I want to be in the remaining 4%…

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Two per cent of people consider themselves upper class, according to a survey by the Guardian newspaper. Of 1,011 adults question in the phone poll, 53% said they were working class and 41% middle class.

Things you can do from here:

I was reading an article about the continuing , when I encountered this paragraph:

Among the miles and miles of devastated houses, rubble still there today in New Orleans, we found dry, beautiful homes. But their residents were told by guys dressed like Ninjas wearing “Blackwater” badges: “Try to go into your home and we’ll arrest you.”

And it was then that I realised that I’ve been hearing about and their activities far too much recently for me to be totally comfortable about it. Their Wikipedia article describes them as:

a private military company and security firm. Founded in 1997 by Erik Prince and Al Clark, it is based in North Carolina. The company markets itself as being “The most comprehensive professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company in the world”.

It seems their remit is wide and their operations diverse, from private security contracts, police training to operations in Iraq. It would seem that private military company is a non-too subtle way of saying “mercenaries”. Such companies have always existed, but it’s more concerning how often these people pop up in the employ of the US government.

And, as a final note, what exactly are “stability operations” and why do they sound suspiciously like the kind of stuff the CIA used to do to prop up regimes in the Developing World.

Okay, maybe not the return of marriage, since it’s not like we were swamped with them in the first place. And just before anyone panics/celebrates/dies of shock (delete as applicable), I’m not using my blog to offer a nerdy proposal to Penny. There is no purple/pirate wedding on the cards.

But, are engaged! Congratulations to them!

are married! And what a glorious wedding it was! It was particularly good to catch up with old school people who I hadn’t seen in ages.

And…

That’s it. For now. Until DeathOwl pops the question to his bird. 😀

Well, it’s been quite a year so far for music. In terms of listening to music, most of my friends are quite sick of me bleating on about the by now, but I’m not yet tired of them in any way. They are my happy find of 2007. I can’t remember the last time I bought an album that I could just re-listen to again and again.

Lovebox Weekender

July saw Tim accompany me to the second day of the Weekender in Victoria Park. Pictures here.

I saw:

– Who were very interesting and I’ll pick up their album
– Who I enjoyed and have ordered the album of.

I also saw a remote controlled mechanical robot horse.

Tim joined me and we saw:

– Who were so-so and we went elsewhere
– Who were quite good
The B-52s – Who were amusing
– Who kind of had the home crowd advantage, this being their festival, but they really rocked the park. Totally awesome. And when playing live are a whole league above their albums.

Reading Festival

Then just last weekend I accompanied Penny to the last day of the . Pictures here.

We saw:

Funeral for a friend – Who were okay, but not really my thing.
Fall Out Boy – Who were quite entertaining, fun to watch and, because “it sucks going to festivals and not knowing all the words”, peppered their set with covers of “Beat it”, “The Power of Love” and others.
Lost Prophets – Who were very good indeed, particularly in their mastery of the crowd. The swirling vortex of running, dancing and moshing was intense and did, as predicted, swallow up all around it, including us. It was lead singer Ian Watkins’ goal “to have Trevor MacDonald report that Lost Prophets got the whole crowd jumping at Reading”. I didn’t catch the news, but the statement was certainly true; an ocean of people jumping up and down liked crazed pogo stick testers.
NIN – Who performed excellently and it was nice to hear a couple of the tracks that I liked but were a bit heavy for me.

We also saw .

Crowdsurfing can be dangerous to you and others

Then Penny and I split. I went to see:

– Who were an accident as I was just trying to get into the tent early and their set was running late. But what I heard I liked. Thankfully Tim has lent me their first album.
The Klaxons – Hurrah! Considering that when I agreed to go to Reading I had never heard of them, never mind knew they were playing, this was a result! The tent was insane. It was rammed to the gills, the roar of the crowd was deafening and everyone was jumping. Well, apart from lead singer Jamie Reynolds who was there in his crutches due to a fractured ankle.

Penny saw:

– First the good: The old tracks that Penny loved were still good. The bad has been reported by , but Penny tells me they tamed down the quotes a fair bit. Let’s just say that did not achieve rapport with the crowd, he was in no way complimentary of his female fans and somehow believed that saying “See – isn’t it great to be alternative – You can say all those things” would get him out of it.

Yes, I’m back! Or at least I intend to be, we’ll see how it goes, etc.

There were two things that caused me to cease blogging. The first, as ever, was work but this is now starting to settle down. The other was . It’s not that I got distracted by it, but the fact that I linked my blog feed to it’s Notes feed, which meant everyone on my friends list could see my blogging. Unfortunately this made me feel quite uncomfortable about blogging. After all, Facebook “friends” could be anyone. Colleagues, people you went to school with over a decade ago, random people you meet at parties or weddings… Did I really want all these people to know my thoughts?

And by that time the momentum had been lost, many events had gone unblogged and catching up seemed a momentous task. But now it’s time to begin afresh, unhooked from Facebook. And, whether he excuses or not, I intend to borrow a conceit from and his Way. My catchup posts with all be titled The Return of…

Onwards! To the blogosphere and beyond!

Afterthought: Was this extended sojourn fated, considering the previous blog post is 28 Weeks Later?

I had my scepticism about , the sequel to ‘s excellent , especially as it seemed to be an over-the-top, Americanised sequel to an excellent, low budget British horror movie. However, Spanish-born did an okay job at the end of it. While definitely different in mood, this is very much to Aliens as 28 Days is to Alien. A different feel but definitely solid continuation of what went before. I think a lot of the feel of the sequel came from the soundtrack by and the re-scored version of that gave the original such moody weight.

Set-wise, they obviously tried to capture that eerie feeling of seeing a deserted London, but on a wider scale. Largely they managed it, though sometimes it did seem a bit forced. Crucially, as in the first film, much of the horror was not in what the not-zombies did, but what people are willing to do to each other.

To sum up, an enjoyable film, though this may be partly due to my low expectations. But I’d rate it above both Spidey 3 and 300 for this year’s cinema releases.

Edit: Before I forget, I also read through the graphic novel ’28 Days Later: The Aftermath’ which is supposed to fill in the gaps between the two films. Short summary: All filler, no killer. The writing is jarring, being split into four interwoven, but separate stories, and the art is uninspiring.

Tell them they can’t eat any more Mars bars, because their manufacturer, Masterfoods, has started using animal rennet in them instead of their vegetarian alternatives.

As a public service, here’s a list of the products that do or don’t contain the stomach linings of calves:

Vegetarian Suitable Products:

Confectionery:
Aquadrops ®
Skittles Fruit ®
Starburst ® Sours/Fruits/Strawberry
Tunes ® Blackcurrant/Cherry/Strawberry
Lockets ® Blackcurrant/ Extra Strong/ Honey & Lemon

Ice Cream:
Starburst® All: Varieties

Milk Drinks:
Mars ® Original Drink/ Extra Chocolate/ Thick Shake
Galaxy ® Smooth and Creamy/ Thick Shake
Maltesers ® Chocolate
Bounty Frappe®
Bounty Drink®

Powdered Drinks:
Galaxy ® Hot Chocolate/ Hot Chocolate With Caramel/ Hot Chocolate Bliss
Maltesers ® Hot Chocolate

Vegetarian Unsuitable Products:
i.e. Products which may contain whey Derived from animal rennet:

Confectionery:
Bounty ® Dark / Milk
Celebrations ®
Flyte®
Galaxy Ripple®
Galaxy Minstrels®
Galaxy ® Block/Caramel/Fruit & Hazelnut/ Hazelnut
Galaxy Promises ® Cocoa Crisp/ Caramel Crunch/ Roast Hazelnut/Rich Coffee
Maltesers ® Original / White
Mars Original ®
Mars Delight
Mars Planets®
Milky Way ® / Crispy rolls / Magic Stars
M&M’s ® All Varieties
Revels®
Skittles ® Sours / Rainbow
Snickers®
Topic®
Tracker ®Chocolate Chip / Forest Fruit / Lemon / Roasted Nut
Twix®

Ice Cream:
Bounty ® Ice Cream
Galaxy ® Caramel Swirl Ice Cream / Vanilla / Triple Choc
Maltesers ® Ice Cream
Mars ® Ice Cream / Xtra Ice Cream
Snickers ® Ice Cream / Xtra Ice Cream

Not that I am vegetarian, but this does strike me as a rather dubious policy and the is trying to get people to complain to Masterfoods. Personally I’ve just been enjoying the looks on people’s faces when I tell them…

Edit: Okay, I was out by 2 million on the number of vegetarians…

I always say I won’t do these anymore, then I get lax for one reason or another and do another catchup post. But, here we are again and once again my assurance that this will be the last of it’s kind unless something dramatic happens in the form of the destruction of the internet, abduction by fae who see in me their long-lost and recently reincarnated god-king or I happen to catch ebola.

And so, in roughly chronological order:

  • I am the happy owner of a Sony 3. I am very pleased with my investment and have been getting a lot of pleasure out of it. This warrants it’s own, in-depth, post which I hope won’t take another month to emerge.
  • Penny went to Iran, had a good time, was fascinated by the cultural differences, saw interesting sights and missed a by the morality police by 24 hours. She is slowly but surely uploading pictures to her and hopes to blog her experiences.
  • As , I spent a weekend up in Cheltenham, drinking beer, hiking, observing the local predators at play and taking a steam train around the villages. Most enjoyable.
  • Since I last blogged I saw two movies in the cinema, both of which I was disappointed by, namely 300 and Spiderman 3. The former was either too hammy or the hamminess was not done by actors who could actually pull it off. The central themes and black humour of the graphic novel were not sufficiently present and the whole thing came off as a very pretty hack fest. Pretty, good battles but soulless. Spiderman 3 was great on special effects but it rubbed me up the wrong way with it’s constant lame gags to distract the kiddies from the darkness and the massive emphasis on Forgiveness. Do all superhero films now have to have a moral? All in all, watchable and fun, but does not compare favourably with it’s superior predecessors. This makes this years personal cinema chart look as follows:
  1. Hot Fuzz
  2. In Pursuit of Happyness (sic)
  3. 300
  4. Spiderman 3
  • Next cinema films I intend to watch are Pirates 3, Harry Potter 5, Stardust, 28 weeks later, Bourne Ultimatum and Beowulf.
  • Music-wise I’ve been to the , and .
  • In books, I’ve been devouring Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series about a tough Chicago private eye… wizard. Excellent stuff, very good escapism.
  • Penny and I went camping last weekend down on the south coast. The little village of Rye is incredibly charming while the Camber Sands Leisure Park where we pitched up is dire beyond mention. here. It was a pleasant weekend and the new tent, a , held up spectacularly in adverse conditions. All the more impressive considering the minuscule weight of just over 1kg.

Right, I’ve probably missed bits out, but it’s a good start!