Thursday, January 31, 2008

I write about things I know nothing about

Sometimes, as I'm sure many have noticed, I write about things I know nothing about. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with that. Sometimes it means I'm wrong; sometimes I'm right. And sometimes there is no relevant right or wrong; rather, there is just an opinion.

I don't know quite where yesterday's post fits into those categories. I have never been to Africa. I have no plans to visit any African nation. While it is in the sort of turmoil we see every day on the news (and have seen for years), that is not a continent I want to go to.

There is a conscious choice one makes when one writes. You choose whether to write something. And I chose to write something that I felt could come across as me being a bit fascist or a bit uncaring. But I want to reiterate that I am neither of those things. I am not anti-Africans (not that anyone said I am); but I am astonished at the terrible state of government over there. And the brutality of what should be normal citizens.

I enjoyed reading everyone's comments yesterday. Some I agreed with, some I didn't so much. I'm not convinced female genial mutilation (FGM) has anything to do with Christianity; I've never heard this before. I'm not saying it's incorrect; I've just never heard anyone make a direct relationship between the two, and I've happened to read quite a few articles on FGM for work reasons.

Also, I fear Four Dinners is right. Or maybe it's just that many of us (in the UK, at least) are fed up of "the Africa thing". We've had it rammed down our throats for a good few decades now. Maybe in the US it's not daily news; I believe the US is far less international in its news coverage. When you see these images and hear these stories, day in day out, for so long, you become immune to their message.

This is partly why the film The Devil Came on Horseback was so successful, I think, to me as a British viewer. It showed me the sort of things that I kind of knew but had never seen. It re-opened my eyes. And not just to the horrors of the situation, but also to the futility of trying to help. As much as the people in the villages need our intervention, and as much as it's probably the socially correct thing to intervene, we kowtow to African leaders who say they don't want us there.

When you were in the playground and your friend was being bullied, did you ask the bully, "Excuse me, do you mind if I fuck you up, for that is my friend you are hitting?" And then he would say, "Yes, I do mind," and you'd go, "Okay," and walk away?

No. Instead you would charge in there, fists and feet a-flyin', and Bruce Lee that motherfucker to the ground. That is what we should do in Africa, if we feel we should do anything. You can't fucking ask permission.

We went into Iraq for reasons far less worthy than this. Saddam Hussein, dictator though he was, had his country running peacefully. It's an odd thing to say, perhaps. Yes, he had committed and sanctioned atrocities, but he was not currently doing so. That doesn't make him a stand-up guy, granted. But if you're going to take a stand against human-rights abuses, you surely have to do it while those abuses are in progress. It's absurd to go in after the fact... after millions have been slaughtered...

Like I say, sometimes I write about things I know nothing about.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Stuff on my mind

Last night, I watched a documentary on Darfur, Sudan: The Devil Came on Horseback, about a young ex-marine who went to "monitor" and photograph the as-yet-unofficial genocide. I think this film contained probably the most brutal images of human suffering and the depravity of man that I've ever seen. Certainly on TV.

For those of you who have seen films like Hotel Rwanda and Shooting Dogs, the staged images in those films were quite horrible, as I'm sure you remember. But seeing genuine photos of similar crimes is really quite shocking. It's even more shocking, of course, that these photos were taken years after the Rwanda crisis. And now, while Darfur continues to suffer, it's all kicking off in Kenya, too: neighbours and friends macheteing each other to death because of different tribal lines.

I'm gonna come out and say it. Africa is a fucking hellhole. That's not to say I don't feel for the victims of these crimes. Of course I do. What's happening or has happened in the territories named above (among others) is shocking and appalling. But clearly there is something wrong in Africa. Every few years the most minor of supposed political disagreements causes people to grab the nearest axe and start smashing babies' skulls in. Give me a fucking break.

I don't know what we need there. Some would say wipe out the whole fucking continent. Some would suggest we need a dictator; maybe some countries just do need a dictator to keep the scum in order. Some would say let them sort out their own shitstorm. But they are incapable of doing so, as we have seen time and again.

The problem is pan-African. That's the incredible thing. We're not talking the odd country here and there. Even Kenya, now -- long seen as the most stable of African nations -- is a fucking disaster area. And South Africa, the great Rainbow Nation success story: a woman is raped there every 27 seconds. Is this normal? Is this acceptable?

But what the fuck can we do...?


In other news, it's great to see that George Bush, in his State of the Union speech, has said that when it comes to climate change (aka global warming) every country should do their bit to cut the emission of greenhouse gases and that no country should have a free ride. Um, isn't that what everyone was telling you, Mr Bush, regarding the Kyoto Agreement.

That man is such a cunt, it's astonishing! And now, what? Everyone is supposed to think he's the great forward-thinking world leader? This man has denied the existence of climate change for the past seven years, and now suddenly he's saying no country should get a free ride? The balls on this guy!


And finally, who was my 40,000th visitor? Well, technically, 40,001st, since number 40,000 was a hit via a lyric search on Google. It was Candy Minx, and then she headed off to my movie reviews page via the little logo on the sidebar. Big Brother is watching, right?

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I went to a house

Friends are nice to have. Friends with babies confuse me. The more time I spend with children, the less I understand why people want them. I mean, they're funny -- when they play peek-a-boo, for example -- but I can't deal with them for any more than a couple of hours. And they're always snotty and coughing and sneezing and spreading germs everywhere.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

I went to a gig

Truth be told, I may be getting a bit too old for gig-going. At the ripe old age of 37 and ten and a half months, standing in the cold for hours at the precise time I should be settling down to a nice warm dinner has somewhat lost its appeal.

But there are some events that dictate I buck the homely trend, and the return of Avenged Sevenfold to these shores is one such occasion.

I'm a relative newcomer to the A7X phenomenon, having really only got on the bandwagon about two years ago, and this, believe it or not, is the first full-scale UK tour they have undertaken in that time. Additionally, last night's gig was their biggest yet in the UK, so it was great to be there. And once inside, I was warm enough to strip down to T-shirt too, so it's all good. It's absolutely imperative that you show your tattoos at a rock gig. That is, after all, what tattoos are for.

You can read full details, including the set list, over at Red's blog, but I just wanted to share a couple of thoughts and post a couple of pics.

1. Black Tide were a fucking awesome opening act. It's a shame that they were halfway through their short set by the time we had snaked our way around the entire venue and got in.

2. Bloodsimple had a great sound... except for the vocals, frankly. I can take only so much of that growly shit! And I just don't like to be told, "On the count of four, I want all of you motherfuckers to fuckin' jump up and fuckin' down!" I feel like I'm in some adult-language version of a children's playground game. I'm not jumping up and down, no matter how much of a motherfucker I am, thank you.

3. A7X rocked the motherfuckin' house, and thankfully they were not full of quite the same sort of crass prompts as Bloodsimple were. We did, however, learn the middle name of guitarist Synyster Gates, when singer M Shadows introduced one of the guitar solos with the words: "Synyster Fuckin' Gates!" (European/UK readers will be saddened to note that the "M" of M Shadows does not stand for Monsieur. I wish it did.)

A great time was had by all, and we were back at home with a mug of cocoa shortly after midnight. What more could an aging rocker ask for?

Okay, motherfuckers, here's some motherfuckin' photo-fuckin-graphs. (See how rock 'n' roll I am?)

M Shadows & Zacky V
M Shadows and Zacky Vengeance

Johnny Christ & Synyster Gates
Johnny Christ and Synyster Gates

Zacky V
Zacky V

Sing, Shadows, sing!
Monsieur Shadows

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heath Ledger dead at 28

Shit. I had no idea what Candy's comment meant in my previous post: "upset about HL". Then I turned to one of the forums I go to, and there in blue and white were the words "Heath Ledger RIP", and suddenly the initials HL jumped out at me.

It's not like I was his biggest fan, but I thought he was always good in the films I saw him in, most memorably in the lead in Casanova, a film that the missus and I unexpectedly enjoyed so much that we bought it.

I will be neither the first nor the last to say this is a sad loss to the acting and film-making world.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oscar day, part 2

So the noms are in, and No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood are the big hits by number of nominations.

I can't say I'm unhappy with this result. I've long been an admirer of the Coen brothers' work, even though some of their more recent output has been seriously subpar. Word is that No Country is a return to form, and I am looking forward to seeing it.

There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson may well be dead to my wife, but I tend -- to my disappointment usually -- to give people second chances and the benefit of the doubt. I didn't love his last movie, but I certainly didn't hate it anywhere near as much as Red did, so I'll be more than happy to catch this film too.

So here are my hopes/predictions for some of the major categories, based purely on what I want and having no idea how good or bad any of the films or performances are.

I hope No Country for Old Men wins Best Picture
I hope Paul Thomas Anderson wins Best Director
I hope Johnny Depp wins Best Actor
I hope Ellen Page wins Best Actress
I hope Javier Bardem wins Best Supporting Actor
I hope Tilda Swinton wins Best Supporting Actress.

Nice to see Viggo get nominated for Eastern Promises, though, and Casey Affleck for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, both of which are also on my to-see list.

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Oscar day!

So today is the day they announce the Oscar nominees. At 1.30pm I will be sat in front of the TV, watching them unveiled live and then seeing what Mark Kermode thinks of it all. And then I'll be back with my own thoughts and maybe a few predictions, too.

Hasta luego, amigos.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

These nipples go up to 11

Friday, January 18, 2008

Guitar Hero III update

So a milestone was hit last night in my Guitar Hero playing. Finally, finally I achieved five stars on "Through the Fire and Flames", admittedly on Easy. And I got 100% on "Story of My Life". So that'll be two milestones then.

Also got another couple of 100% hits the other night, on "In the Belly of a Shark" and "My Curse" (all on Easy).

I am making inroads into Medium, reasonably good ones actually, but I just can't win the battle on that level against Lou, playing "The Devil Went Down to Georgia". Man, that's a tough one.

Sure, I'm blowing my own trumpet a bit, and sure, there are many people who won't know or care what the hell I'm on about here, but I thought I'd share nonetheless. It's a tough blogging day or me, so speediness was my prime objective. Have a great weekend, everyone.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I bought some Reese’s Miniatures

Fuck me! A 9.2oz (260g) bag cost £8 ($16). I nearly shat a lung! Still, they taste damn fine, so that's all that matters, right?

The other day, we bought four slices of pizza: £14 ($28). We also bought three little cakes with fresh cream and strawberries (as below): £10.50 ($21).

Food prices are going fucking mental, I tell you! What the hell is going on in the world? Oh wait, maybe it's just the rip-off southeast of England... Hmm.

Edit: In other news, anyone wishing to know how our birthday meal went can head over to Red's blog, where she has posted all about it.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I bought a diary

I rarely use a diary. I mean, an appointments type of diary, not like a journal/blog type of diary. I bought one last year and never used it. But this year is already looking to be busy, and I'm already getting confused about what's happening when. And that's before starting to schedule in work.

I've mentioned before that there are a couple of things on the horizon: my new nephew's christening; my mother-in-law's birthday trip (the wife and I are taking her away); about ten tattoo sessions (I have booked three 3-hour slots already); hopefully at least a couple of weekend breaks and a proper-length holiday... Y'see, it all starts to mount up.

And now I'm also having to pencil in some periodontist time. Not content with all the dentist trips at the end of last year, it seems that I now have to do a bunch this year, too. So that's something else to schedule in.

So I bought a diary. I've filled in some of the dates I already know, and I guess I'll add in others as I go along. I don't make resolutions of the new year type, but maybe this is something I will try to stick to.


But for now there's only one thing to occupy my mind:
it's Red's birthday today!!!
So we are trying to burn through our workload ASAP and then take the rest of the day off. Then tonight I'm taking her out to dinner at the poshest restaurant in the area. It's Michelin-starred and we've been there before, so we know it's great.

Shame the weather is so damn schifo today, y'know. It's really made the missus think back to the wonderfully sunny days we had this time last year in the delightful Seville. I'm thinking we should go there for her birthday every year...


On the subject of dentists, these are currently my favourite lyrics.

Take these teeth
All they do is fucking cause me grief
They ain't working for me
I can't even think.
When the lights go on
I grip this chair
I don't feel so strong
Anything could happen, it could all go wrong.
All those wasted nights
All the times when I lost the fights
Are right before my fucking eyes in print.
The figure on this fucking page
Has wiped the smile right off my face:
Eight hundred pounds is a lot to pay when you're skint.

Take these teeth
Just for a second I need some fucking relief
They're keeping me awake and I can't sleep.
Can you drain the blood?
I've swallowed so much I think I want to throw up.

Can't you see that I've had enough?
Can you drain the blood from my fucking mouth?

"I Promise This Won't Hurt", Gallows

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Friday, January 11, 2008

The countdown to 1,000 begins

Just kidding, kinda, but I guess I have to start thinking about what I can do special for number 1,000, right? Though, going by my recent output, it'll probably be a good year away or more. So stay tuned, folks!

Speaking of being a bit slack, my movie reviews (such as they are) have been a bit thin on the ground of late, but I did put one up yesterday, so why not check it out by clicking da linkz, innit? See the comments on that latest one, and you'll see how big my backlog is, too, so I'm hoping to get my shit together. Also awaiting my eyes are Constantine and Black Book.

So, what's in the news? Well, of course there is a lot of talk about the UK's return to nuclear power over the coming years. Man, I don't know... Nuclear power? I mean, have we not learned anything from the past? Okay, let's say for a minute that nuclear has had bad press. Let's look on the bright side. Apparently it's clean and it's therefore better for the environment than coal and oil.

But it has a half-life of 10,000 years. I mean, you can't just bury this shit under the Irish Sea once you're done with it and forget about it. And yes, that apparently was the plan mentioned by an unnamed governmental minister just a couple of days ago. Then last night, on Newsnight some other dude was saying that he's sure there are communities across the UK that would only be too glad to have a nuclear dumping ground and all the jobs that would entail. Um, really? Cos I can't see people lining up for that business opportunity.

This, in my humble opinion, of course, is a fucking global disaster waiting to happen. What's next? "Oh I know, let's take all this old nuclear waste material and dump it on an uninhabited island somewhere. That's fine." Yeah, and with all the ocean liners that seem to constantly crash causing massive oil spills, imagine the severity of a similar situation with a liner full of nuclear waste... Not good.

Still, most people, who probably know more about it than I do, seem concerned more about the costs of the nuclear programme than about the dangers, so what do I know...?


Also in the news is talk of abolishing the blasphemy law. What's particularly interesting about this is that the Church of England is in favour of its abolition, while the government is keen to keep the law in place (what's that about separation of Church and state again...?)

Personally, I'm all for the abolition of the blasphemy law, of course. I blaspheme from time to time. I take the Lord's name in vain. I don't necessarily think it's big or clever, but as an atheist I see it as my God-given right (ha ha!). And I certainly don't see that anyone should be punished in law for blasphemy, especially writers, artists and broadcasters, people in the public eye who are the most likely to find themselves at the end of such legislation.

Something funny is that if I blaspheme in English, the missus is mildly tutty at me, but if I do it in Italian she virtually blows a fuse. It's bizarre. Also weird is that they have this exclamation in Italian: "Cazzo di Buddha!" This means, "Buddha's cock!" This is deemed perfectly okay, but if I replace Buddha with "Dio" (God) or "Cristo" (Christ), that's highly frowned upon. So it's okay for Italians to be rude about other people's deities but not their own!

Religion is funny. Well, it would be if it weren't for the fact that it's the cause of so much of the trouble in the world... Have a great weekend, y'all.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Post #750...

And yet I don't have much to say...

Yesterday I was in The London for much of the day for a meeting. It took an hour to travel the 50 miles from my local station to London Victoria and then another hour and five minutes to travel the 4 miles from there to just up past Old Street. I fucking hate going to London. It's a total shithole for travelling around, whether by bus, Tube, or car. I'm really so glad I don't live there anymore.

So I got to my meeting late, despite technically having left plenty of time to get there (under normal circumstances). And a late arrival means a late departure, so instead of getting back home at around 5:30pm, as I'd hoped, I got back just before 7:30. Grrrr.

Still, every cloud has a silver lining, and yesterday's was lunching at Fifteen, Jamie Oliver's restaurant in the Old Street vicinity. Better still, I didn't have to pay, since it was a work thing and my clients were treating me. Huzzah!

The selection of antipasti were nice to start off with and included two different meats, some chilli-laced mozzarella (I think!), some kind of broccoli thing, red onions, olives... Nice.

Then for my main course I ordered the gnocchi in a sauce of walnut, pear, and Gorgonzola, which was really yummy (if small).

It was all washed down with a 2003 Pira Barolo, which was very nice and smooth. Just checking the restaurant's website right now, I see that wine is priced at £93 (US$185) a bottle. Ouch. Don't suppose I'll be having it again anytime soon then...


In other news, I'm still enjoying Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and, on the whole, getting better all the time. The race is on between the missus and me, and although I'm a little further through the Medium stage than she is, it's nip and tuck since we both have songs that we are stronger on.

Despite initially thinking Dragonforce's "Through the Fire and Flames" was going to be totally impossible even on Easy, we are both now managing to get through it every time, consistently achieving four stars. Which is more than can be said for Slayer's "Raining Blood", which I'm not even sure can be called a song. (Or maybe I'm just getting old... It's kind of growing on me, though.)

I'll get some updated footage up soon, but if anyone else out there is playing (Camie, LUVM, Shea, Adam...), let's see some vids of your efforts!

Right, I have some washing up and vacuuming to do now, so I'll catch you up laters.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Been a bad blogger

It's 6 January, and this is only my second post of the year. And frankly the first one wasn't all that anyway.

The truth is, I've found myself lost in Guitar Hero III, and it's taken over my life. In fact, it's taken over mine and Red's lives. Of course, we make time for work, too, but almost all leisure pursuits have been abandoned in favour of standing in front of the TV with a pretend guitar strapped across us and pressing little coloured buttons for all we're worth. It's almost absurd!

Until 20 December, we lived a Guitar Hero-less life. Until 20 December. On that fateful day, we visited our friend Ivan at his flat in Italy. Ivan loves his games consoles, and he was keen to show us -- and let us have a go on -- his Guitar Hero II and III. Oops.

We played for not much more than an hour probably -- at the end of this post, you can see video of my first-ever go -- but by the time we returned to the UK on the 26th, we had decided to buy the game. Which actually meant having to buy a console, too. We opted for Playstation3 rather than Xbox 360 because I don't have any faith in Microsoft and don't wish to give them any money either. Whether it was the best choice is a moot point among gamers apparently, but so be it.


Italy was great. I love being there. In fact, I love being anywhere that takes me away from my work, but Christmas in Italy is great. Well, Italy is great. Hmm, I'm not sure where this is going. I just love eating and drinking good food and wine/beer. And while I can do that here, it's so much easier to do so in Italy. There are so many good places to eat.

Food is so important to Italians that it must be nigh on impossible for a bad restaurant to stay in business. While here in the UK, so many cheap restaurants are shite. It's a fact, and it's a shame. As great as the strides are that have been made by the UK dining industry in recent years, they mostly are only in the expensive sector. Cheap 'n' cheerful is still desperately subpar.

The aforementioned Ivan and his brothers have a restaurant about 20 minutes' drive away from Red's family home, so we always make time to eat there. If we are in the area for more than a week, we make at least two visits. We have even been known to visit for one night only, and even then a beeline was made for Ivan's rezzy.

But another thing that's great about visiting Red's mum is that we get to see how the cats are doing. Over the years that I've been part of the family, I've seen a few pets come (and go, sadly), and there has been a new addition since our last visit.

The fun-lovin', ball-chasin', unconstrictable-eyed Rudy has been joined by a tiny black ball of fluff called Zaccaria. Zac has only one eye and was found on a roadside. (Rudy was a found cat, too, in fact.) The two of these loons together is something to behold, and although they obviously get on well and play together, Rudy was jealous of having to share us with his new lil' brother.

I used to be allergic to cats, but that has all but gone since being a cat owner myself. However, the allergy still rears its ugly head with kittens. Their fine fluffy coats just slay me. The first night I was wheezing like a motherfucker, and so I had to get some tablets (like antihistamines or something) for when I felt it coming on. They helped a lot. Which is good, cos I hate not being able to have the kitties on my lap.


So, a family tradition is, on Christmas Day, everyone goes to Red's sister's mother-in-law's house. (Got that?) This woman is great. She's really nice and eccentric, but the most incredible thing is, she makes all her pasta for the lunch herself. Her tortellini, filled with pork meat, were great. And she goes to the trouble of making vegetarian ravioli for Red, too. So she made all this pasta for 13 people, aside from the other cooking she did too. Among the food I ate that day was capon. Since the castrating of chickens is illegal in the UK, I've never tried this meat before. It was nice, but not so much so that you'd think it was better than any good-quality chicken.

Hold on, how many lunch guests???!?!!! Yep, 13. Well, the Italians are a superstitious bunch, and 13 at the table just can't be.

For a few minutes heads were scratched about how to get around this. Set another place? Serve an extra plate? But this all seemed silly. Why lose space for no one? Why waste food on no one?

The wise old mother-in-law had the answer: Petronilla can sit with us. Um, who dat? Off she shot, only to return a few minutes later with quite the spookiest doll you've ever seen, and she sat her on a small stool next to herself at the table. She had her own plate and glass and cutlery. And I have a sneaking suspicion they did indeed give her some food too. Ah, I love Christmas in Italy...

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Happy New Year!

A little late, granted, but I've been busy. And frankly, although I have a few things to blog about, I haven't quite got my thoughts in order yet. Too busy playing Guitar Hero III whenever I have spare time...

Still, in the absence of writing, I thought I'd share this with you. Clearly, the thought of beating up 5-year-olds warms the cockles of my heart.


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