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???