Thursday, 23 December 2010


I suppose I have to get the requisite "I-haven't-posted-many-updates-because-I've-been-really-busy" excuse out of the way. There.

I've finished semester 1, with a lot of stress for 2 assignments and some lovely exams to look forward to in January. Hurrah!

Luckily I managed to find the time in between stress-induced nervous breakdowns to watch some films. Quite a few actually, the list - in sort-of chronological order is:

Brassed Off
Trois Couleurs Bleu
Of Gods and Men
The Prestige
District 9
In Bruges
The Social Network
Raging Bull
The Kids Are All Right
Local Hero
The Other Guys
The Departed
Green Zone
The Exorcist
Toy Story 3
Wild Target

I can't really be bothered to post reviews of all of those particular highlights were Toy Story 3, The Exorcist, The Departed, The Prestige, Trois Couleurs Bleu and Brassed Off. I'll probably watch some more films today, but I have also been watching Sym-Bionic Titan and Yes Minister - which is as much of a contrast as there can be between two viewing experiences. Yes Minister is intelligent and quite funny comedy - it doesn't quite have the incisive wit of a Blackadder but it has the subtle, cynical comedy of bureaucracy and organisations. I think once you have worked in a large organisation you can appreciate the appeal of Yes Minister. It is also still fairly relevant - although The Thick of It is the definitive comedic take on modern politics. Sym-Bionic Titan is an animated series by the creators of Samurai Jack and The Powerpuff Girls. It appears to be aimed at a teenage audience and I could see it being quite popular amongst that group - there is action for the boys and a lot of nice character interaction for the girls (those being grossly stereotyped views of what boys and girls look for in entertainment). It ticks all the right boxes without seeming forced or fake, which is a very hard thing to do.

I have only bought one album since the last post Acolyte by Delphic. I haven't been able to listen to it enough time to really get a grip on it so I can't really post a review.

I can't really be bothered to write any more so I guess I shall go. Bye, imaginary readers.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

As A Bee

Amazing how blogging takes a back seat when stuff is actually happening in your life, isn't it? So I have been crazy-busy with FYP and assignment stuff for uni - but not too busy to indulge myself a bit. I recently bought Everything Everything and Local Native's albums - amazing. I can't stop listening to Everything Everything, for some reason. Local Natives is damn good as well, in a completely different way. Everything Everything hits you with brilliance, Local Natives is what I like to call "nourishment for the soul" - I challenge you not to want to sing along to "Airplanes", at the top of your voice and from the bottom of your heart. I bought the latest album from The Bees "Every Step's A Yes", have only listened to it two times (once through laptop speakers, yuck!) but early signs are very good.

I also bought some video games, I've now got Skate 2, Racedriver Grid and PES 2011. Only the last one have I played for long periods. Pro Evo is back - I am completely addicted. I won't throw away FIFA 10, although the bugs in Manager Mode are really annoying and apparently they haven't been fixed in FIFA 11. Haven't played much Master League Online in PES 2011 yet, it looks bloody difficult and you need to be around at set times during the day.

Seen a lot of films and got hold of a lot more, yay for culture! Unfortunately there are no good cinemas in Stafford or Stoke so I had to go back down south for my fix of current releases. I saw Winter's Bone at Curzon Soho, The Illusionist at Odeon Panton Street and A Town Called Panic at Curzon Soho. Curzon Soho is my favourite cinema, a teensy bit pretentious but there is a nice cafe area at street level, a bar one level down and the cinema screens and confectionery area at the bottom level. They play good independent and arty films, stuff that might be difficult to see elsewhere. However, reviews are needed.

Winter's Bone is an intense thriller set in a close-knit community in the American south. The story follows a girl who must find her father in order to keep the family's farm, which her father put up as a bond. If I could use one word to describe the tone of the film it would be "sinister" - that is the feeling you get the whole way through. It is also one of the few films that deals with drugs in a very mature way. Most films that deal with drugs are either "stoner flicks" that revel in the comedy of drug use or hard-hitting anti-narcotic films that try to reduce the characters to one-dimensional "drug fiends". Winter's Bone did neither, crystal meth was discussed openly and casually but was never portrayed in a hugely positive light.

The Illusionist is an animated French film, following an elderly magician who finds his act becoming out of style, so travels to Scotland to find more work. Along the way he establishes a relationship with a young girl - and I shan't give any more away but I should say that the film is kid-friendly with a message that may, perhaps, be lost on a younger audience. Well worth the price of entry, and Odeon Panton Street is definitely the pokiest cinema I have ever been to, a tiny screen with a men's toilets that was the width of a corridor and as long as a disabled toilet cubicle. That said, very good film.

A Town Called Panic might be the most thoroughly mental film I have ever seen - in a good way. You know those Cravendale adverts? That, basically. It follows three characters - Horse, Cowboy and Indian - and from the basis of "we forgot Horse's birthday, let's make him a barbecue, oops we bought too many bricks" the story charges forward from there. It includes aliens, crazy snowball-chucking scientists, accidentally going to the centre of the earth and lots more. There is even time for a Horse love interest. Well worth the price of entry, huge laughs throughout.

I also found time to watch Memento, Funny Ha Ha and Baghead. I didn't think much of Baghead. Enough of that. Memento is quite brilliant, I love the plot structure and finding out more about the mysteries as you move back through the film. Funny Ha Ha was a very good film - clearly low-budget but the realism of the character's exchanges and the little awkward moments made the film for me. It is quite funny in places, but I was immersed in the story right from the opening exchanges.

I now have copies of The Exorcist, Nowhere Boy, This Is England, Being John Malkovich and Amelie. So what if I have seen This Is England and Amelie? They are great films and it is fantastic to have them on DVD.

I think that is just about everything, I am off to attempt to work on my assignments and final year project. See you.

Sunday, 26 September 2010


So I have seen some films recently. They are: Collateral, Snakes on a Train, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, Wet Hot American Summer, The Fountain, Primer, The Expendables, A Serious Man and Megashark vs Giant Octopus. If some of those films sound like shit it is because I quite like crappy films, and cheapo rip-off production company The Asylum is a goldmine of movies that are pants. I have started trying to watch as many of their films as possible, there are loads of just rubbish films and also some rubbish cash-ins of famous films. Transmorphers is their most famous film.

I came across the films of The Asylum accidentally, some mates came around to watch films and Megashark vs Giant Octopus happened to be okay. Featuring some '80s pop star most people would never have heard of (as a marine biologist) and lots of "science" - which in film terms means pouring liquids into beakers until the liquid glows. I'm pretty sure that is how all science works.

Anyway, A Serious Man is a black comedy with a very dark heart - it isn't exactly accessible but it is a very good piece of work. The Expendables, however, is testosterone-soaked dreck. It is a compilation tape of explosions and violence, the acting is eye-rollingly clichéd and the writing is laughable. That said some people like it and it is taking millions at the box office, so clearly there is an audience for this pap.

Pap would be a term that could never be applied to Primer - a high-concept science fiction film about a group of scientists who accidentally discover time travel. The story is compelling, complicated and never seems to patronise the viewer. The film unravels a little at the end but overall it is a very interesting film. The Fountain is an engrossing stories-within-stories, parallel tales adventure with stunning visuals; it also showed to me that Hugh Jackman can actually act, which is something I did not know. At times it can seem very pretentious but there are some great performances and if you let yourself be caught up in it, just go with the film, you will be very entertained.

Wet Hot American Summer is a comedy that seems very out of place for the time it was made. For a film made in 2001 it has a "silly comedy" feel that is more reminiscent of the comedies of the late '70s, early '80s. It is pretty alright, however don't expect a classic, or anything spectacularly witty. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes is a cash-in film from The Asylum that is without wit, intelligence or reason. The climax is a fight between Sherlock Holmes in a hot-air ballon fitted with machine guns and a bionic man in a giant mechanical, flying, fire-breathing dragon. Whilst an exploding, clockwork woman attempts to blow up Queen Victoria. There is also a mechanical dinosaur that roams the streets of London. In other words it is preposterous. But hey, at least it is a thoroughly original take on the character of Sherlock Holmes. Who the bionic man continually refers to as "Robert".

But enough ridiculous trash, onto quality cinema, and with this I bring forth the example of Snakes on a Train, a startlingly moving piece about the nature of hysteria and irrational scaremongering. Sometimes the most horrifying monsters are those that we create for ourselves - SoaT takes this concept and runs with it until the cows come home. Or rather they run home, screaming, because everybody has "got snakes".

If the above paragraph managed to trick anyone into seeing that awful film my job here is done. Although the previous sentence might give the game away. I was, like, being sarcastic, yeah? It is good, because it's bad but it's sort of not? Which is why it's so bad, but that's also why it is so good? (That's the hipsters baited, in case you were wondering the question marks were to draw attention to the annoying habit some people have of saying everything as if it were a question? Even if it isn't? With that slightly higher inflection of the voice at the end of a sentence?)

Anyway, recently I saw Four Lions, but seeing as I have already seen that film fairly recently there isn't much point writing a mini-review, although I would say it may be better on a second viewing. Collateral is a slightly odd film. Not exactly your typical star vehicle, the talky bits are pretty engrossing, and I felt like the action got in the way. The direction at times was grainy and rough (and I mean that as a compliment) and there was some good dialogue - it felt like both writer and director need to be doing smaller, more intellectual pieces. Michael Mann is a decent director, Stuart Beattie has done some okay stuff, maybe I am just yearning for the talky style of Wes Anderson, which is a bit odd since the only film of his I have seen is Fantastic Mr. Fox (which I didn't really care for).

I am currently trying to sample a number of music artists, to see if there are any albums I desperately need. Using as my guide, I am currently listening to playlists of:

Beach House, Beirut, Camera Obscura, Darwin Deez, Grizzly Bear, Local Natives, Modest Mouse, The Drums and The Joy Formidable. I have also been listening to a little bit of Why?, A Sky for Shoeing Horses Under being a current favourite.

This hasn't been all that interesting (but when is this blog?) so for now I will leave a thought: why do all completely straight-from-the-top-of-my-head sentences end up so disjointed, as this one does now?

Rubbish, I know.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

I'm Still Here...

Just to let you (and by you I mean my imaginary readers) know: I am still alive.

I am in Stafford now, meaning I am back at uni and the rain is pouring down the window as I type these words. I have only had one introductory lecture so far - so not quite back in full flow just yet, but I can already feel myself getting back into a student rhythm.

Now I don't have a 9:00 to 5:18 I have more time for discovering music. Or for now, catching up on everything I've missed. I'm thinking of downloading loads of music, 3 tracks per artist with bands I have heard of and bands from my recommendations. Slap them together in a playlist, put it on shuffle and pick the best. I've been trying to program something to do it for me for a while, but I couldn't find a decent way to download tracks without duplicates or remixes. does it all anyway, it is just that having the MP3s there is a bit more convenient.

I can't talk for much longer, I am trying to find a USB drive with some rather important possibly-could-help-my-final-year-project data on it. Perhaps some more interesting discussion next time. Bye.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Groundhog Day (Again)

So some little coincidences happened which persuaded me to watch Groundhog Day again. You know the film: knockabout comedy with Bill Murray, relives the same day over? Plans out a perfect date to get the girl, decides to be nice to people. Except that isn't what happens. At all.

First I read this article about Groundhog Day and A/B testing, describing Phil's setup of trying to find the perfect date by trial and error. It made me realise it wasn't quite the film I thought it was. Then I saw this, someone asking how you would prepare if you knew you were about to enter a Groundhog Day.

Watching it again does make you realise something: it is way better than you think. It is also way darker - he commits suicide multiple times on-camera, and we must assume many more times as well. We only see glimpses of his life, we see flickers of mania ("I am a god") and we see self-improvement through study. We don't see if he does any truly reprehensible things in the film, if there were no consequences he could go on a killing spree and wake up the next day as if nothing happens. It could easily turn him into a psychopath. We never see him go down that path, we see him wallowing in drink, attempting a one night stand (and we assume many more) and punching an annoying person. And he doesn't get the girl with trial and error - that just leads to rejection. In the end his self-improvement and good deeds allow him to win over Rita.

It is a whole bowlful of philosophy, that film, for instance is it morally acceptable to do things "in Groundhog" that otherwise we would frown upon? I have to go with no, but you could easily argue it would be okay as everyone would "reset" come 6:00am. What is the most damaging thing you could do in 12 hours? Blow up the President, the Pope? You could pull off the most audacious heist known to man - and come 6am it would all return to normal. Perhaps the only thing that would keep a person from doing all this would be the fear that tomorrow really would come. This would bring questions about whether we only act morally because of society's expectations and consequences, so if we were left to our own devices we would have no morals at all.

It leaves you with plenty to chew over, so go see Groundhog Day again.

That isn't the only film I have seen recently, however. Inception doesn't need a review from me, I can't think of any film recently that has sparked this much discussion, debate and hype. It is all good - it was like a arty concept film with an enormous budget and lots of CGI. You want to come out of the cinema and discuss what you have just seen.

Scott Pilgrim versus The World is a very different film. Based on a comic book - so expect "zaniness" it is a rather good action-comedy. In fact I would have preferred a little more focus on the central relationship. Some of the other characters seemed to be barely explored at all. That said it's quick-fire visual gags and irreverent humour were very entertaining - my problem was looking for more than just entertainment.

Blood Diamond is a pretty brave film - big-budget but with a purposeful, hard-hitting message. It is also that man DiCaprio again - and to think I used to consider his film career a bit of a joke. He's made me look silly. Anyway this is a film that takes itself seriously, with thrills and an important message too. All we need now is a Hollywood film about the conflict in Rwanda. Yeah, right.

Edit: Apparently I am an idiot and need to see Hotel Rwanda. Forgive me while I read the Wikipedia article on the Rwandan genocide a lot more thoroughly.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Ben 10

What's up campers? I have been back from Benicassim for 4 days now and have only just condescended to the Internet to make a blog post about it. Lucky for you, the condescension starts NOW.

First up: was it a good holiday? We flew out from Gatwick to Valencia on the 11th of July about 5 hours later than expected, meaning we missed our train and had to get a coach to the campsite instead. In retrospect this was a much easier option. We ended up watching the World Cup final at a little Spanish bar in Benicassim ("Heitinga barely touched 'im!") then walked to the beach. We all went to swim in the sea, at night, which was absolutely amazing. We (as in everyone but me) then slept on a little grassy patch near the beach, until the sprinklers came on at 6:00am. (Wet) People then transferred to the beach, apart from me, I was happy enough to walk along the waterfront and watch the sun come up. From there we walked to the festival site and got our festival bands (one for the festival, one for the campsite). We then made our way to the campsite by taxi, it being a fairly long walk from the festival site to Villacamp, where we were staying.

Villacamp was supposed to be the best campsite to stay at, you had to pay extra but it had tree cover, which both blocked out the sun and breeze, making it simultaneously cooler and more humid. The first night we drank vodka, and I can only blame dehydration on the ridiculously small amount of vodka I consumed before I found myself plastered, vomiting on the ground just outside my tent (and all over the footwear that happened to be placed there). It would be beer and water exclusively from then on. I can't expand on what happened in detail in the following days, simply because there were no daily excursions or adventures. It was pretty much "go to the beach, stay, come back". There were some notable times - the day we went to the water park was a particular highlight, a friend having an allergic reaction to watermelon being an entirely different sort of highlight, however it is safe to say that I was really looking forward to the festival. The festival stretched Thursday to Sunday, and actually had a pretty decent line-up. Not out-of-this-world, but pretty solid.

At this point I have to make some things clear. I do not like hot weather. I have been to Iberia many times and have yet to be captivated by it. I do not like the beach. So why go on holiday to Spain? For FiB. The festival was all that mattered to me, I only wanted to see the bands. The fact that along the way I had some fun and got to know some new people was just a bonus. Now onto the reviews.


The Temper Trap
So I had seen them before. But they were great then, so why not see them again? They are a great live band, however it was funny how nearly everyone in the crowd only knew Sweet Disposition. They started one song which sort of sounded like the intro to Sweet Disposition and people started singing along - to the wrong song. Amusing for me, still a very good performance.


Scratch Perverts
Not my sort of music. At all. Was only there find people I knew.


Broken Bells
Just... wow. Why do I not have their album? Anyway it was one of the best live performances I have ever seen. Right at the front (as one should be) and they absolutely nailed it.



Mumford and Sons
Stupidly I missed the start of their set and ended up a fair way back, but they still played really well. I feel as though I can't give them a proper review, having missed the start of their performance.


Vampire Weekend
"I saw them before they were big, you know." Possibly the most pretentious sentence you can utter during a set but it is also true - I can't help pointing it out. They were pretty good - I sneaked off early to see Unknown Pleasures.


Peter Hook's Unknown Pleasures
Well it is the closest thing I will get to seeing Joy Division. Peter Hook stood in for the un-stand-in-able Ian Curtis, he played a collection of Joy Division songs. And yes - Love Will Tear Us Apart was the final song and it was amazing. Is it cynical, is it what amounts to a cover band? I don't care. It is the closest I will ever get to going to a Joy Division gig.



The Specials
How do you get thousands of sweaty people all to do the same dance? Book The Specials. They were really good, there isn't much I can say about them - you would be shocked to find they were awful.


Public Image Ltd
Yeah, I know. I was looking to kill some time and I recognised the name, but I couldn't remember where from. When the band came on stage I realised - it is John Lydon's band. I seem to remember the opening song going on for about 12 minutes - however looking at the MP3s of the studio version it is apparently 3 and a half minutes long. Anyway they were crap, but people seemed to be going mental for it. I've never seen so many wannabe-groupies in one crowd. I left early and had a little sleep during The Prodigy.


An interesting one, this. Lots of new material - new album is out 23rd August, apparently - which I don't think many people knew. They grew into their set to pull off one of the better performances of the festival, and now I can't wait for that new album.



Two Door Cinema Club
One of the bands I was really looking forward to, mainly due to how quickly their UK gigs have been selling out. They put in a very good performance, is it patronising to call them a "one to watch"? Surely everyone has heard of them by now?


I have seen them before, but they are just fantastic live. I would have liked to have stayed for the whole set but I had a certain Mr. Rascal to see. Still - I would have loved to have seen the whole set.


Dizzee Rascal
I know, what is a guy like me doing watching Dizzee perform live? Simple: everyone loves Dizzee Rascal. It is a scientifically proven fact. So it was a pretty good set, the crowd could have been a bit more enthusiastic but that's just how it goes sometimes.


I don't have their latest album. And their first album is just "somewhere in the house". But you would definitely see them live, and they were definitely great. The screen behind them projected music videos and Snoop Dogg, during the first song, much to the delight of the crowd. I can't quite bring myself to give them a better score than Broken Bells, however.


So Broken Bells were the best performance of the festival, but unlike Reading where I came away with some bands that I needed to look into, there are no new bands that need investigating. I can't help feeling that was the "something missing" for the festival. There weren't many opportunities to see bands you might have never heard of before.

So yes, it was a good holiday. Would I go again? There would have to be an equally-good or better line-up and it would probably just be 5 or 6 days - 10 days is a bit excessive, especially when there is not much to actually do in Benicassim.

So that's it - holiday over, back to work on Monday. And then full-time employment until the 1st of September, when I am finally a student again.

Friday, 25 June 2010


So I am trying to remember everything these past weeks I thought: I should blog that.

First up: Bernard is a mouse that lives on the District Line platforms of Embankment Tube Station. Unfortunately he is scared of trains :( I saw him whilst waiting for my train, after the initial silent "wait, that's a mouse!" reaction I just sat there staring at Bernard. He was just minding his own business, trying to get on in life when a train approached the platform. The poor fella was terrified, and started trying to climb up the wall and away. Eventually he ran down the platform. I haven't seen him since but I would like to think he is still there, and still trying to confront his fear of Underground trains. And also it was definitely a mouse, or at least a very small, pale and clean rat.

Also I have been reading xkcd loads. It is nerdy to a ridiculous level, and some of it is quite a long way away from my own knowledge. The guy is clearly intelligent but it is funny and romantic in a very easy-to-relate way. 'Angular Momentum' is my favourite comic, not that funny but very endearing. See it here.

Also I suppose I should comment on the World Cup, I am following England and we've been so-so in the tournament. Come Sunday will we win? Germany might have a marginally better squad, but they seem much better in terms of team balance and tactics. Maybe we will go 4-5-1, with Gareth Barry in a firmly defensive role, trying to counter-act Ozil, Lampard in the middle to link up play and get back when necessary and Gerrard in a more free role behind Rooney. Joe Cole looked a bit pants against Slovenia, so maybe Milner on the right, Wright-Philips on the left. Italy and France going out was a huge shock considering the wealth of talent both countries have, but Argentina might just be the team of the tournament. They have so much great talent going forward, and Maradona has done okay on the tactics side of things.

Also The Guardian Weekly is a great newspaper for articles and discussions, I would highly recommend it if gossip and reactionary "shock" stories bore you. Also The Fly is a damn good music magazine, particularly considering it is free (from participating venues). I have been reading both for a while now and they can make commuting the bit more bearable.

Today I read someone describing "that" bit from LCD Soundsystem's 'Dance Yrself Clean' as "like getting a cumshot from Jesus". The thing is I can see where they are coming from, the first time you hear it is a special moment. All I thought was "oh James, you fucking genius". Whenever you listen to an LCD Soundsystem album you get a sense that this is someone who knows what they are doing, understands music and how to build momentum and energy in a song. That metaphorical climax.

I'm sure some actual "things" will happen in my life soon, when they do I will blog about that. Toodle-pip.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Week Away

So now I find myself on a week of annual leave, with the house to myself. Honestly? I am getting a little bored. I know only boring people get bored but, well, that sort of answers itself. I guess without work I can become bored. How someone with such a good protestant work ethic became an atheist is beyond me.

I have been looking up some interesting topics. Idlers, Freeman-on-the-Land. They seem to be a mystery to me. How do they eat? Do they collect unemployment benefits? It all seems a little dodgy to me, particularly as some of the forums use phrases like "fuck work!" Some kinds of work can be enjoyed, those towards a desirable outcome - the exact definition of "desirable" to be determined by the individual. I find programming to be good in this sense, as if there is something that I really want to do I can work towards it and have an outcome I can use. I code, I compile, I use. It's that simple.

The above brings me to something else: creativity. I have never really paid any attention to my creative side. I can't draw, paint, sculpt, play an instrument, sing, dance, act or do anything remotely creative. I don't know whether these shortcomings are a reason for not indulging my creative side or a product of my non-indulgence. I am considering trying to take a period of time to try and be creative - somehow. Try to write a novel, or poetry or just try to be somehow creative. Because usually I don't create just for creation's sake, if I do create it is for a purpose. I often wonder if art can be useful. Surely designing a good car engine is a sort of art, it is just that it can be used. What about architecture? The skill it takes to create something useful must render its creator a sort of... "technical artist". I don't know, smarter men than me must surely know.

So onto more down-to-Earth matters - I bought some more albums! And books. I have more books than I can read. Actually why don't I have a "Books I Need to Read" list? I have so many that I have bought. I'm not sure I will ever read every single one of them. But either way I bought The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde and In Search of Lost Time 1: The Way By Swann's - Marcel Proust. I'll add it to the quite enormous amount of books I need to read. I have them, I just haven't read them yet. I also bought Errors - Come Down With Me, The Postal Service - Give Up and Belle and Sebastian - If You're Feeling Sinister. I should get an award for all the brilliant albums I buy. I bought those on the 2nd of this month, and once I deflated my head I bought Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, TV on the Radio - Dear Science, The Temper Trap - Conditions and Vampire Weekend - Contra. Haven't listened to any of those last four yet, been listening to the Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo podcast. Mark Kermode deserves so many plaudits for his reviews, his rants are epic - his Sex and the City 2 and Pimp reviews were brilliant. As much as I like hearing about films he loves, we all love to hear someone passionate about their topic taking major issue with examples that are an insult to it. I don't know why that is - why is it more entertaining to criticise than to praise?

Anyway I am currently trying and sort of failing to get my placement report written. Need to get right down to the work this week. See, full circle (sort of).

Edit: Totally forgot to say I watched Unthinkable, How To Train Your Dragon and Any Given Sunday. Unthinkable is an interesting moral ride with Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Sheen giving A+ performances, How To Train Your Dragon is a charming family adventure that ticks all the right boxes and Any Given Sunday is in-your-face intensity. The last one isn't really my kind of film but I enjoyed it anyway. Unthinkable was a good film, it came across as quite brave for a Hollywood film with a very well-known lead actor to discuss the legality and morality of torture - even if it did have some slightly gory bits. It isn't an easy watch but it blends some action with some loud discussion of ethics. Well paced and not overly long, it is not a mind-blowingly fabulous film but it is a very solid film.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Vs. Me

Just a quick post to say that the world hates me. So I am going to Benicassim, 12th July to 20th July. Lots of bands and a holiday to Spain. That's pretty good, right? I had to use up all my annual leave so I could go, but still I had no further gigs planned. Then SeeTickets dumps this lot at me:

Those Dancing Days - The Garage (London) - Monday 12th July
The Go! Team - Summer Sundae (Leicester) - Saturday 14th August
Mumford and Sons - Summer Sundae (Leicester) - Sunday 15th August
Frightened Rabbit - Summer Sundae (Leicester) - Sunday 15th August
Errors - Summer Sundae (Leicester) - Sunday 15th August
The Bees - Summer Madness (Isle of Wight) - Sunday 29th August
The Walkmen - O2 Academy Islington (London) - Wednesday 25th August
Those Dancing Days - Bowlie 2 Butlins Minehead (Somerset) - Friday 10th to Sunday 12th December
Frightened Rabbit - Bowlie 2 Butlins Minehead (Somerset) - Friday 10th to Sunday 12th December
Belle & Sebastian - Bowlie 2 Butlins Minehead (Somerset) - Friday 10th to Sunday 12th December

Those. Dancing. Days. And they are in London! And there are tickets! And I can't go! AAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!! I love Those Dancing Days, I have been desperate to go to a gig for ages, but they haven't been touring. Now a great opportunity comes up and I will be out of the country. Benicassim better be fucking brilliant.

Also The Bees. Except its on the Isle of Wight. And a Sunday. The Walkmen. In the middle of the week. Summer Sundae has a good line up, but its in Leicester and I would have to get back for Monday, somehow. I could see 3 bands I like at the same time, except I would have to get to Somerset, some how. At least it is when I am back at uni, and around my birthday.

But still. Thanks a lot, music world. A heartfelt plea to Those Dancing Days: play a gig in London, on a Saturday. PLEASE.

I think I sound a bit mental with my TDD fascination, but if you listened to them you would understand.

Irritated and now I was supposed to be in bed 10 minutes ago. Bloody early starts.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Summer (sort of)

So the weather is, for a little while at least, approaching something approximating what one might call "summery". To that end I would like to talk to summer, and the opposite sex, and I am well aware that some of this might sound a bit creepy. If that happens I apologise, I am not the word-smith I should be after 16 years of formal education.

So first of all, I have always thought of myself as a "winter person". I don't like heat. If you are uncomfortably cold you can put on more clothes. It won't look that odd. If you are uncomfortably hot you take more clothes off - which may result in nakedness. It is not recommended on a day-to-day basis. I love the way snow can transform a familiar scene into a twinkling, blanketed fairytale paradise. Snow is fantasy. Sun is sweating and burnt skin.

Despite this I do still enjoy Summer. I have been re-assessing my status as a winter person because now I am not so sure. Winter fashions are usually way cooler (no pun intended - even if it was it wasn't a good pun). But as I say: Summer has its upsides. The upside of summer is that attractive young women up and down the land, when trying to decide what to wear, will pull a flowery dress out of the wardrobe and think "why not?" The downside is that fat, middle aged men up and down the land, when trying to decide what shirt to wear, will look at their flabby, naked torso in the mirror and think "why not?" So you get two halves. Manic pixie dream girls gliding gaily across the pavement, and guys walking down the road half naked and with their neck chain tangled up in their chest hair.

You can see why it is easier to call myself a winter person. Well that and the depression.

Another thing I have been thinking about is how for someone (sort of) young, contemporary and modern, I still think of myself as old-fashioned. I don't "do" make-up, expensive clothes or jewellery. Why does a man need these things? I really don't understand fake tanning for men and women but that's probably another topic. There are other things too, how I sometimes will see members of my own generation and regard them as "whippersnappers". I think that there are certain things that at the absolute very least have to be considered polite to the opposite sex. Not looking at a girl's arse once she has walked past you (ignoring the chauvinism) is simply the polite thing to do. I have never been so curious to find out what a particular woman's arse looks like to try the "look-over-the-shoulder" manoeuvre. I hope I never will be. I also think it is impolite to watch a woman eating a banana. I shouldn't have to explain that one, really, it just makes sense.

But other things have happened! Events, dear boy, events. I watched Schindler's List. What can you say really? Fantastic performances all round. Do I even need to bother writing more about it, when so much has already been said? There was Robin Hood, too. First (just to get it out of the way), Russel Crowe's accent is a mess. I have no idea where he is supposed to be from, it seems to change from scene to scene. It was decent multiplex-fodder, but don't expect much more. Some (unintentional) highlights were Robin Hood and Maid Marion's "funny banter", Robin coming roaring out of the water and Robin's "OMGHAX!!!11" trickshot-headshot. I also watched The Road, which is a pretty decent post-apocalyptic thriller about a father and son's travels across a ravaged America.

I bought Some Cities, by Doves. I have this thing about having three albums by the same band that I love (not like, love). So far only The Bees had managed it. Doves have also managed it. I also bought LCD Soundsystem's new album. Welcome to the "Three-Album-Love-Club", Mr. Murphy. I'm not making too much headway with my "Albums I Need To Buy" list but then again there are so many albums to get. Animal Collective's back catalogue. The other two Walkmen albums. The rest of The Smiths back catalogue. Death Cab for Cutie. Blur's back catalogue. The other Decemberists albums. The new Errors album. So much music, so little time.

But on the bright side I have Foals' new album. Ah. May. Zing. I am loving the hippity-hop influenced "Miami" but the whole album's a gem. I'm not sure what albums I'll be getting next, or the next films I'll be watching. Not that I have a super-hectic schedule but long films can be a problem when you get home from work at 7:00 and albums aren't best listened to on a noisy Tube train. Especially when your good, noise cancelling ear phones are broken. AAAH! Anyway.

I am going to Wembley on Sunday. Not to play, of course. Me and my dad are going to see Dagenham and Redbridge play Rotherham in the League 2 Play-Off Final. And our post man is going too, because I just found out today he is The Dagger's mascot (or rather the man in the suit), Digger the Dog. Apparently. Laytaz.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

More Ramblings

So I probably should have mentioned I went to see Doves play at Troxy. Were they amazing? Yes they were. The crowd weren't great, they didn't really sing along and some people in the crowd kept chanting "gooners" at them. Also they didn't seem interested in any crowd participation. Still the band were good. Also after the set an image was beamed onto the stage declaring our need to "save BBC 6 Music". And quite right too. During a few of Doves' songs they played videos behind them, which was pretty cool. Also Cherry Ghost were opening for them and they were pretty good as well.

So now to some of the other stuff I need to say. Yesterday I played CS:S for probably the first time in what seems like a year. I was never particularly good at video games anyway (despite the fact me and some mates were in a Call of Duty clan and then a Counter Strike: Source clan) so I was pretty crap. Still, it was good to have some fun with a couple of mates, even if it was in a virtual world.

Yesterday was also the day I finally watched Where The Wild Things Are. You probably don't need me to say this, but it was a really good film. Yes it was weird. But it was also a fun ride, and you can take away from the film whatever you like. The special effects were well done, too - I don't usually mention that kind of thing for a film but they were particularly good. Apparently the wild things were just men in costumes, with the faces CGI'd on later to give them mouth movements and so on. It gives a better sense of immersion because it doesn't seem like there are just some big CGI monsters running around.

I suspect I may watch some more films today, and I am going to see Robin Hood tomorrow so expect some more sort of pointless reviews soon.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Prahd Tah Be Bri'ish

Recently I have been thinking about what it is to be British. I personally think our notions of "Britishness" are completely out of whack and not really relevant to my generation, and the generations to come. Think British and there are images of the past - or of the plain bizarre. World War Two, Winston Churchill, The Queen. I can understand those, in a way. But bulldogs? Anyway I have recently been thinking about what needs to change. Phrases like "proud to be British" make me uneasy. It makes me think of nationalism and xenophobia. But it really shouldn't do.

You could argue that England is the bigger problem. Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have quite distinct cultures and traditions. England is not treated in the same way. The St George's Cross has for some reason become synonymous with xenophobia, racism, football violence. But let's just take on the problem of Britain before we move on to the component countries, shall we?

We need to somehow make a new Britishness, that doesn't rely on irrelevant past experiences. The flag is a good start. Hang one in your living room. Go on, it doesn't make you a racist. It's the first step. Now the tricky bit. For me Britain is about a sense of fair play, equality, trust, inclusion, politeness and a sense of humour with a belief that nobody is above ridicule. There are other qualities, of course, but I want ones that don't rely on past endeavours. For some reason I think of The Libertines as being the poster boys of the new British. They seem proud to be British, but not in a lairy, "you what, mate?" kind of way. We need new imagery, throw in some Olympic heroism or something like that. Something to give a sense of never giving in, despite the odds, that doesn't rely on Dunkirk.

This might seem like a load of old rubbish but I sincerely believe that we need to bring Britishness bang up to date and relevant for people. It's important, you see. It gives people a sense of community and belonging beyond their own, closed group - be it friends, regions, religions, ethnicity. That's why I'm going to buy a Union flag (off eBay probably, I have a strange hankering for a really tatty, old one) of reasonable size and see if I can hang it somewhere that won't look inappropriate. Then I'll buy my Union Jack suit. Okay that's a lie but the flag thing I am serious about.

I am on eBay now, looking for vintage Union flags. Not many about.

Also I have bought Frightened Rabbit's album 'Winter of Mixed Drinks' and it is very good indeed. The lyrics are quite brilliant, for the most part they are melancholy but I quite like that really. You need sadness to remind you how good happiness is. More later. Toodles.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Update on Stuff

So here are some things that I have done recently.

I went to see a few films. 'ark at me. I also watched some films via the magic of the Intarwebs. I also watched some of DVD, gratefully borrowed. Here's a smattering of each.

One of my "Films I Need To Watch". Probably because it gets referenced every so often. I wasn't sure what to expect from this film really. Wacky comedy? Tense thriller? To be honest I don't think it was that brilliant of a comedy. And there wasn't that much else to draw your interest. Some good performances, though. This is by no means a bad film, I just didn't think it was a brilliant one either.

Just okay, I suppose. I don't think I should dedicate more characters than that to it. Apart from maybe "why the hell was Ben Affleck in this? I thought he was a sort of credible, Hollywood actor?"

A pretty good film, some good performances all round and an inspiring story. I don't think it would ever make anybody's "best ever films" list but it was a very solid film.

Kick Ass
Everyone seems to be splitting their sides over this one. I thought it was pretty good as comedies go, even though it was apparently independently financed by the film maker it still has a very Hollywood sheen, which does tend to put me off, especially with comedies. Yes there is a lot of swearing but that sort of distracts from the point that it has some decent laughs in there.

Four Lions
Just got back from a paid preview screening of this film at Curzon Soho. Curzon Soho might be one of the nicest cinemas I have ever been to. A good selection of really good films, a bar outside the screens and a cafe upstairs. They clearly know their film, it does seem a tad pretentious but it is still a great place. I'm not sure it is strictly speaking an independent cinema - Curzon appears to be a chain - but still a good mix of independent and art house films. Anyway. Four Lions. From the maker of Brass Eye and The Day Today, Chris Morris. Absolutely fantastic. It was hilarious, the funniest film I have seen in ages about an obviously controversial topic, Islamic terrorism in Britain. There are some melancholy scenes towards the end, to make you reflect on what you have just seen but otherwise it is a absolute comic genius from start to finish. I might need to calm down with a decent sleep in order to give a credible review because I expected much, and it delivered more.

At some point I will add the albums I have bought, in summary they are Frightened Rabbit - The Winter of Mixed Drinks, Bombay Bicycle Club - I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose & The Maccabees - Wall of Arms. I'll give a review when I have listened to them enough.

Monday, 19 April 2010


I often find that I have a sudden urge to do something a little bit odd when I am around a lot of people, particularly on a bus or train. Luckily I never follow through on these little moments of eccentricity (or is that a bad thing? Not sure) but I thought I should write down what I sometimes think about. These are my public transport odd moments.

Lately I have been having the impulse whenever someone nears me breaks into a run to shout something dramatic after them e.g. "Go to her! She's waiting for you!" "You'll never catch them, you know!" "You can't run away from the truth!"

I always spy on people's iPods. Every so often I want to tap them on the shoulder and make a comment like: "Did you just skip a Smiths track to listen to George Michael? Seriously?" or "I'm so glad that I am not the only one who likes that band".

Sometimes when I see someone sleeping peacefully on the Tube I want to give them a little slap and say "Wake Up!" Not particularly interesting but I'd like to think that without my intervention they would miss their stop and I could save them a whole lot of inconvenience.

Just once I want to say "excuse me, are you pregnant or just fat? I don't want to give up my seat unnecessarily".

I want to smile at someone, have them smile at me back and leave it at that. I haven't even attempted the first part of that.

I would love to tell all those guys that they should just give up trying to look like a twenty-something and just enjoy their middle age.

Now a little story.

One day I was sitting on the Tube, when a girl sat directly opposite me. She sat down and spent most of the journey looking at the tube map above my head. Nothing particularly extraordinary about that. Except the whole time she looked distraught. She looked like she was going to burst into floods of tears any second. It made me uncomfortable and I started to think about talking to her. I said to myself I should just lean forwards and ask her if anything was alright. But then I thought "what if I make it worse? What if that gesture causes her to start crying? Or maybe she would think I was some kind of freak trying to make a pass at her. Perhaps she has some kind of disability that means she always looks like that. But what happens if my little gesture reassured her of the kindness of strangers and brightened her day, just a little bit?" In the end I had turned it over in my head for so long it was her stop and she got off the train. And what do you know? It was my stop too.

I've felt pretty bad since then for not saying something, my indecisiveness and worry meant I couldn't even show concern for someone else's well being. I'd like to tell myself that next time I can act differently. I hope so. I tried to make myself feel better immediately afterwards by giving money to a homeless person but it didn't ease my guilt.

And another story, to level things out.

I was coming out of the train station and a person to my left asked if I could possibly spare some change. They had lost their Oyster card, didn't have any money with them and needed to get home. I gave them a pound, which they gratefully accepted. As I walked away I heard them talking to a person next to them, presumably a friend. After a bit of muffled conversation that I missed, I heard them say "I've made 11 quid so far!" The tone of voice let me know I had been scammed, and not particularly cunningly either. Someone had decided to opportunistically made themselves some money by preying on the kindness of strangers to a person with a poor sob story. This was no con artist, this was just someone trying to get some quick cash. And sadly I had seen it before, a person at school managed to raise a not unsubstantial sum for themselves just by pretending that someone had taken their lunch money.

So what are you supposed to do? Never be the good Samaritan? Never be charitable? Ridiculous. Be less trusting? Why should I live in a permanent bubble of suspicion just because of a few bad eggs? In any case they are only acting as the capitalist system encourages but that's another discussion for another day.

Are you suspicious when strangers are kind to you? I can't answer that, as it doesn't happen to me often enough to answer.

Another meandering path through the often muddled and sometimes confuddled mind of Dan.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

The Beginning of Something... Well Just Something

Hello Internet! This is the first post of my new blog thing. I'm not sure why I made this - does the world really need to know what I think of things? Probably not. However I will tell everyone anyway.

Albums I Have Put into My iTunes Library Recently and My Opinion of Them

In order, first to last, since 01/02/2010.

Lykke Li - Youth Novels
Long overdue, this is a brilliant album, it isn't just synthy-dancey stuff, there is some real heart there and it comes through in songs like "Everybody But Me" and "Little Bit". The only problem was that it took me this long to get it.

The XX - XX
What can be said that hasn't already been gone over a thousand times? One of the best albums in ages, deviously sparse but quite brilliant songs with real atmosphere. They sound quite different from anyone else, you just wonder why everyone isn't making music like this.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Can guitars be both fuzzy and jangly? There is something quite old school about this album, rock but with influences of The Smiths plain to see, it can get a little samey but the brilliance is in the details, you have to really listen carefully to catch how good this is.

Errors - It's Not Something But It Is Like Whatever
I have to admit: when I first heard this album I didn't think that much of it. It all seemed too similar for my liking. But subsequent listens have proved me wrong, glitchy, synthy, angular guitars, fantastic hooks. Those crazy Errors have made a superb album. And their follow-up is out now, and is supposed to be pretty good as well.

Passion Pit - Manners
I don't think there is much in the way of what I call "depth" in this band. But they will get you dancing around like an embarrassing uncle at a wedding disco. You can't deny the power of the likes of "Little Secrets" and "Sleepyhead" to get you moving.

Doves - The Last Broadcast
I've said it before - why aren't Doves the biggest band in the UK? This is a fantastic album, full of atmosphere and depth - and let's not forget great tunes. I'm going to see these guys live in May - and I cannot wait.

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
This was my first ever Animal Collective purchase so I was a little nervous. But who am I to ignore widespread critical acclaim? This album is absolutely cracking, it is so different to anything else I have on my iPod - if acapella electro is a genre these guys are the best band in it.

Doves - Kingdom of Rust
Another Doves album? Yes. And it is even better. "Winter Hill" might be my new favourite song right now, and to go from that straight to "10:03" is a one-two punch of great music. This is a stunning album, now I just need to buy their entire back-catalogue.

Fever Ray - Fever Ray
Another album unlike any other I have heard. This is very atmospheric indeed, there is a thorough richness that almost transcends the electro genre it probably will be put into. Weird but wonderful.

The Walkmen - Bows + Arrows
I had "You & Me" and thought it was a very good album. Most people said it was their best, and this was their second best. I disagree. This is the better album out of the two I have. I'll admit that these guys aren't getting the widespread attention they deserve, but for now they are ours, so let's just appreciate them while they belong to us.

That concludes that section. Now onto another section.

Films I Have Watched Recently and My Opinion of Them

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
I know that you are thinking. But this is actually a funny, very odd film. There is a sort of 70s vibe to it and an authentic quirkiness that is is very hard not to like.

Annie Hall
There is a lot of talk about this film, being a "classic" and so on. I thought it was funny and it was certainly a good film. I'm just not sure about it being a classic. I know this makes me an oaf in the eyes of movie buffs but I am sorry. Good but not brilliant.

The Hurt Locker
I was surprised it won an Oscar so I thought I might as well watch it. The story is a little bit clichéd - maverick bomb disposal expert who doesn't play by anybody's rules, but his own. But you will soon forget that as it is a very good film. It might not become a classic but it is still a good film.

Fantastic Mr Fox
Yes the animation style is very good. You have to say that. But it wasn't that funny, and otherwise it didn't have that much more going for it. It isn't a bad film by any means, I guess you could say it was "okay".

I've been saving this one up. I think it might be the best film I have ever seen. Funny, irresistibly charming it is just a fantastic film. It spoke to me about certain things too, that sense of being afraid to strive for what you love. It leaves you with a warm feeling like anything is possible, and if you don't finish the film with an enormous smile on your face then there must be something seriously wrong with you.

Crazy Heart
The Bridgemeister could do with a role to make you forget he was The Dude. (Not that I hated that film, it's just he deserves something more substantial to go at the top of his CV) I think this was a very good film with some very good performances. It won't be a classic but it is well worth a watch.

The Men Who Stare at Goats
Yeah it was okay. Some respected actors get to ham it up a bit, otherwise it wasn't the funniest film I have ever seen, if you make an out-and-out comedy you don't leave much else for the audience to attach themselves to, this one was just okay, nothing special.

From the people behind Amelie, so there was some expectation there. It was funny and quirky - like I expected. However it can't reach the heights of Amelie. On the other hand it deals with some unsavoury topics in an approachable and funny way. I would say this is a good film and worth seeing.

Cemetery Junction
I knew before I went to this that it wouldn't be a riotous, all-out comedy. But I wasn't prepared for how good it was. It was charming and funny, I think it also struck a chord with me in the same way Amelie did. Trying to get away, finding yourself disillusioned with the cynical character of the culture around you. Simply put: watch it.

The Godfather
Another long-overdue watch I don't think I can add to the years of praise for this film. Just utterly fantastic. It has now been crossed off my list of films I need to see, and in case you were wondering yes this is a real list.

A very good film indeed, again I don't think I can really add to the debate.

Another very good film. Is it me or is Joe Pesci always playing a violent bastard? Anyway a great film.

And finally my list of films I need to watch is along the side.

That's all for now, I'll think of other stuff later.