Friday, October 29, 2010

Four film reviews

The planes to Vegas and back provided ample film watching opportunity, here are my four reviews.

The Godfather: never seen this before, but found it very enjoyable but watching it on a tiny screen on a plane was not ideal as struggled to keep up with who was getting bumped, who was double crossing and what was happening in quick asides and glances.

Toy Story 3: fast, fun, well paced tale of the toy gang I remember first seeing aged 10(!). Idea for passing the time painlessly on a plane.

Wall Street: 80s excess combined with some great scenes and ludicrous moments, while Daryl Hannah's acting should have seen her accounts frozen it was so wooden. Also, Gecko says, "Greed, for want of a better word, is good", not "Greed is good", which is the quotation I have always seen in text online.

Cemetary Junction: an enjoyable, coming of age film set in 70s backwards Britain, with uncomfortable casual misogyny and racism (of the era etc) mixed in with the more pallid bland aspects of that era, set against a cracking soundtrack and a good cast.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Viva Las Vegas

I am in Las Vegas. I’ve been here for 60 hours and have been married twice, won and then lost £2m and wrestled a tiger. No, not really.

I did go for a walk down the Strip though and that is a strange place indeed. Gaudy, bright, too bright, a custard pie in the face of the desert, in short, , it’s a bizarre place. New York New York and Paris are impressively accurate to the real thing (at least for Paris, never been to NY NY) while some of the other buildings are just massive.

Unless you have enough money to gamble a lot, I can’t see what else you could do here other than sunbathe perhaps – there’s nothing much to do that I saw.

The amount of people trying to offer you little call girl cards was unreal too, about six on each street corner, all brazen, wearing shirts, women too, and offering to everyone, even middle aged couples wandering around – why? Do they ever take one?

Anyway, that’s my indepth, one wander down the Strip review of Las Vegas.

Ill leave you with this Facebook update joke I made (which is true, and got six, yes six, "likes"): I am in Las Vegas. I sat next to a northern couple on the flight over and I hoped the man would say to his wife, "Eey oop lass, Vegas", when we landed. But he didn't."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Wire continues

So season two of The Wire (it's not about wires, I have now worked out) and it's easily already one of the best television shows I have seen (and I've seen lots).

Showing the many and varied links between all sorts of competing forces in Balitmore, and by extension the rest of the world – Greece, Russia, Le Harve in France – it's a fascinating piece of both story-telling and a representation of reality.

Twelve hour long episodes really gives the writers huge amounts of time (essentially four three hour movies) to develop characters, storylines, and setups, so they can fully explore and mine themes throughout the show.

So, while I'm many years behind the curve, it's definitely worth watching if you haven't see it already.

Also I went to see The Social Network t'other day (i.e. Facebook the Movie: Zuckerberg's revenage) and really enjoyed it. The story was excellent and well told while I particularly enjoyed the dark, menancing soundtrack that hovered in the background throughout. More of my thoughts here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Arise, Sir Chicken

I find it both strange and wonderful that coronation chicken was actually invented for the coronation of the queen in 1952. What a British way to celebrate a new monarch – make her a cold chicken dish.

I've also heard that gammon, egg and chips was invented for Henry VIII, but that could have been a lie.

Also, it's cold now – I think my previous claim that those last few days of niceness in London over the weekend were the end of the beginning of winter were correct.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Going to Gauguin

To Tate Modern on Sunday (for the first time (I think) since moving to London, shocking) to see the Gauguin exhibition on there. Here comes the reflective bit...

He's a painter I knew nothing about at all really, despite knowing the name. Lots of famous artists and the like you seem to learn bits about through osmosis but Gauguin I had never really heard anything about. But I learnt he lived in Tahiti, was a bit of a rebel and painted some interesting art.

One thing I did note in the crowded exhibition halls (too many people!) were the few yummy mummies attempting to teach their gaggle of children aged 4-8 about the works of a painter they neither know or care about. As my good friend Severs once blogged, it comes across more as the mother showing off to those in ear shot what shes knows than a genuine desire to teach children about Gauguin (Gauguin!).

If I'm wrong in their intentions, while it's admirable to have such lofty educational ambitions for your children it's surely a bit too much, too young, and certainly too public. The Tate Modern is a great building though, isn't it? I enjoyed going to the seventh floor for the views over the entirety of the immediate north side of the river and beyond – and all for free.

Also, is this weather marking the official end of summer? You always seem to get days like this in October that cast a few final rays of sun and heat across the nation before the plunging despair and black dog of winter draws in night by night, stalking across the land.

It'll be Christmas Day before you know it.

All singing, all dancing

Ok, I'm not ashamed to admit this: I went to a musical on Saturday night…and I enjoyed it.

There, I said it. The musical was Sweet Charity with Tamzin Outhwaite (her off Eastenders) and fair play she can fairly well act and sing and dance, as could the rest of the cast – then again who can’t on the West End?

That's the thing about any of these shows, whether you actively like musicals or not, you'd be hard pressed to actively not enjoy it to some degree as everyone in them is so damn talented. The voices, the dancing, the timing, the choreograph of the dancers, even the musicians, are just fantastic.

Seeing anything in the West End means you should have a right to expect it to be brilliant and maybe if you went week-in, week-out you'd start to spot flaws but for the random theatre-goer (very much me) it means you're almost always guaranteed to have an enjoyable time.

Friday, October 08, 2010


I tried to make an omelette last night and end up with metaphorical egg all over my face. Let me explain.

I had fried some mushrooms and chopped a couple of slices of pepperoni to add in to the dish and everything was ready for the addition of the eggs so I grabbed the egg box and took an egg from the box.

I should clarify that, despite what I am about to tell you, I have made many omelettes in my life, at least 40 I would say, maybe 50, and know how to make them. Yet somehow in the rush and excitement of the frying mushrooms and the egg in my hand my brain let me down.

I cracked the egg on the side of the pan and, at the same moment, said aloud, "Is this how you make an omelette?". The egg splashed and broke across the pan, immediately beginning to fry. "No," I said aloud to no-one, "this is how you make a fried egg".

Man, did I have egg on my…oh wait, I've already made that joke.

For closure nuts out there – I just turned the meal into fried eggs, mushrooms, pepperoni and a handful of chips I had already started making in the oven. Disaster averted!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

River Running in Putney

I've been living in the sumptuous surrounds of Putney for about six weeks now and it's very nice.

Putney Heath is lovely, I saw a heron perched on a sign in a lake that said "No Fishing" – even the herons are witty! – while it's nice having a high street so near that has major shops. Don't get me wrong, Stroud Green Road has its charms, but it also had it's very odd shops.

Mostly, though, I like the vicinity of the river – I like catching glimpses of it from the tube as you rattle over the bridge, I like spying it down the high street, and I love walking and running by it.

With the evenings creeping in I've found myself jogging along the silent river in near darkness, with the lights of the city illuminating and reflecting up against the river into the arcing light in the sky – Putney's east-to-west layout makes for some wonderful colour-changing skies too – and I get a new burst of energy by the sight of all this combined together, finding it both relaxing and yet enthralling, while beside the river just rolls on, rising and falling throughout the day, as we scurry madly above, below and on it, as we have done for millennia, and doubtless will continue to do so.

P.S. back to Double Deckers - it was my girlfriend who introduced me to these delights, the record should show.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Flat Earth News

I have just finished reading Flat Earth News today by Nick Davies, a hugely detailed expose of the way the media and the reporting of news has changed in the last 50 years over time as big business and commercial interests have overtaken the need for quality reporting and truth telling.

It was very interesting to read as a journalist – a news one at that – and touched on many issues I have seen myself: the rise of churnalism, the clearly fabricated story that gets run everywhere becaue it's easy and everyone else is running it, the wealth of PR nonsense that seems to invade the papers every day and so on.

But it also offered a lot more insights into specific newspapers and how they have changed and moved to become stagnant, reactionary rather than investigative, and downright duplicitous in the stories they run.

Davies seems to have save his real anger for the Daily Mail, rightly so, underlining its repeated, seemingly purposeful attempts at destroying people's lives with a lack of clear or any evidence, but instead merely appealing to the whim's and prejudices of its ramshackle readership.

He disguises his contempt well, letting it trickle through behind the sea of facts, stories and quotes the uses to make his points, the whole thing creating a feeling of deep mistrust at any of the stories you'd ever read in the paper, a lesson worth remembering when those always reactionary and scare-mongering headlines are looming up at you from petrol forecourts, WHSmiths and news agents stands.

Microsoft and chocolate

I went to see Steve Ballmer talk this morning at the LSE. He's a funny chap. Quite interesting and not in anyway a wallflower, which made for an on-your-toes kind of talk as his random way of accentuating certain words meant you couldn’t switch off.

This was a Good Thing as it started at 8.30am and all the free food promised before the event had been taken when I got there – only students would ransack free food quicker than journalists.

Ballmer reminds me a touch of the character Rawls from excellent TV show The Wire – of which I am not half way through season two and enjoying very much. I am about five years behind the curve on this show, as noted, but if you're like me I would still reinforce everything you've read about the show and tell you to watch it.

Also, massively off topic, I have really got in to Double Decker chocolate bars now, what's all that about?

Apparently the man who invented it was sacked for breaching company rules by creating it - pah (click on the above link to get this definitely true story from Wikipedia).