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.