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.