27 August 2010

Live Movie review

Tonight, accompanied by wine, The Invasion (2007) with Nicole Kidman. A rip-off of the all time classic, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. Ya see what they did there?! Clever Hollywood. First thing that strikes me, bloody product placement is not so subtle here: mountain dew, bose, cisco,nokia.
Being generous in description, the plot concerns : space shuttle crashes with some form of organism, infects humanity (just Americans, evidence of intelligent life?). Kidman appears to be roughing it, waste of her talents (acting, not anything else before you horrible sordid bums comment). Daniel Craig, isn't even trying with the dire scripting he's working with. He's using that British accent the Americans think the Brits have. Which sounds pretty much like nothing I've heard here. Oh awesome, pop psychology, but the dogs know, the dogs know. Clever dogs. They should run away, like the dolphins in Hitchhikers Guide, they've probably read the script, that'd explain the whimpering.
People are throwing up, dying. And yet I'm not engaged. This movie is *really* bad. Oh Mac product placement now. Sheesh.
Oh dear, they've stolen some of the best lines from the original. They've got no impact here, at all. Pop evolutionary psychology! Even better. FFS I've had first years producing better arguments.

On the plus side the movie hasn't gotten any worse, and as the action increased, it may have improved. Slightly. I am not going to comment on the science. It's likely to make me ranty. Nope the pace has gone again, Nicole (she's a doctor, just can't remember her characters name) is fixated on saving her son (sheesh, renewable resource!) and therefore risking everyone else's life. And my wine has finished. I enjoyed the wine. The movie, well it's utter crap. It has no redeeming features, it drags (aside from a 20 minute period, kinda in the middle), there's no boobies, and it's a waste of time. I like bgrades, but this, this hits a 2/10 on the bgrade scale.

I feel dirty having watched it, and probably need to watch the original to cleanse and purify myself.


23 August 2010

various movie reviews

Actually I'll start with a TV review.

True Blood S3 yawn. S1 was great, S2 lacked a decent story arc and seemed to introduce new characters every other week. S3 appears to be suffering the same problems. There's no cohesive storyarc, which would be fine if it wasn't HBO, but we do expect better from them. I'm sure it's winding up for an explosive ending to the series, but it's very hard to engage with any of the characters. It's a useful waste of an hour, but not much more. Having said that, I think it's a little better than S2.
I realise the limitations they've got with the source material (it's really bad, struggled through the first book, never ever again), but still you can rewrite that.

Green Zone Can't remember if I mentioned I'd seen this. Really enjoyed it, excellent thriller. Interesting plot, well acted (Matt damon) and well paced. Basically if you want something thats not dumb, that critiques US policy in Iraq, and has explosions, watch this.

Shutter Island Having been very disappointed with Leo's Inception, I watched Shutter Island. Much much better. Interesting concept, although it has the been done before vibe about it. Having said that, the story is tight, acting excellent, and the atmosphere builds nicely.

I'll sleep when I'm dead No not a Warren Zevon retrospective, but a Clive Owen gangster flick. Owen is an ex-gangster who comes back to town after his younger brother dies. It's a nicely paced thriller, that feels cheaply made, which in this case, works well. Some of the dialogue is a bit hammy (think 60s UK crime movie), which is unfortunate as the cast is pretty damn good, but over all it works. Things aren't tied up nicely, no-one is blameless, and the implication you can't escape your past works well, without being overbearing. Enjoyed this. Oh and directed by Mike Hodges (Get Carter, Flash Gordon, and Queen's 'Body Language' single).

There's been a number of Bgrades too, but nothing of outstanding quality (?) which I need to bring to your attention.


22 August 2010

bike ride !

Finally got around to going down one of the canals in Loughborough. They both meet (?start?) down at the Basin restaurant (think poor mans Wagamama, and for Wagamama, think poor mans KC or KK cafe). The canal is, after some googling, the River Soar which takes over from the Grand Central at Leicester.

So I headed down Butthole Lane, as I can't resist it. Although there are far more walkers and other bikes than at my usual time, so I even used brakes. Madness. Took a more meandering way to get to the canal start point to see a bit more of the city, then headed off. Gorgeous day, although I was saddened to see a concrete path to bike along. Since it had been raining I'd been hoping for more excitement on the ride.
No worries! Concrete changed to gravel (wheeee!) then a dirt track (more wheee!!), so lots of fun trying to stay on that and not fall into the canal. Which at speed, with tree roots, was a distinct possibility. Lots of people on the river, and a fair few fishing on the sides.
What caught me out a couple of times were the bridges, quite low where the track was (the bridge in the photo is a lot lower than it looks). Leading to emergency braking in a very muddy section, and much excitement as to whether I'd end up very wet, headless, or a bit of both. As I'm writing this, obviously my head is still attached (my touch typing isn't that good), and I avoided the drink too.
Quite a few pubs too, which I avoided. This time. And after a very fun ride, ended up in Quorn reasonably close to the railway (hence the link below). Pottered around there until I decided to head home, taking a slightly different route than normal. This had the win that I found a cycle track to Leicester, which is apparently only 12 miles (figure that's 16 from my place), so might do that next weekend. That ties in to me finding, online, what looks to be an excellent offie in Leicester. Came back through Nanpantan,which also involved more dirt tracks, woohoo!
Here's some pics, to prove it was a lovely day...

The map isn't the route I took (no canals marked) but gives an idea of where these bits are.

View Larger Map


It's a cliche, but it works

Sunday morning: jazz (Miles and now Coltrane). Salmon bagels. Music and books pages from Fri and Sat papers.
And coffee.

Tho that did lead to a situation, I'm guessing there's a German word for it...

Panic, when you reach, blindly, for your coffee cup and find empty air. The cold clutches your heart, the brain freezes, then begins to move, slowly, and you realise you'd topped it up and left it on the bench.


18 August 2010

Cup of tea sir?

I'm drinking more tea at the moment. Most of them are coming from my favourite tea shop in Edinburgh, pekoetea, favourite simply as they stocked the best coffee beans I'd found (Artisan Roast) . But I'd bought a number of teas from them, and they all seemed excellent.

Last order they'd run out of a my usuals (green+jasmine; mint), so I went wild. Crazy. Over the top.

I bought jasmine flowers. Which is just lovely, delicate, tasty, and very refreshing. And unlike some green+jasmine mixes, it doesn't have any slightly metallic aftertaste - which pops up occasionally from green teas.

I haven't enjoy the rooibos I've had in the past. Admittedly, I'd only had it once. But the concept of belgian chocolate (literally) in my cup of tea was too good to pass up. So I picked up some Belgian Chocolate Rooibos tea, which smells utterly divine. To the annoyance of the choc fiend in the office, she keeps turning around looking hopeful, then crushed. Of course I don't turn the fan to blow the aroma her way...that would be just mean. So yes, this is a lovely tea, very chocolatey,with an interesting tang from the rooibos.

Pointless post? well yes, but it's filled in a bit of time.


14 August 2010

pisht post

Spanish red is good. Or at least the bottle I had was. Stupid gnomes, drinking my wine. Wankers.

No matter how many times I watch Night Watch, and what state I'm in (sober, drunk, asleep..other) it still makes fuck all sense. And I love it. The books are great, the movie superb, sense be damned. Go watch it.Personal choice, good, bad, indifference, manipulation, it's war n peace on a supernatural scale. Oh bugger it, the gnomes arenow bothering the whisky.

Here's the promo for Night Watch.

The week that was

It has been an interesting week, and by interesting I mean eventful. I'm in two minds over blogging details about specifics, so will leave that for a day or two.
But some things did go well, S now has a visa, thanks to the useless cocks at the border agency. Ok, in this case, they've done nothing wrong. But all in all, their main purpose seems to be to extort money. Nothing more, the concept of service with that?, yeah lets not go there.  This is likely to get worse judging by recent statements by the Cam-egg government. Even more annoyingly I've even had their staff say it's largely a money making exercise. Fuckers.
But come mid October, I can forget about them for another two years, and distract myself with a more coupley version of married life, as opposed to the current situation of married yet single.

In the mood for escapism, I wandered to an art gallery in Leicester. Nothing stunning, few interesting early expressionist pieces, reasonable collection of Durer prints. There was supposed to be a Lowry floating around, but I never found it. Damnit. But the highlight, oddly, was an exhibition they had on science fiction in popular culture. Oh go on, pretend to be surprised. Please? Lots of cool toys, games and posters. The highlights being a full length poster of Fritz Lang's Girl in the Moon, and a 1981 games console I remember playing with, extensively. Astro Wars!!!!
It seemed a reasonable thing to wander around while it was pissing down. Ahhh yes, English summer. I'm beginning to see why prog became popular, one track filled in time between showers.
Few things I could do today, but not in the mood at the moment, so may potter around and read my book for awhile.

Here's an article warning about the dangers of raw peas.

And in a reasonably relaxed chilled day, my ipod ended up playing this as the last track before I got home. Go the poddikins.

12 August 2010

Music night ramblings

Thursday night has been dedicated to music, no movies, no TV, just music, music videos, and concerts. It is, in other words, the highlight of my week.
Some form of alcohol is usually involved too.

Ask any music fan/collector what the highlights of the 80s were, and chances are you'll get two (linked) responses: picture discs, and 12" EPs. Picture discs came in 7" and 12"versions, 7" were usually the same tracklisting as the 7" single, whereas the 12" picture disc often differed slightly from the 12" EP tracklisting. The style of pressing the picture of the disc tended to ruin the sound quality, but eh, they looked great. I've got a reasonably complete set of Marillion 12" PDs (singles, not album PDs unfortunately), made superfluous by the single boxsets released recently, and the remastered CD series. But they still look great.
The remixes, or alternative versions on the 12" singles, different significantly from the radio single version, although in many cases were closer to the album version - particularly for the prog(ish) bands. Think of them as the precursor of the dance floor remixes. They often included different drum versions, or at least drums being more prominent in the mix, with extra keys (or keytars!!!) somewhere in there. I have fond memories of listening to an incredible variety of remixes of Falco's Rock Me Amadeus. Awesome stuff.

The death of the single (7" and 12") and the move to CDsingles, which have also died, killed the remixes. I think it's safe to say the main market for remixes are dance singles, which is sad from a collectors perspective. Having said that, there's a significant remix market in the ambient/noise groups, for example the collaborations between Muslimguaze, Bass Communion and Andrew Giles. But often not on vinyl.
Here's a Marillion extended version of Going Under, which appeared on the 12" for Incommunicado (and the CD single).

There appears to be quite a market for these 80s remixes. A few years ago Queen released an album called The 12" Collection, I'm not sure how widely available the album is. However Queen weren't that keen on remixes, and the differences are not significant from the released versions. But for completists, it's not a bad CD and I do play it reasonably frequently.
Marillion caught most of their remixes on the remastered CDs, and the two boxsets of singles (Fish era and H-era). Pet Shop Boys had bonus discs out recently.
For me one of the kings of remixes were Frankie Goes To Hollywood. I'd hate to be a completist for their remixes. For a band who have such a limited number of releases, the number of 12" remix versions is ridiculous (same could be said of Duran Duran).
So here's the Power of Love, the extended mix.

Talk Talk, who did do quite interesting remixes, had a compilation of A and B sides released (titled, imaginatively, Asides Bsides) which captured a lot of these. But do avoid Remixed which was a bunch of remixes done in the early 90s without the bands OK.

I was browsing amazon some time ago and looking at compilation CDs (I was after some funk compilations), and came across a number of 80s 12" CDs. Tempting. I succumbed to a 6CD set, 80s 12" (complete with garish fluoro writing) for the princely sum of 5 quid. 72 tracks, some utter crud (well ok, a lot of it), but extended cheesy goodness on so many levels. There's stuff on it I've never heard of before (Classix Nouveaux?!), but it's all "...in the best possible taste.".

I do miss the 12" remix, before the current trend of dumping a heavy dance beat to everything.

I leave you with some Mel and Kim, which I'm currently listening to.

9 August 2010

P Addict

Following a impromptu decision to go to a gig in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago, I was looking forward to a trip involving roughly 5-6 hours of trains each way. But I like Pallas (the band we were seeing), and it's always good catching up the psychochicken.
The band Pallas started around the same time as Marillion (very early 80s), but things didn't really click for them. I hadn't really heard them until I had PC post over Dreams of Men a few years ago on a whim. Brilliant stuff.

Sadly, on this trip, things spiralled a bit out of control. Some readers may remember our visit to the Summer's End festival last year where gold lame capes were unveiled on the final night. We thought they were a hit, other bands thought they were great, the band we unveiled them for seemed to see the funny side, but the hardcore Pendragon fans appeared to have had their funny bones removed.
But as the Prog Crusaders trio were to be reunited, could the capes have their first Scottish outing?

Prog Crusader Al, upped the ante by questioning the band directly on their policy of cape-age. They called his bluff with :

OK folks ,there are a bunch of nutters called the PROGCRUSADERS coming tonight and talking about wearing capes !! Get your capes out!!! Lets see all you Wakeman impersonators tonight. If I see capes in the crowd then I too will don my cape, which I of course wear everyday, for the encore.

Yes thanks Al. Guess we can't really get out of it now. And so, the cape was thrown in the bag and I headed up north, idly wondering if I could don the cape early and swish through the train. And then realising I hadn't had beer, so it probably wouldn't be a good plan.
Met PC, and we headed to a pub. Then we went to another pub, met Al, soundly berated him for his plan. And drank more beer. Found another pub, drank beer had food. And then donned the capes. Too much amusement from punters sitting outside the pub. Much swishing ensued. Mmm swish.

As we are men, not mice, we walked the mean streets of Glasgow to the venue. This seemed to bring joy and happiness into the locals lives, the highlight being a driver yelling out 'ya goin' t' Pallas then?' heh respect.
We got there early, planting ourselves in the best position and chatting to the sound man. Although he now thinks we think he broke the sound system at Summer's End....I blame Al. It just seems right that way. 
The gig was superb, really fun, relaxed, the new singer is superb - really rocky, and great voice. And we had a great time (I lost most of my voice, don't panic, it's back). 
Downside: the band had their bluff called and didn't actually have their capes. Lying bastards. No worries, we donated ours for the encores. And to their credit, capes were worn. Pictures and video attest to this. 
From the band: 

thanks to all who came along to the Ferry tonight. The band had a Fantastic time!! We had great fun on stage and as usual YOU the Glasgow audience were SUPERB.....and yes we wore our Prog Capes with Pride !!!! lol!

We will ignore the lol, out of respect for the band. The new tracks sound superb, and quite different to the last couple of albums, far more straight ahead rock. And I got to hear ghostdancers live, which was fantastic, and probably the cause of the voice loss. 
What made the gig were the fans, not only were the band into the music (and the capes), but the fans got the humour of the cape-age. Randoms chatted to us, and enjoyed the event. And Graeme (bass player) thanked us, as he returned our capes, for bringing a bit of fun. Well it's prog FFS, you cannot take it seriously!

Speaking of prog, I'm well out of the progloset now. I've come to accept my love of prog, and have embraced it fully. And so a full weekend of Prog was something to look forward to. Nothing but prog on the trip up and back. Awesome. But it did drive home to me how many Prog bands begin with the letter 'P'.  From my ipod:
Paatos (Steve Wilson produced)
Pain of Salvation (prog-metal)
Paradise Lost (goth metal)
Parallel of 90 Degrees
Peter Gabriel
Phoenix Foundation (go on, you know they are)
the Pineapple Thief
Pink Floyd
Porcupine Tree
Pure Reason Revolution
Timothy Pure
Alan Parsons
Anthony Phillips
John Petrucci

Weird. But there ya go. I had a great time, and it was definitely worth heading up. Thanks hugely to N and S, and Al for a great time, and big ups to the band for making it something special.

6 August 2010

Morale tips for the workplace

Office discussion:
Me: I think we should hire a monkey troupe
Others: what?
Me: A monkey troupe, it'll cheer everyone up. Imagine coming to work knowing you're going to see monkeys playing! Awesome. See, you're smiling already.
Others: sigh.
Me: Sometimes I wonder if I should ever be in a position of power.

5 August 2010

Cooking with Bruce: Sweet n Sour the quick version

Want a quick Sweet n Sour recipe that's ready to eat in 10 minutes? Here ya go.

Firstly, finish the glass of wine you're halfway through, refill. I'm prepared to accept ale, voddie, or gin as substitutes.
Put A-Ha 'Hunting High and Low' on very loud, ideally vinyl, but I'll accept other, lesser, formats.

Mix: remember all measurements are approx
1T rice wine
2T soy sauce*
1T brown sugar (or in my case, jaggery poor, cos I'm a wanker)
2T cornflour mixed into 2T water
juice from a can of pineapple (I used a 250gm-ish can).

Put on some rice.

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3cm ginger, finely grated
2 red chillies (I never bother with deseeding)

Fry for 30s at high temp, add the liquid and cook for 2 minutes, it'll thicken - that's a good sign.

1 red pepper chopped
225gm can water chestnuts drained
200g raw prawns
pineapple pieces

Fry for 3-4 minutes or so until the prawns are cooked, reduce time if you're really cheating and using pre-cooked prawns.

Serve on rice. Green salad works nicely as a side dish.

Another example of I can't be arsed cooking, but hey look what I threw together....

It's not the greatest sweet n sour I've made, but it's more than adequate, and for 10 minutes, what the hell were you expecting?!


Movie: Inception

I wandered along to this as it was pissing down with rain and I didn't have much else to do. It's the new flick by Christopher Nolan starring Leo DiC, and comes with a number of big ups from prominent reviewers.
I came out with very mixed feelings. Visually it's superb, utterly gorgeous in fact. Leo is certainly an excellent actor, and of late has been choosing some interesting roles. I think where I felt let down was the story. To quickly summarise, the plot revolves around using dreams as a source of information, or in the main case of the movie, to plant ideas.
I came away thinking that it was lacking something, and that was probably empathetic characters. None of them are bad, or good, but all are difficult to empathise with. The plot is quite lumbering in places, and typically of Hollywood, certain key elements are laboured (witness the 'totem'). The movie seems to collapse under the pressure of trying to be too intelligent, too knowing, and that annoyed me. I think it's excellent that Hollywood made this, an intelligent thriller, but maybe, ironically, a better movie would have been made with less money. The concept was interesting, and should have held the movie together, but again felt too laboured. It's almost as if the writers were thinking this is cool, and we all know about it, but can't assume the audience will, so let's explain everything.

I think it's worth seeing, and probably on the big screen. 6/10.

4 August 2010

Guy Garvey

Really is the bomb. His Sunday night 6Music show should be required listening. For example this Sunday just past included a long admission of love for Mark Hollis (including playing The Watershed) and The National (The Geese of Beverly Road).
Both of which are so good, you need to listen to them. Again.

There, two music (ish) blogs in one day.

HMV suggestions

I'm in the mood for new and different music, nothing like diversification eh. Rather than my usual random approach, I've decided I want to explore African psychedelia. I've heard a couple of tracks over the years on random compilations, on 6Music, and from the sadly gone Delerium Music. So I've spent the last few week idly flicking through for a reasonable compilation. I've come across two that I'm interested in, Astral Daze, a compilation of South African psychedelia, and Vol 8 of love peace and poetry. The latter is more appealing as it's easily available, and the vinyl is 2 quid more than the CD.

Anyway, I decided to have a look on Amazon and HMV for these. When searching for Astral Daze, HMV told me they had no idea WTF I was looking for, but that I might enjoy Clash of the Titans and Eminem instead.


Anyone with suggestions for other weird ass stuff I should check out, give me a yell.


3 August 2010

Duck cocks

While stumbling around my RSS feeds today, I came across this.

Duck penis length is related to how many other males are in their duckyverse.
Actually most reptiles (incl birds) don't have external genitals, so this is even more remarkable.

If you want a special bathtime rubber ducky, go here.

2 August 2010

Booze, the British tot of Rum

The tot of rum to British naval lads was stopped 40 years ago. And the last remaining casks of rum have just been bottled and are available for sale (a mere 600 pounds here).

But for general interest, it's worth reading this.
Background on the term grog and how booze was used in the Navy.

Trivia: naval rum was poured out in 1/2 gill portions. A gill was 1/4 of a pint, or 0.142 ml - except in some districts where it's a half-pint (quarter pint was a 'jack'). As a term, it's interchangeable with 'noggin', but only in the south of England, those wacky northerners, and their gratuitous intake, have a noggin as 2 gills.

This actually caused me to do some digging around the OED to see where these words came from. Gill first popped up in 1275, even Johnson used it (each man called for his own half-pint of wine, or gill, if he pleased) in 1773. Interestingly, the Channel Islands apparently had a different measure for a noggin, with pots (half-gallon), quarts, pints, gills (quarter of a pint), and noggins (an eighth of a pint).

The word gill derives from the latin for a wine vessel, as does gallon, possibly.
Noggin may be derived from Knag (a measure of a barrel), but the gaelic and irish (noigean and noigin) are derived from English.

Gill is also used as a familiar or contemptuous term for a woman. Must remember that.

Noggin seems to date to later, OED lists first usage as 1588. The now more common usage of noggin, as head, dates to 1769 (boxing slang), but it doesn't take much to work out how that came about.

Obviously, as in evolution, these all post-date first usage.

Ohhh, Australasian war slang (Korean and Vietnam), noggy - asian soldier.

there you go, education for the day.

1 August 2010

Cooking with Bruce: Sunday fry-up

The point of Sunday meals is to do fuck-all, while making it tasty. Tricky. Unless you join up to the Bruce school of Sunday cooking (based on an Ottolenghi recipe).
The other trick is to make the bare minimum of dishes, unless you've got someone else to do the washing up, in which case, go crazy.

In a large-ish frypan
Olive oil
2-3 medium onions thinly chopped
2 smallish potatoes chopped into 5mm thick slices
1/2 red chilli
1/2t smoke paprika
some cajun spice
salt and pepper

Heat oil, add everything, cook on med-low heat for 20mins.  Stir in 2 cloves crushed garlic, 1/2t sugar.

While the onions and spud are cooking
Mix juice from 1/2 lemon, 100ml greek yoghurt, and some oil.

Grill 3-4 tomatoes (chopped in half) until charred.

Once the onions are cooked, break 3-4 eggs into the pan (don't break the yolks), cook until the whites are set, drizzle some tahini paste over the mix, heat a bit more, remove from heat drizzle yoghurt mix, sprinkle some coriander over and dump the tomatoes in. Serve from the pan.