn't have a clue about the site, and there wasn't a whisper of knowledge about available lets. I've been "added to the customer list" and will "get a call if anything comes in, but if we don't call, feel free to call us". Inspiring stuff. Maybe I should go and introduce myself to potential landlords and charge myself extortionate fees for moving into their houses too. Oh wait, that's the job of the letting agent. My mistake.

On the gaming front, I've just installed Heroes of Might and Magic 4. First impressions: more to do, a little 'prettier', but...the heart seems to be missing. A bit like comparing Soccer Boss on the Amstrad to Championship Manager 4 on the PC. Sure, there's more to DO in the latter, but seriously, is it fun? No. But I'm willing to give it a go, so we'll see.

Right...that's enough babble for my first post. I'll try to keep this updated daily, but that blatantly won't happen.