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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Things I Did Yesterday 30/04/08

Like an ant with a snout full of aspartame, yesterday I:

- Got up at 5.15am to catch a train to Leeds at 6.35am. Hauling myself from bed felt like nothing so much as a man digging a well, levering out that last big rock.
- Train ride. Made some notes on work-related things I needed to look at in Leeds, did my morning writing, realised that National Express trains have free wireless! Thank goodness for the demise of GNER (who, we reckoned last night, used to charge something like £10/hour)! And although Lisa recommends the use of a Blackberry for on the go posting, I'm afraid the EeePC is like a cherished baby to a Blackberry's charming pet. All the comforts of home in something the size of a hardcover book.
- Thought about how pretty the English countryside is. It’s not grand or majestic, but it is very pleasant and calming.
- Leeds. Got some breakfast and had a little wander around the Victorian quarter in the centre of town. All very nice, but didn’t really blow me away.
- Visited OK Comics to chat with Jared about work stuff. They have a really nice store, making the most of limited space. Their displays flow well, and they highlight good stock.
- Visited Travelling Man, who really are a bit of a mess. Too much stock, too much indiscriminate ordering.
- Had lunch at a 300 year old pub. CBLT. Very nice.
- Train home. Wrote some notes on what I achieved for the day. Not as productive as would have been ideal, but still a worthwhile visit.
- On the bus ride from King’s Cross I realised that the hayfever season has well and truly started.
- Frantically tidied in preparation for our house guest.
- Andrea came to visit for the night on her way to Singapore. Was very nice to see her and catch up. She brought us cava, I fed her unimpressive pasta. Not necessarily a fair swap, but an agreeable one for us!
- Felt a bit bad, but I was totally flaking out by 9pm, so went to bed.

Carry on reading...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Here's Why...

...I love Charlie Brooker:

Bush hails from a family of oil barons, billionaires, CEOs, former presidents, Scrooge McDuck and Daddy Warbucks. He's slept in a gigantic rustling money nest every night since the day he was born. And he's got an uncle made of gold. But since he also looks like Alfred E Neuman and talks like he's ordering ribs, he's viewed as a straight-talkin', down-home regular Joe, albeit one with so much blood on his hands it's surely in danger of caking and congealing and turning his fists into heavy balls of scab, each one the size of a cabbage, good for thumping against desks and doors but not much else. Although even if that did happen, even if Bush called a press conference on the White House lawn and stood there demonically beating out a funeral march with his scabby orbs on a nightmarish drum fashioned from human bones and skin - even under those circumstances, you sense he'd somehow get away with it.

(From the latest Comment is Free column)
- posted from the train. THE TRAIN!

Carry on reading...

Things I Did yesterday 29/04/08

Rather excitingly, I'm writing this from the free wifi-enabled train to Leeds on my EeePC. Right now I'm whipping past mist-shrouded early morning countryside. Actually, we've just gone from mist-shrouded countryside to mist-shrouded train. But yesterday I:

- Worked, including installing the latest version of Kaspersky to the work computers. It's amazing how cheap anti-virus solutions are now. When we bought a 6-pc license for the program a year ago it cost us (with a 30% discount) about £120. Yesterday a 5-pc license cost £42. However, thanks to a cumulative combination of following a re-up link that gave a 30% discount and a 30% discount coupon sent as an incentive to re-up, it wound up costing just over £20.
- Took the time I was owed from last week and went to Angel to work on my course book. There was a lovely old woman at the table behind me who kept offering me her spare ginger crunch biscuits. She wound up engaging the guy behind the counter in conversation for a about half an hour, which he seemed happy to do, so that was nice.
- Went home and proceeded to do none of the things I intended. Cooked a tuna pasta bake for dinner.
- Watched a bunch of trailers, including one for Blindness, a new film by Fernando Meirelles, who I'm always excited to see new work from. Constant Gardener and City of Men are both films which have sat in my mind long after seeing them.
- Was shocked to see the goings on in Eastenders! How is Shaun going to talk himself out of this one? Err...I mean, grudgingly watched Eastenders over dinner.
- Watched more Peep Show. Funny. Horrible, but funny.
- Emailed a Croatian villa place about available options for our honeymoon.
- Went to bed early in preparation for a 5am start.

Carry on reading...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Things I Did Yesterday 28/04/08

Quite simply, yesterday I:

- Worked, including getting ready for tomorrow’s visit to Leeds. I’m off to visit the apparently very nice OK comics to talk about closer relations and about using their lending library idea.
- Was pleasantly surprised by the weather to the point that I made the bold seasonal move of daring to go to work without my jacket. Hell, even more amazing was the fact that I didn’t regret it!
- Treated myself to Wagamama for lunch. Ordered a chicken itame, but when I got back to work I had been given a chicken tama! Hilarious! Oh, how I laughed.
- Decided I rather liked chicken tama.
- Watched new Battlestar Galactica, which was very good. I’m expecting, given that this is their last season, there will be very little filler. So far, so good.
- Flaked put at about 10.30. So damn tired at the moment!

Carry on reading...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Things I Did Yesterday

Like a calm blue ocean, yesterday I:

- Got up later than I intended, but actually really needed it.
- Wandered with Alex up to Newington Green for brunch. Found a new Deli/Cafe hybrid place that was quite nice, and did very nice food indeed. I had eggs Benedict, Alex had mushrooms and garlic on a bed of spinach, all on farmhouse toast. Hers was better.
- Made our way down to Paddington, where we met Claudia (Mrs Parker), Wolfie (pampered pooch) and Polly (on loan from New Zealand). Went to a pub in the rejuvenated area behind Paddington where we chatted for a bit over some more food.
- Headed for Hyde Park. Wandered for a bit then sat down and enjoyed a bit of London park life.
- Went back to Claudia & Morgan’s for tea and biscuits.
- Popped to a great Malaysian place around the corner from C & M’s. Seriously, those two are the go-to guys if you’re looking for undiscovered restaurant gems. You would barely know this place exists for all the signage it has. It has the low-fi/high quality attributes of an ethnic restaurant frequented by people of that ethnicity. And cheap to boot.
- I continued on alone to the birthday celebrations of one Nathaniel Metcalfe, Esq., while Alex went home to minister to a friend. Nice time, but by about 10.30 I was completely knackered and - having to work today - called it a night.
- Zzzz (but quite poorly).

Carry on reading...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Things I Did Yesterday 26/04/08

Like long Summer days, I:

- Did a bunch of blogging stuff.
- Scanned a stack of old photos I grabbed when I was visiting Mum. Some more photos of me when I was young and a whole lot of vintage shots of Mum when she was a kid and so on.
- Picked out photos for the next travel blog entry.
- Did the dishes.
- Went to a local cafe to grab some breakfast. My usual place was closed, so I went to another which wasn't nearly as good. How hard can poached eggs be?
- Had dinner at a Ponti's downtown. Classy! For those who don't know, Ponti's are an Italian chain restaurant that are just a little chintzy. But it was very nice, thank you.
- Went to Phoenix, a pub on Cavendish Square, for Ali's birthday drinks. It was all very pleasant, and the pub was a lot less of a wank-fest than it looked from the outside, especially once all the after-work crowd had emptied.
- Watched the first episode of Peep Show. Wondered why I had never watched this before. Watched 3 more.
- Ordered a new hard drive for Caleb and Nathaniel. 500gb for £50! Unbelievable.
- While cleaning I watched the Milius/Schwarzenegger (my spell-checker recognises "Schwarzenegger"! Fantastic!) commentary on Conan the Barbarian. If you've never heard it, I can't recommend it enough. Absolutely hilarious, as Arnie completely misses the point of a commentary. For example, Milius refers to something and Arnie blurts "Yeah, I know that!", or indeed the classic "I'm gedding on the horse!" Watch it.
- Set up internet account management for BT.
- Spent too much time on the internet.

Carry on reading...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Things I Did Yesterday 25/04/08

What's that Lassie? Why, yesterday I:

- Walked in the door of work, filed standing orders, served customers, have lunch, do more filing and serving, close up. Oh, for a bit of variety I reported some damages and shortages to the publisher of the new Sam & Max collection. 'Cause I'm crazy like that.
- Watched the first episode of Reaper. It was okay. I can certainly see why they got Kevin Smith to direct the first episode.
- Watched the latest Battlestar Galactica. Bloody good.
- Had my hair cut. Due to a little accident it wound up a mite shorter than I would normally have, but I'm used to it now.
- Tried to stay up late. Failed completely.

Carry on reading...

NZ at Last!

Man, talk about slowly but surely! Anyway, I've uploaded photos to flickr from our arrival and first brief stay in Wellington before we went down to the South Island.

After a fairly smooth trans-Tasman flight into Wellington, we were picked up from the airport by the esteemed Dr Wu (who we were lucky enough to catch before her move back to NYC). Wellington's airport, by the way, is tiny. Teeny tiny. In a "This plane had better stop soon or we're going in the drink" kind of manner. Oh, and it's built in a wind tunnel, making for some pretty bumpy landings. I still love it though. Because it's Wellington.

Our original plan was to head straight up to Mum's, but we decided we would be better off spending a night a Polly & Rod's place first, just to give us a break from travelling. It was nice to have a moment to catch our breath. Lisa took us to P&R's place in Newtown by way of a nice drive around the bays. It was a proper windy Wellington day and no mistake. Gale force winds were whipping up from the South, making for some spectacular scenery.

There are a lot of photos from this leg of the trip that look a bit like some clumsy 35 year old man has put a greasy finger on the lens or something, leaving a very slight vaseline-d look to it all. Anyway, we swung by Rintoul Street and picked up Polly (Rod was at work) and went for another drive.

We parked up and went for a wander down Cuba Street, which is always a nice thing for me. I spent a hell of a lot of time on that Street, working on it for 5 years and even living on it for a period. Lots of changes, including the building that used to house Comics Compulsion on upper Cuba not actually existing any more. The bypass was also new to me, although to be honest (and I say this as someone who isn't actually resident any more) it seemed fine to me. Just another road, really. Certainly not the motorway artery I was expecting. Anyway, we went and had a coffee. Ahh...sweet, sweet New Zealand coffee. The first of a Exxon tanker's worth I had on the trip.

Then it was off for a drive, up Mount Victoria and round the bays again, before grabbing some shopping and heading back to the house for dinner. Very nice evening spent catching up and then the next morning Lisa gave us a lift down to the train station, from where it was off to Paraparaumu!

Carry on reading...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Things I Did Yesterday 24/04/08

Fuck me sideways, yesterday I:

- Bagged a whole lot of comics. The worst part about bagging a large delivery of comics (we bag all of our standing orders) is seeing the same dull covers and back page ads over and over, comic after comic. Even the stuff you're looking forward to starts to have a "razorblades through my eyeball" kind of vibe. Perhaps I'm being melodramatic.
- Corresponded with some comic creator types. Still always gives me a little thrill.
- Read a shedload of comics, which I may comment on tomorrow.
- Watched another Pushing Daisies with Alex. Again, it's okay, but unless it pulls something really spectacular out of the hat by the end of the season I'll be wasting my time elsewhere.
- Lay awake in the early hours of the morning counting down the seconds that are left to me on this earth.
- Had porridge again for breakfast. Still good.

Carry on reading...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Things I Did Yesterday 23/04/08

Like a hamster in a ball, yesterday I:

- Had a jolly day of japes and fun at work. And did a roster for the months of July & August.
- Cooked a kind of chicken-y, pepper-y, honey mustard-y, Chicken Tonight-y with Uncle Ben's 2-minute rice-y kind of a meal. It was fucking delicious.
- Read before bed and realised that I was so tired while forcing myself to read on the night before that I had completely forgotten what happened in the previous chapter. File that under "things that didn't happen 5 years ago".
- Was very pleased to see that Rod has uploaded the first issue of his old comic story "Poke". Check it out!
- Raced against a dying battery to manage my morning writing quota. Hurrah! What did I write? Shit, mostly, but lots of it.
- Wandered around a couple of galleries in the British Museum at lunch. Privilege of our location that I totally take for granted. Saw some neolithic artifacts, some collections of the Enlightenment, and some very nice clocks. Including a gold, mechanised clock in the shape of a huge galleon that would slowly move down the length of a table. Nutty.

Oh, and Alex would like it made clear that although I signed and addressed thank you cards, she did in fact put them all together, for which I am most grateful.

She's holding me prisoner against my will! I think she may kill me any day now! This shit is like Misery! You have to help me!

Anyway, ciao for now dahlinks!

Carry on reading...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Things I Did Yesterday 22/04/08

Blow me down, yesterday I:

- Cooked a great deal of pasta so that I had leftovers for lunch.
- Had porridge for breakfast. Yum.
- Did the second chapter of the course book I am working through. Sat in the pub drinking coffee and lime and soda. What I wouldn't give for a decent cafe nearby.
- Had my morning coffee at a different place than normal. Was wonderfully chaotic, with the jovial Italians behind the counter - when not trading banter with the customers - yelling at each other in their mother tongue. Not in a hurry to go back though.
- Read my book. It's hit the point now where I am actively looking forward to heading to bed and reading my book for a while. I love it when I get that feeling with a book. It means I'm getting lost in it, each session becoming like a little holiday. Good book.
- Addressed and signed off on thank-you cards for folks we stayed with in Oz and NZ.
- Hung out a little with Lady Alexandra. She's cool.

Carry on reading...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Tales From the Junk Folder

The power of Christ compels me!

Carry on reading...

Things Did Yesterday 21/04/08

Shiver me timbers! Yesterday I:

- Worked. The start of which involved cleaning some bastard's shit off our back doorstep. Thank you, London.
- Watched a couple of episodes of Pushing Daisies with Alex. I'm enjoying it, but the quirk factor is beginning to grate a little.
- Read the latest Economist, which, for all you Wire fans, had an interesting article about crime in Baltimore.
- Had dinner while watching American Inventor. Got out of there as fast as I could.
- Didn't do my morning writing. Bad Andrew! Bad!

Carry on reading...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Request Time! Sexing up Windows XP...

This one's for Barry...

First up, the simple step. Jealous of Mac users and their saucy little docks? Well fret no more! Rocketdock is here to help. A nifty little piece of freeware for XP or Vista that gives you this:

It's pretty customisable, and can be anchored to any edge of the screen with options for style, autohide, opacity and so on.

Then it's time to replace your Windows theme. To use themes other than those created by Microsoft, you'll need to replace your uxtheme.dll file. Good instructions on how to this can be found here.

Then you can search about for themes. You can try here, here or (probably best of all) here, among many others. To be honest, just slap "Windows XP themes" into Google and you're away. Once you've got the files downloaded and unzipped into your C:\Windows\Resources\Themes directory you can just select them in your desktop properties. I'm currently using "Lunar Element Black" which is all a bit Vista.

As I've set the taskbar (moved to the left side of the screen) to autohide, I've also installed Clock to keep an eye on the time. Okay, so I should probably just use a more attractive, intuitive interface from the get-go, but dammit, I'm just used to XP! I've got an Ubuntu partition set up with all the Cold Fusion bells and whistles, but I've got XP set up just how I like, so the impetus to change just isn't there. Anyway, the look of it now is something like this:

The default look with taskbar and dock set to autohide...

...and as each pops out when hovered over.

Carry on reading...

Things I Did Yesterday 20/04/08

Holy Moses, you wouldn't believe it! Yesterday I:

- Started Ian M. Banks' Use of Weapons. I'm a big fan of Banks, but curiously have only ever read Consider Phlebas and Player of Games from his science fiction oeuvre. So in I plunged and it's bloody great.
- Played a lot of Diablo 2. A lot. So much so that I did very little else. But you'll be pleased to hear that I made it to the desert city of Lut Gholein. Which is only the second stage. How long is this going to take?
- Read some comics.
- Had a bath.
- Didn't do a lick of writing outside of a little light blogging. Tut tut.
- Seriously...played a whole lot of Diablo 2.

Carry on reading...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Things I Did Yesterday 19/04/08

For all those who can't survive their day without knowing what I've been up to.

Yesterday, in no particular order, I:

- Went to Woolworths and bought some washers in an attempt to fix our bathroom hot tap. Sort of succeeded.
- Bought two sci-fi films from Woolworths beginning with the letter S. Serenity (£3) and Sunshine (£7).
- Watched Sunshine. Enjoyed it more second time around, given I knew the silly devolution of story was to come.
- Replaced the motherboard on a friend's computer. However, the OEM software doesn't like the new motherboard, so I need to back up the docs and so on from the hard drive and reinstall Windows. But it's a SATA drive and my PC, once a shining jewel of modernity, doesn't have onboard SATA. Bugger. So I'm gonna get an external casing with a SATA connector and go from there. Sorry Nat, more delays!
- Gave up on Steven Erickson's Gardens of the Moon, as it just wasn't grabbing me. My hunt for an entertaining fantasy epic that's not shit continues...
- Went to Tinderbox and wrote for a bit. Wandered around Game looking at games I don't have the time or specs to play.
- Did laundry.
- Watched Terminator Sarah Conner Chronicles, which I think I'm not going to continue.
- Listened to the new Crowded House album, which was a bit naff.
- Changed the bed linen.
- Read some comics.
- Watched Lost Hearts, which was grand.

Carry on reading...

Lost Hearts

I watched Lost Hearts last night. Impressive stuff. A warning to the curious: spoilers will follow.

Lost Hearts was the third of the classic "A Ghost Story for Christmas" series that ran annually throughout the seventies ('71-'78 to be precise) and has – quite thankfully to my mind – been resurrected over the past few years.

Predominantly MR James adaptations, the specials have a particularly British feel, set originally by director Lawrence Gordon Clark, who handled all but one of the seventies run of productions. Playing to the period strengths of British drama, the shows have a deliberartely slow-paced, melancholic feel. Score is minimal, with long scenes of silent refelction as characters wander about the English countryside, all the while creating a sense of isolation and menace. Something of a nostalgic gem for any Brit my age, the shows are all new to me, have never seen them to my memory on NZ television.

Lost hearts is the story of Stephen, an orphan, who is taken in by a kindly old scholar (who has an unfortunate tendency to over-gurn just a little in his quest for ultimate truths) who happens to be – apparently – his second cousin twice removed, or some such. From the get-go there’s something a bit sinister going on. Stephen sees two children out in the fields waving to him as he arrives; children who then vanish as abruptly as they first appeared. And as for kind Mr Abney, well, there’s something not quite right with him.

Maybe it’s the modern sensibility, but he smacks of sweetie-bearing kiddie-fiddler immediately. And as you discover more about him, about the other children he has taken in before (complete with disturbing flashbacks reminiscient of some kind of Victorianised public service announcement television campaign) and about their subsequent disappearance the feeling only deepens.

In fact, by the time you discover that he’s cutting out the children’s hearts, burning them to ash and mixing them with port in order to secure eternal life through dark magicks, there’s a sensation that’s something like relief.


All that aside, the slow reveal of Abney as the villain of the piece is wonderfully done. It’s obvious from early on that he’s a bit off, but step by step he’s revealed as being something of a wrong ‘un in a completely unsensational way. No startling revelations, just matter-of-fact instances of him studying old texts, or approaching children by the river bank, or unsheathing his sacrificial dagger (as it were). Even a quick glance around his study reveals him as the not-typical English gentleman philanthropist:

And then there’s the children.

Have you seen Salem’s Lot? The original tele-movie directed by Tobe Hooper? If so, you know the scene I’m about to mention. Where the kid floats up to the window and scratches at the pane, begging to be let in and you wet your pants? Yeah, that one.

Coincidence? Probably. Or probably just drawing from the same sources. Either way, the handling of these eerie child ghosts is brilliant.

From their creepy, swaying gait as they move to the tune of the dead boy's hurdy-gurdy to their rigor mortis expressions, they are never less than spine-tingling and often downright terrifying.

Clark nails it. Scary ghost kids are often undone once they make a full appearance, usually due to the fact that they are played

Not here. The limited range of expression and movement they have enhances the feeling that, yes, they are dead. And that's horrible.

At just under 35 minutes, Lost Hearts is a little gem. A classic English ghost story told in a compelling and effective manner.

The fact that it still retains the ability to evoke a creeping uneasiness says something of its quality and of the skill of its director. Highly recommended.


Carry on reading...

Monday, April 07, 2008

Charlton Heston

I was trying to think of something to say about Charlton Heston dying. If you know me at all you'll know that films like the Ten Commandments and particularly Ben-Hur, let alone Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green & Omega Man, have all made a tremendous impact on my cinematic conciousness. But instead of waffling, I'll just post some photos that sum up my mixed feelings about the man, whom - despite my reservations - I admire the hell out of.

Carry on reading...

Best eBay Listings in the History of eBay Listings

Oh, you gotta check these out...Haunted Dolls. Real listings, so check 'em out quick.

Rhiannon the Revenge Doll
Trudi the Haunted Spirit Baby
Extremely Haunted Adell

Speaking of which, my friends Polly & Rod have a doll in their kitchen that looks like this...

Carry on reading...

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Jack & Jill vs the World. THE WORLD!

So I'm going through the latest trailers on the Apple site when I come across "Jack & Jill vs the World". Looks okay, nothing remarkable. A typical indie romantic flick. But the capsule synopsis that is usually posted with the quicktime file has been replaced...with this:

Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Taryn Manning star in Jack and Jill vs. the World, a love story for cynics by actress/writer/producer/director Vanessa Parise. The film opens April 11th. Parise’s films, by design, are more than pure escapist entertainment. She also endeavors to ensure her movies are life-affirming, multi-dimensional and cognizant of the world’s foibles. In Jack and Jill vs. the World , for instance, the main characters have a Manifesto (or Rules to Live By), believe in Fair Trade, are animal advocates, and face a genetic disease that occurs in one of every 3,900 live births - all while launching into a romance that is passionate, e Parise graduated Magna Cum Laude in Biology from Harvard and was accepted into Harvard Medical School (as well as Stanford, Yale and Columbia, to name a few). But with her heart in acting from the age of five, she decided to turn down Harvard Med to follow her dreams of being an actress. She auditioned for and was accepted to the prestigious Circle in the Square Theatre School in Manhattan and never looked back. Acting as well as writing and directing have brought Parise out of her head and into her heart, a transition she has fully embraced. As she did with her first film (“Kiss the Bride”), she raised the financing for Jack and Jill vs. the World, this time from gap, various equity sources, a sales advance, and some presales. She closed the deals personally, working hand in hand with an independent production legal team. Parise was solely responsible for hiring cast and crew, and was the final decision-maker in all things creative. She removed her producer and businesswoman hats for just long enough to direct the film and then switched back to business mode in order to sell the film. Over all, the process took more than four years. In Jack and Jill vs. the World, Jack (Prinze) and Jill (Manning) meet and begin an intense romance, but after too many instances of Jill’s disappearing, Jack forces Jill to reveal her secret - she has Cystic Fibrosis. In the film, Jill, of course, could have had any number of reasons for disappearing for days at a time, but writer/director Parise made the courageous decision to identify and advocate a little-discussed disease that has no cure in sight (though small advances against CF are sporadically forthcoming).

Carry on reading...