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!

Well, it’s all over. I’m out of Eindhoven forever, having survived the project, the go-live and the go-live party. The go-live party consisted of masses of booze, Indonesian food, Karaoke (Loveshack baby!) and 70s/80s outfits (What? Punk was 80s!). And it was actually good fun, despite my whinging ahead of time. Then, after the hangover had cleared, a trip back to the UK office for my second leaving party. It feels like the end of an era.

So I’m sure my company are ready to embrace me back into their ample bussom? Well, not quite… They’re thinking of sending me to a central London banking project. Oh well, guess they’re not quite as pleased to see me again as I thought…

To recover, Penny and I spent last weekend in Oxford for a pleasant couple of days chilling out and sightseeing. And most importantly it was unplugged. No laptop, no mobile phone, nothing. Very pleasant indeed. Photos to come.

Oh, and I watched The Prestige recently, which I enjoyed very much, despite the sometimes bewildering timeline jumps in the first third of the movie.

TV

Well, I’ve still got a backlog of movies and programs to watch on the PVR, so I still haven’t watched the end of Season 1 of ‘‘. I’ve been mostly enjoying it, though it’s not really fantastic. But certainly watchable. What I have been enjoying is ‘‘ on Sky Three since for some reason my reception improved. A team of geniuses attempts to unravel the mystery of an alien DNA/behaviour altering viral intelligence. Production values aren’t up there with some of the stuff coming out of the states, but it’s certainly interesting to watch. Getting Sky Three back also allowed me to watch an episode of ‘‘. You’d think a pseudo-supernatural, time traveling investigation drama, starring whose character seems to only own low cut tops would appeal to me. But no, it’s fairly pants. I won’t bother watching any more.

Movies

I recently watched ‘‘ on DVD and found myself surprisingly enjoying it. A lot of recent animal themed animations like ‘‘ and such have been rather boring. But despite OtH’s standard “rogue finds redemption through the fellowship of his new-found friends” storyline (yes, I know it’s for kids) I actually found OtH laugh-out-loud funny in several places. And finally there was a role truly worthy of William Shatner’s overacting…

Graphic Novels

Not a lot recently, though I did re-read all of ‘Transmetropolitan’ a few weeks back, beginning to end. What an excellent series. But what I did buy recently was Frank “Sin City” Miller’s ‘300’, the tale of the Spartan’s holding back the massed army of the Persians. A totally excellent graphic novel that I would recommend to anyone, both in terms of art and story. The gallows humour doesn’t hurt it either. There is a movie due out in March and Chris “Cursed Empire” Louziou (sorry for the spelling) is running a playtest of a ‘300’ roleplaying game at Conception using the appropriately lethal ‘Cursed Empire’ rules.

“Real” Novels

I’m currently in the middle of two. I’m re-reading ‘The Sign of Four’ from my complete Sherlock Holmes book that I got for Christmas and also reading James Herbert’s ‘The Secret of Crickley Hall’. It’s a very old-fashioned ghost story so far. You know the drill… Haunted house, new residents, a terrible past… It’s all there. It’s enjoyable for all that, but I was hoping for more of an updated twist in the traditional haunted house scenario.

Music

Too much and too varied for me to individually list out, particularly now the Ipod speaker system is properly set up in the lounge.

And yes I did spell that right… On Sunday, post gaming, Penny and went to see . While at times perhaps a little too slow moving, even considering the subject matter, this tale based on a true story of a man who battles homelessness while struggling to become a stockbroker so he can provide for his family is a touching and uplifting story.

The film is entirely supported by Will Smith’s excellent acting. His portrayal as the lead character makes the whole thing believable. Of course, acting out his relationship with the character’s son wouldn’t have been too hard considering it was performed by his own son who manages to act out the role in quite an endearing way. Thanks the gods that Hollywood seems to be learning to avoid the annoying brat style kids in it’s movies somewhat these days.

All in all, worth watching for Will Smith’s performance but it’s not going to knock the socks off of fans of action thrillers.

I’ve thought long and hard about my ranking of the films I’ve seen in the cinema in 2006. Here’s the result, with capsule reviews:

6) Memoirs of Geisha
Way back in January I made the mistake of watching this. It was just about watchable, though somewhat irritating. Penny nearly walked out since she was comparing it to the book which she thought was excellent.

5) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
A good fun film that, while not as good as the first, was still enjoyable. It’s only due to the strength of the other films I saw in 2006 that this is second last. But at the end of the day, Jack Sparrow my be a comedy pirate, but it would have been nice if they’d have focussed less on the comedy and more on the pirate. I still intend to see the third in the cinema though.

4) Happy Feet
This was surprising as I mainly went to see this because Penny wanted to see it. It was however very good indeed, balancing comedy yet weighty concerns. Not as easily quotable as, say, Shrek and, with hindsight, it was often an animated ‘March of the Penguins’ with dancing but very enjoyable.

3) Pan’s Labyrinth
I wrestled with the ranking of this one and I know Penny will disgree; It was her favourite film of the year. It was beautiful, fantastical, awe-inspiring, terrible and touching. I’m really glad I got to see it on the big screen, but I still enjoyed the next two films more.

2) Casino Royale
It might have been a fatal error, but I re-read the book before watching the film. It ended up really enhancing my experience of the film because I could really see that it was in excellent hands. I truly excellent film, one of the great Bonds and an excellent reboot of a tired franchise. Bond Begins indeed.

And finally…

1) A Scanner Darkly
I really loved Linklater’s rotoscoped adaption of Phillip K. Dick’s tale of paranoia, drugs and loyalty. It’s definitely a film to lose yourself into, no matter how unpleasant that may feel, it doesn’t have a nice neat ending and is way too weird for ‘shoving something on in the background’. Totally loved it.

Update: The Movie of 2006 went to Pan’s Labyrinth, together with the prestigious Penny Award while the award for 2006 went to Pirates 2.

Well, what originally looked like it was to be a quiet weekend turned out out to be more eventful than expected.
On Saturday Penny was working and I was tasked with tinkering with her computer to make it better and…well.. to make it work. I had a go at it but decided in the end to hand it over to a shop to finish off for me. Hopefully I’ll hear today as to what state it’s in.

So, with my copious spare time I decided to use it fruitfully by playing , the expansion to .
DS2:BW Is pretty much more of the same as DS2, a perfectly adequate Diablo 2 clone. The new expansion adds a new character race (the dwarf), two new character classes (the Fist of Stone and the Blood Assassin) and an extra chapter of story. The race is pointless apart from if you liked the visuals of a hairy midget to represent you in the world of Arranna. The two new classes though add a certain amount of depth to characters that make it quite fun, particularly at higher levels. This actually succeeds in adding some more replayability to the game. The story is a little weak but perfectly adequate as you only really pay attention through the first time through. It’s a lot more depressing than the storyline of the main game which fits quite nicely. In the main game you ventured out all hero-like and caused a cataclysm and the deaths of thousands. In the expansion you must deal with the consequences of your short-sighted heroics.
Overall rating: Four cups of coffee out of seven

Saturday night, Penny’s friend Rhea came around for an evening of conversation, vodka and very alcoholic hot chocolate which was very much enjoyed.

On Sunday morning we decided to have a day out in London, principally to see A Scanner Darkly which isn’t showing at any of our local cinemas.

But before we got to the cinema we had a wander down Regent Street, which was all blocked off and rammed with people for the . Basically it was a huge advertising party for the Spanish tourist industry, but it was well done with festive clothing, regional music, food and dance etc. Virgin Radio also had a live music stage where we saw , currently in the charts with Last Request. Not really my bag, but it was there so we watched.

From there, it was off to the Odeon Covent Garden, via a brief sojourn to Forbidden Planet.
, the adaptation of ‘s novel of drugs, identity, reality and paranoia was an excellent film. The rotoscoping worked excellently for the thematics and even managed to help Keanu ‘Wooden’ Reeves emote. It’s not a mass market film really; It doesn’t have a ‘neat’ ending as such, though the ending works well, and some people will not be happy about the reality warping. But I think it’s a very good film indeed and worth watching.

Oh and it looks like the news of the morning is that the crocodile hunter . Never one to come high in the ‘Likely to die peacefully in his bed at a ripe old age’ charts, it seems like the crazy croc baiter, snake wrestler and spider fondler has succumbed to the dangers of a remarkably placid sea creature. It just goes to show that if you expect there to be danger you can plan against it, as Steve himself did professionally, but sometimes shit just happens.

Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell is to write and record the theme tune to the new James Bond film, Casino Royale.

The theme for the 21st Bond film, in which Daniel Craig will debut as 007, is titled You Know My Name.

A film spokeswoman said Cornell’s music was “both soulful and tough” and “the perfect complement” to the film.

Casino Royale will receive its world premiere in London on 14 November. The film is released three days later in the UK and US.

US rocker Cornell was previously the singer with Seattle rock group Soundgarden.


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has already blogged the party of the weekend quite extensively and there’s not much I can add to it, but I’ll make a few comments.

Firstly, Pirates 2 was good fun. The first half was very much “Look at the comedy pirate and his crazy antics!” while the second half was some more serious pirating and a real rollercoaster ride. In short, it was good and I’m looking forward to the concluding part. Disney must be laughing all the way to the bank.

In comparison, Superman Returns didn’t do very well at all. The US takings for last weekend for the big blue boyscout was a mere $11 million compared to a piratastic $62 million. Woops.

The party itself was a blast; I enjoyed it muchly. It was good to get som many together, including people who had come quite a way that I hadn’t seen in ages.

I skipped the quiz mainly so I could spend some time catching up with Stu & Sam, and then skipped most of the karaoke, mainly so I could skip the karaoke. I seem to recall being shanghaied into one song where a machine accused me of being tone deaf. Hmm… I didn’t know I was supposed to hit the notes! Otherwise I would have tried and ended up with a really low score!

Sunday was major mong day as I nursed my hangover. I think I earned it though!

Trains seem to be quite a mess this week. On Monday we had ticket inspectors and while there were no lousy excuses to be heard (Last time I heard “But I’ve taken this train for weeks and never bought a ticket before!”) but I did see a very respectable looking gentleman legging it from fare enforcement officers down a platform!

Penny’s trains are a mess this week, what with the Farnborough Airshow being on and then on Friday/Saturday we have the train . I can just about get into London, but it’ll be impossible to get out. Two trains an hour from London on a Friday night? It’s not going to happen. I have no idea what I’ll do if I can’t work from home that day.