Friday, December 21, 2012

It's the Friday Video Post! Filmography 2012

I love watching these every year they come out. They're always magnificent examples of editing.

The only thing that depresses me is the fact that it reminds me of how few films I've seen in the previous 12 months.

As a Dredd 3D fan, I was intrigued to see if the movie made it to the cut – and it did! Only twice though, and for just a second.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Oreos / Dairy Milk Combo Goodness!


I don't normally post pictures of food on the Internet unless I ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO.

This is one of those occasions.

 
Look at it! Just look at it will you!?!?!

It pains me to say it, but Oreos and Dairy Milk are only together because Kraft bought Cadbury. Whilst I am never very fond of big companies swallowing up national institutions, when their union creates something this fantastic, I must confess my principles are unceremoniously thrown out of the window.

I have a new, favourite foodstuff ... and I share it with you, dear reader. Enjoy!

Friday, November 23, 2012

It's the Friday video post! Retro Smirnoff Ad

As a slacker student, I spent many hours watching films at the local fleapit (before multiplexes were everywhere).

During my entire time at Uni, they played this ad before the start of the film.

Every. Single. Time.

Seriously – over a period of three years! (I don't know why, but I guess it's because it cost so much to make).

I used to completely and utterly loathe this ad. It drove me crazy everytime they showed it ... but now I can watch it with a renewed appreciation for the technical brilliance. Remember – this came out over five years before the Matrix.

That's pretty impressive.



Friday, November 16, 2012

What you don't hear about the Isreal / Palestine conflict


Israel and Hamas are currently blowing the crap out of each other.

I'm no expert on Middle East politics, but when you know someone who has lived in the region for some time you see a different perspective from what is spoon fed to us in the media.

Isreal is often portrayed (certainly by the British media) as the villain, while Palestine the helpless underdog.

Interestingly – and rather predictably – the truth is far more complex.

Here's an excerpt from Joel C Rosenberg's blog:

"Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terror organizations — backed by Iran — are firing rockets, missiles and mortars at innocent civilians in Israel, along the southern border. Each act is a war crime. The Iranian-backed terrorists are also firing from behind innocent civilians in Gaza, often from hospitals, mosques and schools. Thus, each act is actually two war crimes. In just the past several hours, the terrorists have fired more 50 times at Israel. That’s more than 100 war crimes. Since Saturday, they have fired at Israeli civilians more than 200 times. That’s more than 400 war crimes.  Yet the world is paying very little attention and doing little to stop the terrorist attacks. Israel, therefore, is moving swiftly to defend herself." 

Hearing from my friend, I understand that civilians are regularly being targeted in the South of Israel from Gaza, but it's only recently that things have gotten worse. This is why Israel decided to kill Ahmed Jabari (the top military commander of Hamas) in an attempt to put a stop to the continual attacks (the media, however, hasn't made this clear).

Whether this will put an end to things is anyone's guess. 

Essentially, Hamas aims rockets at Israeli civilians from Gaza, while Israel tries to avoid killing innocent civilians (you can see a video here explaining what they do), which is difficult when Hamas uses non-military locations to attack. Again, the media doesn't make this clear.

My humble view is that this whole mess is driven by politics and religious fundamentalism. Ordinary people on both sides are tired of the endless killing and destruction. They don't want to kill each other, they just want to go to work and get on with their lives. Those in power, however, are oblivious to this.

One thing worth mentioning is that Israel is surrounded by nations who either want it completely destroyed or at the very least wouldn't mind if it was wiped from the face of the earth. Hitler tried this, as have many others before in history. So far, the Jews have miraculously survived – but that doesn't make things easier. You can't blame them for feeling hemmed in and under attack (not just from Gaza, but Iran and Egypt as well).

Ezekiel 38 talks about a vast army coming to destroy Israel and it make me wonder whether this is the beginning of something terrible unravelling before our very eyes...only time will tell.

Watch this space!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Movie Review - Tyrannosaur



The much-lauded directorial debut from Paddy Considine (best known to me as the journo who gets killed by the CIA in The Bourne Ultimatum), this low-budget British feature has received critical acclaim for its portrayal of two very different individuals who form an unconventional friendship in the midst of violence and loss.

Firstly, let me just say that the direction and acting is second-to-none. Olivia Colman (more familiar as a comedy actress in the likes of Peep Show and Rev.) and Peter Mullan (War Horse) give mesmerising performances. The setting is dark and depressing, with brief moments of happiness that lift things briefly out of the gloom.

When we are introduced to the two main characters, we assume they are poles apart – one is a violent, down-and-out drunk while the other is a middle-class Christian working in a charity shop. We soon learn, however, that they have a lot more in common than one would think.

While I accept this is a good film on artistic merit, ultimately I felt it could be a very different and more rewarding film than it was.  

Personally, all of my problems with this film hinge on Hannah, who turns out to be very superficial in her faith. The only things that seem to identify her as a Christian are the fact that she prays a couple of times and works in a charity shop. Hardly enough for a strong conviction. This is the big problem with cinema and TV – most portrayals of Christians are unfair stereotypes which instantly loses my respect for the team making the film.

We soon learn that Hannah's life is far from perfect (not that a Christian's life should be perfect – they never are, of course), and while faced with difficult and horrific circumstances not once do we see her cry out to God for any kind of intervention.

Had her faith been more real, I could see how her relationship with Mullan's Joseph might have been a source of real change for both of them. I wouldn't expect it to be an easy ride. There would be ups and downs – conflict – but ultimately they would have been able to start again and look to the future. I just think the story stayed too much in the dark and wouldn't allow itself to wander into the light enough.

This film claims that eventually the characters achieve redemption, but I'm not convinced. Instead, the conclusion feels ambiguous with just a tiny glimpse of hope.

I'm not against dark films per se, but I feel that it's important for characters to reach that personal point of revelation, where they learn the lessons from the journey they've been on and ultimately become better people. That's the essence of most successful stories. Hopefully, Tyrannosaur isn't one of those films that begins a new trend of nihilistic stories devoid of hope.

Now that really would be depressing.

Verdict: 7 out of 10

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Dedication – that's what you need


The other week, we had Sprog #2's dedication at church. Because of sleepless nights and contracting some weird virus thing, it has taken me a while to get round to writing this.

Edward was born back in April, and his arrival was a long time coming (not that he was in the womb for three years or anything weird like that). After several failed attempts at fertility treatment, it finally worked and Ed was the outcome. His dedication was meant to be a way of publicly thanking God for this little miracle and take the opportunity to pray for him within the church community.

Dedications are the latest thing in evangelical / modern churches. The idea stems from the notion that traditional christenings (or infant baptism) are seen as being a bit out of touch, both theologically and logically. As I understand it, Infant baptism was conceived as a way to save the soul of the poor little critter before they got infected with the sin that exists in the big bad world. Save the person before they get a chance to go off the rails, so to speak.

Of course, this doesn't really work. Baptising babies doesn't stop them from doing 'bad' things – anyone with any common sense can see that. Also, there doesn't appear to be anything in the Bible that tells us to do this (or that being baptised at such an early point in life guarantees eternal life). All the baptisms that take place in the New Testament involve adults who are making a decision for themselves. Babies find it difficult enough to not poo their pants let alone choose to follow their Lord and Saviour.

Having said this, I've been to plenty of Christenings in Anglican churches, and never had the impression that the service is about 'saving the baby's soul'. Rather, they are about thanksgiving and committing the baby to God. I think infant baptism is more of a Catholic thing, which I don't know much about...

Ironically, we go to a Baptist church and you'd think with a name like that, they'd be baptising people all over the place, whatever their age! But no, our denomination is very clear about Christenings – it's not something we partake in!

And so, for us, the dedication was not about choosing Ed's faith for him. That will be his decision and his decision alone when the time comes. Wifey and I would love for him to have a real and active Christian faith, but if he chooses to become an Atheist or a Muslim that's up to him. We will still love him whatever his beliefs. No, the dedication was – as explained above – an opportunity for public thanksgiving and acknowledgment of God's role in our lives.

It was great to have friends and family join us for the day. It was also great to eat lots of cake in Ed's honour.

I'm sure, being a chip off the old block, when he's older he'll appreciate that!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Christian Movie Review - Dredd 3D

I was amused to read a recent review of Dredd 3D by 'Movieguide - the family guide to movies and entertainment'. Here's how it finishes off:

"DREDD exists only to exploit and demean all who are involved in it. Everyone associated with this movie, both behind and in front of the cameras, should be deeply ashamed. DREDD is an abhorrent movie on every artistic and moral level."

Ulp!

Naturally, it provoked widespread derision from fans, who didn't seem bothered by the reviewer's damning assessment of the comic book adaptation. In fact, they were almost proud to be associated with a "vile, inhumane and horrifically violent movie ... with abundant foul language."

As a Christian myself, I felt slightly awkward reading the review. Firstly, because my fellow brother (or sister) reviewer succeeded in portraying the Christian faith as ultra-square and tragically un-cool. Secondly, because I actually liked the film I felt like I was being a bad Christian.

In response to the first point, I can't argue really. The Christian faith is not meant to be 'cool' or 'trendy'. In spite of people like Rob Bell doing their best to wear the right clothes and proffer culture-friendly-yet-profound sound-bites, Christianity isn't cool. If anything, it's messy. All sorts of people, regardless of how ugly they look or how broken and hurt they are inside, are allowed to take part. It isn't, or at least shouldn't, be about saying the right thing and wearing the right clothes. We're a motley bunch, some of whom warble hymns out of tune in dusty old pews while others prance around 'in the spirit' to Coldplay-esque worship music at some trendy venue serving slightly pretentious real coffee (bless 'em!). Some believers are always going to react to things in a way that some people will find amusing, offensive or both – there's not much I can do about it, really.

I felt like a bad Christian because I thought maybe I shouldn't have watched a movie like Dredd. It's got lots of violence and swearing in it, not the kind of things you normally associate with Christian values. It's also seriously dark and heavily pessimistic – again, fairly un-Christian qualities.

It brought to mind a well-known piece of scripture:

"... whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Philippians 4v8 NIV)

So does it mean I'm not allowed to watch anything mildly racy? Well, personally I think the verse from Phillipians is encouraging believers to focus on the good and wholesome stuff most of the time, not necessarily all of the time. I don't think Christians are meant to bury their heads in the sand and think about butterflies and candyfloss all day.

Dredd dispatches perps who gave the movie a negative review
The world can be a horrible and nasty place, and Christians can only offer hope if they are aware of this and understand what is going on in the world. The media is a mirror to society so I think that sometimes it's necessary to take a look once in a while so as to not lose touch.

Saying that, I wouldn't encourage fellow believers to deliberately watch stuff they're uncomfortable with. Some people can stomach some things more than others. Clearly, there are certain kinds of 'entertainment' that no Christian can really justify viewing – pornography or slasher horrors, for example – because there is nothing redemptive or insightful to take away from them.

Dredd, however, is one example of a film which isn't overly gratuitous or indulgent in the darker aspects of its narrative and one can easily draw something useful out of it. Like my good friend Jon did in his recent post. I wouldn't suggest all Christians go watch it because it won't be everyone's cup of tea, but if any do wish to go see it I wouldn't judge them for doing so (Heh! See what I did there?).

The other thing that occurred to me was why oh why did someone even bother to review Dredd for Christians?

I mean, it's R-rated. If you read the description, it's clearly full of violence and profanity. No self-respecting Bible-basher would even think of going to see it anyway.

I can kind of understand why the reviewers detail the content of each film the way they do – so at least anyone going to see it is aware of what they are going to end up watching – but to judge the filmmakers for including such content seems baffling to me. After all, the Bible contains its fare share of rape, murder, incest and adultery (amongst other things). But, as I'm sure is true of Pete Travis (Dredd's Director) and his colleagues, the authors of the Bible's 66 books aren't necessarily condoning such behaviour. They're just representing facets of human brokenness and pain (a staple element of most good stories).

Needless to say, I'll be getting my copy of Dredd when it comes out on DVD in January. I won't be watching it guiltily, but if any of my Christian buddies want to watch it with me, they're more than welcome.

Friday, November 2, 2012

It's the Friday video post! 'True Skin'

After a bit of a hiatus, here's my latest Friday video post!

A nice slice of indie sci-fi, full of glorious neon CGI, True Skin gives a glimpse of what Blade Runner might be if it was made today....

Friday, October 12, 2012

It's the Friday video post! Marcus Chaloner Mo-Graph Wizard Extraordinaire!

My little brother is a stupendously gifted motion graphics bod and has just set himself up as a freelancer (because he got made redundant – boo!)

Please take a look at his work and recommend him to everyone you know!



Here's his website: www.marcuschaloner.com

Monday, October 8, 2012

Stick of rock safety warning

I don't recall ever seeing safety warnings on confectionery before, but here's a genuine example (click on the image to see it bigger and read the label).

Thanks to Steve my colleague from work who kindly bought me some rock from his recent trip to Brighton.

Yes – it was sickly, chewy-yet-crunchy and stuck to my teeth.

I loved it!  


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Adventures in baking (continued)... Pizza Rolls!

After something of a hiatus since my last baking effort, I turned to humble pizza to see what I could come up with.

Inspired by a 'pin' on Pinterest, I fancied making pizza rolls which looked glorious. Seems in the States you can buy every conceivable kind of dough from the supermarket ready-made: frozen or in a can. Here, in miserable old blighty there's sod all (at least Tesco delivery doesn't sell it) – so I had to make this from scratch. Granted, it's a bit more work but I did feel very proud and smug afterwards.

After making the dough, kneading it for five minutes and leaving it for 1.5 hours (to expand, don't you know) I rolled out the dough ready for the filling. Mmm! Filling!

Today's filling was pepperoni slices, mozarella (grated), mature cheddar (grated) and tomato puree. The puree was slapped on first, with the meat and cheese following on swiftly after. I then rolled the whole thing up to make a sort of elongated pasty thing. It was only after I'd sealed it up that I realised I should have included a sprinkle of herbs (must remember that next time) as I think that technically counts as one of your five a day ... or something.

I made two of the beauties and here they are:
Hmm Not exactly uniform batches, but hey this is my first time. I call the top one long-ee and the bottom one fat-ee.
I brushed the tops with milk and sprinkled on some garlic powder. Don't know why, just seemed like the right thing to do.
I whacked them in the oven for half an hour with great anticipation. I love pizza of almost any variety. They are divine (even the cheap Tesco value ones – I could eat loads of 'em), and makes me think maybe God is Italian.

Anyhoo, after the alloted time, my pizza rolls were ready!
I think they look like bloated burritos. Long-ee exploded while fat-ee managed to contain the ingredients. Well done fat-ee!
Well, the long one expelling its filling was quite a traumatic site. All that filling! It was mostly cheese, which I would say is the glue that holds these things together so that was a shame. Also, the baking parchment I put them on decided to stick to the underside of the rolls, which was annoying because we had to peel it off (which was very tricky). Must remember next time to grease the paper first! Despite all this, the family seemed to enjoy it, so that's good.

Fat-ee was meant as a spare for another meal so I'm going to chuck him in the freezer and hope he keeps. Maybe he'll have a lot more cheese inside which might improve the pizza roll experience.

Overall, it was a dead simple thing to cook. I do enjoy making my own dough and this one was nice and gooey and fluffy. The roll tasted good, I'd definitely have one again. I think next time I will use more tomato sauce (to add a bit more moistness), add herbs and make sure the baking paper is greased. I might also play around with different meats for the filling.

Next time, however, I might just make a normal pizza!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why Dredd failed at the box office

I was saddened to learn that Dredd 3D failed to perform at the US box office recently.

I felt the movie had a good chance of making some impact in the States for a number of reasons: it had mostly favourable reviews (on both sides of the pond), a well-known geek star (Karl Urban) playing the lead and it had something unique about it (3D – done well for a change – in an R/18-rated movie).

Obviously, these factors weren't enough.

Dredd is not amused about US Box Office Takings. Heads are gonna roll!
Of course, one can never tell with movies, because there's no magic formula that guarantees a hit. You can even out the risk as much as possible by ensuring you have a big star attached to the movie or cover familiar ground story/character-wise but even these things cannot ensure success.

The thing about Dredd is that it had an uphill struggle from the beginning. Even though I think it's a brilliant film (well, for me anyway. I'm a Dredd fan and I'm totally happy with it. 5 stars and everything!), good films don't necessarily make billions of dollars at the box office. Here are what I reckon are the key factors that dashed Dredd's hopes of being an American smash-hit:

1. The Star
Karl Urban (aka Bones in Start Trek) is a great actor. He was perfect for the role of Dredd. He nailed the character. But – he's no hollywood A-lister despite the geek-worship. His name was never going to be quite enough to draw in the casual cinema-goers.

2. The Budget
If Dredd had cost $3 million to make, the film's performance would actually have been considered quite good. Unfortunately, to make a hard-hitting 3D sci-fi action movie you need to spend a bit of money to get it right. $45 million is relatively small for this kind of film, but that money still needs to be made back. Also, you need to spend a lot of money on marketing and with a film like Dredd you can only really spend so much. I'm sure Dredd will likely break even (with takings in the rest of the world, and DVD/Blu-Ray sales), but that won't please the investors.

3. The Competition
No film ever opens without some competition, and so it must be the hardest thing to try and second-guess what other studios are planning to release at the same time. The films it was up against (End of Watch and Clint Eastwood's Trouble with the Curve for example), weren't exactly blockbusters but probably familiar enough for audiences to choose them over Dredd.

4. An R-Rating
The decision to make a violent and visceral version of Dredd was, I believe, the right thing to do. This is because the comic itself is very violent. Unfortunately, this restricts who can go see it, particularly the masses of young geeks who like to spend lots of money on action flicks.

5. Sylvester Stallone
Stallone got it wrong. So wrong. In 1995 they butchered the legacy of Dredd, trying to cram in all the best bits from the comic and ending up with a codpiece-laden buddy buddy space-cop movie that bombed. There were some interesting moments and decent SFX, but ultimately the character on screen wasn't Dredd and his reputation as a bona fide comic book character ripe for the silver screen had been ruined.

In some ways, however, you could say it paved the way for Urban's Dredd. While the 1995 Dredd failed at the US box office, Stallone's star power still had some draw and quite a lot of people have probably seen it since (it's always showing on TV and one pirated version has had over 1 million hits on YouTube). Stallone at least introduced the idea and concept of Judge Dredd, admittedly very badly, to a wider audience. You'd think then, that people might be interested to see a new, more violent version (and one endorsed by the hard-core fans) – but sadly not.

6. The Character
Of all the factors that contributed to Dredd's lukewarm US reception, this has got to be the killer. Dredd is not a very nice person. While he's cool in a brutal and violent way, and his story arc since the 80s has gradually touched on Dredd's inner struggles, people who don't know anything about him just see him as an emotion-free fascist with little time for moralising. In fact, he's less human than Robocop (who, interestingly, was based on Dredd).

Also – and this is key – most Americans still haven't heard of him. Or if they have, it's because of the Stallone fiasco (see above).

The thing is, American's don't get Dredd. They never have. Sure, the comics have sold to some degree across the Atlantic but I'd say those US readers are probably the more discerning comic fans (and I salute all of them!). Comics in America are overwhelmingly dominated by American comics. Just like the movies, most of the stuff they consume is home grown. If it's not DC or Marvel, (mostly) nobody cares.

Which is a real shame because Dredd has a lot to offer. It's dark, violent and gritty but can also be funny, surreal and moving. The canvas of Mega City One is so rich and deep that you can pretty much write any kind of story there: romance, crime, thriller, horror, adventure – you name it. Dredd's home comic, 2000AD, has always struggled to gain any recognition in the States. But it's not that British comics are crap, they've made a huge cultural contribution. Many Brit artists actually cut their teeth working for 2000AD before ending up working for the big two in America. 2000AD has influenced a lot of writers, actors, artists and futurists in all spheres.

It's just that, well, Dredd is British (he's not, of course, but you know what I mean). Like Doctor Who or Red Dwarf, Dredd is rooted in British sensibilities that Americans might find charming but ultimately can't relate to. He's borne out of a British vision of future post-apocalyptic USA and is probably more relevant to us than the Americans. They have no ownership of the character and probably never will. If Dredd had been conceived by DC, Marvel or a US Independent, I'm pretty sure we'd be on the third movie re-boot by now.

Anyway, I don't really mind that Dredd hasn't been the huge success in America that everyone was hoping for. The main thing is that they made a decent version that stayed true to the comics. It buried the 1995 version good and proper, so I can't complain.

What's disappointing is that we'll probably never see a sequel. Without the interest of US cinemagoers, no one is going to be interested in spending millions of dollars on more films, which is such a shame because films set in Dredd's world could tell some really interesting stories.

If Dredd succeeds in other parts of the world I guess there's a slim chance a sequel will get the green light, but I won't be holding my breath. I just hope that after the dust settles, someone decides to keep on carrying the flame of British comic book characters. 2000AD is a goldmine of great stories and characters that are ripe for TV or cinema. There's always the option of doing a Dredd TV series (live action or CGI), which could be less risky than more feature films.

Maybe Dredd fans should just give up trying to convince the Americans about Dredd, and just enjoy the comics. You can never please everybody, and cultural stuff ... sometimes it never translates.

There's a possibility – albeit very slim – that one day, America will realise what a great character Dredd is. They will lap up the multi-level irony, the socio-political commentary and the hilariously extreme violence. They will hire the right actor, recruit the best director and spend a ridiculous amount of money bringing Mega City One to life.

Maybe then, justice will be done.


Why not read about what happens when Christians review Dredd 3D?

Chocolate, Cider, Science and God - My faith journey Part One

A recent post by a friend musing on why he's an atheist has prompted me to write about why I'm a Christian (thanks for the idea, Tel!).

I've mentioned my faith numerous times on this blog but never really given any background, so I figured it's about time I wrote something about how I got to where I am now. Here goes...


For me, my experience of coming to faith in the early 90s will always remind me of chocolate, cider and science.

Ever since I was a kid, I'd kind of assumed there was a God. It never occurred to me that there wasn't a God and that we were all alone in the universe trying to survive on a big spinning ball of rock. I didn't really think beyond the idea of a God, however – I just assumed He or It was 'out there' somewhere.

It wasn't until I went to university that I started questioning things and tried to explore the meaning of life. My housemate, who was a few years older than me, was on a similar journey trying to work out his spiritual journey and it was through numerous late-night conversations that the subject of faith and God and religion regularly became the topic of debate. Often, this would revolve around consuming (sometimes copious) amounts of cider and chocolate.

The science bit came along when I attended a series of seminars about God and science. I can't really remember the details of those talks but it challenged my assumptions that science had 'disproved' God and that they were two opposing forces battling it out against each other (and that, in today's enlightened age, science had ultimately won). On the contrary, it seemed the original reason for scientific discipline was to explore God's creation and find out how He did things, to simply discover the divine at work all around is. I came to see evidence of God in all aspects of nature, from galaxies billions of light years away to the unseen microscopic building blocks that make up our frail bodies.

As time went on, I eventually joined my housemate in going to church. I must admit, it was pretty weird at first. It was one of these 'free' churches which was nothing like my previous experience of the Christian faith (ie dull and lifeless Anglican services). We met every Sunday at 10am in a school hall. Most of the churchgoers were abnormally happy, positive and friendly. They sang happy clappy songs and did weird stuff like praying and falling over ('in the spirit' apparently). I soon got used to it, though and enjoyed spending my Sundays there (not least because we often got invited round to someone's house for Sunday lunch afterwards!).

I also started joining the Christian Union at University, which had events and meetings throughout the week. Obviously catering for students, it was very different to the church I went to as most of the attendees were my age. This was a great community of people and I got on well with the guys there, enjoying being part of something new and exciting.

And then women problems reared their ugly head.

Not long after becoming a Christian, I fell for a girl who also went to CU. It was as if everything was falling into place. I was doing well in my studies, I'd found God and then I'd met this amazing girl who seemed to like me. She played hard to get, but eventually agreed to start dating. I had a new girlfriend and life was peachy!

Sadly it lasted all of two weeks. She spent an entire evening ignoring me during a CU social and when challenged later, said it was probably best to end things.

Needless to say, I was absolutely devastated.

Suddenly I'd gone from elation to depression. I felt betrayed somehow by my new-found faith and the whole experience left a painful mark that took years to heal (it sounds a bit extreme but I was very sensitive back then). Not that I blame the individual lady concerned. We were both young and naive with our own individual hang-ups – me, I fell deeply in love with someone too quickly, combined with the fact that my experience of relationships was hugely flawed and inadequate. I wince when I think back at some of the things I said and did.

Not that I suddenly lost my faith and renounced everything. It took a while, however, for me to 'tip my toe' back in the water properly. I did blame God for my relationship shortcomings, but deep down I knew He wasn't going to go away and that a little 'women trouble' wasn't a particularly good reason to suddenly pursue some other belief system (or drop it completely).

So, licking my wounds I carried on with this Christian malarky. I went to 'Noel Richards' concerts (he looked a bit like Francis Rossi), joined in the 'March for Jesus' parade (including waving, er, rainbow banners proclaiming 'Jesus loves you!') and wrote a few Christian drama sketches for the CU (only God could forgive the drivel I came up with). I also fell in love (again!) with someone else and completely screwed the whole thing up having not learnt a single thing from my previous relationship disaster.

All in all, my tentative first steps in being a 'Christian' were pretty tragic, but like a drugged-up puppy with nothing better for distraction I kept going to church and doing the Christian 'thing'. It was only when I left Uni that I got stuck into doing my faith properly. For a while, it went great.

And then it went pear-shaped. Again.


To be continued....

Friday, September 21, 2012

It's the Friday video post! Love Running Cardiff

Our church was involved in Love Running Cardiff this year, with a large team of people doing the Cardiff 10k run. Originally started in Bristol, the idea was to create a social group that was inclusive of non-churchgoers which also benefitted good causes. It's a great concept, and the group managed to raise over £10,000, which is fantastic.

I chose not to run, basically because I am too exhausted with the new baby. It did mean, however, that I was free to make a short video about the event, which you can see below. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Movie Review - Dredd 3D

Ever since the embarrassment that was Stallone's version of Judge Dredd in 1995, fans of the futuristic lawman have been hoping that one day things would be set straight. Now, they can rest at ease. A decent, faithful adaptation of the comic legend has finally been made.

Dredd 3D is dark, gritty and shocking. From the moment hard-ass cop Dredd hits the streets it's bloody mayhem and violent destruction. It's a faithful adaptation that puts the previous incarnation to absolute shame and proves that throwing large sums of money at something doesn't necessarily give you a quality product.

Pretty much every review I've read about Dredd 3D has been consistently positive about the film. They've all commented on Urban's excellent performance as the titular anti-hero, and Thirlby's similarly good portrayal of rookie Anderson. The slow motion filmography has impressed, and the tight narrative has shown that you don't need overly-complicated plots and subplots (a la Dark Knight Rises) to tell a story.

Urban nails the character of Dredd perfectly. The gravelly voice is spot on, as is the way he carries himself. Dredd is a terrifying sight to behold – tough and violent justice embodied in a single man who's as hard as nails. Not only that, he keeps his helmet on. Stallone, on the other hand, played Dredd as a bit of a ponce. I'm sure he didn't mean to, but in trying to play down the violence of the comic (to keep the film's rating down), he diluted the character of Dredd so much he came across as something akin to a florist – as my friend aptly put it – which is simply not Dredd. Plus after fifteen minutes he took the helmet off (an absolute no-no when it comes to this character).

Dredd's home of Mega-City One is a truly terrifying place. Worse than any present-day crime-infested slum city I can think of. Criminals are everywhere and the Judges are hopelessly under-resourced (as Dredd casually mentions to Anderson, only 6% of crimes are ever dealt with by the law. The rest go unpunished and undetected). It's not a place I'd ever want to visit.

The comic's vision of MC-1 has tended to play with a high-concept futuristic look, with gleaming mile-high skyscrapers, flying vehicles and robot servants. Such a portrayal would always be limited by a movie's budget and I can understand why the producers (with limited cash) opted for the more budget-friendly retro-decay vision of the future.

Still, there are futuristic elements, just to keep the sci-fi geeks happy. Take Dredd's Lawgiver, for example. Like in the comics, his primary weapon has multiple firing modes and you get to see them in action throughout the film. Stallone's Lawgiver was impressive-looking but a bit silly. One of the shots was called 'Double Whammy' (seriously – what?) and when it fired it sounded like some 8-bit videogame crossed with a washing machine on rinse cycle. Also, it had a 'signal flare' option. Since when were the Judges of Mega-City One planning to take a boat trip?

I also loved the various references to Judge Dredd's wider world from the 2000AD comics. The mention of things like Iso-cubes, Juve-cubes, Resyk and Meat Wagons (all MC-1 everyday parlance) made me (inwardly, at least) squee with delight (in er, a manly way of course). Added to that, references to other characters was great fun: Chopper,  Kenny Who? and Wulf Sternhammer (from Strontium Dog) all received a nod.

One thing occurred to me while watching this film. When I watch other comic book movies, most of the heroes are endowed with special powers of some kind (like Superman), or have an array of nifty gadgets (like Iron Man). I watch these films and think 'Wow – that's kinda cool. I'd quite like to go around sorting out bad guys like that.' While Dredd is an awesome character, I would never ever want to step into his shoes. His daily routine typically consists of lots of people intent on killing him and all he's got is a gun, bike and heavy leathers for protection. No force fields, inherent invincibility or God-like powers.

Nah – I'll leave it to the hardened clone who's been trained in crime-busting since he was five.

I'm hoping to see this film again soon, and recommend you do too (unless you're under 18 of course).

Verdict: 11 out of 10 (yes, I'm that biased!)

Why not read about what happens when Christians review Dredd 3D?

Friday, September 7, 2012

It's the Friday video post! Dredd 3D

Being a long-time Judge Dredd fan, I am super-excited about seeing the Dredd 3D film tomorrow (hopefully it won't sell out like the last film I went to see!).

To celebrate the things Dredd-ful, here's a few videos:




Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Oreo Brittle - Oreo Goodness to the power of awesome!

I love Oreos.

I love white chocolate.

So, when Oreos and white chocolate come together in some kind of holy alliance, only good things can happen.


Here's what you need to do:

- Melt white chocolate.
- Mash up a packet of Oreo Double Stuff cookies
- Mix the Oreos and white chocolate together
- Allow to cool
- Break up into random chunks
- Eat! (oh, how original ... putting 'Eat!' at the end of a recipe. Aha hah hah ha ha ha erm ... hmm)

Melted mixture waiting to harden
All broken up and ready to be consumed!
Seriously, this is a brilliant idea and hilariously easy. I shall attempt to multiply the awesomeness next time by adding additional yummy things. I'm not sure exactly what yet, but Iced Gems, Milk Chocolate Chips, Cadbury Buttons, Cadbury Mini Eggs, Smarties and glace cherries spring to mind....

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Quote of the day - 'Amateur'

I must admit, I do find it tedious when people relentlessly post 'inspirational' quotes on Facebook and Twitter.

I have, however, read one recently that made me go *huh...*


I, like most people, am prone to flap and worry about stuff when I don't need to. We ALL need to chill and take things slow. That way, we will be able to actually get stuff done.




Friday, August 24, 2012

It's the Friday video post! FibonARTcci Cardiff

Here's a little video we put together in work to help a local artist. It's a pretty cool idea that's also mildly crazy. I hope he eventually pulls it off!



www.fibonartcci.com

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It's the Friday video post! Sight

This is a bit longer than my usual video posts, but it's a cracking little SF short.

(seems someone put After Effects to good use!)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Shock! Horror! I support the Olympic Games!


If cynical wingeing was an Olympic sport, I think we Brits would probably win Gold, Silver and Bronze without breaking a sweat.

As we've been building up to London 2012, there has been a seemingly co-ordinated effort across the media to deride everything about the games – from transport plans to torch carrying to sponsor restrictions, anything is fair game. I get the sense that most people don't want the Olympics to happen because it's a waste of money, time and effort. We've all got better things to do.

I for one don't quite feel that way.

I know it's not been plain sailing to get to this point. Yes, it's cost a lot of money. Yes, stupid decisions have been made. Yes, it's going to inconvenience a whole lot of weary London travellers.

But – as the games are nearly upon us (and I can't imagine LOCOG suddenly deciding to pull the plug at this stage) surely we might as well just embrace the ideals of the event and – heck – enjoy it? It's going to happen whether we like it or not so rather than push against it why not just go with the flow?

Let's get some perspective and remember that Coke sponsors most sporting events (hmm – we don't see many people protesting about that), an event on this scale is certain to witness the odd cock-up and that it'll all be over soon anyway.

The Olympics are a celebration of human endurance, stamina and willpower. Sportsmen and women across the globe are convening on our capital city after years of training and preparation. For some, it will be the pinnacle of their career. For others it will be the greatest disappointment in their lives. It is a huge risk to take part, but given the rewards it is an understandable risk. Basically, what I'm saying is that, in spite of sponsorship by burger restaurants and roads painted with Olympic rings, aren't the Olympic principles a good thing to support? Isn't it a good thing that people choose to become sporting champions? By demonstrating the huge capacity of the human spirit, they inspire others to make more of their lives. Isn't that a worthy thing?

I'm not saying we ignore instances of injustice or wrongdoing. On the contrary – those things should be identified and brought to light. I'm just saying we should focus on the positives as well.

So I'll be there in Cardiff next week cheering on the football. Why not join me and show the world we're not a bunch of grumpy gits after all?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Movie Review - The Dark Knight Rises

**Slight spoiler alert**

For the first time in ages I couldn't get in to see a film because it had been sold out. This is in the age of multiplexes where big films are shown every half hour on several screens. I didn't quite realise the magnitude of excitement for Batman's last 'Nolan'-flavoured outing and was surprised to discover I had to wait for the next available showing.

The third outing for Christian Bale's Batman is bolder, more ambitious and bum-achingly longer than the previous two. It has successfully ridden the wave of comic-inspired films that have been released over the last couple of years and no doubt will do very nicely at the box office.

It begins with Bruce Wayne moping around his stately home, afraid to venture out due to bad things that happened eight years ago. Batman has retired amid scandal and is now but a myth among Gotham City's finest. Only when the vicious terrorist Bane appears does Wayne find the strength to save his beloved city from doom. Along the way, Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman, although this name is never mentioned) gets in the way of Batman's work due to her own selfish ambitions while also serving as the does she / doesn't she? love interest to give the audience some sympathy for her.

That, dear reader, is the set up for the whole movie. Unfortunately, Christopher Nolan has decided to take 2 hours and 45 minutes to tell the story. More on this in a bit.

The leads are all excellent. Bane (Tom Hardy) is a convincingly evil antagonist who proves to be a formidable foe for the Dark Knight. Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) does a great job of alternating between cool, calculated cat burglar and helpless damsel in distress (when the situation calls for it). Hero Wayne (Christian Bale) has his moments of self-doubt brought on by failure and loss.The action sequences are deftly choreographed and there are some interesting moments between the key characters which give a sense that this is more than 'just a comic-book movie'. While the scale of this project is impressively huge, what is sadly missing however is any sense of keeping things tight. Admittedly, there's no obviously wasted dialogue or action but this film could easily be 30 minutes shorter without ruining the pace or sacrificing the heart of the story.

There are also things that weren't really addressed very well (particularly Bane's motivation for destroying an entire city – personally I didn't get it) that were probably cut for timing's sake but should really have been explored.

When I saw The Dark Knight, I didn't regard it as overly long (even though it's only 10 mins shorted that DKR). Perhaps it was Heath Ledger's performance that kept the film engaging. Nolan might fancy himself as David Lean, but I'm not sure he's in the same league just yet. At least Lawrence of Arabia had a 20 minute interval.

After seeing the film I was saddened and shocked to hear about the horrific shootings at a midnight showing of the film in Colorado. Such cold and calculated evil seems the kind of thing that should remain on the silver screen, but sadly isn't. Bane might be the stuff of nightmares, but his real-life counterparts don't seem much different.

Verdict: 7.5 out of 10




Saturday, July 14, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

It's the Friday video post! All 135 Space Shuttle launches at the same time!

This is truly extraordinary. All 135 NASA Space Shuttle launches at the same time.

Strangely, it doesn't look like that many, but think about what has been achieved (the Hubble telescope and the International Space Station for starters).

Interestingly, whoever put this together didn't shy away from including the doomed Challenger launch. And why shouldn't they? It's good to be reminded that spaceflight is hugely risky and space an unrelentingly dangerous place to work.

Friday, July 6, 2012

It's the Friday video post! A Conversation with my 12-year old self

This is brilliant. Spooky, but brilliant. And funny.

A secret chocolate logo message?


I only just noticed this. If you look at the Toblerone mountain logo, you can see what looks like a dancing rodent of some kind. I think it looks like a squirrel – can you see it?


Does anyone else know about this???

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Does Apple really care about the pros?

***This is a Mac fanboy article. If you are offended by things of an Apple nature, please look away now. Thank you.***

The recent keynote by Apple at the WWDC in San Francisco last week saw a slew of announcements, detailing new Macs and updated software. One thing that was obviously missing was a replacement for the ageing Mac Pro line (which has remained unchanged for almost two years). Shortly after, Apple quietly introduced new Mac Pros with minor speed bumps and not much else. The forums were filled with rants by hundreds of Mac users who were stunned by such a hollow and insignificant update.

The Mac Pro has always been the powerhouse machine used by creative professionals working in graphics, video and music. More expensive than the consumer iMacs, they have always been regarded as the kit to go to when extra grunt and stamina was needed for high-level graphics-intensive work.

Now, it seems, the pros are being left behind.

Compared to PC offerings, the top level Macs no longer match performance and speed for a comparable price. True, Macs have always been pricier, but it's becoming more and more difficult to justify paying a premium for what is a much older machine. The only thing going for the Mac is the user friendly and more stable Mac OS, but even that's just not good enough on its own.

Since the appearance of the 'new' Mac Pros, Apple have backtracked a bit and are no longer calling them new, and Tim Cook (Steve Jobs' replacement as Apple's CEO) as well as Apple spokespeople have assured users that Pro users are important to the company and that new Mac Pros are in the works (although not for another year).

I can't help but sympathise with the frustrated Mac community. They are a largely faithful bunch and invest time, money and energy into sticking with Apple, even when they feel largely ignored.  I too, was hoping for new Pros, only because I'm hoping that we may be in the position at work to invest in new kit. The way things are at the moment, I wouldn't want to invest in outdated hardware, even if it is from Apple.

Apple's relationship with professionals seems to have soured over the last few years or so. The high-end motion graphics suite 'Shake' was dropped. The Xserve server line was discontinued. Final Cut Pro's latest version appalled hardened editors, driving them back to Avid and Adobe. The insane focus on satisfying consumer's desires for iPods, iPhones and iPads. This might not sound much, but to pros it's a big deal.

Apple's latest Macbook Pros are sleek, sexy and – for notebooks – pretty fast. They've got the latest bits of fiddly hardware and widgets that give them plenty of oomph. And, of course, they do have the word 'Pro' in the title. So does that mean Apple means it when they say they haven't forgotten the pros?
RIP Mac Pro

Not exactly – I think they are thinking of the pros, but not in the way the pros would like them to. I think they're thinking of something pretty radical. Apple has always been about pushing forward onto the next thing. They were the company that ditched floppy drives in place of optical drives. They embraced USB while the PC manufacturers dragged their feet. They've begun to eliminate optical drives now. Okay, maybe Apple wasn't the first to do these things, but because of the influence Apple has, these decisions have sent ripples across the PC industry.

Apple may well have something huge up their sleeve. They're just not ready for it yet. Correction – we're not ready.

It took several years to convince us that floppies were outdated, clunky tech. Now, they have been consigned to history. Us poor punters need time to adjust to an ever-changing and unfamiliar technological world.

I suspect high-end desktops will be going the way of the floppy too, and Apple will be dragging the pros kicking and screaming into the next evolutionary stage of the computer.

Do I have any idea what they might be thinking? Well, I could guess. Cloud-based computing, perhaps. Imagine having a pro desktop at your fingertips wherever you are. No need for a laptop. Just a tablet (or Über-tablet). How that would work using high-end applications like Final Cut Pro, I don't know but I'm sure the Apple guys are working on it.

It makes me uncomfortable because it's daring and unfamiliar and scary – and most pros wouldn't like it either, but the people at Apple know they're right.

And they don't give a damn what we think.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I made Olive Bread - yeah!

This is not the same as sharing photos of food on Facebook (well, I think so anyway), so don't go accusing me of hypocrisy.

I have been getting into baking my own bread recently, and I don't mean using a bread machine. While such appliances are useful time-saving tools, there is something profoundly comforting about kneading and proving your own batch of dough before seeing it rise into sumptuously warm and soft bread. True, it's hard work, but thankfully only for ten minutes.

Now, I don't have my own little bakery going on at home, however delightful such a romantic notion might be, but I do try and bake when I can. I started out doing basic white loaves, but am now trying to be a bit more adventurous. The ingredients are simple: Strong Bread Flour, Water, Butter and Salt (plus any extra goodies for something different).

I have recently experimented with baking Olive Bread and Pumpkin Seed Bread. Not hugely weird, but different enough. Here's what happened...

Olive Bread
Lovely Olive Bread - made by my own hands!
The result: I think I could have baked it for another ten minutes as it was just a bit too doughy in parts. I guess the extra moisture from the olives it to blame for that. I've also got a weird relationship with Olives. Not in a do-I-marry-or-just-continue-to-live-in-the-same-apartment way (that is beyond weird), more of a do-I-enjoy-olives-or-do-I-not kind of way. I tend to find them quite bitter, but maybe I'm getting the wrong ones or I need to develop my palate. At least I appreciate them as a 'good food' and that's got to mean something. So, all in all, I was quite happy about the bread save for the slight undercooked-ness.

My verdict: 7 out of 10

Pumpkin Seed Bread



The result: This was nicely baked with a good flavour and soft texture. The seeds were thankfully quite soft as I was worried they might be a bit too crunchy and added a bit of 'something different' to the taste.

My verdict: 8 out of 10

I'm going to keep baking whenever I have the time (which is pretty limited having a newborn in the family) but hope to try some different types of bread over the coming weeks:
- Wholemeal
- Cheese
- Sun dried tomato
- Spinach 
- Multi-seed

Mmm....I'm salivating already!



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

FreeMesa - Easy Freecycling!

Here's a quick shout out to FreeMesa.org, a great site dedicated to freecycling. I must admit, I had gone off the original freecycle website because it was just a Yahoo user group as opposed to a proper website, meaning it wasn't very user friendly.

FreeMesa is great because you get to have a proper account and can easily post items with a description and image.

The only thing is, it's quite a basic site and I don't think a huge amount of people use it. I'm guessing this is the work of some brave, intrepid soul who's maintaining the site in his spare time. So, click on the link below and get freecycling because the more members who use it the better the experience will be for everyone!

FreeMesa.org - Freecycle from the Community, To the Community. All for free.
Freecycle from the Community, To the Community. All for free.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Einstein an evangelical Christian? Er, no – not really.

I hate to sound all negative and everything, I really do, but I'm about to tear something down that a lot of people have been encouraged by.

There's a story going round Facebook at the moment about how a young student back in the early 20th Century gets into a heated a debate with his professor about whether evil disproves the existence of God. After some clever arguing back and forth, the student eventually wins the argument defending his faith and showing up the arrogant prof. It turns out, so the story goes, that the student was Albert Einstein.

It's a great story, and one that I've seen make the rounds a couple of times.

The problem is, it's a hoax.

It seems that this story was written some time ago and then someone else came along and added the Einstein bit at the end (a sort of internet Chinese whispers).

What's annoying is that, apart from the fact that such an exchange of wits never happened (at least not to Einstein), the clever argument that Einstein is purported to have given is, in addition, fundamentally flawed.

Sadly, Christians are innocently sharing this as a way of reaching out to non-believers and affirming their own faith, supposedly because having someone like Einstein on our 'side' makes Christianity seem a bit more legitimate.

The truth is, however, Einstein never professed a faith (at least not a faith evangelicals would identify with).

From the Urban Myths website:

From everything we know about Albert Einstein, all this scholastic navel gazing would have bored him to tears. As a theoretical physicist he found the order and complexity of the universe awe-inspiring enough to call the experience "religious." As a sensitive human being he took a profound interest in questions of morality. But none of this, to him, pointed in the direction of a supreme being.

"It does not lead us to take the step of fashioning a god-like being in our own image," he explained when asked about the religious implications of relativity. "For this reason, people of our type see in morality a purely human matter, albeit the most important in the human sphere."

This just shows the downside of the Internet. Yes, it's a brilliant tool if you want to communicate quickly with lots of people, order shoes at 3am and watch endless videos of cats dressed at superheroes ... BUT it also serves as a breeding ground for all sorts of nonsense thought up by people with nothing better to do.

The lesson here, kids, is that we should always be cautious about whatever we read on the net. Never assume what you read is true and always expect to see credible sources. Finally, if something sounds too good to be true I'm afraid it usually is. Here endeth the lesson. You have been warned etc.

Friday, May 18, 2012

It's the Friday video post! - Paul Simon (You Can Call Me Al)

A musical one this week, and who can forget such an iconic music video from the 80s (from the terrific Graceland album)?

I love its simplicity and the whole double act thing between Chevy Chase and Paul Simon. I must confess, when I originally saw this video I thought Chevy was the singer (I was so naive back then) but then I had no knowledge or awareness of Paul Simon (being such a young whippersnapper), so it's understandable really.



Apparently, Simon performed at some intimate concert recently but didn't play this track. I don't know if this is fair, but I suspect Simon loathes the song – mainly because it was so successful and is probably the only song most people know him for.

Ah, the price of success...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Woo! 200 Posts!

I just realised I posted my 200th blog article yesterday.

Wow – so far I have managed to punch a big JC hole of self-written drivel into the belly of the Interweb 200 times.

200 times!

It may not sound much, but for me, that's amazing. I have been writing since  January 2009 (over three years!) and when I started out I did wonder how long it would last (Article number 1, peeps. Read it and weep!).

A lot has happened since then. I've set up a company, moved house, had another son and bought an iPhone (in no particular order of importance, of course...). In a bit of a New Year's kind of way, I wonder what will happen in the next three years.

Hmm, could be interesting.

If you've only been reading recent posts, I urge you to sample the wide variety of wisdom, mirth and education (wismircation, if you will) that is contained within this hallowed blog. Here are some fine examples:

My most popular post (over 2,100 page views): Happy Oreo-ness!
My fanboy post: The Loss of Mac Exclusivity
My sad post: Another funeral
My car rant post: Here – just take all the money I have
My Jedward post (seriously): The John and Edward Timeline
My apocalypse post: Packing for the Apocalypse
and finally .... My apology for not blogging enough post: Crazy crazy times...

I suppose I can't celebrate again until I get to 500, so I'll see you at the party in about 2016.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Please stop sharing pictures of your food. It's quite annoying.

I admit that I have done this in the past, but I am a reformed character. I learned the error of my ways and realised what a mistake I'd made.

Once or twice (or maybe more than that, I can't remember), I took pictures of something I was about to eat / drink and posted it onto Facebook or Twitter.

Yes, it's true – and I'm thoroughly ashamed.

I get it now. I understand. It's utterly pointless, especially when it's just a greasy cooked breakfast. Think about it. You're sharing pictures. Of food. That you're about to eat.

Now, if you happened to be eating at a world famous restaurant and the plate that arrives on your table is such an exquisite work of art that you're not sure you could scoff such a masterpiece (food porn, if you will), then fine – it's artistic and I can kind of understand it. But otherwise, a shot of humdrum, regular, ordinary chow is of no interest to me in the slightest. You're not trying when it comes to social networking. You can do better than that, you really can.

The thing is, people don't even bother to make the shot of their grub look interesting. If they'd at least tried some sort of artistic angle, I can almost put up with it, but lobbing an Instagram filter over the top doesn't count.

Unsurprisingly, I'm not the first to notice this:



So please, if you're in the least bit tempted to take a snap of your KFC 'Tower Meal' one Saturday lunchtime and upload it to Twitter – don't. You'll be doing all of us a big favour.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Monday, May 7, 2012

Cultural History Lesson: Germans - Udo Lindenberg

The Internet is brilliant, isn't it?

Every now and then I have past memory flashbacks which prompt me to look things up on the web. I saw the Liam Neeson film 'Unknown' last night and because it was set in Berlin I started humming a tune I only ever hum whenever I think of things Germanic.

The tune is 'Germans' by a guy called 'Udo Lindenberg'.  Heard of him? No? Thought not.

I only know the song because I'd heard it back in the 80s. I often recorded a music video show off the telly, and 'Germans' was on one of the episodes I'd taped onto VHS (actually, I think it might have been Max Headroom). Needless to say, I watched this episode over and over (which is why the annoying tune got stuck in my head).

To satisfy my curiosity I thought I'd look the song up on YouTube, and lo – there it was. Even though I never knew the name of the artist, I managed to find it. I honestly didn't think I'd have much luck, but the Internet is full of surprises.

'Germans' is pure, unadulterated 80s euro trash pop rock that does a great job of poking fun at the pre-unification Germans, calling on every stereotypical imaginable. The video is great fun too.

Interestingly, I don't think this song was released in Germany. Even though Lindenberg is German, it was obviously too close to the bone for his fellow Deutschslanders. 

NB You'll have to skip past some weird crap to watch the video (it starts at 0:36)


You can actually watch the Max Headroom version here, but it misses the last bit at the end and, being the completist that I am I didn't think that was right.

There's no need to thank me for my cultural contributions. It's a service I like to provide.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A great crowdfunder project

My good friend Terry is currently raising money via Crowdfunder to help him purchase a movie-accurate C-3PO suit so that he can visit hospitals and events to raise money for charity. He's working hard to raise support and is almost halfway to the target of £2,000.

We helped him make a video for him the other day. It's a bit close to the bone on copyright, but no-one's making any money from it. It's effectively a fan film, and there's millions of those on YouTube all using John Williams' soundtrack with SW sound effects so I think we'll be safe from the copyright gestapo.

I must say I really enjoyed putting it together. It's the kind of project I don't mind spending lots of time on because the end result is great fun. It's not perfect (note that I managed to forget including the 'far far away' intro at the beginning – doh!) but hopefully it gets the message across OK.

Interestingly, it took me no time at all to put together the legendary Star Wars opening crawl at the start of the video. I think it took the Industrial Light and Magic team about a week to do it for 'A New Hope' back in the seventies by using Letraset stuck to a warehouse floor and tracking a camera backwards. Man, those were the days. I made it in iMovie (which has the 'far far away' text editor pre-installed) and then rendered it out so I could edit it together with the rest of the footage in Final Cut Pro. It took me about a minute (!).

Anyhoo, I think the T-3PO project is a brilliant idea and I wish him well with the fundraising. Terry's a master of voices so I can imagine him turning up at a children's hospital in the full kit and giving the kids some really special memories.

Take a look at his blog or Crowdfunder page and if you can, please support him – he'd be grateful no matter what the amount.

Here's the video:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Rise of Cultural Snobbery


I don't know if this is a recent thing, but I am continually frustrated by the rise of cultural snobbery.

What I mean by that is the notion that anything 'mainstream' is automatically dubbed crap by self-proclaimed hipsters who always choose the less well-known music, films, TV shows etc. There's almost an underlying competitiveness to it all (see the image above as my case in point).

I have a problem with this, mainly because – in the case of music, for example – I am known to listen to artists who have sold millions of albums. Yet, at the same time, I have listened to music by more obscure artists (thanks, mainly, to the wonderful Spotify music service). 

Does that mean I am 'betraying' those less successful artists? Am I letting the side down and succumbing to sub-standard cultural offerings when I could have so much more?

I certainly feel a bit like I am.

I could just call them 'guilty pleasures', so as to justify myself. Saying that seems to let you off the hook. Oh, he's having a guilty pleasure. Those are allowed once in a while.

I like to think that I don't totally follow the crowd. I'm a Christian, for starters. That's pretty unusual in today's secular, 'enlightened' Britain. I use a Mac (okay, I admit that ten years ago they were regarded with suspicion but not anymore). I drive a Skoda (even though they've gained credibility over the years, most regular people still look down on them). I don't drink excessive amounts of alcohol. I don't watch football.

Erm, okay that's about it.

I'm left-handed – does that count?

Okay, maybe I'm not as hip and alternative as I'd like to be. I'm a sheep, but at least I know I'm a sheep. That makes a huge difference.

I think, as always, we have the internet to blame. With the likes of Facebook, people can display their culturally superior feathers at the rest of us simpletons. Even though most people aren't doing it to rub others noses in it, culturally-inadequate plebs like me always feel left out, and a part of me is indignant that I haven't heard The Rainforest Tractor Collective's latest EP 'Starshine milkshake is better than the velcro boots you sent me last Thursday' as released on limited edition blue vinyl.

So let's not look down on each other. Let's embrace the muli-cultured and diverse world in which we live and let the obscure run alongside the mainstream, because one day your cherished band that no-one has ever heard of just might suddenly hit the big time and appear on – God forbid – Britain's Got Talent.

So what about you? Are you hip? Or mainstream?







Sunday, April 22, 2012

Movie Review - Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

When this film was released, it was marketed as Tarantino's version of a gory Dirty Dozen-esque romp through WW2 occupied France.

Instead, it's actually something quite different and refreshingly so. Divided into several parts, it centres around the fictional story of a group of jewish US soldiers dropped behind enemy lines – tasked with the job of striking fear into the heart of Nazi Germany through barbaric slaying and scalping of Hitler's soldiers.

While it could have been a very predictable Saving Private Ryan-esque drama (with the group making their way from one place to another with action set pieces along the way), it actually tells the story from different perspectives and at different times within the story. Tarantino is of course fond of this approach, with Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill being prime examples.

Without giving away too much, Tarantino's love of and obsession with film comes to the fore in this film and confirms that this dude really does know what he's talking about. Playfully subverting historical truths for the sake of stroytelling, the film manages to do it in such a way that this is easily forgiven.

Even though violent and bloody in places, I didn't find it any worse than films of a similar rating. What stands out, however, is Tarantino's faultless dialogue and the masterful building of tension within each scene. I truly admire Tarantino for the way he is able to take a seemingly ordinary, mundane conversation and make it come alive, putting you on the edge of your seat.

Finally, I'd like to specifically mention Christoph Waltz, who plays the 'jew hunter' Nazi and blatantly steals the show. His performance of the matter-of-fact-yet-cunning Gestapo officer is mesmerising and effortlessly outshadows the rest of the cast (who are still brilliant).

So, Tarantino has pulled off a WW2 movie and it makes me wonder what's next.

You know, I'd love to see him take on Jane Austen....  

Verdict: 9 out of 10

Friday, April 20, 2012

It's the Friday video post!

Unfortunately, the full version was taken down by YouTube, but if you hunt for it, I'm sure you can find it. So, instead, watch the trailer for this delightfully inventive and astonishing short:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Notes from the maternity ward

Being the occasional blogger that I am, I suppose I should write about the delivery of my second son who came into this world in the early hours of Friday the 13th last week.

Yes, Friday the 13th. The date only dawned on me several hours after he'd been born.

Good job I'm not superstitious.

Ironically, it wasn't the greatest experience of our lives. I'll spare the gory details, but basically the little fella came into the world via caesarian in a surprisingly quick procedure that caught both me and wifey by complete surprise.

The main thing now, of course, is that he's out and healthy. Wifey is taking some time to recover, but basically she's doing fine.

So, as is my right and as is stipulated in my job description as a father, I have to say that he is a handsome, adorable little chap who I will love and cherish forever.

For those of you that wish to do so, you may vomit now.

Moving on, the main reason for writing this post is to simply thank the staff at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff publicly for all that they do. Without the nurses, midwives, doctors and consultants (and any other staff member I may have missed out), things would have been very different for us.

Put simply, my wife and baby would not have made it, and that's a stark reminder of the fragility of life even in the 21st century.

It's also a reminder of the fantastic healthcare system we have here in Wales. Yes, things go wrong and people sadly lose their lives occasionally because of bad practice or human error, but compared to most other countries I know where I'd rather have my baby delivered.

Plus, I dread to think how much the entire experience would have cost had we had to pay for it. My brother lives in the USA and even with health insurance the delivery of his daughter cost him and his wife about $900.00 (which was a straightforward delivery without complications – I wonder if they'd had to have paid extra for a cearsarian?). Makes you think.

I feel a rant coming on about how everyone should be entitled to free healthcare, but now is not the time or place (I'm very tired, after all).

By the way ... did you know that Maternity in Welsh is 'mamolaeth', which I think sort of translates as mother-milk.

Awww.

Friday, April 13, 2012

It's the Friday video post!

This is wonderfully fun and creative. Enjoy!



Also, this is another video we have been involved with at work. If you know anyone in a wheelchair, you might want to tell them about this company.