- The year started off quite badly with Wifey's mum succumbing to cancer on the first of February. It's hard to believe she's gone and that it's nearly been a whole year. - The beginning of the year also saw me start my own blog - and I'm still doing it (just!). - We took on responsibility for leading our church homegroup. This has been a humbling and scary task - but worth it. - In March, I moved into new offices in Cardiff Bay, working more closely with my business partner. It was a bold step, but definitely the right one. - July was when we sold our house in a week. We still haven't moved, though. Boo!! - In the summer we had our big fat family holiday in central France. A well-earned and much-needed rest in hot sunny weather was the order of the day. - JKY turned the grand old age of 2 in August. He is growing up fast! - We also got to see U2 in August, which totally blew us away. I have got to see more of this stuff. - My parents sold their beautiful house in the country. They will be moving out next month. - We sold our annoying Ford after having months of grief. We have replaced it with (hopefully) a more reliable Skoda. - Christmas 2009 was an enjoyable family affair, with too much eating and drinking (as usual).
Overall, 2009 was a tough year, with a few tiny gems of happiness, joy and wonder popping up now and again along the way.
Wifey got me some special edition Oreos for Christmas and I've just done a road test (all for the sake of consumer education, you understand). They are a regular Oreo coated in white chocolate - two of my favourite processed food products - and taste, as JKY would put it, DEEEE-LICIOUS!
Actually, I've had these little treats before a few years ago when we went to the States to see relatives. In America, you can get just about every possible variation on an Oreo as you can imagine (strawberry flavour ... coffee flavour ... broccolli flavour ...). In fact, it's darn hard to get normal, regular everyday Oreos.
Originally costing something ridiculous like £2.99 a box in Tesco, wifey got them on special offer half price so I was well chuffed when she bought then for me. I suppose she'll want to sample some herself ... maybe I should get her her own box?
Alec Guinness gives an epic performance in this epic film set in the South East Asian jungle. Gives an interesting portrayal of two very different cultures coming up against each other in a hostile yet beautiful environment, the climax is both excruciating and majestic. 9/10.
Revolutionary Road (2008)
Rose and Jack ... er .... I mean Kate and Leonardo are back together again and this time it's not about a ship hitting an iceberg, it's about a marriage hitting the rocks. A cliched 50s relationship comes under the strain as Leonardo commits adultery while his perfect wife makes cakes. Bizarrely, their two kids are hardly referenced throughout the film, and the overreactions just seem unconvincing. I agree with Mark Kermode who's asked for someone to make a film about a 50s married couple who have a good time for a change. Depressing... 5/10
The Reader (2008)
Kate Winslet turns her hand to playing yet another troubled soul in this intriguing story about a young man falling in love with a much older woman. Fine performances from both leads carry this sad and doom-laden tale to its fatalistic conclusion. Not exactly fun, but a worthwhile watch all the same. 7.5/10.
Oh dear. Why oh why oh why did they make this? What was the point - seriously? The only (slightly) impressive thing was the gigantic CGI cruise ship. Everything else was wooden - from the sets to the actors - while Bad Science reared its ugly head numerous times in the name of advancing the so-called 'plot'. Leave the classics alone, please! They have better actors playing better characters. You see, that's what a film should be about - the CHARACTERS, not the CGI!
North by Northwest (1959)
Ah, this is much better. You can't really go wrong with a bit of Hitchcock. Not as dark as some of his other pieces of work, but has a sinister undertone nonetheless. Grant is brilliant as the cocky ad exec thrown into the middle of cold war espionage. The innuendo and sexual references, though tempered by 60s standards, are surprising to find in such an old movie - while the overuse of rear projection is slightly off-putting. Those are, however, minor criticisms of a film that's 50 years old and knocks the socks off many modern filmmaking efforts. 9/10.
When I was a kid at primary school, I always ended up getting involved in the Christmas play. For a couple of years I remember having fairly minor roles, like fourth choir singer at the back. My opportunities as a thesp seemed fairly limited.
Then, for some reason, I ended up being the star of at least two plays. In the first one I played a black man in a play tackling the issue of racism (I don't think it was for a Christmas concert, though!). In the second, I was asked to be the lead in a Christmas concert called 'Trig Trog'.
I don't really remember anything about it, but I think it was about a mysterious Arabian traveller or something who somehow gets caught up in the events of the first Christmas in Bethlehem.
I remember wearing uncomfortable curly-tipped shoes and a big turban-style hat. I also remember concentrating really hard as I delivered my lines - I think I had the lion's share of the script and it was probably quite a lot to recite for an eight year old.
Not so long ago, I did a Google search on Trig Trog and nothing came up, which took me by surprise. I have just tried again and lo and behold some author has scanned in the story as re-written by his younger self from 1983. I've also discovered that you can also buy a book of the songs, so presumably our concert was a musical number (they usually are though, aren't they?), not that I remember singing any songs.
One day, when JKY's in school, perhaps I'll encourage his teacher to dig out the Trig Trog story and use it for Christmas.
Who knows - maybe I could make an appearance as Trig Trog's father....???
When I was a teen, I had a few holidays in Somerset with my cousin and family. We stayed in a little cottage that was on the grounds of a farm, surrounded by the beautiful West Country scenery.
Occasionally, we'd get the opportunity to go into the local town, Minehead, and hit the amusement arcade on the main street. In those days, the games were the likes of Gauntlet, Star Wars and Pole Position but we only had time for one game: Paperboy!
Why? I don't really know. All I can say is that it was quirky (think about it - a video game about a kid who delivers papers), it has gorgeous graphics (even now, 20 years later they look good) digitized voices (a big deal in those days) and funky music.
It was also annoyingly difficult!
I no doubt spent a small fortune lobbing coins into the slot so that I could just have 'one more go' - but it was worth it.
Thanks to the wonders of YouTube I can see Paperboy again in all it's glory. Technology truly can be a wonderful thing.
My parents will be moving out of their current house, 'The Homestead', in two weeks time after living there for over twenty five years.
I love that house, and am sad that soon I won't be able to visit or stay there any more, but now all the kids have grown up and left home (apart from my little bro who's at uni) I guess it's unfair to expect my folks to live in a massive house with just them, the dog and the cat to rattle around in.
I have countless memories of living in that house (most of them good!), and am always reminded of something from the past whenever I go to visit. It's the only house I have any real memory of living in - we were in Caerleon for a bit before moving to Magor and I can't remember much of that house.
What saddens me slightly is that I never really appreciated the house for what it was when I was a kid. For me and my brothers, it was just normal to live in a gigantic house with a huge garden and an entire valley to roam. It seems strange to me now, but sometimes I looked on my friends in the village with envy because they lived on housing estates where they could visit each other and play in the street.
Even so, we'd spend most weekends playing wargames outside with wooden sticks for machine guns or sloshing about in the nearby stream constructing dams (much to the annoyance of the farmers downstream). We would have adventures exploring the woods behind the house, making dens out of anything we could find, or we'd explore the churchyard over the road at night hoping to catch sight of a ghost. Good times.
We didn't know we were born.
So now, as a grown up who's been infected by the social virus of materialism, I regard my parent's house with the eyes of someone who wants a 'really nice place' to live in. Unless we become stinking rich, we'll never be able to afford to live in a house like it. My expectations of a home for my family have always been quite high because of the Homestead, so I've now had to set my sights a little bit lower as I've come to realise our financial limitations.
It was, however, a fantastic home for most of my life where I got to do things a lot of children never experienced. I owe my parents a great deal for what they gave me - a childhood of wonder and adventure, set against a backdrop of several acres of green countryside. They made a lot of sacrifices to live in that house and I will forever be grateful.
The Homestead is just some bricks, cement, wood, glass and metal thrown together. In a thousand years, it will have crumbled away and become part of the earth again. However, it played a huge part in my formative years and I will always look back fondly at that big old house nestled at the bottom of the valley.
People move on. Thing change. That's life.
I just hope the new owners of The Homestead learn to really appreciate it.
I went to a business networking event yesterday. It was one of those things where everyone is desperate to find leads for their business, and in these times the desperation is even more acute. People were trying to be ever so positive on the outside, but I just wondered whether underneath there was a layer of complete panic and terror.
One thing we did was 'speed networking' - just like speed dating, you're supposed to share your business pitch in 30 seconds with another person before moving on.
Unlike speed dating, it doesn't consist of mainly balding old men who never go out who are looking for an easy, err, you-know-what (so I'm told by our work experience girl).
There was one lady who I have to say completely baffled me. I couldn't understand her as she was softly spoken, her eyes were all over the place and she waffled on for the entire time about something I can only guess at. All I remember from that conversation are the words 'funding ... grants ... twelve million pound contract' - I have no idea what the context was. The most annoying thing about our 'conversation' was the fact that she failed to let me tell her about my business.
As my colleague put it - she's either barking mad and useless at whatever she does OR she's one of those brilliant eccentrics with tons and tons of money because she's so good at her job.
Whichever it is (and my money's on the former), I couldn't even find out - she didn't have any business cards.
John and Edward are an enigma. How they managed to get this far in the X Factor is an utter mystery to me - but I must admit that I admire their tenacity, 'thick-skinnedness' and courage. Each week, they put up with relentless stick from half the country, prepare for an outrageous performance and face three judges who don't really want them to win. That takes guts.
Even by writing about the dreaded 'Jedward', I am contributing to the online deluge of twin-based-commentary the like of which has become normal for any celebrity gossip (how did people cope in the 80s???). Not being one to follow the crowd, however, I would like to write something different about the dynamic duo from Ireland.
Just imagine that Louis Walsh was right - he saw the twin's potential and knew he was onto a winner (you have to admit that Louie - the little Leprechaun of a wee man - knows how to succeed at boybands, he really does).
Just imagine the unimaginable ...
what if Jedward succeeded ...
what if they got through to the final ...
The John and Edward Timeline 2010 - 2110 A.D. Jan 2010 - John and Edward are still riding high in the charts after winning the X Factor and securing a phenomenally successful Christmas No. 1 in eighteen countries. Their cover of '19' by Paul Harcastle is the fastest-selling download in history.
March 2010 - Their album 'I really like your shoes' goes platinum after three days.
Nov 2010 - After several months in hiding, Jedward emerge with new haircuts and little bits of whispy hair around their chin. Puberty has finally kicked in. Their new single 'The Bramble-Cheese Maker Hip Hopper' goes straight to No. 1 in the UK.
June 2010 - Jedward begin their sell-out 150-date world tour. They are the first western band to perform in North Korea.
Dec 2011 - Jedward's performance on the 2011 series of X-Factor is watched by more people than there are on the planet. Several TV stations are forced to shut down because of viewing demand. The world-wide internet is offline for the first time ever because of Jedward's performance - thankfully for only 11 minutes.
Aug 2012 - The world is shocked to hear that John and Edward are splitting up. The stock market crashes and there are fears of another recession. Calls to 999 and 911 overload the telephone exchanges. Claims that the Mayan Doomsday Prophecy are centred around this celebrity shocker are denied by experts.
Sept 2012 - The split turns out to be false. The world-wide economy picks up.
Jan 2013 - Jedward's latest album 'Can you take this anymore? No seriously, can you?' hits the charts, with predictable success.
April 2013 - John's hair is insured for £3million.
Sept 2013 - Jedward begin their tour of the most troubled nations in the african continent. Their presence spurs on peace, harmony and renewed economic confidence in these areas.
June 2014 - The Catholic Church recognises John and Edward as Saints. They are the first pop stars to receive this honour.
Jan 2016 - After much silence from the twins, they break onto the pop scene again with a wildly different image. They are going through a similar stage to the Beatles when they released Sgt Pepper.
July 2016 - Robbie Williams, Madonna and Bob Dylan are lined up as supporting acts for Jedward on their world tour.
Nov 2017 - Simon Cowell is sentenced to life in prison for plotting to blow up Jedward at a charity concert in Berlin.
Dec 2018 - Jedward receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Feb 2019 - Edward marries Miley Ray Cyrus.
May 2022 - Jedward release their Greatest Hits, entitled 'We come from the heart' on every audio format ever invented (including wax cylinder, 8-Track and MiniDisc).
Sept 2025 - The X-Factor is replaced by the Jedward Factor.
Aug 2039 - Jedward set up the 'Convalescent Home for Unsuccessful X-Factor Finalists'
Jan 2042 - John is reported missing, presumed dead after losing contact with his guides in the French Alps. A planet mourns. Edward goes into hiding.
June 2042 - John is discovered in a cave near the Swiss border. He has been living off berries, dried gerbils and ice water. He is reunited with his brother on a cruise ship in the Indian Ocean. They pledge to never leave each other's side ever again.
Aug 2050 - John and Edward fulfil their boyhood dream of going into space. They spend a day aboard the International Space Station before travelling to the Chinese Moonbase. It is rumoured that they paid £50million each for the trip.
Jan 2052 - Jedward are cloned for posterity should anything ever happen to them. The clones are kept in a special containment facility in Mexico.
Aug 2052 - The Jedward clones have been illegally cloned by pirates. This leads to widespread 'home-cloning' of the twins. Confusion reigns across the globe.
Sept 2054 - Jedward and all their clones are rounded up and forced to live in an undergound prison at a secret location.
Jan 2065 - 'The Jedward Solution' is ratified by member states of the G25. It orders all Jedward clones and their offspring to be placed on a Generation-Class spacecraft and removed from planet earth. They are to be re-located to an offworld colony.
Dec 2075 - Planet Jedward is officially recognised as a part of the Human Empire. Its population is currently 120,000.
Mar 2099 - Planet Jedward rebels against Earth in a dispute over taxes on hair gel. An armada of 'Jedships' races towards earth to resolve this matter.
June 2099 - Earth surrenders to Jedward after a humiliating defeat by the Jedward Space Navy. The original Jedward become King and King of Earth and all its territories.
Aug 2105 - Humans make contact with aliens for the first time. The aliens are quickly enslaved and become servants of the Most Holy Jedward Empire.
Feb 2110 - King Jedward retires to the paradise planet of Cowellia, and devise plans for a new talent-based TV show.
Cardiff's newest shopping centre opened today and I went along to see what all the fuss was about. JKY's grandparents were ill so I had to take the day off to look after him. A trip to town was in order!
What I really wanted to see was the new Apple store, but when we got there, it was crazy with throngs of people desperate to get inside. Me and JKY would have to come back another time once everyone had calmed down...
Notice how this shopping centre is very cathedral-like .... worshippers gathering in the Unholy Church of Mammon!
Ah - the good old Apple store. I tried to get a job at their Bristol branch, but that's another story...
Store employees clapping and whooping like maniacs - Apple actually encourages this kind of behaviour.
The faithful of the Mammon cult surge forward the moment the doors to the cathedral open!
Outside, one of Red Dragon's finest (snigger) tried his best to whip up the crowd into some kind of capitalism-worshipping-materialistic-handbag-waving-frenzy.
Running your own business is no picnic. I was aware of this when I started, but perhaps a naive part of me just assumed that, for myself, things would be different.
I've been close to a nervous breakdown before, thanks to stress brought on by poor management practice underpinned by dodgy spiritual principles (I kid you not), so perhaps I assumed that my experiences would ensure it never happen again.
Now I know that I assumed too much and that the big, bad bugbear of overwork and stress is coming over the hill again. One thing that made me sit up and take notice was when Wifey referred to my beloved MacBook Pro as 'the other woman' .... ouch!
It's easy to justify working every hour available in order to provide for one's family or pay the mortgage, but you can't use that argument indefinitely. Someday, something's got to give, and the choice is stark - family or work. It's a simple as that. Yes, you've got to put food on the table, and yes you've got to keep a roof over your head - but if it destroys your family, what's the point? As my brother once put it: you either work to live or your live to work. Which would I rather do? Well, the former obviously.
I have recognised in me the recurring thought that if I work my socks off now, I won't need to work so hard in the years down the line. Trouble is, that's a classic lie that actually doesn't hold true. Rob Parsons (who I used to work for) was well known for saying 'a slower day is never coming', and he's right. You kid yourself that one day you'll have time to do all those things you mean to do (take the kids camping, have a lazy Sunday morning with the wife, randomly climb a mountain on a Wednesday morning), but those days never come. You can't expect those things to happen once life slows down ... because it never does. If you don't prioritise family and personal time by booking it in the diary, work will just come along and take up all the time you have.
A hard lesson to learn, I guess - but better to learn it now that in ten years time when it's possibly too late...
A Director we're in contact with always puts ".... or you could love." at the bottom of his emails.
I didn't get it, so asked him what it meant.
He explained that it's a line from a Marillion song, 'A few words for the dead' which was mainly inspired by Bosnia but also about how we pass on grudges and hatred from generation to generation. It offers up an alternative ... simply to love one another.
The lyrics go like this:
Can you make it your own Can you take it by the throat Make your own luck, learn the skills Get in early for the kill
It carries on
Pick up the weapon Marry it, give it your name Define yourself by it Take it down 'the disco
Trigger happy, pulling power Lady killer, take 'em out See the weirdos on the hill Come to get you if you stand still
It carries on
Somewhere in history you were wronged Teach your children to bang the drum Tell all your family, tell all your friends Teach your brothers to avenge
It carries on
Or you could love You could love
Lie down in the flowers In the blue of the air Open your eyes Why use up your life for anything else? No need to fight for what everyone has What do you need? It's already there It's already there
You could love
So he carried the stars in his pocket Drank the sunrise till he was drunk He embraced the angels They swam like little minnows in his blood Ghosts in his eyes Out walking beside him Laughing like children in his mind They chanted his mantra together
You could love
They were happy
I was quite challenged by the thought of it, really. The idea that we can choose to get angry, lash out, bear a grudge etc. OR we can just choose to love. I know it's obvious, but how often do we consciously choose to simply love someone when the normal, accepted reaction is entirely the opposite?
Forgiving and then loving people can sometime be the hardest choice we make ... whilst at the same time the greatest thing we do...
In Cardiff Bay, there is a memorial wall for the character Ianto Jones, who died in Torchwood recently.
Remember, this is a fictional character who died. People are putting up poems, photos, pictures and letters in tribute to someone who doesn't exist.
A bit of fun, you might say - fair enough - but even weirder was the disclaimer that was put up by Mermaid Quay management that had to point out that Ianto was not a real person, and that this has nothing to do with them.
Thanks for clearing that up ... I nearly got really upset ... or something ...
According to my mechanic, who I am on first-name terms with thanks to the saga that is the Ford Farce, all vehicles made by the French are made of cheese. The electrics are terrible, and anything not bolted down just falls off.
I'm inclined to agree with him, although I did own a 13-year old Renault 5 for a couple of years and despite being a jalopy it served me pretty well.
Still, I have no intention of buying any kind of French-flavoured transport in the future. I will, however, aim to dispatch with our current car of woes as soon as possible.
Bono & Co truly rocked the house at the Millennium Stadium last night - but that's no surprise. They're pretty good at putting on an impressive show, and it was done this time with the help of a giant 'claw':
Last time, at the Vertigo tour, we were quite close to the front squashed in tight but now we're a bit older we opted for tier seats. We were quite far up but that helped us see the whole stadium and it was quite a sight - tens of thousands of bodies all amassed to worship the Irish super-quartet.
So how was the show??
Well - the first support act was The Hours and were actually quite good - I'd heard a bit of their music before and they hadn't made much of an impression, but they were full of energy and had a distinctive sound. Glas Vegas, on the other hand, were ... well ... bleak. Full of melancholic angst and Scottish moaning. Not my cup of tea. They weren't doing a good job of warming us up for the headliners, but then I figured after such a dreary half-hour U2 would seem absolutely flippin' supernova.
After a long wait, Bowie's Space Oddity came on and it was a bit of a goosebump moment before Larry kicked things off with a short drum solo that then launched into Breathe from the new album.
From then on it was salvo after salvo of classic U2 rock - the majority of songs being newer ones, but with a few classics thrown in (notably The Unforgettable Fire and Sunday Bloody Sunday). The stage show was a barrage of light and imagery all on a grand scale. Even though the four band members were about an inch tall from where we were standing from, the wraparound screen served as a fantastic display to see all the action in detail.
One odd thing about the day was the prolific amount of alcohol that was being consumed by fellow concert-attenders. Quite a few people were getting more and more drunk as the night wore on and I just can't understand why anyone would want to spend a huge amount of money on seeing one of the world's greatest bands perform - only to get sloshed and likely fail to remember much of it the day after.
This nation is becoming more and more obsessed with alcohol - and that, in my opinion, is a bad thing.
Anyhoo - rant over...
Reflecting on the whole experience, I can honestly say it was a spectacle - it made me feel curiously insignificant, wonderfully energised and briefly at one with the thousands of fans surrounding me.
U2's performance has made me think that we all need to experience the spectacular every once in a while ... because only then can we truly feel alive.
What do you reckon? What form of the 'spectacular' have you witnessed?
A somewhat dated thriller, the best part of it is Steve McQueen. He simply oozes cool out of every pore, but that's not enough to help a story which feels haphazard and unconvincing. There are some really dull moments, and the ending fails to satisfy. I feel bad about criticizing a so-called classic, but simply can't give it a high score. (5/10)
Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth are great together in this unassuming little film. Can't understand why everyone has West Country / Posh English accents when the film is set in Holland, and the sexual tension between the two leads seems to be lacking somewhat. Apart from that, it is a watchable and interesting piece. (7/10)
Terminator Salvation (2009)
This risky sequel delivers on all levels, with enough of a balance between brain and brawn. Christian Bale conveys a huge commitment to playing the eponymous John Connor, Anton Yelchin shines as a youthful Kyle Reese and Sam Worthington gives weight to the mysterious Marcus Wright. Salvation gives a great nod to all three previous Terminator films - acknowledging its pedigree while standing up as a worthy film in its own right. The only disappointment was the ending which opted for hammy acting and bad science in an attempt to hastily conclude proceedings before the two hours was up. (8/10)
Beginning with Baz Luhrman's trademark wackiness, Australia quickly settles into a less radical stride, and surprises on a number of levels. It's less of an 'epic film' and more of a love / battle against the odds story with an epic backdrop. It's not just an Australian tourism advert. Lastly, only a tiny portion of Australia actually features in the film (Darwin, and a bit of the outback). Jackman and Kidman are strong leads, with an equally strong supporting cast (mostly Aussies, of course) striving against the odds to beat the bad guys and avoid getting bombed by the Japs. Great fun! (8/10)
Top Gun (1986)
An 80s classic, I was dumbfounded to view this again with my 21st century glasses and realise that this was about as satisfying as another 80s icon - the Microwave Meal for One. The acting is hammy as heck, the dialogue embarrassing and there's that elephant in the room again - Bad Science. Not a good combination for one of the highest-grossing films of its decade. Oh well, some things just don't mature as well as others. (3/10)
After a long drawn out negotiation, we finally secured the deal on our next house. It is both an exciting and terrifying feeling. After weeks of worrying we now have somewhere to move to and, more importantly, it's a home that we feel really positive about. Having said that, the doubts and fears came thick and fast as soon as we sealed the deal : did we make the right decision? can we afford the mortgage?? what if we don't like the house???
Funny how sometimes you look forward to something so much and then, when you finally get what you've been aching for, you don't feel excited at all - you feel uneasy and strangely disappointed. Maybe it's just me, maybe it's only when it involves something expensive requiring great responsibility ... or maybe it's because no object/thing/person can bring ultimate happiness and contentment.
Today I gave my first ever sermon in church ... and I survived! Hurrah!
Okay - it was only 5 minutes, and it was during our summer of homegroup-led services where things are a bit more laid back, but I think it went well. Normally, public speaking scares the crap out of me but today I felt quite relaxed about it. I have spoken in church before (the last time, I think, was during JKY's dedication - but that was more of a speech).
No-one came back at me and accused me of heresy (which is usually a sign that things didn't go so well) but I did have a few comments of encouragement, which was good.
And there's the thing - I've always fancied myself as a preacher. Not because I have any better insight than anyone else, or that I'm hot on the latest theology (believe me, that ain't the case!), but because if I'm honest a part of me likes standing up in front of a large crowd and getting all the attention. I know myself well enough at this stage in life to identify my insecurities, and craving attention is one of them. The thing is, I'm not very good at actually getting that attention. I'm naturally shy, and not the life and soul of the party, but like anyone else I want to feel appreciated and liked - so I suppose having a congregation listening intently to your sermon is one way to achieve this.
Therein lies the danger of pride and selfishness.
I've spent time with God recognising this entirely understandable human flaw - giving it to Him and not deliberately going after attention in this way - but have been open to the fact that maybe God might want to use me in this capacity, and get me to share something from the pulpit (not that we have a pulpit at my church, but there you go).
I hope and pray that if I'm ever asked to preach again, then I'll remember to do so humbly with an attitude of openness to the Lord - not so I can get lots of attention and become the star of my own show.
Having just seen this trailer for TRON LEGACY (i.e. Tron 2) I am very excited about it. Sequels can be turkeys at the best of times, but even more so when they show up almost thirty years after the original. Still, I'll reserve judgement until I've seen it. It may be a Tron for the next decade (if you get what I mean) plus - it's in 3D!!!
I couldn't bring myself to accept it ever since I was forced to endure Mrs Deakin's French class in sixth form. If anyone could put you off the wonder of learning a new language, she was the supreme champion. Sorry to say it, Miss, but it's true. You were not the most inspirational of teachers in the world. Now I'm a grown adult with a child of my own, I can say it without fearing her bad-tempered scaldings.
I've been to France a couple of times before, but I only just came to the realisation whilst on holiday last week that I actually like the country. There was something in me that was always holding me back - some deep-rooted disdain towards our gallic cousins and resentment of their croissant-munching, renault-driving, gitane-smoking ways.
But I have finally put all of that to rest.
You see, the French have got it right when it comes to food and drink: you can't truly enjoy grub if it's sub-standard, lacking in passion. They've also got it right when it comes to work/life balance. I know it's probably different in urban areas, but where we stayed (near Cognac) they had a siesta every afternoon and the shops were closed most of Sunday and all day Monday! How great is that?
Can you imagine the Brits working those hours? No - me neither!
So I hope we can do the French 'thing' again sometime, and when we do I will actually try and look forward to it...
The family car has been a source of much grief lately, mainly because the mechanics I have taken it to have not been pretty useless at fixing the problem (that old chestnut 'the intermittent problem').
Firstly, I blame Fraud, er Ford, for my motoring unhappiness because they make cars that are extremely sophisticated machines* thus making it difficult for smaller independent garages to do full diagnostics and repairs at a reasonable price. You see, Ford et al don't like the fact that independent garages charge less money than them. So what they do is withhold diagnostic information about their vehicles. So when Mr Independent shrugs and says he can't diagnose the fault you are forced to go to a dealership and part with the equivalent of a small country's GDP to pay for the repair.
I am angered by the fact that having taken our car to Evans Halshaw, they failed to completely fix my car and charged me an eye-watering £700 for the pleasure. I think they see me as some sap who should help them to pay for their fancy new premises. Do I LOOK filthy rich? If I do, why on earth would I be driving a Ford???
I now have to go to my usual garage (for the third time) and plead with them to fix it once and for all. Oh yeah, and spend more of the money that I don't have.
So ... the moral of the story is to not go to Evans Halshaw.
In case you didn't get that, I said EVANS HALSHAW. Do NOT go there to get your car fixed or for any other reason - you have been warned!!
*OK OK, I know ALL car manufacturers are the same, it's just that this particular vehicle is a Ford. Sometimes I wish I just had a horse and cart.
Sometimes, when I blurt out something stupid and inappropriate ("That fireplace looks hideous! What are you going to replace it with?... Oh ... you like it and want to keep it as a feature..."), or do something really dumb (like call out an emergency electrician who charges you £70 to flip a switch), I wish there was a CTRL-Z* that you could simply tap to Undo that mistake.
It would just take you back a minute or two and give you a chance to do it again - but do it right instead.
As most of what I do is computer-based, I'm so used to doing it throughout the day I forget you can't actually do it in real life. Shame...
Chicane have done a remix of the wonderful Sigur Ros song Hoppipolla, which has been rolling around my head for ages. I am guessing that it's the kind of track you either love or loathe, so apologies to those of you who fall into the latter category.
Jon has made a couple of funny observations about how most Christian worship songs make you sound gay for Jesus.
I thought I would have a go at rectifying this issue by penning some manly lyrics that would redress this imbalance. I don't have a tune, but if anyone wants to collaborate on a manly Christian music project I would be happy to split the royalties...
Our God Rocks!
Our God is a mighty ruler
Full of strength, truth and awesome power
He can move mountains really easy
His enemies will whimper and cower
Our God Rocks!
Our God Rocks!
He kicks the devils butt
Whilst darning his socks
Our God Rocks!
Our God Rocks!
Those who mess with him
End up on the block
Join the liberation army
And fight the good and noble fight
Roundhouse kick some nasty demons
And do what is decent and right
All men who stand for Jesus
Through God's power we will prevail
Jesus the one and only main dude
He's our mate and and he ain't frail.
OK - this was a bit of fun. Please God, don't smite me....
Good friend Jongudmund recently launched yet another blog as part of his ongoing Blog Empire (y'know, I'm getting worried because he's started to sound asthmatic and say things like 'I find your lack of faith disturbing'...)
The premise is about using his many interesting and comical t-shirts as a launchpad to discuss all things theological.
It comes highly recommended from the JC homestead, so check it out here.
(Jon, I hope you don't mind me nicking your picture ... don't blame me, blame the Rebel Alliance)
Why is it that whenever I meet Americans, I always feel hugely inadequate as a human being? Most of the Yanks I have met have been loud, opinionated, brash and - annoyingly - positive about life.
This is what I both admire and loathe about our friends from across the pond - their infectious enthusiasm about everything. Don't get me wrong, they whine and moan just as much as the rest of us, but somehow they flick an upbeat spin on it ... similar to the British "mustn't grumble" Blitz Spirit (which you see less and less these days) except they drench their complaints in glorious North American sunshine.
No wonder they've conquered the world with their cultural imperialism. It's hard not to get drawn in.
It was quite a shock to come home from work and see this:
It's not the most inconspicuous of For Sale signs, but then I guess they're not meant to be hidden away behind a tree. It stands proud about six feet high and is visible from the English side of the Severn Estuary.
Strangely, I feel vaguely guilty about selling up. I have paranoid visions of my neighbours (none of whom I really know) peering through their net curtains and making comments about our lavish aspirations. "How dare they move house in the middle of a recession!" "This estate isn't good enough for them, eh?"
It's almost as if I'm betraying my local community by moving to another ... even though we're not really part of one.
I saw this ages ago and got so bored I turned off the telly. Now, having seen it with fresh eyes (right to the very end) I actually think it is one of Tarantino's finest. Very little by way of gore and gut-wrenching scenes it instead focuses on character. Pam Grier is excellent as the titular Brown, while the other supporting cast members add depth and intrigue to the fairly simple story of a lady striving to get out of trouble. It took me over ten years to get round to seeing it properly, but now I'm glad I did. (9/10)
2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Another vintage piece of celluloid, I got the DVD for my birthday in February and eventually saw it the other night. I'm not a big fan of westerns, but this one drew me in by the simple trick of making the lead characters extremely likeable. The dialogue between them is what makes this movie great - the lines are priceless, full of wit and humor. (9/10)
3. Slumdog Millionaire (2009)
One drawback of a film's publicity is that it makes you form an opinion of the film before you've actually watched it, and usually the reality is different from what you expect to see. Hence, Slumdog was darker than I thought it would be - not to say that Indian slums are supposed to be a happy subject, but I got the impression that it would be more upbeat in tone. Being a Boyle film, I should have known different! An excellent cast, with a fresh style and moving story makes it worth receiving its Oscars.
4. Deliverance (1972)
A disturbing 70's thriller, Deliverance helped to demonise 'rednecks' and associate the deep south with inbred loonies possessing a penchant for non-consensual sodomy (as if intolerance and racism wasn't enough). It's interesting to see Ned Betty and Burt Reynolds playing serious roles since I'd only seen them as comical characters in more recent films (in Superman and Cannonball Run, respectively). Reynolds in particular is striking as the hard-man Lewis who takes three geeky types on a canoeing trip that turns out to be deadly. Sadly, it loses pace halfway through and seems to conclude with an unsatisfactory end. But who am I to criticize the great John Boorman?? (7/10)
5. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008)
An interesting take on the horror of the Holocaust, seen through the eyes of a German and Jewish boy who forge a friendship 'over the fence' of a concentration camp. Both child actors shine, playing it very 'real' while Thewlis and others do a measured but poignant job of conveying everyday life for a Nazi family caught up in Hitler's final solution. The end took me by surprise, and was done with powerful effect. (7.5/10)
Films I hope to be reviewing soon: Bullitt, Terminator Salvation, Valkyrie, Bridge over the River Kwai ... er that's it for now!
For our church Cell Meeting the other day we watched a film called 'Finger of God'. I saw it on YouTube and was blown away so just had to share it with those in our group. The Lord has been challenging us a lot lately about how we can do great things in His name and so this film was very timely for us all.
Like the maker of the movie, I thought miracles were only for stories in the Bible or maybe for remote parts of Africa. The reality is, miracles are happening the world over and God is using normal, everyday people to bring His kingdom to earth. We just don't hear about it in the normal media channels because, well, they don't think it's worth reporting on...
What is amazing is that, whilst we were watching the film, one of the group started to feel unwell ... so we stopped the DVD and prayed for her (we had to really, seeing as we were witnessing healings on screen right in front of us!) .... and, guess what? - she felt better again!
Well, after all the hype and anticipation I came away from yesterday's latest announcements feeling pretty underwhelmed (as usual).
Nothing surprised or intrigued me, it just felt like business as usual at the Home of Mac. A product everyone expected was launched, a bit of a bump up for laptops came along and there was some talk about OS X.
The iPhone was a real disappointment for me. Why? Well, mainly because it was the iPhone that should have launched two years ago. Finally, the 3GS does video, MMS support, cut & paste and all that stuff which is fairly essential to a high-performance, luxury product. What it doesn't have is a decent camera (c'mon, THREE megapixels??? My crappy SonyEricsson which I got last year has two and it's worth about ten quid) and reasonable price structure. I'm still waiting to see what O2 announce for the UK, but looking at the AT&T model it's probably going to still be too pricey for an average joe like me. Perhaps that's to be expected from a company like Apple, but not if you look at the iPod. iPods are damn good value and much better than anything else out there (IMHO).
So once again, I choose to walk away and not get involved. I will not be buying an iPhone.
First off, I should point out that I am one of the least qualified / experienced people to have any reasonable chances of success when it comes to predicting what new baby Apple is about to bring to the world. I do enjoy the anticipation of an Apple event, however, and it's fun to guess what one of the world's most secretive computer companies will release next.
Having read all the relevant websites, I've made a conservative guess at what we will see when the World Wide Developer's Conference launches in San Francisco on Monday:
- New iPhone (with all the features it should have when they launched three years ago - like video, cut & paste, landscape keyboard...). It will come in a wide range of sizes (memory-wise) and with a new price structure, meaning ordinary people like myself will finally be able to afford one.
- OS X Snow Leopard announcement.
- Stuff about the iPhone OS version 3.0.
- Stuff about the iPhone App store.
- Bragging about how brilliant Apple is and how they've got so much money they don't know what to do with it.
Er....that's about it.
I really don't think there will be anything more than that (no new iMacs or Mac Pros or anything like that. It will be very much all about the iPhone, I reckon).
As for my ultra-UN-conservative estimate, this is what could happen in an alternate reality:
- Mac OS will be killed of with a deal struck between Apple and Microsoft. Apple will soon be running a Mac version of Windows ME.
- The slim aluminium iMac will be completely redesigned to incorporate a cathode ray tube. It will be 25 inches deep and weigh 78 Kg
- The iPhone will no longer use wireless radio signals. Instead, it will come with a new adapter which you can plug it into any landline socket to make calls
- Apple will launch a new iFruit store. At the click of a button, you can order any kind of fruit you want. This will be followed later in the year by a range of stores for different grocery items including iVeg, iBread, iDairy, iCrispysnacks and iBooze
Finally, in the next few years, Steve Jobs will form new alliances with Microsoft, Google, Sony and Miss Millie's Chicken. This super-corporation will enable Steve to run for World President and eventually enslave the rest of humanity. Earth will be renamed iPlanet.
I just read about the actress who is due to play the Doctor's new assistant - Karen Gillan. Is it me or is she really young? I mean, she's 21! And Matt Smith, the current Doctor's replacement, is only 26! They're sooo young ...
I wish them good luck - David Tenant and his other co-stars will be a tough act to follow, although I'm sure the producers know what they're doing - but what does this mean for the 12th or 13th Doctor?
Here's my take on them (sorry Jon for stealing your format):
1. Idiocracy (2005)
Luke Wilson plays an average guy in the military who accidentally gets cryogenically frozen for 500 years. He wakes up in the future only to find that the average IQ of the human race has plummeted (thanks to middle class couples failing to procreate as much as the less intelligent sections of society). One of the those odd films that I'd never heard of (apparently it received zero marketing), it's actually very funny and makes a lot of interesting observations (not sure if the premise is based on any real science, though!). (7/10)
2. Richard III (1995)
A dark and brooding modern makeover for Shakespeare with Ian MacKellan stealing the show as the devious and megalomaniacal Richard set in an alternate 1930s Britain. Picking off his rivals one by one, you can't help but be impressed by his clever scheming and twisted sense of self-righteousness. (9/10)
3. Stormbreaker (2006)
Not sure why I chose to watch this one. I guess I was just curious. Anyway, it didn't grab me particularly as it was just a James Bond Junior paint-by-numbers lacking any kind of humour or wit. I haven't real the novel ... don't intend to either. (4/10)
4. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Not as bad as I'd expected, although it lacked any real gems of imagination or sense of wonder (which you'd expect from an adaptation of this kind of material), plodding along quite predictably. I've never gotten very excited about the previous X-Men films (and I'm not bothered much about the new Wolverine installment either). I can see how they're trying to parallel the mutant rights thing with the civil rights movement, but because mutants don't exist I find it hard to care about their plight. Kelsey Grammar playing the blue-skinned freak saved the whole thing in my opinion. (6/10)
5. Fever Pitch (1997)
Bit of an oldie this one - Colin Firth and Ruth Gemmel play two complete opposites who fall in love, except he's also in love with Arsenal. A really sweet film with great dialogue and funny moments. Probably Colin's best performance on film (he's playing an ordinary bloke for a change). Thoroughly recommended. (9.5/10)
I have just started using Spotify, which took me some convincing - I feared it would be yet another internet app a la Facebook that would suck precious time out of my life and prevent me from spending quality time with my wife and son (yes - the internet is responsible for most family-related ills. How do you feel now, Mr Tim Berners-Lee???).
But - it is quite remarkable. You can listen to pretty much any song you like. It's a veritable candy store of limitless musical treats (and I don't have to pay anything OR break the law - shiny!).
The good thing about it is that I can listen to stuff before committing to paying for a CD or download. I can also discover new bands just by browsing (or even typing in random names for fun - ever heard of Peter and the Test Tube Babies??). Not only that, but it's the perfect opportunity to indulge those guilty pleasures without actually having to buy anything (cough cough! Girls Aloud cough cough!).
The downside is, of course, that you can't take music away with you for your iPod or to play in the car. But it is free - and I don't actually listen to stuff much that way these days anyway.
The other major downside is the fact that there are millions of tracks on Spotify - I don't know where to start. There is such a thing as TOO MUCH CHOICE!
I have seen a few of these on the roads lately. Man, what was Alfa thinking? That is one ugleee sight.
I've always wanted to own an Alfa but looked at them from afar - mainly because I could never afford one (at least, not new anyway). The other thing that put me off is their notorious unreliability and tendency to rust at the sight of a water droplet.
I'm sure I read somewhere that they're owned by VW now, so the latest Alfas should be better built and more likely to get you to your destination in one piece - but I would never part with any money to buy this ... thing.
It's only good feature is it's backside. At least you can look at that without covering your eyes in horror...
A post-Easter musing, loosely related to my previous posting about suffering ... courtesy of my bible notes from John Stott:
"I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as 'God on the cross'. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?
I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away.
And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me!
He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered out world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us.
Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of this."
I'm afraid today's post, as I try and get back into the habit after an entire week's absence (shameful, I know), is regurgitated from one of my favourite Blogs, Stuff Christians Like.
The particular post in question, also regurgitated from a book (can you regurgitate regurgitated matter??? I don't know), is entitled 'The thing about being naked', although the bit I'm referring to isn't about nakedness. It's something of a rousing challenge to us creatives out there:
The Artist’s Life Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action. Do it or don’t do it. It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.
You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.
Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution.
Give us what you’ve got.
(by the way, when I say 'creatives' I mean everyone - we're all creative whether we acknowledge it or not)