Wednesday, November 30, 2011

i'm in disguise

hi everyone

earlier this week James got a rather excellent party pack thing at school, in celebration of one of his friends' birthday. of all the times in it, William took quite a shine to one thing in particular, which would be a face mask. as you can see below, he was rather keen to keep it on!

as a consequence of having the mask on, William took it upon himself to declare that he was Iron Man, and was as insistent as a soon-to-be two year old can be in respect of us calling him that! i suppose it does look a bit Iron Man-ish, especially if you are nearly 2. oh, to have that kind of freedom of imagination still!

once again, my apologies for the rather, if not perhaps somewhat, rubbish quality of the pictures on display here. they were taken on the spot with my blueberry phone thing, and as has been mentioned befoe, the blueberry phone camera is pretty rubbish, or as close as you can get to being rubbish and yet somehow get away with it. people don't buy blueberry phones for the camera i suppose, or they only do if they are particularly stupid.

the rubbish nature of the camera can, however, have some unexpected and rather class consequences. like, for instance, in this picture James took of me.

other than giving you a hint of what my new glasses look like, i think the above has a sort of "spy" picture quality, looking like it would not be out of place inside some CIA dossier on your humble narrator. if the CIA had nothing better to do than keep a dossier on me, of course.

moving right along there, and James was rather keen for his picture to be taken too, so here you go!

i promise that over the next few weeks i shall do my best to rather use a proper camera and thus have some better quality pictures on display here!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

letting the secrets slip - spoilers abound

hey everyone

well, as the title suggests, a big massive *** SPOILER WARNING FOR ALL SORTS OF FILMS *** applies to this post, so consider yourself fairly warned.

usually the king of giving away carefully kept secrets of a film just a few months before the release of it is George Lucas. famously for The Empire Strikes Back the appearance and look of Yoda, not to mention the relationship between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, were carefully guarded secrets all the way through the production and right up to 3 or 4 months before the film was due to be released, at which point a children's adaptation book was released with pictures and text that gave the whole game away.

George Lucas like that approach so much that he did it, but even better, with Star Wars Episode I : The Phantom Menace. years of production and astonishing secrecy were all more or less undone when the soundtrack was released about 6 or so weeks before the film had its premiere and you were greeted with pieces of music called Qui-Gon's Noble End and Qui-Gon's Funeral. genius, that was.

the makers of next year's The Amazing Spider-Man are clearly fans of George Lucas, then. the trailers and promotional material thus far have all hidden away the 'big baddie' of the film, who i think is called "Lizard Man" or "Doctor Lizard" or something, presumably saving the "big reveal" for audiences in the cinema.

this is rather a good idea, and a noble effort. all somewhat undone by the decision to have a nice, cash generating licence arrangement in place with Pez to make sweet dispensers based on the two main characters.

nice going, there! actually, the Lizard dude does look pretty cool, but i am not so sure all that many young children are going to be thrilled taking sweets out of it!

oh well, i am sure it will remain an incredible, or if you will amazing, surprise to see who wins the inevitable final battle between Spidey and Lizard in the film. yeah, right!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pop Did Eat Itself

hi everyone

a little while ago, thanks to the gent called Bob, i was able to give you a link to the first part of an article on how the record industry set about destroying itself with digital technology. i am happy to say that part two is available, and you can thus carry on reading by clicking this writing here.

yes, again there's some rather complex technical stuff in it, but also some fascinating reading for music lovers. and surprise surprise at who features, yes the soulless but oddly worshipped organization that seems keen to drive the art of music out of music.

the article features a couple of points on something i have been arguing and warning of for years - legal and illegal mp3 downloads are convenient, "cheap" or very cheap indeed if you don't pay, but they are not the proper music as recorded by the artists. an insane amount of compression happens when you "make" an mp3 file and you lose vast chunks of the original sound of the music.

if they ever really do away with properly mastered and prepared physical releases of albums, it shall truly be the day that the music dies.

happy, informative reading everyone!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

a visionary fades

hi everyone

well, the term "he/she had a unique vision" gets bandied about far too frequently these days. it shall, however, be used over the next few days in association with the late Ken Russell. it would be quite right to use the term under these circumstances.

today brought the news that the infamous rather than legendary TV and film director Ken Russell has passed away, aged 84. he had, advises his long term friend and contemporary Michael Winner, been rather ill for quite some time.

my abiding memory (and indeed image below) of him shall be a Russel Harty interview, around the time of Tommy and featured on the excellent The Kids Are Alright documentary film. in it he declared "Daltrey, Towshend, Entwistle and Moon" to be better for England and better in general than "Wilson, Heath and all those crappy people". he didn't suggest that in a calm way, it has to be said, and nor was he interested in listening to other opinions.

perhaps biased by the above, he has always struck me as the kind of director who would be most insistent on getting his way very, very quickly. whereas the late, great Stanley Kubrick, for instance, would think nothing of hundreds of takes of one scene (it was, after all, the "cheapest part" of movie making and it would be crazy not to do more takes, he stated), i imagine Ken Russell having no problem whatsoever punching an actor square in the face if he didn't get a scene right within a couple of takes. i have no evidence to support this, i just imagine it to be, and intended in a complimentary way.

there will no doubt be tributes across the internet and beyond to this great director, but for what it is worth here are 4 films i've selected as being particularly memorable, if not quite advised as viewing for all.

the tamest film on my list of 4 is Altered States, which is perhaps saying something. in brief, it's the tale of William Hurt's experimentation with an isolation tank, and the subequent psychological (and eventual physical) changes and effects it has on him.

the general consensus is if you substitute "isolation tank" for "loads of LSD" it all of a sudden makes a great deal of sense. i recall a truly excellent scene in it where Hurt appears in a doorway, i think in a white suit with flares, against a bright blinding white background, whilst the music of The Doors (Light My Fire if i am not mistaken) plays on.

i'm pretty sure that i have the VHS of this film still, perhaps now is the time to finally upgrade it to a shiny disc.

a film i certainly do not have in any format, however, is Crimes Of Passion, or China Blue as i seem to recall it was released in certain parts of the world.

what was it all about? i really don't recall - i think it was something to do with Anthony Perkins having a voyeuristic obsession with Kathleen Turner's, erm, woman of ill-repute. Perkins was a minister or something i think, trying to "save" her.

i do, however, certainly recall the scene in it with the truncheon / baton, and it is not one i ever wish to see again, thanks. it really, really pushed the boundaries of what you could get away with showing in a supposed mainstream film. claims that things like Basic Instinct and to an extent Crash were groundbreaking, as good as the films were, are somewhat comical when you get a load of what goes on it this one. if you go and get a load of this one, of course - seriously, proceed with caution.

in terms of things seen, one vision that you have seen and can never, ever unsee is Russell's cinematic interpretation of Tommy, the staggering Rock Opera by The Who. Russell declared the Tommy album "the greatest work of art the 20th century has produced", and this would be something i agree with and quote often.

Russell fiddled with the timeline and the story a bit (changed World Wars, swapped the role of father and lover), but this is entirely inconsequential in comparison to his bizarre, bonkers and ultimately brilliant casting choices. it is not everyone, for instance, who would opt to cast Jack Nicholson and Oliver Reed in a musical.

how to describe it? how about the 60s Pop Art movement as a big, massive train, crashing straight into a palace of the very finest of 70s kitsch. yep, that good! a consequence is that it has dated horribly, but a plus is that it truly is one two hour long mind**** that shall never be forgotten.

greatest moments? hard to limit the list, really, but the Young Tommy on the Amazing Journey springs to mind. and Tina Turner as the Acid Queen. and, of course, Keith Moon as your wicked Uncle Ernie. and...well, rather get the film and watch.

finally, absolutely no list or reference to Ken Russell would be complete without mention of his most infamous work (which again is really saying something), the 1971 film The Devils.

i have only ever seen a mid-90s video release that was even more cut than the originally heavily edited version of the film. it thus feels like i have never truly seen it, since legend has it that "almost as much as appeared in the version the censors passed was taken out". the copy i saw certainly looked butchered rather than edited.

word is that a "fully restored" version will be made available in early 2012, which makes it a bloody shame that Mr Russell is no longer with us, for it would have been something for him to see his vision back in place after all these years. i suspect, however, that it will be "fully restored" in as far as it is the original 1971 censored version, rather than just the constantly cut further one that is available now. i would imagine a great deal of the original footage has been lost forever, much like as happened to that other controversial yet brilliant early 70s work of British cinema, The Wicker Man.

beyond those, i can off the top of my head give an honourable mention to his TV adaptation of Lady Chatterly's Lover from the early 90s. this was never a favourite novel or story of mine, but nonetheless it provided a superb piece of entertainment in the adaptation.

Ken Russell was an imaginative, artistic film maker who dared to create the films he wanted to see, whether others wanted to see them too seems entirely secondary. he shall be missed, certainly, but one can only hope the world allows more of his style to make films in the future.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Stefan's Class Twilight Breaking Dawn Wristband thing.

hey everyone

today Stefan arrived at verk wearing a new item. Stefan, you may recall from posts gone by, is a great deal of fun, both from a medical and sociological point of view. anyway, here is his new gadget.

yep, that's some sort of wristband or bangle type thing in celebration of the official release here of, if i have this right, Twilight 4 Breaking Dawn Part 1. i am pretty sure it is called something like that.

that would be Melissa, whom you would imagine is sort of more the target audience or market for such an item, giving the thumbs up for it. she is, as far as i can gather, quite the fan of this thing that features sort of vampires sort of glowing or twinkling, or perhaps glittering in it. a great many ladies seem to like it, really - indeed my dear wife does, but she is not here at verk to take a picture of in the presence of such an item.

i imagine one or two people have stumbled upon this site by a random, sporadic search for Breaking Dawn and what have you, so here is a close up look at it.

a quick search myself on the net suggests they are not widely available, so it's probably something of a collector's item. nice one for Stefan, then. i certainly hope Melissa can get her hands on one; here she is frantically phoning around to check the availability of them. probably.

i, as it happens, could probably get by just fine without ever owning one of these. i might have had more interest in the films if the werewolves were decent in it, but not to be.

in the mean time, then, i am sure you will join with me in wishing Stefan many years, if not decades, of unbridled joy with his ace wristband for Twilight thing!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


hey everyone

a bit of a belated update, really, i intended to post these around the 24th of this month, which indeed would have been apt considering a hefty chunk of the content!

William, off his own bat it would seem, has developed quite an admiration, appreciation and wish to constantly watch the exploits of Captain America, or Merikar as he tends to call him. not sure why of all the comic book heroes that this is the one for William, but "it" is what he is. perhaps it's because it's really the only one James, up to now, has not been all that fussed about!

to amuse him, Michele made him (and indeed James) a most excellent Captain America 'shield' thing to play with. i have tried to get a picture or two of it, but haven't done as well as i could! here we go anyway!

yes, taken off the magic of my blueberry, as you can no doubt tell.

i must say that Michele did, as ever, an absolutely excellent job with the Merikar shields, as indeed she did with William's pirate hat and James' Cat In The Hat, erm, hat. the latter is visible to the extent that this is what James is colouring in!

and no, if you are asking, our house is normally nowehere near as clean as it may appear in these pictures when the two of them are busy with a project!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pop Would Eat Itself

hi there

i am indebted to a friend on the internet for pointing me in the direction of this article which as you will see is the first part of a series. in short, it looks at the rise of digital recording and what have you, along with all (since Sony is involved) mistakes and strange decisions taken.

there's a certain amount of technical speak involved that, to be honest, i don't quite understand myself, but there's also many interesting insights in the article. like, for instance, how Betamax got recycled as part of the digital revolution, and indeed how "digital rights management" and anti-copying ideas were thrown about long before either CD recorders were on the market or indeed before anyone thought to make something called "the internet" and make music somewhat freely available on it. it also sheds light on why, from a quality perspective, CD shall always be better than compressed "downloads", legal or otherwise.

if you have the slightest interest in how digital recording came to be, or indeed how music is recorded and produced, this article really is essential reading.

many thanks to the one they call Bob for sharing the link!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

from my office window

hey everyone

just a random picture i took from verk this morning. i am sure a number of my chums, Spiros in particular, will be delighted to observe the finer points in the image below!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

where are they now? Nassie edition

Hey there

well, every now and then one hears news of a dear old friend. today, however, i got a bit more than news, i got some rather interesting pictures.

the more frequent, longstanding readers of this site shall no doubt recall Nassie with as much fondness as i do. we have, at random, here shared tales of his
unusual but interesting hairstyle direction, and of course along with Jayson he helped install the current vibes machines which is still working perfectly fine in my car.

Nassie has quite possibly been doing those things above still, but he has also been doing something quite different and rather admirable. here are some pictures he sent on to my much respected and admired colleague at verk, Vivienne.

this was all for a charity fundraiser for a cancer trust, which is as good a cause as any to support. i am not sure if Nassie is visible in the above picture, but he certainly is in the one below. he is, if we remain in the business of honesty here, the short one below.

erm, great to see you looking healthy and happy, Nassie! i am sure that a number of my readers shall be delighted to see the above image, my chum Spiros in particular!

good work, Nassie, and thanks for forwarding on to Viv permission to put these pictures here!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!

baby advice, for what it's worth....

note : updated 25 November 2011!

hi everyone

well, exceptionally flatteringly, a great many people have said that Michele (presumably mostly) and your humble narrator are doing a rather good job at bringing up William and James. some go even further, and suggest that i give some tips and advice on what to do when you have a new member of the family on the way!

this is all rather random and thus somewhat all over the place, but to please those who ask for it, here are a few things that, to sort of quote Rodders and The Faces, things that i know now that i wish i knew then. it's all intended purely as advice and experience - please take it or leave it, but kindly do not think i am in any way stating what anyone should or should not do. to that end, please take with a healthy sense of intention any advice you get that comes in the form of "should" and "do". it is probably well intentioned, but unless they have a medical qualification no one should try and enforce a way of bringing up a child.

further, please note that as i speak from experience only it's inevitable that i am going to mention certain brands or products. i am not endorsed nor financed by anyone at all (no one has taken advantage of my donate button, by the way, not that i expected them to) so anyone who scores a good mention here does so purely because they have a product which pleased us.

here you go then, use it, don't use it, up to you!

Newborn does what it says on the box – do not go ballistic buying hundreds of newborn baby vests and, in particular, nappies. Your new arrival shall grow at quite a comparatively rapid rate for the first couple of weeks. Buy two big packets of newborn baby nappies to start with – if baby doesn’t outgrow them by the time of getting to the end of the last row in the second packet you have plenty of time to get more!

Which nappies – honestly, we found that Huggies just leaked too much. Pampers in our experience are the winners. That said, we are all different in our physical traits – try a small packet of one particular brand, and if you find that it’s either a bit too leaky or looks uncomfortable on baby, simply switch and try another brand. The fault is with the nappy, not your child!

the cost of nappies fluctuates wildly! Here it really, really pays to shop around either monthly or however frequently you enter the retail world. Scour any and all leaflets and pamphlets looking for specials and shop accordingly; it seems that all the stores tend to rotate who has a special on what.

Wet Wipes / Baby Wipes – you cannot have too many of these! Nappies are very messy, have loads on hand. Again, we find that Pampers are the best. There are cheaper brands, but we found that when we tried them you go to take one out you end up with 3 or 4 coming through. This same advice applies for nappy bags!

the above certainly applies too to baby bum cream / creme. the more the better, really, and the best we found to help with the inevitable nappy rashes was ones that contained calendula cream.

Thermometer – For the first couple of years the only way Baby is going to be able to communicate with you if he is ill or not is via his temperature. Do not mess about with this. A bit pricey, but our research led us to the Braun Thermoscan – accurate, reliable, unobtrusive when it takes temp in ear and easy enough to find the replacement covers for. The ones which never make contact with your child are tempting for parents who think they are being sensitive, but they’re just too unreliable. Likewise, at the other end of the spectrum, the “bottom thermometer” isn’t likely to appeal to you so your child isn’t going to be thrilled with it.

Vests – these are the winner! The “body” ones that clip at the bottom? Get a few newborn, more 0 – 3 month size though. Prices rarely vary for these, just get them as and when you see them. They’re perfect for keeping nappies in place and making sure baby is comfortable!

They are made of rather flexible, stretchy material, and as with all things don’t be fooled by the age listed on the vests – don’t change, for instance, to 3 – 6 month size just because your baby has turned three. A word to the wise – not all babies abandon nappies on their 2nd birthday as vest makers seem to think, for 24 – 36 month vests are rare to find. If you see them, buy them!

Clothes – the same logic that applies to vests and nappies comes in here, really. It is very easy to go overboard with buying clothes for babies (they do look so incredibly cute, after all), and to be honest this is no bad thing. A general guide, and this is as broad as it can be, would be that for the first year baby shall be happy in one outfit for the day, but as soon as we are crawling and walking it might be wise to have a spare set (or two) on hand.

Bottles & Sterilizers – even if you are going to “feed naturally” you will need bottles to store the more natural milk, or will need them if you go formula anyway. Different babies like different ones. Nuk, that came as the highest recommended ones. The “liquid sterilizer” is rather good, where you store the bottles in a bucket with the (usually pink) sterilizing liquid in, but this is the 21st Century – we have experienced no problems at all with using a microwave oven sterilizer for some six years now. Related to this, there are all sorts of contraptions you can get to store & wash bottles and all the bits in a dishwasher – if you have such a machine, get the bits to wash the bits with!

Monitors and batteries – if you live in a land, like I do, where power cuts are a regular thing, then getting baby listening monitors that run off batteries as well as the mains is essential. The video monitors are getting better priced and rather freely available, but in all honesty the audio only monitors do such a good job of detecting the smallest of sounds you are fine with these.

Eating / Drinking Habits – I am no expert here and I am not qualified to speak authoritatively. On our experience, though, don’t get too hung up on the recommended daily amounts your child ‘should’ be taking in. We found with both our babies that their eating and drinking fluctuated wildly, some days a touch under the advised levels some days a bit over. If in any doubt at all about eating and drinking, however, this is what your doctor is qualified for – call for advice! And on that note

Sleeping Habits - trust me, this is as disjointed as you have heard! for the first few months baby sleeps a lot, but wakes up at less than conventional times, day and night. be ready!
if, and this is quite presumptious in the 21st Century i suppose, there are two parents on hand, it really does pay to do shifts and take turns with night duty. there is, hopefully, a temptation for both parents to do everything all the time, in particular with sleep and feeding. don't do it, you'll burn out in a week. random sleeping patterns are fun, as it happens. with James, Michele and i watched the film Ripley's Game entirely out of sequence and it separate parts across about 10 days due to the odd times late at night / early in the morning they repeated it. i have, ever since, found it rather difficult to watch a film all at once and in the sequence the director imagined i would.

Flask, Bottles and Power Holders - if you do not have one, get one! baby frequently shall feel like a bottle at 2, or even perhaps 3, in the morning. be ready for it. we had a flask full of hot water, two bottles filled with previously boiled water, a tankard (to put the water from the flask in and stand the bottle in) and the amount of formula required measured out in the powder holders. it really, really, really beats going in to the kitchen to do it whilst half asleep.

Facts and figures – from Day One for each child Michele kept a daily spreadsheet, noting the times baby drank (and eventually ate), slept, nappy changes and all that good stuff. It is brilliant for keeping an eye on developing trends and can warn you if there’s a problem. Buy a book to do this in, or print out excel spreadsheets! despite my opening comments against this kind of statement, this last piece of advice is one i would insist all new parents do.

And finally, remember this - as wonderful as our 21st Century gadgets are and as much as they help with parenting, you have to always bear in mind that, somehow, us humans have been having children for many thousands of years. and we've done it without things like electricity, "clean" water, disposable nappies and so on. a natural proclivity to nurture, protect, love and cherish has kind of got us humans this far - embrace and use the technology, listed here and beyond, but don't ever become reliant on it or think you need it to be a successful parent.

well, there you go! if this has been of some use to you, excellent! best of luck!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

more school photos

hey everyone!

no, not more school photographs of James and William! Erika has very kindly forwarded on this wonderful end of year picture of Lyla!

and, for good measure, this wonderful one of Ruby-Lee, who appears to all of a sudden be going blonde!

blimey, these are fantastic pictures Erika! what wonderful daughters you and Richard have, must make it a breeze to take great images of them like these!

these pictures are quite fantastic, and not at all what i expected to be posting here right now. there is a threat, after all, from a certain gent who apparently took "thousands" of pictures in Geneva and surrounding areas. only the ones of Freddie have arrived thus far.....

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

invite John Cleese into your home!

hey everyone

well, what can i say? i was wrong! shock, horror!

in my review of the hilarious, magnificent John Cleese Alimony Tour i suggested that it was highly unlikely to get a DVD release, due to certain comments in it having a great deal of appeal to libel lawyers.

i was wrong!

i suspect that it shall turn out i was partially wrong, however - methinks one or two comments about his ex-wife, in particular those that feature someone who may have been married to a former Beatle, might not be in this.

needless to say, i give this DVD "must buy" status, and i shall be ordering it tomorrow when it is released. it will only be a couple of weeks before i get it so i've no idea if any of the comments he made are "trimmed", but really who cares? any John Cleese is funny John Cleese!

the only two places i know of that ship this more or less worldwide are amazon and HMV, with my money tending to go towards amazon as they (as they are supposed to) remove the UK VAT and have a better shipping rate. happy shopping wherever you choose to get it!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

here's hoping for one of those rare instances

hey everyone

instances of a film sequel being as good as, or even better than, the original are quite a rare thing. the only clear cut examples are of The Godfather Part II and The Dark Knight, really - and both pulled that off somehow despite the first film being considered a masterpiece in the former and simply excellent in the latter. others would include The Empire Strikes Back, The Silence Of The Lambs (how people forget this was a sequel) and indeed the recent Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, that last one being the equal of the Charlton Heston original. oh, and Star Trek II of course, before i get accused of force bias. and Evil Dead II now that i think of it.

the sequel being better should be something of a formality in respect of The Expendables, to be honest. the original was met with much joy and delight, only for it in return to be nowhere near as good as it might have been.

whereas the first one promised, but didn't quite deliver, the all time king of casts, the second one presents the idea of a super deluxe, universe owning king of casts.

it looks pretty cool, doesn't it? it did too on the first one and, even if you allow for the fact that in the original Mr Schwarzenegger and Mr Willis were only intended as bit part cameo performances, the whole film very quickly turned into the Jason Statham show. not that i have any problem with Statham films, but it's not what we were promised. you have to hope they put this one out that gives a bit more time to the other action stars on show, in particular of course to The Chuck.

the production of the film seems to have bigger problems at the moment, however, with the sad news that one stuntman was killed and other have been injured during filming. here's hoping the rest of the shoot goes a good deal smoother.

and yes, of course i am excited about this coming out, can't wait!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

i know someone who went to Montreux and all i got from them was a picture of Freddie Mercury's a....

Hi there

Montreux is a celebrated place for musical events, as you are no doubt aware. one of the greatest performances ever seen there was, of course, Frankie Goes To Hollywood's return in 1986, when they performed Rage Hard and Warriors Of The Wasteland at this hallowed venue.

oddly, and this shows that strange Swiss thinking is not limited to Sepp Blatter, they have not built anything or marked the Frankie event anywhere near or around Montreux that i am aware of. they have, however, erected (as it were) an impressive statue of one of the other notable performers to grace the place, the late great Freddie Mercury.

i have been sent a picture of the statue, but a picture taken from a most peculiar and unconventional angle.

and just who is it that would send me such a picture? have a guess, or just look at the below.

nice pose there, Dad - i am sure it is what Freddie would have wanted!

i have a feeling that many more pictures of here and Geneva shall feature on this site over the next few days........

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Conan The Barbarian (2011) - not that bad

hi everyone

well, with some reluctance, if i am honest, i decided to give this new version of Conan The Barbarian a try. when approaching any remake / "re-imagining" there's always the great risk of being left not so much disappointed as angry that so much time and effort was wasted. every now and then, it goes right of course - however, for every True Grit, there's always a Wicker Man or Nightmare On Elm Street lurking to remind you or just how bad an idea revisiting classic films can be.

just how "classic" the original film was is subject to debate. i and many others loved it, but it's hardly held up, either by critics or financial figures, as one of the greatest films of all time, is it? that said, as this film is aimed at the same fan base as a market, it would have been wise for the makers to ensure they didn't offend or evoke any memories of the Schwarzenegger interpretation.

the short version of the review is that i sat with the remote ready to switch it off if it offended and i did not use the remote. it's not too bad at all, really. as a remake, it falls into the same category as the recent-ish remake of The Italian Job - had they just given it a different name to the original it would have been accepted as a "homage" and probably seen as an even better film due to the lack of an invited comparison.

with the short version gone, everything after the poster should be considered as containing *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

i am not as familiar as i could be with the series of Conan short stories or the novels that they were eventually consolidated into. i really only have the original film adaptation to work off in regards of any knowledge of the character as such, so my apologies, if required, to any of the fan base for stuff i may have in ignorace missed out. i also don't know, as a consequence, which if either of the films is "true" to the source material, and i have no idea if that is even relevant to enjoying the film or films.

whereas the original film was give a grand, epic scale and a minimalist, sweeping vision to tell what was quite frankly a preposterous yet enchanting tale, this new version, to pick a fault for first, thinks it is doing the same but, alas, does not. the 1982 Conan followed something of a linear map; this version has Conan visiting what must be half of the known world in the context of the film - very briefly for little reason and with not much interest generated due to the pretty but also bland CGI created backgrounds.

this kind of gets annoying, to be honest, but not as distracting as to make you switch it off. the story generally moves on despite this, something that certainly did not happen when they did the same stuff in the awful, awful film Tales Of An Ancient Empire. but more on that film later.

before going on then, the place where it really falls flat compared to the "original" film is that it just isn't as visually striking.

moving on to the plot takes a "similar but different" path to the original film. essentially it's still "Conan seeks to avenge the death of his father" of course, but this is no colour-by-numbers replication. the birth of Conan presented here is certainly interesting, borrowing to a certain extent from the notion of "you are what you were born into" from the excellent film Perfume. unfortunately the rise of Conan and his training is more or less ignored as irrelevant in this film, you are kind of just expected to accept "he is Conan" as a reason for his immense power, skill and strength.

a point many shall argue is that Conan is Arnold Schwarzenegger. erm, OK if you fall into that group. i'm not against other actors taking on "classic" roles - think, for instance, of James Bond or Batman. i had little or no idea as to who or what a Jason Momoa was before he was announced in the part. he looked like he would be OK from the early press photos, and in fairness he does a rather good job. he doesn't replace the image of Arnold as Conan but he also doesn't look out of place or wrong.

perhaps wisely Momoa isn't given any scenes which could be a direct copy of the Schwarzenegger film, not that you are allowed to, for example, kill a buzzard by biting its head off or even punch a camel's lights out in films these days. he is, by comparison, a good deal more talkative than the Conan we know. who knows, though - perhaps the 1982 Conan would have featured a right jabbermouth of a protagonist if he wasn't being played by someone who at the time had a rather strong, particularly difficult to follow Austrian accent? either way, it' something that catches you rather offguard at first.

Conan's father is here played by one of the few actors that you may have heard of before seeing the film, Ron Pearlman. This piece of casting, i am led to believe, somewhat appeased the fanboy brigade who were angry with the idea of a remake. i can only imagine this relates to his appearance in the Hellboy films and him lending his voice to some sort of game based on Conan, for his appearance in things like Alien Resurrection and Blade II certainly didn't lead to much forgiveness for what those films did to the original premises.

as it happens, Ron Pearlman is the one who walks away with the most credit from this film, with as good a performance as you could ask for to his name. it probably helps that he easily got the very best of the dialogue on offer in the film, which indeed isn't saying all that much.

as for the "big bad of the film", that would be a character called Khalar Zym, played by someone called Stephen Lang. it is whilst he is busy doing something along the lines of reclaiming the parts of a crown made from the bones of kings in order to resurrect his wife that he stumbles upon and subsequently kills, or arranges for the death of, Conan's father.

yes, indeed. looking at the above i think you can see a bit of the problem with this casting. he is no James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom, is he? it's not quite as big a mismatch as, say, Arnold versus the beer bellied Vernon Wells in Commando, but it is not as far away from that as it could be.

he is at least aided by his daughter who has inhereted the powers of sorcerey from her mother.

and, as you can see, she has also inhereted the looks of Juliette Lewis via those nun/witch type characters which featured in the 80s version of Dune too.

the sorcerey comes into play when Khalar Zym needs the pure blood from the bloodline of the kings from which the crown was crafted, who happens to be a woman, who falls under Conan's protection, etc, etc, blah blah blah. i don't give too much detail here for the film makers opted not to either. whoever she is (i cannot for the life of me recall her name), she is no Valeria from the 1982 film.

oh dear me. reading this lot back, well, other than being disjointed somewhat, it seems i have given a lot of negatives for the film. this version of Conan The Barbarian is, however, well worth a look if "swords and sandals" is your kind of thing. if your thing is also a good deal of designer violence, gore and the ladies (and indeed gents) not wearing as many clothes as they perhaps could, then this film is for you.

going back to an earlier point, the great missed opportunity with this film is perhaps that it was made as a 'Conan' film when, quite frankly, with a bit of adjustment this is really what the world would have wanted in the form of a sequel to The Sword And The Sorcerer, as opposed to the load of rubbish we eventually got in the shame of Tales Of An Ancient Empire. if Conan was instead Talon or a child of Talon, this would have gone down rather well. ho hum, never mind.

this film has been left "open" enough for a sequel, but i somehow doubt we shall get one. it hasn't done at all well financially, and there's a clue on the poster as to perhaps why not.

yep, this is yet again a film that was released in "3D" for no apparent reason. movie fans are growing in ther number for being fed up with this format, and thus it's little surprise that at the Box Office it brought in all of $21 million against a budget cost of some $70 million. had they just released this in a normal, fan and cinema patron friendly way, it may well have done slightly better.

it might well find a natural home on DVD, really, as indeed all good quality "sword and sandals" (bar Gladiator, which did well wherever it was released) seem to do. despite the reservations and complaints above, it really is worth your time having a look at this film, it being 100 minutes or so that you shall not regret using and shall more often than not be entertained in.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

birthday party time!

hi everyone

well, i suppose there is a case to suggest this update is a little bit late, really. however, if i did these things "on time" or closer to it there's a compelling case to suggest that would be even more unusual. there's something of an apology, if you want it, hidden with in there i imagine.

onwards to the considerably more important part of this post, which is to say why this post is here, and it is with delight that i remind all that Katie, the eldest of the grandchildren of South Fork, recently celebrated her birthday! i could tell you which birthday she celebrated, but that would presume to rob amateur detectives of working it out, so instead i shall present you with a clue in the form of a picture first!

a quality part of a birthday at this age is, of course, celebrating. this is conventionally done by means of a party. to this end, Katie's Mummy (and quite possibly Daddy) converted their home (now missing a tree or two, as you may recall from earlier posts. unless they just put them back once a certain gent had departed) into a most splendid party palace!

as for the details of the party itself, it seems that Katie wanted it to be of a rock and roll nature. not, perhaps, the rock and roll of a Liam Gallagher, or Primal Scream for that matter, with the latter famously refusing to land at Luton airport as it was not "rock and roll enough". no, it seemed that Katie wanted it just about rock and roll enough as can be expected for the age of those involved in the celebrations.

which sort of covers the tribute to Sigue Sigue Sputnik Katie showed off with her excellent hair for the festivities!

i suspect that Katie has no idea who Martin Degville or what a Tony James is, however. the outlandish hair is probably related to High School Montana, or Hannah Musical, even. you know, one of them things that crop up on Disney as a sort of quasi and heavily sanitized variant of Grease for the kids of today. they are probably quite good, but i have not seen them.

the fact that i haven't seen them doesn't matter, really. Katie and her crew presumably have (many times, no doubt), and thus partied away in the spirit that no doubt Katie was hoping for!

looks like class fun!

i am led to believe that Katie's intention was for the party to be an all girl affair, but one boy, it seems, did sneak in on the guest list. i imagine that you could guess who, but if not, here you go!

nice one Daniel, and what a quality outfit! i have no doubts, to be honest, that one day Daniel will also wish to arrange a birthday party with an all girl guest list, but that's another story.....

glad to see that the birthday and indeed the party went rather well, Katie! who knows, one of these days we may make it over to celebrate one of them!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

i know it's only The Rolling Stones but i like it

hey everyone

well, apparently the internet is a huge threat to music. no it isn't, really, when managed properly.

of course, if you are Sony and you block the promo material of your bands being seen by anyone outside of one or two countries on the internet you are doomed to feed the pirates, but some bands take advantage of the technology to reach out to their fans.

a few years ago Metallica, oddly one of the first to be quite vocal about the threat of "free" music across the net, set up the excellent Live Metallica site. on it fans can buy excellent recordings of all their gigs for, i think US$10.00 each, and then are free to do "whatever the hell they like" with the downloaded file. a testament to the give and take of this is that few, if any, of the gigs have appeared on the darker areas of the net. as a plus, if you buy one gig from them you have access to a massive range of not-perfect but still better than bootleg quality recordings of other gigs.

what surprised me the most about this move from Metallica was that other bands did not follow them in doing this. until now. and my, what a big act has decided this is a very, very good idea!

no less than The Rolling Stones have launched a site called The Stones Archive, on which they are going to make a number of rare, unreleased studio and live recordings available for a nominal fee.

the first 'release' on this site is an interesting one, to the extent that it appears to be "testing the water". it's a gig from their European tour of 1973; one that thanks to an FM radio broadcast has been widely available as a bootleg more or less ever since then.

whereas a lot of people will have the bootlegged version of it (i think i might even have it stuck away somewhere), the prospect of getting the full gig, as recorded on the legendary Rolling Stones Mobile Studio decks, for a fee of all of US$7.00 (yes, seven dollars), makes this pretty much a "must buy" for even the most casual of Stones fan. i shall certainly be purchasing it as soon as i have a little bit more funds to my name!

something of a word of warning, mind - for some reason this recording (and presumably others) will be available to buy only to those of us outside of the USA. a bit of a refreshing change i suppose as usually things like this, thanks to iTunes and similar, get made "USA and England only". in regards of that, refer to my comments about idiotic decisions feeding the pirates.

with a bit of luck, other bands and artists shall eventually follow this course. the fans want the material, and the majority of fans certainly have no problem whatsoever paying for it. if the money goes directly to the band or artist who made it, well then so much the better. i would imagine that Pink Floyd won't do this as they are happy just re-releasing the same things again and again in stores for profit, but it's weird that internet and fan friendly artists, in particular David Bowie, haven't already set something like this up.

anyway, go and check out the Stones site from the links given above - even if you don't buy the gig there are some amazing pictures and articles there.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

throwing money at the Manic Street Preachers

hey everyone

yes! just what you have all been waiting for - another post on the Manic Street Preachers' National Treasures singles collection!

you may be pleased to know, however, that beyond this sentence i shall be making no mention of the shambles of an expensive box set they have released. instead, this will focus on the versions of it that more or less make sense to purchase.

although, it has to be said, when my copies landed it did dawn on me that i have everything (bar the 2 so-so cover versions) on the set at least twice over. oh well, compilations and collections are nice to have, makes for easy / lazy playing!

i thought i'd share a few pics of the vinyl variant, for it has been somewhat tricky for some people to get. rather bewilderingly, the sole company shipping out the vinyl editions, the misleadingly named great magazines, appeared to shut down their website to revamp their "payment system" at the time they had this release. this meant that, according to them, they "lost the details" of most orders placed. i have heard tales, ladies and gents, of people getting 2 copies from them without being charged, and people who have been charged only to be informed that they shall not be getting the edition right now, instead getting the option of a refund (in 28 days time) or waiting for more stock, expected in December.

mine was shipped eventually - several emails to them, including me having to send them the email they sent me confirming my order (!) and a copy of my account statement showing they had debited me (!!!!) didn't work quite as well as forwarding the whole thing on to Q magazine (for they were the ones issuing this vinyl edition). i oddly got confirmation of shipping within 12 hours of that particular mail.

as for the sets themselves, nothing particularly special - expect the great, great songs of course. some people whose opinion i trust say that some of the songs, in particular the Generation Terrorists singles, have been cleaned up if not remastered somewhat, but then again a few audiophiles have compiled lists of the "glitches" included. at the correct volume, though, it all sounds fine in the car!

a nice touch, certainly, is the use of red and blue on the different versions of the album. i am not sure if this was an accident or a deliberate reference to the famous "Red" and "Blue" best of sets issued by The Beatles, but my world is a happier place if i assume it is the latter.

a not so nice touch is the actual vinyl, really. it's a lightweight pressing, and quite frankly sounds like it has been made on one of those record recorders directly off a standard issue CD. it's a bit of a pity they didn't do a proper mastering for the vinyl release, but it sounds good enough i guess.

on the inside of the record, there are a couple of notable clangers. i have done my best to get images of them for you. if you're at all interested. first up is the legendary single Motown Junk. have a look at the description.

Album version? Album version? except for Japanese versions of Generation Terrorists, this song famously did not appear on a Manics album, unless you count the Forever Delayed greatest hits set from about 10 years ago. beyond that, i am only aware of it cropping up on the Twin Town soundtrack. and in both cases, the "album" version is very much the single version.

worse is yet to come in the form of the description details for Ocean Spray.

"explicit version"? really? the closest one gets to an obscene word in the song is "spray", to be honest with you. i am assuming that they simply lifted the details off one of those user maintained databases for CDs, really, and they are referring to the fact that the song features on the explicit lyrics version of Know Your Enemy. for a while, back in the late 90s and early 2000s, the record industry for some reason issued "clean" and "explicit" versions of the same album, presumably in the hope that fans would buy both.

the worst thing about the details for Ocean Spray, however, is that it states the lyrics are by Nick Jones, aka Nicky Wire. erm, this song was rather famously the first that James Dean Bradfield wrote the lyrics for the band, and it's about his mother. quite a big mistake, i think you will agree.

since i'm moaning - the DVD that comes with the "deluxe" CD version of the album. it is, quite frankly, a pile of s***. it's a Region 0 generic NTSC thing, featuring horrid edits of some videos (the one for Motorcycle Emptiness in particular), a blurry video image and things that you don't need - like for instance two versions of the video for Autumnsong, neither of which are any good but then again the song isn't that great either. i think the much better Forever Delayed DVD is still available; rather consider getting that one.

yet, no matter how hard Sony have tried to deliver a defective product, i tell you these two, or at least the CD version, are still very much worth getting. excellent songs remain excellent songs, and this set features a great many excellent songs. go on, it's nearly Christmas, treat yourself!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!