Meewella | Fragments

The Life of P

Year: 2006 (page 5 of 17)

A Little Closer

CloserKirsten and I attended a performance of Closer at the ADC Theatre last night. Being a fan of the film, and having heard great things about the stage version (which preceded it) I was keen to see for myself. It is, indeed, brilliant. There lies a great difficulty in presenting a stage play when people now readily associate the characters with their big screen stars, especially in the stripped down cast-of-four style of Closer.

It is immediately apparent that Crarer was little enamoured of the film as there is no trace of Natalie Portman’s performance in her Alice. She retains the character’s open playfulness, but the demure veil of innocence is largely gone. The male cast channel far more of Jude Law and Clive Owen respectively, and similarities are evident even in their appearance. Marwood is particularly adept at drawing out the best feature’s of Owen’s bitter cynicism while still making the role his own. Julia Roberts’ Anna was the least fleshed out of the film’s characters, leaving her a flat, two-dimensional and rather forgettable sideline. Morgan certainly breaks free of this in portraying a rounded character easily as memorable as the rest. This is further helped by a critical confrontation between the two female leads which is notably missing from the film to the detriment of both characters.

The direction was adept aside from occassionally jarring scene-changes accompanied by flashing lights and club beats. These worked in general, but occassionally swallowed the preceding line of dialogue which may have been more powerful had it been allowed to linger for a moment. The comical cybersex scene was brilliantly staged with Dan and Larry on opposite sides, separated by a screen onto which their hilarious conversation was projected. The strip club scene was also deftly handled in a reasonably modest state of dress but with undeniably erotic energy.

The distance between posts is more a sign that little is going on yet than me being excessively occupied. Supervisions have tended toward Week 2 this year, so expect things to become quieter as I keep my head down and battle through the work. Unless something actually happens, that is.

Lastly, if you’re a final year student, StudentFocus is undertaking some research with The Times and may be willing to pay you £10 per survey you complete. So until you are actually rich, it seems like a pretty good deal. Get in early as places are limited.

Naina

Dear Priyan,

I found your photo of the Indian dancer on the Morgue site and used it as inspiration for an art quilt. I made her in fabric–mostly cotton batiks, with some gold lame and Swavarosky crystals for the jewelry. Her eyes came out especially nice, so I named it “Naina” which I think means “eyes” in Sanskrit. The quilt was accepted into A World of Beauty, the International Quilt Show in Houston, Texas this Nov 1-5. Over 55,000 people usually attend this show. I attached a copy of the quilt, but it looks much better in person than in the photo. Your photo was lovely. Thank you.

Vickie Lord

NainaI love seeing my photography used by others in ways I would never have imagined but my most popular photograph has gone off in a truly bizarre new direction. Vickie emailed to let me know that she has turned it into a quilt. I’m sure you’ll agree the results are quite stunning, particularly the eyes as she points out. Of course if you happen to be in Texas around then and quilts are your thing then you can even see the real one. As for the show itself, you can take a look at the 2004 event for an insight into the fuller quilt experience.

Meanwhile my father suggests that, once my inevitable millions start rolling in, he has found the perfect brand of mobile phone for me. If you thought the epileptic Motorola “party phone” was gaudy, take a look at GoldVish “luxury communications”.

You may find it somewhat ironic that the Globalist Foundation has hit some legal issues regarding its name and I am now involved in the rebranding as Global21 (the numerical device denoting our current century). It will be a fairly seamless transition as the individual chapters will retain their current names as “The ______ Globalist”. For those in Cambridge, the new coffee-themed issue is due out on the 16th October. As I was in Germany I did not have a hand in this issue, but I’m sure it’s still worth reading.

And finally, despite the derisive laughter with which I responded to YouTube’s arrogant “we won’t be selling for anything less than two billion dollars” attitude, you have probably heard that Google have actually gone and purchased them for a similarly ungodly amount of money. Luke will no doubt have something to say about the company’s complete lack of a coherent business plan, particularly when it involves buying a company that was described as “haemoraging money” at an alarming rate. As far as I can tell the purchase was either a Microsoft style childish tantrum at the comparative failure of Google Video to outdo its rival or another step in a sinister continuing attempt to own all the data in the world.

Secret Blogging

the paparazziIt appears that Luke has been secretly blogging. That he refers to P-2006 as an inspirational “sterling example” is a little embarassing because it creates the urge to provide a well-presented content-driven post now — surely something happened in the past week while the site remained noticably silent. For those who enjoy his intermittent, highly recognisable brand of ranting, it’s definitely worth a read and the cogent arguments receive more careful construction than the “quick” responses that I hope we shall still receive here.

A belated congratulations is due to my parents who celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, taking a well-earned day off (from work, not each other) which they spent in London, concluding with a show of Les Mis. I imagine they will be comparing notes with Kirsten shortly, as she arranged a trip to the show as a leaving do at the end of her placement with Merrill.

butterflyLectures and work have now commenced fully leading to the familiar feeling best summarised in riddle format: “When is a weekend not a weekend? / When it’s in Cambridge.” Intellectual Property is certainly shaping up to be a great course and my other optional selections are Commercial and (after some confusion over whether or not they would be occuring) half papers in Medical and Media law. Coupled with the compulsory behemoths of EU and Equity it’s looking to be a full, but hopefully enjoyable, year.

Metal!Yesterday was the first big ent of the year, marking the end of Freshers’ Week with the When I Grow Up I Want To Be… party. It seemed a bit odd given that when I grow up I want to be a lawyer which, conveniently, I already have sorted. To be (marginally) more creative I decided to tap into my criminal side going instead as The Godfather. With our “proper” cameras in tow Luke, Lufa and I made a strange trio of costumed paparazzi. I am still learning more about my PowerShot G5’s capabilities after close to three years. I have never been happy with its results in low light, but pushing it to the highest ISO level I was able to grab a few decent shots. Ideally I need to use bounce flash but I am hesitant to spend money on a camera that I am likely to replace within a year. Instead I now need to experiment with noise reduction techniques in order to clean these up before I display them all here in a new Cambridge gallery for this year. Sparkie already has a few photos on display.

Fragile Things

But all, all are fragile things made up using just 26 letters arranged and rearranged again and again to form tales and imaginings

-Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things

Fragile ThingsThe inevitable commercialisation of the book industry was clear once the disparity between hard and paper back releases became a standard. To read a book on day one, you’ll have to shell out for the hard back edition which, pretty and sturdy as they may be, are somewhat overpriced. What I didn’t realise is just how high that markup is. Neil Gaiman is, as you know, one of the few authors who captures my imagine (and wallet) enough to draw me into that purchase on release. His new collection of short stories, Fragile Things, comes with a reasonably hefty retail price of £17.99. You can imagine my shock, then, to discover Amazon selling it for just £8.99! Quite how the high street chains get away with such a huge markup is beyond me, but I urge you not to buy from them at such extortionate levels — I’m reasonably confident Neil isn’t seeing any of the money.

This is, somewhat improbably, the second book I own named Fragile Things, the other being a now impossible-to-find novel about a female glass artisan. I have yet to actually read much of Gaiman’s new offering, so a recommendation would be somewhat premature. Yet simply based upon the fascinating Smoke and Mirrors collection, I feel I can nonetheless. Reading time will become more limited once term starts in earnest, but I shall endevour to highlight my favourite bits over the next several weeks. There is nothing I enjoy more than to share his fabulous arrangements of letters, words and sentences.

“We’ll Give ‘Em War.”

Warthogs are cool. Scorpions are cool. Controlling lots of Warthogs and Scorpions and sending them into battle is really, really cool.

Halo Wars FAQ

Halo WarsSuch was the official answer as to why a real-time strategy game set in the Halo universe ought to be made (by Age of Empires developer Ensemble Studios), and little more need be said really. Bungie had said there would be big news at Microsoft’s X06 show in Barcelona and indeed there was, in impressive cinematic form. The trailer stakes it territory well and the words “Spartan Group Omega” will widen the eyes of any Halo fan, probably combined with a rather stupid grin.

The X06 show marked the crowning achievement in a great first year for Microsoft’s new console. After a bout of console issues at launch they have now hit their stride and are able to focus on games. Sony’s presence at TGS, meanwhile, was so lacklustre as to be bizarre. They essentially danced around the topic of games, with a press conference that consisted largely of explaining how lovely this technology called “teh internets” is. They did, however, provide the first truly impressive PS3 gameplay trailer in White Knight Story. Towards the end I was unsure how much was in-game and how much was cutscene, but the very fact I was confused bodes well. Still, the lack of standout games (aside from the obvious Metal Gear Solid) must be unsettling for fans.

Nintendo’s notably low key presence at Japan’s biggest gamming show is puzzling, and many speculate must date back to an old feud (TGS killed all its family and a blood feud was begat or some such). Meanwhile, Microsoft’s other scoop was unveiling the first gameplay footage of Assassin’s Creed running, of course, on the 360. One hopes its impressive wall-scaling escapades should quell TomTom’s penchant for climbing things that should not be climbed. But it probably won’t.

Vista Impressions – Ribbons and Fonts

I suppose this deals largely with Office 2007 and not Vista directly, but UI change is likely to permeate future Microsoft products so it remains very relevant. Generally the change between iterations of Office requires some openess to new ways of doing things, but with an almost seamless transition in terms of UI. Many felt 2003 was an almost defunct purchase for only prettifying the icons (not quite true, but not far off either). The same can certainly not be said of 2007 which truly tears out the old interface and starts from scratch. The result is something far less intuitive than one might expect from a company that has dominated the office suite market for the past decade — be warned that most offices are going to require some retraining.

Office 2007 UIThis is not to say the new “ribbon” method is bad, merely that the jarring change is surprising given how well and intuitively the old menu bar system worked. Although at first it appears intact, these buttons are no longer drop-down menus at all. Instead they change the set of visible icons in the ribbon below. It certainly looks nicer, and does speed up several tasks. Its greatest benefit is that styles are now much more readily accessible (with a single click instead of selecting from a drop-down list) and its prominent positioning is probably intended to convince users to utilise this useful function more liberally.

The downside is that it took me almost a minute just to work out how to open a document (although the keyboard shortcut remains the same). Without the familiar File menu, I eventually discovered that the big Office logo on the left is actually a button within which are hidden several major functions. Perhaps I was having a slow day, but if it took me that long to do something so basic I suspect many ohers will have trouble. I would suggest that an “open” button next to the conveiently located “save” button up at the top may not go amiss, but undoubtedly many more issues will arise until people settle into the new interface.

The other major plus is a new integrated document reader view for Word, which launches by default when reading things like email attachments. The lack of a reader app was one of my dad’s gripes with the product so I imagine many will find this extremely useful. It makes great use of the screen and as my use electronic texts only increases it should certainly save me from a little eyestrain!

Fonts are something to which most users will pay little attention but the new defaults included in Vista really are pretty special. Arial et al. are definitely a thing of the past now, with Cambria and Calibri providing a wonderfully clear serif and sans serif styles respectively at both large and small sizes. Indeed, all the new fonts scale remarkably well. Consolas provides a far more pleasant monospace experience too. The only real issue is that they all start with C — Calibri, Cambria, Candara, Consolas, Constantina, Corbel. I’m sure it sounded like a good idea at the time, but it’s already confusing me! It sounds odd to say but given the going rate for fonts these days, these are genuinely impressive enough to almost justify the cost of operating system alone.

Vista Impressions – Nanny Knows Best

unversal? apparently not...UAC is an acronym you will soon grow to hate. One of Vista’s major flaws for the competent or professional user is that Microsoft’s “we know what’s best for you” attitude evident in XP has grown expansively. It can be illustrated very simply in the image here. You will see the start menu with the instantly recognisable universal icon for “shut down”. Only in Vista it’s not. Instead it stores your session in memory and puts the machine to sleep. Now I know Microsoft are keen to promote the fast booting and low power consumption that its sleep mode offers but, especially with this laptop, often I just want to switch the damn thing off. Forcing me to click on a tiny arrow an select it from a list is not only unhelpful, it actually slows the process down.

OS terrorism: desktop hijackThe major issue is the soon-to-be-loathed User Account Control system. It is designed to solve a very real problem — that of novice users running as administrators and inadvertantly opening their computer up to all sorts of malware because they don’t know what they are running. I, on the other hand, do. So forcing me to run in standard user mode and to ask me for permission every single time I perform an act like interacting with the Program Files folder is unnecessary. To ask me twice (a first popup warns that permission is required, a second actually asks for the requisite permission as well as a password if you are logged into another account) is unacceptable. Worse still the “secure desktop” proceeds to hijack my entire screen, fading out everything else and locking it, until I select a response. Drawing attention to a new window is fine, halting whatever I happen to be doing is not.

A neater solution to this problem is definitely needed because this intrusive system will likely lead to many users disabling UAC altogether. I should stress that many of these issues can be solved by tweaking the way in which UAC operates while retaining many of its security advantages. Ed Bott discusses these options as well as how Microsoft can save User Account Control as a concept.

Vista Impressions – Getting Started

Windows Vista RC1 (that’s Release Candidate 1) can be downloaded as an ISO (a DVD image that you can burn to a blank disc) from Microsoft for free by those interested in trialling it before the official launch next year. This is not a standard “guide to Vista”. Other sites like Paul Thurrott’s do it and do it better than I could in limited space here. Rather this will focus on a few points that grabbed my attention for better and for worse.

Not being a complete moron, I wasn’t about to make the unfinished Vista my only operating system, so I had to begin by partitioning my hard drive and creating a second primary partition from which Vista could boot. For reference you can also check the specs of the machine in question.

installing VistaSmartly all the user involvement has been move to the start of the installation after which it takes care of itself while you sit back and relax. Or leave. Because this is slooow. You see this isn’t long in the XP go and make a cup of tea sense. This is more prepare a large dinner, eat it, drive to the gym and burn off all those extra calories, return home and shoot your dog because he’s now too old for life long. And then, magically, it’s done. I was wary of driver incompatibility, especially on a laptop, but to its credit Vista picked up my widescreen display and all the other peripherals with no trouble at all. I have yet to test bluetooth and wireless networking.

VistaAt first glance Vista is not earth-shattering: it looks like what it is, an upgraded version of XP. Instantly it is, however, very pretty. Aero’s translucency is a visual flourish that has been well executed and offers some exceptionally useful interface enhancements. Merging style with utility is something Apple were known for (and lost somehow with the Shuffle) and Microsoft seem to have grasped that the former alone is not enough. Switching windows or hovering over a taskbar item will now provide a preview of the window. Better yet, it’s a live preview so if you hover over a video player you’ll see the current video playing. The “switch between windows” view cascades you windows three dimensionally in a view even nicer than Tiger’s. The biggest UI change actually occurs in Office which will be discussed in depth at a later date.

Beauty comes at a price, of course, and that price is resource usage. A graphics card is a must for starters. Vista works fine on this machine but still occassionally feels sluggish despite the gig of RAM. In reality I would recommend a minimum of two for anyone intending to upgrade next year. For a new system to ever feel sluggish this early on after installation is worrying. Another culprit is the sidebar which provides gadgets for the desktop which Microsoft will be accused of stealing from Apple (who in turn stole it from Konfabulator). First impressions count and visually Vista should certainly impress, but next we’ll take a look under the hood at some of the new featues which justify the upgrade.

The Savage Jazz

First a big plug for The Savage Jazz, Rich Homer’s band based in Guildford. Upon listening their eclectic tastes and varied backgrounds in music are immediately clear — it’s not jazz, but a rather funky sound emerging from the same mindset while musically drawing together rock, reggae and blues. Coming up is a major gig at the Rock Garden in Covent Garden this Sunday at the Platform event (2:30 – 7pm, £4 entry). For a stupidly cheap entry price and cheap booze all afternoon it sounds like a perfect pre-uni weekend. At the very least check out their site, particularly the great video for Mockingbird.

Daniel Craig had a fairly negative reception from Bond fans who, to be fair, were unlikely to accept any replacement to Brosnan’s flawless delivery of the character as Fleming wrote him. Being a fan of Layer Cake and more recently Munich, I have been vocally pro-Craig and I think the full Casino Royale trailer shows he has the gravitas and the subtle charm to pull it off. It’s different, it’s darker, and it looks damn good.

Our final installment of the popular Sausagewatch was delayed by the fact Kirsten kept a vital part in Germany. However, she was kind enough to post it over so we can proudly present the first ever illustrated edition. So without further ado…

Thuringer RostbratwurstSausagewatch: Thūringer Rostbratwurst is a regional variety of the famous Bratwurst sausage. Named after a state in Germany, the “rost” in its name denotes that it is grilled. Commonly served as a heavy snack with ketchup and/or mustard accomanied by a toasted slice of bread. I should perhaps point out that the drawing was Kirsten’s sketch on a train in Berlin and was not intended for public consumption. I, however, feel its rough artistic brusqueness rounds off our segment on German sausages perfectly.

Shiver Me Timbers, It’s A Photo Album!

First Mate BromwinAvast, ye scurvy dogs! Be ye after me booty or per’aps me Berlin photos? Ye’ll not take ’em without a fight. Viewin’ is open the to right sort, o’ course. Whether ye call yerself corsair, buccanneer or gentleman o’ fortune makes no difference to me — ye be a pirate. Then, me hearties, pour yerself some grog and be welcome here as long as ye like. Thar be photos photos aplenty with the German lasses and the sprog Nele makes a fine addition to the crew. Not for the lily-livered we ‘ave some close-ups of bees and hornets too. Arr, and fer ye landlubbers with no idea what be goin’ on, here’s a little clue.

That’s quite enough of that, I think. Having missed the occassion previously, it seemed only right that this year P-2006 join in one of the net’s quirkier “holidays”. Aside from the photos, I had been intending to start talking about my impressions of Windows Vista today, but it’s been delayed by piratical stuff instead. Look out for that over the next week or so, each post focusing on a very specific element of the new operating system. Meanwhile this salty sea dog had best be getting back to work.

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"Luck is the residue of design."

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