Friday, January 27, 2006

Is it meant to be snowing today? Because it is.

Tanzania geographic 023Howdy.

Yes, I've just got back from seeing Brokeback Mountain, and yes I came via an open late Sainsbury's, and yes they had reduced bakery items in which the flour serves only to emulsify the fat in the sugar, and yep, I've just eaten too many, hence have the dual forces of tiredness and sugar-rushiness driving my brain into that chatty, witty, meaningless bollocks stage which I sometimes obtain when I've been drinking. So if I sound like I'm drunk, then sorry, but I'm not.

The pointlessly sucrose laden items in question (and there will be a whole lot of iteming as I'm still far too amused [and too easily amused] by "Unexpected item in the bagging area", which came to prominence in last week's The Now Show (prob still on Radio 4's website until Saturday). In it they merciless rip the piss from something which is just nigh on nonsensical, or merely so vague as to virtually meaningless. Basically, there's a lot of mocking which leads into someone discussing a testicular exam, which leads into the line "unexpected item in the bagging area". Yep I just shamelessly nicked someone else's joke and then horrendously mangled all the comedy out of it (and woah, I just unintentionally reverted that "mangled" to the original meaning). Anyway, for this reason Sainsbury's is now the funniest place in retaildom. Unfortunately I can't use the self-scan thing UIITBA stems from as I buy reduced things, and for that you need personal assistance, so today's was only because I was queuing next door and it was empty, so I got gestured round).

Returning to one of my many points, the sugar transportation units were labelled Yum-Yums, which weird The Goodies tie-ins aside, does sound like they are going to be more disappointing than Kinder Surprises (Google Bill Bailey on this site, and I'm sure you'll soon find alles klar, which I've probably hideously misspelt). I mean they're called Yum-Yums, ergo (and I think that is my first ever ergo, as I much prefer Lego) they will not be as yummy, scrummy and for your tummy as their name suggests. But they appear to be doughnuts left to stew in syrup, kind of like a hailstone.

Anyway, I went to see a film, and as if to prove my inability to handle sugar, the slump induced by one Fruit Pastille meant I nearly fell asleep as Heath Ledger pounds frantically away at Jake Gyllenhall's filets of topside. Yep, I was struggling to stay awake during the uber-macho sex scene. In my defence the image is quite dark (and as my brother pointed out later, I've got both sides of the family to inherit my complete emotional detachment from).

But moving away from the torpor-inducing grunting (ok, it wasn't inducing, merely coincidental), the film is gorgeous, wonderful stunning, powerful, in fact probably whatever most of the critics quoted in the posters said. It is a good film. It also happened to make me think a few things along the way, such as the profound "I need to do more exercise" as body comparisons aren’t all that favourable, and there's not really enough leeway in the language or the human mind that could ever allow the words "damn fine arse" to apply to me, although it was once memorably described as pert, which does rather suggest she hadn't been paying all that much attention. But as her boyfriend is distinctly on the flaccid side, she probably isn't a connoisseur (do such thing exist?). The even more insightful: "I need some new jeans", which while technically true before the film (and for about a year before that), was prompted visions of the DFAs striding manfully and well fittingly up mountains or straddling horses [and each other].

I appear to have got a bit fixated. Moving on (and I think the sugar is wearing off)…

Film good, I've done. "Perhaps" I haven't.

In my quest to piss off all my regular readers (and did you note how I use "all" to suggest multitudes, when I think I can probably on scrap together a tude?), I asked people to guess where something was. It's now been solved. But one of the answers I gave, in response to Dan (DFA status: unknown. What? I've started the topic, so I may as well finish [or carry on with gay abandon. No pun intended], and suggesting posterior distinction is as good a way of flattery as any), was to answer "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps", which I later realised was a subconscious link to the answer, as it is the theme tune to the BBC comedy Coupling, and the item in question, which was not in the bagging area, although it was in Covent Garden (and now my brain is wondering just where exactly is the bagging area for London? A certain lay-by beside the A3 probably), was the London Transport Museum, and what connects trains? Mais oui, l'attelage.

And by comedy, I mean the programme featuring the Miles from This Life, the guy who's at the Old Vic and who my brother saw in Pret a Manger (now there's showbiz for you. He's also particularly scathing about Jonathan Ross's car) and that bug-eyed woman who I think gets cast in unfunny comedies because she has the appearance and demeanour of a long discarded Barbie. The programme which is designed to be watched by young professionals, who come home late, and are cooking in a different room to the one it's on in. So there's enough familiarity in the situations that there exhausted brains don't have to think, and the BBC don't need to pay more money to get better writers who would make the show funnier, as the only people watching it spend at least a third of the programme in a different room, so whenever they come back in they assume something funny just happened, and like buses, they're be another one along in a minute. By which time of course, they can hear something boiling over, or the ping of the microwave, and have left the room. So they imagine it to be funny because it's a comedy programme lots of people they know watch, even though none of them actually watch a whole episode and discover it's not a series of punchlines and witticisms erratically placed throughout the programme, but an unrelenting conveyer belt of dull filler. The entire show is the build up. It's the mundane which makes the exception stand out, except there is no exception.

The bus thing is grossly untrue. When they say every 4-7 minutes, what they mean is that there are on average ten buses an hour, although 56% of the day's quota will drive past in convoy at 2.28 pm. And like lifts (23 storey buildings excepted), it's quicker to walk (should I worry that I can beat lifts on the Underground, even at the places so deep that every strike closes them?)

But "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps" seems to be a recurring theme in recent days. First came Flickr, then the plaintive sax deep below Euston (if only I wasn't broke and late), and the Spanish version in Brokeback Mountain. And anyway, it's a nicer song to have trolling round my head than the theme to Fraggle Rock (someone Googled, wanting to know where in Portsmouth it is, and so the tune got stuck), although I could equally walked away from the film with the theme to Dawson's Creek up there (and why is it people say "up there", when they're thinking of it here? Where do you visualise your thoughts occurring?), as both "Oh, oh, oh, it's… um…" end in that programme (which of course I can never admit to watching, and thus I can never be able to say "oh, it's her" if said her had been in it).

And I think I've only just got how pointed the lyrics, "you wouldn't admit you love me, and so…", are at that point of the film (yes, I just gave away part of them film, although I could have been talking about the bit where one won't admit the other to hospital).

Anyway, recurring themes happen. Understandable sentimentality also happens (and for it to be understandable to me does demonstrate just how good this film is. I tend towards the ruthless. I prefer to see it as pragmatic, and yet it's probably just being emotionally inept. Maybe I just need someone to go rockhunting with [and think of all the ones that got away]).

Oh, and some scenes in it are superbly shot, and I'm not just saying that because of the nudity (even if I do manage to be distracted by the horse in the background, or the reflection in the rear windscreen of a pickup). Ok, so some of the epic scenery is actually a little on the dull side (it's scree! It's just scree with a couple of pines sticking out).

Damn fine film containing some damn fine filming, some damn fine acting, some damn fine dialogue, some damn fine scenery and even some damn fine asses (no, it really did have donkeys).

But how on earth can anyone speak with such little movement? Heath Ledger's tea-straining face not only saves swallowing errant flies, it also saves saying most sounds. But I would it was fluke or casting that saw the thin-lipped, tight-lipped, stiff-upper-lipped Ledger play opposite the pouting, voluptuous, malleable and mobile lipped Gyllenhall (and yes, I am aware I've probably used 3 different spellings of his name, while still not being entirely sure if he's Kent or Dorset). It's curious how the lips are the characters - overt, slick, sensuous, tempting, come hither [green, if you've been reading the same ads on the tube as I have] versus taut and repressed, always having to be drawn.

But it's very late (I write slowly ok, even when typing, blame the same thing which adds lottery fun to phone numbers [I'll think the right order but say a different one. So people get brains which colour in words, whereas mine makes them up as I go along]) so I'd better stop, as it's a weeknight and unlike Dan I need sleep. Basically, film good regardless of who you are, but if you like good looking bodies (with a bias towards male, but not a total bias) then that's an added bonus (uh-oh, the lottery, Sainsbury's self-scan and male nudity have all combined to form a unified image). Go and see it.

Next week was going to be Jarhead, but my brother's going with other people, so I need to find other people to go with (as I want to use the Orange 2 for 1 thing, and I've only just figured out the number one is supposed to text to get that: 241. Oh, no u, and no relation of 1471. I see).

And hands up if anyone else thought two of the characters were called Elmer [as in Fudd]? Alma indeed.


PS. The internet is a mediocre thing. /Discuss.
PPS. Seeing OTT AOL ads would help make sense of the thing above.
PPPS. Google's started doing cinema listings as standard search results, so entering Brokeback Mountain brings up the times it's on in Leicester Square. Funky, if a bit localised (but I'm sure I could change the search area)
PPPPS. Brokeback Mountain apparently stars the leader of the UUP.

Monday, January 23, 2006

GF4 600 - Brighton - 34Especially for Stuttgarter Number 1: Not Via Bank.

[For those of you who have no idea what this is in reference to, see this photograph].

Edit at 10 pm:

Um, er...

Ignore the above. I'm sorry, I'm not sure what happened. I think someone was talking to me about Charing Cross, and somewhere my brain got a little bit mixed up (well it is sort of similar to the answer and fairly near). But as clues for Charing Cross go...

Maybe I ought to swap the picture of one of Charing Cross (which suddenly has ceased to be Charing X and become Charing + on Tube messages. Maybe X is too negative, and + is thought to be more positive), so I can pretend that is what it was all along.

Perhaps I ought to give up (but I've still got so many hints to go, such as "the wheels on the buskers go round and round", references to Nine Elms and horticultural nuns with a good set of lungs).

Oh hang on, I said it was especially for IAF, so that means I can pretend I was deliberately misleading him in retaliation for his impatience.

And did I ever mention the annual Christmas puzzles sent out with cards (whatever happened to that tradition?), including the infamous crossword in which I managed to think there was such a word as "intresting"? Although someone did get it.

Maybe I oughtn't try to set things for people to solve.


PS. Did you know Sainsbury's use supermacro for photographing their products. The reduced lemon meringue pie was reduced in more ways than I expected, as the image shows part of it about 8 times the normal size. If other people have to put magnification, scale or indication of scale* in their images, then why don't supermarkets?

* Such as those yardsticks of international comparison: the 5 cent piece and 50 pence coin (which of course got shrunk). And that reminds me: shops who display merchandise with the US price sticker on it, and then add one for sterling. The Pier (don't ask, I didn't find what I was looking for anyway) had glasses labelled as $2 each. The UK price label, which apparently showed the new, reduced price, said £2.50*. Anyone else think the shop might need the whole foreign exchange system explained to them? Because using their logic the glasses would be 1.50 if I bought them in Euros (actually, it'd be €2.15 or something like that wouldn't it?).

* And they can't blame transport costs, as the usual rule of thumb for buying US products direct from the US is to take the value in US dollars and swap the $ with a £.

PPS. Radio 1's playing Nirvana's 1992 Reading Festival set. It's odd; they're more mellow live. I know they're be scandalised reactions from some people because it took me this long to discover that, but I was only just twelve when this was recorded (which has the added advantage of making me feel very young. That is, until I work out how old a certain reader is. Bloody child of the [not quite a] hurricane (or thereabouts)).

Saturday, January 21, 2006

2006-01-14 003This would have been a breaking news post, except it's being posted a bit late because I was talking to people instead, and anyway it had already broken which is why I knew about it (ok, so being currently uninterneted and televisionless, I didn't know until my mother rang me (ok, so maybe occasionally, by which I mean very occasionally, her incessant phone calls do serve some purpose). The unI'd state also explains why posting has gone a bit infrequent and why the stuff that's been written hasn't been posted yet [and won't be for a while, as I forgot to transfer it]).

Anyway, I saw a whale. I've never seen one before, only porpoises and dolphins. And this time I didn't need binoculars, as it was about a third of the way across the Thames.

It sounds less exciting now. Admittedly having a 20 ft mammal wandering round Central London is a bit of a rarity, but some how it seemed more important yesterday. It was a whale. It looked fairly whale-ish (although a bit dolphin-y as well).

So anyway, yesterday I managed to be completely irresponsible and discover why Battersea park is called Battersea Park. Or it might just be that usually there's a fish and chip van in it, instead of yesterday's ice cream van. It had people actually buying ice cream! In January, with a fairly northerly wind blasting off the Thames. Admittedly it was also doing a roaring trade in tea and coffee to the assembled media [what is the plural for people in the media? Mediums? Or more likely Grandes? Paperazzi?], although the roaring could have been due to the five helicopters all holding station over the scene. Which did make me wonder just how much the pictures of a whale were worth to keep the helicopters running continuously (except for refuelling breaks).

With droning, clapping and roaring of the helicopters, coupled with every enterprising boat in the vicinity milling about, it's not really surprising the thing didn't seem to know where it was going; it had just walked into the cetacean equivalent of an cheap electronics store where every television and radio is on to prove it works (and they're never all the same channel). Picking up on the boats idea, I can understand why port authorities, like the Harbour Master (harbour? London's got one of those?) might show an interest. One can also vaguely understand a Police boat turning up. But a big red thing labelled "Fire Rescue"? And which appears to be carrying more Hasselblads than hoses or lenses than ladders? Well, they can probably claim it was a best value option under the PFI bit of some hastily concocted PPP scheme (actually, how long will it be before emergency services are privatised? And they discover that fire engines can make more money operating as taxis (just think how quickly they can get through traffic). Of course it might also mean that dialling 999 gets one put through to an automated call system, where pressing 1 allows one to change user account details; option 2 provides details of the customer loyalty scheme - Had 3 or more fires in the past year? Then you could save money with the LFB Toasty-Plus scheme; option 3 gives details on current fires - 19 Cardigan Rd is well ablaze. The fire at 37 Llewellyn St is currently delayed by approximately 8 minutes. The Brewer St inferno has been downgraded to a conflagration. All other combustions are operating as normal; option 4 for insurance services - Strawhouse Direct for all your flammable needs. New Oxidation-Exempt Policies cover you for fire but not the effects of oxidation, which other less scrupulous insurers insist on selling you. We believe you deserve the choice. Why pay more for something you may not need? Buy online and save more! 5% Discount for igloo-dwellers; option 5 for gas and electricity providers - Did your kitchen exploding push you over quota? Are you being charged a higher tarriff for fuel you didn't mean to use? Um, you get the idea (yes, I did start looking at Flickr and forget where this is going).

So do whales really need fire ships standing by? I know whale blubber is flammable, but it is surrounded by quite a lot of water, and it does rather lack any source of ignition (spontaneous combustion exempted, because it doesn't really exist and is usually someone being unconcious long enough to turn into a candle, hence the low fat content lower limbs left intact).

Anyway, whale + media circus. But as the reporter from the Mirror (which he emphasised was the Daily Mirror. God knows why) said, it was a slow news day. I overheard CNNers debating which dull stories they could now happily ditch. Sometimes the media worries me. Especially when they decide to start interviewing people and pick out the two small boys in mid-calf length blue cords, who hadn't actually seen the whale yet (you might have wanted to check that before your started recording. And of course while being interviewed they were missing some of the best views) and had names like Fabian and Lysander, as if the 16th century school uniform hadn't given it away yet. But then you have be impressed with people who run a broadcast from the back of an Astra. Especially when they try interviewing someone who's been dispatched by another media company.

But while in the afternoon I joined a mass hoo-ha, I'd also managed to see hawk in the morning, while taking a short cut that turned out not to be a shortcut (I think the lack of contours in my A-Z did it, as did forgetting that page 49 is not going to be at central London scale). But I found a very nice place, which is very like where I grew up (big houses, narrow roads, steep hills and lots of trees. Unfortunately it's also like a certain place southwest of here in that it has lot of very expensive, very big and very badly driven cars, complement with women who think that pulling an "Oh, silly me!" face will cancel out the fact they've just backed into a crowded pavement).

You will of course notice that lack of placenames. That's because it's close to where I live, and I don't really want someone I might know Googling for "late night shopping in Barnstaple" and finding me talking about that subject, and joining the dots. Whereas it probably doesn't matter if those who habitually read this figure things out, as the majority are in a different country (well, up north is mentally a different country) which limits stalking ability, and anyway, I appear to managing to stalk one of them.

So if I start talking about Haywards Heath or Tunbridge then you can probably figure out where I mean (although some of the other names need work: Oxlair or Oxburrow sounds vaguely possible, although Pastel Fields isn't short enough and Early-New-Testament-Book Ash isn't enough of a place to start with), and if you can't, please don't use the comments to guess.

Of course, I'll probably forget all this and mention some road, bus route (I discovered then end of one post-whale), what I can see from the kitchen or even that the places have aliases, much like I did with Tweeton, Notacity, Notavillage and whatever I called the other places.

Anyway, I'd better go and do some of the things I mean to do yesterday, and didn't manage to do this morning through a mix of market-induced confusion (how much is 1.69 per kilogram in lb [spot who was raised pre-EU-isation]? How does that compare with a pound a dozen? How many come in the one pound per bowl option, and how much do they weigh? Are only those on top decent quality? Will I get all the dross? Will the server lean on the scales? And why haven't the people who haven't priced anything realised that the reason no-one buys stuff from them is because no-one knows how much any of it costs, although berating passers-by for not buying things is not really a good sales technique, especially if the berater can't even be bothered to leave their chair?).


PS. New shoes may also cause blisters. Drat.
PPS. Radio 4 is very addictive, isn't it? My flatmate left it on, and suddenly I found myself standing by the radio for the entire duration of The Now Show.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

GF9 600 - 02I ought to blog, as I haven't in a while, and I'm worried what people might think of the last post. I've got a half written post waiting, except I've just discovered it's on a different, no-longer-interneted computer. And I really can't be bothered to either replicate it or dig up a copy, so you'll get tired, worried and soporifically overheated thoughts from... I got that in the wrong order, didn't I?

Oh, and I should mention, the whole househunting saga is over. I've moved. And only now do I discover that one of the flatmates smokes. Hence the tiredness, worriedness and overheatedness. Not the smoking, the new people/place-ing.

Oh, and for some reason this computer keeps going on strike so nothing works for minutes at a time. So I'll do what I always do when I'm without anything to talk about (and consider stats stuff too much like hard work): Flickr.

There are yet more new images on there. Not as many as I wanted to get done, but things didn't go to plan.

There are series playing round with televisions and monitors, driving the human into the abstract. There are those intended simply to annoy. A cluster from Friday the 13th, which skip the unluckiness. A whole real actual film of pictures taken at the Trafalgar Day event back in, um... October sometime, I think, which I haven't had chance to tag yet, and of which some are fairly good. A couple of even earlier films taken around London: GF6, GF7 and GF8. Which gets us back to Christmas and the snow. Those taken on film, with a proper [broken] camera tend to be better, so Traf and the GF's if you're easily distracted.

You might notice from the spurious dates and lack of tagging on some, that I haven't finished sorting them yet, but I'm sure you'll cope. The lastest batches also haven't been put into sets, like the "I Like" grouping (which you might also want to check out [this is a less than subtle and rather despairing hint]).

Basically more pictures on Flickr. Some of them are even good. Go and look. Comment if you like. Heck you can even start commenting here if you like (apparently I missed Delurk Week last week).

But that'll have to do for now as I've still got a bed to invent.



PS. Flickr.

PPS. I'm still waiting. There's a clue elsewhere on my account. Answers on a postcard (or via any other viable means). The prize: maybe a postcard (well one of you has already had that, but that was an experiment. I'm surprised the postcarded one hasn't got it though).

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

GF8 600 - 18 Bus UCHWow, BBC London News have just managed to mention I know about. The thin red line which wobbles down the pavement along TCR. Well done, BBC London, because it only appeared sometime before the weekend. Admittedly I'm not faring much better at finding the reason, although I haven't really been trying. When I first saw it I assumed it was the council or some utilities thing, similar to Brixton's battered kerbs picked out in white (oh, I've just realised I forgot to get the Red Hot Chilli Peppers dancing - it was the part of the Christmas lights and I think they might have been supposed to be carrots [because they're so much more Christmassy then chillies. I think there's either a reindeer or donkey connection]). But it seems too wonky for a pipeline.

Having said that the only reason I know where it runs between is because of the BBC London piece, as I hadn't bothered to explore it, having other things on my mind. And anyway, round there the pavements have red stripes and white plumes, the latter from where a bag of cement was dropped, and the roads come in all sorts of colours, the most recent being turquoise, which was slowly migrating southwards as it scattered, dragged by car tyres rolling through wet paint, and people crossing the road (I briefly had blue soled shoes as I was late, running, and didn't have time to slow enough that I could dodge it).

Apparently the red line runs between a bus stop on Euston Road and somewhere near Centre Point. The BBC say it runs south. I think it makes more sense to run northwards. Imagine the scenario: people out clubbing in Soho. Leave. Direct bus home from Euston Road. They could get a bus up there, but night buses are infrequent, and that's double the cost. So they walk. Imagine someone complains, or someone new wants directions, or someone is abandoned by the person who was going to guide them home. Not so bizarre logic leads the trail being laid (and whoever did it was awake enough stop it at every road, which is a good idea if it's for drunken people single-mindedly following a line) between the club and the right bus-stop.

That's another reason I don't like buses. I walk to the bus-stop. It says "M" on it. Eventually I find a listing which tells me I want "K". The map either doesn't label the roads, or only labels those which aren't labelled in real life. I spend ages trying to find the right bus-stop. Eventually I realise I probably could have walked to my final destination in the time I've been hunting for the right bus stop in. I then either get dispirited and go home, or get the tube to where I want to be, or walk off in some random direction (which frequently works, as once you get away from a hub, the buses only go in one of two directions and all stop at the same bus-stops, which often means it's quicker to walk halfway to an area of bipolar bus-stops than it is to find the nearest). Waterloo and Clapham Junction both lodge in my brain as places where it's quite hard to find the right bus-stop. Which might be one of the reasons they're usually thought of as railway stations.

Thinking of rail things, or more specifically Tube things (and aren't Tube strikes great? Especially when I got the Tube home on Sunday, and then remembered it there was supposed to be a strike. The next day brought disruption in the form of the nearest station at the far end being closed, but as the next one is two blocks down the road...). I'm not sure what it is about me, but I keep being asked to help people do things like lift pushchairs up the stairs at a station, help someone else up the stairs, or get waylaid into carrying someone's shopping home (well, she said she was pregnant and I did think asking "really? are you sure you're not just fat?" might be a bit off). Except it has become obvious that the people doing the asking are all black women. And they always ask white men.

I happened to mention it to my brother, and he said it used to happen to him, and it was invariably black women doing the asking. While trying to work out why, the latest case of someone leaving a tube station asking for help occurred. It was a black woman. But she didn't ask me. She was standing at the bottom of the stairs by the exit, with a huge suitcase. There are people streaming past as a train's just come in. A black guy attempts some lecherous look as he approaches (a facial "how you doin'?"). She responds by asking him to help her by carrying the suitcase up the stairs. He replies with something which very obviously isn't a yes, and carries on up the stairs. She just stands there.

I don't know what happened next as I was late, and in the middle of a surging crowd, so slowing down or turning isn't really an option (well, not unless I want people pummelling my back). And I'm not sure how I would have reacted, as a child is a child (and often not all that heavy), but a suitcase bigger than some adults I know is going to be heavy and unwieldy, plus moving luggage which you can't actually carry does seem a little unwise. Plus the fact she had insanely high high-heels, which seemed to be held on solely by an elastic band round her big toe, jeans which ended four inches below her jewelled thong, plus double that up to her lurid leather jacket, all topped off with a face like The Scream in drag. The over-all effect was a complete lack of practicality (bare feet and 12 inches on naked torso in January? Good idea); firming refusing pragmatism. Which combined with immovable luggage suggests a worrying degree of selfishness. If she's so self-indulgent that she won't help herself then why should she expect anyone else to help her?

Which gets me away from the point: why do black women ask white men for help? Is it because they feel black men will be more aware of their character type, and so be less tolerant and indulgent? Is it because they believe white men are all so well trained that they would never say no (or are all too cowardly to say no)? Are they manipulating inherent cultural guilt? Do they assume white men are the most able of carrying the burden? Do they assume other females are too weak to help? Or has all this just been an insignificant statistical fluke stemming from the use of Brixton Tube station (although not all examples come from Brixton)?

As an aside, and based purely on recent experience on the underground, white women ask white women for help, and men simply don't ask for help (or don't ever carry more than they can cope with).

I'm sure there were other things I wanted to get onto, but they'll have to wait as I've forgotten quite what they were and also have a vague feeling that there are other things I need to be doing.


Sunday, January 08, 2006

GF6 600 - 14 A plague on all your horsesI've finished Colussus. Still can't spell it though, and I haven't finished the stuff I should have been reading instead.

Good book, tried a bit too hard to convince rather than inform. Lost me on some of the economic bits (basis points? Are they something you collect if you shop in Spar?), but fleshed out some other aspects I'd never quite thought about. Generally worth reading, although occasionally very dated (oil prices might rise to even $30 a barrel, albeit temporarily). Now figure out how much is exactly the same in his prequel, Empire.

What else? I'm still meant to be doing what I'm not, in a cold hissing building. This time I'm wearing double the number of layers, and brought food (ok, banana sandwiches, as I had bread but not much else)

Dan's getting back into his old habits: chocolate and photography (and being admirably childish). And so making me jealous on both counts (have you tried the marzipan Ritter Sport? Although I'm still not convinced on the soundness of designing a chocolate bar so it fits in a pocket). But I've just remembered I've got a bar of Green and Black's Espresso buried in my bag. I think I know what supper tonight will be. And hurrah for never being too old for stockings (the Christmas kind) which is where it came from.

AF is still AWOL, or maybe AWAIC (or AWOAIC for greater clarity). Hope you're ok, but you'll probably not be reading this as I haven't seen a .de in a while.

And this symbol inversion keyboard is really beginning to annoy me, especially as I've now discovered that there is no hash or tilde (the keys are marked with them, but it produces the same effect as the |\ key (and what does one call either of those? Has anyone ever used the former? Does anyone else annoy other people by calling the latter a "disk-drive slash" as opposed to an "internet slash"?). And what's really infuriating me is the fact someone has installed an MSN searchbar in IE (I know, but this computer is far too muddled without adding in Firefox), which insists on blocking any type of pop-up, including those generated by right-clicks, or control/shift-clicking, or even just clicking on anything which opens in a new window.

I was about to launch into a huge rant on my inability to turn the bloody thing off, but I've found out it's under tools\options. Although I think classifying all-pervading search/chat/advertising bars as tools is pushing it a bit (this computer has MSN messenger, Yahoo messenger, AOL messenger, something called Ares, something else called Utopia, plus the usual Quicktime, Real Player, Java-thingy combinations all hogging away in that little place reserved for clocks and volume controls. I've no idea who's been using it, but they've obviously never heard of deselecting the load-on-start-up option. It's amazing how many of them don't even give the option of turning them off. But at least I have alt-ctrl-del to bash any unrecognisable over the head (but I still don't like the newer versions of windows separating programmes from supposed system processes. If I want to gut it down to virtually only systray, I will, and I'd prefer if you'd stop trying to tell me that Windows Solitaire Player version 2.1.3 or MSN ThumbTwiddler is an integral part of the system). Maybe I ought to really confuse the thing an add ICQ. I suspect the only reason it hasn't got a hacked version of All Advantage running in the background is because they went bust (and did anyone else try that? I once got a check for 12 pounds and 87 pence (and I've found hash. Now all I need to do is find the pound sign) from them. I forgot to cash it and then lost it). Basically, I have a hunch I won't be using internet banking on here.

What else? Az is maltreating Simians. Ry continues in his quest to win Olympic golds in the 49ers, katana and SoCal insurance. And CiSo manages to be too depressingly good (and remind me that various exhibitions I wanted to get to close this weekend. Oh well. It's raining anyway).


Saturday, January 07, 2006

Greece 4 600 - 34I forgot one: How long is a piece of string?

It's book about maths (or math if you prefer, although that always sounds a little DEFRA). A review I just found condemns it as "very light reading". Which in my case is a good thing. As it is so light I batted through it very quickly, but still informatively. So I'm now an expert on lifts [elevators], taxis [cabs] and convincing fraud [no translation needed] (the latter is all to do with the ones).

A quick and fun book, which judging by the online reviews is only disliked by the sort of people who design systems for solving a Rubic's cube (whereas I just used to do what felt right, and that normally worked - until I got bored and dissected the thing with the aid of a spoon that is). Will it change your life? Not unless you want to be able to calculate the probability of your current partner being "the one". Apparently you get diminishing returns once you've been out with 37% of all those people you'll ever go out with. So if there are 6.5 billion people in the world, then for most people halving that to get the right sex, there are 3.25 billion. Lob off a third at either end (ageist I know) and that's down to a bit over 1 billion suitably sexed people of roughly similar age. So, if we ignore the physics of actually meeting all those people, then after about 400,000,000 people dated you will start to be less likely to meet anyone better than the current partner.

400,000,000... I think I may need to start playing catch up (woah, weird sugar-coated dried fruit [in lieu of lunch] induced Going for Gold flashback).

Continuing the sugar-coated tiredness theme, being able to watch people in the building opposite bouncing round a gym is quite funny, if a bit distracting. One guy apparently continually kicks his arse as he scurries away on the treadmill. It's a bit odd.

But getting back to the lifts and tying in with the tiredness, I saw Shaft last night. Other than the slight lack of plot - well, it had one, it's just that when the end credits rolled my response was "is that it?" - it was quite good, in a gloriously cheesey, my-god-look-at-the-wallpaper way.

My brother (who was drunk, therefore demanding I watch it) got annoyed by me commenting on the lighting and colours within the film. For the most part it feels very, very authentic. I didn't get the impression that somewhere there are plans and Polaroids sprawling across tables to help people recreate an authentic scene. It feels like it was filmed with what there was. So a taxi is just a taxi hired out for the day, complete with condensation, dirt and fingermarks. It seemed as if virtually everywhere was on location, lit by the normal lighting. And it's great to see lightbulbs come out different colours on film. Modern films go to great lengths to ensure the characters are well lit in even, balanced light (unless they're meant to be lurking in the shadows), and everywhere is bathed in distinctly white light. In Shaft, offices are green under their fluorescent tubes, houses are orange from the tungsten lamps, modern compact fluorescents come out blue. And because it was filmed in a dirty grey city in winter, the lights always show.

But the other thing which distracted me was the colours. For a start it's pretty much underexposed but developed to a normal exposure, which means much the image is a rich murmur of blacks (assuming you remember to turn the lights off as reflections of one's brother's feet don't really add to the mood. Of course once they were off, then it becomes very obvious that the brightness on the television is too high, as the blacks glow a faint green, and the DVD player's display illuminates the room). And I like underexposed. I like hints in the sumptuous dark.

Somehow, the makers managed to use a film, or apply some filter to it, which really makes clear, intense colours glow. The primary and secondary colours are really punchy. Admittedly I've no idea what the originals were like, and it is obviously skewed by fashion, but the reds, oranges and blues leap out from the screen.

Which reminds me - the same red recurs throughout the film, quite notably on the cinemas and theatres. It's quite odd seeing a theatre declare that they have Robert Redford on stage. And I was far too amused by the idea that an investigative exploration of a bleak, urban underworld by a robust, independent, womanising man, all the while accompanied by a gorgeous soundtrack of funkily distorted guitars, should feature a cinema proclaiming the words "Michael Caine: Get Carter".

Admittedly some of the dialogue was lost on me, and some went beyond verging on the comical, as did some of the activities, and I probably wasn't in the right mindset to view it as a social history lesson, but still it's a good film. Not excellent or outstanding, but good. Despite the occasionally dodginess, it's worth watching -watch it for the style.

Which reminds me: my brother was far too excited by the tailoring. They're just suits. Yes, they fit. Yes, it is apparent that they have not been made with the minimum amount of cloth (ok, so I wouldn't ever consider something where the pattern didn't match or ran counter to the structure of the suit, which may be borne of a innate aesthetic awareness, but it might almost stem from the fact I'm not all that sure I can get away with wearing a checked suit).

We interrupt this service to bring you an important news bulletin. No it's not that arse-kicking man has got off the treadmill (he had, but he's back again). I've just been rung by my mother, and other than being asked if I want dishwasher fluid because it's on offer in Sainsbury's until tomorrow (dishwasher? Only people who live in Wimbledon - or Lewisham - have those), she's just told me that Charles Kennedy's resigned. Which elicited an "Oh", which might be on the verge of being upgraded to a "Bugger". It's not often one hears one's mother use the words "swarmy bastards". It's hardly as if there's anyone better. Hands up if you can name a Liberal Democrat?

Paddy Ashdown doesn't count.

That other one... Lembit Opik (who I keep wanting to call Lemsip, and I just misspelt his surname as Opec). But he was supporting Kennedy, so he's probably not going to be in it.

Anyone else? The young round one - scary smile... Sarah Teather. Young people who are interested in politics: never ends well, does it? And she was one of the Charlie-axers, along with a couple of dozen other MPs. It's like Murder on the Orient Express.

Anyone else? Letwin? No, wrong party.

Apparently there's someone called Simon Hughes. Apparently. But all I can think of in connection to his name is this whole leadership challenge thing. But then only appearing in the public consciousness at times of turmoil does seem to be a winning strategy. Anyway, I think he's related to one of the labour high-ups, but can't remember. And I know all that stuff about the sins of the father, but then surely to have a family member in politics is unfortunate, but to have two looks a little bit careless?*

Anyone else...?

Menzies Campbell springs to mind, but I think he's a Sir, which usually limits electability (even if it is what ruling MPs become after they've MP'd enough), and I'm not actually sure if he's an MP. And I think he's quite old (said he who didn't mind the possibly Clarke Torying).

This is quite long considering I was supposed to be taking a quick break having realised the highlights of my day so far where telling a cleaner that the kitchen is on the next floor up and remembering I have a hat in my bag (I'm sitting in a deserted building. It's January. The metal framed windows are old, draughty and single glazed. The air-con's working on the assumption that there's a building's worth of people and machines churning out heat, so it's making sure it extracts that. I think the cleaner's gone home, so I'm sitting in the heat of a single Dell (it may not be a Dell, as it's just an anonymous black box. I thought I'd found the branding, but it just says "Push").

It's dark, I'm tired, and I've had enough of keyboards which have quotemarks and the at-sign muddled up. And I've still got work to do.


* Grossly misquoted, which is why it took me so long to track down. From The Importance of Being Earnest:
Lady Bracknell: To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

PS. Just remembered. Ignore the mobile sex.

PPS. [Many expletives] The building has a PA system. A very loud one. I didn't know it had one. While I understand some people may wish to know that the carpark's about to be locked, I also wish that my heart was running a bit slower.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

GF6 600 - 07 Hail haloedI know what I haven't done in a while: books.

Which also cunningly ties in with the traditional stuck-for-ideas meme of "what I got for Christmas", as I'm currently reading Niall Ferguson's Colossus. I am aware that this book is a little bit dated, hence pointing out that only 91 Americans died in the latest Iraq war (a figure which is still true, as the current situation isn't war. It isn't exactly peace either, but that's getting off the point). But so far it's been quite interesting, and presenting an all too agreeable viewpoint. That and illustrating some of the finer points of the French president's character and those of the French government.

So fairly good so far, but I've literally just turned the page to see "Fall" written in big letters, so I'm not halfway through it yet (and it does have the rather annoying tendency to be one of those books one has to be awake to read, so reading replaces other activities rather than simply being tacked on to the end).

So why is this book linked to Christmas? Because my brother bought it fairly soon after it came out, but it has stayed unread until just before Christmas. It magically appeared in his bathroom, so I naturally enough started reading it, getting so engrossed that I took it out of the bathroom with me (thereby showing my altruistic kindness and generosity in preserving my brother's property by removing it from a dangerously humid room).

By the time my brother noticed I was already past his bookmark, so it's only fair that I continue reading it as I've less of it left, so I'll finish it quicker (this argument gets a lot of use in our family. The assumption that further ahead means finishing quicker seems logical but may not actually be true, but as reading cannot occur consecutively it remains rather hard to test. So the belief creates the rule which governs all books. Of course there are certain parents who will remain nameless who wilfully [or possibly just absent-mindedly] happen to borrow half-read books, carry them off to some mystical land and thereby lose them. The books either have to be recovered within six hours (and read sufficiently to make any claim obvious), rediscovered six years later or abandoned to the hope of exhumation 6 generations later). As he'd spent months reading the same thing he'd taken on holiday in September, he can't really claim he'll be quicker (said he happening to overlook the two my brother batted through the hefty thing and Colossus). Anyway, it took him four days to notice it had gone (or possibly four days to discover it wasn't his flatmate who borrowed it).

As I had taken such an avid interest in the work of Niall Ferguson, by brother gave me a copy of Empire. I didn't know he did hints.

He also gave be a copy of the latest Franz Ferdinand CD (presumably he gave himself the other one, both of us habitually waiting for the low prices that never come. I broke with tradition this year and didn't get him a CD (I didn't even get him Lego, which for years was the standard can't-think-of-anything gift)). I'm now trying to find the hint in the CD. I do hope it's not to get myself assassinated and anyway, surely he can't want his book back that badly?

I haven't read Empire yet, as I'm still midway through the sequel, although Empire probably dates less readily than Colossus.

Other recent reads include:
- Part of Mrs Dalloway. Read partly on computer screen from this text, then I got bored with that and printed it out (it's only 90 pages, said he using the department's paper and ink), although I haven't got much further with it in solid form.

I started reading it because the Guardian had a photography competition [now closed, appears to be annual] to do the cover of one of four books. I can't remember what the others were, but Mrs Dalloway was the one I hadn't read. Of course, all this occurred between the incapacitation and actual breaking of my camera lens (still haven't sorted it out).

Having checked the site, by "the one I hadn't read" I mean "one I hadn't read", as I haven't read any of the others, but I've heard of one of them and the author of another.

So another book I haven't finished yet. Not quite sure I understand yet though.

- Tender is the night, F. Scott Fitzgerald. It took me months to read it, which is not a good sign considering it's not all that long. A confused book. The author apparently rewrote it because he didn't think people understood it enough. In so doing he removed the central idea of the book, which is to show the varying sanity of the characters against a fragmented and jumbled timescale. So instead the book is chronologically accurate, plotting the slow shifts that occur between the characters. Which means it runs too slowly. I ended up not particularly caring what happened to them, as despite occasional good lines, cunning scenes or wryly amusing episodes [which I got the impression were crowbarred in from previous work. The blurb accompanying the book confirms the long running retention and recycling processes], the thing was about as interesting as listening to someone else's uncle detail his tax arrangements.

The whole wasn't added by the premise that the book was a psychological novel. This means the whole point of the plot was not the discovery of some overwhelming love, the capture of a malicious murderer or the slaughter of a bloated fish, but instead the entire plot hinged around the attitudes of people and whether or not they might change (spoiler: they do, glacially).

Bung in some dull, weak and generally highly derivative minor players (sober analytical German with narrow-minded sour-faced wife for example, or Barban the near barbarian, or Rex Campion, who one suspects was only saved from being called Regina Campion but virtue of the fact that some of the lesser readers might think he was a woman. We can understand that the character is camp. We don't need reverse engineered nominative determinism to hammer it home. That's on a par with calling the baddy Doctor Evil) and one starts needing hazchem labels for the thing. And why are there warnings for chemicals which are irritants, but none for the soporific?

There are good bits in it, but without the artifice of the jumping narrative (axed, by the way, because it was belatedly thought too modern), the book feels as lifeless as most lives are. It didn't help the characters supposedly inhabited the leisure class, and so had remarkably little to actually do (and so the book was about people doing remarkably little).

Which is all a bit of a pity, as I thoroughly enjoyed The Great Gatsby. Maybe it's just a poorer example of his style spread over far too much paper.

- The Chrysalids, John Wyndham. A read it while you sleep book. Pretty much standard for him. General idea: take recent innovation at time of writing, extrapolate with fiction, add in scare-mongering suggestions, shake well, a token love story, battle foe, escape to changed world, garnish, serve, start next story. Not much else too it. His work maybe worth reading if you want to spot both straight copies and his influence in films, but The day of the Triffids is a better, and better known, example of his work.

I've also started a book of his short stories, The Seeds of Time, but forgot I had, so I haven't got far with it. Very similar plots, based on different ideas. Probably best to lay off him for the time being. Maybe keep it until I'm ill and out of Dick Francis's.
As I've just had some rather infuriating news, I'd better stop this and do something more important. I can't think of anything else I've read recently anyway.


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