Meewella | Fragments

The Life of P

Month: November 2006 (page 2 of 2)

Ciao!

Kirsten introduced me to Ciao! a few days ago, as she has been using the German variant for a while. It has proved highly addictive in a productive sort of way. The community site focuses on reviewing products of all descriptions — films, books, games, electronics, make-up, food, the works! — but uniquely it actually pays members for the reviews they submit, based on ratings by others. These don’t have to be journalistic masterpieces, but merely useful opinions on products that will help others make decisions. Since I already have several fully fleshed out film reviews right here, I figured it was worth a go. I soon found myself pumping out product reviews of the other things sitting on my desk too! The site brandishes the slogan “make your opinions pay” and although it’s not much, it’s still worthwhile, particularly to a student! It’s an interesting diversions and, for those like Andy W and Luke, a forum with a captive audience for the occasional rant. A slightly higher level of revenue can also be earned by filling in targeted surveys based on your interests, but this is strictly on an opt-in basis. Sign up and give it go!

The weekend was not particularly noteworthy aside from fixing Charlotte’s abomination of a computer. Luke swears the test machines he leaves unprotected intentionally to become corrupted by malware aren’t quite as hideously mangled as hers. With the installation discs mailed by her dad we resorted to wiping it and starting afresh although it graphics card is, in technical jargon, teh screwzorz. Still, I learned a fair bit more about locking down a machine to protect the user from both outsiders and, more importantly, themselves. The more security minded may be interested in the free Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer utility.

Globalist-wise a new Annual edition has just been released featuring contributions from six chapters (Yale, Cambridge, Peking, Jerusalem, Sydney and Toronto). Perhaps most interesting is actually the layout which serves the need for three different languages to cover all these regions. It is quite a feat and has been deftly handled. Meanwhile the name change is now official with the Global21 banner now appearing on the foundation website. Unfortunately this busy period has prevented the latest Cambridge issue from going online yet. I do know, however, that there will be special coverage on the UN handover shortly as I have just produced the banner for it…

I now find myself staring at a not-very-modern article plucked from the Modern Law Review. It leads me to wonder whether it is time to turn my hand to starting up another new publication. The Postmodern Law Review would feature articles in a style that — well, no one really knows what postmodernism actually is which makes it editorially complicated at best. Jean-Francois Lyotard suggested, “Postmodernism is incredulity towards metanarratives.” I rather preferred the astute description, “Weird for the sake of [being] weird.” from Moe Szyslak of The Simpsons (speaking of which, full trailer now available). Strangely it does actually have a legal context in the form of the theory of Judicial shamanism. Perhaps this publication is best left alone after all…

Dining Morality

When Slaughters invited all the Downing lawyers for dinner (as is traditional every 2 years) many of the third years were faced with a moral choice that unsettled us in extreme cases for as long as four seconds. Those with training contracts in place or focused solely on the bar would not, of course, be applying to Slaughter and May. But a free three course meal at the Crowne Plaza Hotel is — well — delicious. I was sat next to Andy W who claims this was purely by luck as he had not seen the seating plan in advance. It provided a good opportunity to get to know several of the first years, as well as hearing more about law school from trainees and established lawyers. It was still somewhat strange to feel that Beccy, a geographer, had more right to be there than I did.

As a new feature in the Critic section we will be highlighting some of the best DVD bargains we find. Only highly recommended films will appear, and only if the prices are truly competitive. It’s designed to highlight the best deals at the time so if you have a little cash burning a hole in your wallet and you want a recommendation or just need an extra item to get free postage from Amazon it’s well worth a look. You’ll find no mark-up on the prices — you’ll be buying direct from Amazon at their list price. Each item is accompanied by a short description of why it’s there. If it’s on the list, chances are I actually bought it myself too.

PhotosynthBy far the most intriguing project to emerge from Microsoft Live Labs has been Photosynth, which attempts to create a three dimensional representation of collections of photographs. The results they showed in videos were intriguing but many were sceptical about how it would work in practice. A new technology preview now allows you to experience it for yourself (IE only, I’m afraid). The technology is still early in development and undoubtedly needs some work but the premise is definitely attractive and is already workable to an extent.

Cultured, Shocked

A few days ago I finished off Culture Shock, the first episode of Sam & Max. It lasted about five days of intermittent use, which translates into around three or four hours of gameplay as I teased out all the zanier lines of dialogue rather than just charging through the story. Despite its brevity, ending a little abruptly just as you really get into it, it’s difficult to complain knowing that the whole experience continues with some video clips at the end of the month and with five more episodes included in the price, stretches out for half a year. But perhaps it is best encapsulated by Charlotte’s squeal of delight upon seeing our new Sam & Max banner on the site, because to those of us who knew these characters in our youth, no matter the duration, it really is like getting to spend time with old friends.

Gears of WarGears of War landed an incredible 9.6 in GameSpot’s review, marking not only the best this year but on the top titles ever. I cannot wait to be reunited with my 360 to put it through its paces, particularly as it seems to offer the best co-op action since Halo 2. Meanwhile PC gamers should certainly hope this one makes the transition to developer Epic’s more usual platform. Clerks fans will be amused to note an achievement for killing a Berserker enemy which is entitled My Love For You Is Like A Truck.

Those who pay attention to the comments will know we had some problems with pricing of items in the Store. Items were being overpriced due to double-sided prints, which have now been modified to rectify the issue. This has resulted in a notable drop on all items to a far more reasonable price. The original versions have been removed so those who ordered will need to reselect shirts and will be charged at the cheaper price.

See What I Wanna See

So God speaks to ya?
What does he sound like, James Earl Jones?

-Aunt Moni, See What I Wanna See

It is no secret that I have an inherent problem with musical theatre that I am still struggling to overcome. By and large I find they tend to detract from more than add to a production, though there are certainly exceptions particularly with comedy like Apocalypse: The Musical. Last night marked the first UK performance of See What I Wanna See (I certainly seem to be making good on my resolution to better patronise the ADC this year as its my 3rd trip in 5 weeks). Mark S was my main reason for seeing it, and it transpired Kirsten also had a friend in the same play. Rather, it is essentially two independent plays, each preceded by a short prologue set in feudal Japan.

The first half, “R Shomon”, weaves a dark tale of rape and murder as told by each of the three people involved, and each has their own perspective on events which is — at least to them — the truth. What others saw is irrelevant as each vies for control of the situation in their retelling. The musical crescendos punctuate the story well and there are some great jazzy numbers in there. However, the drama of lovers considering death is severely undermined when in song.

By contrast the second half, Gloryday, needed the musical element because it could not stand alone on its setting in post-9/11 New York. Americans still don’t seem to understand that the events were far less shattering for the rest of the world where it was simply not new. In this light it was a bold move to attempt to sell the quirky story of a disillusioned priest’s practical joke in the aftermath to a British audience. Its light hearted style seemed better suited to the musical format but with the gravitas of its setting stripped away here it felt almost vacuous at times.

If pressed I probably preferred the first story, very clever in its use of perspectives with a more satisfying finale. The performances were all extremely good, showing developed range as each actor took on different roles in the two parts. The only major problem was inevitable with a live band — the music often swallowed the singers’ voices. Although an overpowering crescendo is fine once in a while, they should not be competing for attention because the audience need to hear what’s going on. That criticism aside, it was a good evening that kept me entertained so is certainly worth seeing if musicals are your thing. It runs until Saturday.

Merch

P-2006 is proud to unveil a new line of T-shirts. Using the French Comboutique, they’re not the cheapest around but use high quality digital transfers onto good brand shirts (like Fruit of the Loom, Jerzees, etc.). There are currently only a handful of designs available but expect more to appear over the next few weeks with the general approach being to mix the humorous with some in-jokes and a few stylish designs. Feel free to suggest new slogans that you’d like to see on P-2006 shirts, and if you’re after a niche gift for someone who reads the site or will get the joke (or even a treat for yourself) look no further. Better yet, there’s free shipping if you use to the promotional code FREESHIP.

Sparkie and I went to see Borat, or rather “Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”. The first chuckle was before the film even started, seeing its named stretched out along the entire screen on the BBFC plate. The film has been so overhyped during the last 2 months that by its actual release my expectations had faded away to almost nothing. However, the critical acclaim it has received is unparalleled for a comedy. It is, I am pleased to say, utterly fantastic and it would be a disservice to oneself not to see it. I have not seen an entire audience erupt in such laughter for some time, and there is something in there for everyone. It is frequently outrageous, particularly in its rife anti-Semitism which can only be stomached knowing Sacha Baron Cohen is himself a strict Jew. I will attempt a review soon, although it will be the first I have written for a pure comedy.

You may have heard a story flying around the net that he stole the character from a chap named Mahir Cagri to whom Borat bears an uncanny resemblance. However, having read a debunking investigation it sounds like the claim is bogus as Borat is really the evolution of another pre-Ali G character, circa 1994.

In The Blood

The CastOn Saturday a group of us headed to the ADC to see Shamini acting in In The Blood. She was excellent in what we hope was not method acting as she attempted vehemently to establish. The play itself is an unsettling tale concerning Hester, an oppressed black mother of five children by different men. The actors and actresses playing the five children each take on a second role depicting a figure who has abused their relationship with Hester. In this way the audience’s own conservative ideals are harshly thrown back in their faces as we first see the characters to whom we are better able to relate act despicably and then explain their actions in soliloquy. A minor abuse of authority or power — a momentary error of judgement — gets out of hand with consequences they never desired on envisioned. Its flaw, if there is one, is that Hester lacks a sufficiently sympathetic portrayal by comparison. We are able to relate far better to the supplementary characters not solely because of our inherent and apparent conservative views, but because there is simply not enough about her to like.

Its strength lies in its production which creates a fantastic atmosphere. Its strong use of reds and blacks was immediately evident in the costumes, staging and lighting instantly evoking something dark and intimidating. Rather than a typical musical accompaniment, there is a continuous background ambient sound created by silhouetted figures atop the bridge over the stage, banging on metal drums and scaffolding to create an insistent beat. Their continual, shifting presence over the action creates an encroaching sense of claustrophobia, as if the audience itself is trapped in this world along with the characters who inhabit it. Combined with this was the “interactive” performance bleeding the line between reality and the stage prior to the start and during the interval. On arrival the auditorium had kids rushing around amidst exotic dancers; blocking entrance to our row was a patron in an argument with one dancer standing atop a seat — we took the long way round. Meanwhile flirtatious prostitutes roamed the aisles soliciting clients from the theatregoers in a manner more unsettling than arousing. In painting this gritty, desperate place, the approach was unrivalled.

Child’s Play is up and running for another year. For those who haven’t heard me promoting it before, it is a charity founded by the guys behind Penny Arcade and supports children’s hospitals by providing them with books and games. Ideal for gamers, but even if you are not it is a great way to support sick kids locally (in the UK they have teamed up with Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital). If you feel the strange lack of horrific natural disasters this year has stunted your generosity, perhaps this is the ideal opportunity to rectify the problem.

Finally, the Vista-bundled Windows Mail had many scratching their heads in confusion as the apparent successor to Outlook Express seemed like more of a step back than an evolution. However the unhelpful mouthful Windows Live Mail Desktop has revealed itself as the real descendant of Microsoft’s basic email client and a worthy one at that. Perhaps more surprising is inbuilt support for Microsoft’s rivals, Yahoo! and Google.

Culture Shock

Max: Multiple reports of malfeasance across the neighbourhood.
Sam: Oh joy! That’s my second favourite feasance!

-Sam & Max, Episode 1: Culture Shock

Sam & MaxGreat gouts of magma on a beeline for the orphanage, Sam & Max are back in town! Max the anthropomorphic dog and his partner Sam, the hyperkinetic rabbity thing are sleuthing through a not-so-noir parody of American pop culture once more. You should (but probably don’t) know them from the classic LucasArts adventure games of old. The truth is there hasn’t been a great adventure game since Grim Fandango, but this could well break the trend with many of the same developers who worked on “Sam & Max Hit The Road”. This time the tenacious twosome (“dynamic duo” sounds far too crass for their hilarious brand of razor-sharp wisecracking smart-arsery) are smoothly rendered in 3 dimensions and have gone episodic, with a five new releases spread over the next several months. “An episodic sociopathic lagomorph,” Max verbosely observes in the trailer. Laconic, they are not. Tightly written as ever, maybe things are looking up for those who, like me, bemoan the loss of humour in videogames.

This is not a game that will tax your hand eye coordination or ability to mash buttons, simply your ability to think, well, horizontally. Head over and try out the free demo as a quick distraction. I promise it’s worth your time. Better yet, although individual episodes retail at $8.95 (plus tax), you can pick up the whole season of 6 for just $34.95 (again, plus tax), a little over £20. I remain sceptical about the wisdom in dividing the experience into chunks of a few hours gameplay, but within a single scene it feels great to be back with such esoteric and unique characters as the pair of private detectives, or “freelance police” as they prefer. A veritable bargain and capricious jocular entertainment to boot? The mind boggles, Sam…

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