31 March 2010

IT musings

I think it's time to come up with some predictions as to where I see IT for the next 12-18 months. Not much point heading beyond that the speed things move at.
I'm having a reasonably quiet day but have been pondering where I think we need to put resources for growth which has prompted this blog.

Cloud computing
Which has become a buzzword to confuse the crap out of pretty much anyone. Ask for a definition of cloud computing and the sheer variety of answers makes ways to use eggs in cooking seem simple. I think from a user perspective (not enterprise) the move to putting documents, settings, emails up on the website is well established - but will become more common place. Offerings from Google (email, docs, storage), Microsoft (new Live Mesh), and a number of other providers allow storage of, for example, documents, email (webmail), bookmarks, general settings etc. All of which means you can, in theory, have all of your work on the web. There are security issues there, but for convenience, it seems a good thing.  I'm quite sold on it, if for no other reason than I don't have to email my documents from home to work etc, and since I use Dropbox, I can access them on the iphone. Seems pointless? It's been useful when I've been trolling vinyl in record shops, since I've got my list on the phone I can check what I've already got.
My concern here is the security, most people don't have secure password, and most people don't change them very frequently, let alone security by the hosting company. This is one reason why I'm using Dropbox over Google for my storage, I'm concerned at the amount of info Google already have about me (from gmail, searches etc), so why stick my documents up there too?

The big corollary is movement to smaller laptops. You don't need power to surf the web, so speed can be sacrificed to make smaller machines. This is where I see the power of the iPad, work on docs, browse the web and listen to music. How many of us really only use the computer for that?
In reality most of us don't use anywhere near the power of the computer we own and, in theory, could get away with a terminal server/thin client connection. This was thrown around a few years ago as the future of computing, but it's not until now that network speed/stability and the potential of the internet, have allowed it to become a realistic approach for users.

For Enterprise users, I see the cloud in the next 6-12 months being a trial period, while security and data storage issues are addressed. Who owns the data and how easily can it be migrated?

Going on a limb here, but I predict the effective death of the desktop PC in the next 12-18 months. The current economic climate will force a move to greener options (thin client, laptops etc). So outside of the few people who actually need high performance machines (gamers possibly) the rest will continue the move to smaller truly-portable machines. Even for traditionally desktop bound industries, for example movie rendering, there are now options for blade-based processors so thin-client is possible here. In theory anyway.

I think the ipad will really kick start the truly portable PC market. Although I'm in two minds about purchasing one: there is no camera, which limits the use for skype/msn etc, and the multi-threading is a bit pseudo which if you are trying to do a number of things, could be an issue. I also don't see the point of having a 3G one (see below).
Interesting that a number of mobile companies here will give you a 'free' netbook with the purchase of a 3G dongle and plan. I think that's a massive rip-off and have warned a few people off that - see Wireless below.

This is where the interesting stuff happens - if we ignore NZs dire ADSL connections and focus on the better UK ones.
I'm currently discussing with our networks team removal of hardwired network connections to the halls. And we all see that within the next year or two, wireless is robust and secure enough to cope with the increased demand. And that's with general student usage of iPlayer, legal (and illegal) P2P usage, movie downloads (via itunes etc).
The ubiquitous nature of wireless means connection is possible pretty much everywhere. So why not kill off hardwired connections - mostly. There is demand for backbones to have the extremely high speed connections being rolled out (100GB+), but whether this needs to be to the users desktop/thin-client is questionable. Actually thin-client entirely negates the use of wired, if the wireless is stable enough...

Another issue I find amusing is people who get cabled connections to their house, then run wireless. Kinda defeats the purpose.

If wireless is going to take over from wired, then I do agree speeds need to be increased - which is likely to mean more connection points, or at least smarter trafficking of data. This isn't an area I know much about...but the hit as more people are connected to the same point is significant.

I also think 3G is dead and shouldn't be used. It's over-saturated as it is, and connection speeds are dire. 4G is on it's way, but can we just go for full wireless? There's big implications for Telco's here as the mobile companies have the investment in 3G, and the traditional (eg BT) telco's have the wireless, could lead to an interesting battle for customers.
That's my point on why I'd be going for a wireless only iPad. All I ever do with my phone is swear when I'm using data over 3G. It would be fine for text, but as sites all use graphics and interaction (eg google maps), 3G kills my battery and my will to live. die 3g, die.
For much the same reason, don't be tempted on the 3G dongle+netbook deals, as they'll lock you into a long term contract (from what I've seen anyway).

OS and Software
I'm sure most of you expect me to say Linux is the way forward. It's not. Or rather, it's nowhere near ready for general users. So for the foreseeable future, it's a niche market and we're stuck with Apple and Microsoft. Both of which I'm fine with, Win7 is good, and I like Mac OS...
What may begin to shake things up is Google when they launch their OS. Given their success and market dominance, and the full integration with GoogleApps/Mail/etc. it could become quite a challenging competition for the two established brands.
Microsoft are obviously concerned, and have responded with the launch of MS Live Mesh. Kind of Dropbox meets Google Apps/Mail. So allows multiple machines access to stuff.

Apple need to seriously rethink their offering, currently MobileMe and iDisk are paid services - which look good, but with the combination of free offers available, I don't see much of a win using them. And cost-wise, they are expensive for what is being offered.

General software has become a web-based service (software-as-a-service), and I think it's ridiculous to expect users to keep paying for basic office programs. Google Apps and MS both offer free web-based options, and OpenOffice has been free for years (and cross-platform). There is the opportunity for enhanced offerings on a cost-model. It's been tried before (Mandriva linux and OpenOffice/StarOffice spring to mind), but never very successfully. Possibly as a lot of them charged beyond what the market was keen to pay.
There is a strong separation here between consumer and enterprise tho', and that's the split that needs to be exploited by software manufacturers. I foresee something like 'buy our enterprise software and get the consumer version free' - or the enterprise comes with a web-based version accesible from outside the organisation. From the looks of Office 2010, and the recent updates to Office 2008 (Mac) that's certainly where MS are headed - as in integration with the MS Mesh Live offerings. Rumours have it that Mesh Live will be synched properly with SkyDrive (25GB online storage for free) in the next few months as well.

I can't see the death of paper based books just yet - although as I mentioned in a recent blog, I can see the increasing decline of the newspaper industry.
However with the new Apple iTunes Books section competing head to head with amazon's kindle etc., I think we're in for some fun times as consumers. For ease of use, it's hard to beat itunes, so it's going to come down to compatibility. Amazon have been a bit petty about this recently, but are obviously doing something as ebooks are unavailable on their website.
I can't see a DRM (digital rights management) system working too well here, but there are more limited licensing models available that could work.
Will be interesting times for the book world. We've already seen the death of Borders and the near collapse of other major bookstores, apparently due to a lack of diversification or acceptance of new media forms. Is this the beginning of the megastore (amazon, itunes) and the micro-niche store (indie book shop) with very little as high street stores? I suspect it might be.

Crickey that was a bit of musing.

Links of interest:
MS Live Mesh
Dropbox referral 
Apple iPad
Apple MobileMe

30 March 2010

Keytars and general scariness

A hugely popular song during my younger years was Funkytown, with its classic keytar usage.

Sadly for those of us who wanted to be lead singers and keyboard players, the keytar has disappeared from pop music.
But it appears to have had a comeback in folk-metal. Yup that genre I've scared myself with before, here's some more.
Firstly keytar mayhem by the Alewives and 'Keelhauled'.

And so, why stop there. Here's someVikings getting hammered...there's some Steve Harris (Maiden) style riffs in there, or rather Maiden-esque guitar breaks. Good stuff.

Now a band endorsed by none other than Mr Salmond. In the spirit of Nintendo, 'battle'.

Sleep well and dream of viking metal.

29 March 2010

Ahhh British Summer Time

The UK has just moved to Summer Time (for those of you in NZ, we're now 12 hours behind).

This coincides with a weather forecast for snow.


27 March 2010

The Oscars, by someone we do care about

Since it's not part of Murdoch's empire, here's a link to Neil Gaiman's take on the Oscars (for Coraline).

I am wondering if the demand is there for Murdoch's charged online Times/Sunday Times (1 UKP per day or 2 UKP for a week). He's managed it for the Financial Times and the Wall St Journal (both pay sites before he bought them), and intends this to be the point of the spear, with the Sun and News of the World to follow later.
From sitting here, there is too much competition with papers here, the Indie has just been bought, and all papers currently make their paid product available free of charge. When in NZ, this was an excellent thing. Over here, I can see why it's causing problems for the bottom line. Why pay when you can get it free? The curse of the download generation.
I'm lucky that my workplace has subsidised papers, so 40p per edition rather than the 1 quid the rest of the country pays (I think that's right anyway). But even then I do like to chill out reading it, and I'm not the biggest convert to reading on a laptop. But I'm not against it, and therefore I do see the use of the iPad when it's released.

Will consumers go for Murdoch's online Times? I'm not so sure. The two papers he does own with paid access, are niche interest, and I suspect, largely paid for by companies or as a tax deduction. No, I have no evidence for that. But the Times, for all it's history, has I feel, lost it's lustre. I used to read it, but now I just get bitter and shouty. Maybe it's the newspaper, maybe it's me.

I guess time will tell, but a new model for news gathering does need to pop up - the more money they lose, the less investigative journalism we get. And that would be a real loss. Summary article here.


26 March 2010

Thursday Night Music

I'd been flicking through my vinyl the other day, moving bits of it around - I'd realised I had Talk Talk singles in three different boxes, and as a 'mild' OCD retentive, this bothered me. While doing this I came across some stuff I hadn't listened to for awhile - solving my Thursday night music problems.

First up was the Tygers of Pan Tang, loosely described as a heavy metal band belonging to the NWOBHM (pronounced nah-wob-em), I think I'd run more with hard rock. They get raved about, but all in all, seem ok but nothing great. Nice background rock.

Moved onto Mark Kelly's (of Marillion) first band, Chemical Alice, and their EP Curiouser and Curiouser from 1981. Somehow this EP popped up in NZ, which is where I bought it - mint condition - result. It's very typical neo-prog, cheesy as hell, and some synth breaks by Mr Kelly that wouldn't be out of place on Script. A quick google should find you a download of the EP, and if you like your cheesy neo-prog, it's definitely worth listening to.

Porcupine Tree : The Incident was spun as well, excellent mix of the older (well ok, Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun) more poppy stuff and the recent heavier approach. there's some excellent 5.1 effects on there as well, reflecting the talent Mr Wilson has for mixing.

I spun some random stuff, mainly Tom Waits from memory, as well.

24 March 2010

Metal \m/

Deathstars, think Marilyn Manson/Depeche Mode/Sisters of Mercy/Paradise Lost, and you're most of the way there. So yeah, derivative, but fun.  I've just watched three vids of theirs and liked them, although I do have a soft spot for emo :) Not sure I'll buy an album, but good none-the-less.

I appear to be on an emo metal roll, watched Dead Girls Are Easy (The 69 Eyes), then this, which seems a cut above the usual emo. The singer sounds like he could have some talent live.

It appears Paradise Lost have gotten heavy again - this is for Billy. I do rather like One Second, and I might keep an eye out for the new (2009) album on the strength of this video.

Then kept it real with some Opeth (early stuff, then Porcelain Heart), and Meshuggah. Now there's a band who have improved immensely over the years. Firmly believe the most recent album, ObZen, is by far their best (although Shed and its album comes close). Oh hell, have Bleed....


21 March 2010

Movies and news

I appear to be on a writing roll this weekend. A more constructive plan would be to actually write something of use, but let's not quibble. I'm gradually catching up on movies I had stockpiled to watch, so in the spirit of 'well I'll watch them so you don't have to', here's some quick summaries.

The House of the DevilThe House of the Devil
Set as a 1980s horror movie, the basic plot is fairly standard. Girl becomes babysitter, it's a full moon, strange house some distance from anywhere. However, the movie is an excellent horror, well paced, well scripted, period style (think friday 13th pt1/2 style) all good. And it's got some genuinely odd things in it. When's the last time Satanism popped up in a horror movie? Without appearing too cheesy? (the cheese cuts out Bruce Dickinson's Chemical Wedding). There's some nice small touches, sweet wholesome family in photo is seen later spread out in a pentagram in less wholesome fashion. But it's not a laboured point. As in most horror films the build up is slow, with many nods to classic horror scenes - without quite falling into Scary Movie parody level - causing a 'ho-hum' view and settle back to chill out vibe, then things get ugly. Very ugly, good use of gore here. The final twist is excellent, and a nod to another high quality horror. Definitely worth seeing 8/10.

The Devil's ChairThe Devil's Chair
One chair, some sex, parallel dimension, insanity, cliche ridden professor and research assistants. Not good, not good at all. To summarise from best to worst points: music > SFX > setting > babes > acting > script.

I'm sure there was something else I watched recently that was good, but it's gone from memory.

There's been some excellent news articles this week, to quickly summarise three of them.

Invest your money here.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the arms market is where it's at during a recession. The arms market has increased 22% in the last five years, mainly to South America and south-east Asia.

What this says about us, when the going gets tough, the rich buy bigger guns.

Ohh poppies dude.
Scientists have finally, after a 50 year hunt, isolated the genes in poppies that provide the painkilling properties. This opens the way for synthesising morphine, and possibly creating more efficient drugs - in large tanks rather than the traditional plant based vector.
What may be more interesting is the effect this has on poppy farmers in the UK (2500ha) and afghanistan. There was a push in the early stages of the war to pay the farmers off, which wasn't very successful. I doubt the drugs market is going to dry up, but any subsidies being paid for growth for medical purposes could disappear. And where does that put the farmers? I suspect back to the drugs trade, as farming drugs is far more profitable than grain farming.

And in the gold medal olympics, Caesar stylez, the only gold medal minted to celebrate the murder of Julias Caesar was put on show at the British Museum.

I think that's all I'll be writing this weekend. Think I'll put my feet up and view a movie, or cook something, who knows.


God wasn't there, but the Irish were

As promised, the possibly surprising blog.

I got married.

One of the reasons I came over to the UK was Sharla, who was, then, studying for a PhD in Cork. Actually the research was in microbiol, not Cork, but I gave up trying to write that sentence in a grammatically correct form. We'd known each other for some time in NZ, and when her PhD went south she moved in with me here. So following much planning - actually there was, there's like a 3 month notice period, and one hurried night of beer and internet (for bookings) we ended up in Cork a week ago with wedding party (the A-team, and Craig - or Wes) in tow.

Cork is kinda pretty, and kinda depressing. Sharla took me to Kinsale, an old fishing village, which was lovely - if designed for tourists. Found a nice pub tho'. And the food in Cork is superb, as was the coffee. Even a crappy bagel place had good coffee.
Met Jana at the Franciscan Well Brewery (yeah crap website), which has superb beer. The stout in particular was excellent, to the point the next morning was 'subdued'.
Next evening the A-Team had arrived so the four of us went for dinner (tapas), and drinking. Including finding the Munster rugby clubs pub, which was fun. Continual choruses of Sweet Caroline, or rather continued 'Sweet Caroline, da da dah, good times never seemed so good...mumble...pause...[repeat]', with rugby players dozing quietly on the tables. Remember, this was Thursday night.

Friday dawned, Craig arrived (no, you don't want to know what time he got up -respect dude), Sharla meandered off to get hair/make-up done. The rest of us went on a tiki-tour of Cork, this involved coffee (extensively), and preventing Alex from dragging us to the pub. Highlight was finding a shop that sold paint, and fishing gear.
Quick change, then we got married. As you've probably guessed, it was very relaxed - I can't be arsed doing stressed any more, except while supporting Wellington rugby.
Service excluded god, for obvious reasons, and was captured for posterity by Craig (see below for some pix). The chick running it was also the one we'd gone to see on Thursday morning to organise stuff, where I was mostly well behaved...
Picked up the marriage certificates and headed to the pub, then lunch. Then pub. And dinner. And pub.
I like the pubs in Cork.
So yes, I'm now married. This is a good thing, I'm happy.

Some pictures.
 The wedding party, from left: Alex, Sharla, me, Andrew (you'll note both Andrew and I are clean shaven). The vows picture is the top one of the blog - see a red haired Irish chick - take me down to the cliche city...actually she was lovely, so I apologise for that :)
Rings, you'll also note I managed to escape wearing any form of tie/bowtie/cravat whatever. Result.
And signing by Sharla.
So yes, there ya go.

Love, B and S.

20 March 2010

6 Nations - final round

Three games in one day, glad I'm not drinking too heavily...

Italy v Wales
No surprises here, the Italians looked good throughout the 6 nations, and were unlucky in a couple of games (England in particular), but were thoroughly broken by the French last week. They hadn't recovered, and although their defence was good, it was no match for a rampant Welsh team. The Welsh, according to the pundits, promised much - but in my opinion never really delivered. Having said that they are playing well as a team, and in Gatland have a coach who could lead this team to surprise a few at the World Cup.

Ireland v Scotland
My dark horse team, Scotland, managed to 'snatch defeat from the jaws of victory' on too many occasions and are in danger of the wooden spoon, again.
The game was a refreshing revelation, both teams came to play and threw it around - which looked good, even if it caused a lot of turnovers/knockons. The more balanced play has come from Scotland, which explained their lead into halftime. Even with the forward pass that gave O'Driscoll his try.
The Scottish loosies outplayed the Irish, providing both turnovers and clean ball during rucks, which allowed their rather good half back/first /second five combo's to work well (Dan Parks is one helluva first-five). Some excellent team play by Scotland avoided the wooden spoon, and beat the more name-team.
Good game, enjoyed that.

England v France
I picked France to win the 6 nations sometime ago, so I'm feeling quite good. A French team with consistency, flair, and control - although they've looked fragile at times when put under sustained pressure. Morgan Parra, the French half-back, has been a revelation.
First try, by England, was a brilliantly worked move. But let's not talk about the ref, his pedantry at scrum time could cause problems....no idea wot country he came from *ho hum*. 
First half started well for England, but then was ground back by the French - making a lie of my fragile comment. Ref has been a bit of a factor. Again Parra has led the backline and kept the forwards focussed. 
Second half has been all England, good use of substitutes (apart from Tindall, idiots!) and good use of running ball. Not words I've used much for England. But France showed a very gritty determination, it wasn't pretty and it was full of mistakes, but they did what they had to for the win.


Cooking with Bruce and other things

Bit of a rubbish day really, I was intending to wander into town and go through the second hand shops for some furniture to restore. But rain put a stop to that, so went around Shepshed instead, which took all of 10 minutes (1 minute furniture browsing, 9 mins LP flicking).

There is a more major blog coming this weekend btw. Once I've edited some pictures.

The week has been slow, but I think I've got a bit of focus for the projects I'm working on, so I've blocked out all of Monday to sit down and work on them.Will see how that goes. While writing that, it's just occurred to me that the cliche of guardian reader eating hummous described my afternoon. But I've put the paper aside to watch the 6 nations games. There's beer in the fridge too, if I go down that route.

So instead of wandering around town I finished off the beta for a website I got convinced to work on again. If anyone wants to check out the new location for the Society for Reptiles and Amphibian Research in New Zealand, go look here. Comments welcome, bear in mind the content is about a year old.
I fixed my computer as well, the 'n' key was working erratically, so I decided it was worth cleaning it. If only to avoid rather amusing spelling mistakes. Pulling the space bar and the 'n' key off suggested it definitely needed a clean, so vacuum cleaner was employed and now everything works nicely.

So it's been a pleasant and efficient morning/early afternoon to the sweet sounds of North Atlantic Oscillation, and their debut album - recommended for the usual naval gazing suspects. Then Bach's orchestra suites.

Today's recipe is a killer. Refreshing, tasty, and excellent for lunch the next day.

Chicken, Brie and Bacon Salad
Yeah obviously this is the original (plus my tweaks) version, I replaced the chicken with scallops and the bacon with dried fried shallots.

1. Salad greens, washed and dumped (dunno, 3 cups worth?) onto platter

2. Chicken chopped into bite sized chunks, coated with smoked paprika (smoked is important here) and fried, leave to cool.
1 small red onion sliced into rings
1 brie at room temperature and needs to be soft, cut into chunks
1 avocado, chopped
3 rashers bacon fried and chopped up

arrange in that order over the greens, drizzle a little olive oil over it.

3. Herb dressing: combine equal amounts of olive oil and white wine vinegar (I used about 50ml each); 1t salt; 2t honey; fresh ground black pepper; 1T wholegrain mustard; 3 finely chopped garlic cloves, finely chopped parsley, basil, chives, coriander - all into a jar with firm fitting lid. Mix vigorously and drizzle over the platter.

toast some pine nuts and flamboyantly fling over the dish, serve.

Back to 6 nations now.

Love, B

18 March 2010

When's URLs go wrong

i know there haven't been many updates from me recently, and I'm still refusing to update my Facebook status, but fear not, in depth and possibly surprising blogs will be flowing this weekend.

In the meantime, an example of a company who didn't think through their URL. This time, Microsoft. I've edited out most of the rubbish... Respect.

The solution is to install Exchange 2007 Service Pack 3 on the Windows 7 clients. Yes, you heard that right. Based on customer feedback, the Exchange Product group has decided to release Exchange 2007 SP3 in the second half of 2010, which will add support for installing Exchange 2007 Management tools on Windows 7 clients and Exchange 2007 on Windows Server 2008 R2 servers. You can read more about the plans to release Exchange 2007 SP3 here:http://msexchangeteam.com/archive/2009/11/30/453327.aspx.

8 March 2010


Been awhile since we had a metal post, so here's some vids. Those of you who don't like metal, skip to the last one, it's rock and it's superb.

First up Saxon, that 80s NWOBHM band, are still rocking along - here's a 2008 vid whose riff may owe something to ac/dc sin city, but let's not tell anyone...

And more celtic metal. This is, in keeping with most other celtic/folk metal, very very wrong.

Found a mesuggah wannabe, Deatholution - Hackneyed, wouldn't recommend them, they have the brutal precision approach of M, but they miss the icy brutal delicacy, and I can't think of any other way to describe it, of M. Bloodbath are always a favourite of mine, a bit of a supergroup, or at least a secondary project for a number of extreme metallers (akerfeldt from opeth was a vocalist for a period).
Worth checking out, Ex Deo 'Romulus', and no prizes for guessing the song (and video) topic matter. The video is quite good tho, CGI fun times.
And I ended this particular run with Dimmu Borgir, The Chosen Legacy from their superb album, In Sorte Diaboli. Ok, so they are an acquired taste, but the mix of synth and brutal metal really works for me.

Flicked through some stoner metal, nothing really that grabbed me. So have moved on to Isis, and came across these guys 'Baroness - Wanderlust'. Good stuff, should appeal to Isis fans.

Can anyone explain the point of Trivium? Really? Anyone? No, thought not. What gets to me is that when I'm searching for music of this type, it keeps turning up in the related videos section. Why?!

Rob Zombie has a new album out, and here's the uncensored video.

But this is, by far, the best video I've seen for ages
White Wizzard 'Over the Top', imagine if you will, an 80s hair metal tribute band who are good, sound like Queensryche, but with a singer who has more in common with Midnight (from Crimson Sky) for vocal range, and the mighty morphin power rangers.
This isn't really metal, just good 80s hair metal rock. Please watch it

I have a soft spot for Hammerfall 'Any means necessary', and Amorphis 'Silver Bride' both of which are a bit cheesy metal, but at least have a good tune to carry them. Actually Amorphis are much better than that suggests.
Ohhh good to see Grave Digger still going strong, not that they've changed their focus subject-wise much over the years. I've got live at Wacken kicking around somewhere. How anthemic is that 'ballad of a hangman' - awesome stuff.

Righto, I think that will do my metal exploration for the evening.

7 March 2010

Typo's are cool

I'm currently reading some tender documents, which are long although (thankfully) moderately interesting. There have been some excellent typo's, for example:

...prestigious events such as the US Masters, Gland Slam Tennis, ... [emphasis mine]


6 March 2010


Decided to watch some movies tonight. First up was Moon by Duncan Jones. The movie is excellent, nice pacing, well structured, exploring identity and existenalism (kinda). Mankind is getting most of their energy from a base on the moon, which is manned by one person on three year shifts.  The movie explores how this affects him, his relationships, and a hypothetical extra shoe. Without giving away too many plot spoilers, this is a superb movie. Stylewise, it sits somewhere between 2001 and Sunshine, 8/10.

I've just finished Lars von Trier's Antichrist, dedicated to Tarkovsky, which explained a bit. Powerful, interesting, and not nearly as disturbing as some people have said. The movie explores feelings of loss after a child's death, looking at how grief affects people differently. It seemed more linear than some of von Trier's movies, and the leads, Willem Defoe and Charlotte Gainsburg, were mesmerising. Following the death, the husband pulls the wife from the hospital psychiatrist and begins treating her himself. Together they explore her fears, based largely on an uncompleted thesis she was working on in a deserted hut. Sex is used as both the cause of death, the antidote to death, and as a means of keeping the couple together. She begins to suspect he's leaving her, and so begins her descent to madness, and his initially rational sanity is increasingly challenged by disturbing images. I really liked this movie, elements of Cronenberg in there (Crash in particular), and definitely worth watching - even an element of redemption, which is not a von Trier strong suit. Again 8/10. Possibly 9.

May watch a horror to relax soon ...

5 March 2010

Good music TV night and Thurs night music

Last night was Thursday night music and feeling all adventurous I went prog-hard. Opened with Steve Hackett's classic Spectral Mornings (buy here from Steve), followed by Peter Gabriel's Scratch My Back (the new album of covers, although this album is so good it shouldn't be tarred with the term covers album) and ended with IQ's Frequency. This is one my favourite albums of last year, and sums up everything that's great about IQ.

Tonight I was aiming to watch some movies, there's a bit of a backlog. But I made the mistake of looking at the BBC4 schedule.
Documentary on Schubert (one of my favourite composers) 90 mins
Heavy Metal Britannia - exploring, well, British heavy metal - narrated by Nigel Planer - 90mins, and if it's half as good as the Synth Britannia, it'll be a winner.
Heavy Metal Britannia at the BBC - bands from the doco in live performances at the BBC (yeah, you might be gathering their titling is quite straightforward).

It's the first time in awhile I've sat down at watched TV for longer than an hour, but it does remind that sometimes TV here gets it right.

Let's not sully this by mentioning 6music eh? Dicks (the BBC, not 6music).


Pod Off

A post of no real purpose other than to mention a few podcasts I've been spinning recently.
I listened to the new Peter Gabriel album last night, which was superb, annoyingly I see there are still tickets available for his London shows. Price seems quite reasonable for PG and orchestra.
Much pondering will ensue.

I've become quite addicted to listening to podcasts on my walk in, sure it cuts down the amount of music I'm listening to, but it makes an interesting change. Here's a quick summary of what I download each week:

National Public Radio
Quite a treasure trove of stuff here.
first up, A Prairie Home Companion. I got addicted to this many years ago when it was played on NZ National Radio, from memory on Sat mornings, and then on the Summer show. Wonderful gentle quirky humour, lovely way to spend 15mins each week. Podcast can be set up from here.

NPR also have a superb collection of music archived, live shows from SXSW, general gigs, interviews, vodcasts. Definitely worth checking out, here's but a couple.
The National
Dark is the Night - live version of the superb compilation album (National, Yeasayer, pretty much a who's who of the US indie scene)
And a more general link to gigs etc.

BBC Radio 4
I tend to dip in and out of the Radio 4 stuff, but two that I have set up for weekly downloads are:
Friday night comedy podcast which seems to cover the news quiz and the now show (steve punt/hugh dennis). About 30 mins per episode.

And the new one from the British Museum, A history of the world in 100 objects. This takes one object per episode (15 mins) and explores it in context of human development. I've only just started listening and I think they've just finished the 100, but I'm upto episode/item 5. Really interesting, and seems to link between objects quite well.

Various others
There's a number of other podcasts I pull down more occasionally, or they just aren't that frequent. Pineapple Thief do a highly amusing 30 minute discussion, although they've only managed four so far. Marillion do one as buildup to albums, and during the writing sessions, even if they are moving more towards vodcasts on youtube.
Frans has just finished his prog rock online show, which was available as a 4 hour podcast (cynics may point out that's a couple of tracks). In some regards this is a good thing, it's cheaper without his show.
Stephen Fry has been a little quiet recently, what with his writing a book and all. But his podcasts are interesting.
I've got a few more, a half-hearted interest in improving my French led to a number of Learn French podcasts. Efficacy to be determined. 
But the most listened to, if expensive, is Nick Bollinger's music review programme, The Sampler. A 30 minute a week programme Nick hosts on Radio NZ looking at 2-3 albums, sometimes with interview. Superb stuff. A lot of music I've been listening to recently (well ok, last 2-3 years) has come from this. And it's a good way to keep up to date with NZ music as Nick features a NZ artist fairly frequently.

Just been to the pub for lunch, so quiet afternoon methinks. Not much planned for the evening, may watch a movie.

Love, B

3 March 2010

Cooking with Bruce

This was very very tasty, although sadly what I was aiming to take for lunch tomorrow has disappeared. *Shakes fist at who-ever did that*

Spicy Chicken Salad
Chicken bit
Marinate some chicken in the following for at least an hour:
Juice and rind of a lemon, 2T soy sauce, ground black pepper, 1T sweet chilli sauce, 1T oil

Salad bit
Mix chopped springs onions, 2-3 chopped tomatoes, 1T capers, 1-2T salad dressing (I used light french mayonnaise).

Assembly of your masterpiece
In a hot frypan with a bit of oil throw in some green beans (chopped), chopped pepper (and I threw in some leek cos I needed to use it up), chopped courgette, and drained chicken. 
Fry until well cooked, no food poisoning here kiddiwinks.

Serve. Possibly with crusty bread, but I didn't bother. Maybe that's where I went wrong.

love, b

london on reflection

The V and A. Wandered around the new Renaissance stuff, which was superb. Definitely worth a trip. The forgery exhibition was a disappointment, 'twas ok, but just showed the forgery. I would have preferred a bit more detail on how they established the forgery, and possibly the original next to the copy - to compare how good they were. Highlight was, undoubtedly, the renaissance religious iconography. Spent a lot of time there. Mmm pretty. Also of interest was the contemporary design stuff.

The St Peter's Brewery pub is a very very small place, with excellent food and superb beer. I had quite a few beers. Many of them were high alcohol. This was a good thing.

Went to the Courtauld Gallery as they had an exhibition on Michelangelo's Dream, this turned out to be the highlight of the trip. Brilliant little gallery, lots of Impressionists, post-impressionists, Ruben's - excellent. Spent a lovely few hours wandering around this quiet, relaxing gallery. Not too many tourists, a few school groups, but they were just sitting down copying pictures, so also quiet. So just me, my headphones, Radiohead and Elbow.

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society rooms are a bloody nightmare to find, small glass door down a side street. but Craig and I managed it - and then tasted some excellent whisky. Not a huge surprise there. Not as much atmosphere as the Edinburgh rooms, but still quiet, relaxing, and not all pretentious. I have a review of a whisky, actually we made two reviews, but Wes forgot what
 the second one was. Silly boy.

Natural History Museum. Been awhile since I went there, and to be honest I was disappointed. Didn't help that it was packed with screaming school brats, but the exhibitions are dated, and the information is also 10-20 years old. It's a shame as the potential, with what they've got there, is immense, but it's not shown to it's best advantage. Possibly avoid unless it's very quiet. The human evolution section was poor, and the human biology section was dire - all looked liked late 70s, early 80s style of presentation. Urgh.

coffee: went to flat white, as one does, and found, in general, a much higher standard of coffee than previous visits. About bloody time. Small cafe off Leicester Square was quite a revelation. Even went back there a couple of times.

Overall, had a great relaxing time down there, my cold included :) I do like London for all it's grimy grotty chew-you-up attitude. Actually it's probably because of those. And it puts the Midlands into sharp relief. Nope, I'm not sold on this area of the world, but we shall see what happens.

Also saw The Lovely Bones. I think the critics have been unduly harsh on the movie. It's ok and flows well. I do agree the casting seems a bit 'must get a name actor here', which disrupts the flow slightly. Although having said that, the perspective is from the teenage girl, and so a 'everyone is pretty' view maybe accurate. If that is what Jackson et al were going for, they've nailed it, but it's not clear in the telling.
Dream sequences were average (if repetitive), but owed too much to Gilliam or LotR. Although why every dream sequence has to have a field of corn is beyond me. What is it with bloody corn?
One criticism has been that Jackson avoided the rape scene (I haven't read the book btw), but I don't think it woudl have added much to the story. It's certainly not central to the plot. My biggest criticism is that Jackson can't write an ending (LotR, Kong), there's about three false endings before the real one happens. Prompting a FFS from me. I'd give it a 6/10.