Saturday, December 30, 2006

A rack’s a dam and all that stuff

We all knew it was going to happen, of course, but the execution of Saddam Hussein has finally come to pass.

President Bush, we are told, was woken from his sleep (he went to bed at 9pm West Texas time) to hear the news. Wouldn't you think that as leader of the free world he might have stayed up a couple more hours for this momentous occasion? An occasion that has come around due to Bush Jr's illegal war-mongering, invading a country on false pretenses, solely to take revenge on the man who wanted to assassinate the first President Bush.

It's no secret that I think Bush is a cunt. Ditto Blair. A prize pair of cunts, the two of them. And it should go without saying that I have no love for Saddam. He was not a nice man. Did he deserve this fate? Well, maybe yes, maybe no.

Say what you like, though, he went to his death like a fucking hero. And that's how he'll be remembered. Those last few minutes of his life that we've all seen on the news today will live forever. We can only hope that we meet our own deaths with such courage.

And speaking of being remembered... Former Labour party minister Tony Benn said on the 2pm news here today that Blair will be remembered only for doing whatever Bush said. In other words, he will be remembered for being Bush's bitch. What a legacy.

We are the West. We bring freedom and liberty to oppressed nations.

If I may borrow from a film I recently watched: "Stuff it up your arse for nothing, and fuck off while you're doing it."

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Friday, December 29, 2006

A quiet day, working

I have a couple of things to blog about but have not had much time today. First thing this morning, though, I put up a double-header of reviews over at Such As They Are: Indiscreet and Down With Love. Why not treat yourself and go check 'em out?

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder

kit 'n' caboodle
The water fountain, two glasses, and the absinthe spoon.

drip drip
Place a sugar cube on the spoon and allow just a few drops of iced water to drip on to it.

Watch while the sugar cube slowly dissolves away, the thick syrupy solution edging its way towards the slots in the spoon...

... and ultimately splashing into the absinthe below.

running water
Once all the sugar has washed away, allow a steady stream of water into the glass and watch as the colour of the liquid changes. Give it a stir, and drink up.

---- oooo ----

Contrary to popular belief, it seems that there are now very few countries where it is illegal to sell absinthe, but the United States is one of them. However, even there it is not illegal to own or consume it. Equally strangely, it is illegal to sell it in France, but not illegal to produce it there.

The La Fée brand, as featured in my pictures here, apparently makes its Parisian absinthe "to a 19th-century recipe ... from wormwood (artemisia absinthium) and flavoured with anise, hyssop and other aromatic herbs". It is also "the only absinthe to be authenticated by the Musée de l'Absinthe" in France.

For more information on the fascinating history and revival of absinthe, see the Wikipedia article here, or visit La Fée Verte.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The return

I know it's still technically Christmastime for people who work in offices and stuff, but for most real people it's already time to be back at work. I guess since I work in publishing, I'm actually an office boy, but working from home means such holidays don't apply, and so I'm back at it too. Still, I can't quite bring myself to start work without writing a few words here first.

Santa was good to me this year, as he so often is. That said, Red and I always set a fairly modest budget for ourselves to spend on each other, so it's more a case that we use our imaginations and try to buy each other lots of cool little things like CDs, DVDs, and books.

Among other books I received Cormac McCarthy's The Road in hardback, which had been on my wishlist since Candy wrote this post on her blog. I've only read three pages so far, and although I didn't like the style of the first page and I don't like the lack of apostrophes in the words "can't", "won't", "hadn't", etc, I do have high hopes for the story.

I had a few DVDs, too, including the Criterion edition of Sam Fuller's The Naked Kiss, so look out for a review of that at Such As They Are over the coming days. I already have a list of nine films waiting to be reviewed over there, so keep checking it out for updates. Earlier today I posted my 60th review over there: Tears of the Sun. And why not link the site while you're at it? Links mean love, and I'll obviously give you a link in return. xxx

On the subject of movies, I got a subscription to Sight & Sound magazine. I used to subscribe years ago, but I stopped... Not sure why, now. But I feel so out of touch with what's new in film despite spending time at other movie-review sites. The main problem is that so few of the movie sites I have found give any real space to non-Hollywood films, and that is something I miss. This subscription will redress the balance.

The biggest present I received was a whole absinthe kit and caboodle: a bottle of the drink itself, two glasses, one of those snazzy sugar spoons, and an iced-water dispenser with two taps. It looks great, and I'm looking forward to getting tucked in. Once I do, I'll take a pic and post it here. Red is keen that I don't go insane on the absinthe and murder her, though.

I hope you all had your Christmas wishes and dreams come true.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

To all my blogmates...

Christmas ransom note

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Festivus and the Jedi

Today, 23 December, is Festivus, which is a festival for the rest of us. I guess "the rest of us" being those who don't subscribe to the religious backgrounds to other festivals.

I'm no believer in God and Christ being His son and all that, as you well know. That said, I absolutely abhor these "Happy Holidays" platitudes for fear of offending non-Christians. Christmas is a Christian celebration (albeit one set within the calendar at around the same time as a pre-existing pagan celebration), so will people just shut the fuck up with all that PC bullshit. (Not you, dear reader, naturally.)

Still, Festivus is the way to go, I think. As a longtime Seinfeld fan, I think the time has come for me to fully embrace Festivus. Indeed, I need to try to find an aluminium pole today. That may prove tricky at such short notice, so Tree Cool will certainly see us through this year's celebrations.

But I need to make sure that Festivus sits okay with my actual religion. Yes, I am one of the 390,000 dorks who listed their religion as "Jedi" on the last census of England and Wales. Despite that, I'm pretty much in the dark when it comes to what festivals are celebrated by us Jedis. So if anyone could shed some light, that would be most useful.

And in the meantime, head on over to Such As They Are for my latest review.

Book tag

Pickled Olives tagged me.

1. Grab the book closest to you.
2. Open to page 123, go down to the fifth sentence
3. Post the text of next 3 sentences on your blog
4. Name of the book and the author
5. Tag three people

The book closest to me is If Your Dog Could Talk... A training guide for humans by Bruce Fogle, which I'm using for reference/research.

There are just six real sentences on p.123, so the only one after the first five is: "Less conveniently, some dogs may also do the same with your slippers."

I won't tag anyone, but do it if you want to. Let me know if you do, so I can check you out. Cheers.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Delivery’s How Late?

The courier service shall remain nameless, but it managed to mix up two shipments coming from Red's mum and/or the company she works for.

One was supposed to come to us and contained Italian goodies as a little Christmas present.

The other was a table going to France.

So when our delivery arrived and it was long and flat and almost immovable, we figured something was amiss.

This was Wednesday morning. Several frantic phone calls and about 25 minutes later, things got cleared up. But still we wait...

Trouble is, y'see, the intended recipient of the table took delivery of our package (or, rather, one of his employees did, not realizing).

As I say, I would not want to name names. I'm Done Hating Losers, y'know.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Cat in “new post” shocker!

Yep, Cat has finally updated his blog. Check it out here.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Families... Who’d have ’em?!

This morning, before getting down to some work and all that other dull stuff, I had to pop into town and pay some money into the bank.

On the way I get a text from my mum. I'd texted her last night to say that the gift cards she'd mailed us for Christmas had arrived safely. Here is the text I got from her:

Now, call me old-fashioned if you will, but aren't there some types of news that warrant more than a text message? Doesn't the announcement of an engagement deserve a phone call to your first-born son? If not a phone call, at least have the decency to give it a new sentence. Or even a fucking exclamation point, as Seinfeld's Elaine would demand. (Click the link to see what I dreamed last night.)

No. Instead my mother went for the rambling non-sequitur. "Slip it in at the end of a sentence and he'll never notice," she must have thought. A bit like the classic, "Mum, Dad, I'm gay, can you pass the salt please?"

I was quite dumbfounded, truth be told. I kind of couldn't speak for a few minutes. That said, I did sort of know it was coming. Unofficially. The rumour mill in my family cannot be trusted, though, so you never really know what to believe.

Still, while in town I did buy them a congrats-on-your-engagement card. I couldn't quite bring myself to get the one that said "You two are made for each other", though. Maybe they are, but since I've said the sum total of about seven words to this guy, I'm not really in a position to judge. I hope she'll be happy.

Oh, yeah, and I posted a review of Last Days over at Such As They Are, too. It's my longest, most in-depth review to date, I think. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006



It's finally starting to get a bit Christmassy round at our house.

Yesterday, we finally got around to putting up our arboreal delight. Of course, it's not truly arboreal, because it's fake. I remember having some real trees as a kid, and the bloody pine needles just go everywhere. And Red -- rightly -- thinks it's wrong to cut down so many trees, only to throw them out a couple of weeks later. In accordance with all that and more, we go for that great British institution: the plastic tree.

Back when I was kid, though, it wasn't all real trees. We used to have a plastic one, too. It was silver -- y'know, that most realistic of Christmas-tree colours. Crazy Brits!

Anyway after erecting it yesterday (hee hee, I said "erect"), we decorated it. It looks good. So good, in fact, that I named it. In honour of the drummer from Green Day, we called it Tree Cool. Nice, no?

We didn't have enough lights initially, so we went a bought another string of them. We bought white ones, to provide a counterpoint to the old, coloured ones. And we bought a long garlandy thing with all green and red and gold Christmassy stuff on it, like holly leaves and pine cones. That's now wrapped around the head of our bed. So, it's Christmas in the bedroom, too...


It's going to prove monotonous to keep inserting into my normal blog -- i.e., this one -- little notes to tell my kind readers that I've posted a movie review, and I guess it would kind of defeat the purpose of splitting the two blogs.

So, I've added a visual link at the top of my sidebar -- a reminder, if you will, that it might be worth checking for new reviews (such as they are), if you're into that sort of thing.

Alternatively, friends, you might want to consider bookmarking that new site. Or link me up, y'know. Just like Candy, I do love to see those Technorati stats rising!

By the way, there's yet another new review for your reading pleasure over at Such As They Are: Cop Land

And there'll be another four or five coming up over the next few days, since I've got a bit of a backlog to work through.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


If you are interested in what I thought of the film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, please click here. This review has also given me the chance to try out my new scoring system. What do you think? Too much?

Friday, December 15, 2006



I'm a relatively new convert to the sweet sticky treat that is baklava, but it is so yummy! If you've never tasted it, get ye along to your nearest Turkish eatery or deli and nab some now. It's great with a cup of coffee for a mid-afternoon break.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


If you're at work, you probably shouldn't partake until you get home.

Otherwise, click here for some festive sounds, circa a long time ago. This is me and my band at the time doing a little two-song Christmas medley, predating the Manic Street Preachers' interpretation of the first track by four whole years. Apologies for the shitty sound, but it's a live recording taken from a videotape that's 16 years old.

I should also point out that it kind of goes on a bit, but it's all right for a couple of minutes anyway. Have fun!


I gotta tell you guys and gals: Red made us a mean leek and potato pie last week. Delicious.

I didn't even know if I liked leeks, y'know, but they were smashing! There must be pictures somewhere, so maybe I'll try to track one down.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Before Everybody Loves Raymond, there were many other excellent performances by acting legend Peter Boyle, who died today, aged 71.

I was always very taken with his performance in Taxi Driver, but he was also great in The X Files and, more recently, Monster's Ball. It's been so long since I last saw Young Frankenstein that I didn't even realize that he played the monster: who can forget the outstanding "Putting on the Ritz" scene?

He brought a smile to my face on many occasions, and his name in the credits of a show or film was always cause for a little "hooray". He will be missed.


A new review is up, for those who are interested in these things. Go to Such As They Are to check it out. Thanks!


It was a non-blogging day for me yesterday. Not only was I unable to post anything myself, but I couldn't get around to see what my blogmates had written. Why? Because -- disaster! -- I had to go out of the house to work...

I had an e-mail late on Monday afternoon asking if I was available to work on a magazine on Tuesday. It was a mag I'm very familiar with, having worked on it for extended stints previously. Indeed, I did six months there last autumn/winter, two to three days a week.

So, of course, that meant I was away from my desk and having to work and earn my pay. And not be caught blogging! That would be frowned upon, I fear.

I'm busy today, too, so I'll be trying to get around as and when.

There are now four films on my list to review, so I've got to catch up with that soon. And I was desperately hoping I might be able to get tattooed before Christmas. But as soon as I sat down to my workload today, I saw that this might be unrealistic.

Sorry boys and girls... not much to read here today, but Wife has posted a really excellent video, so do go and check it out if you're not one of her regulars. It's very sobering in this season of peace and love to all mankind.

Normal service blah blah resumed rhubarb rhubard soon.

Monday, December 11, 2006


After using my brain so much on my last five posts, I thought I'd take a couple of days away from blogland. Partly they were enforced, by the fact that we had so much stuff to do, what with Christmas approaching and all. But even so, you can almost always find time to blog, but I just wanted to bask in the glow of those words "Post #500" for a wee while... Sad but true.

What little bit of online time I had over the weekend was largely used in setting up a new blog. A look back over the last couple of months revealed that maybe my movie reviews are getting out of hand. So, rightly or wrongly, I've decided to set up a dedicated blog for these posts. I've made a start with putting up some of the old reviews, and once I get those up to date, I'll start adding some new ones. I may even start adding new ones before I get fully up to date with the old ones, actually, since I saw three films over the weekend... Why not check it out:

There's not a huge amount else to write about, really, although I did get to taste my first Sauternes from Château d'Yquem yesterday, from the 1999 vintage. While I'm not a massive oenophile, I do enjoy drinking wine (more so than "tasting" it), and it's always a great treat to try something from one of the biggest names in the wine world. A rare occasion, too. Big thanks to the man who shared this wine with us.

And this morning I've had to make a start on writing Christmas cards, for both family and business contacts. I grew up always giving and receiving greetings cards: birthdays, Easter, Christmas, whatever. But since meeting Red, I have come to see that it is a huge scam. (Like, no shit, Sherlock!) We all spend incredible amounts of money to send bits of paper to people. And after a brief "oh, it's from so-and-so", they sit on a desk or shelf for two weeks before being thrown in the bin (or sometimes recycled).

Most of you who read this blog regularly know I can be a bit of a cranky old curmudgeon at times, but this particular rant is less about being a Scrooge and more about concern for the world's resources. Paper wastage must surely be at an all-time high, despite the fact that we communicate electronically so much of the time. The greetings-card industry is the last vestige of a bygone era. Isn't it time to hammer the nails into the coffin?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Post #500, wherein I pay tribute to Richey Edwards and consider whether my idea of love comes from a childhood glimpse of pornography

Richey Edwards, chief lyric writer for Manic Street Preachers, was a genius. I am thinking about him right now for the same reason I do every December. On 21 December 1994, Richey played his last gig with the group, and so ended an era. So we saw the demise of the most important rock band Britain had seen in many years. On the very cusp of world domination. At the top of their craft. Well, where else can you go but down when you're at the top?

I was there that night, at London's Astoria. I recorded the gig for posterity, just as I had several Manics gigs before, on a portable tape recorder. I didn't know this would be Richey's last gig and that within four months he would disappear, never to be seen again.

But as one fire ended, another began. I returned home that night to an answerphone message telling me that my first nephew had been born. And on the subject of babies...

I'm unsure now, but it's likely that the Manic Street Preachers song "Little Baby Nothing", from their debut album Generation Terrorists was what introduced me to the "charms" of Traci Lords. Shortly thereafter I first saw some of her work, but only snippets buried among other scenes on "Best Of" tapes borrowed from my boss at the comic shop where I worked. Of the seemingly thousands of Traci Lords films out there, a great majority are actually compilation videos that contain scenes from her films. To add further confusion, many of these videos are known by more than one name: issue 1 (1990) of the UK Traci fanzine Norma K says, "Talk Dirty to Me 3 has three other titles", and it goes on to list them as Trials of Traci, Sensual Mermaid, and Irresistible Siren.

But let's go way back for a minute and think about my earliest exposure to pornography. I think I was about 12 years old. It's difficult to be sure now that so many years have passed. Some neighbours of my parents came to visit and they had a Betamax tape with them. I didn't know what was on the tape, but I seem to recall that we kids were ushered out of the lounge so it could be viewed. Later I was told it was a horror film, and I had no reason to disbelieve that. At a later date, though, probably during the school holidays, these neighbours' kid found this horror tape; it was labelled "Blood on Satan's Claw". Sounds like a horror movie, and it is a horror movie (known as Satan's Skin in the US). But what was on the tape turned out to be my first exposure to porn.

I don't recall anything about that film now. Through the years that followed, though, I (as many young men do) acquired various porn videos from various sources. A few of them are now long gone, unfortunately. But I can't quite bring myself to trash what I still have on tape, even though they sit in the cellar, virtually unloved, waiting for me to transfer them to disc. The quality is so poor, though, that it seems pointless putting them on to DVD. So titles such as Sex Boat, 19 and Nasty, Mr John Makes Candles at Home look set to lay there until the end of time. Okay, that last title doesn't actually exist; it's what my supplier wrote on the label to hide the fact that it was porn. "Mr John" is of course John Holmes, but I don't remember why the reference to candles. This same chap had about 30 three-hour videos of porn. I mean, he was quite the collector.

I remember one time when he came back from the States, one of his suitcases got lost, and it was the case full of all the porn he'd picked up there. This was back in the days when porn was literally outlawed in the UK -- about 1992. There was no legal hardcore porn back then. All you could get was badly cut versions of hardcore or terrible simulated stuff. He called me up; he was in a terrible state. He'd had to leave his key with airport officials, just in case they needed to do a random routine check of his baggage when it finally arrived. I stayed at his house with him, his dog, cats, and a couple of other pet things that rhyme with cats but I won't write down because Red can't bear even to see the word. We waited until about 11 o'clock, playing video games and watching his pirate copy of the extras from the Alien laser disc. And finally the suitcase arrived, unopened, no questions asked.

A couple of years later, and I was working in London as the manager of a betting shop near the Holloway Road. One morning when I was alone in the shop one of my punters came in. He was probably in his mid-50s but looked a bit older. Typical old-school London bloke. "Oi," he said. "You like blue movies?" Despite trying to be a professional businessman, what could I say? "Yeah, course," that's what. He produced a couple of tapes from his pockets. "You want these for a tenner?" So I bought them blind, little knowing that one of them would contain my first full-length Traci Lords film (although she is only in it for a couple of scenes, I think): Black Throat. It's a film in which Rosco, "a typical white guy", sets off to find Madame Mambo, an expert in fellatio. What follows is "an odyssey of sexual rendezvous". It's a good movie!

Porn flicks these days are not really as good as those old ones, are they? Don't we all feel that way? Indeed, this is part of the tale told in Boogie Nights. Video saved the industry undoubtedly. Made it bigger than ever. But despite the huge budgets bestowed upon porn these days, they still look pretty cheap compared to the movies that were shot on film. And with very few exceptions -- Jenna Jameson, for example -- surely there aren't the same sort of stars out there these days. I guess, though, it's horses for courses, and people will be nostalgic for what they first encountered, much as they do for music and (non-porn) films and actors.

Certainly, it's true to say that I am not extremely well versed in modern "blue movies". Some of what I've seen is pretty good, though, so maybe someone out there reading this can point to to the true classics of 21st-century porn cinema -- the stuff that a whole generation will look back on and say, "Y'know, that's where my idea of love comes from"...

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Post #499, wherein I ponder where the differences lie between exploitation cinema and some arthouse films

Specifically, I'll consider the likes of Irréversible, Baise-Moi, and Man Bites Dog in the arthouse camp, and I Spit On Your Grave, Ms. 45 and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Before getting under way, though, I should mention that I've seen only three of the aforementioned films. This post is more an open question than an analysis of particular films.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the rape-revenge flick was a staple of exploitation cinema. Films such as Last House on the Left, I Spit On Your Grave, and Ms. 45 revelled in inflicting as horrific a spectacle as possible upon the public. Some of these films may have some merit; others may not. Like any genre, the more it filters through into the mainstream, the more diluted it becomes. In some cases, the only point of interest is that the director went on to bigger and better things.

The nature of many of these films meant that they fell foul of the Video Recordings Act 1984 here in the UK, a massive blow to the video industry, which was burgeoning at that time, with exploitation movies making up a good deal of the trade. In one fell swoop, dozens of films were made illegal, deemed to contain obscene material. At one time or another, a total of 74 "video nasties" appeared on the list, and 39 were successfully prosecuted.

The Exorcist was only awarded a nationwide UK release in 1999, since the all-pervading feeling of horror would have been impossible to remove, regardless of cuts made. (Can you believe this shit?!) What seems to be a comprehensive list of all these video nasties can be found here.

Fortunately, things changed for the better when former head James Ferman left the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification). Since his departure we have seen the un-banning of many of those nasties, as well as a more liberal approach to censorship in general. To a point... What is apparent, though, is that arthouse cinema (and particularly foreign-language cinema) has more freedom than English-language fodder with mass appeal.

This was most apparent in the early 1990s when Henry and Man Bites Dog suffered entirely different fates. Of course, it can be argued that the latter film was heavy on black humour, while the former was a miserable affair from beginning to end. Another factor came into play, though, soon after Man Bites Dog was granted a video certificate. (Note to US readers: we do not have an Unrated certificate here. All films must be rated; first for the cinema, and then for video. And it is not uncommon for a different rating to be given to the home-video version than was given to the exhibition print.)

Sun video nasty campaignI have previously posted (albeit briefly) on the Jamie Bulger case. What this led to was a sort of revitalization of the "video nasty" scare. Films started disappearing from video-store shelves. But worse was the BBFC's decision to amend its own guidelines. And it was all about timing. Man Bites Dog had had its home-video certificate granted before the death of Jamie Bulger; it was passed uncut. Reservoir Dogs -- considerably less violent and, in the words of BBFC head, Ferman, "what [violence] there is is contextually justified" -- came to the Board just after Bulger's killing, and it received an outright ban for home viewing.

All of this blew over again, of course, but I do find myself wondering. And this is where I come back to the question posed at the beginning of this post. Would the liberties granted for recent French fare Irréversible and Baise-Moi be held up for English-language pictures? Sure, Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs was unscathed, but the BBFC has always had a problem with sexual violence, and yet the central and horrific nine-minute rape scene in Irréversible was spared the knife. In the same film, within the first few minutes, a man's head is pummelled repeatedly for probably at least two minutes with a fire extinguisher. Smashed and smashed and smashed until it resembles a pile of roadkill or watermelon that has been driven over. These two scenes are among the few I've ever seen that make me unsure that I want to keep watching. And I absolutely do not believe they would ever find an uncensored place in an English-language film here in the UK, even an English-language arthouse film.

Is that right, though? Should there be one rule for one and another for someone else? This privilege also extends to individual film-makers, believe it or not. Natural Born Killers was passed uncut over here only after James Ferman met with Oliver Stone, a director who he believed had artistic integrity. This integrity was what swayed the chief censor not to wield his axe.

And we're still not in Utopia yet. This page of details the latest BBFC cuts, including Casino Royale news. And this page goes into great depth on the status of many of the video nasties.


Post #498, wherein I discuss blogging and look forward to my 500th post

It's so vain, isn't it? But I'm ... well, not exactly proud, no ... more amazed that I'm almost at post #500. Back in March, when it all started, I really didn't know if I'd keep it up for any more than a few days. I only really investigated blogging because a colleague was mocking the whole phenomenon, saying: "Why do these people [bloggers] think anyone is interested in what they have to say?"

What I've found is that reading blogs satisfies a certain need that I've long known existed in me.

I've never felt fully content with any magazine that I can go and buy in a shop. They present me with page after page of shit. For every one article of interest, there will be at least half a dozen that you can't be arsed to read. That's if you're lucky. How many times have I -- or you -- bought a magazine solely for one article? Many times, that's how many.

"Sure," you might say, "that explains why you read blogs, but why do you keep one?" The answer to that is kind of related. I try to fill my blog with the things that interest me. We probably all do. I'm kind of thinking that if this stuff interests me, it might interest someone else. They may never get to read it, of course; that's the nature of the Internet. But it also exercises my creative muscle -- a part of me that has been neglected for a few years while concentrating on work. So I suppose I think I'm creating the kind of "online magazine" that I would enjoy reading.

I saw a great show on TV the other night. It was an episode of Imagine, the Alan Yentob programme on BBC1. Every episode of this series has been really good, but this one was about the Internet, focusing on music, blogging, MySpace, and the like. It was actually quite inspirational, and after it finished I just wanted to run to my machine and partake in all that the Web has to offer. It made me see -- again, because don't we all already know this? -- just how little I actually use the Web to work for me. It is such an incredible tool. And it's free. Not only free to use, but free, to a great extent, from censorship and elitism, too. Anyone can do it. They likened blogging and MySpace to the punk ethos, which had occurred to me previously, just as it must have to many. Blogging is the equivalent of making fanzines; putting music on MySpace the same as forming a band and playing in garages. The chief difference is that there's a potentially enormous audience for both that was never there before.

But we bloggers are all in the long tail of entertainment here. What's interesting, though, is that as more and more content is user generated, the long tail is getting longer. This, in turn, means that the big entertainment machine is becoming a smaller part of what consumers consume. This is a great thing for us, but a bad thing for the entertainment industry. Something's got to give.

Stay strong, bloggers of the world. The future of entertainment is in our hands!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Post #497, wherein I disclose that I no longer have any friends “of colour”

You know, whenever there is an implication that someone is racist, they bring up that old cliché: "Of course I'm not racist... One of my best friends is black." That always makes me laugh. It seems like such a racist thing to say, somehow; apart from the fact that it also almost always sounds like a desperate lie. You just want to ask them, "Oh really? What are their names?"

Well, I'm here to own up and tell you now that I don't have any black or Asian friends. Not any more. Why is this?

I used to have some, but friends come and go. I used to have some white friends that I'm no longer in touch with, too. And gay friends. Now my real-life friends are all white heteros. And I kind of miss the mix, I gotta say.

Thankfully, though, I can still eat "black" food, albeit somewhat "Caucasianized", thanks to Linford Christie and his chicken with rice 'n' peas recipe, which I have adapted even further to make it easier. Why not check it out by clicking the picture?

So what happened to all my ethnic-minority friends? What happened to my non-hetero friends? Easy. I moved away from London. I did see three black people yesterday, though. And once I saw an effeminate boy. It's not the same, though. Thank heavens for blogland.

Post #496, wherein I sing the praises of an independent record company that shall remain nameless

A couple of months ago, a new album was released by one of Wife's favourite artists. Being a diamond geezer, I preordered the CD version so that she would have it as soon as humanly possible after the release date. In the event, all things being equal, she received it on or even before the release date. So that was nice.

She listened to the record, which was a compilation of previously unreleased recordings and long-since-unavailable B-sides and the like. She liked it, just as she likes everything by this artist. All good, right? Well yes, up to a point.

A couple of weeks ago, a young chap on my blogroll asked several bloggers for recommendations of songs to go on a CD he was making on the theme of relationships. One of the people to put forth suggestions was a young woman. And one of her song choices was a track by this aforementioned artist. But Wife didn't recognize the name of this track, so she did a little research online.

It turns out that the track is on the vinyl version of the album I bought her a couple of months back, but it's not on the CD. And the problems don't end there, dear reader (and you truly are dear if you've got this far through this insanely anonymous post). In total, there were five songs on the vinyl version that weren't on the CD.

The record company in question put together a double-LP or single CD, the latter able to hold fewer tracks. But as an incentive to buy the vinyl, purchasers are told they will get a one-time-only download of their tracks to save them the hassle of ripping them to their computer, I guess.

Being a proactive kind of guy, I wrote to the record company, explaining how I felt a bit duped. That I'd paid my money and got fewer tracks than someone who paid the same price for an outdated, inferior format. This was Friday last week. On Monday, I received a reply, along with an access code for the download of the whole album, including those five extra tracks.

While I maintain that anyone who has paid the purchase price should be eligible for all the tracks on the album, I still applaud this record company for its excellent customer service. And this is not the first time they have obliged me with free music.

A few months back, this same artist released a free download on iTunes. But only on the US version of iTunes. UK users were not given access for licensing reasons. I e-mailed the company then to ask if it would be released over here; by return e-mail I was sent an mp3 of the song. I think that's fucking cool, don't you?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

And on the subject of films...

Click here to see the contents of mine and Red's Lovefilm queue. There's only 20 items on it right now, with two films in transit to us: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Syriana.

I'd be interested in seeing screen shots of your Lovefilm/Netflix queues, too, if any of you are in a sharing kind of mood.

I think I’ve created a rod for my own back with all these movie reviews (such as they are)

I watched a bunch of movies over the weekend and I'm gonna do reviews (such as they are) for each of them below. I must share with you, though, that I'm losing faith in my scoring system. Perhaps marks out of 100 are too difficult. Perhaps films that are actually quite good end up being lumped in with the average. Or maybe that's the peril of any scoring system. I rather suspect the latter, really, but who's to say? Certainly when I look in Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide, which used to be my film bible, you can find films with the same score that are clearly on different planes altogether.

I've been toying, instead, with the idea of a tiered scoring system: 20 points for story; 20 for direction; 20 for acting; 20 for enjoyment; 20 for cerebral pleasure. Or something like that. And then a total out of 100. How does that sound? Does anyone really care? This is, after all, just me being a movie snob/movie bore, isn't it?

Oh well, without further movie masturbation, let's get on with my thoughts on the weekend's viewing...

Paradise Now
A film about two young Palestinian men undertaking a suicide-bombing mission in the Israeli capital Tel Aviv: what could be more fun on a Sunday afternoon? Well, you know, it actually was quite good fun in places. Israel was up in arms about this film's inclusions in the Oscars shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film last year. Partly, apparently, because Palestine is the country of origin, and that country is not officially recognized as a country, hence it couldn't be recognized at the Oscars. Red-tape nonsense, and thankfully the MPAA has now changed its rules. (This film still had its nomination, but didn't win.) The story itself is compelling, as you'd expect, revealing to us the sort of motives that lead intelligent boys to this pretty futile end. Of course, the story has a very pro-Palestine bent, as you'd expect, but even so I think it would make interesting viewing for those with opinions on either side of the fence. The interplay between the male leads is fascinating, and there are several moments of real tension. A very good film: 70 out of 100.

5x2 (Cinq Fois Deux)
Wife and I can't quite figure out why this was on our Lovefilm queue. I thought I'd put it on after seeing a trailer, but on rewatching the trailer after the movie, it doesn't ring any bells. No matter. We were both a little apprehensive, seeing as director François Ozon let us down so spectacularly with Swimming Pool earlier in the year, the only good bits being the young lead's thrupennies; the rest of that film really stunk. 5x2 was a marked improvement, thankfully. It tells the tale of a couple, from beginning to end of their relationship, over the course of around five years. But in reverse, like Pinter's Betrayal. It was compelling and typically French, despite a really unappealing lead male character. Well acted, well directed, well told. Yet somehow... what was it, really? An exercise in cleverness? A hunt for clues to the break-up? Maybe I would feel differently without Betrayal as a point of reference, but I couldn't help thinking I'd see this kind of thing before. And of course not only in that Pinter play, but also more recently in Hollywood's Memento and France's classic modern urban horror Irréversible. Good, but not great: 66 points.

The Dark
Sean Bean and Maria Bello, ably assisted by Maurice Roëves: what could possibly go wrong? At the very least, we are sure to see Maria with her tits out and/or getting head, no? Alas, it was not to be this time around, on either count. Instead, she runs around like a blue-assed fly shouting "Sarah!" a lot, Sarah being the name of her daughter, who is missing presumed drowned on a trip to see her father (Bean) in Wales. I know Mr Bean (heh heh) has his admirers. My Hong Kong-based blogmate Soupdragon is obsessed with the man, but I can't help but say I think he's a really poor actor (sorry Soupy). I don't think I've ever seen him good in anything, with the possible exception of Patriot Games and an honourable mention for Flightplan, the latter being the only film in which I can honestly say Sean Bean was underused, so awful was everything else. I can't even bring myself to say much more. Really rather bad. I dunno: 28 out of 100?

The Ninth Gate
This has been languishing on the hard drive for ages, and finally I sat down to watch it. I really didn't know what to expect, but it's Polanski and Depp, so it can't be all bad, right? Kind of. Depp is great, really looking as though he's enjoying himself in this quirky role. The story has moments of comedy, but it isn't quite the thriller/horror that I thought it was going to be. Silly, hokey, amusing fun, but about half an hour too long. I give this 60 points.

Along Came A Spider
I saw this on TV the other night, though I missed the first half-hour. I don't think it has any great bearing of my opinion of the film. By-the-numbers action thriller, à la Kiss The Girls and The Bone Collector. Predictable, boring. Passes the time, if that's what you're looking for, without raising the pulse rate too much. This scores 43 out of 100.

Monday, December 04, 2006

I’m Sir Spammed-a-lot


Dirty. Spamming. Bastards.

I cannot believe the amount of spam I'm getting of late. What does spam mean, anyway? I'm sure there's a good definition on Wikipedia, but I'd like to make it an acronym for Stupid Pointless Annoying Mail. That's certainly what it is.

These past few days I've been getting so much, as you can see from the screen grab above. The thing is, though, I have five mail accounts, and it's only the ones that have some sort of online presence that are getting spammed: my blog one, and my work one. Look at the subject lines: "Where did you get so small prick?" is my favourite. Thanks for that, Jennifer Robidoux.

Most of the spam mails to my work address are bouncebacks. It seems my company's domain name has been hijacked for the purposes of sending spam. Great. I don't even know how to stop that.

I know there are some techie experts out there, so if you have any cheap spam-reducing methods that are worth investigating, I'd be only too happy to hear. Thanks.

You ever have one of those nights...?

You know the sort. You wake up at 4:30am and just have to go and eat some houmous and warmed pitta and drink half a glass of Coke left over from dinner. Mmmm, midnight snacks. (Well, not midnight per se, but still.)

And then, as you drift back into dreamland, you find you're starring on Strictly Come Dancing, and between dances your wife is selling bottles of her home-made olive oil to the other contestants and spectators.

It's not just me, is it? I'm sure we all have nights like that...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Went shopping

Tony Scott
On Friday, I took the day off, as predicted, and went shopping. There's lots of sales on in a bid to get people to buy for Christmas. But after a couple of hours Wife and I were still empty-handed. So we headed for Ed's Diner to have a yummy burger, but en route she espied a shoe store and was tempted inside. Shoe-shopping with Wife is often a miserable affair. She's not traditionally a big buyer of shoes, but whenever she attempts to make such a purchase she seems to be foiled by poor fit, poor design, and any of a number of other possible scenarios.

Not so on Friday. Three pairs were purchased! One by me for Christmas, and the other two with her own hard-earned pennies. And she bought two pairs of Converses last month. So that's five pairs of footwear in about six weeks or so. Pretty good going for someone who doesn't buy many shoes.

After a hearty lunch we decided to head home. But then we remembered that we need a new camera, so we can have one each when in Spain next month. So we made an impulse purchase at Jessops. One of the staff, seemingly the most senior, was an utter pompous cunt, but we bought anyway. It was in the sale with a discount of £120, which was rather fabulous.

And then, we headed for the exit. But what's this I see? Discounts on Ed Hardy T-shirts. I love those old-skool Ed Hardy tattoo designs, but the shirts have been priced too high, usually selling for £42 (US$83) at this particular store. Discount day meant 30% off, bringing the price down to a still-ridiculous almost £30 ($59). Even so, I couldn't resist. I bought the exact one that director Tony (True Romance) Scott can be seen wearing in the pic above (that's him on the left).

God, doing those conversions I can't believe that £1 = $1.98. We so should be heading to Manhattan for some seasonal sales...

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