Meewella | Fragments

The Life of P

Month: January 2006 (page 2 of 2)

Part Troll

Someone raised an interesting question on the hub yesterday, querying one of life’s oft overlooked little mysteries: exactly what network is Jack Bauer on? The man is attached to his phone, using it wontonly at peak time with virtually no thought for the expense, despite the fact he has precious little discernable income (we are, of course, referring to Day 5).

Bill BaileyI’ve only recently started watching a sizable amount of stand-up comedy as I’m particularly demanding about the sort of humour that will keep me consistently entertained in a non-narrative form. Having recently watched Black Books in its entirety, I thought I’d give Bill Bailey’s Part Troll a go. The man is phenomenal. Not only is he continually hilarious, generally an agreeable trait in a comedian, but he’s ridiculously talented too. The stage is littered with instruments, not merely for decoration, but because he can actually play them all. The musical numbers provide highlights throughout the show but the material more than holds its own in between, albeit in a somewhat bewildered abstract fashion. Helpfully he actively attempts to avoid anything that resembles a direct joke, “Three blokes go into a pub. One of them gets a bit stupid, and the whole thing unfolds with a tedious inevitability.” I know comedy is a very personal thing, but at least give Bill a go if you get the chance, if only for his emotionally charged ballad as an attack on modern American rock. The duck, ladies and gentlemen, lies shredded in a pancake, soaking in the hoi sin of your lies.

Enemy Territory: Quake WarsI’m always cynical about screenshots released well in advance of a game since they often bear nothing more than a passing resemblance to the final product once it has been suitably downgraded to actually run on machines which don’t require quadruple-core processors and a liquid nitrogen coolant system. Whilst Quake 4’s specs aren’t far off that, at least we already know what the tried and tested engine is capable of. Now enter Splash Damage, a London-based developer who made a name for themselves with the Enemy Territory multiplayer mod for Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Continuing their relationship with id, they’ve moved the location to the world of Quake in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. It’s not unknown for me to drool over screenshots in certain instances and this may have been one such occassion. There’s nothing like an alien invasion of Earth to get your trigger finger itching, and this looks to be the best one since the Covies attacked in Halo 2.

Later today, 9am PST (that’s 5pm GMT for those who can’t count and, in case you were wondering, 7pm in Istanbul), Gamespot are releasing a demo for a new RTS Star Wars: Empire at War which lets you relive the attack on Hoth in your very own bedroom. Well, depending on where your computer is I suppose, or the length of your mouse cord. Enjoy, be it upstairs or downstairs.

Juice

It was suggested to me that perhaps lately the site has been lacking in juice, or at least the personal side of things at any rate. As a visual aid, you’ll now find a new USA 2005 photo album with pics from the holiday. On the subject of the new gallery, you’ll find that to conserve bandwidth many of the photos have been shrunk down to a lower resolution. If you’re after hi-res versions of anything, check out my morgueFile profile or ask me. I tend to keep artistic photos at 2592×1944 and other snaps at 1600×1200. I’ll probably need to invest in an external harddisk to store them soon though so I’d welcome any recommendations.

With term a few days away, there has been little in the way of the aforementioned juice, unless you count lugging several dozen bottles of assorted fruit drinks around Newnham after Kirsten and Ming ordered their start-of-term Tesco delivery. You only truly appreciate just how bad an idea a third floor room is after ascending with boxes filled to the brim with groceries.

As for gossip a little further afield, you may have come across this fiery incident in Portsmouth, severe enough to cause a partial collapse in the building. The rescued student in question was in fact our very own Dicko, who has now found himself homeless for the last five days and, by the sounds of it, rather bored. He is, fortunately, still very much alive.

Ethnic Origin

EthnicityYou know that you’ve been filling in too many application forms when you find yourself accidentally stating your name, date of birth, address, phone number and ethnicity to people. Especially when the question was “how are you?” I’m also less than enthusiastic about a certain firm who chose to ask, “by reference to other careers explain why law would be your chosen career,” which as far as I can tell translates into, “tell us why we’re great and everyone else sucks.” Not that they’re wrong; it’s just tacky.

A while ago I mentioned Prison Break. For those of you with television sets (and the fewer still who get decent Channel 5 reception) it’s starting on the 23rd and 24th. For everyone else, I’ll share another show I was recommended at the end of last term and have just started watching: Sleeper Cell. It was described to me as a more adult 24. It is produced by Showtime but unfortunately their site unhelpfully blocks connections from outside of the US (and frankly I don’t think it’s worth the effort of using a Stateside proxy server). I certainly hope that’s for marketing reasons and not executive paranoia. Nevertheless, the show itself is worth watching, with a serious dose of international terrorism grounded in the human interaction within one of these much-feared sleeper cells. I’d rather not give much more away, but it did once more make me want to read the Qur’an fully, which is something I’ve always intended to do. Interestingly I discovered that in America, requests for free copies of the Islamic Holy Book shot up after 9/11 as many people were keen to discover the motivations of the terrorists involved. I certainly respect that reaction (rather than the more stereotypical “let’s bomb the bastards” response), although I’m not convinced the answer is actually in there — at least no more than the Crusades can be explained by reference to the Bible.

Cheesecake and Divorce Lawyers

Match PointKirsten got back Wednesday which may be why you haven’t heard from me. We went to see Match Point yesterday and bumped into Sparkie, Ollie and several of the old Kenny lot. A proper review will be forthcoming once I’m sat still in front a computer for long enough when not filling out vacation scheme online applications. As an insight into the way a comfortable marriage can gradually breakdown through secrecy, opportunity and (bad) luck, it works well. If approached as “Woody Allen does London”, it’s somewhat disappointing. Things like the overuse of an operatic soundtrack become distracting rather than, as Allen probably believed, evocative of the opulent lifestyle of the British upper class. Having it playing during a sequence in an art gallery, clearly silent, just doesn’t work. Nevertheless, some strong lead performances make it definitely worth watching. Match Point is also a prime example of trailer cheating. It’s a common enough occurance where the dialogue in a trailer is chopped to adjust its meaning from that in the film. In this case it stretches to describe not only different situations but completely different people.

Today Kirsten and I were moving her stuff back to Newnham, involving a cab ride during which our driver decided he was going to look for a divorce lawyer. Kirsten and I were arguing about the Umlaut (the plural of which is, it turns out, Umlaute and not umlauts) when said cabbie received the offending phone call that pushed him over the edge. As he seemed to be having enough trouble focusing on driving, I decided it was probably an inopportune moment to try out my new Family Law mad skillz.

We had dinner at Bella Italia, allowing Kirsten finally to introduce me to their infamous cheesecake. Were I to indulge in cheesecake reviews here — which I do not — this would result in a strange body-base dichotomy. The body of cake is indeed one of the finest I have tasted, crumbling as it is pierced by the fork and yet holding together just long enough to reach your mouth, melting on your tongue. And yet the base is the sort of soggy afterthought that could almost (but not quite) undermine the entire experience.

Finally, Shamini informs us that a Google image search of “2 nuns and a cow” will provide amusement — well, if Apocalypse: The Musical means anything to you, that is. If not, you’re probably rather confused about now.

Dante’s Revenge

I’ve been back a few days without posting, largely because very little has been going on, so I thought I’d say a couple of things. I’m presently occupied with finalising a few vacation scheme applications for the summer. I know several people have already received responses in the negative, so I’m just keeping my fingers crossed to see what happens. Although I’ve had some “aim lower” advice, as usual I remain unconvinced. Given that I already have experience at two good City firms, spending a few weeks in a lesser firm seems to me like wasted time. I’d rather aim high and deal with the consequences — much like my application to Cambridge in the first place really.

The Iranian nuclear issue has been sparked off once again by their defiant move in ripping off the UN seals and continuing research. The fear of Iran developing nuclear weapons is understandable and I will not argue that this is a capability they should attain. However, I am confounded by the notion that we would prevent scientific research in another country that has clear non-military practical use (what next, preventing pharmaceutical research in Africa because it could lead to biochemical weaponary instead of medical cures?), well aside from the argument that we are in no position to ban another country from producing WMDs while comfortably sitting upon a stockpile ourselves. This “Israeli statement” is often raised in argument that this country cannot be trusted because they’ve promoted the destruction of an entire nation. While I think their statement was outrageous, which countries actually have the biggest recent track record of starting wars, invading countries, and overthrowing regimes with huge collateral damage? I think you’ll find that Britain and the US are doing rather better than Iran in that regard. If I were Iranian I would be rather afraid at this juncture. After all there’s an army at their back door already so it makes sense to move in now rather than bringing the troops home first. And frankly certain people seem to be a little too keen to roll on in. It’s almost as if they can smell the oil already…

On a slightly less sensationalist note, a new teaser is out for Kevin Smith’s Clerks II (or “Clerks in Colour” as I like to call it, perhaps with a needless Hollywood subtitle like Dante’s Revenge). In a way it joins the ranks of the recent pointless trailers as although it features a good deal of new footage, Smith’s films are known for their sharp dialogue, of which this trailer contains exactly three lines. That said, it still made me laugh. So there’s that.

Heinrich Harrer

Heinrich HarrerThanks to everyone who requested DVDs through the site or otherwise — it actually made the selection process much easier! A last minute addition was Seven Years In Tibet as I believe a group viewing is in order to commemorate the death of Heinrich Harrer yesterday. The Austrian mountaineer was the first to scale the north face of Eiger in Switzerland, but is now more famous for events after the Second World War began. Captured by the British as a Nazi, he escaped and eventually ended up in Tibet where he remained (as you may have guessed) for seven years, becoming a close friend and tutor of the young Dalai Lama. The film is based largely upon his autobiographical book of the same name, documenting his time there. He remained a lifelong friend of the exiled Dalai Lama. If you’re interested in watching too, just let me know.

Prototype Blu-ray discSony are expected to release a Blu-ray drive early this year and sparked off more interest by announcing several movie titles for the format at CES. They are no doubt hoping that PS3 sales will also increase adoption of Blu-ray as the console naturally features its maker’s format. A similar-looking list is also available for announced HD-DVD movies, the opposing format. They have won over Microsoft who revealed at CES an HD-DVD drive would be made available for the Xbox 360. I’m interested to hear which list you find more appealing. Of course, my advice is to avoid them both until a clear winner emerges or dual-format players are readily available. To be perfectly honest, until you have a high definition TV and a decent surround sound speaker system the upgrade is as virtually worthless anyway. I should perhaps add as a caveat that my reluctance is somewhat strengthened by a desire not to replace my entire DVD collection just yet. And while it’s lovely to see the technology rolling forward, something tells me I’m not alone in that sentiment.

“All The Cool Heroes Are Taken…”

To elaboroate on yesterday’s post for those who didn’t get it: I expect the Ghost Rider experience to be akin to paying a cinema for the sort of detritus usually found between one’s teeth (assuming, of course, that your last meal was gristle and not gourmet steak). I could be wrong, however, and therefore elected to provide you with the link in order that you might inform yourselves to make your own decision. I imagine there is something of a frenzy amongst the Hollywood elite, all keen to add a comicbook hero to their list of credentials but increasingly worried as all the cool ones get snapped up. It’s like an elaborate game of Mutant Musical Chairs where the loser is doomed forever to play roles in period dramas and chick flicks.

Hellboy - Director's CutYou may have heard that a Halo movie is in the works, pencilled in for a 2007 release. A scary prospect for every fan of the game, to be sure, but I’ll admit my fears were quelled somewhat after last month’s announcement of the producer, a certain Mr. Peter Jackson. If this means Weta are on board to bring Master Chief and the Covies to life then I’m all for it. It’s still a daunting project but the budget’s certainly available and with some judicious casting it really could work. Directing rumours included one of my personal favourites, Guillermo del Toro. He confirmed that he had been approached but stated he was unsure if he would be free as a possible Hellboy sequel was a higher priority for him. While this may sound astoundingly sacriligious to Bungie fanatics, it does make sense. Hellboy showed that he (and Ron Perlman) had an innate understanding and affinity for Big Red. It would be a shame to see the franchise pass into the hands of a less competent director for a standard cash-in sequel.

You’ve probably guessed that I’m a little pro-Hellboy. In fact the only reason it’s not in my DVD collection is that the director’s cut adds about 10 minutes of decent scenes that flesh out the side characters, but the UK release was delayed by almost a year after the Region 1. It is finally surfacing on the 9th, so go grab yourself a copy!

Spin Psychoses

I sent a 17-year-old bear through the wash today. Intentionally, I might add. I can’t actualy recall whether James has been properly bathed before, so it seemed (or rather smelled) about time something was done. Having had him since I was two, I was understandably a little nervous about the whole affair, “expectant father” being the description if memory serves. He appears to have come through relatively unscathed, although I am warned that the aberrant psychoses developing from the moderate spin cycle can take several days to manifest.

Whilst I can’t say I’m particularly enthused yet, I’m sure there are some Ghost Rider fans out there who are drooling over every trickled drop from the PR guys at Sony Pictures. As far as I can tell, the only credential “The Rider Revealed” teaser has earned is the dubious crown of having even less content than Superman Returns. Which is a rather impressive feat really. I’m not a real fan of the comic book, nor am I particularly knowledgeable about it and, to be honest, nor do I care to be. I like Nic Cage, but his taste in scripts is…varied at best. Until they’re actually confident enough to show me something, I’m decidedly guarded about another Punisher-like candidate looking to soar to the level of mediocrity in an already overcrowded genre. Still, at least we’re guaranteed two hours of pyrotechnics, although if there are any jokes about “burning rubber” I will leave.

Very reminiscent of the Lord of War trailer’s quickfire deadpan cyncism, Thank You For Smoking could be an interesting one. Using a series of amoral arguments to justify his product (and existence), Nick’s open approach to tobacco lobbying makes it appear both dispicable and yet strangely understandable. If nothing else it should remind people that there are worse creatures than lawyers…

With the current dire state of Hollywood date movies, it actually took me a second to work out whether Date Movie expected me to take it seriously — fortunately it soon emerged very definitely in the negative. From (some of) those behind Scary Movie it should be cutting and funny in equal measures, but let’s hope for fewer needless and uninspired sequels this time round.

A Dark (Milk Chocolate) Secret

Americans are certainly the masters of excess — just visit the nearest steakhouse for proof of that — but something seems to hold them back from grasping enjoyment of the finer things in life that the rest of the world’s rich history allows. Jeff was dismayed to find not a single bottle of Pinot Noir in the local liquor store, though not particularly surprised in the country that considers Bud Light a beer. Perhaps I’m just bitter that a restaurant finally refused to serve me (the US drinking age being 21 with somewhat murky rules regarding drinking with one’s parents). I find American chocolate is similarly deficient* and was perplexed to see several Cadbury’s bars on sale. While I was previously willing to conceded that Dairy Milk may contain, while not nuanced flavour, at least some palatable value, this changed after I turned over the bar. Imagine my shock to discover that the reason this chocolate was so readily available is that it was manufactured by Hershey’s, with the permission of Cadbury. If the production could be licensed to such amateurs as Hershey’s, nothing I say can be more damning: you may draw your own conclusions.

There’s always one sight upon a return to Britain which really grounds you in the fact that you are home. This time, being as it was 7:30am, it was a couple of kids in uniform kicking a football (that’s what you call a soccer ball, for any new American readers) between them as they proscrastinated, dejectedly shuffling their way back to a new term at school. In a way I envied them. At least their school would be warm, unlike the freezing house to which our taxi was hurriedly bearing us. Four hours and a boiling shower later, it had returned to the sort of harsh climate which might plausibly support some unfortunate form of life. The Emperor Penguin, mayhaps.

I’ll be heading back to uni on Sunday so the ritual DVD cull has now begun, a digital Darwinist procedure in which only the fittest and most watchable discs will survive for selection. If you wish to influence this finely tuned system, check out The DVD List and let me know what you’d like me to bring.

* At least Wal-Mart have started stocking Lindt’s Lindor truffles. Perhaps there’s hope for the American tastebud yet.

Memory

When you don’t tell anyone a memory, it gradually fades over time, becoming vague and indistinct before perhaps disappearing altogether. When you tell other people, it’s littered with your perspective, the dozen tiny embellishments added by design or accident. But over time, eventually the story becomes the memory, however little similarity the two actually share. The story is all that remains so the story is, for all intents and purposes, true. Then it has become history.

Manel sparklesVideo is vastly inferior in its perspective but at least with the advent of digital recording it remains as sharp and vivid as the day it was made, kind of a way to store people until you see them again. The way you want to remember them. So I have some great videos of Karleigh, including a video of Karleigh watching a video of Karleigh. It was a very interactive experience as the bright girl loves to see herself on screen and quickly learned how to use my laptop to make the videos play, preceded each time by a squeaked “uh oh” when it stopped.

Karleigh's 'hoodidie'Jenna, Jeff and Karleigh left yesterday. We’ll be leaving early tomorrow and winging our way back to a rather colder England (it’s been an incredibly mild winter here, reaching 23°C yesterday). It’s been a really good trip, albeit somewhat less productive than I might have liked. There’s still some time before uni starts, but don’t be offended if I seem to be buried in books and ignoring you! Hopefully being home will mean less sporadic updates here and a few film reviews that I’ve wanted to write, especially Spielberg’s Munich since I was able to see it well in advance of the UK release and hope to convince you to experience it too.

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"Lack of imagination is an occupational hazard for an apex predator."

(CC) BY-NC 2005-2019 Priyan Meewella

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